June 16, 2021

Why would coffee shops choose to roast their own beans?


While there are exceptions, the majority of coffee shops and cafés worldwide start off buying their beans wholesale from a roaster. Today, this is the standard model for coffee shops in major consuming markets.

However, over time, more and more coffee shops have started to roast their own beans. This alternative model helps to maximize freshness and gives the coffee shop owner more control.

To learn more about why coffee shops would consider roasting their own beans, I spoke to two experts from Nestlé Professional. They told me more about the various benefits, and spoke about how their Roastelier solution can address some of the hurdles. Read on to find out what they said.

You might also like our article on building an espresso blend.

What are the benefits of roasting coffee in-house?

Freshness is a key focus in the modern coffee sector. As soon as coffee beans are exposed to air, they begin to lose complex and subtle flavors, and the process of oxidation creates undesirable “off-flavors”.

Ordering large quantities of coffee from roasters without any guarantee of demand may mean that a coffee shop ends up brewing coffee with older beans. In turn, customers can end up with stale or undesirable flavors in the cup.

Patrick Stern is the Head of Beverages at Nestlé Professional’s Strategic Business Unit. Alongside freshness, he notes that roasting in-store helps businesses meet some of the most important consumer trends in the modern coffee sector.

Among other things, today’s coffee consumers are more curious about the provenance of their coffee than ever before. They want to know more about the origin of the coffee, the terroir, and even how it was processed. 

This has implications for coffee shops and other businesses who want to stay on top of these trends. By roasting their own coffee, businesses can offer a much wider selection of coffees and help consumers learn more about where they come from.

Patrick says: “When coffee shops roast in-store, they can increase turnover from a greater number of cup sales, as well as a higher price per cup.

“Additionally, it enables coffee shops to sell packs of freshly roasted beans for consumers to take home!” 

What should coffee shops consider when looking to roast in-store?

While it might seem like an attractive proposition for coffee shops, roasting your own beans is by no means an easy endeavor to undertake. Above all else, it requires a great amount of competence and lots of experience.

As well as machinery and overhead costs, there are also the challenges of finding the space to roast, sourcing green coffee, dealing with roasting waste, and profiling your coffee. These are all key considerations for major roasting businesses, not to mention coffee shops that also must serve customers.

Read on to learn more about four of these key areas.

Profiling your beans and developing a signature blend

Unlocking the unique characteristics and flavors in green coffee and delivering them to the consumer is no easy feat. Even the most experienced roasters go through several batches before they are totally happy with the result.

Without expertise and deeper knowledge of the art of roasting, it’s easy to end up wasting batch after batch of green coffee. 

For instance, making even a slight incorrect adjustment to heat or airflow during the roast can be a critical mistake, causing you to heavily alter the flavors of the bean and compromise its quality. Over time, even on smaller roasters, this can become costly.

Green coffee also varies from origin to origin, and even within the same country or growing region if it is of a different variety or if a different processing method is used. This means that a coffee roaster must consider several different factors when roasting each new batch, including moisture levels and bean density.

“With the Roastelier roaster, we provide training and guide our customers through the ‘made easy’ roasting process of our solution,” Patrick says. 

“Leveraging our coffee expertise, we preset the roasting levels (light, medium, dark) for each of our three prime roasted beans. Customers scan the QR code on the prime roast coffee pouch and then choose from the three roasting levels on the roaster.” 

Sourcing green coffee

Sourcing green coffee, even if you’re working through an importer, requires a lot of time, attention, and expertise. 

Quality and price are the two most important factors for most coffee shops to consider. But cupping different coffees to make sure you’re getting the best taste for the price you’re willing to pay is a long-winded process. If you rush it, you can end up spending too much to get a coffee that doesn’t suit your brand or customer base.

In addition, for smaller or newer coffee shops, the process can be even more time-consuming and costly. Smaller businesses are not always able to negotiate the best possible prices without the leverage of increased buying power or scale. 

Patrick notes that the Roastelier solution’s Prime Roast beans (from Ethiopia, Brazil, and Colombia), ensures the highest quality standards and makes roasting accessible for those who are passionate about good coffee.

Installation & space

This is a key hurdle for many coffee shops looking to roast their own coffee. Many simply do not have the space to accommodate a full roasting setup. All but the smallest of roasters will need their own designated area, especially if you need to roast while customers are being served.

Christos Sotiros, Head Barista at Nestle Professional, says: “Coffee shops face several issues when installing roasters. They need to have excess space in store, advanced ventilation systems, and generally significant capital to invest.”

After that, there’s the issue of storing both green and roasted coffee. While some importers do offer smaller volumes, most green coffee comes in 60kg bags and needs to be stored in climate-controlled areas. In retail premises, where space is often at a premium, this is an issue.

Patrick adds: “Roastelier is a total solution. This means it provides the system, products, and a suite of support services to help any business owner to transform their café or bakery into a roastery.” 

Emissions & ventilation

Keeping the conditions in your coffee shop safe is another key area to consider. Most roasters require a ventilation system to protect customers and staff from the smoke and other hazardous byproducts created during the roast. 

Roastelier also has a specially-developed exhaust filter,” Patrick says. “This takes care of the fine particles and any emissions that local governments might have regulations on.”

Training staff and roasting in-store

Even if you do have answers to all these questions – installation, sourcing, profiling, and ventilation – it’s still important to have the right expertise in-house to have consistent quality. 

Roasters and baristas require fundamentally different skill sets to do their job properly and expecting that baristas will just learn to roast “on the job” can be a big mistake for coffee shop owners. 

For starters, look at training and development. An entry-level roasting course can make a difference; you can also consider hiring someone with more roasting experience to join your team. However, this may be costly, take time, and can be difficult to justify if you’ve already invested in equipment to start roasting your own coffee.

Christos adds that Roastelier is simple to use, and says it allows the barista and any other passionate coffee professionals to roast on the spot, without the need to invest in extensive training. 

“Because of the Prime Roast coffee and Roastelier system, people do not need to go through heavy roasting training. Personnel can easily be trained to operate the solution in-store, choosing between predefined roast profiles for the different origin coffees to improve consistency. 

“People can use the interface to create their unique signature blends for their shop, the season, or even for the day. It helps to make the coffee experience special for their consumers.”

The modern hospitality industry is more competitive today than it has ever been. Transforming your business and upgrading your services to offer new, improved coffee experiences to consumers is becoming a growing area of focus for those looking to diversify and set themselves apart from the competition.

For coffee shops, roasting in-house could be the answer. Developing signature blends helps you win mind share with customers and improving the freshness of the coffee you serve is always a good thing. 

One thing is for sure: it is a choice that seems to be gathering more and more speed among coffee shop managers and owners.

Enjoyed this? Then read our article on roasting coffee for body.

Photo credits: Roastelier

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