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A greeting and a couple of questions

mjs

New member
Jan 5, 2015
7
0
Pittsburgh
First, I'd like to say hello and thank you to all of the roasting veterans out in forumland who take the time to comment and help out dreamers like me. In my 10+ years of home roasting (currently on a Behmor 1600), the "I wonder if I could make a living off of this" thought has sat in the back of my mind. I've been lurking here on and off for a good while, seeing what kind of knowledge I might absorb and the thought has crept closer to the front of my mind.

Based on some rough numbers, I expect that I'm at least 18 months away from being in a financial position to dive into the deep end. I have a couple of roaster related questions that I'm hoping you folks might lend some insight toward. I have done some searching and prior post reading, but haven't seen answers to these...I apologize if I'm asking things that have been beat into the ground and will gladly do more digging on my own if that is the case.

1) In your experience, how long does it take to adjust to a commercial grade roaster?
In my opinion, I can consistently roast "good" coffee on the Behmor. I'd like to think that it wouldn't take a ton of hours on a commercial roaster to get to "good" and start working toward "great", but I'm just making assumptions. Should I try to find someone local who I can rent roaster time from to see how steep the learning curve is, or can I trust in the kind of training and support a company like US Roaster Corp offers?​
2) Is it worth taking an in-between step with a 1lb sample sized roaster to develop skill with a decent drum roaster, or would I be ok focusing on buying a larger scale model (at this point, I think 5kg - 10kg would be my range)?
If I bought a sample roaster or went with something like a Huky, I wouldn't be planning to roast for sales off of that. It would really only be for training initially and then possibly kept around for sample roasting later. My understanding of the 5kg sized roasters is that they can be reliably used for 1lb sample batches, so a sample roaster would be redundant at that point.​

Thanks in advance for answers to these and any other questions I'll have along the way. Regardless of whether I take the leap in 18 months or 18 years, I'm glad to join the community here on the boards.

Matt
 

sae

Member
Nov 16, 2010
183
0
I started roasting in a pop corn popper, then a behmor and then a 5kilo. My first batch on the 5 kilo look me 20 minutes but then I learned how to use the gas and the second batch was better than the behmor. It takes several batches to become truly comfortable with any roaster to the point where you can predict that if you do "this" then "that" will happen.

I think buying a huky or a quest is a good idea as it will get you accustomed to making changes to gas and air.
 

peterjschmidt

New member
Oct 10, 2013
1,158
0
Milwaukee, WI
It doesn't matter what you roast with, what matters is understanding how the roaster is treating the beans, and moreover, what the beans need/want to produce great taste.

If you roast with something like a Behmor with built-in profiles, and even if you do things to compensate and compliment what the Behmor is doing, do you actually understand what the heat and air, or adjustments to the heat and air, are doing?
 

slurp

New member
Jun 24, 2014
382
0
Hollywood Fl
1) In your experience, how long does it take to adjust to a commercial grade roaster?
In my opinion, I can consistently roast "good" coffee on the Behmor. I'd like to think that it wouldn't take a ton of hours on a commercial roaster to get to "good" and start working toward "great", but I'm just making assumptions. Should I try to find someone local who I can rent roaster time from to see how steep the learning curve is, or can I trust in the kind of training and support a company like US Roaster Corp offers?​


As stated by Peter knowing how to roast is the hard part. The roaster is just a way to get the heat to the beans at certain points. If you can roast on a small machine moving to a commercial grade machine may be easier than you think. You will leave more air flow and heat control than you have now.



2) Is it worth taking an in-between step with a 1lb sample sized roaster to develop skill with a decent drum roaster, or would I be ok focusing on buying a larger scale model (at this point, I think 5kg - 10kg would be my range)?
If I bought a sample roaster or went with something like a Huky, I wouldn't be planning to roast for sales off of that. It would really only be for training initially and then possibly kept around for sample roasting later. My understanding of the 5kg sized roasters is that they can be reliably used for 1lb sample batches, so a sample roaster would be redundant at that point.​

Thanks in advance for answers to these and any other questions I'll have along the way. Regardless of whether I take the leap in 18 months or 18 years, I'm glad to join the community here on the boards.

