Essentials About Coffee Machines

Essentials About Coffee Machines

Using the right equipment

It is essential that you set yourself up with or have full access to a commercial espresso machine and grinder for testing your espresso coffee. If you are going to supply coffee to a cafe then you need to have access to the same grade of equipment that cafe’s use. It must be quality commercial equipment or you will find that your coffee may taste worse on quality equipment because it will show up some of your roasting errors that you may not find on average coffee equipment

You will need a coffee machine set up:

  • to test your roasted coffee in order to improve
  • to demonstrate your commitment to quality
  • for tasting purposes when potential customers come in to view your offering

For example, when I was creating coffee blends for clients in the early days I was short on resources, I made the mistake of using a well-used home Breville grinder to grind up all of the coffee that we would test for espresso – I was extracting the shots from a Rocket 1 group with the E61 group head. For some reason the coffee came out of the espresso machine without much acidity. Over and over, I roasted the coffee lighter and chose beans I knew that had super high levels of acidity because I wanted to construct a blend that would cut through the milk. After each roast I tested the espresso again and again but each time I knew I wasn’t getting that intense level of acidity and I wasn’t sure why it wasn’t acidic enough.

One day a friend of mine came over and pointed out the grinder I was using, he said “Dude, why are you using that old domestic grinder?”. I immediately told him its all I’ve got to work with and he proceeded to let me know that it dulls the brightness and flavors of the coffee. We took a bag of roasted coffee over to the cafe he was a barista at and we weighed out 20 grams and ran it through the Mahlkoneig EK43. He placed the grinds of the coffee in the La Marzocco portafilter and pulled the shot. He split the espresso into 2 demitasse cups and I proceeded to briefly take in the aroma before taking a sip. I almost fell over when the acidity spiked through the top of my mouth and shot down the sides of my tongue! I had roasted this coffee extremely light using a super acidic coffee bean and I have an espresso which tastes closer to battery acid then coffee. I had gone beyond what I was trying to achieve with the coffee but I didn’t actually know I had gone past the point I was trying to achieve because I was testing using unsuitable equipment. We both looked at each other and agreed I had taken it way too far and there was more than enough acidity to cut through a carton of milk. I instantly realized I had been taking all of the commercial equipment at the old coffee roastery I used to work at for granted.

From that point on, I placed an extremely high value on quality coffee equipment as I learnt first hand how much quality can make a difference. If I had walked into a cafe and left them with that bag of coffee I had roasted, I would have been wasting not only my time but their’s as well, not to mention leaving a bad taste in their mouths. A bad experience can linger for a lifetime so it is extremely important to test your coffee on quality equipment to cover yourself.

The 2 types of coffee machines

I would also like to take a moment to point out the difference between a single boiler and multi boiler coffee machine.

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single boiler coffee machine

A single boiler coffee machine utilizes only 1 boiler for brewing, steaming milk and providing hot water. The problem with this is that the steam boiler needs to be around 125 degrees Celsius or 250 degrees Fahrenheit in order for the boiler to maintain enough steam pressure – because of this requirement, the water is always boiling hot when it comes out of the machine.

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heat exchange coffee boiler

The exception to this is when the boiler contains a heat exchanger, the water that comes out of the group head for extraction (brewing) is in a separate chamber inside the single boiler. Although the brew water is not in the same mass as the bulk of the water in the steam boiler, the brew water is susceptible to temperature fluctuations and coffee is affected by temperature so this means that cafe’s who use a single boiler coffee machine will be offering their customers inconsistent coffees because of the unstable temperatures of the brew water. For those who don’t know, water temperature can change the taste of coffee.

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dual boilers in a coffee machine

Multi boilers have separate boilers for brewing coffee and steaming milk so there is a constant temperature in each boiler which is maintained constantly by a PID (modern temperature control unit) as opposed to a pressure/heat switch which is mechanical. The most reputable coffee machine brands are known to have always had multi boilers in their coffee machines but some of the single boiler coffee machine manufacturers have started to use this technology as well to improve their coffee machines.

Reputable coffee machine brands

Top tier:

La Marzocco (Classic, Linea PB, GB5, FB70, FB80, Strada, Scales)
Kees Van Der Westen (Spirit)
Slayer (V2,V3, Steam)
Synesso (MVP Hydra, Hydra, Cyncra)
San Remo (Opera, Racer)
Nuova Simonelli/Victoria Arduino (Aurelia, T3/Black Eagle, Gravimetric)

Most of these commercial coffee machines brand new sit in the $15,000 – $30,000 bracket. There are some models that are a lot more expensive than others but this is a lot to invest in a coffee machine for testing espresso, regardless you need to know what coffee equipment is out there and what level of cafe you are dealing with if you see these brands in their cafe. High quality coffee equipment means that they are serious about quality coffee so they probably have a lot invested in training their staff and paying well for good baristas.

Middle tier:

La Cimbali
La San Marco

Within these coffee machines brands, there are some machine models that can be considered as top tier, but they are not highly noted as being top tier. The Greenline Wega range as well as the top of the line Rancillio machines are quite expensive and have a lot of features, however they don’t carry that same weight as the top tier brands do because they were not deemed as high quality multi boiler machines in the early days. This isn’t an extensive list of all of the coffee machinery that you can purchase but just some of the well known brands of machines that are floating around in cafes. The pricing here starts a lot lower for brand new machinery which is a lot more affordable for a coffee roasting business starting out.

Installing a commercial coffee machine

When looking to set up your coffee machine you need to consider 5 things:

  • environment
  • water
  • drainage/waste
  • power
  • configuration
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coffee machine installation

Start off with the right environment. The right environment means having the space to accommodate the coffee machine in the first place. The coffee machine has power leads and water/drainage lines that need to be accommodated so you will need to drill a hole in the bench under the coffee machine for the lines. Some coffee machines have external pumps which also need to draw power from the coffee machine but more importantly there needs to be ventilation. If the pump overheats then you won’t be able to pull water into the coffee machine under the right amount of pressure so you can’t brew coffee. Also remember that you need space for a grinder and room for tamping the coffee, milk jugs and pouring milk. Last but not least, think about the space around the coffee machine and if the heat from the coffee machine will affect walls/paint/cupboards etc. The coffee machine itself is very heavy when filled up with water and you need space to move around the machine and bend down to pick things up etc.

When you actually begin to connect the coffee machine to the utilities, the first thing that needs to be available for the coffee machine is water. Caution needs to be adhered as the pressure from the water mains is very high, which means that a pressure limiter needs to be installed in some cases. Most coffee machine technicians carry around pressure limiters so you should not have to worry about this unless you notice you have problems with your coffee machine boilers overfilling. If water is not available next to the coffee machine then you may need to run a line from a nearby room or water source. Water filtration is also needed and I have written some information in the next stage of this guide.

Waste and drainage are a huge part of the equation. As you are dealing with milk it is not unusual for milk to build up in the kinks of the drain hose. The drain hose needs to be free from bends or kinks otherwise the drain-box in the coffee machine can overflow which causes leaks, and pools of water/coffee/milk to flow onto the bench and down onto the floor. This is highly undesirable on hot days when there is milk involved as it can cause a terrible odor. Be sure the drainage is located under the coffee machine as it needs the natural force of gravity to help the liquids drain out.

Next is power. Be sure to check the voltage of the coffee machine and whether it’s single phase or three phase. Make sure the coffee machine lead can reach to the power outlet and that you have the right plug as there are many different types. If there is no power then you will need to organize an electrician to come in and set it up. Be very careful around power and try to have a waterproof plug configured if possible as there can be spills and leaks from the coffee machine. Find out what the power requirements are before you purchase a coffee machine!

