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Traditional coffee roasting machines require permits, gas lines, venting systems and maintenance. So, coffee beans are usually “roasted at large, centralized roasting facilities and then shipped to retailers, which not only is expensive but also leaves a huge carbon footprint,” Gilliland, the company’s CEO, told Crunchbase News.
To bring that process in house would give coffee shops the ability to avoid that steep price tag as well as get a fresher cup of coffee by eliminating a step of the process. So Bellwether Coffee created an electric coffee roaster, and just raised a $40 million Series B round to sell the product globally.
The financing event was led by DBL Partners and brothers Lyndon and Peter Rive. Additional investors include FusionX, Congruent Ventures, Coffee Bell, Tandem Capital, Spindrift Equities, XN Ventures, Balius Partners, and Hardware Club, according to a press release.
Bellwether has raised $56 million in venture capital funding to date, inclusive of this round, according to Crunchbase data. Customers range from traditional chains to local small shops.
The company commercially released its electric ventless roasting system – about the size of a refrigerator – last year. There are about 40 units installed across the US to date.
While it did not disclose the price of a roaster, Bellwether said its cheaper, and is more sustainable to operate. It claims the roaster reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent versus traditional gas-powered alternatives.
“Many of our customers have always dreamed of roasting their own coffee on-site but couldn’t afford to before or didn’t know where to start,” said Gilliland
Bellwether’s round is the largest round scored by a company focused on coffee since June, according to Crunchbase data. Recent examples of caffeinated capital include Seattle-based Joe Coffee raising $750,000 and Shanghai-based Coffee Exchange, which wants to connect roasters to coffee farmers, recently raising $510,000. And there’s Luckin Coffee, which most recently raised $150 million in June and went public minutes later.
This round goes to show that venture capitalists believe startups have the potential to change a market as old as coffee. The only question now is whether Bellwether’s round is harbinger of excess, or a bellwether that the market is thirsty for a better sourced, more sustainable cup.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias