When I started sharing my coffee with friends, the first thing they would ask is “Can I buy it”? The problem with my HotTop roaster is while it’s great for evaluating beans with different roast profiles, it’s not a money-maker. At 1/2 lb. per roast, and a minimum of 20 minutes invested in each roast, the best I can expect to produce is 1.5 lbs. per hour. You can do the math, but the conclusion is that my roaster needs to be at least 10x more efficient to be viable as a business.
So I pondered the viability of getting a commercial roaster. Coffee roasters are not inexpensive toys. Production roasters can easily price out to the cost of a new car, even for a small one. At the below $10,000 price point, there are used machines that may need serious repair and upgrade work to be operational, small machines that wouldn’t be economically viable as commercial roasters, and a handful of machines in the 2lb. to 8lb. capacity range made by foreign entities in places like Turkey and China.
After considering some of the Chinese roasters that are being imported and sold by companies in the USA, I wondered if it made sense to go straight to the manufacturer in China. One that I looked at, from Buckeye Roasters of Arizona, looked like a decent machine and the manufacturer was willing to sell directly to me. I should point out right now that if someone asked me if they should buy a roaster from the manufacturer in China, I would advise them to go instead to the USA-based dealer, such as Buckeye Roasters or Mill City Roasters. Both represent Chinese manufacturers who have given them exclusive sales relationships, and in turn they are keeping repair parts in stock, and provide support.
The difference between me and most other coffee addicts is that I have 100% confidence in my ability to troubleshoot and repair my own machinery. I might not get it right the first time, but I will get it right eventually. If you are not in a position to tear down and rebuild a coffee roaster, replace motors, design and machine parts when necessary, or troubleshoot electrical issues, then buying an expensive and unsupported machine is not your best idea. For me, I saw this not as a risk, but as an opportunity to learn something new. I had no experience with the process of purchasing from a company on Alibaba.com and I had no experience with importing machinery that would travel by shipping container. I don’t jump out of airplanes, but I jump at the chance to gain practical experience.
The roaster I selected is rated at 4.4 lbs. capacity and can continuously roast up to 4 batches per hour. This is a pretty decent jump from my 1.5lb. per hour home roaster. Yet with all of that extra capacity, this is still considered a “countertop” roaster, at about 4′ in height and 4′ in length. The small size suits my intention of having a mobile roaster that I can transport to locations for demonstrations and marketing. It’s a perfect size for my “hobby” roasting enterprise, and should this blossom into a full time business, this small roaster can continue to function for small batches and on-site demonstrations.
For now, I’m waiting. My new roaster won’t arrive state-side until early October, and it may then take some weeks to clear customs and travel inland from the Atlantic shore. In the meantime, I’ll keep working with my home roaster, and learning everything I can about consistently producing the sweetest, most delicious coffee available.