The coffee grinder will need power as well. If you are planning to run more than one grinder then you will need another wall outlet or a double adapter depending on what country you live in and what the power requirements allow. Also remember that it makes sense to have the fridge close by and perhaps consider a couple more outlets for time saving and quality tools like the Puqpress or Ubermilk.

The final stage of installing a coffee machine is configuring the settings and parameters that you would like to work with. Ask yourself what recipes you would like to use with your coffee and what is the best current industry standard that is being used in cafes? If you are to supply cafes in your area, you should get familiar with what most coffee roasters are using. The coffee machine can be configured in so many different ways, you may know that you can control some of the following features in reputable coffee machine brands:

temperature of the steam boiler
temperature of the hot water dispensed
temperature of each separate brew boiler
pre-infusion on/off and time
whether or not a cup warmer is installed
automatic volumetric options
tea water time
auto brew ratio
scales and weight of coffee in cup
revolutions of the flow-meters/pulses
shot timers
name on the coffee machine
lights on/off and colors
pressure of the brew boiler
pressure during extraction of the coffee
pressure of the steam boiler
PID settings
auto timer which turns the coffee machine on and off
sleep mode
and many more options…

At the end of the installation, you should think about what features your coffee machine has and why they are available. Some features of coffee machines are locked and you need passwords in order to access them, which are sometimes only available from the manufacturers. After you configure your coffee machine to your preferred settings, you will be ready to use it to taste your roasted coffee you are supplying to cafes.

Water filtration

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coffee machine water filters

Water filtration is a big issue with coffee machines these days. The only thing that can really destroy a coffee machine slowly on a day by day basis is water. The water in coffee boilers are causing all sorts of problems – it’s what’s in the water that is the source of the problems. In order to prolong the life of coffee boilers in coffee machines, a water filter is used. Water filters can filter out some of the minerals and salts that cause calcification and/or holes in the boilers. By using a water filter we reduce the damage and scale formation in the equipment.

Inside a water filter:

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how a water filter works

Water is complex

Water all over the world is different, to be specific its the dissolved solids that’s in the water that makes the difference. For example, water can have a TDS reading of less than 50 ppm or some recordings in Western Australia are 1200ppm. TDS stands for total dissolved solids which are the minerals, salts, metals etc that are dissolved into the water. The TDS is measured in ppm which stands for parts per million. Water can contain any combination of dissolved solids therefore there is no water filtration device that can be used universally on any water line, which means that water filters are not always being used in the right setting. The only way to pair up your machine with the correct water filter is to test the water first and then after you install the water filter. There are some parameters which are favorable to coffee machines but yet there is still not a method that is exact for saving coffee machines from water.

How is water a problem?

Water with a high chloride count can eat through stainless steel boilers in 12 months and sometimes less if the chlorides and PH levels are in the right parameters. This means that you could purchase a coffee machine worth $20,000 only to have to replace the boilers within 2 years. A boiler replacement job usually totals around $3,000 – $5,000 for the cost of the boiler and the labor involved. Reverse osmosis can help prolong the life of a coffee boiler if the TDS/chloride levels are too high.

Reverse Osmosis

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reverse osmosis water filtration system

Reverse osmosis is a system that is used to remove 95% of all TDS in water but this is bad for the taste of coffee. Coffee solubility is another topic but there also needs to be a minimum TDS for coffee to be tasty, otherwise the solids in the coffee will have nothing to bond to in the water – this means you need to re-mineralize the reverse osmosis water with the right minerals. The problem is that dosing the right amount of minerals into the water is very difficult so while reverse osmosis can help prolong the life of the coffee machine boilers, it is not a full solution for the issue.

Some prominent coffee machine water filtration brands include:

  • Aqualife
  • Brita
  • Everpure
  • BWT
  • Aqua Pro

Be sure to check your water filtration for your coffee machine if you decide to invest in your equipment. At this point in time, you cannot have both a great tasting coffee as well as a coffee machine in perfect condition – you either lean more to one way or the other but there is a balance somewhere in the middle.

Coffee grinders

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mazzer coffee grinders

Coffee grinders are the most important part of making coffee. Coffee can be prepared and served without a coffee machine but not without a grinder. A coffee grinder is essential in making coffee and it also contributes to how much of the flavor can be extracted from the beans. The grinder must have sharp burrs in order to cut the beans effectively. If the burrs are dull then the beans will break off into chips rather than be sliced, which makes the grinds less soluble and results in less flavor and dulled acidity. Be certain to familiarize yourself with when the burrs need replacing in grinders. For instance, a Mazzer Robur needs its burrs changed after grinding 1000kgs of coffee, although some like to change the burrs at 800kgs and some let it stretch to 1200kgs.

In terms of grinders of high quality, the leaders without a doubt are Mahlkoenig, Mazzer and NS/VA – the EK43, Peak, Robur, SPP and Mythos 1 lead the market and have the heaviest presence in the market. Most of these grinders brand new will cost you between $2,000 – $4,000 depending on your contacts in the industry.

Other brands such as Compak, BNZ, Anfim, Bezzera, Baratza, Ditting, ECM< etc, have also a long history in the industry but aren’t nearly as prominent as the leaders.

The Mythos 1 is very popular because it has been tested ( and proven to provide the most consistent results. There are 2 things that sets the Mythos 1 apart from all the other grinders, the first thing is that it produces the most consistent grind particle size which means the chances of having a very wide range of coffee grind sizes are lowered so your coffee will pour more consistently. The other difference is the heater in the Mythos that keeps the burrs within a constant temperature range. Coffee grinders can tend to be very inconsistent because the burrs heat up and cool down depending on how much the grinder is being used, and the heat tends to affect the burrs in a manner that changes the resulting coffee grinds. Some barista’s disable the heater and some welcome the consistent setting but either way, the Mythos is the most consistent in terms of grind particle size.

There are quite a few more up and coming grinders such as the Lyn Weber EG-1, the Monolith, Titan and Titus Grinding range of grinders. These brands have popped up in the last 5 years and are starting to gain momentum because of their unique looks and some of them have adjustable grinding motors for reducing heat in the grinding process.

Using best and current industry practices

While there are many different methods to prepare coffee, there are a lot of bad habits in low quality and average coffee establishments. In this age of coffee there is only one rule that matters, there is only one thing that is king: CONSISTENCY.

As a cafe, you are only as good as the last coffee you just served. If you serve 10 amazing coffee’s in a row and then 1 average coffee, that customer didn’t receive your best coffee so you’ve just been graded on that coffee. Each coffee represents the cafe that serves it and one average coffee places that cafe in the average category. Why would anyone want to drink average coffee? Who want’s to pay for average coffee? There are so many high quality cafe’s and coffee shops that you can’t afford to be serving ‘average’ drinks, therefore consistency is the top priority after the essentials are being met.

With consistency in mind, what is currently the best industry practice for a cafe? It can be broken down into these 5 areas: supply (coffee roasting company) grinder
3.grinds distribution/tamping pressure
5.milk steaming

Specialty Coffee Roasters

1. A supply of consistently roasted coffee is hard to get from a coffee roaster. There are so many parameters that change daily and seasonally from weather to moisture content. This is the hardest area to control for both the roaster and cafe because the bottom line is there is no consistency in roasting coffee because seasons change and so do crops. No coffee crop is ever the same, the weather is unpredictable so the amount of rainfall and sunlight is always different each year. Coffee roasters do a pretty good job of roasting coffee as consistently as possible under the circumstances. To be honest, it is very hard to tell the difference in the coffee unless you are drinking it on a daily basis more than once a day.

