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The Secret to Coffee-Roasting Success In Pandemic Times? The Answer Might Be A Larger-Volume Roaster

The Secret to Coffee-Roasting Success In Pandemic Times? The Answer Might Be A Larger-Volume Roaster

The pandemic has been full of surprises, causing some in the coffee-roasting community to pivot and reinvent. The biggest surprise we’ve seen? An increase in our clients selling a smaller roaster in exchange for a larger-volume one. Perhaps they need to roast more efficiently and devote more time to keeping the doors open. Or, maybe their business has continued to grow despite pandemic pressures. Whatever the reasons, CoffeeTec is here for this trend. If you're considering going bigger, when you’re ready to make that jump, we’re here to help you determine how high (or big) you should go.

Welcome to 2022! As we kick off the new year, we’re studying CoffeeTec’s 2021 buying and selling trends to forecast what we might see in the months ahead. Since our biggest line of business is helping clients buy and sell used coffee roasting equipment, our activity is partly contingent on how our clients manage their own business growth in the current climate. 

And, what a climate it has been! While the pandemic sidelined or shuttered some coffee businesses in 2020 and 2021, it has caused some who've stayed open to pivot to more creative sales solutions like wholesale, grab-and-go, and online offerings. 

So, any trend review and forecasting might seem like an exercise in futility in these topsy-turvy times. Yet, no matter how recent world events have impacted the coffee business, we’ve noticed one thing is clear: 

For our clients looking to keep their doors open, we’re seeing them cling to the age-old adage of working smarter instead of harder. 

This has directly translated into how our clients are equipping their roasteries, revealing one of the most surprising buying and selling trends we’ve seen this past year — and that’s selling their current machines to get into a larger-volume roaster.

"In the past couple of years, the majority of people who've listed their roasters with CoffeeTec to sell are also buying larger-batch machines from us. And, about one-third of our buyers are wanting to sell a smaller machine. Both our buyers and sellers are aware that their current roasters are running hard, and they both want (or need) to produce a higher batch volume in less time. Moving into a larger-volume roaster helps them protect their assets, sales, and future resale value.”

Put another way, we’re seeing some customers double down, almost literally, on their investment in their roasting equipment. Moving to a larger-volume roaster allows them to double their output in about half the hours, buying them time to focus on critical business operations needed to stay afloat in this “new normal.” It’s a classic case of spending money to make more.


“We’ve done some very cool transactions where we’ve invested taken equipment sale proceeds into another machine. I’m thinking of Sam Floyd at Operation Coffee, who enlisted us to sell his maxed-out Diedrich IR-5 in order to buy an IR-12. The time he freed up from roasting to growing his business was invaluable. ”


How Is Your Roasting Equipment Supporting Your Growth Strategy?

We realize that some coffee roasting businesses may have moved this past year from a larger-volume roaster to smaller-output machine. This could be due to lower demand, or a desire to accommodate a greater variety of roasts and bean sources. 

But, if you’re in growth mode—either to keep up with demand or to free up time to increase demand—we’ll be the first to ask: “How is your equipment supporting you?” 

Are you running your roaster at full capacity at one if not multiple shifts a day? There’s no shortage of information about how to calculate the roasting amount based on your roaster size (you'll usually see a roasting capacity of 70-90% recommended), both for quality and efficiency—so we won't go into that detail here.

Suffice to say, you’ll set yourself up for a higher resale value when you’ve run your roaster responsibly, giving it plenty of headroom, rest, and time for maintenance.

If you’ve adopted a “pedal to the metal” roasting approach, that’s no different than driving your car 5,000+ miles per month. Going fast and furious might be an adrenaline rush, but you’ll pay for it later in repairs and maintenance to counteract the wear and tear on that vehicle. And, you’re guaranteed to walk away with less money in your pocket when you go to sell it.

But, you can change the ending to this story: By jumping to a larger batch roaster and running it responsibly, you’ll free up time to identify new sales channels, nurture and build your customer base, and increase your income. It might just be what you need to succeed.

And just how much time do you need for these non-roasting activities? We’ve heard it said that limiting your roasting time to around half of your overall workweek is optimal. Because at the end of the day, roasting doesn’t increase your profits. Only sales increase your profits. Remember that.

Two (Of Many) Ways That CoffeeTec Can Help You Go Bigger

If the pandemic has you positioned to take the leap into a larger batch roaster, we’re here to help—especially if you’re looking to jump from the smaller end to the middle of the pool.

In fact, the biggest category of customers we see wanting to move into a larger-volume machine is those who are ready to jump from a small shop roaster, like a 5-kilo machine, to a small, 10- to 12-kilo commercial-size roaster. 

This switch from a 5- to 10-kilo machine makes for a pretty easy game of “Would You Rather”: 

Would you rather keep going with your 5K roaster putting out 10-13 lbs/batch, or would you rather run a 10- or 12-kilo machine putting out 20-25 lbs/batch? 

The former scenario keeps you right where you are, and the latter results in more time to devote to the other aspects of your business. Seems like a no-brainer to us.

If you’re ready to make that jump, we’ve talked before about the factors that impact what size and type of roaster you should purchase. These factors include:

  • Understanding the type of business you are—and who your customers are
  • The hours you can devote on a weekly basis to roasting
  • Your current and projected roasting needs
  • Your roasting approach, realistic output, and efficiency
  • Your thoughts on sample roasting, profiling (which can be done on later machines), and production roasting

From our free eGuide on buying a roaster to mastering the coffee roasting buying maze, to considering a roaster refresh or how much automation you want in your roaster, we provide plenty of resources on how to approach a new (or new-to-you) roaster purchase. We also offer thoughts on what to consider in the additional equipment you might need, like a destoner or storage hopper, when you upgrade your roaster.

Beyond this, here are a couple of specific examples of how we can make this move to working smarter versus harder even easier:

  1. Swapping a 5K Used Roaster for a Larger New-To-You Roaster
    If you have a 5K in today’s market, CoffeeTec can get you a significant price for that machine. In turn, you can put that money down on a larger batch roaster and finance the difference through our competitive, private lending program.

  2. Jumping Straight To 10K Roaster Due To Small Price Difference
    If you’re looking to buy new, either as a first roaster or to keep your smaller used roaster in reserve as backup or for specialty coffees or sampling, we might suggest our line of new, in-stock Toper roasters. The price difference between a 5K and 10K—both semi-automated with data port output, running on NG or LP gas, with a two-year warranty—is only about $3,000. So, why not go with a larger-volume roaster out of the gate? You’ll get more value all around. And, if you need to crank up your roasting, you’ll have the headroom to do so. 

No matter which option you choose, the fact remains that by doubling your product output in half the time, you're likely to quickly make up the difference in price with coffee sales. How many bags of coffee is making the jump to a larger-batch roaster worth to you? We’re guessing whatever that number is for you, it’s worth getting back at least 20 hours in your workweek.

If You’re Ready, Let’s Talk!

Ready to make the jump? Our main priority is to empower, educate, and equip you with the tools you need to build the roastery or coffee business of your dreams. So, if you’re wondering how a move into a larger-volume roaster will impact your coffee roastery, cafe, or business, please contact us for a chat. 

We’ve always got a rotating selection of used and new equipment, and we take time to understand what you’re looking for to keep your roastery running. We can also advise on your roastery plans and logistics in light of pandemic supply chain disruptions. Let’s help you build the coffee roastery of your dreams — and with a roaster size that’s right for you.

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