The size of your coffee roaster isn’t just a question of how much coffee you can roast in one batch. It’s a determining factor for how you hire roasting talent, what sales channels you can enter, and how you set up your roasting facility.
Finding the right‑sized commercial coffee roaster is a balancing act that every business must get right before committing to a high‑priced piece of gear. In this article, we will take a more detailed look at the pros and cons of common roaster sizes including:
Sizes that come with necessary add‑ons
The safest option for an expanding business
The ideal machine for those roasting in a current cafe or wholesale space
Should you make the cautionary undertaking of a smaller option, or plan for potential growth with something much bigger? Let’s dive in.
Coffee Roaster Size: A Multi‑Sided Puzzle
How do you evaluate the ideal size of a purpose‑built machine and its effects on your company and beans? Whether you are taking your initial venture into the roasting sector or exploring upgrading the machine you already own, we’ve broken down the most important parts of what to look for.
Efficiency and Output ‑ How much coffee do you need to be able to roast in a day or week to match your output goals? Are you roasting for your own cafe, a few breakfast spots in the area, or the entire west coast of the United States? It’s also important to note how much time you will need to wait between batches and how much automation you want to use—more automation means more output per labor hour because staff are freed up to do other tasks, like bagging or sales.
Facility and Needs ‑ Larger roasters need lots of space to work in. While enough floor space is an obvious requirement, there are a number of other buildout features to be aware of. Any gas roaster with a ~5+ lb capacity will require serious thinking around ventilation, gas connections, afterburners, green bean storage space, and building permits, to name a few. You might even need to construct a chimney depending on the machine!
The Learning Curve ‑ Every roasting machine will take time for a team to adjust to. Older, more low‑tech builds can take much longer to learn but with plenty of benefits, yet the industry is seeing a new generation of smart tech machines debuting on the market. And the faster you master the roaster, the closer you get to producing great coffee and selling it in droves (or grams or kilos!).
Growth Goals ‑ Do you stay small and play it safe, or make the jump, assume exponential growth in the future, and buy big? Or do you meet somewhere in the middle for your needs?
Historically, this was easier to think through. If you wanted to roast and sell more coffee, you bought a larger commercial roaster (and upgrading your facility was just part of the gig). Today, however, new‑era roasting technology is enabling coffee companies to roasters on smaller equipment, but with automation, at a lower investment.
For example, the Bellwether Roaster
is technically on the smaller side for roasters at a 3 kg capacity (~6 lb per batch). However, since the roaster’s closed loop system can follow a roast recipe consistently on its own—without someone needing to stand there and monitor/control the roast—roasting staff and baristas can instead focus on bagging or selling coffee while the coffee roasts. This results in higher labor efficiency and a coffee output rate that rivals a larger 6 kg machine.
Commercial Coffee Roaster Sizes: An Overview of Options
Let's take a closer look at each of the roaster machine sizes to consider and what and who they are best suited for.
Capacity: 50 ‑ 500 grams
The smallest of the roasting options, the sample roaster is usually preferred by home enthusiasts developing their own bean selections to brew and commercial companies developing new coffee roast profiles in a smaller batch that produces less waste during the initial trial‑and‑error phase.
The usual 50‑500 grams capacity is helpful for professional roasters to experiment with recipes and test out blends before putting them through a larger machine. It is in no way a piece of equipment to be roasting bags and bags of single origins on.
Small Batch Roaster
Capacity: 1‑3 kg (2‑6 lb)
This machine range is traditionally perfect for coffee shops looking to roast for their own brew bars or other small roastery ventures. Roasting at capacity can produce around 20‑30 kg (40‑50 lb) of beans over a 8‑9 hour work day, depending how long it takes the coffee to cool between cycles.
Like most high‑powered equipment, there is always room to learn and adapt. Small batch machines give those at the helm experience with more cycles than larger builds but this can also lead to more inconsistencies across roast profiles.
Many cafes begin their in‑house roasting journey at this range, but it is important to consider all the other costs that come into play, such as ventilation, proper training, and permitted environmental adjustments to the building.
The Bellwether machine is the best choice around this range (and above)
as it plugs straight into the wall and provides delicious coffee from day one, with no need for special venting or permits. And thanks to the automated, hands‑off roasting technology, it means cafes and growing roasting companies can get the same output and efficiency they might expect from a larger 6kg roaster.
