Local coffee shops take roasting into their own hands

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By: A.J. Hughes

Jason Bryant/Flavor 574

Not every cup of coffee is created equal, and for several Michiana coffee shops, retailers and wholesalers, in-house coffee roasting just can’t be beat for both taste and freshness.

Coffee beans are either drum-roasted or air-roasted. The drum-roasting method, used by most commercial roasters, utilizes a drum that tumbles the beans at high temperatures. Air roasting relies on hot air (400 degrees or higher) to roast the beans instead.

Refinery Coffee Co.

Regina Troyer, owner and roaster at Goshen’s Refinery Coffee Co., is a firm believer in air roasting. While it’s not as mainstream as the drum-roasting method, she feels coffee made from air-roasted beans is smoother due to the fluid air motion pulling smoke and residue from the beans. 

Troyer says she roasts 20 pounds an hour, all by hand. She believes that less guesswork goes into air roasting than drum roasting, making for a more consist product.

“It’s an art,” she said.

Like many roasters, Troyer enjoys maintaining relationships with coffee growers. In 2006, she traveled to Nicaragua and formed a relationship with a grower there. This past March, she did the same in the Dominican Republic. Coffee beans from both farmers may be found at Refinery Cafe at 1525 W. Wilden Ave., Goshen. 

“I really like to create a relationship with our farmers,” Troyer said.

In addition to selling retail coffee beans, Refinery Coffee sells beans to Dutch Maid Bakery in Goshen, Baker’s Nook Café and Iechyd Da in Elkhart, Kitchen Cupboard in Shipshewana, Rocky Mountain Café in LaPorte and Java Junction on the campus of Goshen College.

Main Street Roasters

In 2006, Main Street Roasters owner Marcus Miller decided to start roasting his own beans. Before then, he had purchased beans from a small-batch roaster.

“I decided to roast to have control over quality and freshness,” he said. “Quality control was a big deal.”

Miller uses a drum to roast his coffee, and he believes that drum roasting provides the same benefits as air roasting.

Main Street Roasters offers 10 single-origin coffees and about 25 different flavors. Miller roasts between 150 to 200 pounds weekly, and sells on both the retail and wholesale level.

He sources some beans from an El Salvador processor, which gives a portion of its profits to a children’s home.

“Consistency is key,” said Miller, who, like Troyer, views roasting as an art and science.

Main Street Roasters has two locations: the original at 105 N. Main St., Nappanee, and a newer location at 102 N. Main St., South Bend.

The Electric Brew

Myron Bontrager, owner of The Electric Brew (118 E. Washington St., Goshen), has been roasting coffee beans for seven years.

“I always wanted to roast,” said Bontrager, who has an affinity for small commercial roasters and independent coffee shops.

Bontrager roasts two to three times a week, and coffee is also flavored on-site. “Everything we do is in-house,” he said. Each variety of bean at The Electric Brew is roasted in its own way.

Bontrager has learned much of the roasting art by doing and is just shy of being an apprentice-level roaster. He also values relationships with producers and visited coffee growers in Jamaica earlier this year.

Zen Cafe Coffee

Shaun Maeyens of Zen Cafe Coffee learned to roast while living in Honolulu.

“I wanted to bring the tastes of Hawaii back to the community,” he said. Now, he and his father, Mike, roast select organic, fair trade and direct trade coffee.

“Transparency is huge for me,” Maeyens said. “It’s important to take the taste and story of coffee and trace it back to its origin.”

Maeyens visits a coffee-producing country each year, and every bean he sells can be sourced to the exact farm it came from.

Zen Cafe Coffee may be found at Bare Hands Brewery in Granger; Langlab, Purple Porch Co-op and South Bend Farmer’s Market, all in South Bend; as well as Stevie’s Unique Treats and Whole Foods Market, both in Mishawaka.

Three Crowns Coffee

A public extension of Warsaw’s St. Regis Club, Three Crowns Coffee (114 N. Buffalo St., Warsaw) opened in fall 2013.

Eric Squires, roaster, sees Three Crowns as a third-wave (artisanal) coffee shop. With a target market of visiting doctors and others in the orthopedics industry, all coffee is made to order. There are no batch brews, and all flavored syrup is made on-site.

“We have a hyper-focus on quality, with a culinary and cocktail approach,” Squires said.

Three Crowns gets its beans from a Minneapolis-based supplier. All beans are either fair trade or direct trade. Squires roasts every week to 10 days and tries not to sell any coffee more than two weeks from roast.

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