Choosing the Right Commercial Coffee Roaster
Choosing the Best Coffee Roasting Machine for Your Business.
“When choosing a coffee roaster (machine),
it is important to understand the purpose first”
Not all coffee roasters are designed the same. There is a multitude of variations, sizes, design, price, form, and function. We met with Jay Endres, the original founder of Coffeetec.com, a global one-stop-shop for the professional coffee trade, for his advice. Mr. Endres is famous for his problem-solving skills in the world of specialty coffee manufacturing. Although behind the scenes of the specialty coffee revolution, Jay was instrumental in helping icons such as Alfred Peet, and Martin Diedrich get started with their first coffee cafes.
Due to these earlier coffee icons, and the foundation these men pioneered in the specialty coffee industry, Starbucks evolved and has now become a global household brand name.
In the early days of the specialty coffee industry, it was Jay Endres knowledge, persistence, and passion that assisted these coffee legends with the roasting equipment side of the business. Without a roasting machine, there is no brewed coffee. Mr. Endres is very specific about terminology, “It is relevant to distinguish between a roasting machine and a roaster. Roaster implies the person roasting, referred to as a “Roast Master”. The Roast Master runs the roaster for you, either by knowledge, by smell and eye, technology, or both. A roasting machine is the equipment that actually roasts the coffee beans, without this there is no coffee.”
This brings us back to the main question, “how does a business owner choose the right coffee roasting machine for their business?” According to Jay Endres,
One starts by simply asking the following question(s):
What is the purpose?
- To serve coffee to customers in a café?
- To sell retail groceries?
- Foodservice / catering?
- Make more money?
- Expand an existing business?
- Offer fresh roasted coffee to patrons?
Once you have determined your purpose, another list of questions should be addressed prior to making a purchase:
- Why do you think you want to purchase a roasting machine for your business? PURPOSE
- When? Timing is important, thinking ahead of time 6 months – a year.
- Who are you going to serve? Customers in a café? Retail? Online sales?
- How will you service customers? Staff? Shipping? Packaging?
- Where? Location is a critical component of where the roaster will be placed.
- What? Is the quality, and coffee profiles you are seeking?
Selecting a roasting machine has to do with anticipated bean capacity, and how the right equipment selection for your business can provide a unique edge over competitors. Business owners that chose to own their own roasting equipment typically prefer to be a “Source rather than a supplier of Coffee”.
There are two types of cafes, ones that buy coffee, and ones that roast.
As an existing and or new coffee business owner, consider the following:
- How many coffees do you carry or want to carry in your operation?
- Are you roasting to serve your drink menu or are you looking to sell?
Coffee to customers?
- Wholesale to other coffee clients, supermarkets, or other retail shops?
- Who is your market?
- Who is the customer?
Once you have considered all these questions, you will need to then
BUILD TO THAT MARKET!
Now, you are ready to consider the “RULE’S of THUMB” for purchasing your Coffee Roasting Equipment:
Remember that BEANS ARE BOSS!
The roasting machine is all about taking care of the beans.
Size and Styles Matter> Gas. Electric. Stainless Steel. Cast Iron.
Key Difference between stainless steel and cast- iron roasting machines?
All stainless steel has hot air doing the roasting, the transfer of heat is almost baking versus roasting. The convection is doing the roasting. Note: The metal in the chamber should NOT be hotter than the bean itself. Stainless steels are notable for corrosion resistance.
Cast-Iron is almost the same as cooking in a cast-iron skillet – all the benefits of flavor. With its relatively low melting point, good fluidity, castability, and excellent machinability, cast iron is resistant to deformation and wear. It is also resistant to destruction and weakening by oxidation.
When selecting a roaster: Ask….What is the temperature? (approx. 400 degrees Fahrenheit) Where is the heat source coming from? When are the coffee beans receiving the heat?
Consider Roasting Methods Prior to a Purchase:
The air is pulled through the roasting drum, the beans fall through the pathway of hot air, while the paddles of the drum are used to keep the coffee moving. This results in each individual bean receiving the same degree of heat every second. The beans do not “sit on a surface” that is trying to heat the coffee. While there are many differences in the configurations and thickness of metal, cast iron or cast aluminum, the degree of metal and placement of the motors, bearings, and temperature reading devices, there are several roaster machines that have the capability to produce the similar finished product.
Air is used in all roasting; however, these types of roasters use the air to organize the beans and the bean movement. There are smaller “in-house” roaster machines using this technology. Traditionally these roasters can offer fewer parts and more simple construction, however one sacrifices the sound level because the air needs to move the beans which take a lot of power and thus more noise.
Air roasting is very close to convection roasting in terms of the “cleanliness” in taste.
Is where this all started. Coffee was first roasted in a pan or skillet, keeping the coffee moving by the shaking of the skillet over an open fire. Later “improvements” happened when coffee was placed in a round ball and the ball was rotated above an open flame/fire. Air was later added to pull the chaff out during the roasting process so as to concentrate on the bean development.
(coffee chaff is the dried skin on a coffee bean, the husk, which comes off during the roasting process. Chaff is a waste product, light, and can get everywhere.)
Remember, the “Bean is Boss”, we want to roast it to perfection and not bake it. In conduction roasting, we are taking the water off from within the coffee bean and are expanding the cell structure (without breaking down the cell walls) in order to expand the cell cavity size. All of this while keeping the essential oils inside the bean.
Traditionally, roaster machines rely on heat transfer which may take slightly longer in roast time when convection air is used in combination thereof. (similar to kitchen ovens)
It is the balance of heat and air that we are all trying to achieve. Roasting coffee is a little like the pizza business – there are brick ovens, deck ovens, belt ovens and so on, however, we still get pizza as a result.
