Our Journey Through the Coffee Process
Hi, I am Matt and I am the owner of Sagebrush Unroasted. Today, we are super excited to show off the Sagebrush Coffee Roastery and Coffee Shop. We will start our journey by peaking behind the scenes at our small office space that we were lucky enough to be able to attach to the roastery. In these offices, Zoe, Karla and Jonathan work to create most of the content you see on our website. We started this business thinking we were coffee experts, but had a lot to learn, so we became coffee students. At this point, we love researching coffee information and know there is no end of what we can learn about coffee. Today, we work hard learning everything we can about coffee and then take that knowledge and try to deliver our favorite parts to you in whatever medium we feel fits the content best. It really is a treat to not just be coffee roasters or coffee drink slingers, but to be coffee students. Although this is not a direct revenue generating portion of the business, coffee education has become my favorite part of the business.
From Farm to Shop (Coffee Bag Storage)
The true start of our coffee shop begins at the origin. We wish we could take you to the farms and mills that produce our amazing coffee and walk you through that, but it is slightly outside of the scope of this tour. We work with many of the producers for our coffees and bring the coffee bags in here to our storage area. As we have grown, those relationships have worked their way further back into the process. It was an exciting day when a bag of coffee showed up in the shop with our logo on it, showing that our partnership with the producers is as important to them as it is to us. If you look closely in the video, you may see some of the exciting new coffees we have coming. A few from Ethiopia, Honduras and Guatemala. If you stop into the shop on a regular basis, and peak over the wall, you’ll get to sneak preview our latest coffees whenever you want.
From Green Bean to Roaster (Roastery Area)
Sagebrush started small, in my garage, roasting on a Hottop coffee 1/2 lb coffee roaster. We quickly outgrew that home roaster and bought a Sonofresco fluid-bed roaster. That was a very large expense at the time and I remember taking a bag of coffee, roasting, and kind of freaking out. I could not get the vibrance of flavor from the Sonofresco that I had from the Hottop. I did not know what to do and had to start the education process over again. I went back to being a student, relearned how to roast, and wrote a program that changed the way the Sonofresco roasted. It was a great day when I produced a batch that not only emulated the Hottop, but far exceeded the flavor profile. We have since grown to the roasters you see here and are able to produce about 60 lbs/hr on these roasters. I now believe that a good fluid-bed roaster will bring out a very vibrant flavor profile from any bean and have found myself having a harder time going back to the drum roaster.
Which leads me to our ‘new’ drum roaster. As I had to go back to a larger drum roaster, I needed to work my way through that same process. Roast a bunch, freak out, read a book on the roaster, roast a bunch more, and then figure it out. There is a limit to the volume of coffee that you can produce on the fluid-bed roasters. They also produce a bit of a different flavor profile. So, I went with the Diedrich roaster because of the airflow in the roaster. I then created a roast profile on this roaster to mimic the fluid bed, and it has come out great! Right now, we are only using the larger roaster for our espresso for the shop and a few larger batch orders, but we have the ability to scale up quickly and are excited to be able to grow.
From Roaster to Packaging (Production Station)
As we work our way through our production space, you will notice several work tables that we use to package up the beans. We have these row of tables to fill bags of coffee, and they fill up, especially on Mondays. What I really love is the center-piece of the shop, the big table. The reality is that it is eight large workstations that we have setup and joined together. We can have simultaneous coffee and tea packaging happening at this table and have the ability to have four people packaging at once. When we are busy, it is cool to see everyone helping out and working together to hit our shipping deadlines.
Since this table is really only used about two hours a day, I am excited for the other uses we will have for it. We are working on the concept of coffee classes, but are open to more ideas. If you have an idea, leave a comment on our video or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Roaster to Brewer (Espresso, Coffee, & Tea Bar)
So far we have walked through the production space. That is the part of the business we have been doing since 2012. However, when we walked this space for the first time about a year ago, we felt it was perfect for production and begging to be a coffee shop. We moved in last November and got used to the space through the holidays. We learned how to use the space and reworked our production to what you see today. Then we started the fun process of opening our first coffee shop.
When we went about that process I had one goal in mind. I wanted to figure out a way to translate the goal of our business into a new medium. We work hard to put on display the producers that came before us in the coffee process through our roasting business. We do not want our roasts to be what stands out to you, we want it to be the coffee. So how do we do that in a coffee shop?
- The drinks have to be coffee-forward. We love flavors and have had a blast playing with them. But we’re not going to have the flavor get in the way of the coffee. If you order a mocha from us, it will taste like chocolate, but the chocolate will not cover up the coffee, it will highlight it.
- We’re going to train our baristas. As a business, we have a ton of coffee knowledge. It is impossible to believe that every employee will have all of the knowledge of coffee that we have collectively. However, we want baristas that are passionate about coffee and passionate about learning about coffee.
- We are going to put on display the coffee roasting business. If we lost customers from our coffee shop, because they are brewing these amazing coffees at home, I am happy. I want to support the producers in any way possible, and the more coffee we sell, the more we can support them. That is why we have and continue to work on a strong home-roasting and brewing products section of our shop and online store. We do not just sell anything, but we test and sell the items we think bring the best brewing experience at home.
From Bar to Customer (Seating Area)
And that leads us to the part of the shop where you come in, the seating area. I have always loved coffee shops. I have spent a good percentage of my working life in one and continue to do so. There is something about the atmosphere. There is something about the community. You cannot find this anywhere else, and I love it. The ‘white noise’ of a coffee shop is my favorite sound.
With all this love for the coffee shop driving us, we absolutely wanted to get the seating area right, so we paid as much attention to detail as we could. We knew it needed to be a healthy blend of welcoming, productive, calming, and comfortable without it taking center stage over our coffee. So we thought about that as we built the shop. We knew we needed it to feel welcoming, so we bought couches. We also wanted it to be productive, so we put in the bar-height tables. We love larger gatherings, so we included the large table and of course you need seating so we picked tables. The wooden tables and counter tops were all designed and constructed by my dad and Jonathan. Not only are they beautiful to look at and add a much-needed warmth to the shop, I love that we can include the "family touch" to almost every detail. Jonathan also created all of the artwork on the walls and signage throughout the shop, including our digital menus.
As we walk through the shop, it is cool to remember the countless conversations Jonathan and I had about nearly every detail. There was a day where we were in the office debating a lot of the aesthetic, so we just white-boarded the color palette by material. It was like a lightbulb for us as we developed the shop. From there, we built everything. Although he and I probably notice the items we had to cut from the budget or the minor details that are not exactly as we wanted them, we are so excited to present to you our vision and dream for a coffee shop. It has been super fun building and more fun the last six weeks getting started with it. I cannot wait to see what the next six months or six years will bring!