Roaster Shopping

Hey BH,
Long time reader first time inquisitor.

I’m currently in the process of shopping for a roaster to start a small roastery in Texas. Now there are a plethora of great ‘Name-brand’ (Diedrich, San Franciscan, Probat) machines out there and ideally I would love to purchase a brand new roaster but the price tag alone is too much. So I’m kinda starting to learn towards used roasters.

I have a few questions and am welcome to any other words of wisdom as my roasting journey really begins…

  1. Is there a specific website, other than Craig’s List, where cafes are selling their old roasters for whatever reason other than being broken?

  2. Is it ok to get a roaster that doesn’t really have a reputation to back it up?

  3. Is it worth calling roasters just to see if they are even thinking about selling their roaster just to get my name ‘at the top of the list’?

There are several other questions but these are the most pertinent.

I’ve talked to many of the big roasting companies and they all tell me that it’s a common question to ask if they sell used roasters, but they also all say that it’s an extremely competitive market. I love that fact that this website itself is a place where people form all walks of coffee can come together and help each other out in order to grow, educate, and ultimately make the world a better place through coffee.


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hit up @greenwaybarista on twitter! he was selling a 10kilo ambex and they take impeccable care of their gear.

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Hey Ryan,
I’ve worked on 250+ roasters and would offer you the following:

  1. Not really. And please note that used machines are generally no cheaper than new machines (they usually don’t depreciate)
  2. yes. but beware, there are some terrible machines out there.
  3. probably a waste of time, and you wouldn’t be getting a machine on your terms if you’re solicitng.

My recommendation is that you post the following:

  1. what size machine do you want (please assume you won’t roast more than 65% of a machine’s capacity per batch)
  2. what’s your budget?
  3. what do you care about? automation? user friendliness? reliability? nothing but coffee quality? of course you care about most or all of those, but what is your top priority?

Scott Rao

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First thing I’d recommend is to contact US Roasters… Dan and crew design and build some of the finest drum roasters anywhere. They also run a separate business out of the same facility (I’ve been there, its an amazing place, and the folks are wonderful to deal with) where they deal in used and refurbished roasters and other coffee production equipment, The name of that business is Roasters Exchange. Enter either name in your search bar to find them.

As to your next question… there are HUGE differences in quality and longevity amongst roaster brands. Many of the low priced ones are low priced for a reason… often, finding parts when they do break (which ALL will do, eventually) is near impossible… bearings made to makers’ spec and ONLY used by that make are common… and a common problem, Older Probats are famous for that… insane cost, waiting to get it from Germany… in contrast, Dan (US Roasters) uses off the shelf parts commonly available widely as much as possible. Bearing,s motors, gear reduction boxes, etc, buy them from him, Grainger, sometimes your local auto parts store… he did that deliberately.

My recommendation, wait, spend the money and get a GOOD quality roaater… one your grandchildren can try and wear out because you never will live long enough to.

Look into financing options… your own credit union, bank, perhaps a leasing company. Some of the roaster manufacturers have connections, or recommended firms that work with them. That means you’l need to put together a business plan, but you should do that anyway.

there are some viable options in the low cost’/high quality category for smaller roasters, and these types do come up used on occasion. Craigslist and eBay have led me to some real bargains… some I’ve bought just to rehab and resell.

You give no indication of your projected output volume. Are you looking at maybe fifty lbs per day, or five hundred? Hand controlled manual operation, or programmable? Again, many options are out there, but its hard to hit a “target” I can’t seel More information from your end might help adijust “point of aim”.

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Just to chime in on this, specifically, we are totally satisfied with our URSC roaster.

I wish I’d known how flexible the company is with design (for example, I saw one with the controls on the other side of the machine after ordering ours… We did part of our roast-space layout based on control positions!)

They have made some meaningful changes in the last few years, regarding fans, burners, drum design, and motors/servos. Ours predates a lot of that, but it rocks. We generally run 2.5-3.5kg batches in a 5kg roaster (I have a preference for what I’m tasting in roasts that have more air) but we’re comfortable up to 4kg.

I think we’re at the point where people are getting undeniable results out of some of the Chinese roasters, and surely all of the boutique roasters out there. I know people KILLING it on Ambex. As long as you feel you can get parts locally, you’re going to be fine.

Fwiw, we spent 6 months looking for a used 5kg and it simply never came up. In the last year, I’ve seen 2. You see 2-3kg a lot and 12kg a lot. I didn’t think we’d be able to run a 12kg machine–like, I thought we’d have to roast more than we could use. I was mistaken. One day we’ll outgrow our little machine.