I will firstly respond to your question with a question: do you have any roasting experience?
If I understand correctly from your posts and profile you're an AF Officer with no roasting experience and possibly no experience running a coffeehouse or barista experience.
Why do you want to open a coffee shop? Sound like a fun way to enjoy coffee and make money? Hmmm, do you love long hours and hard work for low or no pay? It can take years to become profitable. Some never do and close their doors loosing their entire investment.
If on the other hand coffee courses through your veins and it's always been your burning passion then go for it.
It's easy to turn beans brown, it takes a lifetime to learn to make each bean sing. Do you want to serve great coffee or mediocre roasting experiments? You might be better off sourcing roasting coffee from an experienced quality roaster and later learn to roast. Or AT LEAST try home roasting first and find out if you have a aptitude for it. The Probatino would be a great sample roaster or home roaster. If using it to roast for just my initial shop, a small 22 seater, it'd take about one full day roastitng each week. Any savings of greens versus roasted would likey never be recouped because of time consumed. But yes my customers love that I roast my own coffees. But I had a scant six years roasting experience before my first coffee shop.
As you've stated, you're not short of time. Therefore, FOCUS. There's no need for you to learn everything at this moment. Quite frankly, you have no experience and to take on such an endeavor as you've been querying about is a setup for failure.
Read voraciously all the online forums while you're far off in Afghanistan. When you return after duty, find a shop that does what you want to do and go work there. The positive thing is that when you're done with the military, you presumably can relocate anywhere for a couple of years while you learn the coffee trade. Spend the next couple of years reading, absorbing and identifying the kind of shop you envision opening, then find the company that most closely exemplifies your ideal and work for them.
Joseph, I couldn't agree more with what you said about seekinging out pertinent training. I checked out the VT roasting school's website and it looked great! I've sent an email to Mane asking for the 2010 class dates. Of course, I'd like to attend the ABC school and experiment a little at home with a home roaster before diving into a more high-speed course.
David, that's a great point about volume. I honestly hadn't thought about the opportunity to sell bulk coffee to local restaurants or through other such channels. When I start thinking about locations and working with a commercial real estate agent or some other commercial property-savy individual, I'll be sure to take into consideration the restaurant scene in the area and their potential willingness to receive fresh coffee products directly from our establishment.
As far as the actual roaster in the shop goes, does anyone know what sorts of permits and other licences required to have such equipment in the store? Are these generally difficult to receive? Of course, I understand such a need will vary by locale. I'm ballparking my space requirement to be around 1,500 sq ft or so and avoiding the need for a full kitchen (and the associated permits). Thoughts?