#28 The Exchange: So You Want to be a Coffee Roaster

The Exchange Green Coffee Podcast Season 3 Episode 3
Posted in: Collaboration
By Olam Specialty Coffee
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#28 The Exchange: So You Want to be a Coffee Roaster

#28 The Exchange: So You Want to be a Coffee Roaster

Mike Ferguson chats with green coffee professionals Charley Requadt and Ethan White about advice they offer new coffee roasters or those who are looking forward to being coffee roasters one day.

 

Mike: [00:00:18] Welcome to Season 3 Episode 3 of The Exchange, a coffee podcast where coffee people talk to coffee people about coffee and/or things coffee adjacent. I'm Mike Ferguson and the topic for this episode is So You Want to Be a Coffee Roaster? We'll be speaking and sipping coffee with...

 

Charley: [00:00:37] Charley Requadt, and my first job in coffee was a Peace Corps volunteer.

 

Ethan: [00:00:42] Ethan White. And my first job in coffee was as a college campus barista.

 

Mike: [00:00:53] Okay. So we're talking today about the topic So You Want to Be a Coffee Roaster? We spent a lot of time talking to people for whom being a coffee roaster is an aspiration, sometimes a reality, sometimes a combination of aspiration and reality. So I thought we'd chat a little bit today. And give some advice to people who are thinking they want to be a coffee roaster or have started down that road and they're somewhere on that journey. The world has changed since I entered coffee 20 years ago in lots of ways. But one of the things that is no longer a significant part of coffee is sort of an informal apprentice system. It used to be your career leading up to becoming a coffee roaster might look something like you get a job as a barista somewhere, a coffeehouse that also has a roastery, so a roaster or retailer. There's an open invitation to go to the cuppings. You start going to the cuppings. Then you're a regular at the cupping table. A position opens up in the roastery to pack coffee. You apply, you get that job, and you pack coffee for a year or two. A position opens as a roaster, apprentice roaster. You apply, get that job, then you roast for a few years, and then for one reason or another you decide to head out on your own and start your own roasting business. That was a very common story. A lot of the older roasters, and by older I mean my age, that you talk to, they'll tell you some story very similar to that. A lot of our friends who we work with now went through a process very similar to that. That's not really how it happens these days. And we all get to talk to a lot of new roasters. In the absence of that, let's say I woke up this morning and I decided I want to be a coffee roaster. What's the first piece of advice? And I go to you and I say, "Hey, Charlie or Ethan or both of you, I want to be a coffee roaster." What do you have to tell me?

 

Ethan: [00:02:58] I would start with just doing your research, but make sure that research involves talking to people and not just reading things on the Internet. I mean, there are a lot of enthusiastic home roasters and things like that. There's a lot of information that you can get out there that didn't use to be available right. Like 20 years ago, you couldn't go look up what first crack was? Nobody knew what that was. So the wealth of information out there is super cool, but a lot of it tends to be geared towards very specific contexts that don't necessarily involve running a business. So talking to people who've done it is still going to be the absolute best way to kind of get the lay of the land and figure out which direction you want to go. Because that's the other thing is there are a lot of different directions you can go. The model that you were talking about, where you start at the bottom and work your way up to these sort of more valued, so to speak, positions in the industry still totally exist and is still, I think, probably the most common way. But you also see a lot of, just because as specialty grows, there's a lot of different ways to get into it. And a lot of people come to this as consumers, fans of coffee who get really into it. And then maybe they start with a small home roaster or something like that and want to go into it. But then the people who have seen different contexts, a lot of the different permutations that sort of the coffee industry can take, trying to find some of those people and talk to them first so that you can sort of map out a plan for yourself. You want to have a plan going into it. You do see people who maybe don't have a plan, and then the way things are, maybe or maybe you're really good at a couple of things. You have a background in marketing or something like that, but then you market your coffee, find customers for it, but then you don't actually have the coffee to sell, for example. That kind of thing. So you kind of like neglect the logistics or the sort of sourcing part of it, you know what I mean? And get one part of the business that you might be predisposed to being good at for whatever reason and kind of shoot off in that direction. So kind of making sure you have all the bases covered as you get started, which doesn't mean you can't get started with some things, but sort of deciding, do you actually like roasting coffee yourself?

