Roasting Warehouse opens Airport West roastery/café

Roasting Warehouse Airport West

In a market that’s arguably becoming saturated with roasters, Roasting Warehouse has popped up in Airport West, promising to bring a point of difference in a transparent way. 

On first glance at Roasting Warehouse Specialty Coffee in the Melbourne suburb of Airport West, the words “large, industrial, and unassuming” come to mind. But as customers quickly learn when they walk through the doors, it’s all an optical illusion, with the 1500-square-metre purpose-built site a dedicated café, roastery, and retail paradise all in one.

“I’ve stood in the café and watched customers open the door and say ‘wow’. That’s exactly the reaction we want,” says Founder Joe Molinaro, alluding to the tall ceilings, space-themed floor, and huge brew bar running the length of the shop.  

A painted mural of Zoya the Ethiopian coffee picker keeps a watchful eye over the daily operations of the roaster, a symbol that Joe hopes will one day become as associated with the Roasting Warehouse brand just as the “swoosh” is to Nike.

Joe opened his first café in East Melbourne in 2006. He has gone on to become a successful café entrepreneur, operating more than 27 cafés across the country in the past 13 years, before moving into retail and wholesale opportunities, and starting Augustus gelatery. Most notably, Joe was behind Carlton’s Vertue of the Coffee Drink before starting his own roasting business, Roasting Warehouse, in North Melbourne, and now Airport West alongside George Paraskevopoulos. 

Roasting Warehouse Airport West
Customers can observe the coffee roasting process while enjoying a meal or one of eight blends on offer.

“Opening our Airport West site is a great opportunity to expand the company’s roasting capacity,” Joe says. “The coffee industry connects all types of people, nationalities, and cultures, and gives us a reason to catch up with friends, family, and colleagues. I love the customer interaction, and the ability to create community hubs and places to socialise in untouched suburbs.”

It’s George and Joe’s dedication to hospitality and understanding of customer values that they believe will be key to the success of their first combined suburban roastery and café. 

“We still have that hospitality mentality and that’s why we’ve been successful in wholesale, because we can see what’s going on in the industry and adapt and diversify accordingly. It’s this insight, ambition, and drive that makes our perspective to roasting different to others,” George says. 

The new Airport West venue has been a year in the making. First came the challenge of finding the right location. Thankfully, George says the former bus depot turned out to be the ideal location. A bus-driver-turned-customer now takes great pride in showing George exactly where he used to park his bus – right where the brew bar now sits. 

“We definitely waited for the right time and learnt from others what not to do. What we’ve created is a virtual showroom to demonstrate to our customers and wholesale clients exactly what our business represents, from the customer service on display, to the roasting behind the glass, our green bean range, and all the different ways we value add,” George says. 

The site is Roasting Warehouse’s biggest accomplishment to date, with the majority of energy sourced by solar panels. Thanks to Eon Design, curved glass panels provide a view into the roastery for customers to see the full scale of operation and the machinery involved in bringing their cup of coffee to life. This includes eight one-tonne silos, each holding a different origin bean, and two drum roasters.

Will Notaras of Roastquip has been the exclusive Australasian agent for Imf roasters since 2013. Since then, he’s helped install more than 50 Imf roasters in Australia, including a 15-kilogram shop roaster to Roasting Warehouse’s North Melbourne site in 2015, and now 60-kilogram and 120-kilogram Imf roasters at the Airport West site.

Roasting Warehouse Airport West
Roasting Warehouse Airport West Founder Joe Molinaro (left) and Director George Paraskevopoulos.

“The Imf roaster is a complete machine,” Will says. “It arrives fully assembled and integrates the after-burner, destoner, and loader, so installation is very quick with the machine up and running in three days. We use recirculating heat technology to heat the drum and incinerate the emissions in one go using one burner, resulting in gas savings of up to 47 per cent.”

The Imf roaster is fully automatic but the roast profile can be manually overridden in real time at any point during the roast. Thanks to Imf’s local and global reach, it can diagnose any issue anywhere in the world with its remote assistance, offering constant support and guidance to users, as well as its own built-in diagnostic tools. 

“Once the roast profile is set, it will follow the exact roast curve and repeat the roast to one degree of accuracy every single time – the level of precision is second to none. The program will even tell you when to grease the bearings and conduct other maintenance procedures,” Will says.

The roasters arrived complete at Roasting Warehouse in containers with each crane-lifted and placed into the roastery. Imf technicians from Italy accompanied the installation to help test the machinery. Imf is a full turnkey company and also supplied Roasting Warehouse with integrated silos, packaging equipment, and blenders. The result is an impressive fit-out that delivers a range of consistently roasted coffees for Melbourne’s northwestern coffee consumers to appreciate.

“We want to be part of the theatre of coffee and we want our customers to be part of the journey from seed to cup – it’s reflected in what they can see, the conversations they have with our roasters, and our baristas,” George says. “We are well aware that we sell a similar product as others do, and that we will always be judged on our $4 coffee, therefore our customer experience has to be consistent and our approach and delivery different.”

One way to achieve that, George says, is for the roastery and café to become an education hub and place of conversation to connect customers to the specialty coffee world. 

“The more we can share to educate the next generation and those who will perhaps become baristas or roasters, and those who love hospitality, the better,” he says. “We want to help our customers grow, which we do so with passion and integrity, and by thinking outside the box from a café operation point of view. That will be key to our survival. Success is the end result, not the motivation.” 

This article appears in the October edition of BeanScene Magazine. Subscribe HERE.

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