Starting a coffee roasting business can be a daunting, yet exceptionally rewarding venture.
If, like many coffee enthusiasts, you have considered roasting your own beans, now may be the best time to start.
As the specialty coffee market represents 60% of coffee consumed in the US alone, the growing demand for fresh and flavourful coffee is providing more business opportunities for micro roasters.
However, to run a successful roasting business, you must source reliable equipment, and calculate factors such as green bean sourcing, marketing, and packaging costs into your expenses.
Read on to find out the minimum required to start a roasting business.
Get to know the basics
The first step to starting a successful roasting business is building your coffee knowledge.
Investing in cupping and roasting courses can help you understand the processes and develop the skills needed to become a roaster.
You can choose to study via online courses, or through the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA). The SCA is a global organisation that helps those in the coffee sector further their knowledge of the industry.
Additionally, the SCA has a comprehensive coffee skills education programme. These programmes cover everything from coffee origins to sensory skills – all of which are needed to produce a high-quality roast.
Choosing a roaster
Your largest investment will be your roaster, as this is how you will transform green coffee into a desirable, consumable product.
When choosing a roaster, you must consider its reliability, and how much coffee you expect to roast in a batch. For example, you do not want to invest all your money in a 20kg roaster if you are aiming to sell small batches of coffee.
Fortunately, the advanced roast quality of smaller roasters has made the equipment more reliable and affordable for those launching their own roasting business.
A small capacity roaster is a good starting point as it allows you to test and develop your product in smaller batches. And you can always upgrade as your business expands.
Finding a location
The roasting location should be large enough to accommodate the equipment and have enough space for you to work safely. That said, as a micro roaster, you do not have to start in a large, commercial space.
In his podcast ‘Coffee Is Me’, owner of Bird and Bear Coffee Company, Dan Streetman, explains how he used $4,000 to start his neighbourhood roastery from his garage.
Dan used a home roaster to produce freshly roasted coffee, which he sold to neighbours from a table set up outside his house.
Therefore, a garage or basement can be sufficient to run a small production line using a home roaster. However, as your roasting business grows, it may be difficult to fulfil larger orders.
In this case, consider finding a shared roast space like the Pulley Collective in the US. This collective comprises several shared spaces that allow you to rent time on commercial roasters. By doing this, you can complete large orders and keep production costs low.
Additional equipment for a roasting business
Despite the importance of investing in a quality roaster, you can afford to cut costs with other equipment. These smaller items can then be upgraded once your roasting business is well-established.
For coffee, accurate weight is essential for consistency and repeatability. You won’t need the most expensive scales on the market, but a set with a high-weight capacity and a larger weighing platter is ideal.
Scales are used in every process of a roasting business. You will use them to weigh green coffee for roasting, ground coffee for taste testing, and packaged roasted coffee for your customers.
Therefore, try to get scales that are accurate to 0.1g, although 1g is more than sufficient. You can find adequate scales online that will serve you for years before having to upgrade.
A reliable grinder is important for testing your roasted coffee and producing ground coffee to sell to customers.
While commercial coffee grinders can easily run into the thousands, as a micro roaster you can opt for more affordable options.
A good quality home grinder with a large hopper can make the process easier. That said, be sure to look for one with adjustable grind settings, so you can test your roasted coffee at every grind size.
A brewing set is an essential part of quality control and understanding how your roasted coffee tastes in the cup.
While there are many ways to brew a cup of coffee, you have to choose which works best for your roasting business.
For example, the pour-over method is the most common as it does not require special equipment. The French press and single-serving coffee dripper are also popular options.
Alternatively, the Aeropress is an affordable single-cup brewer, but this is quite a time consuming method if you intend to serve your roasted coffee to consumers.
If you are selling coffee at a market, it may be worth investing in a batch brew filter coffee machine. This allows you to have consistent batches of coffee for customers to sample.
Essential costs to consider for a roasting business
Green coffee sourcing
While equipment and location are important factors of your roasting business, you must also consider your green coffee sourcing.
This will affect not only your start-up costs, but the success of your business in the long run. Research shows 85% of UK customers expect companies to have sustainable, ethical practices.
In recent years, sourcing green coffee has become easier, and you may even be able to buy a single bag from local green bean suppliers.
For example, Sweet Maria’s Home Coffee Roasting in the US sources directly from farmers and cooperatives, and provides green beans to other roasters.
Local roasteries may sell green beans in small amounts, which can help you transition from hobbyist to micro roaster.
By using small amounts of green coffee, you can experiment with your personal style of roasting. Furthermore, as you are working in smaller batches, you will be able to sell freshly roasted as soon as possible, thus lowering storage costs.
An essential part of your coffee roasting business is developing a unique brand identity.
Your brand should speak directly to your target market and have a strong message that reflects the vision you have for your business.
Dan Streetman reveals how setting up a table outside his home and selling to neighbours brought added interest from customers in surrounding areas.
This said, if your marketing and advertising budget is quite small, word of mouth can be a powerful marketing tool.
Setting up a stall at your local markets and speaking with locals can help boost awareness about your business and encourage customers to buy your product.
Then, once you feel comfortable expanding your business, you can choose to use social media marketing packages to extend your reach. Many social media and website packages offer various, cost-effective options for start-up businesses.
Your coffee packaging is the first thing customers see, and so, it should give a good first impression.
Investing in quality packaging will not only attract customers, but ensure your roasted coffee remains fresh until the point of consumption.
Many packaging manufacturers have adapted their business models to incorporate micro roasters, and offer low minimum order quantity (MOQ) options for those who are hesitant to commit to large packaging orders.
Additionally, by investing in sustainable and recyclable packaging options, you are showing customers your business is committed to lowering its environmental impact.
By encouraging customers to return their used packaging for recycling, you improve the likelihood of repeat purchases.
Launching a successful roasting business on a small budget is a commitment, and will take hard work. However, it is made much easier if you do the research and develop a strong business plan beforehand.
Starting slow and investing where it counts, such as in a quality roaster, will help you focus more on the finer details of your business, allowing you to grow at a manageable rate without becoming overwhelmed.
At MTPak Coffee, we are able to support roasteries of any size and are committed to helping them develop a strong brand that brings their passion to the market.
We offer low minimum order quantities on flat bottom coffee, stand up, and side gusset pouches that can be made from recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable materials.
Furthermore, we use sustainable water-based inks to customise your coffee packaging, ensuring your unique brand stands out to customers.