Tag Archives: coffee beans

Roasting Coffee for Your Coffee Shop

Are you trying to decide if you want to roast your own coffee for your coffee shop?  Are you just opening a coffee shop and find yourself torn between roasting your own coffee beans and buying coffee from someone else?  Hopefully I will be able to put it all in perspective so you can make an educated decision.

There are so many variables when considering roasting coffee for your coffee shop.  This really is another career of sorts.  You will now be responsible for more than just roasting coffee beans.  You will also have to keep up proper roaster maintenance, buying and storing green coffee, proper packaging if you plan to pre-package your coffee (usually not a good idea, more on this later), and designating and keeping separate an area specifically for roasting.

There is also a good chance that once people know that you roast your own coffee beans in your shop, you will get interest from other shops, cafes, restaurants and other establishments wanting to buy your product wholesale.  Try to plan for this as it can open up a whole new revenue stream.  Although this is totally up to you.

Do not make the decision to roast your own coffee beans based on the cost factor alone.  Besides green prices being double what they were a year ago, it is still cheaper to roast your own rather than buy coffee from a roaster.  However there are elements involved in coffee roasting that you should realize before you start roasting coffee yourself, as I will describe in the course of this article.

You also will now have the expense of buying a coffee roaster.  Whether you pay for it outright or finance it, you still have to repay the loan or recoup the money you used to buy the roaster so there is the extra debt service.  If you are about to open a coffee shop, this additional cost will add approximately $10k-30k to your equipment cost.  Yes, coffee roasters are not cheap!

If you do decide you want to roast your own coffee beans, you have other decisions to make like gas or air roaster?  The gas roasters, in my opinion are the better ones.  They can run on natural or propane gas and the heat source is an open flame on a rotating drum.  The internal drum heats like an oven.  You can roast small batches from 5-30lbs before you get into industrial-sized roasters.  However, I believe flame drum roasters give your coffee beans a more even roast, and overall better flavor profile.

The other option is an air roaster called a fluid bed roaster.  It uses hot, forced air either heated by a flame, or electricity (heating element).  The force of the blowing hot air inside the roasting chamber keeps the beans suspended in air for even roasting.  Think of the old air poppers for popcorn.  I think that fluid bed roasters are better for higher capacity roasting of 250lbs or more at a time.  The air is much hotter and the roast time is a bit shorter.

However determine the capacity that you want to roast coffee beans at:  your shop only or you and other shops, cafes and restaurants?  If you think you are going to try to wholesale, get the larger roaster.  You will need a minimum of a 30 lb roaster in order to adequately roast for wholesale.  Anything less and roasting will take you 2-3 times longer.  Being able to roast 30lbs of coffee vs. 10lbs is obviously an advantage.  A larger roaster will come in handy for wholesale.  However for just your own shop it will be a benefit as well because you will be able to roast larger batches of coffee beans and in a quicker time frame, allowing you to wear all of your hats a little easier.

The roaster must also be properly vented and connected to a gas or propane line, if applicable.  It is very likely that you will have to have a plumbing contractor put in a gas line and/or have an electrician add a power receptacle specifically for the roaster.  You may also have to have an HVAC person put in the exhaust stack if you city requires this performed by a licensed contractor.  Be sure to add this cost to your list once you get your estimates.

In regards to a specified roasting area, this is a must.  Roasting coffee in any type of commercial or semi-commercial roaster is noisy.  In fact, it can be very noisy!  You will not want to be roasting during your shop’s open hours unless you can segregate the roaster fully or at least, partially.  Some shops put the roaster in a room on its own or put up at least a ¾ wall so they muffle most of the sound.

If you are planning on roasting for wholesale as well, this specified area is even more detrimental.  Besides a roasting area, you will need a storage area for green coffee, blending area, packaging area and prep/ship area.  That is a lot of extra space for most independent coffee shops and it’s hard to come by.  Choose your space wisely.

Having said that, if you happen to be a one-person operation you do not want to roast when you’re shop is open in any event.  There are too many distractions that could ruin your roast or even cause a fire if you are not paying attention.  You must pay attention to your roaster at all times.  Ask me how I know this.

