Behind The Scenes of Spiritus Coffee
Locally-roasted coffee removes three to five steps in the journey of supply chain to consumer. It brings tremendous benefits when it comes to taste and freshness, but impacts other things like our carbon footprint. We love telling everyone how awesome Spiritus Coffee is and why we think it’s so special. But just like Nick and Jason learned how the whole process works, we know that most people don’t know how their coffee gets from farmer to French Press. So, we sat down with Nick to get the low-down.
Q: There’s a lot of different kinds of coffees, countries, climates — how do you decide what beans to buy?
I know what I like to drink and it guides me to the origins I want to purchase and roast. I usually look for coffees that are already here on shore in the States, so there’s less waiting. I source from Royal Coffee, Theta Ridge, Cafe Imports, and others to see what is available. Next, we look at factors like variety, altitude, and processing method — they give a better idea of what the coffee is capable of. Learning about the farmers and how many farms are contributing can shed some light on whether we can expect quality over quantity. At that point, we make a decision and buy a 60 kg bag. (For those of us living on that ancient Standard system, that’s 132 pounds!!)
Q: Do you ever buy directly from the farmer?
Recently, we bought a canyon-washed coffee directly from the farmer and his family. By having a direct trade relationship with a farmer, we are able to provide them 35% more profit than if they have to go through a middle man. This was an awesome experience to meet the family and know that we are contributing to their village and their farmers and improving their quality of life in a major way.
Q: How do the beans get from their start point to Lombard, IL?
Once they reach the United States, we personally drive to pick up our coffee from warehouses in Madison, Wisconsin, and South Bend, Indiana. (A road trip literally fueled by coffee!)
Q: You’ve lugged that bag back to the roastery — what happens next?
When we get it home, we get a small batch on a sample roaster. We roast it minimally, so that we can find all of the new notes and flavors hidden in the coffee.
Q: How much do you roast at a time?
We roast 2.2 pounds of green coffee per batch.
Q: How does the roasting process work? What do you use?
We roast on a North Coffee Roaster. Our roaster has manual controls for gas, air, drum speed, and charge temperature (charge is when we drop the coffee into the roaster.) We also have control of the rate of rise of the temperature each minute throughout the roast, and the temperature when we drop the coffee into the cooling tray. The roaster has Roastpath software, so we can precisely dial in our roasts and replicate it when we get it right.
Q: What makes a light roast? A medium? Dark?
The terms relate to the color of the roasted coffee, but it’s more than that. There are many factors that contribute to a level of roast, but one basic factor is the length of development time after first crack — it confirms your roast level and is more accurate than the color alone.
Q: What’s “first crack?”
Roasting coffee is a sensory experience involving sight, sound and smell. You can see the color of the beans changing from green to yellow to brown. Smell its grassy organic aroma transitioning to one of freshly baked bread. And you can hear the sound of built up CO2 and steam being released from the beans as they expand – it is this release of energy that produces an audible “first crack.” This signals the initial phase of a “light roast.”
Q: After the roasting is done, what happens? Do they have to sit awhile?
It’s subjective how long a coffee needs to rest and de-gas prior to brewing. Depending on the bean, we roast to order, and sometimes roast a week of coffee in advance. Our coffee gets bagged to order, to ensure maximum freshness.
Q: When/how do they get bagged up?
We weigh out the coffee and bag all of our coffee ourselves!