Matt

My first machine was a 15 kilo that does 22 pound batches. I am glad I saved the money an skipped the 1 kilo machines. Before my roaster purchase I read and read and read and asked a lot of questions. What I learned was buying a small machine means you will out grow it quick. It has taken me 3 years or so to out grow it.

When your ready I may be ready to part with my 15 kilo. If it was me I would buy the biggest machine I could afford (up to a 60 kilo).
 

expat

New member
May 1, 2012
430
1
Ireland
First you've gotta decide -- This [professional coffee roasting] is what I want to do. Buying the sample roaster is just going to push that further out into the future. There is a quote somewhere about Cortez burning his boats when he got to the New World because then his men knew there was no going back. Buying the sample roaster is just buying a new boat. Buying a shop roaster is burning roasting as a hobby and committing to professional roasting.

We'd never roasted coffee -- besides a couple of stove top cast iron pan batches -- when we started, we just knew we wanted to roast as a career, we needed to make some money, and that we had a market for good coffee. So we bought an Ozturk 10kg roaster (which has been great) and dove in. I won't say that our first roasts were the best ever but they got better pretty quick. We tossed some coffee out. But overall things went well. Then things just got better. With your experience you'll probably have good roasts from the get-go.

As to selling the coffee we had no business when we bought the roaster so we had to start from scratch getting customers. From that angle the 10kg roaster was too big. A 5kg would have been better. We'd roast -- and we'd roast at least 6 or 7kg to get a good roast (it's tough roasting 3kg in a 10kg machine especially when you're a novice) and then we'd have it sitting for awhile as we tried to sell it. Some of the coffee got older than we wanted it to while trying to sell it so we'd dump that and roast some more.

Within about 4 months we were glad we had the 10kg because we'd have outgrown the 5kg in a few more months. I think the 10kg was the perfect size for us. But if you've got sales lined up then maybe the 15kg is the way to go. The trick is to buy bigger than you need now, because you'll soon need more later, but not so big that your smallest batch has to be much larger than you need. Something you'll need to give some thought to.
 

Amhas

New member
Oct 23, 2014
50
0
Hello Matt,
This is really only a question you can answer. Feedback will vary here from the left to the right. I personally just started in this endeavor myself and I can give you feedback from my perspective. I went with a 1k roaster which I feel I can learn on and produce some product and see if I can get a stable customer base. Yes I may quickly out grow the machine but my thinking was that if I didn't want to do this I would have a small investment which I could reasonably pay off from sales and if things went well I had a decent sample roaster or just a roaster for small batches of decaf or what ever. Even sell it and buy a bigger machine (resale seems to be good for a decent machine). As you noted a 1lb machine is just not feasible for reselling product. I don't think a 1k is much better but I didn't feel I could afford to make the investment in a 5k or larger machine until I had that experience and with out test marketing the product.
I just got my IR1 this week and after a few batches to season the drum I have already got a feel for adjusting the heat and air flow, but I have a lot more to learn. This will most definitely change from bean to bean and other variables, but I'm getting the feel for how to make adjustments and I have a very positive feeling about being able to manipulate the system to get what I want from the beans.

I don't think you can reliably roast (with precision) 1lb samples in a 5k let alone a 10k machine. The problem here is that the bean prob will not be submersed in the beans so you will have to guess what the roast is doing. So yes you can roast 1lb in a big machine but in reality you will need the machine to be between 50% and 80% of capacity to roast with precision. Even then you will have to make adjustments to your charge temp and gas/air settings during a roast with even small changes to the charge weight. For example yesterday I was roasting and I noted a slight change in turn around temp/time (about 5 degrees) and after dropping the beans I noticed 10 grams of a 520g sample was left in the hopper. Probably not enough to make a difference in taste but just an observation to show you that there's a lot going on which you need to take into account.

I did a lot of research before I made my purchase and I still learned a few things afterwards. Things to be aware of. Larger machines may require an afterburner in your area, which can cost as much or more than the roaster. Roasting out of your garage is not permitted in most areas, especially if you're looking at the volume from a 5k or 10k machine. The venting requirements for these machines are something you should look into. I have simple setup with a single 90 tee and about 10' up through the roof and the quotes I have are around $3,000 for just the materials. You can cut corners here to reduce that cost to a third that cost or less but at what risk I'm not sure, and I don't know for sure but if you get a facility to roast in you may not be able to cut corners to obtain the proper permits.
I'm am by no means trying to discourage you from making that decision but just share with you some of my experiences so far.

