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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Well Mike, each local may have some ordinances but mainly big cities with regard to polution and your "Carbon Footprint; that's what I get when I walk across hot coals!

Check with your local US EPA Office (www.epa.gov) give them your particulars and get a letter from them saying no problem. They are not going to require any special permitting for a small roaster and will likely do it all by mail based on the specs you deliver to them. Your BTU's will just not be enough to matter to the Government but it's nice to have a letter saying so. Get good fire insurance because if you roast and you roast long enough you WILL have a roaster fire. Have a plan in plan for that contingency. You know, scream FIRE and run like hell! Check with your county fire guys too and let them bless your installation. This all goes a long way when the lawyers get involved.

Roasting school might give you a good set of basics but your own experience over time and trying things, being adventurous, hell burn up a batch or two, you'll have a lot of fun doing it!
Then the magic comes, cupping! Cupping is the real art and there are a lot of coffee experts as I am sure you have noticed on this site! Don't kid yourself, roasting coffee is about good coffee, consistent coffee and fair prices in the big scheme of things. Once you get a great roast profile of a coffee that is good, stik with it and gain a following and soon you too will be pounding the pounds with the rest of us.

Glad to help any way I can.
Just ask.
Best,
David
David, why do I get the feeling you've ran like hell from a burning roasting shop?

David Stellwagen said:
Well Mike, each local may have some ordinances but mainly big cities with regard to polution and your "Carbon Footprint; that's what I get when I walk across hot coals!

Check with your local US EPA Office (www.epa.gov) give them your particulars and get a letter from them saying no problem. They are not going to require any special permitting for a small roaster and will likely do it all by mail based on the specs you deliver to them. Your BTU's will just not be enough to matter to the Government but it's nice to have a letter saying so. Get good fire insurance because if you roast and you roast long enough you WILL have a roaster fire. Have a plan in plan for that contingency. You know, scream FIRE and run like hell! Check with your county fire guys too and let them bless your installation. This all goes a long way when the lawyers get involved.

Roasting school might give you a good set of basics but your own experience over time and trying things, being adventurous, hell burn up a batch or two, you'll have a lot of fun doing it!
Then the magic comes, cupping! Cupping is the real art and there are a lot of coffee experts as I am sure you have noticed on this site! Don't kid yourself, roasting coffee is about good coffee, consistent coffee and fair prices in the big scheme of things. Once you get a great roast profile of a coffee that is good, stik with it and gain a following and soon you too will be pounding the pounds with the rest of us.

Glad to help any way I can.
Just ask.
Best,
David
When you see the exhaust pipes and roaster start to glow red, it's time to turn the fire supression over to the pro's. In other words, RLH.
Joe

Mike Morand said:
David, why do I get the feeling you've ran like hell from a burning roasting shop?

David Stellwagen said:
Well Mike, each local may have some ordinances but mainly big cities with regard to polution and your "Carbon Footprint; that's what I get when I walk across hot coals!

Check with your local US EPA Office (www.epa.gov) give them your particulars and get a letter from them saying no problem. They are not going to require any special permitting for a small roaster and will likely do it all by mail based on the specs you deliver to them. Your BTU's will just not be enough to matter to the Government but it's nice to have a letter saying so. Get good fire insurance because if you roast and you roast long enough you WILL have a roaster fire. Have a plan in plan for that contingency. You know, scream FIRE and run like hell! Check with your county fire guys too and let them bless your installation. This all goes a long way when the lawyers get involved.

Roasting school might give you a good set of basics but your own experience over time and trying things, being adventurous, hell burn up a batch or two, you'll have a lot of fun doing it!
Then the magic comes, cupping! Cupping is the real art and there are a lot of coffee experts as I am sure you have noticed on this site! Don't kid yourself, roasting coffee is about good coffee, consistent coffee and fair prices in the big scheme of things. Once you get a great roast profile of a coffee that is good, stik with it and gain a following and soon you too will be pounding the pounds with the rest of us.

Glad to help any way I can.
Just ask.
Best,
David
Well here's the thing. I've been around roasters a while. Some that seem to catch fire weekly. We were running a very busy production schedule and the chaff maintenance was, well neglected!

Kidding aside, roaster fires are no joke. They can burn your place to the ground! But that is not likely if anybody is paying attention. Roaster fires can ruin your roaster too. If a fire got really hot, 1200 degrees or so, your drum can warp,(not on a Sivetz of course) but your chimney can be ruined, duct work, the cute thing you hire to heat up the Roaster can get smoke inhalation. That's always bad when that happens.

