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I want to roast & sell from home - why not?

This is a discussion on I want to roast & sell from home - why not? within the Coffee Roasters forums, part of the Coffee Industry category; New to this board (second post) I’ve been into specialty coffee for over two years now. By that I mean I caught the bug by ...

  1. #1
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    I want to roast & sell from home - why not?

    New to this board (second post)

    I’ve been into specialty coffee for over two years now. By that I mean I caught the bug by buying some just roasted beans from ROJO roasters in the Northeast. Once I tasted that, I was off and running to find out more – I sought out and found folks that sell specialty greens – like Sweet Maria’s and tried roasting some on my very own popcorn popper. Even that was very good – better than my Eight –O’clock from Kroger.

    I started seeking out specialty coffee houses in the local Louisville, KY area and found some very good ones – and some not so good, yet still in business. I got so caught up in the whole thing I found myself buying and roasting greens all the time. Friends and family are now seeking my next roast dates to scrounge fresh roasted coffee. I bought a *$ Barista espresso machine and a Virtuoso grinder and have been making some surprisingly good shots and milk drinks – more scroungers…

    This past February I decided I wanted to look into opening my own coffee house in our small town outside Louisville – did I say small – 5000-6000? I found out about coffee fest in DC and attended and met everyone and attended ten or more seminars – sampled some really great espresso and packed home three bags full of brochures and business cards from folks I met and spoke to that weekend. From the follow ups I was swamped by coffee and flavor samples and other stuff like POS systems and counter/cabinet makers. Everything you can imagine.

    I found a location - perfect, did several layouts, priced everything down to the frothed milk in an espresso macchiato and did all the due diligence we could think of. I spoke to and attended our local SCORE folks on business and opening a new start up. Worked out a brand and logo, colors and anything else you could think of.

    At the end – our landlord decided we were taking too long and moved in a different direction with the space. Most likely this was better for me – our numbers for all the effort were coming up to be pretty pricey. More that I had capital for – of course that was the idea in the first place – the plan writing exercise was to find out if we could do it or not – right? NOT was the answer – at least for now.

    Meanwhile, my wife don’t want to stop thinking about the business, so we’ve been toying around with starting a small roasting business from home and growing it until we can make a good move to opening a small store selling espresso and beans. I want to renovate my garage and install an Ambex YM-2 and get on with the training.

    Why shouldn’t we pursue this? Is it not a good idea to try and roast greens at home to eventually sell retail locally at markets and retailers – or internet? Someone tell me why I shouldn’t keep getting experience roasting and peruse this two year + old dream in the specialty coffee roasting business.

    Money is tight but we can buy the roaster and set up shop. I have capital to work on getting more cupping knowledge and more experience - profiling experience and sampling. Is the retail environment good for this right now? Are there too many micro-roasters out there?

    Need advice in LaGrange, KY.

    Lachris
    lachris

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  3. #2
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    LaChris, dont talk yourself out of it...why not give it a go? You would of course need to make sure anything you do out of your garage with a roaster complies with all local body ordainances- but if you can get the permits etc, give it a go. The challenge, as always, is getting your product to market without a real store front. If you can overcome that, then I think you have demonstrated you do have a good degree of passion for what you are attempting to do.
    Merdeka Coffee (Indonesian Coffee Roasters and relationship coffee specialists) - Antipodean (Coffee - Cafe - Culture)

  4. #3
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    Just a few thoughts from someone who did exactly that. I was a home roaster for 5 years, got a steady following and eventually purchased a YM2, put it in a legal space at home, got inspected, even organic and FT certified, started pounding the street, and guess what? I got business! Since I have had the same full-time job for 25 years and am also a full-time college student again, I only planned for "limited success." Things went better than planned, quicker than I planned and here is the only danger I see: I struggle at times to keep up. I have to say that if you have another job and are going to roast 100-200lbs a week, a YM2 is not very practical. To go on vacation a couple weeks ago, I had to roast 200 lbs in two day and when I came home I was swamped. The point is, I have found it hard to go into this business on a small scale. I am wishing I had purchased a YM15 right from the start and planned go for 1,000 lbs a week instead of 100. With that said, no intent to discourage here. It is working for me and it is a great learning adventure.

    I think a home shop is fine for a wholesaler. It is very convenient for me and it helps me stay more competitive with the larger guys.

    My business has stayed steady during this "economic downturn." In fact, I am still growing.

    There are more roasters than ever before, but if you find your niche, there is room. I live in a town only 100 miles north of Louisville and I my college town loves all things organic...so that is what I provide.

