Why Coffee Shops Should Roast In-House

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Why should you roast your own coffee?

Coffee consumers everywhere are demanding more and better coffee. Although the coffee business has become more competitive, in many markets quality coffee can still be surprisingly hard to find.

Coffee is a story and one of the greatest benefits to roasting coffee in-house is simply to take charge of your own inputs in a way that creates a more compelling story. Roasting in-house allows you the option to purchase better greens, roast profile, and brand your coffee in ways your customers find meaningful. It projects a unique identity. It makes you and the product you serve more special.

This connection creates brand equity in the form of a larger and more stable base of “regular” customers with a stronger emotional connection to your brand.

According to the Harvard Business Review, emotionally-connected customers visit more frequently, spend higher amounts, and are more likely to share their brand loyalty with their friends and family. Research consistently affirms that emotionally-engaged customers are 50% more valuable than baseline customers—they’re the regulars that make the entire business of coffee worthwhile and exactly the people that help you to make all of your dreams come true.

Own your coffee quality and coffee freshness.

Buying coffee from a wholesaler can be advantageous. You’ll nearly always have choices in terms of price, origin and possibly even roast profiles, but typically your quality is at the mercy of a team you don’t control.

Sooner or later, you’re going to experience a shipping delay. The worst case result is you end up brewing your espresso blends as drip. The next worse case is constantly being forced to pad inventory in a way that forces you to serve your customers stale coffee. The seasonality of coffee means offering lists can unexpectedly change in ways that don’t always reflect your budget or brand. Lastly, everyone has “off” days. When you roast, you decide what variance you’re willing to serve. Relying on a vendor means they decide what your coffee quality is today, not you

Roasting your own coffee puts you in control. A well thought out machine, properly installed, in the hands of an educated coffee professional affords you the opportunity to elevate your coffee quality and profitability, while dramatically improving your customer’s experience.

Unlock E-commerce and Wholesale Revenue Streams:

Roasting coffee in-house also allows you to develop new revenue streams not dependent on your physical location.

Ecommerce: the best place to win new business is with old customers. People love you and they love your location, but not everyone can visit every day. E-commerce lowers the barriers of distance and time allowing your customers immediate access to your brand and products whenever they want and wherever they are.

Subscriptions: Happy and engaged customers are the beating heart of your business. Repeat coffee purchases are driven by the avoidance of risk. Namely, the risk of getting stuck with a $20 bag of coffee they don’t like. Customers avoid this risk via subscriptions of coffee they like from brands they trust. Their connection to your story and your craft and their expectation of your coffee quality can be the basis of a new and scaleable recurring source of revenue.

Wholesale: As you develop a local following and a regional reputation, people will notice, luck will happen and you’ll be asked to supply coffee on a much larger scale. This will come in the form of requests from offices, restaurants, hotels and other coffee businesses that all have to get their coffee from somewhere. If they’re not roasting their own, they’re looking for a partner they can trust. Many of the most successful coffee roasteries were built on the reliable revenue of wholesale sales that enabled business growth in other areas.

Grocery Wholesale: almost a category of its own, grocery stores often lure customers into their store with the cachet of premium quality, locally produced specialty coffee. Grocery stores can be challenging customers, but the resulting regular sales volume and brand exposure can drive explosive growth. This growth can be especially rapid for the local roaster. Customers respond to a sense of hometown pride, and if you’re one of a few locally roasted options on the shelf it’s likely that the local loyalty, and presumed increased freshness, will help your coffee sell faster.

Roasting Your Own Coffee Saves Money

Coffee shops are always looking for ways to raise their average ticket total. The people you most want as customers are people that are willing to pay more for quality. The more valuable you can make each customer, the greater your overall success and profitability.

Coffee shops that roast in-house have a second opportunity to grow by increasing profit margin on every cup of coffee sold.

Quality wholesale roasted coffee typical costs $8-12 per pound. High-quality green coffee generally costs $4-5 per pound. Roasting in-house realizes an immediate gross net of about $5 per pound. On this basis, the purchase of 50 lbs per week generates a savings of around $1000 per month.

There are still operating costs to running a commercial roaster, but even at only fifty pounds of coffee each week, cash flow is very quickly positive. To be sure, every business is unique, but the fact remains that the fastest-growing and most successful coffee shop brands greatly benefit from the greater profitability and greater coffee quality that roasting in-house provides.

