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Local Coffee Roasting Makes Great Strides in a Shaky Economy

In a struggling economy, one business is on the rise and making an impact in the area: coffee roasting.

John Kupperman, owner of Smith Housewares and Restaurant Supply, says Syracuse is the highest coffee consuming city per capita in the country. People in the area have roasting businesses accessible to them, and many prefer the taste of freshly roasted coffee as opposed to store-bought. Kupperman says the coffee roasting business is a good one.

 "The demand for it has been very consistent and has not hugely increased over the time, but very steadily increased, but it continues to be very, very popular," Kupperman said.

Kupperman’s grandfather started the business, and his father took over for him twenty four years ago when roasting coffee beans was just an emerging trend.

"He was way ahead of the curve as far as coffee roasting," he said. "Nobody locally was doing it, and it was really just beginning to be a west coast phenomenon. So at that point, we were the only small independent coffee roaster."

The coffee roasting process starts with small, hard green coffee beans that have a virtually endless shelf life. They are poured into a large metal roaster where they stay for about fifteen minutes. While in there, the machine heats to three hundred ninety degrees and the beans emit a popping noise. The noise is called first crack and the beans turn a light cinnamon color. The roaster continues to heat, nearing four hundred and thirty degrees and the beans pop once more. After the second crack, the beans are dark brown and ready to be freed from the roaster to cool. During the process, a strong, sweet aroma encompasses the roasting room, surpassing the strength of a coffee shop fragrance.

Emmet Simpson, owner of Shamballa Café in Baldwinsville, relates his decision to roast coffee beans to his most memorable cup of coffee, one he tasted in Germany. He says once a person tastes a cup of first-rate coffee, he won’t want to return to store-bought days.

"What I think is going to be a new trend is that people start roasting coffee at home on their own," Simpson said. "So being a small roaster and having the green beans available, more and more customers are actually just buying the green beans from me and roasting at home themselves."

Simpson opened his café three years ago and has learned a thing or two about running a business. He moved from a larger shop with staff to a smaller store, which is connected to a bookstore. He is now a one man show, doing all the roasting, brewing, packaging, delivering, dishes, cleaning, and accounting.

“If you have good volume of customers it can be a good business, but it can be a financial struggle if you don’t have a lot of business, or if your overhead is really high," he said. "So for me, becoming smaller and more streamlined helped me to be able to stay in business and do this.”

To make her business a fruitful one, Anne Backer, owner of Taste the World in Oswego, learned coffee roasting from a friend.

“It was more food-oriented at first, but I knew I needed a product that people consumed on a more daily basis, so roasting the coffee is what led to the actual opening," Backer said. "It’s kind of how it all came together.”

She says people appreciate roasted coffee because of its freshness and taste. Backer roasts the beans in her shop several times a week, which keeps her business a successful one.

Matt Godard, owner of Café Kubal, runs three cafés in the Syracuse area. Although he was an English major in college, he had a greater interest in coffee. He started roasting from his home several years before he opened shop.

"I always wanted cafes," Godard said. "I don’t know if it’s bigger than I ever thought; it’s still a somewhat small operation. We only have 15 employees right now, but we’re doing well and we’re growing in a tough time."

Godard has been running the cafés for five years now and says he roasts a few hundred pounds of coffee beans on an average day, shipping orders as far as California. To provide the freshest coffee possible, he never serves beans that have been roasted more than ten days before.

Roasted coffee beans should be consumed within two weeks before they lose their flavor and aroma. It is wise to only buy as much roasted coffee that will last a week, to ensure freshness.

 All four coffee connoisseurs agree that after tasting coffee from fresh roasted beans, customers will never want to return to the store-bought days.