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.

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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

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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


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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


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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


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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!

Author: Coffee Roasting Blog

I run a website called

32 thoughts on “How To Start A Coffee Roasting Business on a Budget”

  1. Thank you for sharing your wealth of information on this blog! I came across your article on Tough Nickel. It would be great to connect with you as I’m in the process on working on a new coffee biz idea in Melbourne.


  2. Nice series of articles 🙂 My little 1kg North is upwards of 500 roasts and in need of a bigger brother. Now for a 5, 8, 12 ……..


    1. Great, sounds like you had the perfect start to your coffee roasting career – the North roaster has jump started many coffee roasters! Keep us posted how you are going and also which coffee roaster you choose to go with next and what your experiences are!


  3. Hello! I have a $15K budget to start, and was wondering what type or brand of roaster you’d recommend we start with, considering this budget would also be used to buy all the other equipment. There are ao many roasters out there. I have so many questions for you, as well, for example what sales strategies did you use to win over cafes? I’m not new to business but new to the coffee business, and would really like the help of an expert like you.

    Thanks for your help!


    1. Hi Lance, this is a very real question…

      So many options available here but I suppose everything depends on what position/stage you currently are in (within the coffee industry)? What experience do you currently have and what assets do you own?

      The bare minimum to get started here is a coffee machine, grinder, coffee roaster and green beans. If you already have a coffee machine and grinder or readily available access to a coffee machine and grinder then you won’t need to outlay for this equipment therefore you will have more to put towards a coffee roaster. The coffee machine and grinder also need to be of commercial standards if you really want to provide coffee to cafes.

      Second factor I would consider is your location. What is readily available in terms of used commercial coffee equipment vs how much you will need to spend on brand new? When there is a budget to keep – sometimes the brand of roaster does not carry as much weight when compared to affordability.

      At the end of the day, the best option is the one that fits your budget and style because each coffee roaster has its pro’s and con’s. In terms of sales with cafes – it’s all about relationships! Get to know the cafes in your area and the people who own them. Also contribute to the coffee community, whether its participating in local cuppings, classes or workshops, make the effort to introduce yourself and learn about other people in the industry. You’ll soon learn the coffee game is a marathon, not a sprint.


  4. Hey there,

    I’m curious about shipping options. It’s great to have a website, but if you have to ship a pound of your coffee across the country, it costs a fortune. Any tips, or ideas on that?



    1. Good question Phil,

      Basically the customer always pays for freight, however, you could possibly offer a discount based on volume. For example, the customer would pay full price for shipping on a small bag of coffee but receive 50% off shipping if another purchase was made.

      Hope that helps… but if anyone else has any ideas, please share 🙂


  5. Hi, I’m about to embark my long and hopefully successful journey into coffee roasting. I am in the market to purchase a small 1-3kg roasting machine. As a beginner in this industry I need to impress and attract customers/clients, which do you recommend buying Gas or Electric? Will Gas give me superior results over Electric?


    1. Hi Mohamed, a gas roaster is much more responsive than an electric roaster but this doesn’t necessarily mean the result will be superior. Depending on the brand of roasting machine, an electric type may deliver the same results as gas although you will need to make adjustments a little more in advance. To be fair though, the brand of coffee roaster can make a lot of difference as there are so many different styles of electric roasting machines which give you varying response times (for example, R1 bullet vs Solar vs North), in comparison to gas types which tend to be deliver very similar response times when adjustments are made.

      The good things about electric coffee roasting machines is that they are easy to set up as you don’t need any special gas certification. Electric roasters usually have fully adjustable heat variables as opposed to gas machines which only have adjustable air supply. Some electric roasters also have variable drum speed as well as fully adjustable air control.

      Gas roasting machines are quick to respond to operator adjustments which make it a lot easier to roast coffee. Gas roasting machines also come in every size capacity, where as electric roasting machines are mainly available in 1kg or less size capacity wise. There have been the odd 2kg electric coffee machines and only once have I seen an electric 5kg machine which was built in the USA.

      If you have access to gas lines or gas bottles and there are no major restrictions in your area for gas operated appliances then go with gas, otherwise you may need to purchase electric. Choosing a coffee roasting machine may come down to what you are able to accommodate, rather than what your actual preference is….


  6. wow ! this is an awesome article and gives me most of the answers I was looking for . Thanks for putting your efforts and time into this valuable piece of information you have produced . When you have spare time for a chat could you please email me . I’m a Brissy local and would like to discuss some ideas furthermore.



