There’s nothing shady going on in the back room of the Trek Bicycle Store at 1442 W. Lane Ave., but something dark is brewing.
Trek shop owner Chris Bishop opened Backroom Coffee Roasters, a wholesale coffee operation, in 2010, selling a variety of blends to individuals as well as local markets and cafes.
Bishop started home roasting his own coffee in earnest just two years before opening his business. His interest in roasting his own beans started because he “just wanted to be able to drink good coffee.” There were few coffee places near where he lived that he enjoyed, so he began to roast his own.
His first attempt at roasting about seven years ago ended worse than he intended. Bishop describes it as “cowboy coffee.” He used a cast iron skillet over an open flame and ended up burning the whole batch.
The move from home to back room did not start as a grand idea. Bishop was about to open a new Trek location, but the building was a bit too big for just the bike shop. After considering other options, he came up with the idea of moving and expanding his roasting operation in the extra space.
“There was no magic moment that I can remember,” Bishop says. “It was a good opportunity to have fresh roasted coffee where people drink it the most – at home.”
Though the two shops are separate entities, there is a definitive bond between them. Some of the roast names are bicycle themed, such as the most popular full city roast (a moderately dark roast), the Biker Blend. Other titles are whimsical, such as the Horse, a bold French roast, or reference the beans’ country of origin, such as Kenya aa, a medium roast with lemon and wine undertones.
“I just dream them up,” Bishop says. “(Backroom Coffee Roasters) started off as a hobby business and you have to have fun with it. It’s more authentic that way.”
The roast process itself is a combination of art and science. Bishop starts with natural green coffee beans. As with wine seasons, each variety of bean is different and changes each year, so the roasting process has a lot of trial and error until the best combination can be found. He uses a drum roaster, a rotating drum over gas valves similar to a gas grill, which keeps the beans stirred and evenly roasted.
The roaster is preheated depending on the roast level he wishes to achieve – lower temperatures for lighter roasts, higher for darker. The roasting itself takes around 15 minutes.
Cues from the beans are their first and second cracks. As moisture starts to escape the bean, the cells expand and pull apart. This creates a cracking sound from each bean. The second crack is the moisture releasing after the beans have been roasted for a bit. Stopping the roasting process after the first crack creates a lighter roast, while waiting until just after the second crack creates a much darker roast and darker flavor.
“There’s no hard and fast rule to coffee,” Bishop says.
After the beans have been roasted to the correct temperature, they are poured in a cooler that spins and cools them by quickly drawing the hot air out. Then they are ready to be packaged.
Bishop plans to add a small coffee bar to his Trek operation in early March.
“It’s more like a tasting room for a brewery instead of a coffee shop,” Bishop says.
The self-serve coffee bar will host a rotating roast featuring the beans he is currently roasting.
Backroom Coffee Roasters also sells bags at retail prices at www.backroomcoffeeroasters.com. A 12-ounce bag is $10.99.
Allison Dalrymple is a contributing writer. Feedback welcome at email@example.com.