Business Overview

Coffee beans are actually the pit of coffee cherries. They’re green, hard and un-brewable in their raw state. A coffee roasting business roasts green coffee beans to light (city), medium (full city) and dark (full city+) roast levels so that they can be brewed. Roasters may sell their roasted coffee directly to individuals, or through coffee shops, grocers and other retailers.

Who is this business right for?

People who are considering opening a coffee roasting business should be creative, and also passionate about coffee. Creativity helps when coming up with new blends, which requires combining different coffees in unique ways and also inventing blend names.

Additionally, roasters should be comfortable with basic scientific concepts. Roasters don’t need a formal degree in science, but they should be comfortable with biology, physics and chemistry because roasting coffee involves each of these fields:

  • Choosing good coffees requires a knowledge of growing conditions, cultivars and varieties of coffee beans (biology)
  • Selecting and setting up a roaster requires an appreciation for thermodynamics (physics)
  • Deciding which roast profiles are suitable for each coffee requires an understanding of how the heat applied in roasting affects the chemical structure of coffee beans (chemistry)

It’s also helpful if roasters are comfortable multitasking. Roasting a single batch of coffee takes between 10 and 15 minutes. In order to maximize efficiency, roasters often complete other tasks while batches are roasting -- but they must still keep an eye on any coffee that’s roasting to ensure it’s roasted properly.

What happens during a typical day at a coffee roasting business?

As a coffee roasting business owner, you’ll spend a lot of time roasting and packaging coffee. In a typical day, you may:

  • Sort and weigh green (unroasted) coffee out into batches (often 5 to 20 pounds)
  • Roast batches of coffee
  • Sort and weigh roasted coffee into retail and wholesale packages (often 12-ounce and 5-pound bags)
  • Accept and fulfill orders
  • Clean the roastery

Deliveries to wholesale customers are often made weekly.

At least monthly, and perhaps more often, you’ll receive shipments of green coffee and send invoices to wholesale customers.

What is the target market?

A coffee roasting business’ ideal customer is a business that sells a lot of specialty coffee. Coffee shops, certain grocery stores and a few boutiques may go through a lot of coffee. While these types of wholesale customers won’t pay as much as individuals who pay retail prices, wholesale customers provide a more stable income stream.

How does a coffee roasting business make money?

A coffee roasting business makes money by selling roasted coffee to individuals (retail) and businesses (wholesale).

What is the growth potential for a coffee roasting business?

A coffee roasting business can be a small, local business or it can be a large national company. Two large companies that both started as small roasteries include Starbucks, which sells its roasted coffee through its cafes and retailers, and Green Mountain Coffee, which doesn’t have cafes.