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I Just Bought a Commercial Roaster!

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 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.


  1. If patience is a virtue, then I’m gonna be the next Pope! My roaster reached the docks in Newark, NJ on September 30th, and was expected to arrive in Louisville, KY on October 5th. Here it is, the 13th of October, and I am still awaiting word that it has arrived, has been released from customs, and is waiting for me to pick up. Next week, maybe?

  2. Another update on my roaster saga… Customs flagged my roaster for a thorough inspection (likely because it is considered an agricultural product) and while they should have inspected it earlier this week, they didn’t realize it was on their docket. Now I am waiting to learn whether they will be able to slip in an extra inspection today, so my roaster can be picked up before the week’s end. In the meantime, I am working out various design issues for a roaster cart that will allow me to easily move my roaster to locations or on-site demonstrations.

  3. It’s been about 2.5 years with that Chinese roaster. Can you comment it’s performance? And what brand?

  4. Tim Piazza

    Yes. I used that roaster for 1 year, but then came to a point where I needed to decide to scale up for wholesale roasting or run the business as a seasonal side-hustle. I made the decision to scale up. I now have 3 roasters in my facility, the largest being 12 kilo, then a 1 kilo for web orders and a 200g roaster for samples and profile roasts.

    In terms of performance, I produced some good coffee from the Dongyi BY-2, and completed around 1,500 roasting sessions. The roaster itself had a few small cosmetic issues, one thermocouple that had to be replaced due to its poor placement given its size, and I added a spring to keep the exit chute on the cooling car closed because accidentally bumping it could dump beans all over the floor. 🙂

    It’s still a good roaster, though currently in storage along with the cart I built for it. One of these days I will pass it along to someone else who is ready to step up from a home roaster to a small commercial roaster that can produce 16-20 bags of coffee per hour.

    2 kilo coffee roaster on motorized cart

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