My coffee roasting journey started a bit different than most. While most coffee roasters seem to start out of a desire to roast coffee I started roasting out of a necessity to keep my business afloat. At the time I started roasting coffee I had owned and operated two coffee shops in Tri-Cities, WA. My first retail shop was a drive thru only location, located in Pasco, WA and the second shop was a coffee house in Richland, WA. Like a lot of young entrepreneurs I thought you had to keep expanding in order to be successful. So I purchased an old drive thru outlet in Walla Walla, WA for almost nothing through an ad on Craigslist. I fixed it up, painted it, did a quick remodel and opened it as fast as I could. It had a ton of issues right at the start. It was a self-contained 300sqft building which means you had to fill up and empty water tanks every day. It seems that in the Pacific Northwest that’s what a ton of coffee businesses had done in the 90’s. The opening of the shop worked and it was decent but it was a lot of work and it was a long drive and it was in the middle of a snow storm. It just wasn’t a good fit at the time or good timing.
It was November of 2010 and after just two weeks of opening that small coffee outlet in Walla Walla, WA, I decided to close it down and put it up for sale. I did have the other two coffee shops in Tri-Cities, WA and they generated just enough income to break even, after all the bills were paid. The truth is this, the recession wasn’t kind to the coffee industry and we definitely felt it. I ended up selling that mom and pop shop and thankfully got back what I invested into it.
At the time green coffee was close to its highest on record, early 2011. Many small batch coffee roasters were going out of business and many were having to raise their prices. Like I said, we were barely making ends meet at the time with our two coffee shops and couldn’t afford any more cost. And so with that bit of cash I found a cheap 25lb coffee roaster on Craigslist located on the East Coast. It was a used and abused Primo 20 coffee roaster from the late 90's, it showed up with a damaged motor and a ton of other issues due to lack of maintenance and care from the previous owner.
Closing the Walla Walla venture and purchasing that first used roaster was the best business decision I ever made. It was in that failure that I made some really great business moves and was lucky to make it out on top. It is absolutely true that every success story has failure as its tutor. And luck had a huge play in the timing.
And that’s how Resilient Coffee Roasters was born.
When I started roasting I was as green and green can be. I didn’t have any formal training, all I knew about roasting was gained from what I watched other people do. Most of my information on coffee roasting came from magazines and the internet. I do remember attending a trade show in Seattle called Coffee Fest in 2010 and taking a roasting intro class by a guy named Terry Davis (formally from Ambex). He stated, “Anyone can roast, it’s once you start roasting that you realize the world of roasting is deep and wide”. I always believed that you had to be educated or experienced to roast coffee, that is was a trade handed down and that you had to know the know in order to do it right. I'm sure there is a lot of truth in that but it was with those word, “Anyone can roast” that gave me the guts to see if I could actually do it.
My first few months of roasting were ridiculous indeed. Truth be told, the first few years were. I would scorch and tip the beans so badly that you could taste more defect then cup character every time. The insane thing is that I sold that coffee to our customer’s day in and day out, and they actually bought it, and they actually liked it. I thought it was good and decent, my palate wasn’t developed, I figured it was brown so I must be doing it right. I would cup the coffees as if I knew what I was doing and score them my own way and I look back now and can’t believe people actually bought it.
The coffee roaster itself was a beast. It had two speeds, all the way on or all the way off. The flame control and air flow on Primo’s are slim at best. They don't totally suck but they are toward the low end of commercial roasters. On top of all that I had to deal with a used machine that kept breaking and having issue after issue. I came to realize that if you learn to roast coffee on a machine that isn’t doing what it’s supposed to you learn really quick how to manipulate it to do what you want. Looking back now I’m glad I learned how to roast on such a difficult machine, it truly taught me through trial and error how to roast really good coffee. With that roaster it was a difficult but fascinating few years, in those years I was thrown into a world I didn’t know existed; the world of specialty coffee roasting, a world that is deep and wide and always evolving. With those years behind me and all that experience and difficult work I had the ability to upgrade and upgrade I did.
Attending another trade show SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) 2014 in Seattle, It was my goal to choose the roaster that would best fit this company and our future. As coffee roasters these days we have a large and excellent field of equipment to choose from. I narrowed it down to the top tier roasters according to my point of view, it was between Probat, Loring, Deidrich, San Fransican, and Giesen. While I went back and forth on what design worked best for our set up and what machine best identifies with our future it was a difficult decision to make.
It was very hard choice to make and after talking to all the manufactures I ended the trade show determined to purchase a Giesen W15. Overall it’s a fantastic and fascinating machine to say the least. The ability I have to perfect a profile is leaps and bounds above anything the Primo could ever do. To be honest, I don’t know how I was even able to roast on that Primo and call it good. There is just no comparison. If you’d like to see it in action stop by our roastery anytime, we are roasting daily.
Fast forward to the present day. I spent over three full years planning, and drawing, and creating, and dreaming up this coffee roastery. It’s more than a dream, it’s absolutely miraculous, Resilient Coffee Roasters was born through trials and tribulations.
The end is this, I want to be an innovator not an imitator. While I love what the inventors of market driven (Starbucks, Peet’s, Dunkin) and third wave coffee (Stumptown, Counter Culture, Intelligentsia) have done I want to do things with convictions of my own. The way coffee is prepared and distributed throughout the world is continually changing, it seems, every few months. That’s fun, that’s exciting, that’s evolving. That’s where we’ll be as a business model and as human beings. And as forward thinkers and innovators all of us at Resilient will always be on the forefront bringing spectacular coffees from around the world to the fine people of the Tri-Cities.