HomeRoast Digest

Topic: Selling Roasted Coffee (27 msgs / 710 lines)
1) From: Brian Fowler
This is a multi-part message in MIME format.
I'm new to roasting but I am enjoying myself and learning so much.  I am =
thinking of selling some roasted coffee (purchasing an RK and grill =
setup to do so).  The nearest roaster to my location is about 80 miles =
so I believe there is a niche to be filled.  I do not want to start a =
full scale roasting business but just a out of the house hobby business. =
 I was wondering if anyone has any tips for someone starting out in the =
coffee "business"?  

2) From: Eddie Dove
My experience ... YMMV
Give away some samples (1/4 pound bags with some really nice labels) and
tell people you just want their opinion on the coffee; for now, only give
away whole beans.  Those that really like it will demand that you sell it to
them and market it for you (like a guy at the office where I work).
Relent, sell it to them and CHARGE THEM FOR IT!  I recently had someone sell
5 pounds of coffee for me and those 5 pounds of coffee paid for an entire 12
pound Harvey order.  Remember, they are getting the best coffee beans in the
world, artisan roasted by the Roastmaster Brian Fowler.
Last week, while I was in a meeting in my office, I got a phone call from a
co-worker I hardly know and rarely talk to.  I answered the phone; he never
calls me so it must have been important.  I answer the phone and he said,
"Hey man, Donnie hooked me and I need to buy a bag from you."  Thank God I
didn't have that on speaker phone!  I did take the order as inconspicuously
as possible with my superiors in the office.
Avery has free software that you can download to make great labels and
matching business cards.
I hope this helps ... feel free to email me off-list.
Errare humanun est - sed perseverare diabolicum
My Home Coffee Roasting Blog and Profiles for the Gene Cafehttp://themeyers.org/HomeRoast/On 2/10/07, Brian Fowler  wrote:">http://southcoastcoffeeroaster.blogspot.com/Sweet Maria's List - Searchable Archiveshttp://themeyers.org/HomeRoast/On 2/10/07, Brian Fowler  wrote:

3) From:
I could nbot agree more with Eddie.
You may also have a local farmers market to go to; my guess is you would be the only coffee roaster participating.
Get yourself a chefs coast, great labels, have samples, setup a little bean display from green to roasted,varying degrees of roast.
Your coffee is great and you can "put on a show" for the folks. Great way to bring people to your coffee biz.
good luck Brian. 
Email me off list and perhaps I can think of other ideas. I roast at the Phoenix Public Market and many of the things I do I can't think of right now. Power is an issue at some small markets, take some very long cords or get a small generator.
---- Eddie Dove  wrote: 