A word about bean displays for your shop:  I am a big advocate of allowing customers to smell the actual beans before they buy.  This means putting them in a glass or heavy duty plastic jar.  Then you can get the brown “Kraft” tin-tie bags, get some labels printed and a scale and sell the coffee beans by the pound.  You are done!

If you still plan on roasting in your shop, know you are embarking on something wonderful.  It is a lot of work yes and attention to detail, but the resulting product will have people talking about the fresh roasted coffee beans you have available in your shop.  It takes more than a desire for freshness or to save money; it takes passion for the bean.  Good luck to you!

My name is Tony DiCorpo, and I am a coffee roaster, coffee shop business consultant and barista trainer.  I am a coffee shop business consultant and have an eBook on how to start a coffee shop.  I also own Troubadour Coffee Roasting Co. where I sell coffee and espresso equipment and where you can buy gourmet coffee beans online.


A Little Ditty About Our Friends the Coffee Beans

Coffea Arabica is a species of Coffea originally indigenous to the mountains of Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula.  It also traces to the southwestern highlands of Ethiopia and southeastern Sudan.  The coffee beans are also known as Arabica coffee beans.  Arabica coffee is believed to be the first species of coffee to be cultivated, being grown in southwest Arabia for well over 1,000 years.  It produces better coffee than the other major commercially grown coffee species, Coffea canephora.  It is also known as Robusta, but tastes vary.   Robusta is a lower grade coffee used more commonly in traditional grocery store ‘brands’ like Maxwell House and Folgers.  Arabica coffee contains less caffeine than any other commercially cultivated species of coffee.  The coffee plants grow to between 9 and 12 meters tall, the leaves are a glossy dark green, the flowers are white and the fruit is a drupe, commonly called a berry that contains two seeds we know as coffee beans.  After harvesting, the raw products are known as green coffee beans or simply green coffee.

Coffee originated in Ethiopia where legend has it a goat herder named Kaldi noticed his goats not wanting to sleep at night.  After watching them, he discovered that this happened only after they ate an unusual berry from what is now known as a coffee tree.

The leader of an Ethiopian monastery used the berries to make a drink and discovered that it kept him up for the lengthy evening prayer.  This discovery of the energizing effects of the berries spread east by way of the monks of the monastery and coffee reached Arabia.  It than began a journey which would spread its reputation around the world.

By the fifteenth century, one could find coffee growing in the Yemeni district of Arabia.  By the sixteenth century you could find it in Persia, Egypt, Syria and Turkey.  At some point, someone decided to process the coffee cherries by pulping them and shedding the fruit.  Apparently they thought the drink would taste better if it were made from roasted coffee.  Good guess and what a concept!

Coffee was not only drunk in homes.  This was the beginning of what we now know today as the coffee house.  Before coffee houses ever sold whole bean coffee, their popularity was equal to none.  You would often find many different social activities inside.  The coffee house was not only a place to drink coffee and converse, but also a place to listen to music, watch performers and play chess.  Sounds familiar right?

Travelers brought back stories of the unusual dark black beverage to Europe.  By the 17th century, coffee had made its way to Europe and was becoming popular across the continent.   The clergy of Venice condemned coffee at first, as it was introduced to the city in 1615. Pope Clement VIII was asked to intervene because it was so controversial but before he made any decisions, he tasted the beverage.  He found it so satisfying that he gave it his approval.

Even England, Germany, Austria, Holland and France saw such controversy but coffee houses were quickly becoming quite popular.  By the mid-17th century, London had over 300 coffee houses.  In the mid-1600’s, coffee was brought to New York.

Coffee houses sprung up quickly in the New World but tea continued to be the favored drink.  It was not until 1773 when the colonists revolted against a heavy tax on tea imposed by King George.  This was known in history as the Boston Tea Party.  This event changed the American drinking preference to coffee.  How ‘bout that?  (Now you know why roasters today supply us with fresh roasted gourmet coffee.  Someone else made us do it!)  And it was not until the about 1960’s that coffee houses began selling coffee beans.

In 1723, a young naval officer transported one seedling and planted it in Martinique.  It is said to have thrived and is credited with the spread of over 18 million coffee trees on the island over the next 50 years.  That is a lot of green coffee beans!  The Caribbean, South and Central America’s coffee trees bearing green coffee beans are said to have originated from its stock.