Why doesn’t everyone do this?

Obviously, roasting coffee makes sense for a lot of people and can be immensely profitable. It feels like nearly everyone that starts a cafe imagines themselves roasting coffee someday. Selecting greens, visiting origin, creating roast profiles, and delighting customers with uniquely delicious coffee all sound like enormous fun.

So why isn’t everyone doing it?

Mostly fear of the unknown and these fears have been played upon for years by companies, consultants, and competitors that have a vested interest in making everything sound more complicated and more arduous than the actual experience has to be.

Fears include buying the “wrong”green coffee and roasting “bad” coffee. To be certain, there is a lot to learn about all of this, but you don’t have to learn it all at once and you do not have to learn it on your own.

It doesn’t take years to learn to roast coffee.

There is a difference between novice and experienced operators, but possibly not in the way you think. High quality coffee is a process of contrast and comparison. Coffee is a sensory driven process. Inexperienced or experienced roaster operators alike all approach a new coffee with exactly the same framework. They professionally evaluate the green and start the process of roasting in the way that maximizes the flavor quality relative to their customers. This is a process of contrasting roast profiles and comparing them to your internal baseline preference.

Everyone knows what they like. To be successful, all you need to understand is the path to intentional handling of that coffee to it’s most refined flavor set.

Our roaster technology allows users to master machine control in days and weeks, not months and years. Our classes provide a framework for systematic evaluation and immediate professional quality results.

There is no shortcut to craft, but there is a shortcut to competency and our entire company is devoted to making it easy, fun, and profitable to roast coffee you are proud to serve.

Isn’t setting up a roastery expensive?

Business owners often claim start up expenses of $100,000 or more between training, warehouse space, ventilation, and the commercial roaster itself. What they don’t tell you is a very small percentage of that happens up front. Most started on a budget with a small machine roasting small amounts of coffee. Most learned their craft, got lucky, and scaled their business over time. Most of that $100000 was earned as they learned -and you can do exactly the same thing!

The Simplest Way to Start Roasting Coffee in Weeks Not Years

That’s why we created Mill City Roasters. We’re the only commercial coffee roaster manufacturer that understands coffee, machinery, and the business of coffee equally well. We’re more of a small business incubator than a traditional machinery company. We’ve helped launch over 4000 successful commercial roasteries worldwide.

We make green coffee selection easy.

We act as a cupping lab for over 250 small roasteries in the US alone. We offer small bag portions of specially curated green coffee that’s good enough to make you look like a genius roaster. We provide cupping notes, roast profiles, a steady stream of live roast YouTube videos featuring single origin and blended coffee roast profiles. When you scale beyond our offerings, Cafe Imports has two Mill City trained reps available to help you scale.

Roast success from day one.

Every new installation starts with video conferencing sessions in which our tech team works with you to understand the machine and to safely execute a series of “seasoning” roasts that allow you to gain enough familiarity to roast and serve your own high quality coffee within days. Coffees sourced from Mill City frequently include RoastPATH roast profile suggestions that can be easily executed and followed for immediate success.

Create your own roast profiles.

Even using our coffee, roasters always have the option to express their creativity by roast flavor profiling to their personal roast preferences. The RoastPATH app allows you to plan, execute, document, and customize roast profiles with more unequaled precision

Grow your own talent.

Our Roaster 101 class is a fully interactive, immersive experience for up to 3 participants per location. The roaster kit includes a broad array of roasted and green coffees, green coffee grading kit, cupping kit, tryer pulls, class guide and completion certificate. Students watch and listen to live roasting sessions and lecture material, participate in exercise discussions and Q&A, and finally taste the end result of every demonstration. These sessions empower your people to succeed on your behalf and their passion and engagement is an inspiration for both you and your customers.

Installation is easy.

We build 12 models of various sizes and several that are easily small enough to fit inside your existing cafe. Small machines at specialty coffee quality roast profiles produce very minimal smoke or scent. We’ll make venting, gas, and electricity connections easy by working with your local installers and providing them with exactly what they need.

With Mill City Roasters on your side, the path forward for new coffee roasters is clearer than ever.

Getting started is easy. All you have to do is call.

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