How to start a coffee roasting business

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Premium coffee is an amazingly fast-growing industry in the United States. In the past 25 years, premium coffees have risen from a 1 per cent market share in the United States to more than 20 per cent in 2007. As consumers continue to look for the best and freshest of coffees, a large opportunity has been created for speciality-coffee roasters. Running a coffee roaster is a great way to use your passion for coffee and make some money in the process.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Coffee roaster
  • Raw coffee beans

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  1. 1

    Purchase your equipment. Purchasing a coffee roasting machine can be a confusing process, as features vary widely and prices range from a few hundred dollars to many thousands. Generally, purchase a machine with a higher capacity than you initially anticipate, and ask other coffee roasters and cafes about what they use.

  2. 2

    Find a source for coffee beans. The cheapest and best beans can be found at the source: Coffee plantations will often sell their wares directly to roasters or wholesalers. If you aren't up for some plane travel, look for raw-bean wholesalers and establish a deep relationship with one or two. Variety of beans and sources are important here, so make sure your relationships include a diverse selection of beans. See the resources for more on raw-bean wholesalers.

  3. 3

    Roast a few small test batches and get opinions. The amount you spend on these test batches is nothing compared to what you might waste creating batches that you cannot sell. Get all your coffee-loving friends to taste some of your goods and let you know what they really think. Now would be a good time to ask them for testimonials as well.

  4. 4

    Take your product to the customer. Most coffee roasters sell to small coffee businesses or restaurants, rather than directly to customers. Take some of your best test batches to your customers, and offer to brew them some coffee to sample.

  5. 5

    Ask for the sale. After you woo them with your product, make sure to ask to set up regular deliveries of your product on contract. If you have trouble getting a definite agreement, offer to sell your beans on a trial basis at first or offer a discount on the first batch.

Tips and warnings

  • There are literally thousands of choices available for roasted coffee for any business. If you are to survive in this competitive market, concentrate on great customer service. Many people can't tell the difference between two finely roasted coffees, but everyone will remember if they've been treated poorly.
  • Coffee roasting involves liberal amounts of fire, and coffee beans are actually flammable. Make sure to follow all precautions and instructions when using your coffee roaster.
  • If you purchase a commercial coffee roaster, you may be subject to local ordinances regarding commercial kitchens. Call your chamber of commerce, and ask them for more information about what limitations you might face. You may also want to ask them for more information about local businesses that might want to purchase your goods.

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