STiR coffee and tea magazine

Volume 4, Number 2

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STiR tea & coffee industry international 69 Why Roast Your Own? Many coffee shops roast from day one. Others begin with a 5-kilo (or even smaller roaster) and scale up. After constructing nine shops The Woods decided its volume was sufficient to roast its own coffee. "The downside to waiting is the additional capital expense to equip a roastery large enough to meet the needs of an established volume of business," said Wes Herman, founder of The Woods. He shares this advice: To discover if roasting is worthwhile consider: If you are paying $6.50 a pound and you could source and roast your own coffee for $4.50 a pound, is the $2 a pound you save enough to justify the switch? Consider the value of the roasting company currently doing this work. Roasting your own coffee may well offer better quality and more control but is it a good return on investment? Scale "When we got to nine stores it started to make sense (financially) to start talking about roast- ing," said Herman. Economies of scale make roasting a natural move: "In our case it was 5,000 pounds a month," said Herman. It takes one roaster 20 work days to produce 5,000 pounds of coffee doing five 50-pound batches a day on a 25-kilo roaster." Convenience "We worked hard to eliminate deliveries from outside vendors. Roasting our own coffee gave us one more thing to add to our deliv- ery schedule. We were already delivering all our own bakery items on a daily basis, so it made it easy to add coffee. Not just easier, but fresher!" Consistency "We wanted to control the consistency and improve our product. We wanted to Q grade ourselves and gain the know-how to educate our staff and customers about the process. Roasting our own coffee has become an im- portant part of this process." Head roaster Shea Hagan in the Woods cupping and coffee lab "We wanted enough knowledge to not sound stupid about the roasting process," Herman said. "We wanted ultimate control and we wanted better quality." Green coffee was selling at a 10-year low, about $1 per pound, when The Woods began evaluating its roasting options, Herman recalled. Within months the price dou- bled. He knew that roasting his own coffee would help control these costs. "I felt we had negotiated pretty well" with the several companies that roasted cof- fee for The Woods but Herman wanted control of that core aspect of the business. In the coffee mecca of the Pacific Northwest Herman found good resources. A Craigslist ad for a roaster put him in touch with a local importer, who made a key referral. Shea Hagan owned a wine bar in Bellingham, but had extensive experience as a roaster in the Northwest and in Europe and was ready to return to coffee. Herman hired Hagan as head roaster even before The Woods had installed all the equipment. Herman chose a brand and prepared a proposal for his c.f.o. to spend a quarter million dollars on new equipment. He and Taylor were leaving a Ponderay, Idaho train- ing site when his cell phone rang. An industry contact from several years earlier had located a Diedrich roaster suitable for The Woods. "Within two days, we'd bought it," Herman said. The roaster and support equip- ment was six years old, in good condition; it was being swapped out on a regular main- tenance schedule at a Costco location two counties away. Glitches It was then that Taylor Herman's job got intense. He helped disassemble the 20-kilo 2008 Diedrich Model CR20. "I wanted to be sure I knew how to put it back together," he said. "I made sure everything was labeled really well." It barely fit on his truck and trailer, and he hauled it back to Lynden. There was plenty of room in the warehouse for the roaster but the configuration needed to be much different than its former home. Costco had configured the roaster for a small footprint, stacking the components 20 feet tall. In its former home, the after burner was positioned above the roaster. That setup wouldn't fit into The Woods warehouse, so the roaster was reassembled in a more typical configuration, placing the weigh and fill to the side and the destoner and loading system adjacent. The roomier configuration required longer wires to reach the electrical control panel; but most adjustments were small. Then, the installation hit a major delay. Puget Sound Energy said it would take six weeks to dispatch a crew to install three-phase power. The Woods waited. When The Woods could finally flip on the power, the Hermans encountered what they now call their most challenging glitch: problems with the software that controlled the roaster. The original vendor no longer supported the program, which was special- ized enough that Taylor had to hunt for consultants to tackle it. Fortunately, he found L2 Systems, a software consulting company in Everett, Wash., that had some experience with roasters.

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