Burning Down The House

David

Joseph Robertson said:
When you see the exhaust pipes and roaster start to glow red, it's time to turn the fire supression over to the pro's. In other words, RLH. Joe
Mike Morand said:
David, why do I get the feeling you've ran like hell from a burning roasting shop?

David Stellwagen said:
Well Mike, each local may have some ordinances but mainly big cities with regard to polution and your "Carbon Footprint; that's what I get when I walk across hot coals!

Check with your local US EPA Office (www.epa.gov) give them your particulars and get a letter from them saying no problem. They are not going to require any special permitting for a small roaster and will likely do it all by mail based on the specs you deliver to them. Your BTU's will just not be enough to matter to the Government but it's nice to have a letter saying so. Get good fire insurance because if you roast and you roast long enough you WILL have a roaster fire. Have a plan in plan for that contingency. You know, scream FIRE and run like hell! Check with your county fire guys too and let them bless your installation. This all goes a long way when the lawyers get involved.

Roasting school might give you a good set of basics but your own experience over time and trying things, being adventurous, hell burn up a batch or two, you'll have a lot of fun doing it!
Then the magic comes, cupping! Cupping is the real art and there are a lot of coffee experts as I am sure you have noticed on this site! Don't kid yourself, roasting coffee is about good coffee, consistent coffee and fair prices in the big scheme of things. Once you get a great roast profile of a coffee that is good, stik with it and gain a following and soon you too will be pounding the pounds with the rest of us.

Glad to help any way I can.
Just ask.
Best,
David
David, a little off topic but similar idea...
Funny when you said something to the effect, If you roast for any length of time you will experience a fire. Reminds me of the day I was in welding class and a fellow motorcycle rider came into the days class on crutches and saw my helmet on the table and asked me if I had been down on the road yet. He meant crashed or had to lay the bike down like an accident. He just survived one and knew I was a motor bike newbee. I said no and he said no worries I would have my turn. Low and behold a week later my girl friend and I were cruising around Mt. St.Helen's before it became a Volcano and me, as always was skylarking at the glaciers when the rear tire got into the soft shoulder. Wooop down we went. No one hurt but my head got hurt from being hit by her purse so many times for scaring the you know what out of her. Funny story but no one is spared from the odds god.

David Stellwagen said:
Well here's the thing. I've been around roasters a while. Some that seem to catch fire weekly. We were running a very busy production schedule and the chaff maintenance was, well neglected!

Kidding aside, roaster fires are no joke. They can burn your place to the ground! But that is not likely if anybody is paying attention. Roaster fires can ruin your roaster too. If a fire got really hot, 1200 degrees or so, your drum can warp,(not on a Sivetz of course) but your chimney can be ruined, duct work, the cute thing you hire to heat up the Roaster can get smoke inhalation. That's always bad when that happens.

Burning Down The House

David

Joseph Robertson said:
When you see the exhaust pipes and roaster start to glow red, it's time to turn the fire supression over to the pro's. In other words, RLH. Joe
Mike Morand said:
David, why do I get the feeling you've ran like hell from a burning roasting shop?

David Stellwagen said:
Well Mike, each local may have some ordinances but mainly big cities with regard to polution and your "Carbon Footprint; that's what I get when I walk across hot coals!

Check with your local US EPA Office (www.epa.gov) give them your particulars and get a letter from them saying no problem. They are not going to require any special permitting for a small roaster and will likely do it all by mail based on the specs you deliver to them. Your BTU's will just not be enough to matter to the Government but it's nice to have a letter saying so. Get good fire insurance because if you roast and you roast long enough you WILL have a roaster fire. Have a plan in plan for that contingency. You know, scream FIRE and run like hell! Check with your county fire guys too and let them bless your installation. This all goes a long way when the lawyers get involved.

Roasting school might give you a good set of basics but your own experience over time and trying things, being adventurous, hell burn up a batch or two, you'll have a lot of fun doing it!
Then the magic comes, cupping! Cupping is the real art and there are a lot of coffee experts as I am sure you have noticed on this site! Don't kid yourself, roasting coffee is about good coffee, consistent coffee and fair prices in the big scheme of things. Once you get a great roast profile of a coffee that is good, stik with it and gain a following and soon you too will be pounding the pounds with the rest of us.