Endres recommends that one not get caught in the trap of thinking one method of roasting coffee is “better” than the other, it is the Roast Master’s job to develop the bean to its maximum potential, arrest (stop), position/size/color and taste. All to be able to repeat again batch after batch.
A note on “less expensive” roasters on the market:
Be mindful of construction materials. Many of these roasters are often “copies” that look well finished on the exterior, but the interior may be radically different. The weight of the finished machine may be one indicator. Sound levels are important for consideration, as these roasters may not be built on a solid foundation compared to other traditional roasters on the market. Herein lies the trade-offs to be considered.
There is a place for the “budget category”, however, the brands that have proven themselves repeatedly are worthy of the additional value proposition.
Note: A car analogy is appropriate here: when you want to purchase a new car, don’t you consider the propose of the car? How many people do you plan to fit in the vehicle? What the mileage per gallon will be? “You get what you pay for”.
Prior to ordering a roasting machine, it is critical to identify and evaluate where the equipment will be installed. Ventilation to the outside world must be considered.
This is because air is used in any roasting operation, as you are heating the air while it is passing in and around the roasting process. This means the air and chaff are pulled away from the process and must go outside. Such venting varies in size and complexity depending on the overall size of the machinery.
Prior to purchasing a roaster machine, there are requirements by states, towns, and counties to clean up the air from any smoke or odor of roasting coffee. Otherwise, if an afterburner is not required, ventilation of the smoke and odor must still be managed. The key to afterburners is not necessarily size, but how much coffee do you roast as parts per million? This is referred to as Particles of Emission – the gas from the coffee and exhaust.
- Vent up and out to roof?
- Wall to the roof?
In selecting a roaster machine, take a look at the 90-degree angle of the equipment as it will either attach to an afterburner or be strategically placed to ventilate outside. The gentler the 90-degree curve of the roaster, the better! This is where the steams and water vapor must go. If the roasting equipment has a hard 90-degree angle, oil can build up in the pipes and clog the system. This can also potentially cause a fire. So, remember Gentle Curves for exhaust pipes.
The gentler the sweep out, the more room to flow, and not risk losing 10% of the power.
“Always leave the oil in the bean NOT in the Roaster Pipes!”
This also contributes to lower maintenance issues when the exhaust system is focused on clean air operations. Maintenance should be the person operating the roaster because they are the one who knows the sight and sounds and can be mindful of a moment when any of those conditions change. The chaff should be cleaned out every day the roaster is in use, especially to prevent fires from happening. Equipment should be cleaned out at the end of the roasting day.
Placement of roasting equipment environment should also be taken into consideration, if conditions change, then the heat can be different. The colder the environment, the longer it will take to get the heat up to properly roast coffee. Note: Environment changes can also affect taste profiles.
Also, SOUND. There are sounds from each of the major roasting equipment companies. Some are louder than others. This should be a part of the location checklist and taken into consideration when choosing the right roaster for your business.
What about Installation?
Important!! When choosing a location, your first roasting equipment or upgrading….
The ELECTRICAL requirement should, whenever possible be 3-PHASE POWER. Three-phase electric power has more “torque” and is usually more economical than a two-wire single-phase circuit because it uses less conductor material to transmit an amount of electrical power. Check the building. Most commercial spaces offer 3-phase power options.
Look for manufacturing companies that provide installation services for their roasting machines.
- Technical attributes of roasting machines. Level of sophistication.
- Size of the door to the bean out for storage, how easy is it to dump the roasted coffee beans? 3-4 seconds or 20-30 seconds? Fewer seconds is better, aids in the protection of the taste and quality of the coffee.
- Carbon footprint – the lower the better
- Single Wall > Like frying, conduction roasting, low NOx (oxides of nitrogen, especially as atmospheric pollutants).
- Double Wall > Convection roasting, hot air emphasis. Surfaces keep temperature.
- The coffee roaster selection process is much like the car industry as stated before, an investment in a quality roaster will last longer, with lower maintenance. A “cheap” car as in a roaster… you will know when the end is near.
JAY’s HELPFUL HINTS:
(Jay Endres Right)
2 Mornings per week should be allotted for roasting the coffee supply for the entire week. A business can grow by adding hours of roasting prior to upgrading or investing in new roasting machines first.
Key is to build the formula (2-day mornings/week) around your business model, keep it simple. If you wholesale to customers and the quantities go up, this will increase the need for upgrading to a larger roasting machine. Stick to the model but upgrade!
Guideline 3/batches – 4/batches an hour.
Example# A 15 kilo maximizes at 4/batches.
Whole Bean or Ground?
Ground coffee will entail the health department. Coffee is not a food until you add water. The activity of roasting green beans is agricultural, therefore the whole bean does not have to meet all the sanitary requirements of food handling.
What is the difference between roasting coffee in-house vs. purchasing from a supplier? In the long run, you will save money, and make more money. Your business will likely notice a significant increase in coffee consumption by customers.
Sample Roasters should be utilized for testing NOT the production roaster.
Roast experts should not be on their cell phones while roasting, this minimizes the risk of fire. Oh, and Do Not TEXT and Roast either!
A few thoughts to share on Marketing
- Make an Advertising statement.
- Pull your customer base into the activities of roasting
- Placing a roaster within an “arena” where people can see the raw coffee, the testing, roasting, cooking, and transfer provides a greater understanding of the process. The more “clout” you will achieve as the source of great coffees.
FINAL WORD: It is all about the degree of control.
Coffeetec.com thanks Mr. Jay Endres for his decades of dedication and commitment to the specialty coffee industry. For more information on new and used coffee roasting equipment and coffee-related products visit: www.coffeetec.com or call Toll Free: U.S.A. 800.999.1600
International: +1 650.556.1333