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Small roaster to gain skills

beanwagon

New member
Dec 9, 2014
8
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Hello all! This is my first post as a new member and relatively new coffee roaster. I am looking for some feedback and/or advice. Here are some details:

BACKGROUND: I have done a bit of home roasting on a whirly-pop over a propane flame. I am slowly developing more knowledge about roasting, and building my palate.

GOAL: I recently moved to a small town where there is no quality coffee for miles. I want to start up a home-roasting business and deliver to friends and family as I develop my skills. If things go well, I may end up opening a cafe with a friend. At this point I am not looking for business advice...just giving some background. What I really need help with is determining the best roaster for my needs at this point in time.

ROASTER: I need something I can install in my basement in a dedicated roasting room. I expect to roast 30+ pounds per week, and want to get a roaster that I can develop my skills on and get some consistent roasts. I want to stay under $10K...hopefully well below, unless it really makes sense to spend more at this point (this is part of what I am trying to figure out here).

QUESTIONS:
  • How important is it that I get a drum roaster? Ideally, I would want to gain skills that translate to a larger roaster within a few years if I grow out of my basement. A local person is selling a Sonofresco, but I am shying away as I feel it isn't the best roaster to build my roasting skills on.
  • I've been looking at the TJ-067 gas roaster through Mill City. What is the latest word on the street on this one? For my specific situation and goals, does it seem like a front runner in that price range? I would love to go with US Roaster or SF, but can't really spend $15-20K at this point. I would probably go with US Roaster if I was ready to get a business loan.
  • Any other things to consider in my hunt for a roaster?

Thanks in advance for your input.
 

Redswing

New member
May 30, 2013
227
0
Northern California
Beanwagon, sounds cool. I recommend you consider calling the manufacturers you are interested in and asking them if they know of any used roasters coming in that will be refurbished and then resold. I found my SF6 this way, and got a 9 year old roaster refurbished by the manufacturer for 2/3 of the cost of a new one. From my experience, it's worth a shot.
 

Amhas

New member
Oct 23, 2014
50
0
I second Redswing's advice. You definitely want to go with a drum roaster. I believe you can get a SF1 within your budget however, it would be 10 plus hours a week to produce 30 lb. That said it is probably the best and cheapest way to learn and the SF1 would be a useful tool even down the road as a sample roaster if you did grow.
I went with the IR1 but that was just a touch out of your budget, but will produce about 2x as much per roast. No experience outside of that with roasters but my requirement was to purchase something built in the USA.
Warning note here... be careful and make sure that you understand all the requirements of installing a roaster (gas and venting requirements specifically). Understand what you can and can't do per code in your region as a business selling coffee (it may not be what you expect) and per building codes (if you are going to go that route).
Good luck!!! :)
 
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beanwagon

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Dec 9, 2014
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Beanwagon, sounds cool. I recommend you consider calling the manufacturers you are interested in and asking them if they know of any used roasters coming in that will be refurbished and then resold. I found my SF6 this way, and got a 9 year old roaster refurbished by the manufacturer for 2/3 of the cost of a new one. From my experience, it's worth a shot.

Thanks Redswing. It seems to be a recurring theme here on the forums to contact the manufacturers. I'll be sure to make some calls and connect, and hope to find a higher quality roaster. Speaking of which, I have mostly been looking at Coffeetec, Ebay, Amazon, this site and Craigslist for used roasters. Are there any other decent venues to find used equipment?

Thanks again!
 