I'm not sure where you're located but if you are in Northern CA you're welcome to come by and see my setup and even play with the system.

Todd
 
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mjs

New member
Jan 5, 2015
7
0
Pittsburgh
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Thanks for the replies, everyone. I guess the basic point is that there isn't a one size fits all solution.

sae: It looks like I'm on a similar path to the one you took. I started on a little fluid bed air roaster and then got the Behmor a year or two later.

peter: Between playing with the Behmor profiles, reading Roast magazine, and whatever internet articles and books I can get my hands on, I'd like to think that I at least have a basic understanding of what's going on. I'm waiting for my copy of The Coffee Roaster's Companion, which I hope will provide some additional insight. Obviously, nothing beats hands on experience, though. When the time comes to step away from my current job and start a roasting business (I'm targeting summer of 2016), I don't expect to hit the ground running with a bunch of wholesale accounts lining up for me. I'm just hoping that I'm not going to have to spend 6 months getting accustomed to a new machine before I'm comfortable with the quality of the roasts I'm producing.

slurp: I think I've seen you post that you can do sample batches on your 15kg. Do you feel that replicating those samples is tough due to the size of your roaster, or is it just a matter of knowing your machine well? If you think you'll be in a position to sell your roaster in a couple of summers, I might come calling. I'll evaluate any option I have, though I haven't talked myself into a roaster of that size yet.

expat: Beyond the typical friends and family who will show their support by buying a pound here and there, all I have is a connection to small local restaurant chain. Maybe I'm setting the bar too low, but growing out of a 5kg roaster in a few months seems impressive. I'd like to pick your brain at some point about the approach you took to growing your customer base. That's for a dirrefent thread or a PM, though.

Todd: I plan to rent space in an area zoned correctly for a roasting business. I'm also budgeting thousands for "build out" type expenses, including venting/exhaust. I haven't looked into afterburner requirements, but I suspect my choice in roaster will factor into that. I actually may be coming through northern CA in the fall, so I'll keep your offer in mind as I plan my trip.
 

slurp

New member
Jun 24, 2014
382
0
Hollywood Fl
Thanks for the replies, everyone. I guess the basic point is that there isn't a one size fits all solution.

sae: It looks like I'm on a similar path to the one you took. I started on a little fluid bed air roaster and then got the Behmor a year or two later.

This is AWESOME love that you guys have the passion from home fluid roasters!!!!! Hats off to you!!!!

peter: Between playing with the Behmor profiles, reading Roast magazine, and whatever internet articles and books I can get my hands on, I'd like to think that I at least have a basic understanding of what's going on. I'm waiting for my copy of The Coffee Roaster's Companion, which I hope will provide some additional insight. Obviously, nothing beats hands on experience, though. When the time comes to step away from my current job and start a roasting business (I'm targeting summer of 2016), I don't expect to hit the ground running with a bunch of wholesale accounts lining up for me. I'm just hoping that I'm not going to have to spend 6 months getting accustomed to a new machine before I'm comfortable with the quality of the roasts I'm producing.

You can do it, sounds like your a smart guy :) Also you may want to hire another roaster to consult and get your self started, that is what I did but you do not need to do this I am just a worry wort.

slurp: I think I've seen you post that you can do sample batches on your 15kg. Do you feel that replicating those samples is tough due to the size of your roaster, or is it just a matter of knowing your machine well? If you think you'll be in a position to sell your roaster in a couple of summers, I might come calling. I'll evaluate any option I have, though I haven't talked myself into a roaster of that size yet.

The smallest batches I do is 4/5 pounds. It will do smaller but if I need samples roasted I bug Topher to do it LMAO. On a serious note buy a bigger roaster, just visited a roaster that roast one day a week on a 5 kilo. He says he is roasting 7 bags a month that would lead to 15 hours of roasting a day. Now I think he might not be roasting that much but either way if your going to open a store and do not want to roast every day think about a bigger machine. There will be plenty of people that say differently. I can tell you that my 15 kilo is running everyday 5 to 6 hours roasting about 25 bags per month. Leaves no time for anything else such as marketing, running a store, scuba diving or flying air planes.


expat: Beyond the typical friends and family who will show their support by buying a pound here and there, all I have is a connection to small local restaurant chain. Maybe I'm setting the bar too low, but growing out of a 5kg roaster in a few months seems impressive. I'd like to pick your brain at some point about the approach you took to growing your customer base. That's for a dirrefent thread or a PM, though.

