With more and more small businesses looking to enjoy the many benefits of freshly roasted coffee, there are arguably a number of questions about the economic viability of running a small roasting operation. In the early stages, coffee roasting can be a business which operates on fine margins and requires significant overhead investment.
To put it simply, without the buying power, infrastructure, and sheer scale that large commercial roasters have, profitability can become an issue. Keeping your costs down can be the difference between survival and being able to reinvest your profits and move forward.
While green coffee itself might be significantly cheaper than roasted coffee sourced from a commercial roaster, the process of roasting obviously requires some expense from a business perspective. Figuring out how to keep these expenses under control, however, is where you can manage your costs.
Gas vs electric
In the last few years alone, there has been a notable shift away from gas roasters, with a number of newer manufacturers emerging in the market and offering electric roasters. With the advent of discussions in many US states about banning the installation of new natural gas lines for business premises, this may even be mandatory for some roasting businesses in the years ahead.
Switching to a more sustainable energy source is a good first step, but a lot of modern roasters also focus on increasing efficiency and precision to minimize the number of batches you have to roast when dialing in a new roast profile. This minimizes waste, while also lowering energy usage (and cutting costs) in the long run.
Historically, medium and large coffee roasting operations have employed roasting teams made up of a number of people, which is then led by a head roaster. Maintaining large commercial roasters is obviously another cost, and it can contribute significantly over time.
However, while new or replacement parts clearly require expenditure, there’s also staff time to consider. When a certain amount of time has to be spent every month on cleaning and maintaining the roaster, this obviously affects a company’s efficiency. Ultimately, it restricts the time that a member of the team could spend on product development, marketing, or sales instead.
There’s no doubt that roasting your own coffee gives you more control over the identity of your business, but starting on this journey as a home roaster or a coffee shop can be fraught with challenges and costs.
Finding ways to manage these as you move forward is important. Leveraging the capacity of emerging technology and online platforms is a great place to start, and it can help put control back in your hands as a business owner.
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