Coffee Roaster Eian Stamp keeps a close eye on roasting coffee beans at Steamboat Coffee Roasters. Stamp watches the color of the beans, which are constantly moving inside the roaster, listens to hear if the beans are popping and makes sure the temperature is constant during the process.
Steamboat Springs Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that there are about 50,000 independent coffee shops that do not roast their own coffee.
Angie Robinson wants a 5-pound bag of her high-altitude roasted, Rocky Mountain coffee in every independent coffee shop that doesn't roast its own beans in the nation.
According to her, that’s about 50,000 shops that should have Steamboat Coffee Roasters on the shelf.
Roasting coffee more than just a job for Steamboat Coffee Roasters employee.
The roasting process at high altitudes results in coffee that’s distinct from coffee roasted at sea level. Much like water takes longer to boil at 6,700 feet, coffee roasts slower.
“It slows the process down,” Robinson said. “The flavor is unique.”
After 12 years roasting in a storage unit off Twentymile Road, Steamboat Coffee Roasters moved into a storefront in Riverside Plaza in West Steamboat.
Robinson purchased the business in November 2012 and opened the coffee shop in November 2013. In addition to selling individual cups of coffee, the shop is another way to introduce people to the beans.
The red and stainless steel Diedrich Roaster now rests prominently inside the shop’s doors. Robinson said all the wholesale beans make it to their destinations in two days and typically within about 24 hours, guaranteeing the freshest taste.
If Steamboat coffee drinkers time it just right, they can grab beans within the flavor peak of eight to 24 hours after being roasted.
Eian Stamp leans in toward the face of the roaster while it runs, focusing on two silver dollar-sized windows in the steel. One shows the infrared burner while the other offers a view of the beans themselves as they turn in the drum. Stamp judges the color of the beans while watching the temperature climb toward 400 degrees. Occasionally, he leans into the drum and listens.
Robinson describes the first crack like the first kernel of popcorn: One crack sets off a cascade. The sound of cracking becomes audible over the hum of the roaster’s fan as steam escapes from the beans.
The second crack signals the beans are nearly finished. Only 40 degrees separates a light roast from a dark roast, Robinson said, with espresso generally topping out at 480 degrees.
The dark roasts that can give people stomach trouble when done by other brands don’t have the same effect when roasted at altitude in Steamboat, Robinson said.
“It roasts so slow that it never gets that acidic bite,” she said.
Steamboat Coffee Roasters can be bought in 16-ounce, 2.5-pound and 5-pound bags. In addition to being sold in the store, Steamboat Coffee Roasters coffee can be purchased online at www.steamboatcoffee.com.