Does it make sense to roast your own coffee?

If you are buying freshly roasted coffee beans from your local roasters you probably already know that it can get very expensive. Is it worth to roast your coffee? I have been buying my coffee beans from Slight Glass, Blue Bottle, and other similar local roasters; the price for an 8oz to 12oz bag could go anywhere between $12 to $18. We  (my wife and I) typically go over a bag in around two weeks. In other words, we spend $30 per month on coffee beans; that 's $360 a year!!

In this post, we are not going to discuss the qualitative advantages people claim over roasting your beans, such as getting them to the exact point you want, knowing exactly when your beans were roasted or the satisfaction of doing it yourself.  Today we are just going to check if it makes economic sense to do it.


How much does it cost to buy freshly roasted beans?

We already established that an 8oz bag of locally roasted coffee could be in average $15, with two bags per month this adds up to $360 per year.


So, how much does it cost to roast your beans?

Two components need to be considered to answer this question: the ongoing cost of the green beans and the initial investment on a roaster.

For all of us, who are getting started on roasting coffee, Sweet Marias is going to be the site to go for everything you need: information, green beans, roasters, etc. All the equipment and prices discussed here will be based on this site.

By looking at the cost of the green beans, we can see their prices can go from $6 to $8 per pound for beans they consider good for espresso. There are 16oz in one pound, double the size of an average roasted coffee bag; this means I would spend $84 per year on coffee beans. In other words, savings of $276.


Comparison Table (without investment)


Beans
Average Price per bag
Quantity Oz
Price per Oz
Oz per year
Cost per Year
Roasted
$15
8
$1.88
192
$360
Green
$7
16
$0.44
192
$84

Just based on this information, it seems that buying roasted coffee beans is 4.25 times more expensive than buying green beans. However, note that these numbers are not considering utility costs, time, weight reduction and waste due to the learning curve.


Investment cost

There are different types of roasters for coffee: hot air roasters, drum roasters, and stovetop.  Although stovetop is the cheapest method and the one where you can make the biggest batches, we are not considering it, since it requires a lot of manual intervention, something I don't have time to do, and I am assuming it is similar to you.

Drum Roaster
The cheapest drum roaster is $369, and it can roast batches of up to 16oz, which is slightly greater than what I need based on our current consumption. Even with $276 on savings per year on beans, once we include some utility costs and waste, I believe it would take two years to justify the investment; this seems too long to me. Not to mention, what happens if I find that coffee roasting is not for me?






Hot Air Roaster

There are a couple of different types of Hot Air Roasters, and the prices go from $20 to $179. However, the $20 one is really a popcorn popper which makes me doubt it will create a consistently good quality product. On the other hand, the SR500 which costs $179, although similar to the popcorn popper, was created to roast coffee. With this model, in the first year, I could recover the investment, even considering the additional costs and waste.









Here is a nice video about the SR500 in action

Conclusion

I believe that the SR500 Hot Air Roaster is the way to go to get introduced into the coffee roasting experience. If you normally finish a 12 oz bag of roasted coffee every two weeks, you could recover your investment in less than a year, and you could potentially save a couple hundred dollars per year after that. It seems it gives you enough consistency on small batches, and even if you decide that coffee roasting is not for you, the investment is not as significant as with other types of roasters.

Do you have any experience roasting coffee? Leave your comments and recommendations