October 13, 2020

Shared Roasting Spaces: What Are They & Why Are They Used?


Today, it’s not uncommon to see café owners, baristas, consumers, or even producers taking an interest in roasting their own coffee. And while for some it might simply be a natural next step for their business, for others, it is an expensive new hobby or venture.

In recent years, we have seen the emergence of shared roasting spaces (or “roasting collectives”) across the world. These are a more flexible and often more affordable option for those who are passionate about specialty coffee but don’t want to immediately make a significant investment in premises and equipment. 

For more insight into why someone would share a roasting space, I spoke to three business owners. Read on to find out what they said.

Lee este artículo en español Tostadurías Colectivas ¿Qué Son y Por Qué Son Útiles?

What Are Shared Roasting Spaces?

On paper, a shared roasting facility is just a space where a number of different roasters work alongside each other. However, these spaces are often more than that; sometimes they also provide guidance and support for aspiring or less experienced roasters. 

This doesn’t just have to focus on roasting coffee, either. Collectives may well provide expertise and education for a number of different topics, from assessing green coffee to general business advice on topics like marketing and finance.

Howard Chang and Jeff Wong own Shared Roasting, a collective in Brooklyn, New York. They tell me that their client base is diverse, and that they work with roasters who have varying levels of expertise. “Our clients range from e-commerce businesses, coffee shops, and traditional wholesalers to subscription models, restaurants, and start-ups,” Jeff says.

Some shared roasting spaces also provide flexibility for groups in the supply chain who find it more difficult to roast coffee. Paolo Maliksi is the founder of Regalia, a roastery collective in Long Island City, New York that caters to clients all across the world. 

He says that Regalia has been expanding to “all reaches of the coffee world”, and that he has seen particular demand from producers “who want to sell their coffee directly to the consumer in the US”.

Paolo adds that he doesn’t just support customers with roasting; he also works with less experienced entrepreneurs to help them source specific coffees from established and emerging origins.

Bogdan Georgescu owns Mabó Coffee Roasting, a collective in Romania. He opened his facility as he couldn’t find a similar one in Bucharest, and saw how well roasting collectives were doing abroad. He says that while demand hasn’t been high in the past, there has been a spike in recent years. Bogdan adds that he has also been approached by large commercial coffee companies for his services.

While no figures on the total number of shared roasting facilities exist, the biggest and most mature markets (by some distance) appear to be in North America and Oceania. 

You may also like Planning Your New Roastery Site: A Checklist

Why Are Roasters Choosing This Option? 

Shared roasting facilities have a number of benefits. First and foremost, they are far more cost-effective for aspiring roasters. Starting a roastery alone, even on a small scale, can be costly. As well as buying coffee and establishing your brand, you have other significant costs to consider – including equipment and premises.

While the cost of leasing a space will vary massively depending on location, it is still a significant cost for most aspiring roasters to consider. Furthermore, Jeff tells me he has seen equipment costs range between US $5,000 and $500,000. Similarly, in Romania, Bogdan estimates that equipping an entry-level roastery will cost roughly US $50,000, as well as “the cost of education”.

Daniel Horbat is a champion barista, SCA educator, and roaster based in Ireland. He tells me that one of the biggest barriers he faced when developing SUMO, his coffee brand, was the cost of starting even a small roastery. He tells me that if a shared co-roasting space had been available, it would have made things a lot easier.

Paolo explains that roasting collectives allow members to launch new projects with little to no risk. While costs will vary hugely from roaster to roaster, Paolo says that his clients can cut their expenses by as much as 40%. 

Shared facilities also provide aspiring and less-experienced roasters with greater access to education. Bogdan tells me that he opened a school at Mabó to help roasters like him. He tells me that “the most important component of a roastery should be education”.

Bogdan adds that he doesn’t just aim to turn a profit, but also to create a space where people can share knowledge and learn from one another. Shared Roasting has a similar philosophy. Howard tells me part of the reason he started his business was to help other small entrepreneurs.

Furthermore, Paolo explains that at Regalia, membership packages include lectures and workshops. 

He says: “Our community encourages and supports the development of members. Through these relationships, members start off strong. They’re able to buy the green coffee they want at the price point they want.”

The Future For Shared Roasting Spaces

Howard says the Covid-19 pandemic has “presented various challenges”, but also provided “many clients… with e-commerce opportunities after navigating the initial shutdowns”. Roasters, like all members of the coffee supply chain, have felt the impact of Covid-19.

However, Howard adds that as the lockdown has eased, he has seen a more diverse range of groups express an interest in roasting. 

“We’ve seen more café-focused customers join,” he tells me. “Folks have continued to be interested in drinking locally-roasted specialty coffee. There’s just been a shift in how that roasted coffee reaches the consumer.”

Paolo, however, tells me that new and exciting markets are emerging across the world, and that he believes collective roasting spaces will support this growth. He says that the model accommodates for a wider base of entrepreneurs, and adds that he is seeing more and more exporters and importers who want to sell roasted coffee directly to the consumer.

Finally, Bogdan agrees that the demand is there, but says that the biggest barrier is a lack of knowledge about the model. “There is a need for this type of business around the world, for sure,” he tells me. “It’s just that it hasn’t been as broadly discovered yet.”

Shared roasting facilities offer great benefits for aspiring or inexperienced roasters who want to experiment without committing to costly overheads. It is a flexible alternative to renting space and buying expensive equipment, and it is a sign that roasting is becoming more accessible all across the world.

Interest from producers, importers, exporters, and café owners shows that there is potential for this business model. However, its greatest barrier at present is a relative lack of awareness. So, if you know somebody who wants to start roasting, but doesn’t want to commit to premises or equipment, then let them know. Maybe there’s a shared roasting space near them that’s suitable.

Enjoyed this? Then read Equipping Your Coffee Roastery: Where To Start

Photo credits: Mabo Coffee, Regalia Coffee, Shared Roasting

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