I'm Goin For It: Questions on starting a specialty coffee roasting business.

IMOprefontaine

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Jul 20, 2014
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Hello!

I want to begin my own coffee business, but ideally I want to start roasting first and then eventually open a cafe. Unfortunately coffee roasting is what I know the least about! I am very up to date on the current coffee industry and live in a city with a large specialty coffee scene, so I know what the "Top" coffee roasters are putting out.

I've been roasting for about a year on a gene cafe. Typically all I do is roast 30 seconds into first crack and measure the weight loss. I usually aim for 13.5-14.5% weight loss. Sometimes the stuff I roast is horrible. However, a lot of times I can roast stuff the I prefer to what I'm tasting in the top coffee roasters in the country. This has been confirmed by a lot of my specialty coffee friends who also try it all.

I'm not trying to toot my own horn in that last paragraph, I'm just expressing that I've surprised myself. When I've read/heard people talk about coffee roasting, I get lost and discouraged and what seems like the most complicated, scientific thing I've ever tried to take on! So I'm hoping to ask some questions the set me in the right direction to just go for it!

1. I'm looking to get a 5ish pound roaster. But if the thing arrived on my doorstep right now, I'd have no idea how to use it. How does one go about just simply learning how to use a larger roasters? Any roasters you recommend as far as being easy to learn?

2. Drying phases, temperatures, weight loss, fan speed, etc etc . . . there are so many variables, what do you recommend I do to learn how these impact coffee? Is there any classes, seminars, or books that I should look into?

3. Do most roasters just develop a profile, much like I've done with my gene cafe, and roast all there beans that way? I feel like I could spend a lifetime trying to perfect one crop of beans, so I get overwhelmed by the idea of constantly getting new beans! It seems like such a intimidating process to try and find the perfect roast for 10+ different crops of beans a year. How do you roasters do this?

4. Consistency. When I finally do nail the perfect roast, how easy is it to consistently reproduce on a commercial roaster? My thinking has been drastically shaped by my gene cafe, which NEVER roasts in the same way. I buy a 10 pound bag of beans and to get the same roast sometimes takes 10 minutes and sometimes 15 minutes, and everywhere in between! Sometimes the temperature gets up to 460, but sometimes it can't even hit 440 on the same beans/amount! And the worst part is that sometimes I nail it how I want twice in a row, but the next 3 roasts I botch like crazy! My point is, on my gene cafe, I feel like every time I roast is a guessing game, that unfortunately I only get right about half the time. Are commercial roasters like this, or is there a way to get easy repeatability? Can anyone give me any insight into this?

5. I will be starting out, while trying to manage a family and work another job. I have enough to buy a roaster outright, but I'm not excited about leasing out a spot to do it, primarily because space around here is not cheap to rent. If I'm looking into a 5lb roaster, does anyone have any ideas of finding a spot to actually run the thing?

Thanks everyone for the help!
 
I think you need to snoop around the archives of this forum. Familiarize yourself with the search box, or just start looking through the older threads.

For example, I found these two threads. Check them out, and then start digging for answers to some of the other questions you are asking. And as a free bonus, you'll find answers to questions you didn't even know to ask.

http://www.coffeeforums.com/forum/coffee-roasters/12095-5lbs-roaster-manufactures.html

http://www.coffeeforums.com/forum/coffee-roasters/12435-us-roasters-who-else.html
 
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Welcome to the forums and welcome to a very rewarding business! The best suggestion I can give is research research research. The second is find a roasting mentor, starting from scratch is hard without a mentor.
 
I'm actually roasting right now... it's 11pm at night (get used to that), so I've got a minute or two to spare.

1. I'm looking to get a 5ish pound roaster. But if the thing arrived on my doorstep right now, I'd have no idea how to use it. How does one go about just simply learning how to use a larger roasters? Any roasters you recommend as far as being easy to learn?

Time. Note taking. Tasting. Repeat. There are no shortcuts.

2. Drying phases, temperatures, weight loss, fan speed, etc etc . . . there are so many variables, what do you recommend I do to learn how these impact coffee? Is there any classes, seminars, or books that I should look into?

Boot Coffee Consulting. He is the best in the business. I preferred to learn on my own, but if you want the best possible instruction... he is it.

3. Do most roasters just develop a profile, much like I've done with my gene cafe, and roast all there beans that way? I feel like I could spend a lifetime trying to perfect one crop of beans, so I get overwhelmed by the idea of constantly getting new beans! It seems like such a intimidating process to try and find the perfect roast for 10+ different crops of beans a year. How do you roasters do this?

Most good roasters develop many profiles. It depends on cultivar/bean density/type of roast/seasonal weather variation/ etc.
I have about 10 profiles, four of which I use regularly and the others for more specifics such as peaberry, Kenyans, or Margogype/Geisha (large porous beans), Bourbon...


4. Consistency. When I finally do nail the perfect roast, how easy is it to consistently reproduce on a commercial roaster? My thinking has been drastically shaped by my gene cafe, which NEVER roasts in the same way. I buy a 10 pound bag of beans and to get the same roast sometimes takes 10 minutes and sometimes 15 minutes, and everywhere in between! Sometimes the temperature gets up to 460, but sometimes it can't even hit 440 on the same beans/amount! And the worst part is that sometimes I nail it how I want twice in a row, but the next 3 roasts I botch like crazy! My point is, on my gene cafe, I feel like every time I roast is a guessing game, that unfortunately I only get right about half the time. Are commercial roasters like this, or is there a way to get easy repeatability? Can anyone give me any insight into this?

I like the Gene Cafe, it teaches you some great principles, carry those principles with you to the larger roaster. The better build of a commercial roaster will provide a basis for greater consistency. You can always add profiling software, etc. to help you sculpt your roasts. And re-read the answer to #1 several times, there's really not much more to know than that.

5. I will be starting out, while trying to manage a family and work another job. I have enough to buy a roaster outright, but I'm not excited about leasing out a spot to do it, primarily because space around here is not cheap to rent. If I'm looking into a 5lb roaster, does anyone have any ideas of finding a spot to actually run the thing?

Either you want a business or a hobby. Make a decision, don't half-ass it.
 

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