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Buying a Coffee Roaster? Here are few considerations so you do not get burned.

This is not a review of coffee roasters and I will not present the ultimate roaster. Instead, I am going to list a few important considerations you should take in account when purchasing any coffee roaster.

How much coffee do you plan to sell?

And how much do you plan to grow in the next ten years? I know so many roasters who buy tiny ~1kg roasters as the started roaster for their business, usually because of the cost or because they plan to roast high quality small batches, keeping the coffee fresh. When I ask how do they plan to make living with a ~1kg roaster and if they did any profitability calculations the answer is usually “I do not know” and “no”.

While roasting is lot of fun, you do not have to be an entrepreneur to enjoy it. But if you do decide to start a business, treat it as a business. Have a rough idea of how much you need to sell in order to make a decent living, and how much you plan to grow in the next ten years. Buy a big enough roster that in the beginning you can roast once or twice a week, which can slowly grow into eight hours a day and seven days a week, but by then you will have a dedicated roasting team.

I think this is much better strategy then low-balling your expectations with a small roaster and upgrading every x months. The price difference between a 1kg and a 5 kg one for example are not so big, but the output is dramatic for your business. In case of budget machines like Garanti, the difference between 1 kg and 5 kg is $2,000 (information kindly shared by Garanti).

Here is a sample situation. Where you can do 3 roasts an hour and you have $15,- overhead/kilo (2.2lb). Please use the numbers only as an example to prove my point. The overhead can be much more or much less depending on your business model.

RoasterMax 1 day profits (8h work day)Max 1 month profits (8h – 22 Work Days)
1kg (2.2lb)$360,-$7.920,-
5kg (11lb)$1.800,-$39.600,-
15kg (33lb)$5.400,-$118.800,-

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Budget Considerations

There are plenty of different models out there, and the size of your roaster should not be based on its capacity but rather on the brand. In the past few years there has been a boom in coffee roaster producers and you can get anything from a cheap Chinese machine, to a reasonably priced Turkish product to expensive Dutch, German or US roasters. You usually get what you pay for. My personal take on this is that if you can afford a better roaster, do so. Great roaster manufacturers make roasters which last multiple lifetimes, but the fact that you can’t afford them should not stop you from beginning with a cheaper brand. In my EU company we had only 8000 EUR when we started out so we went with a budget Turkish roaster. It worked for us — we were in the business. I believe that once you have an idea, nothing should stop you from realizing it. Three years later we upgraded again and we are firing up our Probat UG 22 (we call her Olivia).

Our first roaster in Green Plantation coffee was a 5kg Garanti (red on the left) and our newest team member is Olivia – Probat UG 22. All together we have 5 different rosters (15kg Garanti, Sonofresco, Huky 500)

Style of Roasting

Do you roast already? What is your style? What kind of variables do you follow when you roast? Would these variables and measuring points be available on your new roaster?
The ideal roaster for a Boot Camp Coffee student has two temperature probes, one for air temperature and one for bean temperature. You should be able to adjust the heat output and follow the applied changes via its gas pressure manifold or other heat output level gauge. Adjusting airflow allows you to apply theory from our course. This is the style of roasting our students use; if yours is different, list the features you use and make sure your new roaster will have them. In case of the roaster we use in Green Plantation, we have a hard time regulating the gas, because the system used in these roasters is ON/OFF, based on Italian models. In the refurbished Probat we will be able to regulate the gas with a lever. This is much closer to our style of roasting.

Gas or Electric

When it comes to production roasters, this one is a no-brainer. Gas reacts to heat changes much faster then electricity and gives you more precise control of the process. This is why professional chefs do not use electric stove tops in their kitchens. When it comes to gas, you have a variety of options; make sure your roaster will support the one you are going to use. You can use natural gas, propane, butane or blend of propane and butane.
 The main advantage of natural gas is the constant availability and in many cases lower cost. Propane is a good choice everywhere that natural gas is not available. Butane does not burn clean and should be avoided.
In some places, like Central Europe for example, it is standard to use a blend of propane-butane, while calling it propane. While in most roasters you can use this the same way as you would propane, some roasters would be finicky about this. Make sure you know exactly what your gas consists of or you might end up with expensive repairs.

110v/220v/240v/380v

Every coffee roaster needs an electric plug to run the different engines (drum, cooling tray, airflow, etc.). Lots of fresh business owners forget about the fact that the roaster is a piece of industrial equipment and they plan to plug it in into a regular outlet. Some roasters can be plugged into a regular outlet but some can’t. Most producers will tell you what kind of outlets you will need, but if they don’t, make sure you ask. You might be in a serious trouble if you end up with a roaster that does not support the available electrical outlet.

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Local Regulations

Make sure you are familiar with your local emission laws. In some cases, you will need an after burner and this can double purchase and running costs. Emission laws might be different by municipalities so if your country/state has one law, double check also with local officials. Even in strict municipalities you can get by with a 5 kg roaster if the smell does not bother your neighbors, but in many countries you can use a 22 kg/50 lb or even bigger roasters without installing an afterburner.

If you need to use an afterburner, check also for other emission control systems. There is lot of innovation happening in this field. Always make sure that the solution you choose complies with local ordinances. It is better to work with them than spending your energy to fight them.

I hope this article has given you a few ideas on how to search for the ideal roaster for your business. Feel free to send a photo of you and your new roaster to me atvalerian@bootcampcoffee.com so I will know that this article helped. If you have other tips, feel free to share them in the comments below.

March 7, 2016

6 responses on "Buying a Coffee Roaster? Here are few considerations so you do not get burned."

  1. hi dear
    I want to know your opinion about toper coffee roasting machine I plan to buy it what your recommendation.
    thanks
    cheers !

  2. 1 2

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