Information Overload (Which roaster?)

CoffeeAtMidnight

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I have been looking for a coffee roaster off and on for a few years. I will be opening a coffee roasting business and am having trouble deciding which machine to buy. I'm looking for something in the 3kg range to start with.

I have sifted through a lot of information and I don't feel much closer to a decision than I was to begin with. I was originally pointed in the direction of Mill City, with praise to their customer service. I have since heard that their support leaves a bit to be desired. I considered Buckeye as well, but have been advised that their roasters are kind of cheap, rebadged Chinese machines. U.S. Roaster Corp, San Franciscan Roster Co., Roaster Dynamics; I've seen good and bad reviews on every company and machine I have investigated.

So I'll ask this, and see if it brings me any closer to a decision:

If you were buying a coffee roaster for a small startup business, what would you buy, and why?
 

Musicphan

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May 11, 2014
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Tell us more about what your goals are - impossible to help you with knowing more. Who are your target customer retail/wholesale, the style you like to roast, experience, location, etc
 
I would buy an Ambex 5Kg.
https://www.ambexroaster.com/shop-roasters/ym-5
While the body is manufactured in Turkey, the rest is made in Florida.
So you get support from within this country, which (IMHO) is essential should something break.

Their prices are reasonable (relative to their competition) and they are workhorses.
They aren't exciting roasters with lots of bells and whistles, but they get the job done.

I don't like roasters that have any part of the exhaust stack going under the drum.
If a fire occurs, bad things can/will happen.

Anything less than 5Kg roaster capacity would not support much of a business.
You need to balance the cost of the roaster vs capacity for your business to grow.
5Kg is a good starting point.

I cannot vouch for their after sales service, but I'm sure many others can.

I visited Mill City at one point and nearly bought a roaster from them.
Again, I cannot vouch for their after sales service, but their Chinese-made roasters have lots of bells and whistles - not that I think bells and whistles are particularly important.
They seem quite expensive.
 
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CoffeeAtMidnight

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Thanks for your reply!

I would buy an Ambex 5Kg.

I take it you have used the Ambex roasters yourself? What was it that tipped your decision their way?

Anything less than 5Kg roaster capacity would not support much of a business.
You need to balance the cost of the roaster vs capacity for your business to grow.
5Kg is a good starting point.

I have heard that as well, but I've also had the 3kg recommended as a good starting size since it can roast samples. Anything bigger doesn't seem like it could run double duty.
 
I was recommending for Ambex based upon price, reliability and ability to get support/parts within the USA.
No, I haven't owned one, but I have occasionally used a friend's 10Kg - which is old and has been very reliable.

Sample roasting thoughts:
You will need to be very skilled to do a 200gm sample roast on a 3Kg roaster.
I use a Gene Cafe for sample roasting because I don't want to spend a fortune on a decent sample roaster.
It doesn't give me a usable profile of how to roast the beans in production, but it does tell me if I want to buy these beans.

Production roasting:
After I buy a bag of beans, I gradually zero in on a good roast profile with each successive roast.
If doctors can practice medicine and lawyers can practice law, I am entitled to practice roasting.
I view every roast as an experiment and constantly try to improve by making one small change every roast until I am happy with the result.
Recording what you did on each roast is VERY important.
Make it easy: I use my bean thermocouple and Artisan running on an old laptop.

Roaster capacity thoughts:
You need to look at how much profit you need to survive once you get going.
With a 3Kg roaster, you would need to spend every working hour roasting to make enough profit.
That will diminish the available time for other important stuff like marketing.
It is a struggle with a 5Kg roaster, but possible.
To maximize your profit, you don't want to be upgrading roasters too often, particularly in the beginning.

No matter what machine you buy, the most important factor in the quality of a roast is you.
So for the roaster itself, I focus on value for money and reliability.

Don't forget to budget for a whole host of other things:
1. Bags and labels; bag sealer; scales; stainless scoops.
2. Storage bins for green coffee.
3. Flue for your roaster (can be fairly expensive).
4. My favorite: fire safety - get at least one CO2 extinguisher.
5. Check to see if you need some type of afterburner (expensive).

Good luck.
 

topher

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I apprenticed on a Diedrich in 94. When I left there my new job bought the first 5 kilo Ambex. I have been roasting ever since. I have used many machines over the years but when I get my choice it is Ambex. I like that if a motor dies I can run to granger and replace it easy-peasy. These machines are super simple. If you keep them clean and lubed you are good to go. I am currently using a 60 kilo Ambex. I bought it used in 2003. I beat the crap out of it running it sometimes 21 hours in a day. I had it rebuilt 10 years ago and she is running like new, I actually used a jabez burns sample roaster that was built in 1912 and a Royal that was built in 1896...keep them clean and lubed ;)
 
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CoffeeAtMidnight

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A lot of great thoughts there, thanks for the info! I'm definitely leaning toward the idea of starting with the 5kg machine and a cheaper sample roaster. The Ambex is starting to sound like a good machine, I'm surprised I hadn't hear much about them. Reliability is always one of the primary concerns with equipment like this, so I'm glad to hear endorsements in that realm specifically.
 
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topher

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I sure am glad I'm not roasting 21 hours/day.
Unless there were multiple personnel shifts doing the roasting (in which case I'm fine with the idea of 24 hours/day), that sounds like the definition of needing a roaster capacity upgrade.
It was only me. We didn't have room to add any more machinery at that location. So I had to just put in the work. I would get to a point where I was going to snap and would tell the owner I couldn't go on. What was his response? "I will give you another $15k. I can do it. Lol. When you have that talk 3 weeks in a row it adds up.
 

topher

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A lot of great thoughts there, thanks for the info! I'm definitely leaning toward the idea of starting with the 5kg machine and a cheaper sample roaster. The Ambex is starting to sound like a good machine, I'm surprised I hadn't hear much about them. Reliability is always one of the primary concerns with equipment like this, so I'm glad to hear endorsements in that realm specifically.
I have used expensive sample roasters in the past. I bought a Kaldi about 5 or 6 years ago and it worked great for samples...Then it was hit by a car that drove through our front door. I recently bought another one and its great!
https://www.amazon.com/KALDI-Motori...ocphy=9012048&hvtargid=pla-324972058737&psc=1
 
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CoffeeAtMidnight

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The Kaldi does look like an interesting machine! What did you use as the heat source?

It seems like it may have some profiling capabilities as well.
 
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