An award-winning Edinburgh coffee roaster has started his own business using a machine built entirely from scratch with parts from B&Q and eBay.
Finn Mclean, 32, and his business partner have collaborated to create Spaceboy Coffee, supplying local cafes with their coffee blend and also offering free bike delivery to drop it off.
In 2018, Finn was dismantling a coffee roaster for maintenance at his old job, when he suddenly thought they weren’t too complex and building one of his might not be that hard.
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After two years and various trips to B&Q for waste, Finn produced his own roaster, the one he still uses as the primary coffee supplier for his business.
Renting a small unit of space in Holyrood Business Park, Finn is experimenting with his own coffee roasts with his homemade machine, while supplying various cafes across Edinburgh and also generating sales through his website.
Originally from Bristol, Finn graduated as a roasting assistant and even made trips to El Salvador and New Zealand to stock up on coffee beans.
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He said: “I’ve been in coffee roasting for over ten years. I’m originally from Bristol but was living in London when I started building my coffee roasting machine but moved to Edinburgh during the pandemic as being in London when everything was closed and barricaded was rubbish.
“The job market was a nightmare but roasting coffee always stuck with me. I was a roaster for Artisan Roasts for over a year and had the machine half finished when I moved to Edinburgh I basically went to B&Q, eBay and the like I had no prior engineering knowledge and had never worked with wood, but I knew that if I could master the hardest part it would be possible.
“I didn’t use any solder either, everything was modular so if something was wrong I could change it much easier. I knew if I could line up the axle in the drum the rest would be easier.
“There were always little bursts of ‘I can do it’ and then ‘what do I do? It became more of a headache for me. If there was a problem, I would go away for a few weeks and think about how I was going to solve it.
Finn, who currently lives in the Newington area of Edinburgh, said the goal of starting his own business was always on his mind.
Funnily enough, the name “Spaceboy” comes from the song Smashing Pumpkins, as he and his partner were listening to it in the car one day and she suggested the name because of the song’s chorus which was so catchy.
He also added that his partner, Malcolm, handles the sales and training of the operation, while Finn focuses solely on roasting the coffee, although he sometimes goes downhill on his bike.
Malcolm also offers special barista training to his customers, ensuring they work to the highest standards.
Regarding the actual effort put into roasting the coffee, Finn added, “We offer specialty coffee roasting, which is very different from your supermarket brands. It all depends on the ripeness of the cherries and the duration of their roasting.
“Having my own machine allows me to experiment and roast the beans at my own time and heat. We also track the temperature of the roasting process through a laptop connection to the machine.
“The roasting process usually takes about ten minutes because you don’t need to roast them thoroughly. When the beans reach us, they are green and quite dry. You could try to mix them up, but that wouldn’t really be the case. Think of it like roasting a potato. At first it’s all starchy, but in the end it’s sweet and delicious because it breaks down all the complex carbs.
“I had toyed with the idea of opening a cafe, but the answer was always no. I have no experience in sales or working in a cafe, so I’m just trying to follow my passion of making the delicious coffee.
“Actually there’s a customer in Northern Ireland who buys from us all the time, which is quite nice actually. There were doubts when I started, but it’s just business. You have to believe in what you are doing.”
Going forward, Finn said his goal now is to grow his business, after admitting he has yet to ‘put the sale firm’, with the intention of selling merchandise and approaching more cafes in the city.
Finn concluded by saying that he sometimes jumps on the bike himself to deliver orders for free, which is also a great way for him to meet and chat with customers, while making friends along the way. .
Spaceboy Coffee is also offering rotating seasonal options, as well as the option for online customers to get free delivery using code: EDINBURGHBIKE on orders over £20. To see all the options, click here.