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Small Batch vs. Large Batch Coffee Roasting… and Why We Are A Small Batch Roaster

In the coffee industry, there’s one factor that can define your entire brand strategy: large batch or small batch roasting. Each roasting method brings its own unique set of benefits, differences, and impacts on your daily cup of coffee. And as a small batch roaster, we have clearly made up our minds about which ***. Here is what you need to know about the intricacies of small batch versus large batch coffee roasting.

How Small Batch Differs from Large Batch Roasting

To understand the difference between small batch and large batch roasting, imagine a spectrum with control on one end and production capacity on the other. Small batch roasting offers by far the most control over the quality and complexity of the final product. However, this control comes at the expense of production volume. While a small batch roaster can meticulously craft each batch, they're limited in how much they can produce in a given time frame.

On the flip side, large batch roasting prioritizes production volume over individual batch control. Commercial giants like Folgers or Maxwell House rely on continuous flow roasters to churn out massive quantities of coffee. While these roasters excel in volume, they sacrifice the level of heat transfer control and roast profile detail found in small batch roasting.

Benefits of Small Batch Roasting

Like we said above, with small batch coffee roasting, one word stands out: control. Picture yourself at the helm of a boat, trying to navigate a very specific course successfully. If you are driving a smaller, more nimble vessel you are able to control speed and adjust course swiftly. This level of control allows for nuanced and precisely executed roast profiles, resulting in a flavor experience that's as unique as it is delightful.  Conversely a larger boat doesn’t speed up, slow down or change course very quickly at all.  The larger boat analogy also illustrates well the concept of momentum in that heat or air flow inputs during the earlier stages of a large batch roast can affect the rate of heat transfer much later during the roast.  This limits the potential “paths” that can be taken with a larger batch, which limits the potential flavor profiles.

Why Choose Small Batch Coffee Roasting?

The allure of small batch coffee roasting lies in the artistry and craftsmanship involved. With the greater available control, each roaster can develop their own roasting style and flavor profiles consistent with their concept and ability as a coffee roaster. Unlike automated large batch coffee roasters, which churn out the same roast repeatedly, small batch coffee roasters require consistent attention and adaptation. The thermal dynamics of the coffee roaster changes with each batch, necessitating adjustments in roasting technique and input.

This hands-on approach ensures that each batch of coffee is a masterpiece in its own right. From charge to drop, small batch roasters meticulously monitor and adjust the roast to achieve their preferred flavor and aroma development. It's a process that requires skill, intuition, and a deep understanding of the beans' behavior under heat.

Why is Small Batch Coffee More Expensive?

The price disparity between small batch and large batch coffee is a reflection of the underlying economics of the industry. Small batch roasters are roasting specialty coffee.  Specialty coffee commands a higher price tag due to the higher quality of the beans.  This higher quality and complexity of specialty coffee is owed to the work of the producers and care in the supply chain.

Producers of specialty coffee adhere to stringent quality standards. From hand-picking ripe cherries to meticulous processing and drying, every step in the production chain contributes to the superior quality of the final product. Coffee growers can acquire organic or fair trade organic certifications for their farms and thus increase the price paid for their coffee.  Additionally specialty coffee importers will pay an additional percentage over standard price to their producers in order to assure sustainability practices and a real living wage for those involved at the farm level.

In contrast, large batch coffee production tends to prioritize efficiency and volume over quality and sustainability. While large-scale producers may offer lower prices, they typically roast commodity grade coffee and don’t prioritize production practices or sustainability. This can lead to negative environmental consequences, exploitation of labor, and ultimately, a lower-quality product.  

In conclusion, while small batch coffee may come with a higher price tag, it offers a superior taste experience and contributes to a more sustainable coffee industry. So, the next time you reach for your morning brew, consider opting for a small batch roast and savor the difference in every sip.

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