A Cost Analysis
I started home roasting with a popcorn machine 6 years ago. I was more curious than anything if I would enjoy home roasting because it seemed buying a roaster would pay off after a few years. So I bought a variety kit and got to work. Turns out, I could save a lot of money given the right roast, but the downside is that I drink more coffee because it is cheaper and better. As a result, it probably costs the same, but I have more control over quality by home roasting.
To start, I tried the popcorn maker, but it was very slow. I also tried the oven, but it was too smoky inside. I panicked quite a bit when my house filled with smoke, and all the smoke alarms were going off.
When I moved to California, a coworker had just upgraded to a larger roaster and gave me his old roaster for free. It was a Hottop, one model older than the newest. The display was having some issues, and it finally broke after two years. However, I had developed my roast profile in the first year of use. Because I use the same profile every time, I can still navigate to the right spot.
Economy of the Bean
The past two years, I’ve been tracking my roasts in more detail, but with email, I was able to go back and look at all the green coffee I’ve bought over the past few years to put together costs per pound.
Here is a sample of my table for my roasts. I have recorded the cupping metrics found on Sweet Maria’s website where I bought most of my green beans.
I adjusted the cost per pound based on shipping and an estimated 12% weight loss due roasting. Typically, a medium roast loses 12 to 20% of weight due to water evaporation. On average, I paid $8.42/lbs after shipping and roasting. I didn’t include the electricity because it’s 20 minutes at 1000 watts, paying $0.1 per kilowatt-hour. I plotted the histogram of all the beans I’ve bought, and some times I splurge, but mostly I’m between $7 and $8. This histogram is the final cost per pound.
Typically, coffee is sold as 12 oz bags, and when you cost adjust to 16 oz bags, the price is between $20 and $30 for the same quality of beans that I’m getting.
When looking at quality, the cost roughly aligns with the Q-score which is good because cost should be related to the quality of the bean not just how someone wants the bean to be.
I looked further at the average Q-score for my blends as well as their cost. This Q-score was an average of the Q-scores of the beans going into the blend based on their weight contribution to the blend. There seems to be a decent correlation between the cost and the Q-score for my blends.
Economics of Roasting Equipment
With such a low cost for roasted beans, the pay-off for buying a roaster can happen pretty quick. Based on this cost and the difference with $20/lbs, I looked at a variety of machines to determine when the breakeven point is reached.
I used this information to generate this table below based on how many shots of espresso you drink daily (assuming 14g shots or a standard double espresso). This is based in months because most of the equipment home roasters would buy will pay themselves off in a year or two. I included the more expensive roasters for comparison.
Home roasting isn’t for everyone because it requires more attention to detail and an appreciation to experiment a little bit to be successful. However, home roasting has given me more control and consistency that I wouldn’t have otherwise as well as a better appreciation for coffees from around the world. I’ve become more experimental in what I have tried and the blends I make.
My favorite happy mistake was accidentally taking a roast to the second crack. I typically go 1 minute to 1:30 minutes past the first crack. The trouble with this one is that it was half of a blend. I decided to keep it and try it with the medium roast. It was very interesting mixed and created some pretty images when layered.
Further readings of mine: