Where does your coffee come from? Depending on where you get your cup of Joe, the answer may be as vague as “Columbia” to as specific as an individual farm.
The recently opened Corazon Coffee Roasters in Valley Junction in West Des Moines sells coffee from Honduras, Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Brazil, Sumatra and Guatemala. The coffee is largely purchased from fair trade farms and cooperatives, which promote healthier working conditions and economic incentives to avoid things like child labor.
Corazon is owned by Scott Warner and his wife, Laura Coco. Warner ran us through the life of a bean from when it pops out of the soil to when it gets poured into your cup.
Coffee is harvested in Central America from October through March. The beans Corazon gets from Guatemala come from the Chajulense Co-Op, which gets its beans from a group of nearly 700 farmers in the Chajul, Nebaj, Cotzal and Chiantla areas.
“Some of the small farmers might only produce five bags of coffee, so it can be tough for them to get a fair price,” Warner said. “Through working with fair trade groups they can get a set price and make sure the entire region is improving, rather than just one farm.”
Green, unroasted coffee beans have a longer shelf life than their roasted counterparts. Corazon gets in bags ranging from 130 to 150 pounds, normally ordering between three and eight bags every few months. Warner and his wife roast much smaller quantities than that. A green bean can be sealed away and be good for as long as six months, Warner said.
Corazon’s roaster can handle up to 30 pounds at a time, but Warner is currently roasting in five to 10 pound batches.
“Freshness is the most important thing,” Warner said. “We would rather keep the batches small and roast more often than let product sit on the shelf.”
The roasting process takes 15 minutes, after which the beans must cool for a few minutes. After roasting the beans need to de-gas for about 24 hours. Warner puts them into covered buckets, but doesn’t seal them. If he did, the tops would pop off from the escaping gas.
Warner finds that the coffees need different lengths of time to de-gas. For Sumatran coffees, it’s around three days, while the Guatemalan beans take about a day.
Once roasted, Warner likes to use the beans within a week.
Blending the beans
Because they are dealing with small batches at Corazon, Warner prefers to grind the beans when the customer comes in, rather than leave products sitting on the shelf. If a customer wants to mix and match different varieties, Warner does that at the time of purchase as well.
Getting the product out
Once blended, Warner gets Corazon’s coffees out to stores like Campbell’s Nutrition, Gateway Market and the East Village restaurant HoQ.
“The coffee you get at the grocery store might have a longer shelf life, but they are using a different product and ways of sealing it up,” Warner said. “The bags I use are compostable and biodegradable. It won’t have as long a shelf life, but it’s going to be better for the environment.”
Corazon Coffee Roasters
Where: 516 Elm St., West Des Moines
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Info: 279-0800; corazoncoffeeroasters.com.