Starting a coffee roasting business is a great way to jump on current trends favoring hand-produced local food and grab a slice of one of the world’s most profitable industries. But especially if you’re considering becoming an artisanal coffee roaster on top of your existing job (or don’t have much business experience), it’s easy to fall into some common pitfalls that carve away at profitability. Here are five of the biggest mistakes you don’t want to make as you look toward becoming a professional coffee roaster:
- Buying the Wrong Roasting Machine
Predictably, coffee roaster machines are at the heart of all roasting business. That means you’ll want to choose yours carefully. It’s fine to start with a small batch coffee roaster to keep your initial expenses low, but you should prioritize professional quality no matter what. A note on the fluid bed coffee roaster vs. drum roaster debate: Yes, fluid bed coffee roasters are generally slightly better than drum roasters and less likely to burn beans. However, this is a relatively small concern, and not all fluid bed coffee roasters will out-perform drum-based models.
- Not Being Willing to Experiment
Coffee roasting is more art than science. Most batches roast in between nine and 13 minutes, but ultimately you’ll want to develop a “gut sense” of how dark to roast your beans based on your customers’ tastes.
- Cheaping Out on Your Green Beans
You won’t get a great product if you don’t start out with the best raw materials. Green coffee beans vary widely in quality, and buying the cheapest options available to you is probably a bad investment in the long run. Over time, you should develop your own knowledge of what distinguishes high-quality beans from less desirable ones so you won’t have to rely on pricing to indicate quality; this will allow you to get some better deals.
- Isolating Your Roasting Business
No man is an island, and no business is either. Just because your business only performs one of the many steps between planting coffee and serving up steaming beverages doesn’t mean you can ignore the other components of the industry. Get involved with a coffee bean co-op, make friends with local coffee shop owners and see where your contacts take your business.
- Selling Without a Solid Marketing Plan
Especially if you’re planning on roasting coffee as a side business, it can be tempting to just sell where you can without much of a plan. But in order to really grow your business, you’ll need to set up clear goals and come up with a plan to get there. Whether you want a cozy storefront or an online empire, you can’t expect it to just happen on its own.
What do you think of these mistakes? Share your own tips on growing a coffee roasting business in the comments.