Noble Coyote Coffee Roasters Talk the Challenge of Selling Coffee in Dallas, The Science of Roasting

Categories: Interviews

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Noble Coyote Coffee Roasters
Kevin and Marta Sprague

Kevin Sprague started roasting his own coffee beans as a hobby almost ten years ago when his wife, Marta, gave him a small tabletop roaster. His hobby eventually turned into Noble Coyote Coffee Roasters and now their small-batch artisanal coffee is served at several restaurants (Sissy's and Bryan Street Tavern) and is sold at Jimmy's Food Store and the White Rock and Saint Michael's farmers' markets or through their website. Soon they hope to be on the shelves at Central Market and Whole Foods. Here's a chat about how they got started and the dutiful science of roasting coffee beans.

When did you start roasting coffee?
I started about ten years ago with a small tabletop roaster. I started getting online and sourcing the beans from different places, mostly through Sweet Maria's. I did that for so many years, and eventually got a one-pound drum roaster. Then, the company I worked at for 13 years closed down, the timing was perfect and we decided to start our company.

What's the biggest challenge of selling coffee in Dallas?
There's a lot of work once you get into it that you don't really think about. Like trying to source beans all the time. I have to track down importers and get them to send samples. Then, the beans change with each crop depending on weather and other things, so I always need new samples. Sometimes they don't send me Fair Trade samples, or they forget. It takes weeks to track it down. Then dealing with shipping companies is a whole other process.

It's also hard trying to sell coffee in the summer heat. Luckily we found that cold-press coffee does really good.

What's the process for cold-press coffee?
There's never any heat applied to the coffee. You just grind the coffee then let it steep for 12 hours then filtrate out all the grounds, so what you have is a concentrate that is diluted one-to-one with water or milk to bring out a little more of the sweetness. The cold press process pulls out the acidity and all you get is this rich chocolate flavor on the backside. It's really an older process that was popular in the '60's and it's starting to come back a little.

Is there a specific flavor profile you aim for with your beans?
Well, coffee from different regions is going to taste different. Then when you roast it, that's when you can change the profile of the coffee and how it taste - by adjusting air-flow, time, temperature; between all of those variables, one of those gets off and one day it will taste like cinnamon and the other day something else.

Do you employ any specific process or timing?
No, I just work with it and try to meld it. I'll roast it and then let it sit for a few days. It takes about 48-hours for it to develop it's full complexity and roundness. So, I taste it after two days, then continue to try it a couple days after that and log it; from there I can tell what I've done. Every time I roast I keep a chart...

Because even small changes can change the flavor?
Yes, even if it's just a few degrees off it can change it, as well as the timing and when you do certain things. I can also regulate gas flow and the airflow. And all of that can change the flavor.

How do you test it - by drinking a lot of coffee?
After it's roasted I'll try a cup - for up to five days, until I can tweak out what I like about that bean. I watch what that specific bean's characteristics are, then focus on that aspect or change a factor, like make the heat higher or lower. Basically create a profile for that bean, then once I find it, try to mimic that process every time, which can sometimes can be affected by weather conditions, humidity or a time a year.

Sounds incredibly tedious.
It's a challenge to sit there and try to regulate it all the time. That's part of the joy and challenge of it for me though, is trying to find those characteristics and then doing the same thing every time.

Is that the beauty of running a small shop - you're able to make those small tweaks?
Yes, I'm the only one who's roasting, so it's all on me if it goes bad, but I have really tight quality control over everything that goes out the door.


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