How to Start a Coffee Business
This article is for those who want to make money from coffee beans.
Below are the top practical tips: how to avoid bad roasters, how to decorate your packaging beautifully, and how to choose a bean that customers will love.
Choose a bean that everyone will like
If you’re just starting to sell bean coffee, choose arabica. It’s the one that sells and buys the most in the world. Robusta is in second place.
Arabica is bulky and acidic. It can be grown and roasted to feel like hazelnut, chocolate, and orange.
Robusta is flat and bitter. It can’t be grown in a way that produces hints of fruit and nuts. But it has more caffeine: it’s good for those who want to perk up.
The other types of coffee are sold and bought rarely-they are for aficionados. For example, liberica, the third most common type of coffee, is low in caffeine and has a strong bitterness in the flavor.
Match Arabica to your customers
Arabica has many varieties: bourbon, tipica, and kaffa. They all taste different. To sell well, choose the variety that your audience likes. They will tell you about it. Create a survey in Google Forms and ask potential customers to fill it out via social media.
We’ve created a questionnaire to help determine coffee preferences. Use ours or prepare your own as you like.
When the results of this survey come back, you need to understand from them, at a minimum, what class of coffee to take.
Consider two situations:
Customers are mostly pros. If your potential customers can tell the height of the coffee by its smell, try selling high-grade arabica beans: “specialty” or “microlots”. Such beans can be found at some roasters, such as Tasty Coffee, Sweet Beans, Torrefacto, Double-b, Catherine’s Brewers.
The customers are mostly newbies. If it turns out that potential customers are new to coffee brewing, try selling a blend of Arabica and Robusta or commercial Arabica varieties. Both are easiest for a beginner to make. Robusta helps mask cooking joints. And commercial varieties have no-frills that are hard to uncover.
Choose a good-quality roaster
Once you’ve chosen a grain, you need to decide on a roaster. Here are five criteria to help you choose a roaster.
- On the availability of deferment. Coffee should be delivered regularly. But what if you don’t have enough money to pay for the next shipment? The roaster is good for business if you can negotiate a grace period.
- On readiness to unload. Sometimes it happens that a supplier arrives with a shipment of coffee and there is no time or people to unload it. Then couriers may charge money for the wait. If the business is sensitive to these situations, choose a roaster who will unload everything himself.
- By willingness to help. The roaster is a treasure trove of experience and knowledge. He will help you find a new or used coffee machine in good condition, tell you about how to take care of it, tell you how to fix it, and teach you how to make delicious coffee. If any of these things the roaster is willing to do for free, he’s good for business.
- Customer feedback. If the roaster has been in the market for at least a year, he or she has had at least a few customers. They can warn you if the supplier is substandard. For example:
- He Is late with delivery.
- He roasts some batches badly
Ask the roaster for customers’ phone numbers. After talking to them, find out what it’s like to work with him: what he fails with, and what he never fails with. If the roaster refuses to give numbers, he may have something to hide.
- The quality of the grain. One defective bean can ruin a cup of coffee.
Sometimes roasters employ a certified Q-grader, a kind of quality evaluator. This specialist knows how to evaluate beans according to the American Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) system: by taste, aroma, aftertaste, defects, and general impressions. This is one of the most objective coffee evaluation systems. If there is a Q-grader on staff, he has tested some varieties and is ready to evaluate and characterize them. Ask him about the quality of local beans.
Roasters monitor coffee quality in different ways. Ask them how they do it. If you get about this kind of dialogue, the coffee from that roaster is most likely of good quality.
– How do you store and transport green beans?
– We get our coffee in Grain Pro bags. Inside them are sealed plastic bags with a zipper. They help retain moisture longer and protect the coffee from fungus and mold. To keep the beans from spoiling, we store them in a warehouse with a humidity of 60% and a temperature of 16-18Â°C.
– How do you check that the green beans have been handled and transported correctly? We measure their humidity with a Sinar moisture meter and their water activity with a Pawkit analyzer. Come on, I’ll show you what data the instruments produce and how to understand that the grain is good.
– How do you roast grain to avoid defects?
– We monitor the roasting process with a program called Cropster. It records everything that happens inside the roaster and shows it on a graph. If something goes wrong, we can immediately see the cause and eliminate it.
– And what data do you use to tell us if the corn is roasted well? Seven things: roasting time and development, degree change after cracking, degree of discharge, percentage of roast, color in the colorimeter, and the total impact on the graph. We’ll be roasting a new batch in an hour. Would you like to come and see it? We’ll tell you and show you what this data is all about.
– How do you select the grains after roasting?
– We clean the grain from defects with a Sovda color sorter and measure the color of the roast with a Colortrack colorimeter. Let me show you how it works.
– Can you make me a cup of filter coffee so I can verify the quality of the beans?
– No problem. There will be a cupping tomorrow. You’re welcome to come!
If the roaster has awards and certifications, run them through the search engines and find out what each one means. For example, first places in the “roaster of the year” contest mean the company understands how to roast grain without defects. But first places in the “barista of the year” contest have nothing to do with it. Having them doesn’t mean that the roast is good, it means that they know how to brew good coffee.
When you choose the right bean, take a small batch to start with – depending on how many people were interested in it. Ask to roast only a portion of the batch. Even if the coffee is a slow seller, there won’t be many beans and you won’t have to worry that the coffee is about to go bad.
Pack the coffee so that it will keep for a long time
Beans spoil from the air, light, moisture, and extraneous odors. To keep it safe, sealed bags were invented. Here’s how they work.
Sealed bags are usually available from roasters. Make sure your suppliers pack in these before you buy.
Describe the taste of the coffee on the package
To help your customer choose exactly your coffee, write nine things on the package.
- Type and variety. As you know from the section on choosing beans, they determine the taste of the coffee. If you’ve procured an Arabica bourbon, it will suffice to write so.
- Flavor Descriptors. These are flavor units specific to the place of origin. As it happens, Arabica is grown in Brazil so that it reads nuts, chocolate, and caramel, in Ethiopia – floral notes and tropical fruits, in Asia – tobacco notes and chocolate.
- Growing and harvesting conditions. The taste of coffee depends on where and how it is grown. For example, the height of cultivation tells us about the brightness of the flavor.
If Arabica bourbon is grown at an altitude of 1,200 meters, it is sweet, voluminous, and acidic. At this altitude it is one temperature in the morning and another in the evening: the coffee ripens slowly and absorbs the nutrients that make it tasty.
If the same coffee is grown on the plain, it turns out bitter, flat, and empty. No height – no temperature variation – no long maturation – no interesting flavor.
In order for the customer to immediately understand what kind of product is in front of him, tell him about the place of growth and harvesting conditions.