Is Roasting Right For Your Café?

Posted on October 18, 2017 by Ash Bennett

One interesting Australian coffee trend in 2017  is the growth of local cafes beginning to roast their own coffee beans. It’s easy to see the appeal of this trend for small cafes. It can provide a unique branding opportunity that allows you to set your shop apart from larger operations. Additionally, it can be a chance to offer better, fresher coffee while also having more control over where the coffee comes from.

Introducing roasting into your cafe, however, is not a decision to be taken lightly. The process is quite involved, and it can add a lot of complexity into the business. Furthermore, the roasting process itself can be quite smoky — not necessarily the pleasant, relaxing environment you’re trying to create for your customers!

Many shop owners find the addition of roasting may detract from other aspects of the business such as their retail presence and the ability of baristas to focus on offering a top-notch customer interaction. And while roasting may make it easy to offer higher-quality coffee, that can come at a cost. Cafes with only a single shop or two usually aren’t going to be purchasing green coffee in bulk from the source, which can make roasting quite an expensive endeavor.

If you do decide to pursue roasting, here are a few tips to help make the transition smoother:

  1. Learn how to cup. Cupping is a coffee tasting technique used to evaluate coffee and create new blends of coffee. Those in the coffee trade tout the scientific nature of cupping, saying it’s a precise art to be done by experts. Don’t let that deter you! The truth is there aren’t any wrong answers; rather, you must learn to hone your palate by identifying basic tastes.
  2. Get trained. While we’re on the topic of training, if you’re going to invest in roasting equipment, you need to also invest in learning how to make the most of it. Operating the machines is a given, but you’ll also benefit from learning the theories behind roasting so you can truly get full control of the process.
  3. Match your equipment with goals. Many cafes that want to start roasting start small with lower-cost, lower-volume equipment. This can sink them before they even get started because they won’t be able to roast enough to impact the business. Instead, have a hard look at your business goals and how you’d like roasting to impact them, then invest in equipment based on those goals.
  4. Differentiate. Like any new business venture, it’s important to understand the competition and look for ways to set yourself apart. Perhaps the roasting itself will be your differentiator, but you’ll still need to think about how you can market yourself to take full advantage. If other competitors roast their own coffee, look for ways to be different and improve upon what they’re offering. Perhaps most shops are focused on light blends, so why not specialize in dark and host a tasting to educate customers about it?

Tell us, does your café roast your own beans? What do you wish you’d known before you got started?

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