Glad to help any way I can.
Just ask.
Best,
David
May be true for your neck of the woods but don't assume everywhere. SW Washington Air Quality Control has set a specific standard that any roaster with a rated capacity of 10LB or larger must have an afterburner. Which is one major reason I started with a 3k, to save ~$10k not having an afterburner. And by many standards yeah it's small, but my USRC 3k can knock out 24LB per hour (three eight pounders per hour roasting/cooling simultaneously) all day long which is enough capacity for me at the moment. I look forward to needing a larger roaster....

David Stellwagen said:
Well Mike, each local may have some ordinances but mainly big cities with regard to polution and your "Carbon Footprint; that's what I get when I walk across hot coals!

Check with your local US EPA Office (www.epa.gov) give them your particulars and get a letter from them saying no problem. They are not going to require any special permitting for a small roaster and will likely do it all by mail based on the specs you deliver to them. Your BTU's will just not be enough to matter to the Government but it's nice to have a letter saying so. Get good fire insurance because if you roast and you roast long enough you WILL have a roaster fire. Have a plan in plan for that contingency. You know, scream FIRE and run like hell! Check with your county fire guys too and let them bless your installation. This all goes a long way when the lawyers get involved.

Glad to help any way I can.
Just ask.
Best,
David
Mike you touch on a good point. It is always prudent to check local
ordinances too.

miKe mcKoffee aka Mike McGinness said:
May be true for your neck of the woods but don't assume everywhere. SW Washington Air Quality Control has set a specific standard that any roaster with a rated capacity of 10LB or larger must have an afterburner. Which is one major reason I started with a 3k, to save ~$10k not having an afterburner. And by many standards yeah it's small, but my USRC 3k can knock out 24LB per hour (three eight pounders per hour roasting/cooling simultaneously) all day long which is enough capacity for me at the moment. I look forward to needing a larger roaster.... David Stellwagen said:
Well Mike, each local may have some ordinances but mainly big cities with regard to polution and your "Carbon Footprint; that's what I get when I walk across hot coals!

Check with your local US EPA Office (www.epa.gov) give them your particulars and get a letter from them saying no problem. They are not going to require any special permitting for a small roaster and will likely do it all by mail based on the specs you deliver to them. Your BTU's will just not be enough to matter to the Government but it's nice to have a letter saying so. Get good fire insurance because if you roast and you roast long enough you WILL have a roaster fire. Have a plan in plan for that contingency. You know, scream FIRE and run like hell! Check with your county fire guys too and let them bless your installation. This all goes a long way when the lawyers get involved.

Glad to help any way I can.
Just ask.
Best,
David
Hey Mike-

I'm opening a new coffee shop in the next few months, and will be roasting my own coffee in the shop. I've never owned a coffee shop, nor professionally roasted coffee. But I consider myself reasonably smart, and I like learning.

I've been buying equipment for the shop for the last several months. The very first thing I bought, was the roaster. I got a used Diedrich IR-3 from a failed shop in California. I've been roasting coffee in it now for a couple of months, and honestly, it's not that hard. Finding beans that I like, or even love, that's harder. But roasting in and of itself...that's not too hard.

As to size, you want to be careful with too small. My roaster is theoretically capable of 7 lbs at a batch, but at 6 lbs, my roast profiles all go to heck. I doubt 7 lbs would actually even fit. Roasts between 2-5 lbs are nice. 1 lb is actually tough, because the bean thermometer is getting more air temp than bean temp. Anyway, that's with my IR-3. I suspect a 3 kilo Probat, USR, or San Franciscan will all be about the same with regard to batch size, and what the roaster likes and doesn't like.

My advice to you, would be definitely roast your own, but get that roaster asap. Set it up on propane (maybe $100 to convert a used gas one to propane), and then have fun roasting. I buy 10-20 lbs most weeks for $3-$4/lb from a local importer (I'm in Phoenix), which is nice because I can sample a wide variety of green without a huge committment to any one bean. I'd encourage you to find someone local that you can get green from, even if it's a little more expensive.

For cupping, I find it quite convenient just to do a bunch of french presses (cheap brewing solution for you at home) for people. I'll do 4 presses at a time of 4 different beans, which is about the max most people can keep straight at one time. The just listen to what people like. Blending has been super interesting. It's amazing to me which bean's flavor dominates a cup once blended. Blending will be where you will have a far steeper learning curve, although there are a great number of single origin coffees that will work well for both drip and espresso, so it's not like you NEED to be a master blender.