Expat is correct if your going to take it seriously that 5 Kilo will make you work like all day. Remember as I said above there is more than just roasting it is running a business.

Todd: I plan to rent space in an area zoned correctly for a roasting business. I'm also budgeting thousands for "build out" type expenses, including venting/exhaust. I haven't looked into afterburner requirements, but I suspect my choice in roaster will factor into that. I actually may be coming through northern CA in the fall, so I'll keep your offer in mind as I plan my trip.

If you stick with a 5 Kilo you might slide with out a afterburner. Any thing bigger generally requires one if if it broke (right Topher LOL)



**************

This is one of the most productive threads on the board lately IMO. Everyone giving good advice and a OP that is having a serious discussion with us. No one with mine is bigger than yours or that is stupid. It it is really nice to see a positive productive thread! Everyone posting here has lots a valid points, makes me happy to see everyone getting along :) :) :)
 

topher

Super Moderator
Staff member
Aug 14, 2003
3,823
33
Boca Raton
Mine is bigger than yours Slurp. I must ask who was the wise person that told you to skip buying a 5 kilo? I am with Slurp on this..buy bigger and grow. I have a 60 kilo and can do down to 30 lbs easily on it. If I can't sell 30 lbs a coffee there is an issue. The first place I roasted after my apprenticeship used a 5kilo. The coffee shop was about 500 sq ft and busy as all get out. I ended up roasting from open to close non stop. This left me no time to run the coffee shop. I ended up having to hire a manager. I had that problem at another place on a 60 kilo...never want to roast 21 hours a day again.
 

Amhas

New member
Oct 23, 2014
50
0
**************

This is one of the most productive threads on the board lately IMO. Everyone giving good advice and a OP that is having a serious discussion with us. No one with mine is bigger than yours or that is stupid. It it is really nice to see a positive productive thread! Everyone posting here has lots a valid points, makes me happy to see everyone getting along :) :) :)

Agreed Slurp!!!

MJS, If you are in the area I'd be happy to give you a tour. If you're going full bore like it sounds I would agree with the others on the sizing, get something 12k or larger and buy a small sample roaster like the Quest or similar system for doing samples. With a larger machine you're mistakes and learning curve may cost a lot more so as someone said (think it was Slurp) I would get someone to come in and help you get started, it will likely save you a lot of time and the cost in lost beans (dumped in the trash) versus what it cost to pay for a consultant will likely be a wash.

Good luck and feel free to PM me if you are in the area.

Todd
 
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ChefDavid

New member
Dec 19, 2014
39
0
[COLOR=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.701961)]Very great and inportant information.

im glad so many people chimed in and they were all quality, on topic comments.

I too, am starting out and these boards are invaluable, to my research.

topher, is awesome and always spot-on, what a Valuable Resource this Master Roaster is to us Newbies just starting out.

Slurp, Topher talks about you a lot, can't wait to fly back down to my old stomping grounds to meet the both of you.

Thank you so much, all of you Veteran Roasters, for willfully sharing your knowledge.

I was wondering if there was any way to donate to this forum to keep improving this valuable resource, even just a few bucks from the folks that get the right information out to us should be rewarded. Even if it's going to be used for Site Improvements.

Chef David CEC
[/COLOR]
 

slurp

New member
Jun 24, 2014
382
0
Hollywood Fl

Slurp, Topher talks about you a lot, can't wait to fly back down to my old stomping grounds to meet the both of you.

Topher uses me for my good looks to get in the hipster bars :decaf::decaf::decaf::decaf::decaf::decaf::decaf::decaf:


This is a great place with lots of knowledge and great people when being well behaved. As far as a donation I have offered to buy this forum and they had no interest. If I owned it it could be all about me LOL.
 

expat

New member
May 1, 2012
430
1
Ireland
This thread has got me thinking about another topic -- sample roasters and their importance, or lack thereof. Instead of hijacking this thread though I'll start a new one and would love to hear your opinions.
 
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