Home coffee roaster grinds past Kickstarter goal

Posted at 12:59 PM, May 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-20 13:36:14-04

Presses, pour-overs, clovers — coffee lovers will go to elaborate lengths to brew their beans. But not many invest in the crackling, churning hot machines that roast them.

TheIKAWA Coffee Roaster, which already smashed its $120,000 Kickstarter goal, looks to bring coffee roasting out of the garage and onto the countertop.

Home roasting is uncommon because it takes a big machine, expertise — and a lot smoke.

“We’re trying to make coffee roasting a possible experience for a mainstream consumer," said Ikawa co-founder and CEO Andrew Stordy. “It doesn't set off the smoke alarm.”

The Ikawa, which costs $700 and weighs about 10 pounds, is controlled with a smartphone app that encourages roasters to experiment. They can upload coffee roasting recipes to the web, share and then reproduce them automatically.

“You can create your own roast and share it around the world,” Stordy said.

There’s a lot of beans at stake. Coffee is a $30 billion a year industry in the United States,according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America. About 6 in 10 adults drink it daily.

Most coffee drinkers only control what beans they buy and how it’s brewed. Maybe they have a good grinder (burr, not blade).

“This takes coffee lovers to the next level of connoisseurship,” Stordy said. “The consumer can get professional results very easily with the push of a button.”

Stordy, an engineer, developed the concept while studying design at the Royal College of Arts in London. The Kickstarter money is being used to adapt a professional version of the Ikawa roaster for consumer use and to develop the app.

He’s also the son of African coffee growers. By selling green, unroasted beans, Stordy said he wants to send more profit to the growers instead of to retailers and commercial roasters.

Ikawa has pledged to invest 10 percent of its coffee revenues back to growers.

Gavin Stern is a national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk.