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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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So this morning I finished my 49th batch in my HotTop roaster. As I was removing it from the porch, I managed to catch one of its legs on the step, and broke the leg off. After making a new leg (PVC end cap + epoxy FTW), I plugged it in, and it no longer powered up.

Grreaat. A quick shove rendered my near three-quarter-grand roaster useless.

So I ended up completely tearing the entire roaster down and rebuilding it, which took about five hours. In the process, I came to the following conclusions:

  1. It’s a miracle this thing works at all. The build quality is pure shit. Cheap plastic, cheaper screws, and metal only where absolutely necessary. Unfiltered smoke runs right past the main motor, and it’s a miracle the thing, covered in oil and dust, doesn’t just instantly combust during normal usage.
  2. The thing is messy. There were charred beans, oil, and residue embedded everywhere in the roaster. In the bottom tray. In the electronic control panel. In the motor area. Folks, I keep this thing upright and take good care of it until this morning. I’ve only roasted 49 batches. There’s no good reason for it to be chock-full of crap in every nook and cranny. Beans and chaff should be in the roasting chamber, not in the rest of the device.
  3. The roaster was not designed to be torn down and rebuilt.

I’m about to fire a test batch and see if I can’t burn down the house and neighborhood in the process. But, at this point, I’m going to be very impressed if this thing is still working in another 50 batches, which is very disconcerting, considering its cost. Now, the great warranty it comes with (well, not that great, but it’s heralded as great) don’t cover accidentally dropping the damn thing, and they surely won’t cover it now that I had to void the warranty to open it up and fix it.


Yeah, at the end of the day, I dropped my roaster five inches and broke it. I take the blame for that. But if the thing wasn’t built to the absolute minimum of foreign factory standards and wasn’t made of cheap plastic, shoddy joints, and cheap screws, I doubt I ever would have had this problem.

I think about the other coffee equipment I own. I own an expensive espresso machine and an expensive grinder. They’re both made in Italy, and they’re solid, heavy, and made of metal. They’re easy to maintain, tear down, and put back together when necessary, and other than a few replacement parts and some routine maintenance, should last a pretty damn long time. I pull something on the order of 30 shots a week, which means I grind 30 14-21g batches of beans a week. I roast about 1-1.5 pounds of coffee a week. I know the blend I like, I’m not currently in the mood for sample size batches (roasting every 2-3 days is more than enough), and I like the consistency and body provided by a drum roaster. I’m spending in the same class for my roaster as my other coffee equipment, but the quality is at least an order of magnitude worse.