Sometimes bigger isn’t always better. When it comes to roasting coffee, we’re used to drinking coffee from large roasters who process enormous amounts of coffee each year. Coffee roasting is a delicate business and nuance is key. This need for specialised roasting has helped give rise to a new player in the coffee marketplace: micro roasters.
Unlike big roasters, micro-roasters are often local businesses that supply roasted coffee to cafes and consumers in their area. Micro-roasters buy their green beans from small suppliers, roast small batches of beans, and package them for sale. Some run their own cafes where they serve freshly roasted coffee.
What Is a Micro Roaster?
A micro roaster is any coffee roaster that processes less than 100,000 pounds of coffee per year. Micro roasters are mostly local businesses that operate on a small scale and take a very artisanal approach to coffee roasting.
Micro roasters take great care in how they source their coffee and how they process it. Micro roasters can be thought of the same way you would think of a master chef or sommelier. They are experts in their field who watch over every batch they create, right from sourcing to packaging. Since they roast in small batches, they can pay special attention to the process and create roasts with interesting profiles.
What Is The Difference Between Macro and Micro Roasters?
Apart from the difference in roasting volume, there are a few more key differences between macro roasters and micro roasters, which include:
Micro roasters are small businesses while macro roasters can be national or international companies. This changes the way each of these roasters run their businesses. Big roasters will buy in bulk, sometimes sacrificing some quality in the name of quantity, have complicated supply chains, and varied sales avenues.
Micro roasters typically buy smaller batches of green coffee, often sourcing directly from farms. Since they operate on a small scale, special attention is given to creating uniform roasts. They also have less complicated and more transparent supply chains. The internet is also helping to level the playing field between big and small roasters, to provide them with new sales channels.
Micro roasters tend to offer very artisanal coffees. Since they only roast small batches, coffee from micro roasters place a big emphasis on the origin of the coffee, its freshness, and roasting profile. Macro roasters focus more on mass production so their coffee is often easily available with a wider range of products. Both types of coffee roasters work with specialty coffee, but the final output can differ widely.
Why Micro Roasters Are Important
Micro roasting grew out of a need to focus more on the art behind making coffee. The third wave of coffee that kicked off around the year 2000 was instrumental in making this shift.
At the time, customers and coffee businesses wanted to stand out by focusing on the quality of coffee they offer. Sourcing coffee, blending, roasting, and presentation became the focus. And so, micro roasters emerged to cater to this new demand.
As micro roasters work with small batches, they can afford to be artisanal with their process. Many small roasters personally source their green coffee, visiting farms to make their selection. They then carefully oversee the roasting of small batches, testing for quality all along. Small batches mean they can deliver a uniform roast and experiment to create interesting blends and flavours.
This personalisation at every level has created a change in the way the coffee supply chain functions. Micro roasters place importance on relationships with farmers and with their customers. Trust and transparency with sourcing help promote fair trade with farmers, gives them incentives to experiment with their crops, and motivates them to farm sustainably.
Micro roasters have helped change the way consumers view coffee. They have furthered public interest in how coffee is grown, how it is sourced, and the effort needed to process it. This has helped put farmers and coffee estates front and center in the public eye. It has also raised awareness on some of the issues within the coffee industry such as adapting to climate change, ethical trade, and building a transparent supply chain.
Should You Buy Coffee From a Micro Roaster?
Where you buy your coffee is a matter of personal choice. If you are curious about micro roasted coffee, there isn't any real reason not to go ahead and give it a try.
Micro roasters place a premium on quality, so all you need to do is pick something that matches your tastes. Since micro roasters operate with small batches, you can purchase freshly ground coffee that will give you a superior cup. You also have the freedom to choose from a nearly endless variety of flavour profiles and roast levels. Some micro roasters even offer customised coffee.
Buying micro roasted coffee is a good way to support local businesses while also helping to promote trust and transparency in the coffee industry. Although micro roasted coffee is more expensive, the price you pay is completely transparent. You can be assured that no one is left out or undervalued in the process. The farmers get the recognition they deserve, your roaster gets to practice their art, and you get to enjoy amazing coffee. It's a win-win situation for everyone!