CO-ROASTING: Your Affordable Entry to Coffee Roasting + Community
Just as the international coffee industry has valued making good coffee more attainable and affordable, co-roasting operations are here to make good coffee roasting accessible. And, really, we wouldn’t expect anything less from an industry that prides itself on community and collaboration. In this article, we’ll discuss:
If there were such a thing as Coffee Claus, we could imagine what a cash-strapped roaster’s holiday wish list might look like: Great equipment to roast on, plus sample roasters, all connected to technology; a cupping lab; ample bean storage; access to extras like heat sealers and grinders; and a large warehouse to house it all. Throw in the ability to share this facility with other roasters. Oh, and did we mention that this would all come without the headaches of maintenance and management?
Up until about five years ago, nothing like this existed, but thanks to the invention of co-working spaces in 2005, followed by peer-to-peer rental platform AirBnB in 2008 (VRBO got a head start in 1995), and a myriad of other consumer sharing/rental services in the past decade, it’s the natural progression of things that the coffee roasting industry would hop on board the skill- and equipment-sharing train.
Welcome to the world of co-roasting, also known as shared roasting spaces or coffee collectives — and these spaces are like a dream come true for anyone looking to enter the world of coffee roasting without the big capital outlay.
Whether you’re a commercial roaster who wants to experiment with roasting on larger equipment, a roaster jump-starting a new brand, or a home roaster taking the next step, a co-roasting space can provide a safety net to “try before you buy.” It can also eliminate the financial and logistical barriers to entry and help level the playing field of coffee roasting. If you’re not that familiar with co-roasting, think of these facilities as the training wheels or incubator for your coffee operations, and you’ll quickly get the idea.
Just as the international coffee industry has valued making good coffee more attainable and affordable, co-roasting operations are here to make good coffee roasting accessible. And, really, we wouldn’t expect anything less from an industry that prides itself on community and collaboration.
True to this community spirit, most co-roasting facilities are definitely more than a place to show up and roast. Yes, they’ll handle all management, maintenance, and storage, but they’re also true partners as many of them will work to offer solutions and help you improve your operations.
CoffeeTec worked with Shared Roasting in Brooklyn, NY to sell one of their roasters to make way for something bigger to handle greater production volume. According to co-founder Jeff Wong, co-roasting facilities are extremely beneficial for all sorts of coffee businesses:
"We work with a variety of companies that range from startups, coffee shops, restaurant groups, e-commerce brands, and traditional multi-state wholesalers. It's a great option for anyone in coffee that doesn't want to put up the capital for leasing a warehouse, expensive roasters, or construction. Additionally, and this is where the real value is, we offer training, education and advisory for your coffee production."
How Exactly Does The Co-Roasting Model Work?
In its most basic form, when you join a co-roaster as a member you’re entitled to a scheduled time on a roaster and usually have access to an array of other services. Of course, these services vary from one facility to the next, but the bottom line is that your financial investment will be more cost-effective, more flexible, and more affordable than opening up shop yourself.
Some of the extras that might be offered to you (depending on the facility), apart from the built-in camaraderie, include access to:
- Educational opportunities like lectures, classes, and special training sessions
- Knowledge-sharing with other roasters. You might even find some willing to exchange notes on roasting profiles.
- Cupping labs and other quality control measures
- Co-working space
- Co-op pricing for green beans and connections to importers
- Retail cafe on-site to sample and sell your specialty roasts
- Unique roasting options like toll roasting or ghost roasting
When you consider the full slate of benefits, you might wonder, “What does all of this cost?” Co-roasting facilities generally offer access by the hour or by regularly scheduled half- or full-day roasting sessions. A monthly membership that includes a regularly scheduled six-hour roasting shift per week can vary from $1,000 to $3,500, depending on the equipment, location, and additional services offered. Hourly rates can run anywhere from $60 to $400, again, depending on the same above factors.
Co-Roasting Benefits The Coffee Industry Too
In addition to the personal benefits, co-roasting has had two important impacts on the global coffee roasting industry — the first one intended and the second one more serendipitous:More Access to Market for Coffee Producers
For years, coffee establishments and cafes that couldn’t roast in-house have had to rely on serving coffee from bigger national brands. This, of course, has limited opportunities to work with and source coffee directly from smaller coffee producers who deserve to be recognized. Co-roasting allows these smaller cafes and coffeehouses the ability to roast green beans from small family coffee producers from all over the world, giving them much-needed access to a global market.The Ability To Roast Through COVID Amid Changing Market Trends
When COVID hit in early 2020, co-roasting facilities braced themselves for the worst. While some of their roasting partners had to close their cafe doors and halt operations, thus having to pause their co-roasting memberships, others pivoted to e-commerce sales and doubled down on coffee roasting for that purpose.
