Starting a coffee roasting business can be a fun and profitable venture — and, unlike opening a coffee shop, it doesn’t take a lot of upfront investment capital. But if you’re considering becoming a professional coffee roaster, you probably have a lot of questions. Here are answers to five of the most common:
- What Kind of Green Coffee Beans Should I Buy?
There are two major varieties of coffee beans that you’ll probably come across. These are Robusta and Arabica beans. Robusta beans are cheaper, but generally thought to be of lower quality. But even different Arabica beans will have completely different flavor profiles based on where and how they were grown. It’s best to invest in good coffee beans, since you’ll probably be trying to brand yourself as an artisanal coffee roaster in order to compete with bigger brands.
- What Size Commercial Coffee Roaster Do I Need?
It’s a good idea to start out with a small batch coffee roaster. This minimizes your initial investment and also encourages you to experiment without waste.
- What’s the Difference Between a Drum and Fluid Bed Coffee Roaster?
A drum coffee roaster tumbles the beans above a heat source (think of your clothes dryer as a rough parallel). A fluid bed coffee roaster, on the other hand, uses heated air that’s forced through a screen to lift and move the beans during roasting. A fluid bed coffee roaster is slightly more likely to give you an even roast and prevent charred bits of beans from ruining the flavor of a batch.
- What’s the Ideal Roasting Time?
The ideal darkness for a batch will depend on the unique flavor profile of the beans, as well as the preferences of the drinker. Light to medium roasts are the most popular in the Eastern U.S., whereas medium to dark roasts are more popular in the Western U.S. Even darker roasts are used in European style coffees. You’ll need to experiment (hence the small batch roaster recommendation) to figure out what roasting times work best with the beans you’re buying, but you can expect something in the 7-20 minute range.
- What’s the Best Way to Grow My Business?
Many people start roasting coffee to sell to friends and family, often expanding online or into farmer’s markets. While these are good strategies, one of the best ways to give your business a boost is to partner with a local coffee shop; coffee tastes best if it’s brewed within 24 hours of being roasted, so local shops have a vested interest in teaming up with gourmet roasters close by.
Do you have any more questions about the technical or business aspects of coffee roasting? Join the discussion in the comments.