By Aubrey Byron, News Editor
St. Louis Public Radio, an affiliate of University of Missouri-St. Louis, has partnered with Goshen Coffee to provide coffee for the station’s three story, Grand Center office. Goshen Coffee is a local roasting company based in Edwardsville, Illinois. Partner and roaster, Argus Keppel, came to the Grand Center campus to discuss roasting and coffee.
Keppel was not always a fan of coffee. He said, “I wasn’t into it at all.” When he landed a job at Foundation Grounds as a prep chef with shifts starting early in the morning, he started drinking it to help him wake up. Almost immediately he started asking questions, like, “Why does this Sumatra taste different than an Ethiopian?” He started going to more coffee shops, experimenting at home, and getting together with other coffee lovers.
Every week when the roaster would drop off the delivery from Goshen, Keppel would bug him for insights. “He never wanted to answer the questions, never wanted to talk to me,” Keppel said. After a year or so of trying to make plans to tour the facility to no avail, one day he asked Keppel, ‘Do you want to roast coffee?” He immediately said yes.
It turned out the roaster was selling the company and after three weeks of training,Keppel became the head roaster and then eventually a partner. His roasting career began with what he describes as “a lot of trial and error.”
“I didn’t even have a car,” he said. After getting dropped off on a Saturday and watching one roast get pulled, he decided “I want to be a part of this.” He bought a $640 Mercury Grand Marquis and started commuting to Edwardsville half of the week.
That was a little over five years ago. Keppel said, “People in St. Louis didn’t want to talk to me about roasting.” So he began to reach out to roasters in Chicago and Kansas City. He found people who roast on similar roasters who were willing to give advice. “Dark Matter [In Chicago], especially, were so friendly to me.” They still get together once a year.
Within first three months, he was brought to a roasting competition. Keppel said, “We do ‘America’s Best Espresso.’” Since he started, Goshen has done five competitions and placed in the top three for three of them. “They’re like summer camps. You see the same people and it’s really awesome.”
At the warehouse facility in Edwardsville, a buzzing can be heard from the roasting room. The Fluid Bed Air Roaster, as opposed to a drum roaster, is unique because it uses convection heat, basically hot air. A monitor in front of the door shows the temperature and “profile” of the coffee. As I talked to Keppel, Carl, the Head Roaster, frequently walked into the room with the roaster to make minute adjustments.
When speaking about the roasting process, he said, “So basically you have sugars in coffee and our job is to caramelize the sugars…That said, you can also burn the sugars.” It is 370 degrees when the caramelization starts and at 470 degrees, the sugars and caffeine will start to burn off. Somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot.
The giant burlaps sacks hold “green” coffee beans, meaning they are raw before they get roasted. The beans come from a fruit and taste the best when picked at the ripest. “It’s a raw, organic fruit.” The pickers sometimes use bracelets or even nail polish to determine if the fruit is the right color for picking.
Coffee is a product that can often come with human rights issues. Keppel talked a little about Goshen’s practices on that issue. He said, “We downright look at the importer and how they are working with the coffee farmer.” They used to use only Fairtrade and organic certified products, but it was limiting. A lot of farmers could not afford the certification to be recognized. They began to seek out farmers that deserved the certification, but maybe didn’t have the money to buy one yet. He said fair sourcing is “our highest priority.”
Keppel said his favorite way to brew coffee is a V60 single cup pour over. “It’s the cleanest, most consistent cup I’ve found.” With an automated brewer, you can’t be sure that it is saturating all of the grounds. With another pour over, if you do not pour for 30 seconds, it will begin “degassing” which lets out C02 and flavor.
As for his favorite coffee? It’s the “secret stash” at Goshen. The brewers spend sufficient time researching and finding new beans to get excited about. These stashes come in tall, narrow boxes rather than sacks. He opened one box of the raw beans, and a strong fruity aroma flooded out. “It smells like a fruit smoothie,” he exclaimed.
Goshen is very excited about the partnership with St. Louis Public Radio at Grand Center. “All of us listen to St. Louis Public Radio… and we’re mainly happy we can provide partnership with them.”
Goshen coffee can be found in Schnucks, Straub’s, Dierbergs. It is noticeable at any store because of its Rosie the Riveter inspired label, featuring a tattooed woman flexing her arm. Atomic Dust handled the label design and “they knocked it out of the park,” according to Argus.