Mythos One

2. The coffee grinder needs to fill the portafilter with the same amount of coffee every time. This is achieved by weighing the coffee before it moves onto the next stage. A coffee grinder with the least amount of variance in terms of grind particle size is the best choice, which at this point in time is the Victoria Arduino Mythos 1.


3. Even tamping pressure needs to be applied in order for the coffee grinds to sit flush in the portafilter. There is a unit called the Puqpress which is capable of performing perfectly flat tamping under consistent pressure everytime. There is also the question of whether the grinds in the portafilter need to be distributed evenly before tamping? Some say that tamping compacts the grinds and pushes them evenly into the sides of the portafilter, others recommend using a device like the OCD to distribute the grinds before tamping. The question here is still up for debate…


4. There is only one way to achieve consistent extractions, which is by weighing the extracted coffee in the cup using scales. Some coffee machines such as the La Marzocco Linea PB and Strada AV or the Victoria Arduino Black Eagle Gravitech have built in scales within the coffee machine to accommodate this process. Acaia have built some low profile, waterproof scales called Lunar which are purpose built to weigh coffee extractions.


5. Milk steaming/frothing used to be one of the harder parameters to keep consistent until recently the Ubermilk unit has been introduced into cafes. The Ubermilk unit provides perfectly steamed/frothed milk at the push of a button and both the temperature and level of micro-foam can be adjusted. Say goodbye to opening milk cartons and cleaning steam wands, the Ubermilk is a game changer to say the least. I could talk about this device all day and the benefits of saving money and time while speeding up coffee service but I’ll save that for another day :).

One piece I did not cover was pouring milk into the coffee. This process can change the way the coffee texture and taste can turn out however, this is fully up to the skill of the barista so I haven’t added this in. Parts 2 to 5 can be carried out using machinery but part 1 is up to the coffee roaster and the style of pouring milk into the coffee is at the whim of the barista so there is no control over the consistency in these parts of the process. Just be certain that you are up to date with the current industry practices and you are using most or at least some of these techniques when you are tasting your espresso roasts.


The big lesson here for those of you starting a coffee roasting business is to recognize the quality manufacturers in the industry and look at quality equipment and the equipment that cafes are currently using everyday in their operations. You must also test your roasted coffee on these brands and models of equipment while using current barista/cafe practices in order to establish if your coffee tastes good enough that a cafe would consider taking on your coffee in their cafe. Knowledge of best practices can also help influence cafe’s to consider using your coffee if you can provide training and support in this area. Having a coffee roasting business means you need to know about a lot more than just roasting coffee – be a master of roasting coffee but also widen your knowledge to include coffee machines, grinders, training and pour over/filter coffee basics. The more you know, the more you can offer potential clients/cafes.

This excerpt was copied from ‘The Ultimate Guide To Starting A Coffee Roastery’, if you would like to view the chapter on Coffee Roasting Equipment click here to download the pdf document.

How To Start A Coffee Roasting Business on a Budget

A helpful guide on how to start a coffee roasting business on a budget in 2017 with the help of technology and innovative thinking.

How To Start A Coffee Roasting Business on a Budget

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Probat coffee roasting machine

Starting a commercial coffee roasting business on a tight budget is not the most effective path into the coffee industry, however with advances in technology, competitive pricing and access to coffee roasting equipment – it is now achievable these days. A passionate coffee enthusiast has the potential to quit their job and take up the challenge of starting a coffee roasting business with minimum to no capital at all, providing they have the right attitude, access to coffee professionals, patience and motivation.

One method to accomplish this task is by dividing time between a part/full-time job and working on the coffee roasting business. It is not ideal to split focus, however, under normal circumstances most people don’t have the capital to finance a business at the drop of a hat.

As of late I have been considering the best and most effective method on how to start a coffee roasting business on a budget and I have a theory… I believe that the introduction of technology has provided a means for many entrepreneurs to work in their own time, under their own terms and under no urgent financial pressure while they save in order to finance another commercial enterprise. I have not started a coffee roasting business myself under these conditions, however as an example, I use Uber frequently and many a conversation has led to uncovering the drivers true ambition which is to drive until they are ready to leave Uber to undertake the operations of the business they’ve been building in the background.

Of course Uber/Lyft is not the only option to helping out your situation but it is vital to the success of your business that you have time to work on it! You need a stable income in order to take care of the day to day expenses such as food, accommodation and transport but outside of this – time must be spent on working on your business or working to earn money to invest in your business. Starting a coffee roasting business on a budget is achievable, although the hardest part is getting started in the first place which comes down to your current income situation. Therefore, it makes sense to be in a situation where you can both earn income but still have the space (permission) and time to take a call from a customer or visit a cafe that needs coffee supply. In order to start a coffee roasting business on a budget – you need to budget your time as well!

Quick Start Guide: How To Start A Coffee Roasting Business on a Budget

Below is a quick start guide to starting your coffee roasting business in a less expensive and less traditional manner. There are always conditions that affect each and every one of us which can ultimately determine how the business gets off the ground, how fast the business grows or whether the business will be a success or not. For example, an ex-employee of a well established wholesale coffee roasting business will have a greater chance of succeeding in this endeavour as opposed to someone from say, a non-coffee related industry. Not that there’s anything wrong with coming from a non-coffee background but I’m sure you can understand why the person from the wholesale coffee roasting business background has greater odds of succeeding. Experience in roasting coffee is not essential for this to work but it does help. In my opinion, its more important to have access to experienced people across the board because roasting coffee alone won’t get you as far as you think. Access to a quality network of coffee professionals will put you to the test and you’ll soon know how you stack up in the scheme of things. This is a great benchmark to grade not only your coffee but also your coffee knowledge and industry knowledge. Having good friends in the coffee industry will take you a long way if you are a nice, genuine person.

I’m going to start from the very beginning in my business on a budget scenario below – in other words, I am assuming you know nothing about starting a coffee roasting business except that you love coffee, you want to start a business and you don’t mind changing your current career in order to kick start this whole thing. Just remember that the main focus here is starting on a budget – alternatively, if you have capital to invest then this wouldn’t be the best use of your time and the decisions below do not apply. At some stage I will write another post for those who do have a lot of capital to invest in a coffee roasting business.

Lets get started….


Optional: Register with Uber/Lyft

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Register with Uber or Lyft

This is obviously your decision to make and one just one of many potential options to earn money while keeping your freedom but if you get started by driving in a car sharing position, you will have something to fall back on while you are in the start-up phase. You still need to rack up the hours driving but this option provides you with flexibility and you will be your own boss. Not to state the obvious, but a car of reasonable standard is required to complete this step. It’s not operating on a budget if you need to purchase an expensive new car to use for Uber but… finance is available for new Uber drivers as the car acts as collateral for the Uber business so you can pay off the car while you use it to drive – which is affordable on a budget if you choose a modest vehicle. If you also need a vehicle for the coffee roasting business then this could be the answer to your problem. This car could double as a coffee delivery car which then increases the efficiency of your situation. If you choose to long term rent or lease the vehicle, the payments are usually tax deductible depending on which country you live in…

Just remember that this is not the only option to get started on a budget. You could work nights at a restaurant and then focus on the business during the day. You could work a normal 9 – 5 job but when someone calls to enquire about your services, you should be available to take the call. Remember that opportunities don’t come knocking everyday so you need to take every one, regardless of whether you can handle it or not!! It’s better to have tried and failed then to have never gained any experience at all. Your job right now will determine whether you will succeed, or whether you will continue focussing on your current career.

