Master the Coffee Roaster Buying Maze With The 3 “P’s”
Whether you’re looking to upgrade your roasting equipment, you’re a cafe owner who wants to start roasting coffee in-house, or you’re just starting out, you’re probably asking the same question: “What’s the best commercial coffee roaster for me to buy now?”
We get it. Buying a new coffee roaster is a big deal, so we’ll always advise that your business plans and purpose drive your purchase decision. With multiple variations, sizes, designs, price points, and functions to choose from, selecting the best coffee roaster for your business can feel like a complex maze to navigate!
So, before you can start answering the question about which coffee roaster is best for you, you’ll obviously start at an advantage if you already know your business goals and customer base, the types of coffee you want to roast, desired roasting volume, and other factors that impact your business.
No doubt about it: It’s a lot of questions to answer, but then again, welcome to the world of being a business owner! Knowing some of these answers in advance of your coffee roaster purchase will help you master that maze with more steady footing.
To make your job easier, we’ve put together a FREE eGuide that outlines technical considerations for buying a new (or a new-to-you) coffee roasting machine. Everything from roaster types, controls, software interfaces, fuel sources, and growth planning are covered in this guide to help you make the right purchasing decision.
Interested? Then click the below button to receive this downloadable guide and start exploring:
We think you’ll find the information in this eGuide helpful, and we also think it’s equally beneficial to contemplate what happens before and after your big purchase — so we’re spending time here to explore this idea. We’re also throwing in some thoughts about relying on the very instincts that drew you to the coffee roasting business in the first place.
As we’ve consulted with coffee roasteries and cafes around the globe, we’ve learned from experience that you can’t ignore the emotional side of adding a new roaster to the mix. You’re developing a hopefully long-lived relationship with this cornerstone tool of your business, so we think the topic deserves more attention.
So, beyond the actual (and exciting!) purchase of your beautiful new coffee roaster, let’s consider what we like to call the three “P’s” of adding a new roaster to your business:
- What’s your purpose for buying a coffee roasting machine?
- How will you protect your coffee roaster after purchase?
- How will you position your instincts to play a role in leveraging your coffee roaster to its full potential?
Before we dive in, we’d like to point out a few tips to help you plan (hmm, perhaps that’s the fourth “P”!) for your new coffee roaster purchase:
- If you’re looking to replace your current coffee roaster, you should know we make it easy to sell your existing coffee roaster through our CT Connect program. Let your existing roaster help pay for that new one!
- If you’re considering buying used, we have a large selection of used coffee roasters — along with thoughts about when and why you’d consider buying used equipment through CT Connect.
- We’ve also got great financing options through our Roaster’s Choice Lending Program, which allows you to leverage competition among our network of top national equipment lenders to ensure you’re getting the best financing value possible.
- We’ve got a lot of good resources here at CoffeeTec.com but also understand that you may be the type of person who benefits most from being able to have an expert as a sounding board to work through these big decisions together. If that’s you, then we offer consulting and education services that do just that.
- Finally, feel free to explore our FAQs, and if you still don’t have answers to your questions, contact us. Let’s help you build the coffee roastery of your dreams!
Okay, let’s dive in!
#1: Know Your Purpose
First up? You need to nail down your purpose for needing a new roaster. From our perspective, you’re either new to the coffee roasting world and need something to get up and running, or you need something better to keep you going if this isn’t your first rodeo. In either scenario, it’s helpful to visit (or revisit) your WHY? No matter what stage in the coffee roasting game you’re in, here are some questions to ask yourself. Do you want to:
- Serve coffee to customers in a café?
- Sell to retail grocery chains?
- Expand into the hospitality industry with foodservice or catering?
- Explore e-commerce and online sales?
- Make more money? (Don’t we all?)
- Grow an existing business?
- Offer fresh-roasted coffee to patrons?
Once you’ve determined your why, gather up your business team to brainstorm another list of questions prior to making a purchase:
What is your budget, and how can you justify this purchase? Do you plan to pay in full or finance? Make a list of the purchasing pros and cons to help clarify your next steps. We promise you’ll come back to this list throughout the purchasing process.
When do you want to make this purchase? Timing is important, and you need ample time to research such a big investment. Plus, as you probably know, other factors like permits and inspections will play into this timeline. It’s good to start thinking about a new roaster or an upgrade 6-12 months in advance of when you want to make the switch.We can help walk you through this process. Just fill out our equipment request form, and help us help you!
Who are you going to serve? Customers in a café, wholesale customers, or both?
How will you service customers? With the on-site staff at a brick-and-mortar building? Through online sales?
Where will you place your roaster? Given local regulations, ventilation requirements, maintenance, staff and customer safety, and other factors, it’s very important to nail this down.
- What coffee profiles are you seeking? Do you want to stick with the basics, or get into more specialty, artisanal, or blended coffees? Do you want to focus on specific regions or origin coffees? Again, there’s a roaster for everything, so you have to know what your “things” are.
