What to know when buying a coffee roaster

Whether it’s to fuel a hobby or propel your business, deciding which coffee roaster to buy is a difficult choice

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.This is where having an engineer as one of our founders came incredibly handy – so we decided to design and manufacture our own range of coffee roasters.

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.

Our range of coffee roasters

For a long time, we’ve thought long and hard about the cost of coffee roasters and the reason the range varies so much. The conclusion we’ve come is that a lot of the time, you pay for the brand, as with anything.

Now, I’m not saying that a 10kg coffee roaster priced at £70k isn’t worth it, but it’s all relative and having an aerospace engineer as one of the founders of our coffee roasting company means we’re privy to the know-how in the manufacturing process of coffee roasters.

Our aim has been to develop a range of coffee roasters which are perfect to those starting out, to those who are distributing a serious amount of beans. We also want to be affordable and not out of touch. As a brand, we’re passionate about making coffee inclusive and not exclusive which brought us to developing this range.

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. Well, we’d say no. A simple filtration system which you can pick up for around £500 is exactly the same as a roaster that filters out the bad air.

 

Introducing the roasters we have worked hard to manufacture

We’ve spent a lot of time over researching and developing a high quality small coffee roaster, that won’t break the bank. With Ellis, a founder of Seven Districts coffee, being an Aerospace Engineer by profession, the next step in our chapter was to naturally develop and build our own coffee roasters. Which is exactly what we’ve done.

Choosing which coffee roaster suits your needs

Now that we understand what goes into manufacturing a coffee roaster and why there are vast price points, it bodes well to introduce our range of coffee roasters. Like with anything, depending on the quantity you’re looking to roast on a regular basis, there are different capacities in which you should consider. The capacities we manufacture come in 1kg, 6kg, 12kg and 15kg, while we’re still developing a 20kg and a 30kg coffee roaster.

The price ranges between the different sizes changes dramatically, so you need to make sure you’re buying the right one for your needs whilst not needing to upgrade or change it for some time. The whole point of buying a commercial coffee roaster is to maximise your efficiency. Depending on the state of the roaster when you need to upgrade it, there is always the option of selling it on the likes of eBay and getting a good chunk of your investment back. The only thing to bear in mind is that buying a roaster is a big purchase, so people tend to buy new as they get the support and maintenance should anything happen to it.

The Seven Districts 1kg coffee roaster

Our 1kg coffee roaster is perfect for somebody looking to start their own coffee roasting business. It’s lightweight, easy to use and configure for the perfect coffee profiles. We started out with a 1kg coffee roaster, so we know what’s good and what’s not.

Our 1kg coffee roaster comes either electrical or gas. Having an electrical roaster means it’s easier to configure and there isn’t the need to buy and store gas, however, gas tends to create a better consistency in roast as it’s easier to monitor the energy going through the chamber.

If you’re roasting coffee beans more regularly, you might want to consider purchasing the 5kg. The reason for the jump in capacity is that it becomes more cost effective, the smaller the capacity, the more you’ll need to roast meaning more cost in labour.

The Seven Districts 6kg coffee roaster

The next one up from our 1kg roaster is our 6kg. This roaster is a cost efficient way to increase your distribution whilst not investing heavily in something you might not make full use of. It’s perfect for roasting fresh quantities if you’re regularly distributing around 75kg per month.

Remember, the more beans are roaster, the more your roaster will have wear and tear. It’s better to not fully maximise your capacity and upgrade before you completely burn out your roaster (here, we’re talking serious levels of roasting). The last thing you want to do, especially if you’re sending to customers, is roast until the point of breakdown leaving you with nothing to roast with and an expensive repair bill.

The Seven Districts 12kg coffee roaster

Now you’re starting to distribute a serious amount of coffee, it’s time to make it even more cost efficient to roast. Our 12kg coffee roaster is perfect for those distributing around 150kg of coffee per month. If you can’t quite stretch the investment in buying a 15kg, the 12kg coffee roaster bridges that gap.

The Seven Districts 15kg coffee roaster

Our 15kg coffee roaster is for those who are roasting large batches of green coffee beans consistently, distributing around 250kg per month. This is where we enter the realms of a large coffee roasting business who are distributing a serious amount of beans.

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.

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