 

Mike: [00:05:34] You mean physically roasting, right?

 

Ethan: [00:05:36] Do you enjoy the act of doing that or do you just want to be involved in a business and hire someone to do that part of it for you? It's a very specific thing, roasting coffee.

 

Mike: [00:05:46] Yeah, I think that's important for people who have come to roasting and not had a lot of roasting experience. I don't want to roast coffee.

 

Charley: [00:05:56] You sit in front of the roaster for 8 hours a day.

 

Mike: [00:05:58] You put me in front of a roaster, you've basically committed to having a fire because I'm going to lose... I'm not going to pay attention. I'm going to be walking away. I'm going, oh, look, there's something shiny over there and walk away from the roaster. You said do your research and actually talk to people. You talk to a lot of people who are just getting started buying green coffee here in our offices in beautiful downtown Providence, Rhode Island. And when you talk to them, what's the piece of information that they tend to be missing most often?

 

Ethan: [00:06:31] Hmm. Yeah. I'm not sure.

 

Charley: [00:06:33] You want to think about it, and I can answer the first question?

 

Ethan: [00:06:38] Yeah.

 

Charley: [00:06:38] The first question I'd probably ask somebody that was thinking about opening up a coffee roaster is why? And if the answer is, "I love coffee," that's not a good answer. Having your own business is a thankless task that's going to take 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And you might not love coffee if you stick around in it too long. It's like saying you're going to open a restaurant because you like to eat, right? Having something that you want to say or do with the coffee is important, more than just "I love it." And I've taken many calls from people that are getting the first bits of information: pricing, sort of how logistics works, and usually they say, "My name is, insert name here. I'm an insert profession engineer, whatever work in the office, and I love coffee." And that, I don't think, is a good reason to start.

 

Mike: [00:07:45] There are other ways. Love for coffee. There are other outlets besides roasting.

 

Charley: [00:07:52] And if you turn your passion into a full-time job, it might not be your passion anymore.

 

Mike: [00:07:56] Yeah.

 

Ethan: [00:07:57] Yeah. The realities of running a business are very, very different than how it all appears on the outside.

 

Mike: [00:08:06] So back to the piece of information. We'll get back to me. I woke up this morning. I wanted to be a coffee roaster. What are the questions you're going to ask me when I get on the phone with you?

 

Ethan: [00:08:20] I mean, sometimes the way this question runs is "Do you have equipment in place?" Do you have everything ready that you need? I would love to talk to more people who are at the very, very early stages of things in trying to put together a business plan. I think that those conversations can be really productive, but the conversation that you tend to have when someone is missing a piece of information or is missing a piece of their entire plan makes the conversation a lot harder because there ends up being something like a time frame that they need that isn't realistic or a product that they've decided that they need to have. Like, say, for example, they're only going to serve organic coffee. And that's something that is easy to drop on paper, but then organic coffee is always going to cost more. You got to pay for that.

 

Charley: [00:09:16] Less availability.

 

Ethan: [00:09:18] Right. And certain origins, you're not going to get organic coffee, like, or it's going to be a lot, lot harder to source from. So that organic Brazil that you wanted for your espresso blend is either going to cost you a lot more than you thought, compared to other Brazils, or just straight up not going to be available at certain times of the year of certain people, whoever. So having sort of like I was saying before, having a plan in place, and making sure that those things are, you know, asking those questions well ahead of time before. And I mean, it's human nature, right? We all forget to do things then it's sometimes the only way to learn is to really jump in and adapt.

 

Charley: [00:10:03] You don't know what you don't know until you find out you don't know it.

 

Ethan: [00:10:07] Exactly. And I mean, I think, some of those conversations that you have with folks when they're calling up for the first time trying to figure this stuff out, and they're very clearly in the early stages, as long as someone's willing to be flexible, they can be really great conversations. Right? Because your suppliers, other roasters, and people that you need to collaborate with in order to run a business, are going to be more than willing to help you find the best possible fit and sort of guide you through these sorts of things. If you're rigid about some sort of specific thing, I mean, it can be good to be rigid about an ideal. If you want to serve, you have a certain kind of coffee that you want to serve. I'm only going to do super high-scoring coffees. Cool. But then the flexibility comes in like you got to be able to adapt to your business model and figure out how to sell that coffee to people in a way that makes sense and is not just you losing money because nobody wants to pay $10 per cup of coffee for the thing you've set up.

