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Is Home bean roasting really worth the effort?

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Hi, I thought I would start this discussion after doing some home roasting. Doing my own roasting I've discovered the roasted weight can drop by about 20% and ocassionally I've had a disaster with an over roast when going for darker. I started thinking: I've tried some of the ready roasted brands in 1Kg bags including those from Costco (Kirkland brand) and been pleased with the good taste, crema produced and consistent grind.

If I want to continue with home roasting I can only justify doing it if I can buy bulk green beans 5-10kg and take advantage of the longer storage time for a green been, compared to a ready roasted bean. But when I start to cost what suppliers are charging nothing makes sense? I can buy a reasonable ready roasted bean from cash & carrys for around £8.50 a kg which is a full ready to grind kg with no water weight loss or risk of a bad roast. When I look at the cost of most bulk buy green beans they seem to pitch at over £10 per kg.  If I could buy green beens for around £6 per kilo i think home roasting would be worthwhile after allowing for water weight loss and the ocasional bad roast.

At the risk of being flamed, what's the point of home roasting, buying the kit, time  and electricity cost and how can it make sense economically? My suspicion is green beans in bulk should be really cheap, but suppliers are cashing in on coffee fashion and DIY enthusiasm to hike up prices, whereas a ready bagged and roasted product has more competition on the shelves?

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Good question.

I was contemplating getting a roaster so would like to see what people have to say about your post?

Reading up, it seems as you say, that green beans are maybe priced artificially high in the UK?

I guess it's possibly to do with the amount that home roasters buy at any one time, rather than the higher amounts that are commercially bought by bean sellers or coffee shops?

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1 minute ago, caffeinegeek said:

1. Hi, I thought I would start this discussion after doing some home roasting. Doing my own roasting I've discovered the roasted weight can drop by about 20% and ocassionally I've had a disaster with an over roast when going for darker.

2. I started thinking: I've tried some of the ready roasted brands in 1Kg bags including those from Costco (Kirkland brand) and been pleased with the good taste, crema produced and consistent grind.

3. If I want to continue with home roasting I can only justify doing it if I can buy bulk green beans 5-10kg and take advantage of the longer storage time for a green been, compared to a ready roasted bean. But when I start to cost what suppliers are charging nothing makes sense? I can buy a reasonable ready roasted bean from cash & carrys for around £8.50 a kg which is a full ready to grind kg with no water weight loss or risk of a bad roast.

4. When I look at the cost of most bulk buy green beans they seem to pitch at over £10 per kg.  If I could buy green beens for around £6 per kilo i think home roasting would be worthwhile after allowing for water weight loss and the ocasional bad roast.

5.. At the risk of being flamed, what's the point of home roasting, buying the kit, time  and electricity cost and how can it make sense economically? My suspicion is green beans in bulk should be really cheap, but suppliers are cashing in on coffee fashion and DIY enthusiasm to hike up prices, whereas a ready bagged and roasted product has more competition on the shelves?

You make I think 5 discrete points, so to try and answer each in turn.

1. Unfortunately roasted coffee does drop in weight by about 16% from the green coffee weight due to water loss and sometimes roasts don't always go as well as you had planned....welcome to the world of roasting. On the bright side sometimes an error can be delicious and something you then want to repeat.

2. If you like those beans for the style of drinks you make then keep on buying them I guess. However there is a lot to be said for a journey around the world of coffee with all the different beans, origins, varietals etc.. to choose from.

3. & 4. You can buy a ready roasted bean for 8.50 per Kg, reasonable is debatable, because to sell it for that price it must be the cheapest commodity coffee available and probably cut with Robusta. Assume about £2 per Kg or even less in the green. However if you enjoy it, then who can say different. Suppliers have to charge a markup for the service of purchasing A 60-70Kg sack weighting, packing, labelling in 1kg lots. So at 10 per Kg you are probably getting coffee costing £3-4+ so already almost twice the value of coffee from the cash and carry option. it is fair to say though that a few retailers charge the same for their roasted as the green, which is a little bit cheeky.

