You’re aware of your timeline, you’ve decided on a location, and you’ve researched coffee roasting to death. Now you’re ready for the next – and possibly most exciting – stage of becoming an artisan coffee roaster: picking your roaster.
In part two of this three-part series, we’re here to help you make the right decision. Read on for the seven practical points you should consider.
Lee este artículo en español Micro Tostador: 7 Elementos a Considerar al Seleccionar TU Tostador de Café
We’ll begin with the most clear-cut of decisions, since it’s the easiest way to narrow down that giant list of roasters: how much should, and can, you spend?
It’s worth mentioning that, while your budget may be inflexible, you still have some options. Are you planning to buy outright or lease the roaster? If you’re buying, check whether there are tax breaks in your country. For example, in the UK there’s an annual investment allowance of £200,000 available, meaning most roasters will be 100% tax-deductible. However, if your budget is tight you may find it’s worth leasing – that extra capital can be spent on things such as green coffee, marketing, and PR.
Sourcing the green beans – don’t forget to calculate the costs.
Oh, and don’t forget to take into account the associated costs of purchasing a roaster: installation costs, including extraction; electrical costs (particularly if you need 3-phase electricity installed); and proper lighting, so that you can see the roast colour clearly.
Work out what size roaster you think you’re going to need, then go up one size. Seriously. That step up could save you several hours a week roasting time further down the line – and that means more time to work on growing your business. It might also mean a cost-saving if you’re planning on paying someone else to do the roasting.
3. Features & Functions
There are two essential things: controlling the flame and controlling the airflow. A variable drum speed is also desirable, and you should consider connectivity. Sooner or later, you’re going to want to connect roast profiling software, such as Artisan or Cropster, to it. Check whether your machine has data outputs (USB or Ethernet) and whether the software you plan to use is compatible. It’s worth mentioning that, if you’re good with a toolbox, you can connect just about any machine to any piece of software – although new probes and data bridges may be needed.
Choose your roasting setup wisely.
Machines with cutting-edge electronics will cost more than those with more conventional components. If you’re tempted by such wizardry, make sure you understand how it’ll make you a better roaster. My advice would be to prioritise capacity over gadgets.
4. Ease of Use
You want your day-to-day operations to run smoothly. This means the controls should be clear to recognise and intuitively laid out. You need to be able to control the flame and airflow on the fly; one of the things that bugs me about our roaster is that the airflow control is buried in a second-level menu on the touchscreen. It’s a step that I just don’t need. And make sure the readouts will be clear and within your line of sight when roasting.
Roasting coffee requires high attention to detail, so make sure the process is as straightforward as possible.
Don’t forget about physical practicalities, either. Will you need a footstool to get high enough to tip the green beans into the hopper? Is it going to be easy enough to vacuum out the coffee chaff (something you’ll have to do every day)?
Sometimes, you’re going to have to get your hands dirty. And no, we’re not just speaking about coffee grounds, but about the grease and oil from the inner workings of your machine. Your roaster is going to be your bread and butter; you need to look after it as you would look after yourself.
Take our machine, for example. I’ve had the gearbox out of it several times. Once, a knocking noise was plaguing it; I had to reassure myself that my machine wasn’t slowly tearing itself apart from the insides. And sure, I could have called an engineer to investigate, but they come from overseas with a call-out charge to match. Learning how to do it myself was a much better option.
Thankfully, many coffee roasters are designed to be taken apart and put together with simple workshop tools. Our Giesen Roaster even came with its own toolkit. But if you’re not confident enough to do this, or your machine isn’t designed for easy maintenance, find yourself a local mechanical engineer who likes coffee.
Learning how to maintain your roaster yourself will save you a lot of money and make you more familiar with your machine.
Find out if there are distributors for the machines you’ve shortlisted in your country. This is useful for several reasons. First, you can get a demonstration – helping you to detect how easy it really is to use. Secondly, you can ask them about what happens in the case of a breakdown. (Remember what we said about overseas engineers?)
Find other roasters using that machine and ask for their opinion. Would they recommend it? What’s the biggest downside about it? Pay particular attention if you hear the same problem cropping up.
There’s a lot to think about when selecting a roaster; it’s an important – and large – investment. Yet if you consider all these points, you can be sure that your final choice will be a good one.
Check back next time for the final installment in our three-part series on how to become an artisan coffee roaster.
Perfect Daily Grind.