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beanwagon

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Dec 9, 2014
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I second Redswing's advice. You definitely want to go with a drum roaster. I believe you can get a SF1 within your budget however, it would be 10 plus hours a week to produce 30 lb. That said it is probably the best and cheapest way to learn and the SF1 would be a useful tool even down the road as a sample roaster if you did grow.
I went with the IR1 but that was just a touch out of your budget, but will produce about 2x as much per roast. No experience outside of that with roasters but my requirement was to purchase something built in the USA.
Warning note here... be careful and make sure that you understand all the requirements of installing a roaster (gas and venting requirements specifically). Understand what you can and can't do per code in your region as a business selling coffee (it may not be what you expect) and per building codes (if you are going to go that route).
Good luck!!! :)

Thanks for the advice, Amhas. I guess I didn't realize that the SF1 was within my budget. I'll give them a call and see what I can find out. Also, thanks for mentioning local business and building codes with respect to installing a roaster. I have spoken with someone locally who installed a Sonofresco and obtained a local business license, which included an inspection. I'll be sure to dig a little deeper to make sure I don't get too far down this path without knowing the local requirements.
 

peterjschmidt

New member
Oct 10, 2013
1,158
0
Milwaukee, WI
Roasters are like cigar humidors; you should always buy twice the size you think you'll need.

What is your 30+ lbs. per week based on?

How much time can you take from other areas of life and devote them to roasting. Not to mention sourcing greens - roasting/cupping samples, labeling/bagging - spending time in transacting w/ customers, etc,... that stuff takes as much time as does the roasting.

Then, assuming your 30+ number is accurate, why would that number be accurate in six months or a year?

If you buy a roaster that is outgrown too quickly you'll waste more time trying to sell it and find the next size up. Or, if you just live with a too-small roaster, you'll end up spending too much time roasting and not doing the other necessary things to build your business.
 

Franciskoh

New member
Dec 4, 2014
33
0
Singapore
Good day to all coffee friends,
I am new here, pardon me if I had repeated the following for discussion;
Anyone tried roasting 1kg of coffee using 15 kg roaster? how is the roast profile like? In term of temperature vs time controls.
Thank you.
 
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beanwagon

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Dec 9, 2014
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Roasters are like cigar humidors; you should always buy twice the size you think you'll need.

What is your 30+ lbs. per week based on?

How much time can you take from other areas of life and devote them to roasting. Not to mention sourcing greens - roasting/cupping samples, labeling/bagging - spending time in transacting w/ customers, etc,... that stuff takes as much time as does the roasting.

Then, assuming your 30+ number is accurate, why would that number be accurate in six months or a year?

If you buy a roaster that is outgrown too quickly you'll waste more time trying to sell it and find the next size up. Or, if you just live with a too-small roaster, you'll end up spending too much time roasting and not doing the other necessary things to build your business.

Hello peterjschmidt,

Thanks for your comments. This actually gets to the heart of my dilemma! I really hope to grow a business within a year or two, which would definitely require a bigger roaster. However, I do not have the resources right now to really get the roaster that I want if I were to have a full-fledged business. The idea here is that I start with a small, home-based business to gain/expand my roasting, sourcing, cupping, and brewing skills. If it takes off and feels right, then I will most likely get a business loan to expand...move out of the basement, get a bigger roaster, possibly partner with someone to open a shop of some kind. At this point, I am trying to figure out the best roaster for this "test phase" of roasting for me. I want something where I can build skills without having to get a big loan to do it. I started out considering a Sonofresco, but I'm thinking that I want to roast on a drum roaster if things progress to the next level. This led me to look at lower priced drum roasters.

Still trying to figure it out!
 

Amhas

New member
Oct 23, 2014
50
0
Hello peterjschmidt,

Thanks for your comments. This actually gets to the heart of my dilemma! I really hope to grow a business within a year or two, which would definitely require a bigger roaster. However, I do not have the resources right now to really get the roaster that I want if I were to have a full-fledged business. The idea here is that I start with a small, home-based business to gain/expand my roasting, sourcing, cupping, and brewing skills. If it takes off and feels right, then I will most likely get a business loan to expand...move out of the basement, get a bigger roaster, possibly partner with someone to open a shop of some kind. At this point, I am trying to figure out the best roaster for this "test phase" of roasting for me. I want something where I can build skills without having to get a big loan to do it. I started out considering a Sonofresco, but I'm thinking that I want to roast on a drum roaster if things progress to the next level. This led me to look at lower priced drum roasters.