Buy a coffee roaster


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Buy a coffee roaster

So you’ve put in the groundwork working (or driving Uber) and have saved up enough to buy your first coffee roaster. I know this is quite a big leap from the first step, but you need access to a coffee roaster if you are be a coffee roaster. There is only one other way that I know of to get access to a commercial coffee roaster and it costs a hell of a lot less. I’ll add a link soon to a full blown guide to everything coffee roasting business related, however, for now it’s only 90% finished (July 2017).

If you need help with your first coffee roaster purchase, I recommend reading this: Top Ten Coffee Roasters Under 1kg (At a later stage I will have a full guide to buying coffee roasting equipment). Some coffee professionals recommend purchasing at least a 5kg coffee roaster but you need to be realistic when it comes to your budget and how much you can afford. You will need to learn how to roast coffee on a sample roaster because you need to be able to choose the combination of coffee beans from your blend. Green bean suppliers will give you small samples for free to roast in order for you to be able to establish what green coffee you will need to purchase. If your coffee roasting equipment is too big then you won’t be able to roast these samples. Also, because you are just starting there will be a lot of experimenting and you don’t want to waste 5 – 10kgs of green beans every time you need to practice. Since this post is all about starting on a budget we will be looking at commercial sample coffee roasters under 1kg. Later on, once you have some theory and technique behind you, you can move onto coffee roasting on a bigger roaster depending on budget.

The reason to start with a small roaster is quite simple:

  • you cannot afford a large roaster, nor do you have the space, permits, afterburner, gas lines, plumbing, ducting, power, capital to sustain ongoing costs, availability of green beans for large batches and customers to supply.
  • You need to learn how to roast coffee.
  • You need to learn what the different parts of the coffee roasting equipment are for.
  • small coffee roasters are reasonably priced ($800 – $4,000) in comparison to larger roasters.
  • they come in electric – or you can use gas bottles if a gas line isn’t available.
  • they can be set up in a garage or spare room thanks to the small size.
  • they are great for roasting samples as well as full batch capacity.
  • they don’t require an afterburner.
  • if you make a mistake while roasting and ruin a batch of coffee, you only lose a small amount.
  • if things don’t work out, you can still realistically keep it for personal use.
  • you can operate in the initial stages under personal use while you transition to becoming a registered business and acquiring a food license, commercial premises, etc.

Whether you are experienced at coffee roasting or have never touched a coffee roaster in your life, is irrelevant… If you don’t want to actually purchase roasting machinery because you value money more than quality coffee then you could still make it work. It’s not essential to buy coffee roasting machinery in order to start a coffee roasting business because you can buy time on roasting equipment or outsource the roasting to a contractor but it will cost you more in the long term. It may also prove difficult when it comes to talking to potential customers about your coffee story. When you speak to a coffee roasting professional about roasting coffee, there is a level of dedication and love that comes through in conversation – its this genuine passion for quality coffee that helps to kick-start new coffee roasting businesses in the industry. In my opinion, the coffee industry runs on passion, not just passion for coffee but also passion for quality, passion to help people and the overall enjoyment of the whole process.

Buying roasting equipment works out to be more valuable over the long term because:

  • this leads to learning how to roast coffee and therefore saving money on paying someone else to roast coffee for you.
  • you don’t have to buy roasted coffee at contractor rates.
  • you don’t have pay for time on roasting equipment.
  • you can roast on the equipment whenever you like.
  • you can experiment as much as you need to.
  • you can use the roaster as a marketing tool and conversation starter.
  • you control every aspect of the roasting.
  • you can get paid to teach others how to roast.
  • you can hire out your roaster when you aren’t using it.
  • you learn more about roasting equipment, what parts are inside and how to maintain/clean your roaster.
  • you become more knowledgable about coffee.
  • you can connect to more professionals in the industry through roasting.
  • you can join the Roasters Guild for networking.
  • you have access to fresh coffee everyday.

I could probably keep going with this list but my main point here is that it is of more value for you to invest in small coffee roasting machinery rather than outsourcing your coffee roasting.

Buy green coffee & supporting coffee roasting equipment

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Supporting coffee equipment

You will need to purchase green coffee to roast with. If you need help selecting green coffee, speak to your local coffee importer. Green beans are a huge subject so I won’t get into detail here but the most knowledgable guys are the importers.

In regards to supporting coffee roasting equipment, you will need:

  • packaging – coffee bags and stickers.
  • scales.
  • bins for holding coffee and weighing coffee.
  • sealing machine for sealing coffee bags.
  • scooper for moving coffee beans.
  • coffee machine.
  • grinder.
  • filter paper.
  • pour over apparatus.

Practice roasting coffee


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Practice roasting coffee

Now you have your coffee roaster its time to use it! There are 2 sides of coffee roasting:

  1. The physical operation of the coffee roasting machine.
  2. The theory behind why you are making adjustments on the coffee roasting machine.

The physical operation of a commercial coffee roasting machine is fairly standard:

  • pre-heat the roaster
  • add the green beans
  • adjust the air/heat/drum with the controls as the roast progresses
  • start the cooling fan and stirrer
  • open the door and drop the beans into the cooling tray

I’m not going to dwell much here on the physical operation because this will vary depending on what roaster you are using and if you are using software such as Cropster etc. Anyone can make the physical adjustments and roast coffee but the difference between average coffee and amazing, delicious coffee is knowing where and when to make the right adjustments. You can use a software to help you roast on larger commercial coffee roasting equipment but if you can’t roast your samples correctly then you won’t be able to choose the best green coffee for your blends.

What is far more important here, is the theory behind what you are doing. The number one thing you must do if you want to improve your roasting and the taste of the coffee is collect data. You cannot improve if you can’t compare results. This is why knowing the theory of coffee roasting is the only way to improve. If you need to learn about the theory of coffee, watch these videos: How To Roast Coffee (Video Series). The videos are made by Joe from Cafe Imports alongside Mill City Roasters – both are reputable and knowledgable coffee professionals in the industry. Once you have the theory, the physical operation will make a lot more sense and you will have the tools at your disposal to roast delicious coffee.

Practice cupping coffee

how to start a coffee roasting business 7
Practice cupping coffee

Every person who learnt how to start a coffee roasting business can differentiate between an average cup of coffee and a fantastic cup but it takes time to learn. Become accustom to tasting new coffee… Now you are roasting amazing coffee and you can probably tell if you haven’t roasted a particular coffee the correct way. It’s now time to hone your skills by improving your palate. The best way to improve your palate is by practicing cupping – you can attend regular sessions as they usually pop up weekly depending on where you live. Another great way to improve is attend an Arabica Q Grader course – these are amazing and will teach you a lot about coffee.

Branding and packaging


how to start a coffee roasting business 7
Branding and packaging

With your new found freedom, the first thing on your list is to complete the branding and packaging of your business and product. This should be something that takes time and is well thought out. Consider what you represent and how your business is an extension of your personality, how you deal with people and why you will display the values and actions that you want your business to be known for. Branding is more than a logo, its a symbol that people might end up following because of what it stands for:

– what would you follow? who would you follow? who do you follow?

