“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 […]
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 Quora.com. 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.
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:
- Transitioning from no/low concentrated caffeine to a higher concentration of caffeine. Let’s name this phenomenon: the concentration stream.
- 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
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)
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)
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
What is a 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Pre-launch – lack of capital.
- Ready for Market – you have everything except customers.
- 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:
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
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
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.