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Jul 19, 2007 06:05 AM

Do-it-yourself coffee roasting

I'm putting together a business plan for a cafe.

Now obviously to have larger profit margins, green coffee in bulk is the way to go. Saying that, I'm not entirely sure I am ready to deal with the roasting process at this point.

Is there any "you roast" coffee business in the Toronto area - similar to the U-Brew establishments for beer and wine. I'm guessing not but thought I'd ask.

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  1. Dark City will custom roast for you. I don't know anything about their wholesale prices - their retail is slightly cheaper than Starbucks. I think Mercury gets beans from them.

    I'm not aware of a "you roast" setup but the cost of roasting equipment isn't astronomical. If you find such a place, then you most definitely are "dealing with the roasting process".

    Roasting is not difficult, but it is very much an art and is time and labour intensive. In my opinion, you don't roast to increase profit margins. You roast to provide the freshest coffee and to play with custom blending. If you want to maximize profit, don't bother roasting your own.

    You can get a Fresh Roast air roaster for under $100 if want to learn by doing. Merchants of Green Coffee has them, but you can likely find a much cheaper source. This machine isn't suitable for a cafe, but it works very well and is a good teaching tool. You'll also have delicious coffee at home. The best online information sources are probably Sweet Maria's and Coffee Geek.

    For commercial options, check out the "sample roaster" at the Coffee Tree at Bloor & Jane and the full-size drum roasters at some Loblaw stores (you can get close to the one at Victoria Park/Gerrard).

    But to reiterate, if you motive is maximizing profit, don't roast your own.

    1. there are two different kinds of roasting, air and drum. air is easier and is used by whole foods, but it has been my experience that drum roasting is better. with a drum roaster, you can watch, smell, and most importantly hear whats going on with the beans as you go. if you want to be serious about roasting, and there is really no point in doing it hald way, then i suggest you go to New Zealand. most people, including myself, never had an idea about the coffee culture in NZ, but after going a few months ago, i am firmly of the belief that they are the best roasters in the world. i had a chance to meet with many of them and watch as they do their craft. go to auckland, have a "flat white" at any cafe, then you'll see what i'm talking about.

      2 Replies
      1. re: sweeteats

        The difference you taste in Auckland coffee may owe as much to roasting as to the (indisputable) superiority of the NZ dairy industry: a flat white is 2/3 milk.

        I wasn't bowled over by the quality of the coffee I had in NZ (I drink mine black.) But the milk and dairy in NZ was amazing. The milk had a natural slight sweety nuttiness to it that we don't seem to get here. Someone there told me it was because NZ cows are universally grass-fed, as apparently Canadian cows aren't.

        1. re: themself

          We have a cold winter; they don't. When it is cold, our dairy cows are indoors, eating hay, silage, and grains. They won't get fresh grass until April. Some 60 years ago there was a policy war over colouring butter and margarine in Ontario. The dairy lobby won, and was allowed to colour butter made in winter, though it would normally be white, until the cows got out to pasture in spring. Margarine producers were not allowed to mimic the colour of spring butter until the 1960's.

      2. You'll have to visit, on the web and at 225 Brunswick av.

        They have a wide selection of green beans, coffeemakers, grinders, and roasters, all at a minmal mark up, as they are not for profit.

        You can learn a lot from the SweetMaria site, but it is geat having a resource like greenbeanery right here.

        They do not cup taste, unfortunately, and they are only open Mon-Fri to 5PM.

        Good luck!

        1 Reply
        1. re: jayt90

          Small glitch: its

          Thanks for this info - I wasn't aware of them


          both of the above are small cafes that roast their own coffee on premise, both are in kensington market, good coffee and friendly service

          1. You should be able to save dollars, and provide great tasting coffee by roasting your own. I don't know of any places you can take green beans , and roast for a fee. Lots of places will provide a daily roast (their choice), or sell beans roasted one or two days ago, but at $9-$10/lb. or more. All of the beans they use cost $3-$4 wholesale, and you can easily buy at that price and roast your own. But there will be some smoke, and a lingering smell (like a Starbucks) that will not go away. This may present a neighbourhood problem. or it may something that can be quelled with exit filters.

            When I visit the coffee roaster in the basement of SLM, I am amazed and intrigued by the beans coming out of the drum. They have found a way to get rid of the smoke, but their much cheaper competitor, greenbeanery, has not, and there are neighbourhood problems there.

            5 Replies
            1. re: jayt90

              The Nesco home roaster has a catalytic converter that Sweet Maria's says is effective at removing smoke, so this (on a larger scale) may be the answer.

              Starbucks with the new automated machines no longer even smell of coffee, which I feel is a terrible mistake.

              1. re: jayt90

                I checked out Greenbeanery yesterday. An impressive range of stock (beans and equipment) and good prices. Nice people also. But I was startled at how little anyone there knew about either the beans or the equipment they were selling.

                1. re: embee

                  It appears to me that only one person at Green Beanery knows anything, so ask for Bruce Hanson next time you go there.

                  1. re: foodyDudey

                    I bought the nesco from it...easy to clean...very simple for newbie roaster.

                    The savings are negligible. If you want a quality greebean the cost range is simliar to roasted stuff....It's really a labour of love then a money saver.
                    Plus you get the added benefit of having the freshest bean ever. I found a distinct difference in extractions after getting my roaster. I've logged some results on video on this site.


                    ps. i've ordered greenbeans and roasted from birdsandbeans who cups as well as greenbean who does not cup. On the whole...espresso wise greenbean wins hands down. Especially the signature espresso choco.
                    the ultimate of course is blackcat espresso blend..which i've had the fortune
                    of having 6lbs. I'll have to say that blackcat still has never been matched in any shots i've ever made. I heard someone in going to carry it soon.


                    1. re: pravspresso

                      My coffee making is regular, brown bean, American roast, for two morning mugs.I find that I do save money from Greenbeanery, and I'll stay with them.
                      I bought 20lb of Chiapas Organic for $70 in March and I am still roasting and brewing it. It will last about 8 months, and every mug is fresh.I use a simple popcorn device for roasting, and a French press with Kitchen Aid burr grinder.This is a $200 outlay. I have to roast once or twice a week, for 5-10 minutes. The results are superb, and I know enough now to get even better beans when I need more.