May was an incredibly busy month for me, in all areas of life but especially for this budding coffee roasting business. On May 1st I sat in my banker's office and hit "Purchase" on the Coffee Crafters website, and a week later an Artisan 6M showed up in neighboring Tama, Iowa.
It had to sit tight for two weeks while the question of "Where do we put this thing?" had to be answered. Originally I had planned on setting up shop in our basement, but the cost of getting a dingy basement room in a 1920s-era house ready for coffee production was going to cost too much money and it wasn't a permanent home anyway.
Luckily, a suitable facility and a supportive landlord was located in pretty short order, and our new roasting facility is located in nearby Montour, Iowa. So on the last Friday of May, I fired up the roaster for the first time and did a beautiful-looking medium roast of an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.
The Artisan 6M is designed to be an affordable, easy to operate "working man's" roaster, with a goodly roasting capacity (up to 6 lbs/batch) and a minimalist approach to the controls. It is what's called a "fluid bed" design in that it uses a vertical column of forced, heated air to both roast and agitate/move the beans. So the only two controls you worry about as you're roasting are watts/heat and "bean loft"/"fan speed." I also have hooked up inside the hopper a thermometer that communicates wirelessly to my iPad, where I use the excellent roasting app,
Roastmaster (which I had been using since February on the bread machine, just without temperature readings). First roast on this thing and it went flawlessly. I haven't roasted on it since, and I'm dying to get back on it!
We do, however, have a few more hurdles to clear before we can really say we're "open for business." There are a few more facilities details to work out in my rented space, and then a state inspection which will hopefully go smoothly and result in my licensing to operate as what the state calls a "food processing plant." Then I can really start the work of new business development, seeking out new customers and markets, etc.
It's been a crazy month, and I'm still juggling a few other things that make it a bit challenging to focus more attention on this new business, but that's set to shift over the summer and by the end of August, I hope to have already announced some great new business partnerships.
And I'm already thinking ahead to a year down the road, when my lease is up. Will we outgrow our space in a year and already be looking for more dedicated space? Time will tell...