 

Mike: [00:11:12] Every day.

 

Ethan: [00:11:12] Yeah. Something like that. Yeah.

 

Mike: [00:11:14] We've all talked to people who have vision. Vision is great. You need to be flexible on how you're going to get there. Charley, so let's say I was talking to you about this thing I want to do, start a roasting business, and you asked me why and I gave you a great answer. I'm not only passionate about coffee, but I'm fascinated. I have friends who are in coffee. I can't get enough learning about it. And I'm just feeling like I need to actually get my hands on the coffee and actually make that magic happen. Turn green coffee to brown coffee. And let's say I've satisfied you with my answer why? Or at least you're willing to keep talking to me. What are some of the next questions you want to ask?

 

Charley: [00:11:58] I mean, from where I've had the conversation with people is usually people calling, talking directly about green coffee, and getting their first order in. And in that context, the next question is always, when are you going to start roasting? How far away are you? I have heard many stories and talked to people as they've gone through this process where they say, "Oh, the roaster will be here in three months," and six months later, it's still not there, especially in this day and age with all the logistics delays. And so some people would actually have bought coffee and then it sits in their warehouse for two, three, four months, which, you know, coffee, the flavor fades as it gets older.

 

Mike: [00:12:45] And it costs.

 

Charley: [00:12:46] And now you've basically turned your money into coffee and it's just sitting there and not making you money. So that's usually the next one because depending on where they are in the stage of development, as Ethan said, if you catch them at certain times, there are different conversations that you can have. From the phone conversations I had, that's usually the first one. And then if they're ready to roast, then it's business as usual samples, see what they like, see what they're trying to do, try to recommend the coffees that are going to work for them. And if they're not ready to, it's sort of like, I know you're excited to get samples, but the worst thing you could do is get samples, roast it, and fall in love. And then three months later you come back to buy it and it's gone.

 

Mike: [00:13:33] It's gone. Yeah. I've talked to people who don't think about storing their green coffee, especially when they're starting out in a garage and they end up storing the coffee next to the gasoline and the lawnmower and the storage, especially if you're buying full bags of coffee. Storage becomes an issue very quickly.

 

Ethan: [00:13:53] Yeah, I mean, the unglamorous logistics and the associated issues are the kind of the key thing to know when you get first started and that's a lot of the conversations that you end up having with people who are just starting out that can be less than fun to have when maybe that is their plan. They're roasting out of their garage, say, and then delivering full bags of coffee, even if you actually have an outlet and you're ready to buy that much coffee, which is like, great. What it takes to get things to a residence is different than a business. And there are a lot of unexpected cost conversations that you end up having with folks. And some of it I mean, I don't want to say it's stuff that, yes, you could research but is always going to come up. So being ready for those unexpected delays and costs, that's kind of just part of the experience, part of the joy of opening a small business. It's the same for cafes, it's the same for restaurants, and it's the same really for any business. I think coffee can have this kind of quality to it where you can do something like spend ten or 15 grand on a roaster, as you like to say, Mike, you can sell your car...

 

Mike: [00:15:21] And buy a coffee roaster.

 

Ethan: [00:15:24] Yeah. So it's a thing that even if you're not fabulously wealthy, you can sort of put together the money to get the equipment, professional-level equipment that is like actually the right size. And you can put out a lot of coffee on, you know, five, ten kilo roaster. And if you're putting in eight hour days on something like that, you're going to be able to put out a lot of coffee. So but then the other part of that is that there's generally you want to have the infrastructure around that roaster to support it. Whether it's a maybe you really don't actually want to run your business out of your garage. You got to be a specific kind of person to make that work. For example, if you have really bad winters like we do here in Providence, you might need that garage for your car or you live in a place where you can't sell your car...

