HotTop Coffee Roaster: General Home Roasting Observations from Sweet Maria’s

HotTop Coffee Roaster Tip Sheet

General Home Roasting Observations from Sweet Maria’s
New– Download and Print this Tip Sheet in a Single Page .PDF Format. There is more information about using the HotTop Programmable on this page.

  • Read your owners manual for the HotTop before using. This is a supplemental “tip sheet” …and does not include important parts of the the HotTop instructions. The manual is very thorough and very good. The most recent copy of the manual is available as a PDF from the hottopusa.com website.
  • Be safe! Never leave the room while you are roasting coffee, even though the roaster is automated. The most recent versions of the machine require a human presence – you need to be present to push a button at key moments (temperatures) in the process – otherwise the beans will eject. Before roasting, make sure the machine is on a level surface.
  • Coffee roasting produces a fragrance and smoke, less obtrusive with light roasts but smokier if you roast dark. Operating any type of stove hood fan helps if the smoke is too intense for you. You can roast on a porch or near a partially open window weather permitting. But cold temperatures will effect the roast, and may make the roast stall completely! As a larger capacity 1/2 Lb. roaster, the HotTop will produce more smoke than other home roasters. Venting is mandatory: we recommend using the machine under a stovetop hood vented to the outside.
  • Roasting produces chaff. Chaff is a fine skin that detaches from the bean as your roast is agitated. Empty the chaff tray between every roast. Every few roasts, tip the HotTop forward to remove any residual chaff and beans that are trapped around the chaff tray compartment. Consider using a ShopVac to suck out any residual chaff or beans in the roast compartment every few roasts, and remove the drum every few roasts as well (see HotTop booklet on routine maintenace ). PLEASE NOTE: Dry processed coffees produce more chaff – and so there is a greater danger of a chaff fire with a dark roast on these beans. Watch the roast carefully – if a fire is ignited in the drum – do not eject as more oxygen will increase the strength of the fire. It is best to pull the plug and let the fire go out on its own. It is a good idea to have a fire extinguisher or water nearby.
  • Built-up coffee oils in the roaster are of no real consequence until they build up to 1/16”;. (In fact, a professional drum roaster requires hours of roasting initially to properly season the drum). But you are going to need to keep the viewing glass clean (every 3-4 roasts, it seems).
  • We have found the HotTop is very sensitive to changes in the WEIGHT of the green coffee you use in a batch. You must weigh the coffee, and be consistent! (We currently offer an accurate Salter digital scale for this purpose). 9 oz. (250 grams) is the recommended roast batch size. If you are not getting roasts dark enough to your taste, you can reduce the batch size to 7 or 8 oz, and effectively shift the entire roast range toward a darker roast. Whatever you chose, be consistent with the batch size.
  • The HotTop will consistently produce the same degree of roast at the same settings when it does its first roast of the day (or is absolutely cold). But we have found that subsequent roasts vary depending on how “hot” the machine is from the previous roast. The Pre Heat Cycle is supposed to take care of this variable, but doesn’t always. Even when using a custom profile, we recommend that you monitor the end of every roast, adding additional time if necessary and hitting the eject button to end the roast when doing subsequent batches. This allows you to target the exact degree of roast that you want, although it is less convenient than relying on the automated presets.
  • Both the Basic and the Programmable model have an automatic mode and we recommend that you use the preset programs first to see how the roaster will behave before diving in and programming different custom profiles. From our experience every roaster will behave slightly differently due to differences in line voltage and ambient temperature. Check the HotTop manual for information on using the presets and programming custom roast profiles.
  • No home roaster is designed to do serial batches! All home roasters need to cool before roasting another batch. This also improves consistency. Wait 20 minutes or longer – is the roaster feels cool to the touch – then if is safe to run another batch. While this is a large capacity roaster – it is designed for home use only! Using it for commercial or semi-commercial roasting voids the warranty!
  • I have had no trouble with small beans (like the Yemeni coffees) in the HotTop. Occasionally, a bean or partial bean will wedge in between the drum and drum end -this makes some odd noises but does not affect the roaster operation, and for me it has always worked itself free in the roast process. Look for partial beans when cleaning out the drum and interior of the roasting area.
  • I have found the HotTop cooling cycle to be very effective, so I just let it do its job, and use a modified funnel to transfer the coffee to glass jars when it is room temperature. Coffee is better after 4-24 hours of “resting”, which allows the CO2 to de-gas from the coffee. It is at its flavor peak at 12-72 hours. For espresso, sometimes it is best on the 4th or 5th day!
  • Some folks have used replacement filters -I have seen a stainless steel one – for the carbon and paper filters – since they want a permanent or reusable filter. We can not recommend these – as I have heard of two roaster fires when replacement filters were used. I don’t know if it is a result of the filter – but it may cause excessive heat to build up in the drum which can help ignite the chaff. ****The machine is SAFE – but there is always a risk involved in roasting coffee. Roaster fires are not common, but they do happen. *****
  • The manual has very important information about routine maintenance after every roast (emptying the chaff tray, checking for stray beans), every 5 to 10 roasts (removing the drum completely), and every 3 months (removing the back of the roast and vacuuming out any chaff that may have accumulated). Read the manual carefully! The most recent copy of the manual is available as a PDF from the hottopusa.com website.


In a nutshell, here is the roasting process you will be observing:

  • For the first 8 minutes the bean remains greenish, then turn lighter and emit a grassy smell. The beans start to steam as their internal water content dissipates.
  • The steam becomes fragrant. At around 15-17 minutes on the HotTop you will hear the “first crack,” an audible cracking sound as the real roasting starts to occur: sugars begin to caramelize, bound-up water escapes, the structure of the bean breaks down and oils migrate from their little pockets outward.
  • After the first crack, the roast can be considered complete any time according to your taste. The cracking is an audible cue, and, along with sight and smell, tells you what stage the roast is at.
  • Caramelization continues, oils migrate, and the bean expands in size as the roast becomes dark.
  • At this point a “second crack” can be heard, often more volatile than the first. Small pieces of the bean are sometimes blown away like shrapnel! It can be more difficult to hear than the first crack though. This happens around 19-20 minutes on my HotTop. Use the PLUS button to add time to the roast during the final roast stage (during which roaster beeps to let you know it is almost done).
  • As the roast becomes very dark, the smoke is more pungent (oils burn against the hot surfaces of the roast chamber) as sugars burn completely, and the bean structure breaks down more and more.
  • Eventually, the sugars burn completely, and the roast will only result in thin-bodied cup of “charcoal water.”
  • HotTop provides an excellent warranty (via the importer Vineus USA) on the roaster and they handle all repairs and replacements directly …send in the registration card right away! The warranty is for one year from date of purchase. Call them directly 401-497-1008 phone/ 401-946-0268 fax if you ever have a mechanical defect problem with the roaster. And READ their important, well-written instruction book!!! Email us if you have roasting questions ([email protected]).

The roaster diagram comes with the HotTop roast booklet. The book is very informative.

From the HotTop roast booklet. As you can seethe cooling tray comes right off it’s spindle for easy transfer.

Another bonus: this roaster is so easy to disassemble. Cleaning the front glass view window from the inside takes 30 seconds. Drum removal takes 2 minutes.

Here are some images of the HotTop drum, and how ti is removed from the drum chamber. It is very easy…


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