Buying Good Commercial Grade Coffees For A Coffee Roasting Plant#coffee#coffeeroasting#businessadvice#tipsforsuccess#
You pick the green coffee according to the grade you want. You receive samples of the lot you want to purchase, you roast up the beans in a small lab roaster, you cup the coffee to make sure it has the characteristics you are looking for. You want to check for consistencies, defects, make sure there is no ferment,within your spec of moisture levels, the screen size is relatively consistent and then you approve the coffee.
Now we always bought coffee 250-300 bags at a time, by origin. So at any given time we would have thousands and thousands of pounds of say, Colombian UGQ Euro prep on the floor ready to roast. Along with 2 or 3 Central American Strictly High Grown Euro prep coffees, generally we used Costa Rican and Guatamelan. Then a Brazil 2/3 Strictly fine cup! That was our average inventory, along with a CO2 100% Colombian Decaf. It was a pretty simple business.
Well not really. As with any commodity driven manufacturing business, there are many moving parts, that takes real expertise to keep sorted out and on track. I just rattled all that mumbo jumbo, to a regular person, as if it were natural conversation. But if you aren't directly involved in the coffee roasting industry, I could just as well be speaking some alien language.
So let me explain a little bit about coffee and the grading process and how it is prepared for market to sell. For instance the line in the previous paragraph, Colombian UGQ Euro prep means this;
It is 100% Colombian coffee, it is an arabica variety. Remember there are only 2 varieties, arabica and robusta. Arabica is higher grown better quality coffee with less caffeine. The robusta coffee is usually inferior quality, grown lower to sea level and can often have a slightly bitter flavor profile.
So Colombian UGQ simply means, Usual Good Quality! It is a level of coffee that is acceptable, in my quality control process to roast, and is better than some other arabica varietals from Colombia. Euro Prep is a process where the beans are sorted a little more precisely so there are fewer imperfection in every bag. I am over simplifying this but for the average person, it is more than enough information. It is an indication that the coffee should be a more consistent quality throughout the 250 bag lot!
Strictly High Grown is another grading process meaning that none of the beans come from lower altitudes, which again, changes the flavor profile by region and generally indicates the best quality from a particular region and country of origin. There are other less desirable gradings that many of , let's say the giant company's use. Why? because they are cheaper, it is usually ground into a blend so you can't see the inconsistency in the beans and first and foremost, it keeps the overall cost of the blend down!!
There are "high grown" which is a more general term, and thus less money etc.. These coffees can be good, and vary from region to region and really lot to lot. So if you are running a relatively large facility, which I was, the most important thing was to maintain consistency without sacrificing quality, BUT, you want to do this at the lowest possible cost for obvious reasons.
It really is a fine line! I always, always went for quality over price, but there are times even the larger company's can capitalize on cost savings without changing the flavor profile one bit. That is where the art comes in! You have to be very good at identifying the balance and cost to value ratio's. All of this relates to blends of coffee with 2 or more different countries of origin within the blends.
Now, for straight single origin coffees, that's a whole different animal. You have to be very selective in what you pick, let's just say you can kind of fudge a blend, but there is no cutting corners when it comes to single origin. Why do you think the big company's don't really offer a Costa Rican Tarrazu, or a Kenya AA? Because they will be exposed!! You can't cut corners. This is why there is a market for all of you micro-roasters out there!
In my next post, I am going to discuss the small boutique roasting operation and give you some ideas that are "out of the box", to grow your business significantly within your niche! I hope you found this post informative and I appreciate all the comments and growing number of people engaging in this blog! As always, if there is any way I can be of assistance to you, please don't hesitate to contact me. I will help you with any aspect of your business you need assistance with. Thanks again, Joe Leary
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