After the roaster, the next thing is a decent grinder and the french presses for cupping. From there you'll want the best espresso grinder you can afford and possibly a single group espresso machine that will run on 110 power. This will let you work on your barista craft at home as well.

I got my roaster and Bunn G-3 coffee grinder for $8500. I got a used single group Astoria espresso machine for right at $1k. And then I splurged and got a Compak K-10 for $1500. That's $11k, which isn't too bad, and it's all stuff I'll use for a long, long time. The single group probably won't ever be used in the shop, but I'm considering putting it to use for catering down the road...or just leaving it set up in my house. It's always fun having a coffee party at home.

Good luck, and I look forward to following your progress.
Actually your suspicions would be incorrect. I had a little experience with an IR3 prior to researching buying my roaster. It's real working capacity was one reason it was low on my list. Researching led me to purchase a USRC 3k two years ago, which is quite capable of it's full rated 3k capacity with very good profile control. In fact more than it's rated capacity. My norm for most SO roasts is 7.1 to 7.5 pound batches depending on the bean/roast no problem. (To yield 6LB post roast) Larger production batch needs of my espresso blends do full 8LB batches. Did one test 10LB batch just for jun, yeah the roast ran long out close to 20min, and was too big for the cooling tray!

Nothing against the Diedrich roasters, but they tend to seem under powered for their stated capacity.

As far as roasting being "not too hard" I agree and disagree. It's easy to turn beans brown, it takes a lifetime to learn to make each bean sing! Roast the same bean a dozen different profiles and you'll end up with a dozen different cups. Which is not to say don't roast, rather GO FOR IT just as you're doing!

Steve Belt said:
Hey Mike-



I've been buying equipment for the shop for the last several months. The very first thing I bought, was the roaster. I got a used Diedrich IR-3 from a failed shop in California. I've been roasting coffee in it now for a couple of months, and honestly, it's not that hard. Finding beans that I like, or even love, that's harder. But roasting in and of itself...that's not too hard.

As to size, you want to be careful with too small. My roaster is theoretically capable of 7 lbs at a batch, but at 6 lbs, my roast profiles all go to heck. I doubt 7 lbs would actually even fit. Roasts between 2-5 lbs are nice. 1 lb is actually tough, because the bean thermometer is getting more air temp than bean temp. Anyway, that's with my IR-3. I suspect a 3 kilo Probat, USR, or San Franciscan will all be about the same with regard to batch size, and what the roaster likes and doesn't like.

Mike,
Look what you started here. A thread that may never end. A thread that is pulling comments from guys in the trenches doing it, roasting as we speak and starting businesses like your working on. A thread that is pulling guys like Mike McGinness away from his busy one man shop routine. Actually he does have some good help but in essence he is up to his short hairs like me.
As I commented before I have been in business just over my first year. Unlike Mike M. a serious mentor only 50 miles away I am holding it all down with just my partner. The passion still grows by the day. It feels like there is a light from above that just grows and grows that soon will over take me and I will become one with my morning coffee. Never to return to or see the human state again.
Kidding and pre first am cup dreams aside,
Mike, Steve Belt brings up some great thoughts. Have you heard phrase's like "just do it" or "Go for it" Steve sounds like the essence of those. Feel out your budget and move toward your dream. My/our plan was clear like Steve's. I did not know Mike M. well enough or feel right about picking another professionals mind all the time so I got as much training as I could afford.
Seems it always boils down to working with in your pocket book. What you have at your resource here is a wealth if information from working pro's that I would have paid big bucks for and check it out , this site of Matt Milletto's is free,(although I plan to contribute asap). Crazy.
Thank you Steve Belt for sharing your wonderful coffee Journey is so reminds me or our's. Mike, read all these testimony's with Christmas spirit in mind, the sharing here is beyond belief.
Ohh, and back on point that Mike M. just made. Do you best not to under size yourself. My beautifully rebuilt Probat 5L will soon be too small if my payment pounding pays off. If the $ gets in place I would not hesitate to go with Mike M's 3K USRC or better yet the 5K. Way more capacity than my 5L Probat. The older models like mine only can roast or cool, not both at the same time.
Above all take your time and enjoy the coffee road, as has been said by sage's way more sagey than I can hope to be, " it's not the top of the mountain you seek grasshopper, it's the wonderful wonder filled path along the way" <];^)
Ohh, not to mention along that path you will encounter some out of this world spro machines some yet to be invented, like the new single g. Speedster.
The Coffee industry was recently announced to be the largest and fastest growing food/commodity industry in the world. "coffee geeks" correct me if I'm off here.
Because of this fact many sup or support industry's are busy with Research and development to come up with the likes of the Speedster not to mention many other coffee related products...
Ohh, in case any one is wondering how a one man in two man shop has time to sit and write all this, our winter hrs include today as the only full day off. Not really, no such thing when your starting out. Only more time to roast or get caught up with other business like the Commercial freezer on the fritz.
Sorry for the rambling....
Best wishes Merry Christmas to you Mike in the new year..we are here for you.
Joseph Robertson
Sasquatch Coffee Roasters