  7. Great article!! One area/question I had was in regards to the legalities around selling coffee online/wholesale, if roasting from home. Are there specific requirements (FDA) that you have recommended that roasters should follow or any advice in this area that you can provide? Thank you!


    1. Hi PT,

      To be honest, the coffee industry in general is quite vague when it comes to regulations and requirements. For example, there is no official certification or test to become a coffee machine technician. I would have to say that in the past 12 years that I’ve been in the coffee industry I’ve never heard of any dedicated team or body who governs, manages or checks on the sale of coffee online (which leaves this area open to exploit I suppose?).

      I have roasted coffee in a commercial environment (roasting warehouses etc), in a cafe, in garages and at my own home – in all of these areas the roasting process has been the same. Take the green beans and put them in the roaster, take the roasted beans out of the roaster and put them into packaging ready to sell.

      I think perhaps your question needs to be more specific if you are trying to pinpoint an exact area where you could possibly make a mistake. Every country and state differs when it comes to regulations on smoke emissions or certifying/installing gas equipment so you would need to know exactly what problem you will face in order for us to help you.

      To answer your question though, I don’t think there are any regulations around the roasting process itself but rather more about the certification and correct installation of the equipment/packaging/storage that is used during the roasting process.


  8. First of all many Thanks for this very helpful article that contain answers for the most confused beginners!!!
    After reading all comments I came up on idea to ask for the recommendation and explanation what would be the best option and roaster with a smell/smoke free effect to avoid complains from a neighborhood and inspectors???
    There was a “roasting business” in the house and even with additional isolation and air filters owners were still having a lot of complains on a coffee smell.
    Thanks for your answer in advance,


    1. Hi Mila, there are small roasters that have filters which cancel out all smoke. There are also afterburners as well that help to remove excess smoke on small and larger roasters. You can avoid complaints by neighbors possibly by roasting at specific times or using a filter/afterburner. Perhaps consider roasting slightly lighter because dark roasted coffee produces a lot more smoke. If you like the dark taste then you can look for that natural occurring attribute in the coffee rather than having to over-roast the coffee itself.


  9. Hello from a fellow coffee nut 🙂 Came across your in-depth article on Tough Nickel and have read all your insightful guide here. Thank you for putting this together, especially helpful from my end in building a new venture.

    Would love to get your feedback for the new venture am building via email whenever it’s convenient.


  10. WOH… Very informative and Very Good article Thank you for sharing with us. Keep posting wonderful article related to coffee. Thank you


  11. Thanks for this great info!
    I am trying to start a mobile espresso and donut truck and want to roast my own beans. I also intend to sell these online until I get a truck and things… What are your thoughts on using one of the “grill” roasters as a somewhat less expensive and interesting(for the customer to watch) way to roast? Like and RK roaster.
    I’m thinking initially roasting in my garage then putting the roaster on a small covered “porch” on the back of the truck like BBQ trucks do with smokers sometimes. What do you think


    1. Hi Kevin, to be honest I wouldn’t go near something like that. If you are roasting for home and friends then no problem, go for it but you won’t get the consistency or the control needed to produce an amazing coffee. You don’t want to waste your time as there are many more great coffee’s being roasted on the market.


    1. Hi Yitayal, instant coffee is made by first brewing the coffee into a liquid form. The liquid is sprayed down a tube of immense heat where the liquid part evaporates. What remains after the liquid evaporates is the powder which falls and gathers at the bottom of the tube. This powder is instant coffee.


  12. Hello!!! Great Article!! I have a question as I am quite new to this.. How much is the cost of roasting, would you say?? In regards to electric power and other possible expenses, apart from the actual equipment. And also, what are the prices you usually sell the roasted coffee??? In other words, what is the net profit?


    1. Hi Ana, the price of the sold coffee is up to you. A fresh 1kg bag of roasted Panama Geisha from La Finca Esmeralda (the Petersons farm) could fetch around $500… Something stale and vacuum packed from the supermarket at 1kg would sell for around $20. The price all depends on the quality of the product and how much your customer is willing to pay.

      In regards to operating expenses – it depends on the quantity you are roasting…


  13. Hello, thanks for the coffee roasting information.Am a coffee farmer for many years and now I want to start a coffee roasting business here in Kenya.


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