Java Brothers Coffee: Made in Martin City
By Kathy Feist
Every so often you get a whiff of a new smell floating around Martin City. It’s not barbecue. Or sizzling steak. It’s the smell of coffee beans being roasted, much like what the Folger’s plant produced in downtown Kansas City.
The aroma is coming from Java Brothers coffee roasted at 13621 Wyandotte St.
Java Brothers along with KJB Packaging moved into the former Promail warehouse a year and a half ago. The businesses work in tandem with each other as well as independently. They were formerly operating out of Gardner, KS.
A step inside their doors is eye candy of cleverly designed packaging for any kind of product, especially beer. But the bright colored 12-oz “bricks” of Java Brothers coffee is the most eye catching. Bags of Mustachio, Big Beard, Brazil, Columbia, Sumatra, Ethiopia and the new, special reserve Guatemala are not just in the Martin City showroom, but in 55 grocery stores in the Kansas City area. They are currently being sampled at local Sam’s Clubs to the end of September.
Quincy Pickering, Chief Operating Officer at Java Brothers, welcomes tours of the roasting facility.
The tour begins with large burlap sacks of green coffee imported from around the world.
For smaller projects Java Brothers roasts on Diedrich IR-12, a medium sized roaster. It can roast a maximum of 25 lbs. “Any cafe that does it’s own roasting has this,” he says.
At the farther end of the building is another coffee roaster. According to Pickering it is the largest in Kansas City, able to roast a maximum of 500 lbs of coffee at one time. Both Pickering and roast master Russell Thorpe are eager to explain the workings of the giant. A vacuum sucks the green coffee up into a silver hopper at the top of the machine. Once filled, the beans drop to another hopper below where it is roasted. Once roasted, it drops again into a cooling bin. The process can take as long as 16 minutes for medium roast and 20 minutes for dark roast. The temperature of the air used to roast the coffee can be as high as 470 degrees.
Thorpe is particularly fond of the of damper which allows him control of the air flow. “I can keep it real low and real slow,” he says. “If I were to roast the coffee in 10 minutes, it would be very brittle and crispy, like espresso.”
Once cooled the roasted coffee is grounded. Their newest grinder can grind as much as 1000 lbs in an hour. “What once took 20 minutes, now takes 5,” says Pickering.
Finally, the coffee goes to KJB Packaging. “This machine is the beast,” says Pickering. “It bags 30 12-oz. bags in one minute….which is insane!” he says. He says the old “fill and seal” method produced three bags per minute.
If you come at the right time–or if you order your own private label–you might be able to witness cupping. On this particular visit, John Hanson, owner of Anthem Coffee Imports, is slurping from half a dozen different cups of coffee with a spoon. He then spits it out into a nearby spittoon. Thorpe and Pickering join in. It gets noisy.
They are testing green coffee which has been roasted to a lighter roast.
“Coffee is shipped to us from all over the world. We grade them. We cup them. And approve them,” explains Hanson between slurps. “Like wine, we’re cupping for characteristics of the coffee, the flavor, the body, and acidity.”
The characteristics may then be described as “Good body”, “Roasted Almonds”, “Brown Sugar Sweetness”. You will find characteristics listed on a bag of Java Brothers.
In addition to tours, Java Brothers Coffee is offering readers of the Martin City Telegraph a 12- oz bag of coffee for $8, normally $10.68 retail, and a 32 oz bag of Brazil labeled coffee for only $16. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.