This is old news to many, but I wanted to give a shout out to the crew at Kickapoo Coffee for earnings the honor of being Roast Magazine’s 2010 Roaster of the Year!
Kickapoo Coffee has a link to the full article, a PDF here, on their web site.
Kickapoo Coffee is based in Viroqua, WI and was founded in 2005.
Kickapoo’s headquarters are situated in Viroqua’s one-time train depot, a restored historic building that houses the company’s four full-time employees (including the owners) and the roastery’s centerpiece: a vintage 1930s G-30 Probat. The 30-kilo roaster is a true rarity— Nicholes and Semanchin haven’t been able to confirm whether another G-30 is operational in the United States—but functions as the best vintage roasters do, with a heat-retaining predictability that helps the coffee develop sweetly and consistently. Each coffee is roasted in a small, handcrafted batch to preserve flavor and allow for maximum freshness.
The roaster isn’t the only vintage item in Kickapoo’s facility. The company maintains a Jabez Burns sample roaster from the early 20th century that Nicholes refers to as a “gorgeous old cast-iron workhorse.” Kickapoo also vacuum seals its prepackaged coffees using a vintage canner that blends seamlessly into the surroundings. And throughout the facility visitors can see bits and pieces of local history, including reclaimed studs from the train depot’s original build, locally crafted cabinets and green coffee bins made of formaldehyde-free plywood, and handmade roaster belts supplied by local Amish craftsmen.
Although Kickapoo isn’t located in a specialty coffee hotbed, the Viroqua community is gradually responding to the company’s dedication to “full transparency in coffee flavor”—in other words, roasting light enough to express a coffee’s true potential. “In our marketplace, we’re generally the lightest by an order of magnitude,” says Nicholes. “But we work hard to source really high quality coffees that have more natural flavor, so we can get away with roasting them lighter and revealing those characteristics. And it seems to be working.”