(I apologize if you've already seen this. I posted it yesterday while the
list server was down so I don't believe it got out. If so, again, I
I went home last night and found my new HotTop sitting on
When my new Caffe Rosto came in last week I got excited and
got out my entire stash and spread it over the table (I'm
down to about 60 lbs) and lovingly selected three different
greens to roast. My disappointment was great when the CR
died a couple of minutes into its initial seasoning cycle.
So this time I tried not to get too excited about the
HotTop. I let it sit in its box while I ate dinner and only
then did I start unpacking. I was a little surprised at the
over-all look of the thing. When viewing pictures it looks
sleek and shiny with it's black shark-fin on the top. In
the flesh it is still an impressive machine, but more along
the lines of a locomotive; less sleek than I had thought.
It's a big machine -- sort of the overall size and
configuration of a sewing machine.
I decided to break it in with some Oaxacan El Olivo, so I
prepared a 250g batch, fired up the HT, set it on the
longest cycle and waited for it to preheat. The preheating
took about five minutes which surprised me. It seemed like
a long time.
The first thing I noticed was how quiet the machine is.
Before I added the beans I could barely tell it was on.
Even after the beans were added, there was only a bare whir
of the motor and the tumbling sound of the beans. Nothing
like the vacuum-cleaner sound of the Hearthware and
Brightway air roasters, or even the heavy, rotisserie sort
of grinding that the Alp makes.
I didn't expect the window on the snout of the roaster to be
very useful. Boy was I surprised when the beans were
pressed right up against the window giving a good view of
them. I was so surprised that I shimmed the front of the
machine to get them back from the window. Later I realized
that it was supposed to be that way. I mostly roast by
sound and smell (a requirement with the Alp), but it was
really nice being able to see the beans. I especially like
the way that a bean would be held up against the glass for a
while, giving me time to inspect it minutely for things like
wrinkling along the crack.
After about fourteen minutes (from bean introduction --
nineteen minutes overall) first crack started. At the same
time smoke began issuing from the roaster. From then until
second crack, there was more and more smoke. For
approximately the same amount of beans I'd say the HT made
quite a bit more smoke than the Alp. Here's the funny
thing, though. Even though I roast under the hood of my
stove, with the Alp I could never avoid filling the kitchen
with smoke at the end of the roast cycle. Although the HT
seemed to make more smoke, all of it went up the stove vent,
leaving the kitchen air clear. My brother, in the next
room, who normally complains bitterly about the roasting
smell didn't even know I was roasting. Perhaps it's because
the roasting chamber of the HT is up in the air, closer to
Both the Alp and the HT have five minute cooling cycles, but
oh what a difference. The Alp cooling cycle is conducted
inside the roasting chamber, and even at the end of five
minutes when it shuts down the beans are still in excess of
200 degrees. The HT, OTOH, starts its cooling cycle by
dumping the beans onto a large plate-like dish with holes in
the bottom that have fresh air blowing through them from a
dedicated cooling fan. The beans are cooled instantly --
long before the five minutes is up, the beans are at room
temperature. It's even better than my HWP, which was my
previous record-holder for cooling.
I roasted 250g of PRYS without incident. I stopped the
roast just as I heard the very first snap of second crack.
For my third batch I decided to use the Sumatran "Classic"
that the list members have liked so much. I decided to up
the quantity from 250g to 265g. As I weighed out the beans
I was shocked at how crappy they looked. (I *am* allowed to
say "crappy," aren't I?) There were broken beans, black
beans, beans with worm holes in them and beans that looked
like they'd had pieces gnawed off them. These were the
first beans I've ever felt the need to pick over before
roasting. In my 265g batch there must have been a couple of
dozen defects. It gives new meaning to the defects/300g
I decided to roast the Sumatran well into second crack. The
beans looked so bad I wanted to make sure I killed any germs
they might be harboring. :-) I set the HT on seven (its
highest setting) and let 'er rip. Because of the larger
batch size (I guess) the Sumatran took a little longer to
get to the cracks. There was a nice, long time between
first and second. By the time 19:30 came along, though, the
beans were crackling like a forest fire and smoke was
pouring out the top. I decided to stop the roast at 20:00.
Just before the 20:00 mark, the HT started beeping which is
its indicator that it's about to stop the roast, and that if
you want to continue it you need to press the plus button.
I said, hey, what the heck, and decided to let it stop on
its own. At about 20:25 it stopped roasting and began
ejecting/cooling the beans.
The Sumatran wasn't as dark as I thought it would be, and
there was a slight unevenness to the roast. I'm not sure
whether the variation in color was due to the heavy bean
load or the uneven nature of the beans to start. I didn't
really want to roast the beans any darker -- I had been
about to stop the roast when the HT entered its automatic
shutdown -- but it's interesting to note that with a 265g
load, I *couldn't* have gone much darker. The HT was at
it's longest roasting cycle without using the Plus button to
extend the roast.
My overall impression of the HT was that it is easily the
most *civilized* roaster to come down the pike. It's quiet,
you can see, hear, and smell the roast. The smoke vents
well, and it roasts a large amount of beans. Rather than
being worn out like I usually am after profile-roasting a
pound and a half of beans in my air roaster, or smoked out
like I normally am after roasting the same amount of beans
in my Alp, I was relaxed and happy.
As I write this I'm sitting here sipping a cup of the
Sumatran Classic (14 hrs rest) and I have to tell you it's
one of the best cups of coffee I've had this year. It's got
incredible body and mouthfeel when it's hot and gets a nice
chocolaty taste as it cools down. Not much fruit in this
cup. I'm very pleased with my HT.
P.S. I think I've solved the "unequal roast batch" problem.
I normally buy in 5# lots -- 2268g -- so if I sort that out
into 283g batches (HT can do up to 300g), I'll get an even
eight roasts yielding 8.5 oz per roast. That's just enough
to fill up one pint jar and one half-pint jar. Perfect.