What is a Guest Roaster and How Does Guest Roasting Work? (Plus Benefits Of Guest Roasting)

If you’ve ever worked as a barista, you’ll know the struggle of only being able to drink the same selection of coffees on rotation every week.

Same coffee. Same recipe. Same tasting notes. Same roaster. Slightly boring and repetitive.

Okay, It’s not all that bad: drinking the same coffee can help develop an understanding of core characteristics in a handful of origins, processing methods and varietals, but the difficulty is that it can get boring for both customers and baristas.

But how do you change it up without having to commit to new suppliers long-term? Cue the guest roaster program.

What is a guest roaster?

Look, it’s not rocket science, so there’s no need to get the calculator out; this one is as simple as they come. A guest roaster is someone who features in your coffee program on rotation with other roasters. They might feature multiple times, but they don’t take the place of your current ‘house blend’ supplier. For example, your blend might be supplied by a roaster you have a long term relationship with, but a guest roaster may supply seasonal blends and single origins for a limited period of time..

Goodbye same coffee, recipe, tasting notes and roaster. Here’s how guest roasting works.

How does guest roasting work?

Well… it’s pretty straightforward. All you have to do is find a roaster you would like to feature, choose coffees you’d like and then ask if they would be interested in featuring in your coffee program and that’s all she wrote.

At least it should be.

It doesn’t have to be complicated: guest roasting should be fun and exciting, so make sure you partner with someone who not only offers great coffee, but partnership too. They should be champing at the bit to work with you and share in all things coffee.

What are the benefits of guest roasting?

Guest roasting should scratch your back as much as it does the roaster, so try to look for these benefits when you consider featuring someone as a guest roaster.


Having once worked as a barista, I know how it feels to drink the same coffee week after week –it can get pretty boring. I am now a customer, and I must admit: drinking the same coffee doesn’t get any better.It’s actually a key reason why I prefer going to different cafes everyday.

I might be a little different to your average customer, but having worked in a cafe that rotates coffee, I can almost guarantee that your customers will be a fan of a little variety. I’ve also personally seen customers a lot more interested and curious after serving them something they’ve never tried before.

One of the things I love about a guest roaster program is that it can help you reach new markets. For example, if your regular customers tend to prefer your heavier house blend, consider choosing to feature something a little lighter and fruitier to lure in those coffee enthusiasts who prefer more complexity in their brew.

Adding variety has never been easier, especially with Zest. They offer four different specialty coffee blends that ensure there’s something for everyone’s palate, and a constantly revolving door of spectacular microlots (single origins) especially delicious in filter brews.

Brand exposure

One of the obvious advantages is brand exposure, especially if it is done well. People know and recognise roasters a lot more than they do a cafe –their branding is in a lot more places than yours. Having their brand visible in your cafe could land you new customers that might normally just walk past due to not recognising who you’re using.

Skill development

Drinking the same coffee doesn’t always help baristas grow their knowledge base and palate. Being exposed to different coffees that are unique and have their own nuances requires a barista to upskill – it grows their knowledge base and their ability to dial in a wider spectrum of coffees.

A couple tips to finding and choosing a guest roaster to work with

I’m a huge fan of guest roasting, especially if you want to offer something a little more unique to your customers, but here’s the thing: it should benefit both you and the roaster. Here are a couple tips to ensure you get the most out of a guest roaster.

Do your homework

Guest roasting is offered by most roasters, but they don’t always advertise it well, so you’re going to have to get the laptop ready to send a couple emails. There might be a couple roasters you’re interested in featuring that don’t publicly advertise it.

Make sure you also take time to find out about the company values before you feature them. You don’t want to risk featuring someone who has very different values to you, as it might result in a hit to your reputation.

Choose with your palate

Guest roasting is all about exploring and discovering new and vibrant flavours in coffee and sharing them with your clients. Make sure you’re not settling for more of the same. You need something special. This is much more about taste than cost (because you’re not necessarily replacing your tried and tested house blend). Seek out coffees with a real wow-factor that will delight those real coffee lovers and get them talking about the experience with their friends.

Work with good people

I’ve mentioned this many times before, but it’s for a very good reason: the people you work with really do tell a story about who you are, especially to your customers. You also want to work with people who have the same values as you, as it will help you emphasise this with your customers.

Working with people who don’t have the same values as you might do exactly the opposite, so take heed. You want to work with guest roasters who have a good reputation in the industry, as it could be beneficial to your business.

Make the absolute most of it

Be smart about it, don’t just settle for coffee, try to make the most of it by looking for ways they can support your business – if they are smart and value your business, they’ll jump at the opportunity.

A good place to start is to ask for promotional material. Use this as an opportunity to piggyback off of their brand awareness and reputation. Ask for educational material and information about the origins of the coffee you propose using. You can even ask them if they’d be willing to feature your cafe on their social media.

You can also ask if barista training can be included. Different roasters have different perspectives, knowledge and skills, so look for opportunities to make the most of their skills by upskilling your staff in the process.

Make a list for future reference

Use this as an opportunity to sample as many roasters as you can. If you have a spare grinder handy, feature one of their blends as a secondary option for customers – ask customers for their feedback and make a list of the favourites. Use the list to help you make a decision should you need to change suppliers in future. This is probably going to be the most affordable way for you to sample blends from different roasters without having to commit long-term.

Shake it up, guest roast.

If you are looking to change things up, consider guest roasting. It is a sure way to discover, learn and offer something a little different. It’s also a great conversation starter for your customers, so shake it up and reach out to us if you’re interested in guest roasting.