4) From: Scott Marquardt
On 2/10/07, Brian Fowler  wrote:
I describe a bit of my experience here:http://marquardts.org/links/links.htmThe way I've chosen to do the farmer's market involves some risk.
First, I roast beans at the market, then sell them. That means the
roaster has to be 100% reliable. It means I can't run out of propane.
It means I can't have electrical problems with my drum motor. It means
the roaster itself -- in this case, an original design -- has to be
reliable. On that score, I've been very fortunate.
Second, I brew coffee one cup at a time (Aeropress). It's a good thing
it's a small farmer's market. This would be impractical with a big
crowd. Anyway, this means the grinder has to work perfectly, and the
inverter I use (we have no AC supplied at the market) can't break.
Last year I capitulated to the plea of a customer to grind a pound for
her -- and toasted the thermal fuse in my SMP. I bridged it on the
spot -- but only after 20 minutes and a couple good customers walking
away sad that they couldn't hang around (they had free coffees the
next week, I saw to it). I learned to keep a cheap whirly on hand (and
I eschew the folly of grinding commercial quanitities in a home-class
Third, leftovers. What do I do if I roast too much? Well, that ends up
being the coffee I take to work for the few of us who use it (again,
Aeropressing our brews during workdays). It also ends up being coffee
I brew at our church the day immediately following the  market.
Another way to reduce this risk occurs to me, but it fits our church's
particular timely need. We need a good, automated double Fetco. We
really do. And those aren't cheap. So I'm considering selling coffee
ON Sunday morning to people who've ordered some quantity the week
before. All proceeds (not just profits) would go to a fund for coffee
I generally keep my own (small scale) commercial activities as far
from the church as possible -- though that's been difficult when the
coffee I brew every week is enjoyed very much. Perhaps letting members
know that any purchases they make from me will go back into the church
will increase my roasting (and my expense for the greens I'll
basically be contributing), but this is good for my business on
Saturdays because I can be a bit wanton and roast more than I know
I'll sell -- which generally means more variety. Different origins.
Which will engender more buzz and interest. The key is that the beans
I sell there are SO DARNED FRESH.
Now and then I find a kindred spirit in this regard:http://www.bluebottlecoffee.net/(click on "who we are", see last paragraph)
I have no ambitions to become a big coffee roaster. The moment I have
to hire an employee, I'll be looking for someone else to take it over.
I'm not a businessman. I enjoy the banter with customers at the
farmer's market. I've enjoyed initiating a "sit down" tent at the
market, to let folks slow down and enjoy their cup with a pastry or
what-not. I've enjoyed watching my 13 year old accept responsibility
and become quite a brewer himself -- good enough that he convinced a
couple coffee gurus last year that the Aeropress was capable of
brewing better coffee than their own experiences had led them to
believe. But hiring employees, dealing with paperwork, taxes and such?
Ha. I'm going to hate even the new IRS stuff I'll have to do this year
for that. No, I'll keep it small.
But that's hard to do. So you might want to make some decisions ahead
of time, that will regulate what happens if you turn certain corners.
For example, I turned a corner and I have a tiny (tiny!) wholesale
buyer just now. The guy's on top of his game with a great wine and
cheese cafe. He sells very little coffee. But I was willing to do that
precisely because it was a small account (that, and the branding
exposure is in the town where the farmer's market is ;-)
Think ahead, because if you roast good coffee you WILL gain a following.
Also, if you screw anything up, THROW amends at the customers. It
costs you so little. A policy I have at the market -- where we brew
several origins -- is to offer the customer a new cup if they try
something and don't like it. We want them to experiment -- especially
customers who "prefer dark roasts" but that chiefly on account of
being inculcated by Starbucks to think charcoal is coffee. We want
them to feel free to try the lighter roasts, knowing that we'll
happily do something else for 'em if they don't like it. Actually,
I've only had a couple cups returned for something else.
LOGISTICS. Good grief. Drives me nuts. For the farmer's market,
there's no way we could do it without a checklist. Every Friday night,
loading the van -- and the final stuff early Saturday before dashing
to the market (stopping for half&half at the store on the way).
Exposure: Advertising's a hard one. Our market is just off a busy
street -- in plain view. But we're such a darned small market. Signs
on the street helped. Mentioning iced coffee in the summer (no fancy
frappes -- just good iced coffee) helped!
A hook: Having a roaster AT the market is an automatic hook. However,
if you use an RK, you'll have the same experience I had with my own
custom unit -- people see a grill off to the side, and they don't even
do a double take. You have to TELL them it's a roaster. It's really a
fascinating thing; if it looks like a weber, the mind has a hard time
believing it's anything else unless it's explained. Another hook we've
had is "something new every week." I was able to do that last year
because we started really basic (hilariously so), and every week I'd
refine what we were doing, introduce changes, be able to afford some
accoutrement we needed badly, etc. This year I don't know if that'll
come into play very much. We'll see.
Post-season availability: One of our market anchors -- "Farmer Jim" --
comes during the winter too, to fill orders. He's absolutely the
market's anchor -- and deservedly so. I think we became the second
most-selling booth in our first year, but that's 'cause folks parting
with a couple bucks for a good cup of coffee is almost second nature.
But you do gain fans, and they'll want some coffee on the holidays. So
if you do a farmer's market, offer post-season rendezvous dates and
take orders on-line, by mail, or phone. And if you lose money doing
it, so what? The few customers who are that loyal are also the ones
that are your best word-of-mouth. They're well worth keeping happy!
I could go on. Seriously. It was an educational year. A fun year. I
can't wait till June (and when I'm sweating my eyeballs off in August
or September winds are threatening to blow our canopy into the trees,
I'll be saying "I can't wait till October's over! ;-)
I know a couple some ways north of us here in the Chicago area who're
doing very well in their home-based roasting business. They're far
more ambitious than I, and their results show it.
If you have a potential market and you do your very best, I'm pretty
sure you'll end up with customers. Just be careful, 'cause you don't
want growing pains to be the customers'. You need to bear them
- Scott

5) From: Brian Fowler
Thanks for all the great replies.  I think the farmers market is a great 
idea and I know we have a nice one downtown.  I am really excited to get 
started now.  I will be in touch if I have any questions.

6) From: Edward Bourgeois
If you have a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm in your area, they
are a great outlet for the home roaster. These are small farms that sell
shares of their farm produce to families in their community. You could
easily take orders the week before and deliver the day the farm has pickup.