Because at some stage, people will follow you, your brand and your coffee. You want people to think you know how to start a coffee roasting business and run it professionally. Your goals and values don’t need to be visual in your branding but you want something meaningful that you can talk to people about – you need a story because people will ask you why you chose the logo you did and what it stands for. Make sure this is print ready and on your packaging, you should have both retail and wholesale bags ready. The retail size range include 250g and 500g, while the wholesale offering should be available in 1kg for espresso roast and 500g for filter. A great website for inexpensive logo and marketing content is – you can create amazing and professional work for free mostly with the option to pay if you need over and above whats on offer (you will need to create an account first).

Create an online store


how to start a coffee roasting business 10
Start an online store

You must have a presence on the internet! In order to be taken seriously you need to have a professional website that’s easy to navigate and looks nice. An online store is a promotional space just as much as it is an e-commerce space. The website could be the first impression for a new customer or validation to support your introduction in a previous face to face encounter. A website can be an expensive experience if you go looking in the wrong places, alternatively it can also cost next to nothing if you can navigate around some basic website building tools such as or to name some popular shop-front sites. With the right combination of photos and branding, you could just create a website that will not only make you happy but also sell a few bags of beans each week.

Have business cards ready


how to start a coffee roasting business 12
Print great business cards

Part of learning how to start a coffee roasting business is being humble enough to ask other professionals for their opinion. You may think you have style (and you well may have) but you should always get feedback on your ideas before you move forward, especially when it comes to marketing. You will need some attractive business cards – and the better they look, the more appealing you will be to potential customers. Having your business cards printed and ready to hand out is a great marketing tool which you can use to propel your business and help it grow.

The hard part about growing a coffee roasting business is getting your name out there – the best way can be by starting a conversation in a car with a stranger when driving Uber (if they are up for chatting). Be careful though not to push anything onto your passengers – you want to introduce your business to the right people at the right time. If the opportunity presents itself then you may get the opportunity to hand over a business card to the passenger at the end of the ride. If the passenger is truly interested they will ask you where they can try your coffee – this is where you need to provide tangible access to your product. If your conversation has been of genuine intent and you have asked the right questions to get to know your passenger, you will of course know exactly where to direct them in order to make it possible for your passenger to taste your coffee. In the best case scenario, you would have a cafe serving your golden beans, however this is very unlikely at this stage. At the very least you should have your online store on your business card where they can access your coffee through an online purchase. Have coffee samples readily available in the car as well for those who are truly invested in learning more and tasting your coffee.

If you come across the right passenger, you could land yourself a new account or a contact in the industry! There is no doubt that Uber/Lyft can be a great marketing tool while you grow your coffee roasting business.

Growing your coffee roasting business

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Growing your coffee roasting business

From here the rest is up to you. Growing a coffee roasting business takes time and that’s why it’s so important to have something to fall back on such as Uber or Lyft. I hope at this point you feel confident in how to start a coffee roasting business and also completing it on a budget. As the money and contracts start coming in, you can scale up everything from your coffee roasting equipment to a commercial premises. Remember to secure a great accountant that works for you and build great relationships first and then sell coffee second – that is the secret to longevity in the industry!

Coffee Roasting: Measuring What Matters — roasterjoe

“Post hoc ergo propter hoc” This is an opinion post on my thoughts on density and roasting. Currently, there is a trend in which roasters are measuring the water content (moisture) of their coffee. This is fine. This is good. It is certainly never a bad thing to know more about the coffee we are […]

via Coffee Roasting: Measuring What Matters — roasterjoe

The Coffee Drinkers Cycle

Ever wondered where you currently are in the cycle of a coffee drinker?

The Coffee Drinkers Cycle

The coffee drinkers cycle is a term that I invented in my mind today while reading a question on I quickly googled the term ‘coffee drinkers cycle’ and no exact word-for-word titles appeared so I’m claiming this name as my ‘idea’! (for now lol).

The question on Quora was regarding Starbucks and what the main strategic issues were that Starbucks faces. Many people gave their answers on the topic and some revolved around how Starbucks weren’t covering specific niches such as the home market and some ethnic based markets. Regardless of what advice the answers were offering, after reading some of the replies I soon realized that Starbucks plays an integral role in the coffee industry – Starbucks introduces consumers to coffee in a retail environment. I know there are many that had their first retail coffee elsewhere but for many – Starbucks is their first. This is what led to the coining of the phrase ‘coffee drinkers cycle’.

This cycle that most coffee drinkers move through – it starts by consuming coffee at home with friends/family and then it moves to coffee at work or school. More work/school/family/friends meeting outside of the home leads to meeting in a retail environment and the inclusion of coffee in a more personal manner which influences the individual. Sub-consciously and physically the link to caffeine through driving factors such as work and social engagements as well as the physical enhancements entice the individual to embrace coffee on a daily basis.

coffee drinkers cycle
Should I add sugar?

For many people, the very first coffee that you drink probably isn’t going to be the type or brand that you stick with for life. Everybody likes their coffee a certain way but for those who like theirs with a lot of milk and sugar, unfortunately, this is not healthy for you nor is it sustainable over a long period of time without some form of degradation or weight gain to your body. After this realization for many coffee drinkers, most opt to exclude milk and/or sugar which usually turns them into black coffee drinkers and this is an example of a stage in the coffee drinkers cycle.

So far I’ve identified 2 mainstreams in the coffee drinkers cycle:

  1. Transitioning from no/low concentrated caffeine to a higher concentration of caffeine. Let’s name this phenomenon: the concentration stream.
  2. Transitioning from a lower/commercial grade of coffee to a higher quality grade of coffee. I’m calling this the quality stream.

I am a prime example of someone who has moved through the concentration stream of the coffee drinkers cycle. I started by drinking hot chocolate then moved to drinking mochaccino’s, then long blacks and finally espresso (also known as a short black). I now drink a variety of single origin filter coffees brewed via Chemex. In this example of the concentration stream, I most definitely have moved from a lower/no concentration of caffeine to a higher concentration of caffeine. Below I’ve listed the drinks in order from lowest concentration of caffeine to highest (please note these are coffee drinks you would find in a cafe serving specialty coffee):

  • hot chocolate – no caffeine
  • large mochaccino – espresso + chocolate + milk
  • large flat white – double shot espresso + milk no froth
  • large latte – double shot espresso + milk + little froth
  • large long black (aka. an americano) – double shot espresso + hot water
  • mochaccino – espresso + chocolate + milk
  • flat white – espresso + milk no froth
  • latte – espresso + milk + little froth
  • cappuccino – espresso + milk + lots of froth
  • piccolo – espresso + milk
  • long black – double shot espresso + hot water
  • long machiato – double shot espresso + hot water + dash of milk
  • short machiato – espresso + dash of milk
  • short black – espresso
coffee drinkers cycle
La Marzocco Linea PB Coffee Machine

All of the drinks mentioned above are produced on an espresso machine found in a cafe. Now there are other caffeinated drinks available from a cafe, although not created by using an espresso machine such as:

  • cold drip coffee (made using a traditional cold drip device)
  • cold brew (cold coffee, usually served over ice)
  • nitro brew (cold fizzy coffee)
  • filter coffee (hot coffee brewed via chemex, V60, pour over)
coffee drinkers cycle
Chemex brewed filter coffee

I know that filter coffee contains more caffeine then an espresso because the water is in contact with the coffee grinds for a lot longer which tends to take more caffeine with it while the water makes it’s way through the coffee. An espresso is more intense than a filter coffee, but I like filter coffee because I find there is a wider variety of flavors that are more prominent in filter coffee.