The emperor of French Guiana is said to have sent a man by the name of Francisco de Mello Palheta to the island of Martinique for the purpose of obtaining coffee seedlings to bring to Brazil.  Only thing was the French were not willing to share.  It is said, however he was so handsome that the French Governor’s wife was captivated enough to give him a bouquet of flowers on his departure.  Inside it is said that he found enough coffee seeds to start what is today a billion-dollar industry in Brazil.

It took 100 years for coffee to establish itself as a commodity throughout the world.  Many forms of travelers:  traders, missionaries and colonists had continued to bring coffee seeds to new lands.  New coffee trees were grown the world over and coffee plantations were established.  These plantations were in beautiful tropical forests and on rugged mountains.   Some nations were born on coffee economies and by the end of the 18th century coffee had become one of the world’s most profitable export crops.

Today, the gourmet coffee beans we all know are grown in many countries:  Asia, Africa, Central or South America, the islands of the Caribbean or the Pacific; they are all coffee growing countries.  This also includes organic coffee.  All coffee beans can trace their heritage to the trees in the ancient coffee forests of Ethiopia.  If it wasn’t for Kaldi noticing his goats getting goofy, there just may not have been any fresh roasted gourmet coffee in the world today.

On my company’s website, www.troubadourcoffee.com we sell a variety of coffee beans, organic coffee and green coffee beans.  Thank you Kaldi!

Your Business Plan IS Worth Beans When Starting a Coffee Business!

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Simple, short and to the point.

People ask me quite often of the importance of a coffee shop business plan when starting a coffee business. My response is always a statistic: Most businesses fail within the first year due to lack of planning. If you don’t have anything to plan your course by, how can you move forward? Any business vision is blurry without a written plan.

Your plan takes time to write now, but it’s designed to help you avoid costly mistakes later. The true value of creating a business plan for your endeavor is not just the finished product, but also in the process of writing it.

Experience has taught me that while planning to open a coffee shop, templates and generic plans will not help you much except for the typical form a plan should follow so be very careful. You need to make yours unique, and as coffee shop friendly and specific as possible.

Even today as I am a roaster roasting coffee beans and carrying coffee wholesale, whole bean coffee, organic coffee and green coffee beans, I still am always following by business plan.  It’s a little different than a coffee shop business plan because it’s geared towards a roasted coffee business; I tailored it for such.  However without it I’d be lost.  When I started www.troubadourcoffee.com, I put another type of plan to use specifically geared toward selling gourmet coffee beans online.  You need a plan even for a drive thru coffee business.  See how it all becomes relevant?

When I think about my original coffee shop business plan I read and studied quite a few versions of them on the internet, and picked out sections I liked best. I rewrote it until I was satisfied and then gave it to my banker. He said it was the best business plan he had ever seen. So I put the plan to use and opened my coffee shop, and made lots of mistakes!

My banker loved it but he was not a small business person, nor anyone that was familiar with coffee shop operations. Had I had the true knowledge of a coffee shop, I could have made the plan realistically and pertaining specifically to a coffee shop.  Then I’d have avoided a bad location, incorrect demographics, lack of capital, and a lot of other mistakes.

You have to be realistic with your prospective numbers and in many ways you have to get creative, especially with marketing. The specialty coffee business is unlike a lot of other food service businesses because of its nature. Writing your coffee shop business plan will force you to think about your business in a way that you will always have to think about it: it’s unique.  Since people want to buy coffee and coffee beans whether it be whole bean coffee, organic coffee or green coffee beans you need to have a plan or your efforts will be futile.  You cannot think that starting a coffee business blindly is good idea!

And just because you open a coffee shop or coffee business and may be open for a year doesn’t mean you can put the plan away. You should always be tweaking it. You will always be a business person and thinking about what you can do different and new. Things change, markets change and trends change so your business has to change as well to adapt. Otherwise, you will be closed before you know it.

It bears repeating: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. It’s as simple as that! Be sure you have a specific coffee shop business plan when starting a coffee shop. Your plan won’t be worth beans otherwise!  In my business plan package I show you step by step how to accomplish the writing of this plan, step by step.  There are also several bonus perks when you get the package.  It’s available at www.tonys-coffee-shop-business-plan.com.

Here’s to awesome coffee!