Still trying to figure it out!

Beanwagon,

This is exactly what I'm doing as well, but I expect there are numerous others doing the same. I went with the IR1 so I could produce some volume, because of just that point noted by Peter. The next size up is generally around 6 lb or 3 kilo. Price and volume is an issue there.
Also one other thing I forgot to mention don't forget to budget for the other things you need for the install. Like the gas line (got this done cheap for under $300), the venting (this is going to probably cost me around $500 for materials from what I can gather not including labor), and the table or any other setup/staging. The little things can add up.
 

peterjschmidt

New member
Oct 10, 2013
1,158
0
Milwaukee, WI
I also did what you are thinking about, but kept it among friends/family/neighbors/church people. My sales have hovered ~70#/month, and for 7 years of my 10 years of roasting/selling coffee, I did so using two SC/TO's... you can google that, but it's a very good way to cobble together a roaster and will produce very good results... and could produce 4#/hour; not bad for a $100 roaster. Since moving up to a 2K Ambex, I'm enjoying the results a tad more, but especially enjoy the time-saving as well as having a 'real' roaster to show off to customers/friends.
 

MillCityRoasters

New member
Jun 25, 2014
104
1
Minneapolis, MN
QUESTIONS:
  • How important is it that I get a drum roaster? Ideally, I would want to gain skills that translate to a larger roaster within a few years if I grow out of my basement. A local person is selling a Sonofresco, but I am shying away as I feel it isn't the best roaster to build my roasting skills on.
  • I've been looking at the TJ-067 gas roaster through Mill City. What is the latest word on the street on this one? For my specific situation and goals, does it seem like a front runner in that price range? I would love to go with US Roaster or SF, but can't really spend $15-20K at this point. I would probably go with US Roaster if I was ready to get a business loan.
  • Any other things to consider in my hunt for a roaster?

I fear I'm going to tread too fine a "commercial" line in responding to this post, but the idea that we're less worthy that a 9 year old refurb machine blows my mind. Let's roast the same coffee and swap samples. I'll eat my hat if you can find a difference in the cup that doesn't go my way.

In the last year, we have shipped over 100 TJ-067 roasters to private parties, coffee shops, and roasteries all over the US and Canada.

This is probably the best review we have ever gotten: TJ-067 - 1kg Gas Coffee Roaster - Mill City Roasters

There's a lot of choices out there, but it's surprisingly easy to spend a lot more money and not get a machine as good.

Over the last year, we've gained enough confidence to guarantee that if you're not completely satisfied, you can return the roaster for a refund.

If you can find a better deal than that, let me know and I'll buy one too.
 

Redswing

New member
May 30, 2013
227
0
Northern California
Since I own the aforementioned "9 year old refurb machine", I must respond. Perhaps the TJ-067 produces a similar result. My SF6 comes with an ultra dependable 1/3HP Baldwin motor, a schedule 40 steel drum, 5/8" thick steel on the face plates, and all electrical components meet the Electronic Testing Laboratory Regulations, among other benefits. The thing is a tank, built to last a lifetime. The only reason it got refurbished is the previous owner traded in and up. The manufacturer went through it to inspect everything. The owner Bill Kennedy is on the production floor (which is right here in the USA) and available for questions any time.

I am not snobbish enough to advise against an economical roaster. The world wants Geo Metros AND rear wheel drive Volvo station wagons. They'll both get you there, but one is built with better parts.
 

MillCityRoasters

New member
Jun 25, 2014
104
1
Minneapolis, MN
Your SF is a beautiful machine and SF is a great company. I'm familiar with both and I truly didn't mean to denigrate.

You might be surprised to see how close we get to the Volvo side of your spectrum. We get the same "tank" comparisons too.