You or someone you know who drinks coffee regularly from a retail store will have most likely moved through the concentration stream of the coffee drinkers cycle.

Now moving through the quality stream is a bit harder to navigate because I don’t want to judge the perceived quality of someone’s coffee and or offend anyone. So I have put together list of general categories from lower quality to higher quality below. As this is a general list, it may however have coffee’s that fit elsewhere and not be applicable to the list below:

  • instant coffee (robusta)
  • instant coffee (commercial arabica)
  • retail/wholesale coffee (robusta)
  • retail/wholesale coffee (commercial arabica)
  • instant coffee (specialty arabica)
  • retail/wholesale coffee (specialty arabica)
  • microlot/nanolot coffee (90+ grading arabica)
coffee drinkers cycle
Branch of coffee cherries

Robusta and Arabica are the 2 types of coffee tree species. Robusta grows at low altitudes and is more resistant to bugs and predators. Arabica grows at high altitudes and is better quality than robusta.

Regarding the quality stream, most coffee drinkers at home are drinking a mix of instant robusta and arabica. For those who drink coffee at home from Nespresso or Keurig pod machines, I believe there are some good commercial arabica blends available. As coffee consumers become more educated they begin to notice what is quality and what’s not. A robusta grade coffee can be quite invasive after drinking a lot of specialty grade arabica from a quality cafe.

If you are familiar with green bean varietals and their grading, you can probably place a lot of the cafes you know into the quality stream general list which will give you an idea of the quality of their coffee. I believe most cafe’s would use commercial arabica but the top cafes will only use specialty grade arabica from coffee roasters.

Some consumers never complete the coffee drinkers cycle, they may be happy just to stay where they started or stop in a certain position. The 90+ grade coffee is usually very hard to find and most cafe’s will display if they have coffee in stock which is in this grading.

If you can identify with either stream in the coffee drinkers cycle, please feel free to comment below and include where you transitioned from, and where you are now.

Top Ten Coffee Roasters Under 1kg

Top Ten Coffee Roasters Under 1kg

What is a Mulatoz CR 200 Pro Coffee Roaster?

Mulatoz CR 200 Pro Coffee Roaster

While pottering around Instagram I found the image above posted by: Say Something Coffee.

I soon googled this Mulatoz CR 200 Pro Coffee Roaster and nothing came up! I spent a lot of time searching around the internet and soon realized that there was no information on this coffee roaster…

This got me thinking, what other cool little coffee roasters under 1kg capacity are out there and available to purchase?

This range of coffee roaster capacity has ushered in a new dynamic into the coffee scene because no longer are you restricted to the 100gram Probat sample roaster which costs a lot. In fact, after a quick search around the internet, I’ve found a huge array of small sample roasters scattered around the world, mostly from Asia but I’ve also included the traditional and more familiar brands.

The list of coffee roasters below is not in any particular order, they are just listed. I’ve tried to keep to a very simple format – the name of the roaster, a picture and a video so you don’t get too caught up in the details. I’ve also placed a link in case you want more information …

Probat Coffee Roaster

To keep it simple, we’ll continue with the infamous Probat 100gram sample roaster. German manufactured and the number one sample roaster of choice for most commercial coffee roasting companies. For more information you can visit: Probat Burns.

Probat 100gram sample coffee roaster
Probat Double Barrel Coffee Roaster

Ikawa Coffee Roaster

Ikawa produce both a Pro roaster version as well as a home version. This is a very popular model due to the connectivity to digital devices in order to roast and record profiles. This coffee roaster produces a very clean and clear flavor as this is an air roaster (also the only air roaster to make it onto this list). Ikawa is manufactured in the UK and the home version of the roaster starts at £850 pounds. For more information click here: Ikawa Coffee.

Ikawa Coffee Roaster

Yang Chia Coffee Roaster

Thirdly, the Yang Chia 100N is a cute little 120gram coffee roaster. This is a tidy roaster and pricing is approximately US$800 (I estimate + freight). The image below is from their website: Yang Chia Machine Works. Yang Chia are more famous for their Mini 500 Coffee Roaster.

100N Coffee Roaster
Yang Chia 100N Coffee Roaster

Huky Coffee Roaster

The Huky 500T is a 500gram roaster that is quite well known by home based coffee roasters and also by small commercial roasters. The original Huky 500 was the first model and the new Huky 500T has improved airflow. The Huky 500 works by placing it over a heat source such as your kitchen gas appliance and uses the gas flame to roast the beans. This roaster is made by Kuanho Li in Taiwan and I believe the price is around US$1500 + freight. I found the image below from: The Peoples Roast.

Huky 500
Huky 500 Coffee Roaster

North Coffee Roasters

I found a 500gram coffee roaster that is built by these guys: North Coffee Roasters. The roaster affords the operator variable drum and air control, and comes in an electric and gas version. The website claims data logging is also available – these are built in Shenzhen, China and the price tag is US$2999 (I estimate + freight).

500g coffee roaster
North Coffee Mini 500gram Roaster

Quest Coffee Roaster

The Quest M3 coffee roaster is a well known coffee roaster. It has a 200gram maximum capacity and the heat source is from electric elements. Built in Taiwan, its a US$1400 + freight. For more information visit: Coffee Shrub.

Quest M3 Coffee Roaster

Arc Coffee Roaster

The Arc 700gram coffee roaster is popular due to its larger capacity. This roaster comes in both gas and electric options and allows USB/Bluetooth connection for data logging. This roaster is built in China and is $3600 + freight. For more information visit the US website: Crop to cup.

Arc Coffee Roaster

Behmor Coffee Roaster

The Behmor 1600 Plus is the latest coffee roaster from Behmor. The capacity is 450grams is runs on electricity. Price is approximately US$700 + freight. For more information visit Behmor.

Behmor 1600 Plus Coffee Roaster
Behmor 1600 Plus Coffee Roaster

Hottop Coffee Roaster

The Hottop coffee roaster has been around for quite some time and is known for being a great home roaster. There are currently 3 models and the capacity and prices differ with each model. For more information visit:Hottop USA.

Hottop Coffee Roaster
Hottop Coffee Roaster

Mercury Coffee Roaster

The Mercury coffee roaster is a fairly new roaster built in Taiwan. The maximum capacity for a roast is 400grams and the manufacturer claims the minimum roast can be 10grams! The price is approximately US$1600 + freight. For more information visit:Cloud Bean Tech.

Mercury Coffee Roaster
Mercury Coffee Roaster

Each coffee roaster mentioned above should be fully researched before considering a purchase. Not all of the roasters mentioned here will pass some of the certification in each country due to different regulations. The power source should also be configured correctly for your countries requirements. Always be cautious with gas and have a qualified gas fitter look over your unit if it runs on gas or an electrical engineer if your roaster is powered by electricity.

If you believe there are other coffee roasters that deserve a mention, please add them to this list by posting a comment below, alternatively if you think there is information very specific to one of the coffee roasters above then please feel free to post in the comment section.

How To Roast Coffee (Video Series)

A wealth of knowledge on how to roast coffee from the team at Cafe Imports and Mill City Roasters

How To Roast Coffee

I have dedicated this post to the specific art of ‘how to roast coffee’ as I know that many have a lot of questions on this topic. Roasting coffee is becoming popular enough that many are starting to create information in order to help those who need it. Instead of writing endlessly on the subject, I have taken the time to search the internet for the most helpful videos and embedded them below. I have found a really good series called Roaster School – produced by Nick Green for Mill City Roasters (Minneapolis, MN) which really gets stuck into the finer details and theory of how to roast coffee.

