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What you should know when thinking about buying a coffee roaster

What to know when making your purchase

When buying either your first small coffee roaster to get your coffee roasting business off to a start, or you’re simply a hobbyist looking to buy a home roaster to feed your passion even more, the process of buying one can be somewhat daunting.

Home roasting has become a popular activity in recent years for coffee lovers with many enthusiasts buying there own gadget to roast with. The beauty of home roasting is that you find a whole new appreciation for the coffee process, you’ll learn what goes into creating the perfect cup of dark brew.

So if you’re looking to buy a home coffee roaster, which one should you purchase? The answer varies depending on your budget and what you’re looking to achieve. Amazon has some great little machines on offer starting for as little as £80, ranging up to £300.

If you’re looking to simply roast a bag that you can enjoy and immerse yourself into the process, buying one for £80 should suffice. If you’re looking to start handing coffee out to friends and family with the potential of creating your very own coffee roasting business, you should probably look at purchasing one with greater capacity, the Gene Cafe home roaster is a good option.

If you’re more serious about starting up a side-hustle with the potential of growing into a coffee roasting business, you should look at buying a 1KG roaster. When we first started out, we purchased a 1KG coffee roaster which did the trick, but we weren’t completely happy with it’s durability.

So you’re serious about starting to roast, but should you choose gas or electric?

Small coffee roasters can come in either electric or gas power types, just like the bigger, more commercial coffee roasters (although the larger you get, the more likely the roaster will be gas powered!). You just need to think about what’s more convenient to you. There isn’t necessarily an advantage of having gas over electric, especially when it’s with a 1kg small coffee roaster because with electric, you’re able to use your 230V plug. On the other hand, a 1kg coffee roaster requires a lot of heat initially to get it to temperature, which can often be easier when using a gas burner.

Consider the environment where you will roast, are you going to be in a commercial unit, or at home? If you’re starting out or buying a small coffee roaster because it’s your hobby, you’re probably going to be roasting at home, so have a think which of the fuel types is better for your environment.

So there you have it, the two main differences in whether to get an electric or gas fuelled roaster.

Why not use an oven for small batch roasting?

Oddly enough it’s a good question. If your roasting coffee in small batches or perhaps you’re starting out and don’t have a lot of experience in roasting coffee, this question may pop into mind. The reason we don’t roast coffee in an oven is down to consistency of the roast meaning more of your beans will be a dark roasts which means the quality is going to be compromised. Now, if you’re a hobbyist, you’ve probably roasted coffee in your oven a few times, which is perfectly fine and quite the challenge! But when you get into the realms of using a specialty roaster, you’ll see the difference it makes.

The small coffee roaster essentially is kitted out in the same way a large, heavy weight roaster will be, it just takes less quantities. You’ll have the the hopper, chamber, a lamp, cooling tray, discharge gate, cleaning door, fan exhaust control, emergency stop, laptop power plug.

The real difference is that an oven can’t distribute the heat evenly to each bean in order to produce a quality batch of coffee beans. That’s where the drum in the coffee roaster comes in use, by constantly rotating the coffee beans creating an evenly spread roast.

Filtration systems on roasters

When researching all of the different types of coffee roasters, often the reason for the spikes in prices are due to them producing clean air. All coffee roasters act in the same way; they produce heat, roast the beans and cool them down. So what actually produces the unclean air? When the roasting chamber is rotating and heating the coffee beans, the beans release carbon dioxide – it’s part of the process and unavoidable.

When roasting in batches, the main emission to be released is carbon dioxide, with a small amount of carbon monoxide. The main cause of smell and smoke in roasting comes from various classes of volatile organic compounds (VOC). VOCs are any number of organic (containing carbon) compounds that have a relatively low boiling point, near room temperature (volatile). Methane is a common VOC, but the are myriad compounds which fall within the category. Due to coffee’s complex chemical nature, identifying the specific VOC’s emitted is a challenge, as each bean will release a slightly different combination.

While often there are regulations in activity that produce such emissions, with smaller roasting companies and smaller businesses, the regulations don’t actually take into effect. However, there is still the need to be environmentally conscious. It’s no good to continue producing bad emissions if you don’t need to; we’re all about looking after the planet and doing our bit.

So the question here is whether it’s worth paying an additional £30k for a roaster that produces clean emissions. A simple filtration system which you can pick up for around £500 could be an immediate solution for you.

We do believe that when roasting coffee, and even looking at wider activities in the coffee industry, we need to bear in mind the impact we’re making on our environment. Everyone has a responsibility to do all they can to make the planet cleaner and to reduce unneccessary pollution. On that note, Loring manufacture roasters which do indeed produce clean air and reduce carbon footprint, so check those out – they’re just expensive. Having said that, there may indeed be grants you could get from you local authority to help with the purchase.

 

Let’s get roasting!

So you’ve decided which roaster you’re going to purchase and you’ve made the step, what an exciting place to be in! The next step is to decide on the green beans and where you’re doing to source them. We always recommend direct trade however, for smaller businesses it’s difficult to make those relationships and to also determine whether in fact they are direct or not. Often building relationships with producers and brokers is a good way of starting off your relationship. When deciding who to use, make sure they’re part of the SCA (specialty coffee association) so you know there is some regulation into the purchasing of the beans and providing the producer with the best deal possible.

We love collaborating with other roasting companies, sharing knowledge and expertise whilst helping each other out. If you have any questions or experiences you would like to share, we’d love to hear from you!

If you’re still unsure as to which roaster you’re looking at buying or have any questions about anything we’ve covered off in this article, we’d love to help. Buying a roaster is a big step and not one to take lightly, so do your research. Be diligent in looking around and researching the different types out there that fit the needs of your goal.