Whatever your reason for starting a roastery, whether it’s to pursue a lifelong passion or increase your revenue streams as a café, you’ll need to make sure you have the right equipment.
Not only does this mean finding a reliable roaster with enough capacity to serve your customers, it also means choosing equipment that meets your needs for growth without straying outside your budget.
While it can be tempting to buy a whole host of items from the outset, things can quickly add up and set you back before you’ve even started.
To find out about the essential equipment you need to start a roastery, I spoke with 2019 World Cup Tasters Champion and founder of Sumo Coffee Roasters, Daniel Horbat.
Read next: How To Create An Efficient Roastery
Choosing a roaster
Naturally the centrepiece of any roastery is a roaster and it will be the most expensive item you buy when setting up your space. Its primary function is to transform coffee beans from their raw form into a consumable product. However, the deeper you venture into roasting, the more complex they become.
While there are a number of different factors that affect the purchase price of roasters, batch capacity is one of the most influential. The difference between a 1kg roaster and a 20kg roaster can be upward of $15,000.
Therefore, when choosing a roaster, you need to carefully consider how much coffee you expect to roast at any one time. There’s little sense investing in a 20kg roaster if you’re only planning to sell small batches of micro lot coffee, for example.
He writes: “If you can afford it, buy a larger roaster than you think you need. I’ve never known a roaster to regret buying a machine that was a bit too large, but I’ve known many roasters who regretted buying machines they quickly outgrew.”
When choosing a roaster, you should also consider its reliability. Cutting costs at the start by buying a cheaper roaster may cause problems further down the line if it breaks down and you to spend money fixing or replacing it.
Roastery essentials: What else do you need to start roasting?
Although a roaster is undoubtedly the most important piece of equipment you need to start a roastery, there are several other items that are essential to get going.
Daniel Horbat opened his roastery in Dublin in 2020, after being crowned World Cup Tasters Champion the year before. He tells me that when he started out, he was working within limited resources.
“When I started my roastery, I was on a tight budget,” he says. “I didn’t have much equipment to hand.”
However, by taking the time to think carefully about what he did and didn’t need, he was able to make prudent investments that would allow him to start operating a successful roastery.
Here are some recommendations for essential items to open a roastery.
A sample roaster is a low capacity roaster designed for roasting small batches of coffee. Among other things, Daniel says that owning a sample roaster from the outset is vital for consistency.
“I personally believe that having a sample roaster from the first moment you set up your roastery is very important,” he says. “They help you find a roast profile that brings out the best characteristics of your coffee. This is especially true if you’re roasting a rare coffee that you need to avoid spoiling.
“They are also very helpful for testing the quality of the beans when you’re looking to buy new coffee and for quality control in general.”
Once your coffee is roasted, it needs to be packed into bags ready for distribution to the consumer, café, or grocery store.
To do this, you’ll need a reliable bag sealer to speed up the process. Few roasters enjoy putting beans into packages, so it’s a good idea to find a model that allows you to work through the process efficiently.
“Having a sealer is important, to make sure that the bags are properly closed, and that the seal is clean and well presented,” Daniel tells me. “If you have the money, I’d recommend investing in an automatic bag sealer, maybe one that also adds a roasting date on the bags.”
A high capacity floor scale with increment of no more than 5g is advised to provide calculations about weight loss. This is particularly useful when measuring the moisture content of green beans.
During a roast, it’s important for roasters to check what’s happening inside the drum. If you discover that the coffee has started to go darker than you anticipated, it could ruin the entire batch.
Most roasters use a bean trier, a simple tool that allows you to examine the aroma and colour of the beans. However, it can be difficult to see the colour in a dark roastery. To ensure you’re able to accurately determine the colour of the coffee, Scott Rao recommends purchasing a spotlight with a full-spectrum bulb that can be mounted just above the bean trier.
Health & safety
Health and safety equipment needs to be carefully thought out when you set up your roast space, not least because many city councils demand them before they offer permits to roasters.
In addition to regularly cleaning all your equipment, you should consider investing in a water line with a spray head and an accessible valve. This will help reduce the risk of fire, keeping you and your staff safe.
As a roaster, your budget will largely dictate the equipment you’re able to bring in at the start. As such, it’s important to make the right decisions and only spend money where it’s needed. Once you’re set up and roasting coffee, you can then start thinking about upgrading and investing in more equipment to improve your workflow.
At MTPak Coffee, we offer a range of fully customisable coffee packaging for specialty roasters that will help build your brand and keep down costs. Thanks to our cutting-edge UV printing technology, we can print your designs on as little as 500 bags, allowing you to save money or invest in new equipment.
For information about our sustainable coffee packaging, contact our team here.
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