Is it Cheaper to Roast Your Own Coffee Beans? Let’s Compare

green and roasted coffee

There are few things as satisfying in this world as a good cup of coffee. The smell as it brews, the silky flavors that spill over your tastebuds, and the perfect roast. A great cup of coffee does not always come cheap though. Is it cheaper to roast your own coffee beans? 

Roasting your own coffee beans can be much cheaper than purchasing commercially roasted coffee beans, although you will need to account for purchasing any equipment. One pound of commercial beans can run anywhere from $12-$24. If you roast coffee beans on your own, one pound runs around $3-$8. 

Indulging in expensive coffee every now and then can be a real treat, but this does not mean that you always want to pay the highest price for a fresh cup of coffee. If you are wanting to save a bit when it comes to your morning brew, but don’t want to sacrifice quality or flavor, roasting your own coffee beans might be for you. Continue reading to discover what plays into the cost of commercial coffee and how roasting at home can be much cheaper.  

What are the Costs of Roasting Your Own Coffee Beans? 

Later on, we will take a look at the factors that play into the overall cost of commercial coffee beans, as that will explain why it is so much cheaper to roast your own. Before we look at that though, let’s take a look at the areas you can save when it comes to ditching commercial coffee and roasting your own beans at home. 

This process may seem intimidating to beginners, but roasting coffee beans at home is really quite simple and can be done without the need for expensive machines. Because of this, it can be extremely economical to roast your own coffee beans. Thus, when considering the costs of roasting your own coffee beans at home, you will need to consider these:

The Price of Green Coffee Beans 

To roast your own coffee beans from home, you are going to have to find coffee beans. Sorry, this is a non-negotiable here. When it comes to buying your own coffee beans, you essentially replace the big-store buyers and buy for yourself. 

Now, the original costs are still included with beans that you buy yourself. You still have the cost for harvesting, drying, and exporting. However, this is where the cost starts and stops. You will need to find a coffee bean that you enjoy, grown in an area and atmosphere to your liking, and purchase the beans by the pound. 

If you buy a coffee bean that is a bit lower on the quality scale, it can cost anywhere from $1-$3 per pound, which is incredibly affordable. If you purchase a higher quality coffee bean, the price can range from $5-$9, which is a bit more, but is still quite the steal when compared to the cost of commercial coffee beans. 

Even more, consider the price of coffee beans when you purchase them on your own knowing how much a single pound can make. If you are drinking from a 6-ounce coffee cup, a single pound of coffee can produce up to 48 cups. Now, if you are drinking a larger amount, that cup count will be less, but it is still significantly cheaper than if you were to purchase your coffee beans from a big-name distributor. 

Roasters are Removed from the Equation 

As you will see later on, the process of roasting is the most expensive and unwavering aspect of the coffee bean industry. With roasting adding $5 – $6 dollars per pound, this is a huge number to extract when you choose to roast coffee beans on your own. By roasting coffee beans in your own home, you are able to completely remove this expense. 

Roasting, of course, entails a very specific method and science when it comes to producing mass amounts of coffee beans, but the roasting process also includes the value of those who are experienced with the process and their ability to roast well. 

Do not let this intimidate you though. Roasting coffee beans on your own may take some trial and error, but for small batches, it is easily mastered and does not take an expert to accomplish. Of course, you can also look for ways to roast your own coffee beans using equipment you already have (even an air fryer)! This can help to keep your costs lower.

Roasting coffee beans on your own is an immediate way to take out the professional roasters and put the endless possibilities of flavor into your own hand. With a bit of experimentation and plenty of taste-testing, roasting your own coffee beans is certainly cheaper than buying coffee beans from commercial coffee bean sellers. This is a sure way to save a little money with your cup of joe, but also a way to learn a new craft that will stay with you for life!

What Factors Play into the Cost of Commercial Coffee? 

Now that we know the costs of roasting our own coffee beans at home, let’s take a look at the different factors that play a key part in the pricing of commercial coffee. There are so many different working parts when it comes to the pricing of coffee, but all of them are what add up to those more expensive bags that you buy when you feel like splurging or simply want to pay a little more for ethically harvested coffee. 

Regardless, each part of coffee bean harvesting contributes to the overall price of the coffee once it is sitting on the shelf. There is no set standard when it comes to pricing, which is why you can see commercial coffee vary so much from big-names stores and local businesses. 

Whether you are purchasing from your local grocery store or from your favorite locally-owned coffee shop, the price can be high and these are the reasons why: 

Harvesting 

The very first step when it comes to getting coffee from farm to cup is harvesting. Take coffee bean harvesting in Brazil, for example. It is the single largest coffee producer in the world and it has the landscape to accommodate the growth and flourish of coffee bean harvesting without issue. 

In Brazil and other coffee bean-growing countries, the beans are grown on large mountain plantations. Yes, you heard right, plantations on mountains.  It may be surprising, but altitude is one of the biggest players when it comes to the flavor and quality of good coffee beans. 

The higher the altitude, the harder the coffee bean is going to be. When a coffee bean is hard, this means that it contains a higher amount of sugars within it which produces a richer, nuttier, and all-around smoother flavor. This is why coffee does not grow well on flat, dry plains, but flourishes within the atmosphere of mountains. 

Once the cherries (coffee beans start out as a seed within a cherry)  have reached their peak after around three to four years of growth, they are harvested. This is typically a very labor-intensive process and one that is done manually (by hand), depending on the size of the field, although large fields often harvest these beans by machine. It is a tedious process which is what helps to drive the price of quality beans up. 