To buy greens for 6 per Kg from a roaster, you are going to be buying low grade commodity coffee. However if you are willing to commit to a 30Kg ecotact sack of green coffee, pay £7.50 - £10 per Kg for the green coffee and 55 for delivery (which is the minimum for 3 x 70kg sacks on a pallet from wholesalers), for about 9.50 to 12 per Kg for green coffee, you can get into speciality grade with a good cupping score.

5. If you don't enjoy home roasting, probably not and if you want high grade speciality coffee, unless you have the contacts, it may well not be economical. For most it's a hobby they enjoy.

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7 minutes ago, ratty said:

Good question.

I was contemplating getting a roaster so would like to see what people have to say about your post?

Reading up, it seems as you say, that green beans are maybe priced artificially high in the UK?

I guess it's possibly to do with the amount that home roasters buy at any one time, rather than the higher amounts that are commercially bought by bean sellers or coffee shops?

I once started a greens club for speciality coffee at wholesale prices for home roasters, there were no on costs, no costs for my time, people just paid for the coffee and the transportation of the sacks devided into the kg price of the coffee....but a few of the members (too many) let me down, left me with 100kg + of coffee I didn't need and treated it like I was a retailer.

I was stupid enough to front the cash based on reassurances they would pay for and collect their coffee....or pay for delivery. The coffee arrived and many of those commitments faded away and left me holding the bag. So I stopped doing it. I believe retailers of coffee do often charge far too much for green coffee. Anyone with a Dalian 1kg, I always recommend them to buy direct from a wholesaler when I train them. Two business I trained have grown fast one in the last 16 months has moved to a 7kg roaster, the Other I trained 8 months ago are looking to move to a 15kg roaster. neither could have done that purchasing coffee one down from the wholesaler.

 

The only reason I roast share is I can buy high quality coffee in large enough amounts to make it worthwhile and have 2 or 3 great coffees on the go that cup 86 and above. I know exactly when their roasted and how they're roasted. My roast sharers enjoy great prices (because I don't charge a profit) and I enjoy great coffee. Just yesterday I realised I was going to run out of coffee, Nipped out and quickly roasted 3kg, some Nice Daterra sweet blue and some Limu Kossa....be ready around New years day, or earlier if I get desperate.

Edited by DavecUK
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54 minutes ago, ratty said:

Good question.

I was contemplating getting a roaster so would like to see what people have to say about your post?

Reading up, it seems as you say, that green beans are maybe priced artificially high in the UK?

I guess it's possibly to do with the amount that home roasters buy at any one time, rather than the higher amounts that are commercially bought by bean sellers or coffee shops?

I have just spent the best part of 25 minutes doing a comprehensive reply to the questions asked by the OP and Ratty. Pressed the 'new para' button and lost the ruddy lot. 

So well done forum owners, I see nothing much has changed with the 'new' forums technics  during my absence. 

Roll on the new forum, you know who you are...bring it on!

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I hate it when that happens!

Done it myself a few times on forums too.

My new HP laptop decides to switch itself off once a day at least, and I lose anything I've been working on.

I've got all settings I've come across set on NEVER, (to shut down!) but no luck yet!

I know your's is for a different reason, but I feel the pain!

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If you're getting into roasting to save money, I would say it's probably not worth it, particularly if you enjoy cheap coffee from the commodity market. If you're doing it for the pleasure / experience / craft, and are into single origin coffees, you could probably save a little bit of money compared to buying from roasters, particularly if you access some of the economies of scale described above.

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I have a Gene 101 and this system has evolved which suits my situation.

I put 250g of greens in and generally get 210-212g out. I use a set time, power and temp arrived at by trial and error, no hanging around listening for cracks (which I can't hear anyway). I have five valved bags that are opened in rotation, so when the Airscape is empty, i take the next numbered bag and tip it into the Airscape, the empty bag then stays on the kitchen table to remind me to roast more and refill it. That way by the time the Airscape is empty I have a suitably rested bag waiting. No keeping bags in the freezer to slow down resting, no panic when getting to the end of a bag and there's no replacement ready.