Need help choosing the right coffee roaster?
#2: Protect Your Purchase
Once you’ve bought your coffee roaster, whether it’s new or used, maintenance and operations will be your top priority because, let’s face it, roasting coffee is a messy process — and running a coffee roastery or cafe can be, dare we say it, equally messy. From an emotional investment standpoint, this “P” has everything to do with having a strong commitment to consistency and responsibility. Your roastery dreams can be dashed if you overlook your daily commitment to your new coffee roaster. Trust us: If you take care of that brewing beauty, it will pay you back ten-fold.
A few helpful maintenance hints:
- Get to know your coffee roaster’s manufacturer recommendations and create a maintenance schedule. Not only can poor maintenance pose fire risks and restrict airflow, but a dirty roasting machine isn’t doing your product or business any justice.
- Let the roaster cool down after each roast.
- After cooling, always weed out the chaff in or under the roasting drum.
- Clean the main filter once a week or as necessary.
- Clean the chaff from the drum’s roasting chamber once a month.
- Use a cleaner that cuts through grease and a nylon scrubbing pad to clean out the roasting oil.
- Make sure you have extra spare parts. A whole day of roasting can be lost by a belt snapping, which is a part you can keep on hand for quick and easy replacement. Whether you’re buying new or used, identify which spare parts you can easily keep on hand and then purchase them online. They will literally help you save the day.
And, consider these operational tips:
- Allot two mornings each week to roast your coffee supply for the entire week.
- While you may be able to roast 3-4 batches per hour, keep in mind that roasting at full capacity can negatively affect quality. It’s definitely a quantity vs. quantity game!
- Buy a bigger roaster than you think you need. It’s far easier to grow into something than having to roast more and more batches, burning out your equipment, and reducing its resale value. And, by buying bigger, you’re also avoiding future headaches brought on by the logistics of figuring out how to fit a larger roaster in your existing real estate.
- Keep a safe and healthy work environment by making sure you stock the necessary safety items related to running your coffee roaster. Save a spot in your budget to buy a first-aid kit, eye and ear protection, and even proper work attire. You’ll definitely want (and may be required to have) fire extinguishers nearby, and you might even consider installing an eye washing station.
- Think about the space surrounding your coffee roaster and how it impacts operational workflow. For example:
- Room for delivery: Do you have a loading dock or wide enough back entrance to receive your green bean shipments? Ample clearance for pallets to move in and out will always save you money, time, and labor.
- Room for storage: Do you have space near your roaster to store your coffee to maximize efficiency and minimize hauling bags around? Have a short-term and long-term storage plan. Shelving systems are great, but if they’re tall enough to the point of needing a small forklift, then remember that training and certification are mandatory to operate that equipment.
- Flooring, walls, and ceilings: Make sure your floor is able to support the weight of your coffee roaster. Charming old wooden floors likely have not been designed or renovated to support the weight of major equipment. Likewise, even concrete flooring is susceptible to cracking. For walls and ceilings, know where your ductwork is. Also, if you’re renting your building, know where your landlord and permitting agency stand on letting you poke holes in walls and ceilings for exhaust venting.
#3: Position Your Instincts To Play A Role
This may seem like an odd thing to include but we think it has a place in an article specific to making a wise coffee roaster purchasing decision.
Because as a business owner, regardless of your skills and resources, there is no denying that instinct can be your number-one superpower. After all, you had to trust your gut to go into business in the first place. And, the very act of roasting coffee is largely built upon solid instincts like knowing which producers and farmers you want to build lasting relationships with, recognizing how long to roast your batches, understanding what your customers want, and so on.
But let’s look at how staying dialed into your instincts specifically impacts your coffee roaster. Always remember that technology can be useful, but here's the general rule: Coffee roasting is equal parts art and science. It’s a high-touch (and taste) business, so make your tools work for you but never let the tools replace your senses.
What does this mean in practical terms? Consider cupping your coffee product often, possibly every day (yep, it comes back to that daily commitment!). There is so much to be said for sampling your roasts, even unmarked to avoid preconceptions, to ensure they stay up to your standards. Cup with your staff to introduce different palates. This especially helps on those days when your perception may be a little off. We all have them.
Just this one practice can give you quick insight into when a roasting profile may not be working for you, or alert you to when your green coffee beans are starting to age. This allows you to make adjustments to your roasting process, which should include making sure your coffee roaster is clean and that all of its parts are doing their job.
Stay in tune with your instincts. The sharper you keep your instincts with the smaller daily tasks, the easier it will be to rely on that instinct when making bigger decisions like buying a beautiful new coffee roaster. It’ll be more fun, too, because you’ll be more confident. And, do remember that you deserve to have fun in this crazy coffee adventure too!
So: Know your purpose for a coffee roaster purchase, make a plan to protect that purchase, and always position your instinct front and center. We promise these 3 “P’s” will pave the way to your coffee roastery’s success. Are you up for the challenge?
Let’s get you ready to buy a roaster!