Sunday, November 6, 2011

Trekking for a Jolt of Java

Backroom Coffee Roasters

Espresso, Latte, Mocha, Americano, Café au Lait, Breva, Macchiato, Cappuccino, Frappuccino….the seemingly endless list of coffee beverages goes on and on and on. Once you finally narrow in on your caffeine fix of choice, you must iterate another set of clarifying adjectives; single, double, skinny, dry, decaf, half-caf, extra shot, with soy, without whip. Is it possible to just get a fresh cup of coffee? Backroom Roasters isn’t giving in to all the hype. Although they are relatively new to the scene, roasting a superior quality coffee bean for you to brew at home is their goal and it is worth getting out of bed for.

My search for a local roaster led me straight to the Trek store on Lane Avenue. The name Backroom Coffee Roasters isn’t just a coincidence; they are located in the backroom of this well known bicycle dealer. As I made my trek to the backroom I was first greeted by the intoxicating smell of freshly roasted coffee beans, then by owners Chris Bishop, his wife Cara and his mother Trish. As his wife and mother were busy roasting, labeling, filling and sealing bags with fresh beans, Chris took a moment to tell me how it all began. In April 2010, Chris opened the independent bicycle shop (one of three he owns in the Columbus area). At first, he wasn’t sure what to do with the roughly 900 sq. ft. of backroom space, but quickly an idea began to percolate. Chris’s desire for fresh coffee led him to start dabbling in home roasting a few years back, making ½ pound at a time for him and his wife. He felt there was a need for fresh, locally roasted coffee so he decided to give it a go, slowly building his coffee roasting enterprise while he ran the bike store. They sold their first bag of coffee by June of the same year and the buzz about this local roaster has been rapidly increasing since.

What started out as a hobby has quickly become a secondary business, with a little comingling between the coffee and bikes. One of the many things that make Backroom Coffee Roasters unique is that they deliver their product to 90% of their accounts via bicycle. These accounts are numerous specialty markets and stores that push local ingredients across Columbus and a few in greater Ohio. The beans are delivered the day after roasting and are typically on the shelf that day or the next. If you haven’t experienced a true freshly roasted and brewed cup of joe, Backroom Coffee Roasters has it covered. You will be sipping your way to sweet bliss a day or two after the beans are roasted, resulting in unique flavor combinations you just won’t get from your routine java off the store shelves.

Before you can wake up and smell the coffee, the beans need to go through a dramatic metamorphosis. Chris explained that the taste of coffee is dictated by the type of bean, the region in which it is grown, how it is processed, and how soon you enjoy it after it is roasted, ground and then brewed. The two types of coffee beans, Robusta and Arabica, grow along the earth’s equator between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Backroom sources their beans from all of the main growing regions including Indonesia, Africa, Central America and South America. Backroom Coffee Roasters hand selects their beans out of the best available. The beans are harvested and then depending on where they are grown they are processed by either a wet or dry method. During the wet method, the fruit, known as cherries, run through a pulper where they are smashed then pressure washed clean. The dry method, or traditional method of processing is both cheaper and more time consuming. The fruit is spread out in large beds while the sun does all the work. The dried out fruit decays and rots off leaving the two seed halves (hence the unique coffee bean shape.) Backroom Coffee Roasters receives the small greenish grey beans after they are processed and roasts them in small batches once a week. They can roast up to 18 pounds of coffee at a time in their drum roaster, carefully controlling the temperature and roasting period depending on the specific type of bean. Most roasts are in the range of 385-475 degrees for around 15 minutes. During the roast process the bean goes through a cycle where it expands 20% and looses 20% of its weight due to evaporating moisture. As the beans cell structure grows its makes a cracking sound similar to popcorn. The first crack, also know as the light or cinnamon roast, occurs around 385 degrees, followed by a medium or city roast, dark or full city roast and then finally French or espresso roast. It is a common misconception that darker coffee has higher caffeine. In actuality, a light roast is higher in caffeine than an espresso roast. So how do they make decaffeinated versions? This closely guarded secret takes place during processing. Only a few processors in the world take the raw beans, dump them into a bath and then carefully extract the moisture along with the caffeine. Part of the moisture is returned to the bean so the flavor is not lost and voila - you have decaf coffee.

What began as an earthy smelling bean quickly transformed into something that took on an entrancing aroma that engulfed the back room. With these freshly roasted beans, Backroom Coffee Roasters is currently creating five single origin and hand mixing five blends from various origins. Chris stated that by blending coffee beans from different regions you “eliminate the bad aspect of the bean and highlight the good”. They offer these staple coffee beans as well as limited release blends based on what is seasonally available. The focus of their brand is to source and produce local freshly roasted beans that have an outstanding quality. Most coffee shops deliver the promise of freshly brewed coffee, but not many have the bragging rights of freshly roasted. Next time you purchase your coffee at the grocery store try to search for their roasted date. Chances are that you will not find one on anything other than Backroom Coffee Roasters beans. It is important to them to hand stamp each bag of whole coffee beans, guaranteeing that they are as fresh as possible. Small batch, high end coffee, unsurpassed freshness and quality delivered in an environmentally responsible way. Not only is Backroom coffee guaranteed to be the best part of waking up, you can be sure it is good to the last drop.

Coffee Beans

The Backroom Coffee Roasters coffee (pictured left) traveled 0 miles to Columbus. While the Starbucks brand coffee (pictured right) traveled roughly 2,445 miles from Seattle, Washington to Columbus.

As mentioned above, the two types of coffee beans are Arabica and Robusta. While Robusta contains more caffeine, Arabica has been noted to have better flavor characteristics. Both beans have been linked to amazing health benefits such as preventing cancer, lowering depression risks, and protecting against Type 2 diabetes, just to name a few.


Big Perks: Coffee’s Health Benefits 7 Health Benefits of Coffee

Chocolate Pumpkin Coffee Cupcakes with Mocha Frostin

*These extremely moist cupcakes are low-fat, so go ahead and eat more than one.

Ingredients - Chocolate Pumpkin Coffee Cupcakes

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
  • 1½ cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup Backroom Coffee Roasters Biker Blend, freshly brewed
  • 1/3 cup roasted & salted pumpkin seeds


  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Line cupcake pan with paper liners
  • In a large bowl, mix together butter, sugar, applesauce and eggs
  • Add pumpkin and continue to mix until fully incorporated
  • Stir in flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt
  • Slowly add hot coffee and blend until you get a smooth, fluffy batter
  • Spoon cupcake batter into liners until 2/3 full and bake for 20 minutes
  • Place on wire racks and cool completely
  • Top with Mocha Frosting (recipe follows) and roasted & salted pumpkin seeds
  • Makes: 2 dozen

Ingredients - Mocha Frosting

  • 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon Backroom Coffee Roasters Biker Blend, freshly brewed


  • Place chocolate chips and butter into a medium bowl
  • In a small saucepan, heat cream on medium just until it starts to boil
  • Pour hot cream over chocolate chips and butter
  • Whisk until fully incorporated
  • Add hot coffee and continue to whisk until smooth
  • Frosting will thicken as it cools


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