I have been home roasting for about three months short of 9 years. I have used the following roasters in that time:
- Hearthware Precision
- Hearthwarte Gourmet
- Popcorn poppers (bought, tested, and sold or given away three)
- Hearthware iRoast2
- at least one of Every model of Hottop made (I work for them as an independent contractor).
I agree that most unmodified air poppers create an overly-bright underdeveloped roast. The Hearthware iRoast2 was the only fluid bed roaster of the above examples that produced a quality roast for me. The Genecafe also is very capable of producing a roast that rivals commercial roasts, but its lack of programmability as well as its inability to have profiles saved means that it is a hands-on machine for every roast. Its cooling function is marginal as well since it blows the cooling air through the heating elements metal chamber before the air is passed over the coffee.
The early models of the Hottop, while capable, lacked user control to get the most from the bean. The last two models, the KN-8828P and more so, the KN-8828B are both very good and capable roasters that allow the user to created a smooth, balanced, developed coffee.
The KN-8828B is the only one of the above bunch I use, and have been using for a year or two now. All the other sit on display shelves or have gone back into their boxes. They create an excellent espresso roast that makes a good straight espresso as well as flavor that cuts through milk in a cappuccino.
The other benefit is that the Hottops are tanks, built to last.