Oak Creek roasters know their beans

Storm Mountain Coffee knows patience means perfection when it comes to roasting

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An unroasted coffee bean is unassuming.

It starts off as a small, cherry-like fruit that's grown on trees in equatorial regions. When it's picked and dried, it looks like a light-green dried pea and smells like grass.

But within that small shape hides the rich tastes and aromas of one of the world's most popular drinks.

It's through the roasting process that those flavors are released.

Now, in downtown Oak Creek, Shamus and Julie Spitzley are roasting beans from various countries to create a range of coffees that can appeal to every taste.

"A lot of people think we're a coffee shop that's not open yet," Julie Spitzley said.

"But we're the step before the coffee shop."

The couple opened their coffee roasting business, Storm Mountain Coffee Roasters, in June. Since then, they've created one decaffeinated coffee and eight roasts, including the nutty and robust Costa Rican El Conquistador and the smooth Colombian French Roast.

Two of their coffees are blends, the Storm Blend and the Strings Blend, the latter of which was blended especially for the Strings in the Mountains music festival this year.

The Spitzleys buy beans from various regions, choosing high-grade beans that support the environment and humanitarian efforts. Two types come from a Costa Rican estate that offers top-quality beans while setting standards for environmental and humanitarian practices, Julie Spitzley said.

That particular estate screens the companies to which it sends its beans and typically has a two-year waiting list, but the Spitzleys were able to get the beans almost immediately after they requested them.

The company is named for Storm Mountain, the original name of Mount Werner, to tie the company to the community. The company's logo is a plane propeller, which represents the company's goal of flying everywhere to look for the perfect beans, Julie Spitzley said.

After the quality of the bean, the roasting process also plays a big part in how the coffees taste, Julie Spitzley said.

"You have to get to know beans," she said. "The beans themselves are different year to year, depending on how the weather is."

One standard at Storm Mountain Coffee Roasters is that the roasting process is never rushed, and the beans are never burned. Burned beans create very dark, almost bitter coffees, she said.

"It's excellent coffee. It's never bitter. It's roasted to perfection, and it's at a good price," Julie Spitzley said.

The beans are roasted in a large red machine in the Spitzleys' downtown space. They can roast 25 pounds every 15 minutes, with most beans processed at a temperature of 450 degrees or higher.

Temperature and time factor into the flavor of the coffee. Coffee that is roasted to the first "pop," or when the first bit of light skin comes off the bean, is lighter. Continuing to roast the coffee to the second pop makes it darker.

The business's marketing efforts are focused on large venues and organizations as well as local stores, such as Curve Market and Deli, which offers the beans.

The Spitzleys said they are excited to be starting the business and are happy with how it's taken off. Shamus Spitzley grew up in Hayden, and because the couple live in Stagecoach, they said Oak Creek was a natural choice to set up shop.

"It's a great business to be in," Julie Spitzley said. "It's enjoyable, and it smells good every time you come to work."

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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