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

Sounds like you're getting some pretty good feedback here from some guys who are doing what you set out to do. When picking out your roaster here are a couple of things to think about. 1. How much coffee are you going to have to go through in a week in terms of pounds for you to be profitable? 2. How much of your time will you have to spend in relationship to the size of your roaster to achieve that much coffee? 3. remember that you will lose 17-20% (roughly) in weight between the green coffee going into the drum and the roasted coffee coming out. That is important because that loss of 20% weight means a loss in 20% spent and 20% of your time. People who have not roasted may not realize this. 4. How much time do you WANT to spend roasting vs. running your shop?

So,... if you are going to have to go through 100# coffee in a week, and you are roasting 5# batches which turn into 4# batches, andf each batch takes 10 minutes you will have to roast 25 batches coming in at 250 minutes. Not that bad really. That is if you are using a 7 lb. roaster. This is a pretty close estimate, from what I can gather. So, half a day gets you to your 100#s. However, as soon as another customer wants to use your coffee for their shop, (which is much more profitable for you,) you will then have to double this load, and so on. So,... My advise is always to plan for growth. Planning for growth is true sustainability. If you plan for something small, that is what you will get. if you are not doing enough coffee to justify a bigger roaster, then it is not worth your investment to begin with. do not limit yourself.

At the same time, that goal of growth needs to be tempered with thereality that growth takes time, and may not come at all. So when putting your business plan together make sure you count for a lot of time before you begin to be profitable. Be wise, pick a great location, get to know the area well, get to know your customer base, invest in equipment that produces high quality and that you will not have to replace when growth happens. I would go as far as to say a twenty five pound machine is not too big. You can roast smaller batches in a bigger machine. Actually, this is preferable. I roast on a 75k Probat and a 25# San Franciscan. On the 25# machine I have gone as low as 10#. It is tough, but can be done. On the 75k we go down to 50#s when needed.

5. GOOD LUCK!! We are all rooting for you.

Joe
Again I am humbled by everyone's willingness to share their experiences and expertise with a barista newbie such as myself. Thank you all!

Joseph, Joe, those are some great things to take into consideration. However, as with any good discussion between a student and teacher, your expertise has created more questions. This is another discussion that I'm going to end up printing out and keeping in my 'coffee continuity book' that I'm using to stash all the random articles, ideas, etc. that will be incorporated into the business plan.

To plan for expansion and increased workload is smart business. That said..

1) How would you recommend forecasting the amount of sales for bulk coffee sales? That is, aside from forecasting how much I will use for espresso, drip coffee sales, etc., is there a good way to predict how much extra I'll be able to sell to customers who would like to brew at home? I plan to solicit local businesses in the areas I am interested in opening the shop in to get their input, but what about individual customers? Is there a good rule of thumb or should I just accept that it may be WILDLY popular or not so popular given specific preferences/inclinations of customers?

2) What would you all recommend should I have the opportunity to lease this equipment? Of course, leasing is the preferred means of getting hands on equipment for industries that know in advance that the technology will be obsolete (such as the computer industry)? But what about in the coffee industry during the start-up phase when the needs cannot be very accurately forecasted? Would leasing equipment for a pre-planned period of time and then trading up (in size and ability) be advisable? Or what if I were to lease just for the sake of keeping more money in the bank for operating capital?

Again, the feedback is much appreciated. Between the books and the discussions and the planned training/experience gathering in the next year or two, I'm feeling better every day about plans for a shop!

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