 

Charley: [00:16:21] At a certain point, you're going to have to get permits and all of the inspections done to become a proper business and that might not fly or the cost to install a three basin sink or whatever might be involved.

 

Ethan: [00:16:34] Like what is the difference between... I mean, we see folks come in with whom we even have to have conversations about like the difference between an LLC and a sole proprietor. Sort of knowing how are you going to file your taxes.

 

Mike: [00:16:46] Yeah.

 

Ethan: [00:16:46] And what your plan is for that. Because when it comes to the level of doing business-to-business transactions, you want to have all your stuff in order. Because we, we run into plenty of folks who are not, maybe they do have the equipment in place, but they don't actually have a registered business. And there are various different ways of dealing with that. But ultimately, if you're going to be selling stuff to people, you want to have a registered business.

 

Mike: [00:17:13] Yeah, you brought up a good point earlier. No matter how much research you've done, you may not have come across the fact that it's going to cost you an extra $40 if a small truck has to be used to get to your house. Or if you need a lift gate, that's another 40 bucks. Or if you need delivery inside, there are all these things that, despite as much research as you do, you may not have come across those things. So you end up talking to us and we tell you that.

 

Charley: [00:17:37] And I mean everything along those lines, you should do your best, do your research, make a budget, and then add 10 to 20% on top of it in both time and money.

 

Ethan: [00:17:48] Expect all of those things to go up. I mean, especially these days. I've been at Olam for two and a half years now, I guess, and the price on all of those extra costs beyond just the price of the coffee going up because of everything that's gone on in the last couple of years. It seems extremely unlikely at this point that any of the logistics or incidental costs are going to go down. Once they raise prices on those things the logistics, the shipping companies, those sorts of things, the ocean freight, all these things like it's I mean, those things are they might come down from some of the astronomically high levels they've hit in certain points, but they're not going to return. There's no going back on that sort of stuff.

 

Mike: [00:18:32] Right.

 

Charley: [00:18:32] Yeah. And one thing on the logistics part, in addition to the additional fees, whether it's a liftgate or residential, it's also trying to find that balance between how much coffee you think you're going to roast, but also putting more than just one or two bags on a pallet because pallets cost you whether you put one bag on it and you can fit up to ten some bags, maybe 11, maybe 12 on a pallet. And the additional poundage that you can put on there is going to decrease the cost. So say a pallet you can fit 1300 pounds on and if that costs you $130 to ship $0.10 a pound, but if you put one bag on there, that's now $13 a pound or $10 a pound, right?

 

Ethan: [00:19:22] And there are a lot of companies out there that do broken bag business. But you're always going to be paying a little bit extra for smaller units that can ship via FedEx and go straight to your house and stuff like that. So some of them even offer free shipping and all that sort of stuff. You're always paying for that somewhere along the line. But we get a lot of folks on this start-up end of things who come in and are accustomed to these smaller units and then they see our prices and they're like, "Well, that sounds great. I can get that much coffee." And then they end up in your position, right, Charlie, where you're talking about of like the cost of shipping is like $500. Honestly, that's what it would be at this point, right? If you're shipping into the middle of the country from the coast and you need to deliver to a residence and you need a liftgate and all these sorts of things that would require shipping to a house, then that's what you're going to end up with. It's about 500, if not more honestly, for one pallet. So you just added a third or half as much 50% to your overall cost for that coffee. Sometimes that still works. But then it can be as simple as just figuring out how to pay for the two more bags, so if you're doing four bags instead of two on that pallet, all those incidental costs and the cost of the pallet are going to be the same. And that's exactly what you're talking about. Then it starts to make sense to start to ramp up that volume a little bit and get your better pricing that you get from buying bigger volumes.

 

Charley: [00:20:49] It's hard to forecast at the beginning because you have no historical data on which to base it. I mean, these are just things where you have to keep in mind, maybe it's just for the first order or two that the costs are going to be inflated. But you hit your business plan. You've set up a budget and a target cost model that's going to work. But the first few ones will be different just because of that balance between not having the space, not wanting to buy too much. And that's where I know new roasters always want to try to have a lot of variety or they fall in love with different coffees, but really trying to pick maybe two or three and then get as much versatility out of those three that you can. So each three of them can stand as single origins on their own. You can do blends, a light roast, dark roast, and really try to play with that, keep the bag numbers limited so then you can increase the volume.

