I have never been content for terribly long. This is a part of my character, such as it is. It’s shown itself, over the years, in my tastes for cars, computers, and electronic gadgets of all stripes… in other words: stuff. [It has decidedly not shown itself in terms of relationships: I’m still with Wife, version 1.0, and have no intention of upgrading. Which may or may not be welcome news to herself.]

Nowhere has this desire for bigger and better manifest itself more boldly than in my obsession with the bean. After a succession of ever larger roasters: a Freshroast, Freshroast Plus, Hearthware Gourmet [and any number of hot-rodding efforts made to that Gourmet] and my two home-grown coffee roasters, a drum fitted into an electric grill, and then a gas grill, I’m now on coffee roaster version 6.0 — a HotTop.

This upgrade has been an eye-opener.

It’s not all about capacity… while the HotTop offers roughly twice the batch size as the Gourmet, or three times that of the Freshroast, its batch size is still half what I’d achieved with my own gas-fired grill drum roaster.

It’s not all about convenience… though this is the first and only coffee roaster that’s simple enough to use that herself isn’t intimidated by it. The air roasters proved too noisy. The grill too much a pain in the ass.

It’s not all about consistency… but there’s a lot to be said for that consistency. I’m still not inclined to start the HotTop and walk away from it — not something I’d really recommend with any coffee roaster — but I probably could. I don’t because I like to be solidly connected to the roast. I want to know what’s going on. I want to know how the beans smell as they develop, and how they look at those critical moments between first and second crack.

It’s all about the end result. All of the above factors carry a lot of weight, but the real proof is in the cup. And what I find in the cup with the HotTop has more fragrance, more aroma, and more discernible origin flavors than any roaster I’ve used to date. More, it’s become apparent that some of the flavors I’d been attributing to some origins were actually flavors introduced by less-than-ideal roasts with some of the air-roasters in the line-up. The tannic astringency I’d associated with PNG coffees? Not the coffee at all, but an artifact of too high a roast temperature in the hot-rodded Hearthware!

The HotTop has got its quirks, too, and I’m learning them, and learning to work with or around them. I’d like a bit more control over the roast profile. Actually, I’d like a lot more control over the roast profile. But I’m thinking I’m going to be very happy with this roaster… at least until I upgrade to version 7.

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