What Equipment Should I Use to Roast Coffee?

Coffee Roaster Options

When it comes to roasting coffee, there are basically three types of equipment you can use. If you want to roast enough coffee for yourself and don’t mind roasting quite often, then you can roast coffee using tools you’d have on hand in your kitchen. If you want to roast in very large quantities to distribute coffee to resellers, you’ll need enough capital to purchase industrial-sized roasters. But, if you want to roast enough coffee at home for a couple of weeks, or you want to open a microroastery startup, a drum roaster is the best option.
While there are various designs and price-points, all coffee roasters work on the same basic principles. Green coffee beans are heated to a specific temperature over a specific amount of time, and the roaster hopefully agitates the beans in order to ensure even roasting throughout a batch.
The most common ways to do this are with a personal coffee roaster, a high-end commercial coffee roaster or a grill drum coffee roaster. Of these three options, a grill drum roaster has the highest production volume versus cost, and is the best option if you’re looking at low start-up cost business ideas.

Personal Roasters are Insufficient for Commercial Production

A personal coffee roaster certainly is the cheapest of these three roaster options, and you can even get started with an old air-popper for popcorn, or the artisanal pan roast method that can be accomplished for less than $100. Any type of personal roaster, however, isn’t really suited for commercial production as it doesn’t very roast evenly or in large volumes 

First, most personal roasters aren’t built to withstand the level of use that commercial roasting requires. Individuals who use personal roasters might roast one or two batches of coffee a week, and not the multiple batches per day that a commercial roaster must produce.

Second, personal roasters are only able to produce small batches of coffee at a time — many models will roast no more than a ½ pound of beans per batch. When you’re operating at a commercial level, this simply takes too much time and requires too much electricity to produce the amount of coffee that a business needs.

High-end Commercial Roasters Increase Expenses

A high-end commercial roaster is certainly able to meet a roasting business’ needs, but this option has major downsides if you’re considering home business ideas with low startup costs.

Industrial sized commercial roasters are the most expensive option, with many models priced well into the five-figure range. Additionally, other costs come with high-end commercial roasters. If you invest in this level of equipment, you’ll also need to run a gas line for the roaster, procure insurance for it and have enough coffee to fill the roaster for each batch. These expenses are hardly consistent with a low-cost at-home business plan.

Grill Drum Roasters are Capable and Affordable

A grill drum roaster offers a well-designed combination of capability and affordability by building a classic roaster into a standard grill. The drum style of coffee roaster is widely used at all levels of roasting, from home roasting to large-scale commercial production, because drums provide effective agitation. With this type of roaster, the coffee beans are placed into a drum that slowly rotates throughout the roasting process so that the beans are evenly heated.

A grill-based drum roaster lets home-based commercial coffee roasters roast at a suitable scale without investing in expensive equipment. The grill drum roasters that RK Drums carries range in capacity from  2 pounds to 12 pounds per batch, and they’re priced between $370 and $1,414 for a complete kit. This permits up to 45 lbs an hour on the large kits, which is comparable to the larger commercial roasters. Note that custom sizes are also available, if you require more capacity.

The grill drum roasters that RK DRUMS carries allows you to roast large volumes, up to 45 lbs for less than $1,500.

These kits are designed to be installed in a standard grill, so most homeowners don’t need to purchase any additional specialized roasting equipment.

Other affordable alternatives to the grill drum roaster include fire pits and brick ovens, which can be adapted with some ingenuity. These don’t offer the same level of convenience and efficiency that a grill-based roaster does, though. 

Author: Shane Lewis

Shane is the founder of the green coffee exporter Old Spanish Main, Ltda. in Bogotá, Colombia, having practiced under the renowned grader & cupper Lelly Espitia. He is a cultivator of a #14 Colombian Cup of Excellence coffee. Shane currently designs & manufactures coffee, cacao & grain roasters with RK Drums.

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