 

Mike: [00:21:49] Speaking of blends, I think that's a good topic for new roasters. So often new roasters are sort of afraid of blending and are just doing single origins. Sometimes it's a philosophical position thinking that this idea that single origins are better than blends and the blends are reserved for the sort of old commercial idea that blends were bad coffee's trying to be better. I'm not necessarily the case, but I think that blends are a good idea right out of the gate.

 

Charley: [00:22:19] Absolutely.

 

Ethan: [00:22:19] Yeah, for exactly that reason. I mean, you can have three coffees. You know, you can bring in three specific coffees and end up with, what, six, seven?

 

Charley: [00:22:29] Well, you could do light, dark roast of each origin, then blend them together. I mean, you could maybe get 10 to 12 different SKUs with different roast profiles and different characteristics, different quantities, and percentages of each of those origins in the blend.

 

Mike: [00:22:42] Yeah. And if you look at any medium to large-sized specialty roaster, their best-selling SKU is always going to be a blend.

 

Ethan: [00:22:48] Yeah. And it's a misconception too that even some of the very high end, you know, very well-known coffee roasters, all the big names that you ever heard of, are they buying separate coffees for some of their blends? Sure. Probably depends on what their volume really is. But even those coffees, even those coffee roasters are doing that. They're saying, "Okay, we have this sort of stuff on hand. We have all these really amazing, very differentiated, really nice single-origin coffees on hand. But we have enough of this one. We need a seasonal blend." So they're going to take those coffees and blend and try to find a blend because sometimes having a farmer's name on the coffee is not what someone's looking for necessarily when they're going to buy it. They want to know that the coffee is sourced ethically or has sort of XYZ qualities that they're looking for from that kind of thing. But I mean, it can even be as simple as someone being afraid to say it to the barista to ask for it. And that's just the reality of it. So giving people options and finding different ways to connect with people where they're at is always a good idea. And that's one of the big advantages of blending is that you can try to connect with your customers in a way that maybe doesn't require extensive coffee knowledge to know why.

 

Mike: [00:24:20] A blend can become part of your brand. Single-origin can't really. People aren't going to be out there saying, "Oh yeah, I go to this roaster for their Kenya," but they may be saying, "I go to this roaster for their XYZ blend. It's my favorite coffee."

 

Charley: [00:24:32] Yeah. And you've got to ask yourself, who is your target customer? Is it somebody when they walk in they ask "What's new?" And they're always looking for a new experience? And that's usually going to be a minority of the customer base that buys a product, whether it's cheese, wine, tea, or coffee. The majority of people want consistency. And so if you're buying coffees, single-origins, you know, unicorns, so to speak, that are one and done and you're just constantly rotating, well, then you're not going to be able to capture those people. And think about who is the target coffee drinker and what is their attitude? It's early in the morning. They're tired. They don't want to be messed with. They don't want to be surprised. They want something warm that's going to help them start their day. And so that's where a blend can come in. That gives you flexibility throughout the year where that's really the craft that comes into roasting is taking components, mixing them together, and getting a consistent target profile out each time. And yeah, a blend is able to do that.

 

Mike: [00:25:42] As long as your blend is focused on a flavor profile, not necessarily specific components. We want them to have the same flavor experience. We should be able to do that with a few different components.

 

Charley: [00:25:55] Coffee is an agricultural product. It changes year to year, just like wine does. And you've got to take that. And then either tweak the rows, tweak the percentages, or maybe add another component. Don't limit yourself by saying, "I'm only going to use these three origins." Just say "I'm going to have a consistent flavor profile."

 

Mike: [00:26:15] So one of the questions that come to my mind a lot when I'm speaking to people who are sort of aspirational about being a roaster is when they're buying their roaster. And I know we don't want to necessarily get into a lot of that. Buying a coffee roaster is probably a separate episode. But one of the barriers to entry, in a way, to coffee roasting is the idea of sample roasting. So it's possible to buy a roaster that you can't sample roast on. But then at the same time, if you get a coffee roaster that works as a sample roaster as well, it doesn't take you very far down the line as a production roaster. So any comments or it might just put out a problem that is hard to solve?