7) From: Brian Fowler
This is a multi-part message in MIME format.
Hmm, I'm not familar with that.  I will have to check into it and see.

8) From: Joe Screnock
Scott Marquardt wrote:
The above statement implies that you live in Illinois.  I would caution 
you (and anyone else who has a desire to roast commercially, even if it 
is very low volume) to check with your local Health Department for the 
requirements in starting such a business.
Each Illinois county has a Health Department responsible for licensing 
and inspecting Retail Food Establishments.  If you prepare and sell food 
at the same location (roast beans and sell them), you need to have a 
Retail Food License.  If you roast beans and package them for sale 
elsewhere (you sell 1 lb packages on the counter of your local 
convenience store, for example) then you are considered a "Wholesale 
Manufacturing" plant and will need to be licensed and inspected by the 
Illinois Department of Public Health.  If you do both, you will need to 
have both licenses.
Each "Farmer's Market" vendor is technically required to have a license, 
but most counties will "wink" at it and look the other way as long as 
there are no complaints and no obvious infractions (the farmer selling 
gallons of milk from a 10 gallon Rubbermaid(tm) cooler).
Well, that's probably enough for now.  I am in the process of setting up 
a roaster in a new coffee shop startup, so I'm a bit familiar with these 
regulations.  Oh, and then there is the licensed scale, packaging and 
label regulations...  
Have fun.  :-)

9) From: Mike Garfias
Man, whats wrong with that?
Most of my family grew up drinking milk straight from the cow with no  
ill effects.  My grandmother once told me she and her siblings  
refused to drink refrigerated milk for a long time because it tasted  
On Feb 14, 2007, at 2:06 PM, Joe Screnock wrote:

10) From: Floyd Lozano
That must have been scary for the cow, and a hassle for the family.  I'd
have put the milk in a bucket or something first then brought it inside to
have tableside!
On 2/14/07, Mike Garfias  wrote:

11) From: Joe Screnock
Now wait a second!!!  Isn't there some sort of customary "Spew Alert" 
warning required?!?!?
Good thing I wasn't drinking anything.
Floyd Lozano wrote:

12) From: Dan Bollinger
Nothing wrong with that at all. But if you started selling it to the public, the 
public has a right to expect that the milk be of a certain quality and not 
likely to endanger their health. Same with coffee. Roasting is preparing food. 
If you roast and sell, call your public health department.
There is a thread started on this at homeroasters.org http://www.homeroasters.org/php/forum/viewthread.php?forum_id5&thread_id91Dan

13) From: Brett Mason
Imagine my problem - family of nine - we need three cows just to be able to
have the family drink at the same time!
On 2/14/07, Floyd Lozano  wrote:

14) From: L. Michael Fraley, MD
My thoughts exactly Joe!  Tho I was drinking coffee, but managed to 
quickly swallow it down!  Pretty funny!!
On Feb 14, 2007, at 4:17 PM, Joe Screnock wrote:
Now wait a second!!!  Isn't there some sort of customary "Spew Alert" 
warning required?!?!?
Good thing I wasn't drinking anything.
Floyd Lozano wrote:

15) From: Laura Micucci
again!  No Spew Alert.  Just the visual...  sheesh
On 2/14/07, Brett Mason  wrote:
Laura Micucci

16) From: Laura Micucci
So I'm thinking that if I'm "roasting beans and selling them" the department
of health probably wouldn't say "wow, what a neat set up" to roasting coffee
in a bbq grill on one's porch?
On 2/14/07, Joe Screnock  wrote:
Laura Micucci

17) From: Brett Mason
Look here...http://www.ilga.gov/commission/jcar/admincode/077/07700730sections.htmlBest Wishes,
Milk from My family of 3 cows - 75 cents a minute...
On 2/14/07, Laura Micucci  wrote:

18) From: Brian Fowler
This is a multi-part message in MIME format.
Its more of county by county thing.  I have to believe that all the =
folks selling honey, nuts, baked goodies at flea markets and farmers =
markets are not breaking the law and the authorities are just looking =
the other way.  I have found that most counties allow for the selling of =
certain goods from the farm or home that are considered low risk.   
Here is a snipet from the Champaign Urbana regs, which applies to =
farmers markets: 
"Food retail market stand means a stand where food and food products are =
offered to the consumer and intended for off-premises consumption.  Food =
retail market stand:  No health permit required for operation.
Food service market stand means a stand where potentially hazardous food =
that has been cooked, processed, or combined with other foods, and is =
offered to the consumer for individual ready-to-eat consumption.  Food =
service market stand: Health permit required for operation."
I think this shows the distinction that is made for items such as nuts, =
grains, vegies, and baked goods.  Roasted coffee would really be no =
different than selling roasted nuts.  
Joel while I appreciate the effort I think the devil is in the details.

