If You Want to Start a Successful Coffee Business

The specialty coffee industry thrives on education and supportive connections

Creating latte art
The art of latte art. Susie Wyshak

Maybe your love of specialty, small batch coffee has given you the wake-up call that you'd be most happy working in coffee. Or maybe the massive success of craft coffee companies expanding with ample funding has made you realize roasting coffee can make a pretty good living.

The good news: You have more than enough options to learn the ins and outs of the specialty coffee business.

Start With the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA)

The Specialty Coffee Association of America trade organization is at the epicenter of the specialty coffee industry, centralizing the industry's knowledge, community, and energy in this one, very good place.

When you attend the annual SCAA event—at which the World Barista Championship was held in 2015—you will understand that the world of coffee gathers around the SCAA. And it is wonderful.

The Expo hall overflows with coffee roasting and packaging equipment makers, innovators of home coffee brewing and filtering products, food vendors hoping to sell in cafes or have their foods used in foodservice, such as Guittard Chocolate, makers of chocolate and drink syrups and Calafia, makers of almond milk.

And of course a multitude of coffee importers, trade associations representing their country's coffee growers and everything in between.

Apple Coffee Classes and Publications

Review the SCAA website's menus and you'll see just how many educational resources they offer, including classes and credentials for coffee professionals.

The online SCAA Chronicle gives you a peek into the topics that consume specialty coffee professionals.

Join the Barista Guild

"We are baristas, roasters, café owners and coffee professionals of all walks of life who are committed to making the enjoyment and appreciation of coffee accessible to everyone."

If that mission makes your heart race and the name "Barista Guild" gives you a feeling that you've found your tribe, that's a pretty good indication you are ripe to join the coffee industry.

Joining a food or beverage craft guild such as the Barista Guild gives you a chance to learn and explore just what that right field of work might be.

Forget Band Camp. Go to Barista Camp.

"Imagine having the opportunity to work alongside some of the best baristas in the world as well as the best coffees in the world." So says the Barista Camp website.

Or Are You More Into the Roasters Guild and Camp?

Also in affiliation with the Specialty Coffee Association of America, the coffee Roasters Guild not only offers events including coffee roasting classes but organizes trips to "origin," which is the coffee industry lingo meaning the coffee origin. By the way, there's no "the" before "origin."

Aspiring coffee roasters can join the Roasters Guild Retreat as well as an online coffee roasters forum to connect with experts and fellow novices.

Start Roasting Coffee At Home

Seems that people in the San Francisco Bay Area aren't aware that the wildly successful, now international, Blue Bottle Coffee got started as a home roasting operation. Micro-batch coffee eventually sold at the farmers market. The rest is history in the making.

Visit Sweet Maria, a very popular coffee supplier for home roasters. Order some green coffee beans and try roasting in a frying pan (or in a Whirly Pop popcorn maker, my preferred method).

Learn All About Coffee Online

Sure you'll need to create your own coffee smell-o-rama while learning online. But Coffee Bootcamp's online classes gives you a taste of the most technical aspects of roasting and making that perfect cup of coffee, from coffee farm to cup.

Understanding the science and art behind coffee will also give you clarity as to whether you are made for the coffee business.

Then Take a Real Life Coffee Business Test Drive

Get a part-time job at a local roaster or even as a barista at a chain cafe.

You'll be getting paid to learn the process of running a cafe and pulling the perfect espresso shots.

If you do decide to take the Coffee Bootcamp classes, why not sit at your favorite coffee roasting cafe and interact with the roaster as you learn. Perhaps ask about an apprenticeship.

Your options for success in whatever area of coffee interests you are limitless. Make the right choice for you by:

  • knowing your goals and personality
  • understanding the market need
  • testing out your ideas in real life

The first step is researching and simply taking that first step. Preferably over a cup of coffee.