    If you have any questions or want to talk, feel free to contact me or take a road trip to see my setup. Guys have come from a lot farther than you to check it out. No, its not special at all; there are just a lot of people like us who want to give it a try and like to see what others are doing.

    Shep

  5. #4
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    Shep, thats exactly what we all like to hear!!
    Merdeka Coffee (Indonesian Coffee Roasters and relationship coffee specialists) - Antipodean (Coffee - Cafe - Culture)

  6. #5
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    Give it a go...

    I want nothing more than to start learning more about cupping and the roasting trade. I feel like a boat anchor is tied to my foot and I can't get it off to plow ahead.

    Perhaps I can convert my shed into a home for a roaster? It would be pretty hot in there in the summer. Garage seems a better fit.

    Thanks guys for the good words and thoughts. I'm hoping to take you up on that visit - soon.

    Now I have to decide on the 3 or 5 Kilo US Roster Millennium or the Ambex YM2 or 5... :P

    lachris
    lachris

  7. #6
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    As stated earlier, you need to have a seperate building that passes your local codes the food inspector will look at. In Wisconsin we go through the local office of USDA. I needed to install a commercial 2 compartment sink and I still need to get my hand washing sink installed. I just think that is odd that I can't wash my hands in the same sink I wash the equipment in, and when I say equipment I just have scoops and tubs that hold the roasted beans while I weigh and bag. Of course the roaster gets a thorough cleaning before each roasting session too.

    We are still home based and growing but it is still just my wife and I. It is about half our income.
    Enjoy Your Coffee!
    Pete

  8. #7
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    A little bit more perspective. In my city, the health inspector will not pass you if you are not in a commercial building with a 3-compartment sink, mop sink and hand wash sink. There are other requirements but these are the fundamentals. Just up the road, they could care less if you roast and sell coffee in your home depot plastic shed where you store your weed killer and pesticides. Check with your local building people and health departments.

    I think Shep talks about the important thing in this discussion - the size of your machine. Make a spreadsheet or break out your slide rule and figure out how many roasts per day you will have to do on a YM2 to break even. Then do the same math with a 12K or 15K machine. We can roast as little as 5lbs on our 12k machine. It is not effective for sample roasting but its fine for smaller batches. Maybe some careful analysis on what you think a busy day would look like will lead you down a similar path. If you have a retail cafe, I can see having a smaller roaster, otherwise I don't think there is much merit.

    Good luck!

    C.

  9. #8
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    I want to roast & sell from home - why not?

    Sounds like you have done your homework....yeah the licensing and such can be a hassle - depends on where you live as to how strict they are.

    I live in South Dakota - the licensing isn't that much of a hassle - but I can NOT do it in my garage as it gets to like -20 F in the winter - so had to find a different space to work with.

    Good luck...keep us posted.

    pat

  10. #9
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    Pete/C/pat - I had this discussion with my wife. Either I move things out of the garage and into the shed or move things out of the shed and into the garage. I guess if your planning on giving or selling - you'd better plan on meeting some minimum health codes or just plan on roasting for yourself. The shed willhave no sinks, power or lighting as is, the garage has some of that and can be fitted easier.

    Still, do I have to do all that now - while trying to learn and grow - before customers and buyers? If I sell lemonaid at the farmers market in our small town - who cares right???

    As far as which roaster - I don't think I'll be as big as Shep in the next few years so is the extra cost and capacity worth it now...I think the extra cost for the large machine would go a long way into completing all the other things I may have to complete like sinks, gas lines, permits, training, greens - oh - greens...who and where to start with that???

    This is turning into the same thing I ran into with my cafe venture I was trying to put together. Can't ya just start out small and grow as you need to? If I buy a 2-3kilo roaster - someone would buy it later if I needed to move it and expand - right? More hassle yes, but less $$ to start and that's what I need right now or it won't happen - at least not right now.

    Thoughts? Comments?

    SERENITY NOW!
    lachris

  11. #10
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    Yes - I agree. I think from a business stand point there is something to be said about starting small and building...especially if money is tight. I previsoulsy started a business and it did GREAT - but my money didn't go nearly as far as it could have if I would have not done the biggest and best of everything.

    I also agree that someone will probably purchase the roaster - look back through this forum and see how long it took for people to sell the roasters that have been announced here - even the 3K sold pretty quickly.

    So - I think each situation has to be evaluated within the context of who is running the show, what the financing looks like, what you WANT from the business.

    I hope you get things fixed up and working...lot of work...

    pat

 

 
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