19) From: Brett Mason
Nuts' Coffee - Roasted FOR nuts, BY nuts!
Like me,
On 2/14/07, Brian Fowler  wrote:

20) From: Bernard Gerrard
For the record, the Farmer's Markets around here in Western Maryland 
have folks selling cakes, cookies, jams and pickles along with their 
fresh fruits, vegetables and plants.  Bernard Gerrard

21) From: Kevin
What about roasting and selling the coffee on ebay?  Shipping across
state lines?

22) From: Larry Johnson
On 2/14/07, Brett Mason  wrote:

23) From: Ed Needham
A street fair health inspector tore apart the booth next to mine because 
they had 'numerous' scary ways of packaging and storing perishables.  She 
came to my booth and I said I roasted coffee and have no perishables and she 
looked for cleanliness and went on her merry way.  I'm sure she burned 
herself out next door and was not yet ready for another fiasco, but I think 
small time farmers market vendors and hobby roasters who sell a few are not 
on too many hit lists for violations.
Now that does not mean you're immune from a lawsuit or some other legal 
action from a disgruntled customer.  A foreign object in a bag of beans 
might trigger big problems, especially if your beans are not up to snuff.
Ed Needham®
"to absurdity and beyond!"http://www.homeroaster.com(include [FRIEND] in subject line to get through my SPAM filters)

24) From: Scott Marquardt
Whoa, this thread is movin'!
The town that sponsors our market on public property lays out very
clear guidelines for the market. No consultation with public health
officials is required.
As it turns out, unpasteurized milk is sold at the market -- and it's
one of the products that draw the regular customers.
But advice to check into regulations is never bad advice. We live in a
litigous, bureaucratic society, and the overhead involved in doing
ANYTHING is pretty ludicrous. But ludicrous doesn't mean optional.
It is pleasant to discover when they're actually not big-brothering
you to death, though.  ;-)

25) From: Thbull
I know that when I called the McHenry County Health Dept and asked  
about selling/roasting coffee to a few people, they really had no  
idea what to say.
I left it at that for now...
Thbull 'not asking, not telling'
On Feb 15, 2007, at 1:30 AM, Scott Marquardt wrote:
Whoa, this thread is movin'!
The town that sponsors our market on public property lays out very
clear guidelines for the market. No consultation with public health
officials is required.
As it turns out, unpasteurized milk is sold at the market -- and it's
one of the products that draw the regular customers.
But advice to check into regulations is never bad advice. We live in a
litigous, bureaucratic society, and the overhead involved in doing
ANYTHING is pretty ludicrous. But ludicrous doesn't mean optional.
It is pleasant to discover when they're actually not big-brothering
you to death, though.  ;-)

26) From: an iconoclast
On 2/15/07, Thbull  wrote:
Oregon exempts coffee sales from their food handling license and
inspection.  DEQ wants a permit if you roast more than 6 tons of beans per
year....NOT.  I have a dba license and that's about it. Weights and measures
has something to say about it so you don't cheat on your weights, but I
always add another 7 gm to be safe.
Take care,
Sweet Maria's list searchable archiveshttp://themeyers.org/HomeRoast/index.htm

27) From: Aaron
It's hard to say exactly what is or not allowed as state to state will 
vary as will probably city to city with their own little quirks.
I don't believe you will need a full blown food prep license, and the 
restaraunt grade hubba bubba routine since you are working the product 
at a temperature that will kill pretty much everything and are not 
technically a 'dining facility' and are dealing with smaller amounts.
You probably will need a business / vending license and since it is a 
product you are selling by weight, need the states agriculture or 
whatever sticker on your scales saying yes they are accurate.
 Probably some kind of mandatory liability insurance (possibly) so that 
when the loser who decides one day that *he* wants your business decides 
to suddenly trip and hit his head on your coffee table, or claims he 
caught the hiv from your coffee or found a finger in it, you are 
somewhat protected.
Next time you see one of these hot dog vendors with the little carts or 
the people who drive the cancer wagon's around at construction sites 
etc,or an event where they are selling cotton candy, or stuff like 
that,  you might want to ask them what all they had to do, where they 
started the ball rolling at to get a good idea.

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