 

Charley: [00:27:02] It's a tough one. I mean, you're seeing more options like we're you know, there have been new machines that have come out that have a cheaper price point, whereas before it was like buying a sample roaster is going to be almost as much as the production roaster, like a 12 kilo. But now with IKAWA and other ones, they're more affordable. But it's still not a cheap option.

 

Mike: [00:27:25] I think that it's almost worth going in with a production-sized roaster and then doing something sort of guerilla roasting with your sample, even if that's popcorn popper or whatever, some way of getting the samples done. And then with the production roaster that will get you further down the line in terms of your business, I.

 

Charley: [00:27:46] Mean, you got to do what you can with what you have and some sort of an evaluation is better than nothing. Absolutely. And as long as you do the same thing every time, and you're consistent in how you evaluate it, and the only thing changing is the coffee. Well, then that's better than taking a shot in the dark.

 

Mike: [00:28:03] Yeah.

 

Ethan: [00:28:03] Yeah. I mean, that's the whole point of sample roasting is trying to compare like with like in terms of what you're doing to the coffee. So as long as you can pull that off in some way. The advantage that the things that sample roasting opens up for you, in terms of being able to decide between two lots and sort of make the call that you want to make, you can trust the person who's selling you the coffee to the end of the earth, but ultimately, especially if you're the higher up you go in terms of the quality levels we're talking about it's irreplaceable. So just finding some way to do it.

 

Mike: [00:28:50] I suppose there's a case to be made in the very early days, relying on your suppliers' cupping notes to get you through the very beginning stages.

 

Charley: [00:29:00] Yep. Or try to find if someone's local like maybe there's cupping the suppliers will do. But yeah, cupping notes. And then also if you're just starting out and I mean you haven't really roasted before taking the same coffee and running it through your roaster, granted, this will have a cost with it because you're going to be using the coffee and it might not be the product that you want to sell, but taking that same coffee and doing different roast profiles. So some shorter, some longer, like different roast levels, but also how you get there and then tasting each one of those. I think that's key to learning. And you might not want to sell all of those roasts, but the knowledge that you're going to gain by how to tweak roasting and actually tweak the end product, even when it's the exact same coffee that's going into the roaster, that I feel is the sort of art side of coffee roasting. You can look at the science, you can look at profiles, and there are a million data points that you can take. But the real thing that makes it a craft is you putting all of that together and then making a decision about how long it stays in there to what temperature it goes to.

 

Mike: [00:30:14] Yeah, that sort of brings us to the topic of cupping. I'm surprised at how often, especially in recent years, I meet roasters who aren't cupping coffee. Thoughts on the necessity of cupping.

 

Charley: [00:30:30] How do you know what's going in the bag if you don't taste it? Like you should do it the same as we've talked about. You should do everything the same, whether it's the ratio to water, the temperature, I mean, even the same. Say if you're using a kettle or something, use the same kettle every time. Try to keep all the variables the same except for the coffee. And then every roast you do, you should pull a cup out and cup it and taste it.

 

Ethan: [00:30:55] And take notes. Yeah, keeping track of that, I mean, it's really easy to say, oh yeah, these, this taste different than last time. But if you do not sort of chart the differences along the way. I mean, sort of picking up on what you were saying before, Charley,  you see in a lot of these sort of new roasting technology, there's a big move towards automation, right? And this goes along with everything. There's all the technology that's available to us, and you see a lot of stuff in sort of new roaster literature about being able to swap profiles and send profiles to different things and replicate this on that and the other thing and even assuming that those that that's going to work perfectly, which, you know, may or may not. I'm not an expert on this stuff. So I couldn't really say how well those things are going to work. But even then, relying on a provided roast curve or some other sort of outside information or the machine to do the work for you. It's never going to replace cupping.