According to the Perfect Daily Grind, in the US alone, the number of roasters offering subscription services during COVID-19 perked up by 25%, while subscription sales swelled by 109%. This trend to cater to rising at-home coffee consumption rates enabled many co-roasting facilities to remain open and pivot their services right alongside their clients during the pandemic.
As the pandemic has drug on, the co-roasting model has proven to work well for the logistical limitations the virus has posed. Co-roasting facilities offer expansive warehouses, allowing for proper social distancing protocols such as staggered roasting schedules, roasting equipment stationed far apart, and already-in-place sanitation practices.
Co-Roasting Compatibility: 3 Things To Consider
With all the personal and industry benefits that co-roasting offers, it’s a relatively new concept that’s still finding its way. Like any business model, it’ll have its pros and cons — and it’s up to you to weigh those and decide if it’s a good fit for you.
Roasting Flexibility: Size and Schedule
Whether you’re a small-batch roaster or are a larger roasting company, you’ll need to make sure that the co-roasting facility you choose can support your production demands. Some facilities may not offer smaller or sample roasting equipment, so make sure to check what type of equipment the facility offers.
On the flip side, a co-roasting facility’s machine size generally won’t be an issue for larger roasting outfits, but time constraints may be. So make sure to check if the co-roaster can accommodate your schedule roasting needs, or if you can make what scheduling options are available work for you.
Most co-roasting facilities subscribe to a membership model that can include monthly fees upward of $1,000, depending on equipment, location, and amenities. Most co-roasters also include hourly roasting packages between $60 and $400 per hour.
Sharing roasting facilities can bridge the gap between getting started and going solo, but the financial pressure of paying extra for additional roaster time could be a roadblock to experimentation. To make sure that co-roasting is a worthwhile investment, you’ll want to do some number-crunching to make sure this option makes financial sense for you.
Access to Amenities
Whether you’re joining a gym, a museum, or club, the first things you’re apt to look at are its benefits and amenities. The same holds true for joining a co-roasting facility. The ability to roast your coffee on top-notch roasting equipment will probably be worth the price of admission, but true to the communal spirit of the coffee-roasting community, you can expect each co-roasting outfit to offer some interesting extras to truly make it a sweet deal. Make sure to check these out, which can range from educational opportunities and knowledge-sharing to assets like cupping labs, co-op pricing on green beans, retail sales opportunities, and more.
CoffeeTec’s Co-Roasting Directory
As of this writing, we know of about 15 co-roasting operations around the world. Given that this is a growing business model, we expect that we’ll see more of these pop up in coming years. For example, we know that the KW Coffee Collective in Ontario, Canada, is set to open soon. So, here’s a list, certainly not exhaustive, of some great co-roasting facilities from Brooklyn to Berlin. (Click logos to visit websites.)
NEW YORK (BROOKLYN)
Co-Roasting France has rolled out a variation of co-roasting not based on shared space, but rather on matching roasters to roasteries with available time for more production. Via a slick online platform, Co-Roasting works to optimize the use of existing machines by creating collaborative roasting opportunities throughout France.
CoffeeTec’s Connection To Co-Roasting
As a roasting equipment marketplace, we’ve had the opportunity to work with both a co-roasting facility and a small, independent roaster who leveraged a co-roasting membership to hone his craft — and then strike out on his own.
As we mentioned at the top of this article, we worked with Shared Roasting in Brooklyn, NY to sell one of their roasters to make way for another roaster equipped to better handle production volume. In another, we worked with two roasters who spent time roasting at two different co-roasting facilities. Once they were both confident in their craft, they branched out to start their own roasteries.
And, we've supplied co-roasting operations, including California Roasting Collective, with CoffeeTec equipment.
Are you a co-roasting facility owner looking for more roasting equipment to keep up with demand? Or, are you someone who has benefited from a co-roasting facility and is ready to open your own shop with affordable roasting equipment?
In either scenario, CoffeeTec has experience in navigating the equipment needs of the co-roasting community and we’d love to help you make the best purchasing, design, or layout decisions for your coffee roastery’s operations. No matter where you are in your coffee journey, we want to see you succeed. Check out our consulting and education services.
We offer competitive financing through our private Roaster’s Choice Lending Program or are considering the option and benefits of buying used. We’ve got you covered for both. Finally, feel free to explore our FAQs, and if you still don’t have answers to your questions, contact us. Let us help you build the coffee roastery of your dreams!