Roasting coffee itself is not hard but some find it difficult to produce delicious coffee because they don’t understand what they need to change in order to produce a more flavourful result from the roast. It’s the theory behind what’s actually happening that most people find difficult to understand – a similar analogy is knowing how to drive a car but not knowing exactly how to tune the carburettor with the right mix of air and gas so the car engine is running at optimum. Car engines can be different therefore the mix needs to be adjusted to suit – just like green beans come in different sizes and density, the mix needs to be right in the roaster to accommodate the different green coffee.

Learning how to roast coffee starts by understanding the principles and theory first. The manual operation of the machinery is quite simple but without comprehension of the roasting process, you may not be getting the best characteristics from the green beans and therefore not producing the highest quality possible.

How To Roast Coffee: Video 1 – Turning Point

How To Roast Coffee: Video 2 – Drying/Yellowing

How To Roast Coffee: Video 3 – First Crack

How To Roast Coffee: Video 4 – Beyond First Crack

How To Roast Coffee: Video 5 – Holiday Blends

How To Roast Coffee: Video 6 – Handling Heat

How To Roast Coffee: Video 7 – Looking back on the first 6 roasting videos

Thanks for watching the first series, there will be more videos added soon!


Top 3 Problems facing a Coffee Roasting Business

This post looks at the top 3 problems facing a coffee roasting business in various stages from start up to maintaining a customer base.

Starting a coffee roasting business may be the most exciting thing you’ve ever done in your life, but be aware – you need to be prepared for the challenges that lay ahead.

In this post we shall tackle the top 3 problems of a coffee roasting business. Each problem listed below is in a different stage as the business expands:

  1. Pre-launch – lack of capital.
  2. Ready for Market – you have everything except customers.
  3. Staying on Top – how to maintain your customer base.

These are the 3 problems that I have seen ‘make or break’ roasting businesses in the coffee industry over the last 12 years. More recently I have been involved in two coffee roasting business start-ups but in the past I’ve been an employee for 3 coffee roasting companies each at different volumes:

  • between 5ookgs and 1 ton capacity per week.
  • between 4 ton and 5 ton capacity per week.
  • over 5 ton capacity per week.

The two start-up businesses had very different launch styles. One was launched on a modest budget and the other spent over $100,000. At this point in time, the coffee roasting business that spent large is roasting to supply their small onsite cafe, while the other business is still owner operated by 1 person who continues to supply wholesale to cafes on a small scale. The current circumstances of both businesses are partly reflective of the capital they had to begin with, but also because of the decisions they made along the way.

Lets get into the top 3 problems:


lack of capital for coffee roasting business

Without a doubt, the top problem a coffee roasting business faces is getting off the ground. The first questions are always, “Where do I start?” and/or “How much capital will I need to raise?”.

When I speak about ‘lack of capital’, I’m not talking about the problem that one could face in raising the initial capital. Once you have the amount of capital that you think you need to kick start your coffee roasting business successfully, you actually need more, a lot more. This problem is not really a lack of capital, its poor planning. Nobody writes a business plan for a coffee roasting business and has a category titled: Worst Case Scenario. Many business plans incorporate a ‘risk assessment’ but these don’t always take into consideration the specific real life problems that are associated with setting up a coffee roasting business, especially the tangible roastery itself.

Traditionally, a typical business starts with a business plan which entails content and plans to which the owner will use as a guide. This guide will help to get the business owner through the stages, the first step being prepared to enter ‘launch phase’. Part of the process usually involves securing finance in order to meet the capital needs required to launch. This is where the problem starts: an average business plan leads to a lack of capital!

First Tip: Unless you have previously been part of a coffee roasting business start-up, you will need much more capital than you have planned for!

The problem here is that most of the capital is used up on the business set-up. The outlay for equipment and a premises sets you back before you’ve started trading.

Second Tip: Plan only for the essentials, for example, yes its nice to have an Agtron reader to sample the colour of your roasted coffee but its not essential. Clearing the clutter will also help you focus on what your priorities should be.

When money starts to run low then compromises need to be made therefore the business plan is affected. For example, you purchase a 5kg Probat but it cost more for the freight and handling then you anticipated. The installation of the after burner and gas fitter fees cost an extra thousand because the integrity of your gas lines inside the walls were damaged (copper is not cheap!). As each little piece comes together you soon realise that you are losing money by the minute and now you cannot afford an advantageous or prestigious piece of equipment that was going to help with your business branding/identity. Don’t worry, you are going to make it work but your strategy needs to change.

When it comes to launching a business and you are low on capital, the best way to cut costs is to compromise on high end brand names and equipment. Perhaps you don’t buy the new La Marzocco Strada EP 1 group or the Slayer 1 group you had budgeted for testing your espresso roasts? Instead you buy a 2 group Wega or Rancilio. You know that you will be judged by visitors who come to your roastery… that prestigious coffee machine that you were hoping to associate your business and brand with is no longer part of the equation. In this moment, your coffee roasting business just dropped down a tier in market positioning before you’ve even opened.

In the long term, the initial lack of capital and planning can lead to a lower market perception of your coffee roasting business. You don’t need marble floors and chandeliers, just plain concrete floor and a wooden bench will do fine but make sure quality is somewhere in sight. Try and stick to recognized brands and equipment as they generally have good support and after-sales networks if the worst case scenario were to happen. If potential customers see quality in and around your coffee roastery, they associate that quality with your coffee and brand.

To really be prepared for starting a coffee roasting business, you need a detailed business plan which includes day to day expenses and financial forecasts. You don’t want to find yourself ‘lacking capital’ because of poor planning. Do yourself a favor and invest in researching/building a detailed business plan.

Ready for Market

cafe image for coffee roasting business

Okay, so you’ve mastered the art of roasting coffee and you are all set to supply wholesale. You currently supply a few friends, family and locals but nothing close to the transactions that need to start happening. You’ve been into a lot of cafes to show your wares but it seems like no one cares. It feels like you are missing something, the magic ingredient just isn’t there, how can I get an account across the line?

First Tip: Get familiar with your market! It’s actually more of a requirement rather than a tip – market knowledge is priceless when it comes to sales. Take note of the sales strategy that each roaster uses so you know if you have a chance even before you walk into the cafe.

The coffee industry is extremely competitive and if you don’t know how the game works then its time to get a pen and paper and take some notes. There is plenty of money to be made here, and accordingly the market reflects this by how hard it can be to obtain an account. Let’s do some quick math so you know how much is on the table:

Lets say an average cafe needs 15kgs of roasted coffee supplied per week to fulfill demand. The average price per kg is $25, so 15kgs x $25 = $375. Over a year it totals to $19,500 but when you get to having 5 average cafes as accounts, you are now just short of $100,000 per year.

But the income doesn’t stop at just coffee. Cafes need tea bags, chai, syrups, hot chocolate, sugar, stirrers, takeaway cups, lids, etc…

Pause for a minute now to consider what would happen if you were to pick up a great account, say 40kgs per week? That income equates to $50,000 per year which could pay for an employee’s yearly salary. Wholesale coffee is a big deal, so once you gain an account, be sure to keep them.