 

Charley: [00:32:01] Once again, going back to the customer. That is how they're consuming your product. So, I mean, if you want to keep it, it's just like an accounting system. You just keep it as simple as possible. So pulling out and tasting every production roast, putting it right next to each other, and then you can even taste it how your customer does. If that's with milk and sugar, put some in it. Put yourself in their shoes. Once again, trying to have a consistent product. Unless your goal is to go after customers that are every single time looking for a new experience. That's great. Well, then that would involve a different QC process, but I think the vast majority of consumers are looking for consistency.

 

Ethan: [00:32:48] Yeah, I think it's become more and more evident in the specialty world that chasing the so-called coffee nerds as a business model is tough. Because those are people who don't have loyalty, which is not to say we shouldn't try to have really great coffees and sort of like preach the gospel, so to speak, of having the how good coffee can be and interesting and new flavor profiles and all that sort of stuff. That's great, and that's where I'm coming from. That's why I'm here. I love that stuff. But if those are the folks you're going after, I mean, those are also the folks who are going to try every coffee shop in town. And they're not necessarily going to come by coffee from you every single day.  You kind of have to be able to capture a broad selection of folks, which goes back to blending. It's a classic thing of a certain mindset to never try the coffee that you roast with milk or sugar in it and see how it is and a lot of say my friends who are not coffee people really want to drink fancy coffee. They really like it, but they're going to put milk in. Sometimes that's not going to work. And if you decide this coffee is just like you're going to roast it in a way where it doesn't go super great with milk, that's cool. But making that decision consciously.

 

Mike: [00:34:19] Yeah. I'm a big fan of deciding where you want to play, as long as you decide where you want to play. If it's not just default or you just accidentally found yourself in that arena.

 

Charley: [00:34:29] And like you said, being flexible. So you might have an idea where you want to start when you begin, but inevitably being flexible and maybe finding that that point that is your sweet spot within the local community is something that will appear once you get out there and start actually doing business.

 

Mike: [00:34:52] So you've got me still on the phone, the newbie wannabe coffee roaster. What's some other advice that you want to give me before you hang up?

 

Charley: [00:35:03] Are you going to begin roasting within the next two months or not?

 

Mike: [00:35:06] Let's say I've got my roaster.

 

Charley: [00:35:12] And it's plumbed in and turned on?

 

Mike: [00:35:15] Yeah, well, I haven't started a fire.

 

Charley: [00:35:17] And have you seasoned your rooster?

 

Mike: [00:35:21] Well, let's just say yes, because that's a whole. Now we have to talk about...

 

Charley: [00:35:26] You said it's another episode.

 

Mike: [00:35:28] Yeah. Let's say I bought a used from someone who seasoned it before they sold it.

 

Charley: [00:35:33] Good workaround. I like that.

 

Mike: [00:35:36] {laughter} So what advice would you like to give me before we hang up or did we cover it all?

 

Charley: [00:35:42] Have fun.

 

Mike: [00:35:42] That's actually good advice.

 

Charley: [00:35:44] Don't forget to have fun.

 

Mike: [00:35:45] I mean, you picked coffee.

 

Charley: [00:35:48] I mean, we're kind of a fun group as a business.

 

Mike: [00:35:51] Exactly. So, Ethan, Charley, thank you so much for spending time with me to talk about the advice that you might give to someone who wants to be a coffee roaster. I think it was great.

 

Charley: [00:36:02] Thanks, Mike.

 

Ethan: [00:36:03] Thanks, Mike.

 

Mike: [00:36:12] You've been listening to The Exchange, coming to you from our coffee podcast studio in beautiful downtown Providence, Rhode Island. The Exchange is produced and edited by me, Mike Ferguson. Our opening theme was A Cup of Coffee and A Piece of Pie by the Ribeye Brothers. Our closing theme is Coffee Morning by Olga Scotland. All music is used under Creative Commons. You can now reach us using electronic mail at CoffeeThe Exchange@gmail.com. And now your postscript. He goes, "And your name?" And I said, "Oh, it's Mike," I said, "But most people call me Charley." {laughter}

 

Charley: [00:36:50] And that was the day everyone was at the office, too, so everybody was just losing it.

 

Mike: [00:36:53] Yeah, it's dangerous when I have a captive audience.

 

 

1 month ago
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