Nicolas dreamed of becoming a coffee roaster, and I wanted to be a coffee entrepreneur. For the last 6 months, we had the chance to join Florent Gout from Esperanza Café and help him launch a roasting workshop in Barcelona. Nicolas roasted, I did the financial, communication and administrative work, while Florent developed a coffee school and a quality control activity. Here is our experience, condensed in the 10 steps we followed to open this roasting workshop.
1. Training : Learn how to be a roaster
You have 2 options to learn : learn by trial-and-error, or follow a training program with a professional. Working as a roasting assistant can be a good option before launching your roasting workshop. Otherwise, you need to join a training session to learn and practice.
But first, we recommend you get The Coffee Roaster’s Companion (Scott Rao), a good book to start roasting.
Which skills do you need ?
You’ll need to learn how to roast but also to analyze green coffee and cup coffee so you can buy your green coffee, create a roasting profile and identify potential roasting defects.
How to find a good trainer?
You should, of course, check the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) website:
- More info about the SCA coffee diploma system here
- You can find a local AST (Authorized SCA Trainer) here
- And find SCA certified courses here
Although this diploma system is quite well designed, we recommend focusing first on the following criteria to choose your training program, regardless of it being SCA certified:
- Quality of the trainer (experience, knowledge, pedagogy)
- Number of students in the class: we highly recommend small classes where you’ll be able to train more
- Design of the course: it’s interesting to pick a course that mixes cafeology, green coffee analysis, sensory and roasting, as you’ll have a more complete overview of the industry afterwards, condensed in one or two weeks of training.
We also recommend you do the training not too long before you start your activity, so that you have everything in mind when you start!
Our special insight: Florent Gout offers a high quality 5-day training focused on roasting, green coffee analysis and sensory with an adaptable program according to your needs. The course takes place in Barcelona, with no more than 1 or 2 students per training. For more information, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Find a place
You have two “big” options here:
Option 1 - A well located place in a busy area: more traffic, but a more expensive rent. You may have to open a coffee shop as well to make your place profitable, but then you may have to employ somebody else… You’ll probably do a lot of B2C in addition to your B2B activity.
Option 2 - A place in a remote area: cheaper rent, more space, and no B2C activity (except if you develop an e-commerce website).
In any case, you will need a smoke extraction. And don’t forget to look for food and health standards in your country, as well as administrative procedure. Feel free to ask us for any question about Barcelona!
3. Make a market study
One of the most important steps! Know your competitors, their positioning and their prices, and study your potential customers to have an idea of the size of the market and their expectations.
For a macroeconomic approach focused on the French market, we recommend reading the Xerfi report on coffee and tea.
4. Define your positioning and your strategy
What level of quality would you like to offer? Would you like to have organic / fair trade coffee? Only pure origins or also blends? Which origins? Which markets do you target? Restaurants, cafés, grocery stores, companies, private individuals? What about your prices?
...These are some of the many questions you should ask yourself.
You can also think about extra activities such as cupping and roasting workshops. For instance, you can register on Wecandoo to offer a “roast your coffee and go home with it” class!
5. Make a business plan and raise money
Making a business plan is an excellent exercise. It will help you understand 3 important things:
- At what price you have to sell your coffee
- What quantity you have to sell to be economically sustainable
- How much money you need to launch your activity
Then you may need to raise money to start. There are many options:
- Personal investment (unemployment benefits can be very helpful)
- Love money: mobilize your family and friends through a crowdfunding campaign. Here are two successful examples of coffee projects: Le Percolateur with Ulule and La Torréf’ with Bulb in Town
- Grants and debt (in France, think about France Active)
Feel free to contact us (email@example.com) for more tips about the business plan and how to raise money.
6. Buy green coffee
How about direct trade?
Al Grano is a good tool to source directly your coffee from the producers.
You can also join Roasters United, a group of European coffee roasters that source their coffee directly from small producer cooperatives, to promote high quality coffees that are organically grown in democracy.
It’s also a good option to start working with coffee importers as they offer a wide range of coffees, provide good advice and can deliver some coffees quite fast if they have them in stock.
Just contact specialty coffee importers and ask for samples, and important information such as delivery dates, minimum quantities, possibility to have the exclusivity on such or such coffee, etc.
Among the European importers, we can think about Collaborative Coffee Source (feel free to contact Nicolas: firstname.lastname@example.org), Nordic Approach, Falcon Coffees, 32Cup, Café Imports, Belco… you can find a more complete list here.
7. Buy a roasting machine and other equipments
How to choose your roasting machine?
This article from Perfect Daily Grind gives 7 items to consider when selecting your coffee roaster.
The coffee roasters brands we often hear about are Probat, Loring, Giesen, Diedrich and Toper.
You can also check HB coffee roaster, an unknown but qualitative brand. Feel free to contact Luka from Kraft Und Werk for insights (email@example.com).
Don’t forget about all the equipment around:
- Air extraction
- Connection of the roaster (electricity)
- Cupping material (cups, kettle, cupping spoons)
- Grinder (we recommend Fiorenzato for a decent price-quality ratio, but Mahlkonig, Victoria Arduino and Nuova Simonelli offer great options too if you can afford it!)
- Sealing tongs to close your coffee bags (we got one from Weber Packaging)
- Other extraction methods: aeropress, V60, Chemex… to taste your coffee
- An espresso machine to taste your coffee in espresso!
- A sample roaster to roast your coffee samples yourself and create roasting profiles
- A Lighttells coffee roast degree analyser to compare the roast level outside and inside the coffee beans.
8. Communication: design your packaging & website
Design is highly important! For some inspiration, check our favorite coffee bag designs:
Create a logo, design your website and your social network pages. If you want to offer online shopping, here are two examples of websites offering a nice user experience for coffee subscription:
And don’t forget to check the next coffee events in your country to be part of it!
9. Start selling
Meet your potential customers and start selling your coffee, even if everything is not 100% ready. Thus, you'll have a better understanding of your market and how you can adapt your project.
It can be useful to get a small espresso grinder such as the Eureka Mignon, so you can visit your future clients and make them taste your coffee on their espresso machine without having to empty their grinder.
10. Open your roasting workshop!
And get featured in The Coffee Vine box!
If you have any suggestion or comments about the article, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!