I thought the not-so-original ripoff of the Shakespeare soliloquy would garner at least some attention..

I'm strongly considering the addition of a roaster to my plans for a shop and sourcing quality green beans from an importer. The inevitable question is.. is it worth the effort? I'm willing to put in the effort to learn about and experiement with blending to make the most of the endeavor, but I'd like to solicit some feedback from the barista community.

If you say, "Yes, the addition of a coffee roaster would be advantageous," please explain why. Is it because it would increase the quality of the coffee? Is it because you have greater flexibility over when the coffee is roasted and used? Lower costs for green beans vs. roasted beans?

If you say, "No, the addition of a coffee roaster would not be advantageous," again, please explain why. Is it because it would increase the amount of 'moving parts' in the store, as one more responsibility to juggle? Is it because customers would not truly appreciate or realize the significance? What other factors must be considered?

Lastly, a commercial-sized roaster is one way to go, but I'm also looking into smaller, counter-sized roasters such as the Probat Burns Probatino (1.75-2.5 lbs per batch, up to 11 lbs per hour). Otherwise, a commercial-sized roaster such as the Probat Burns Probatone may be the way to go.

Any and all feedback welcome!

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I will firstly respond to your question with a question: do you have any roasting experience?
The short answer is no.

However, if this looks to be a half-way decent idea, I will make a deliberate effort to gather as much information and experience as I can before opening day.


Joe Marrocco said:
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.
You're absolutely correct. I am an AF Officer with no experience roasting. I have experience running an ice cream/coffee/dessert shop as the Co-Manager of a student-run business in college, but I plan to seek out additional experience working for a small coffee shop over the next couple of years as I develop my plan, products, and other ideas. I'm not short on time, and am merely looking for answers on what how I should invest my time learning the trade.

Three years ago I didn't know that this is what I wanted to do, and my choice to serve in the military has not only been rewarding but has provided priceless opportunities/experience that will undoubtedly be beneficial in this next endeavor. I've been overseas now for over two years including this tour in Afghanistan, employed in demanding positions while attending night school for a Master's degree. More than anything, in these opportunities I've learned how to lead and manage. Different circumstances, sure, but I know what it means to work extremely hard, the value of training and preparation, the amount of sweat and blood it takes to make diffucult endeavors succeed, and to take care of my people.

To answer your other questions, this has been a burning desire for about a year now, and I just recently decided to go for this full throttle. It'll be a couple of years, but it will happen. In response to your question about my motivation, my answer is that I love working long hours for something I believe in.

I am interested in learning how to roast for the customers. The cost implications are important for a business aspect, but more than anything I want to be involved as can be in the delivery of quality products.

Again, this is only the beginning.. I have a great deal to learn, but I also have time in order to do so.

I appreciate the feedback on the roasters. I'm still leaning towards the Probatino for some home alchemy, but welcome additional feedback! Thank you again!


miKe mcKoffee aka Mike McGinness said:
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.
For possible home and later sample and special order small batch roasting I'd also look at the US Roaster Corp .5k (I have a USRC 3k and know a few people with the .5k), Ambex Mini Roaster (also a .5k) or their YM2, and just coming to market Diedrich IR1 (1k).
Thank you for the recommendations!

I read through a couple of other articles on BX, and I think for my first home roaster I'm going to go with something similar to the iRoast2. But with a bit of time and experience home roasting, I'm sure I'll still be curious about having a larger roaster in the shop and sourcing quality green beans for all my coffee needs.

Any other thoughts on the pros/cons of roasting beans in the 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.
That's the plan! One book and forum discussion at a time before I can get back to the States, get some training, and get some experience.


Jay Caragay said:
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.
Mike,
You have a very good foundation for the direction you are heading. Get a clear idea of your focus and or mission. Try not to spread yourself too thin but do what you need to, to stay in your local market. Our shop has been open since last Sept.21. I had been home roasting for a very short time when I knew this is what I wanted to pursue. I took two years to research the "current Micro roasting small cafe Market", this is a very fluid and ever changing market and business so I knew I could learn a lot from studying what other small cafe'/ coffee shops were up to. It was suggested that I visit a commercial roaster/cafe/coffee vendor business man in Portland Oregon. I did and he told me to head to the SCAA world convention in Long Beach Ca. then come back and see him to see if I was still interested. I did that and came back bleeding coffee worst than when I left. He said, go for it and don't look back because your like will never be the same. From here I went to roasting school, http://www.coffeelab.com/
I forgot to mention, I took every course and class on any thing coffee I could afford at the SCAA convention.
After roasting training which included basic cupping, I went on to go to Seattle Coffee fest for more business training which it looks like the military has helped you with.
If you truly are bleeding coffee as bad as me go for every learning experience you can especially roasting. Spend the money. It will save you many green beans roasted badly. At last research which was more than 3 years ago there was only two roasting schools I could find that were independent of selling you a commercial roaster. Look into this and see what is out there now. I opted for the east coast and am glad. Mane' is a recognized master in his field and I believe the only SCAA certified cupping lab for certification.
You will do fine, just get a clear plan together and stay with it. Go into the game with all the tools of the trade you can muster up.
Short answer on Roasting is in line with Mike M. above. Yes our customers love our fresh roasted coffee and they love watching it happen before their eyes. Check out our website for a better picture of me/us.
Joe

--
Ambassador for Specialty Coffee and palate reform.
Hi Mike,

First of all don't be intimidated by the naysayers. Roasting coffee isn't rocket science nor brain surgery and you can learn to do it, and well, and even develop your own roasts and profile that set you apart from the angry crowd! My only advise would be this. Don't piddle around with a roaster that is too damn small. If you begin to get any sort of following at all, you will be killing yourself with that little roaster. Hell, that's a sample roaster, maybe! Get something at a minimum of 15KG and even that is small but you could, as we say in the coffee business, "Pound the Pounds" a thousand pounds a day. You start getting a couple of restaurants, your own shop and even selling a few pounds on line, whatever, you'll be dead and up day and night trying to keep up.
People like coffee and people especially like something novel and good.

Dream a little bigger and Best of Luck.

Happy Roasting, David
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?
Mike,
David made a great point. We bought two roasters to start. A rebuilt 1976 Probat 5L and an Ambex 15 kilo 1999 model. The probat is our work horse for the time being. We got a good deal on Ebay for the Ambex but it needed some mod work and I didn't or don't have the accounts that David mentioned you going for. This is still our long term plan. Times are a little slow as far as developing new customers for our craft roasted beans. Just means you need to be more creative with your marketing approach.
You can not go wrong with Mane's school/lab. I did not have much home roasting under my belt when I signed up with him. I just knew where I was going so my prior experience was not a factor in choosing the time we did to go. In fact, just the opposite, the sooner the better in our case.
Mike, as to license and local permits/fees. Just check with your local health dept. building dept. County/city what ever applies for you. Get all your ducks in a row so you can plan financially. In some municipalities, after you get a roaster larger than a defined capacity they will require an afterburner to burn off any polluting particles from the roasting process. For some it is roasters larger than 15 kilo. It all depends on your local. Out in the county it probably won't even be a consideration.
Sweet crema dreams, stay the course...
Joseph
--
Ambassador for Specialty Coffee and palate reform.


Mike Morand said:
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?

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