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There is some ground-floor space in our building, currently used only at night by a sister-in-law: for her bar. I'd like to learn more about coffee in a hands-on manner, while defraying expenses somewhat by selling it by the cup. My sister-in-law will retire eventually, so there's some possibility of turning the space into a proper cafe. My own goal is more to learn more about good coffee with an eye toward importing and mail-order sales in the longer run, as much as possible in a crop-to-cup style.

Given my goals, and my starting point, what would be the easiest path? I.e., what equipment and blends should I consider first, what skills to learn, etc. I've never worked as a barista. I have a lot of respect for how complex a business can be even when it seems simple, and I have other business responsibilities, so I'd like to approach this startup problem as gradually and experimentally as possible.

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    Opening a coffee shop it's really a thing. Maybe could help If you provide more information about your "ideal" project. Before strat to learn about "serving coffee for people" you have to decide which coffee it will be (brew-filtered coffee, espressos, espressos+milk, starbucksich drinks, etc...) & then you want to learn "serving coffee for you". – Omar Miranda Oct 5 '16 at 14:50
  • "... have to decide which coffee it will be (brew-filtered coffee, espressos, espressos+milk, starbucksich drinks, etc...)" Well, I did ask for the "easiest path". Would the steps in that path be in that order? The cafe might eventually double as breakfast option for guests at my main business (small hotel -- currently doesn't offer meals). Again: my goal is to learn coffee hands-on, well enough to become a savvy importer and mail-order operator in crop-to-cup style. If the operation gets dumber about coffee later on, that would be OK -- it would have served its main purpose for me. – Michael Turner Oct 6 '16 at 2:49
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    The easiest path might be a simple coffee bar which serves brewed "alternative style" coffee, because it would require minimum equipment investment (good grinder will be the most expensive item), but your success will depend on availability of good quality fresh roasted coffee and if coffee consuming culture in your area is advanced enough to consider such business format acceptable. Since we don't know these details, it's hard to assume that it will necessarily work out, but if it is, you would probably like to get into quality espresso after incomes allow you to buy a great espresso machine. – Travelling Particle Oct 7 '16 at 3:43
  • I'm in a college district with a range of cafe experiences. I have a family connection to someone who (IIRC) imports directly. I'd like to roast on premises eventually, even if only on a small scale. Basically, the point of the cafe for me would not to be very successful, but to learn a lot about how to make good coffee, while perhaps defraying expenses significantly. Coffee seems like a very technical subject, and what I really know of technical subjects I've only been able to get with hands-on experience. – Michael Turner Oct 8 '16 at 15:29
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    The easiest way to learn how to make good coffee while getting paid would be to enroll as a barista with some good coffee company, not starting a coffee business. – Travelling Particle Oct 9 '16 at 9:07
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Ah, I was going to make the same point as Travelling Particle - work in a coffee shop - but then you mention that you are in Japan.

First, you will need to find a roaster where you can get fresh roast daily or as needed - hopefully with a business discount. Get a decent grinder and I would go this route for brewing a cup:

enter image description here

It's doesn't get much simpler then this and it looks nice. The Japanese are a people that have a Tea Ceremony and they may appreciate this.

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You may want to consider if you niche will be roasting your own beans, instead of just buying certain varieties.

I'm a home roaster, and have a legion of people (who I assume would still be my friends, even if I did not supply them with home-roasted beans) who are crazy for the stuff.

Unroasted green beans have a considerably longer shelf life, and the advantage of always serving relatively-recently roasted product is good. Of course, that's additional equipment to keep and maintain, but doing the roasting yourself also probably represents some savings in supplies and wasted unused product. You'd probably also be able to sell roasted beans so supplement the business.

Here's a good place to do some research - they supply great beans from ethical sources, and, of course, roasting equipment. They are also fanatics, so if you shot them a note and started making general inquiries, they'd probably love to fill you in on all that they know about coffee.

Burman Coffee Roasters web site

  • Thanks for the link. I'd eventually like to get connections to people who know how to make good blends, from beans shipped green from a very geographically limited range of coffee estates, to places where people blend according to the recipe given, roast, package and ship to "crop-to-cup" members of an NPO I'm working on. Learning about roasting is fine. Learning about anything related to coffee is fine. But ultimately, roasting would get pushed downstream, closer in time to delivery to members. Green beans keep for quite a while. Roasted coffee does not. – Michael Turner Oct 14 '16 at 15:17
  • Sounds like you considered, and decided that would not be your niche. :D – PoloHoleSet Oct 14 '16 at 15:50
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With any business it requires an objective and end goal. Where are you now in terms of your passion, knowledge and desire to provide coffee to customers, and where you want to be are good places to start. Identify any potential barriers with the business, financially and operationally. You should come up with a menu, and find a way to add value to your customers lives with the coffee that you serve and atmosphere that is provided in your shop. I would suggest calling some roasters that you are fond of, they will provide you information on their products and best way to go about serving them and even starting your own shop with your given scenario. This holds true, especially for the smaller roasters. Continue to research and identify why you want to sell coffee, and maybe tackle your shop from that angle. Will it be strictly coffee, will you provide food, will you provide tea? At the end of the day, as cliche as it sounds, you will be running a business, and having the industry knowledge and a niche will set you apart from every other coffee shop/barista.

  • Ultimate goal: crop-to-cup, from a geographically limited set of estates, the best blends and roasts possible with beans from those estates, to members of an NPO who subscribe to the roasted-bean delivery. My problem with reaching this goal: I don't really know very much. I have space I can use cheaply as cafe space, a family connection to a roaster in Tokyo, some connections made in Kenya to people with relatives running coffee estates. That's where I'm starting. "At the end of the day," the goal isn't a cafe. It amounts to mail-order revenue for an NPO. The cafe: just my learning platform. – Michael Turner Oct 14 '16 at 15:25

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