Now back to the sales side. The basic fact is that every coffee roasting business has something to offer besides just coffee. Here’s a list of things that other roasters might offer in conjunction with their coffee:

  • free takeaway cups
  • free loan branded umbrellas and wind barriers
  • free branded clothing for the staff
  • free loan equipment such as coffee machine and grinder
  • free breakdown call outs if there is equipment failure
  • the reputation of the coffee brand
  • the association with the coffee brand

When attempting to sell your coffee to a cafe, think about what you are offering as a supplier – it needs to be more than just coffee. Even before you step inside a cafe, look inside the window and figure out who supplies coffee to the cafe. If you know your market, you will know if you have a chance of supplying the cafe.

Second Tip: Never enter a cafe when its busy and ask to speak to the manager/owner regarding coffee supply. This is one of the most inconsiderate things a sales person can do. Learn when the quiet times are and plan accordingly.

A major reason that cafe owners won’t change coffee suppliers is because they are scared that a change could lose customers. A good sales person has enough confidence in their product to assure the owner that sales won’t drop and the transition will be smooth. This leads me to the next point: be certain that your coffee isn’t too different from the cafe that you want to supply – if the coffee is nothing like the current blend used by the cafe then you are setting yourself up for a hard sell. As soon as you hand over a sample of your coffee then the owner will notice the contrast immediately. On the odd occasion this could work but my experience is quite the opposite – the owner needs the taste of the coffee to be at least slightly similar for the change over to take place.

In this day and age, websites are essential. If you drop your business card off to a potential customer they could look you up online so you need to have your branding and marketing sorted. Its also a good idea to have an online shopping cart, even if its just to show the customer that you anticipate growth in this area. Online sales are increasing these days and its a great place to show off your coffee blends and what you can offer.

There is no denying the wholesale coffee industry is highly lucrative. Having a great cafe as an account is almost like printing money when you get the formula right. On the other hand, having a bad cafe on your books can be worse than the income they provide, these owners usually don’t pay on time and demand everything for free – they think you owe them something because they promote your coffee. Bad customers take up a lot of your time and always think that somethings wrong, either with the equipment or the coffee. The truth is that you are better off without a bad customer.

There is no ‘best way’ to sell coffee but there are some given truths. Build relationships first then business second. Your name is your brand, once its tarnished – mud sticks. There are so many sales models and strategies out there so just find the one that works for you. The good news is once you are established, the customers will start coming to you. If you are having a hard time finding a sales strategy that works for you, find some one who can help. You can read all of the free information on the internet but only someone with experience can really help you in the sales arena, especially if you aren’t a natural sales person.

Staying On Top

competition for coffee roasting business site

As humans we naturally associate and categorize everything into groups/areas/hierarchy, thats how our minds work. We see a man and woman taking a walk along the pavement next to the beach pushing a baby along in a stroller – our minds categorize this as a ‘family’ on a sub-conscious level without our brains stopping to process or even taking notice. We see a sports team holding the world cup or prize medals and we associate that sports team with victory, with winning, with being the best at what they do. It is this same psychology that advertising companies study and use in branding and marketing. Coca Cola or Pepsi might pay a popular celebrity singer or sportsperson a lot of money to be associated with their brand because somewhere in our minds, we’ve labelled/categorized this product. This is exactly the same for your coffee roasting business, the brand as well as the product.

Lets say 3 years have passed since your first customer came on-board and now you have some traction with around 50 wholesale accounts that you supply coffee to. Some of your accounts are being poached by other coffee brands and you find that its becoming harder to maintain your customer base because the impending offers from other roasters are just too good to pass up for your customers. You already do so many favors for your customers: you are roasting private labels for 10 of your customers, you are supplying another 10 undesirable cafes but you keep them as accounts because you’ve supplied them from the start, you are roasting 12 different blends which means your holding stock of 25 different green bean varieties which is taking up loads of warehouse space and putting pressure on your roasting schedule. Basically you are tired of being ‘everything’ to every customer and you are still losing key accounts to competition roasters. You ask yourself, “How can I possibly stay on top of all of this and continue to grow?”.

First tip: Always plan to re-brand your coffee roasting business, product line and customer base. It can seem daunting to have to choose a specific position in the market but you can’t sit on the fence and expect to continue growing at the same rate.

Yes, the answer is to re-brand. Re-branding is the only way to stay on top of things because you cannot continue to do what you are doing everyday or else you will burn out. Re-branding is the key to starting a whole new chapter in your coffee roasting business, the type of business that starts to pay you back for all of that hard work. This is the how the successful roasters take charge and make things look easy – customers start to approach you and ask to use your product, people want to do business with you and they will pay you more for it. It’s not going to be easy though, you will have to make some hard decisions and go against what you’ve stood for in the past 3 years.

The first step in re-branding your coffee roasting business is to choose how you want people and customers to see your business in the overall scheme of the industry. Its like the advertising company chasing a role model, be careful what you choose because that is how customers will place/rate/rank you in the market. Here are some questions to get your mind thinking:

  • Do you want to be known for having the best coffee in the city?
  • Do you want to be known for quality?
  • Do you want to be known as the fun coffee business?
  • Do you want to be known for the darkest or lightest espresso roast?
  • Do you want to be known for spending ridiculous amounts on 90+ grade/COE/microlot green beans?

After you have decided how you want to be perceived in the market, its time to make the change in that direction. For example, lets say you absolutely love punk rock music and therefore want to be known in the industry for your mixture of grunge and coffee. You start by writing out a plan and then incorporating it into your coffee roasting business by letting your staff all know the new direction. To begin with you re-brand the packaging to a black coffee bag with an electric guitar on it. You start to dress like a punk rocker and your staff do as well. You listen to punk rock in the roastery and purchase a fleet of V8 street cars to deliver the coffee to customers. Customers will see this change and they may not like it so you could lose accounts, but on the flipside, chances are very high that you will start to get a lot of customers who love punk rock call you and ask you to supply their cafes. The goal here is to dominate in this area and attract all of the punk rockers – you now know who your customer base is and you have immediate rapport with them. No more needing to beg cafes to use your coffee, you know your customer profile and the longer you stay with this brand, the better you will get at attracting this type of customer. A punk rocker is perhaps an extreme example of how to position yourself in the market but you get the idea…

New branding stops you from wasting time chasing the wrong accounts and also gives you room to focus on what really counts – taking your coffee roasting business to the next level. While you are re-branding, take the time to cull your coffee offering. Perhaps streamline your range to 3 or 4 coffee options: espresso with milk, espresso without milk, filter roast and decaf? Give them names that suit your brand which is what customers love to hear. Move through your coffee accounts and figure out which ones don’t really suit your brand, you can categorize them from best to worst and spend a lot more time with the best ones – give these customers bigger discounts, more tech support, fresher coffee and better equipment to ensure they stay with you longer.

Second Tip: When re-branding, take the time to change all of your systems such as how you take payment from your customer. Most cafe’s prefer pay cash when the coffee is delivered but this is very risky as your delivery driver is left carrying thousands of dollars on him. Always set up direct debit/automatic debit payments with your customers – they may not like this but you will always get paid on time which is essential for keeping accounts in the green and daily cash-flow coming in.

At the end of the day, market perception is everything. How you are seen by customers can play a big part in how your business grows. Finding your position in the market is hard but once you are established it slowly gets better. Starting and growing a coffee roasting business is much easier with guidance, planning and experience on your side. There is a reason why consultants charge thousands of dollars for expert advice, this is because its much more expensive when you go it alone and make all the mistakes the hard way. Just make sure when you take the leap, you get a little advice from professionals who have already been where you are about to go. Quality advice leads to quality results.