When I used to buy roasted beans i would buy a couple of kilograms at a time to save postage meaning that the last of the beans were getting stale by the time they were used. I can buy 10kg at a time and experiment with blends and roast levels to suit my taste. Main downside is that i may not want to risk £100 buying a 10kg bag only to find that I don't like it, luckily smallbatchroasting supplies also now sell in 1kg bags.

This system isn't perfect but it works for me.

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16 minutes ago, Norvin said:

This system isn't perfect but it works for me.

This setup sounds amazing??

I've never really thought about roasting, but this sounds like a really appealing way to go.

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I rarely roast these days but when I did I really enjoyed the process and feeling of satisfaction when drinking 'my' beans :)

Had a HotTop (still got it), and Behmor (sold a bit ago on the forum). It was really interesting learning the process and trying different profiles etc. I didn’t do it to save money!!!!!

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I think roasting is a great way to learn more about the whole process and try different origins even if you don't do it forever.  I buy 1kg bags because it's still a decent saving on roasted coffee but not too much of the same thing.  It's definitely a low barrier to entry if you start out with some kind of stove-top/popcorn popper but buying something like a Gene is a lot more to commit.

Roasting for filter is a bit easier so that's what I tend to do, while using a subscription for espresso.  And coffee delivered is much less effort ?

I guess cash and carry coffee isn't objectively good but depends what you are happy with.

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I don't do it to save money but it does work out cheaper.

I used to buy 250g bags for typically £6-9 retail plus postage. These are speciality SO's scoring typically 84- 89.

I just bought 9 1kg bags of greens  from Pennine which have cup scores in the same range and cost £9.50 to £14 depending on the coffee. I'll get at least 850g of roasted coffee from this. So about 3.5 bags which typically would have cost me around  £20 to £25 or more buying from a roaster.

On my small setup (Ikawa Home) I roast mostly daily and can get 20 roasts from 1kg so I can experiment freely and tailor for filter/espresso. I have normally a rotation of 10 or more coffees moving on to a new one or a new profile every day. No need to freeze. No danger of running out of coffee or stale coffee. Obviously there is the possibility of an experiment going wrong but sometimes you need to make mistakes to learn and they are rarely so bad as to be undrinkable. It's only 50g of coffee at the end of the day anyway. 

It's a hobby and a rewarding one at that.

 

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I had a Gene 101 (250g) to try home roasting, and I have to say it didn’t work for me. I’d like to blame on the mains voltage where I live being too low for the 240V element, but it could easy have been because I don’t have the feel for it. I couldn’t hear first crack no matter how hard I tried, and none of the profiles suggested in the user guides worked for me because it never really reached the desired temperature to follow the profile at the elapsed time suggested. They never tasted great either, so I went back to buying good quality roasted beans from those who know what they are doing (LSOL mainly).

Would I go back into it? For sure. Would I go back to the Gene? No, for the reasons above, and I do know the little Gene works wonders for others here. I’m quite tempted to buy a gas fired one or some electric alternative to the Gene with better monitoring devices and technology.


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100% yes. 
I roast at home with a large stock pot, a small gas stove to keep it warm and a heat gun to modulate heat. I’m fairly skilled at it and get beautiful and consistent roasts. 
takes about 15 mins all in all and cost nothing extra from the bits I had lying around.

The green coffee costs £7 a kilo from rave (on discount) so I get a pretty large cost saving plus I can do batches of 250-500g.

I would never go back to buying beans as no one ever produced what I like. I like medium to dark for espresso and light to medium with milk. But I like a 2-5 post roast, nothing longer. I found most beans I tried (North Star, pact, has bean) to be poorly roasted and often weeks from the roast date. 

