If you love coffee, you may have wondered what it would be like to run your own coffee business. Coffee roasting is one of the biggest markets in the coffee industry and for a good reason. Coffee roasting is integral to the industry, and many great roasteries have made a name for themselves over the years.
Coffee roasting can be a very profitable business, with some small roasteries making between USD $200,000-$300,000 a year. Like any other business, there’s risk involved. So, careful planning, a practical approach to business, and knowing your market well is key to long-term success.
What Does a Coffee Roaster Do?
Basically, a coffee roaster takes green coffee beans, roasts them till they’re brown, and packs the roasted coffee for customers. This sounds simple. However, the process of coffee roasting is incredibly nuanced and takes years of practice to master. Each type of roast has its own flavor and characteristics. Therefore, a good roast can change a coffee roasting business forever.
Before the actual roasting, a roastmaster has to plan out their roasting cycles. Roasted coffee is only good for 2-3 weeks, after which the freshness begins to degrade. This means a roaster has to plan batches in such a way that no beans are wasted and no roasted coffee is left to go stale. It takes strong organizational and planning skills to pull this off.
Then we come to the actual roasting. Roasting is a pretty quick process, taking about 10-15 minutes. Still, in those few minutes, hundreds of chemical reactions occur that determine the flavor and aroma of the final coffee. It can be tricky to control these chemical changes when roasting a large amount of coffee and here lies the skill. Many roastmasters spend years of training to hone the art of coffee roasting.
Perfecting the recipe means roasting many sample batches and taking careful notes. Sample batches are left for 12-24 hours after roasting and checked again for a full flavor profile. Once you find a recipe that works, the roaster repeats the process a few more times to ensure it can be replicated for many large batches.
What Do I Need to Start a Coffee Roasting Business?
Starting a coffee roasting business can come with major start-up costs. First, you need to find a well-ventilated space - roasting coffee generates a lot of smoke and you need to have the capacity to clear it out safely. Your roasting space needs to come with ample storage room, both for your green coffee beans and your roasted coffee.
For the actual roasting, you will have to invest in a professional coffee roasting machine, which can cost USD $25,000 or more. Most come in different sizes depending on the volume of coffee you want to roast. You might be tempted to go for a cheaper roasting machine to cut costs. But keep in mind that to make a successful roasting business, you need to equip yourself with good-quality machines and tools.
In addition to a roasting machine, you will also need:
- A commercial coffee grinder
- Branded packaging for your roasted coffee
- Secure storage containers for your green coffee
- Packaging and accounting systems
Finally, you will need a robust transport network to make deliveries to your customers. Your customers can include home users, coffee connoisseurs, cafes, hotels, restaurants, and other coffee-selling businesses.
What Are the Operational Needs for Coffee Roasting Businesses?
Your major recurring payment will be for green coffee beans. The price of green coffee fluctuates with changes in the market but specialty coffee is usually around USD $2.50-$4 per pound. It’s sold in large bags, usually 110 lb per bag.
Next, you need to account for the fuel used in the roasters, the cost of packaging, transport costs for deliveries, rent and utilities, etc. Eventually, you may also have to factor in employee wages as your business expands.
How Can You Make Your Roastery Stand Out?
As the market gets more saturated, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. Finding your niche is very important to establish your coffee roasting business and ensure steady revenue.
You can choose to differentiate your coffee roasting brand across various levels:
- Focusing on single-origin coffee, or only one particular region
- Partnering with small farms for exclusive and rare roasts
- Specializing in a particular roast type or flavor profile
- Supporting social initiatives and charities
- Gearing your roasts towards a specific type of consumer
Ultimately, marketing can make or break your business to invest in it wisely. Social media is your best friend here so tap into it to maximize your reach.
Starting a new business is always daunting. Coffee roasting is worth consideration if you truly love your coffee and are willing to invest time, effort, and money in it. As the world discovers new ways to drink coffee, you could be the next big thing.