Small Commercial Roaster
Capacity: 5‑15 kg (11‑30 lb)
Moving up the scale, a small commercial roasting machine can accommodate batch sizes between 5‑15 kg (11‑30 lb). With a well organized schedule of 11‑17 minute roasting cycles, you can create around 3‑4 batches per hour, or 150‑350 kg (330‑770 lb) over a sensible shift. That’s a lot of beans with plenty of wiggle room!
This is a great roaster size for ambitious roasters who have more than a handful of wholesale clients and are ready to make the investment into larger batch sizes to meet demand.
This machine might not be the smallest one to start with but it is a solid investment if approached with knowledge and intention for growth. Roasters who have moved on to larger machines usually keep these machines to develop their single origin, special editions, as well as testing smaller batches before going industrial.
As we noted, tech‑enabled roasters mean you can get the output and efficiency of larger machines at a smaller size. For example, the Bellwether Roaster
, a high‑tech alternative to the traditional gas roaster, can yield 6 lbs per roast with 3 cycles per hour, producing around an 18 lb roast capacity result in that time—more than enough coffee to supply 1‑3 cafes and a roaster of wholesale clients..
Medium Commercial Roaster
Capacity: 15‑30 kg (30‑66 lb)
Equipment with the intention of roasting 15‑30 kg (30‑66 lb) of coffee are classified as medium machines, but they are actually quite larger than most cafes and roasters need. They can produce around 740 kg (1,630 lb) of volume per day.
Roasters like these on the size scale are where an adequate amount of space is required and permits need to be considered. You’ll need to not only plan for the space for the roaster but also necessities like storage space for all the greens before roasting. You likely have to adjust the building around it for proper ventilation and environmental noise.
These machines are excellent choices for wholesalers and online e‑commerce businesses that have already gained a serious following of caffeine drinkers. It is an unlikely choice for those starting off, but a better pairing for businesses looking to move up the weekly production ladder from kilograms to tons.
Large, Extra Large, and Beyond
Capacity: 30‑70 kg (66‑154 lb) and beyond
The larger the roasting machine, the more volume it demands and satisfies. 30 kg to around 70 kg machines are categorized as large roasters. Extra large will produce over 70 kg in a single batch.
Both these sizes also come with a plethora of extra commitments. These are the impressive builds that require a large amount of space, ventilation, ample gas connection, maintenance, and a team of experienced staff.
You might even need to specifically construct a dedicated roasting facility for these metal monsters. However, the large versions alone can produce well over a whopping one ton of coffee beans a day!
Large and extra large roasters are a huge financial commitment (and investment) and are best reserved for companies with a large national or international consumer base. If you’ve spotted a brand on more than a few hundred street corners, you can expect them to have a fleet of these machines under their (coffee) belt.
So What’s the Best Commercial Roaster For You?
There really is plenty to evaluate when purchasing your own roasting machine. From budget, to fitting it out, to method, and even setting schedules. How you use it becomes a large part of your brand and how you both find and keep your customer base.
If you’re making the exciting step up from coffee makers to coffee roasters, purpose‑built machines such as the Bellwether Roaster
are the ideal choice. For the majority of cafe owners or wholesalers who are making their move into the roasting industry, a small roaster of this size is perfect to break through and impress the crowd.
So why is Bellwether the perfect roaster for 95% of businesses taking the leap? Plenty of reasons!
No need for training—easy and accessible consistency across your roast profiles due to the built‑in high‑tech software and hardware
Plugs straight into your shop wall, no need to worry about setting up a gas connection, figuring out confusing permits for buildings, or sacrificing precious floor space
Bellwether sets you up with all the green coffee you need, letting you choose from their ever‑transforming catalog of international crops
The system is intelligent and fully automated. You can step away when you need to keep the espresso machine brewing, getting delicious coffee brewed, and catching up with customers
The intelligent tray system also cools freshly roasted beans in minutes, giving you the choice of maximizing the amount of batches when the orders start really rolling in
Keep the cafe ambience you’ve already built. The Bellwether is the quietest commercial coffee roaster available so customers can enjoy your cafe without shouting over a commercial machine