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5 hours ago, MediumRoastSteam said:

I had a Gene 101 (250g) to try home roasting, and I have to say it didn’t work for me. I’d like to blame on the mains voltage where I live being too low for the 240V element, but it could easy have been because I don’t have the feel for it. I couldn’t hear first crack no matter how hard I tried, and none of the profiles suggested in the user guides worked for me because it never really reached the desired temperature to follow the profile at the elapsed time suggested. They never tasted great either, so I went back to buying good quality roasted beans from those who know what they are doing (LSOL mainly).

Would I go back into it? For sure. Would I go back to the Gene? No, for the reasons above, and I do know the little Gene works wonders for others here. I’m quite tempted to buy a gas fired one or some electric alternative to the Gene with better monitoring devices and technology.

 

UK mains voltage has been 230 Volt for a while now and older 240 volt appliances with heaters will be running lower on power output even lower if you are on a long supply line in the sticks? My old bread toaster now struggles to toast bread and the elements hardly glow producing infra red. It's the same problem with older electric oven grills unless they are the 230V red quartz type.

I roast with a modified toaster oven fitted with additional heaters normally running from a PID controller with a max output of 1.2kW, but I could go to 2.2kw. I've had to program my own profiles because the profiles for small roasters generally available do not take account of the thermal lag associated with my oven and drum. Temperatures measured inside the oven (air) are higher than larger pro roasters whilst drum and bean temperatures always lag.  Changing the bean load from small to 500gm affects the profile, particularly once the roast starts to become exothermic.

I have had a roast sitting at the start of first crack for longer than I expected when I started using oven temperatures of <200C. The PV and SV temperatures were both in track but the bean and drum temperature was still catching up. Eventually I had to increase the temperature to around 210-220C  for the final roast stage which I prefer to judge by bean color. If you are able to confirm the roaster can reach and maintain this higher temperature, there should be sufficient element power unless the roast starts to become exothermic and then it's time for fans on. I suspect most small capacity DIY roasters have to be learned with a consistent bean load and experimentation to get the best from them.

 

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10 hours ago, caffeinegeek said:

UK mains voltage has been 230 Volt for a while now and older 240 volt appliances with heaters will be running lower on power output even lower if you are on a long supply line in the sticks?

 

Mains voltage can swing depending on time of day. In that respect 230 & 240VAC nominal are essentially the same thing. Have you measured your wall AC? Mine is frequently 244VAC.


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Mine never went past 240V on the wall, often swinging between 232V and 237V. Some people here reported their voltage at 250V.

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Mains voltage can swing depending on time of day. In that respect 230 & 240VAC nominal are essentially the same thing. Have you measured your wall AC? Mine is frequently 244VAC.
When the UK changed to the 230V spec (to be cross compatible with Europe) they put in a -6% & +10% tolerance so it can be anywhere between 216.2V & 253V.
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1 minute ago, ashcroc said:
7 minutes ago, MWJB said:
Mains voltage can swing depending on time of day. In that respect 230 & 240VAC nominal are essentially the same thing. Have you measured your wall AC? Mine is frequently 244VAC.

When the UK changed to the 230V spec (to be cross compatible with Europe) they put in a -6% & +10% tolerance so it can be anywhere between 216.2V & 253V.

Yup loved it, changed nothing just a load of government spin to become compliant. This means we routinely over volt most of our appliances compared to Europe. I've always wondered if we experience slightly higher failure rates as a result of running much closer to tolerance. It was also why I specifically asked Genesis to put a 240V element in UK machines to prevent them burning out so fast and overheating the Gene during operation.

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Yup loved it, changed nothing just a load of government spin to become compliant. This means we routinely over volt most of our appliances compared to Europe. I've always wondered if we experience slightly higher failure rates as a result of running much closer to tolerance. It was also why I specifically asked Genesis to put a 240V element in UK machines to prevent them burning out so fast and overheating the Gene during operation.
Oh yeah, it was all spin. I'm pretty sure the reason the lower spec is only -6% is that's all Europe required to stay in spec with their 220V infrastructure.

Laissez les bons temps rouler

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