If you're ever in town, look us up. We'll roast some coffee and swap stories. That's really the only reason we do this anyway.

S.
 
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docdvm

New member
Nov 28, 2009
16
0
Certainly there are many Home Roasters aspiring to pay for their hobby with a sample roaster or small commercial drum roaster. I wonder just how much coffee is sold by these small roasters from their home. All cash deals too.
Steve is a really up front guy who seems to come across as level headed and a no nonsense distributor. Still he does represent a China based manufacturer. As we all know there is a measure of distrust in some Chinese manufacturing. As a veterinarian (My profession) I have personally seen pet's lives cut short by feeding pet food and treats from China. (Melamine and Jerky treats) I advise my clients to buy nothing that says China on the label and that even foods manufactured in North America may have chinese ingredients and may not be safe.
But in today's world we are seeing more products coming from China, Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, etc. so it is impossible to ignore. Hey I have an iphone. Do you?
I would , of course prefer a product manufactured locally at a competitive price. The only way that is possible is purchasing a refurbished product.
Anyone have a 1 kg. refurbished roaster?
Would love to have a San Franciscan, or US Roaster or Probat 1 kg. gas roaster for $5000. Not likely to find one though. Hence the next best thing is to shop overseas. Seems like Steve has a very good alternative for someone roasting small amount for mostly personal use. It is highly unlikely that a home roaster will continue commercially. Many people aspire to go into business and then fail as they do not understand the complexity of a commercial enterprise. Most likely they will just have some fun roasting for their use and their friends if the cost of the roaster requires that to make it feasible.

At $5000 for a roaster I likely would sell a few pounds a week to help pay for it. With a HotTop or Huky I wouldn't bother.
 

Redswing

New member
May 30, 2013
227
0
Northern California
Did Steve ask you to write that? J

Prepare for a rambling response in defense of a higher end and larger (than 1k) batch roaster (not because it’s the right way, but because it is a viable option that shouldn’t be discounted):


I have been roasting and selling to friends and family from home for a bit over a year now with a 3kilo San Franciscan. (Not cash by the way, I record all income and outgo, have a business checking account, and run it all through my accountant...the IRS doesn't give two hoots about health inspections and local business permits apparently, they'll gladly take my money either way). I've sold almost 9k worth of coffee at $10 a lb, making my profit roughly half of that. I'm not gonna lie, it's taken quite a bit more work than I figured, the newness is long gone now, and it feels like work to me, though still fun. I stopped roasting in the evenings because it was cutting into family time (4 kids under 8 at home) and started roasting in the morning before my day job about 1-2 times weekly, often up before 5am.


All this to say, I am making it happen. A hobby style side business with about $12,000 in startup costs that is set to make its first real return in about 2 years. The figures I originally penciled in my notebook were a bit outlandish…I remember someone on this forum told me to take the number of customers I figured I would have and cut it in half, and then cut it in half again. That was right on. My group text I send out is up to 19 people who fairly regularly order coffee from me. Growing slowly, but growing.


I attribute a lot of my success to the flexibility of my roaster. It’s super dependable, super responsive, and just about the nicest thing I believe I’ve ever owned. I can roast up to 6 lb batches or as little as 1 lb batches with ease. Yesterday I roasted 22 lbs and I don’t like to think about doing that in 13 batches instead of the 5 I did it in. I calculate my time at the roaster by figuring 15 min startup, 15 min per batch, 15 min shut down. So yesterday, that would have been either 3.75 hours on a 1k roaster or 1.75 hours on my 3k. As to getting a bigger roaster, I honestly don’t know what I’d do with one much bigger. I rarely need more than 5 lbs of a single origin, usually it’s a mix of different kinds for the crowd I roast for.


Take that for what it’s worth. You’ll find your own route, and make it work, and most likely end up believing it was the best option for you. But beware of anyone who says they have the best option for you…they’re most likely trying to sell you something. I typically am quite cynical of anyone trying to sell me anything.
J
 
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