Processing 

Once the cherries (where the coffee bean seed comes from) have been harvested, they are then sent to be processed. This step is one that happens at a rapid pace in order to avoid the cherries from spoiling which in turn would cause the coffee bean itself to spoil within it. 

Cherries are either processed using a dry method to help accommodate areas where water is sparse and the cherries are dried in the sun. They are turned often to prevent any rotting or wetting on either side of the cherry for several weeks. 

Then there is the wet method which removes the pulp of the cherry and leaves the bean exposed with only the parchment skin left on. This method is much more common for larger coffee producers. 

The beans are separated by water in order to determine which beans are the densest (which will fall to the bottom) and which beans are lighter (which will float at the top). The heavier the bean, the better the quality and thus, they are separated by size and weight. 

Once they have been separated, they are taken to fermentation tanks where the slick outer layer of the bean is dissolved. Once that layer is no longer present and the beans are no longer slick, they are taken and dried. 

The wet process is one that is more common as it is more conducive to mass coffee production. However, the dry method of processing is considered to be more thorough and is often considered a higher level of drying when it comes to quality. 

Drying 

Once the cherries have been processed and the coffee bean is exposed, the drying process takes place. This occurs within the same area or processing plant as the beans are not quite ready for transfer. Because of this, drying is not another area of expense, but simply an addition to processing that is lumped together when it comes to the overall price.

If processed by the wet method, the beans must dry to around 11% moisture before they are ready to be stored. They are either sun-dried, for smaller batches, or are machine dried for mass quantities. 

Milling

Once the beans have been properly dried, there is one last layer on them that must be removed. This is called the endocarp and it is the parchment layer that remains on the bean after they have been dried. 

The coffee beans are run through a machine that removes this layer and then they are taken to be graded and sorted. This means that the beans are closely looked at to find any that are flawed, that are discolored, or are not the correct weight.  

This can be done by hand or my machine, again, depending on the number of beans that are being processed. If any bean is considered to be defective, it is removed and discarded. This is the very last step that occurs within the same area as processing and drying. Once the bulk of the beans have been processed entirely, they are ready to move on to the next step of coffee processing which is exporting.  

For harvesting, processing, drying, and milling, the price can be anywhere from $1-$6 per pound but is typically more in the range of $4-$6 with higher quality coffee beans. 

Consequently, your resulting cup of coffee (when purchasing from an individual or a store that has roasted the beans for you) takes this cost into consideration leading to a higher resulting cost for you than if you were to roast your own coffee beans.

Exporting 

Exporting is the next step in processing that adds to the cost of commercial coffee beans. These beans are considered green coffee and are ready to be bagged, weighed, and shipped to distributors. 

The beans are bagged in 60-kilogram (132 pounds) bags and are transported to each particular port. This is where coffee really begins to spread throughout the world. These shipping ports are what allow coffee to be transported from harvesters to roasters.  

Exporting is a relatively cut and dry process, but it takes manpower and shipping costs to get coffee from one point to the next. Because of this, the process of exporting is a major factor in the cost of coffee, but it is not the biggest expense. Although it may seem as if shipping coffee from Brazil to the United States may cost a fortune, the biggest expense when it comes to commercial coffee is the process of roasting.  

Exporting costs, which include storage fees, shipping fees, and profits claimed by the importers cost around $.50 to $1.00 per pound. Thus, another cost is added to your cup of Joe. 

Roasting 

Roasting is the process that turns those 60-kilogram bags of green coffee into the dark, smooth, and aromatic bean that you use for your everyday brew. This step is essential to creating coffee that is edible and is also one that is very technical. 

Roasters purchase the bags and then take them and create the different roasts that you adore. Once roasters have the beans, they are taken to a machine and are roasted into different blends and different levels of roast. 

By different levels, this means that roasting is what determines if you are drinking a light, medium, or dark blend. It is also the process that creates combined blends like those of Arabica beans with Robusta. 

The process is concise and is done to achieve pyrolysis, which is the process that produces the flavors and aromas that you love. The beans are changed from green to a rich brown where the oils from within the bean have been exposed. 

Once the bean has reached the desired roast of the roaster, they are then taken and immediately cooled in order to allow time for the bean to rest and de-gas. The resting period is essential as too much gas within the bean can cause it to taste bitter and will destroy the overall complex of the bean. 

This makes the process of roasting concise, exact, and even scientific. This is why roasting plays such a huge role in the overall price of commercial coffee beans.

Roasting is the last and final step before distribution to consumers takes place. After the coffee beans have been properly degassed they are bagged, labeled, and shipped off for the consumer to purchase. 

When it comes to how roasting affects the overall cost, this is the most consistent price per pound. For one pound of coffee, roasting typically ranges from $5 – $6 per pound. For the consumer, this means that this cost is taken into account with how much you will pay per cup of coffee as opposed to how much you would pay if this cost were not part of the equation (and you were roasting the beans yourself).

Profit Margins

If a bag, after harvesting, exporting, and roasting comes to a total cost of $7-$12, retailers can drive the price up anywhere from $10 – $22 depending on the quality of the coffee beans as well as the demand. This profit margin is one of the biggest reasons to roast from home in order to save money when it comes to your daily cup of joe. By roasting at home, you take out the retailer middleman and essentially become your own barista.

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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