Made in the Tri-States: Galena roaster places emphasis on quality, inclusion

A hot spiced-apple cider at Mean Bean Roasters in Galena, Ill., on Monday, Nov. 26, 2018. PHOTO CREDIT: JESSICA REILLY

GALENA, Ill. — At Mean Bean Roasters, customers will leave with more than just a cup or package of coffee.

Owner Andrew Carver said visitors will depart with knowledge of how that product was created.

The roasting equipment at 240 N. Main St. is located close to the check-out counter. And customers are more than welcome to take a look at the process behind the product.

“People here get a chance to see how we do it,” said Carver. “We like to try to educate people along the way.”

Mean Bean Roasters dates to 1999, when Carver founded a roasting company in Plainfield. He moved that business to Galena in 2010, and the company has remained a Main Street staple ever since.

Galena Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kerry Shelke said the company’s presence adds an important dynamic to the downtown.

“When you are in there, you feel like you are standing in a cloud of coffee beans,” she said. “I think part of what (Mean Bean) does is gives the customer a unique experience. They get the chance to see it from inception all the way to the finished product.”

START TO FINISH

Mean Bean Roasters employs a half-dozen people.

Carver and his staff are capable of producing up to 30 pounds of coffee in a single roast and as much as 1,500 pounds in a day.

“It is a fun process, and we take a lot of pride in it,” Carver said. “I try to create the kind of coffee that I would want to drink.”

For coffee roasters, everything starts with a good bean.

Carver said he sources some of his beans directly from farmers and relies on brokers for the rest.

The beans are placed within a hopper then sent into a heated drum.

“It is almost like a cement mixer,” he said. “It moves the beans round and round and round.”

This heated drum serves as an oven where beans can be roasted at temperatures as high as 500 degrees. The heat alters the characteristics of the bean, changing its color and removing its moisture

The extreme heat eventually brings the bean to the “first crack” — the point at which the bean literally cracks open. This usually takes place at about 380 degrees.

“It is kind of like making popcorn,” Carver noted. “What you are doing is breaking and changing the chemical composition of the coffee bean.”

Upon first crack, the beans will almost double in size. Around this point, the beans also lose their skins.

Following the first crack, the process varies, depending on how the roaster envisions the end product.

A light blonde coffee, for instance, will be complete shortly after first crack. Some of the darker coffees, however, will be roasted beyond the point of “second crack,” which takes place at about 420 degrees.

The coffee eventually will make its way into a “stir flex,” which essentially serves as a cooling tray. Carver noted that it is important for this step to take place quickly. At Mean Bean, the cycle lasts no longer than four minutes.

Finally, Mean Bean uses a “destoner” that removes any impurities from the product. The coffee is then packaged and prepared for sale.

Mean Bean Roasters creates about 25 kinds of coffee. However, Carver said there are more possibilities for customers to put their personal mark on the product.

PERSONALIZED EXPERIENCE

Carver said some of the coffee roasted at Mean Bean is sold on a wholesale basis.

He said he works with many bed and breakfasts in Galena and takes pride that those staying overnight wake up to his coffee in the morning.

Those who visit Mean Bean in person can purchase a bag of coffee or buy it by the cup. Carver said there always are samples available to customers, ensuring they can try a product before buying it.

He said Mean Bean coffee can be infused with a variety of flavor profiles, which are added to the product after roasting is complete. These flavors range from cheesecake to bourbon pecan.

Customers also are able to personalize their purchase via the packaging.

Carver noted that visitors can create a bag in the store, choosing a picture or a name that they hope to display on the package.

“We like to have a lot of fun with the customers,” Carver said. “That is a big part of who we are.”

Shelke said the customized nature of the products at Mean Bean helps to make the product “a really unique gift” for anyone who is shopping in the area.

Moreover, she believes it makes the roastery a perfect destination for travelers

“For the consumer, I think it is really important to bring something back from a place that you have visited,” she said. “When you can get something that is branded there, or created there, or specific to that region, that is something special. It feels like you are bringing a piece of that town back with you.”