Ben Gingerich, owner/operator of Coastal Coffee tells us his story
One of Huron County’s most successful niche businesses was developed from the love of good coffee. Finding it easier to control the freshness and purity of coffee, Ben Gingerich learned the art of coffee roasting as a hobby on a small machine that looks very much like a pop-corn popper.
When the Bluewater Youth Centre closed in 2012, Gingerich seized the opportunity and started his micro roastery business. Since then Ben has quickly grown his business to a full-time roastery and gained a following among local restaurants and serious coffee drinkers.
Resourcing a good roaster to help him in Zurich was a challenge (Meet Jeff below). He belongs to a network of Micro-Roasters in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). Training on the machine is required, as is extensive training regarding Gingerich’s roast profiles. Profiles are the recipes, if you will, that make each roastery flavours unique.
The equipment used at Coastal Coffee is a modified natural-gas fired roaster imported from Turkey. The machine, as designed, was difficult to manage. Gingerich likened it to cooking on high heat without an on/off switch. He modified the roaster to add heat-supply adjustments. He started in a 10×10 building on his home property, but moved to main street in Zurich in 2012 with his wife who operates a hair-dressing shop next door. The shop can be expanded and will be home to a retail store-front soon.
Left, Roaster Jeff and right owner/operator Ben Gingerich stand in front of their modified equipment.
Ben has intimate knowledge of his business from bean growth and selection through to market. While coffee is available from many regions around the world, Central American coffee is much easier to access. Beans are sourced directly from Nicaragua (primarily), Brazil, Columbia as well as Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Ethiopia. By visiting producers in Central America he has developed relationships that have propelled new opportunities. And, he’s been able to share his knowledge with them, to help them improve their quality. Gingerich works through Importers here in Canada that have these relationships with producers too as it’s vital to understand source for traceability.
TRIVIA: One worker can pick just 3-5 lbs per day,
one plant produces just 1lb per year.
Ben talked about accessing special grade coffees. Producers are now rewarded for quality as consumers will pay more. Our taste and demand for deep rich coffee flavours are increasing sustainability for their markets in these Central American countries.
Flavour profiles start with the variety at the source. Soil type, elevation and climate ultimately affect the flavour, although influences of the farmer regarding pruning does strengthen the crop too. Beans are harvested at their peak ripeness (Ben likened the coffee bean to a cherry pit). Educating the pickers to identify bean ripeness is an ongoing challenge in many of these countries. As yield is measured by volume, there is a need to compensate workers who are choosey, to ensure the quality the markets demand. Processing at the source include washing and drying to get the moisture down. Drying is done by natural sun-light. Then, the beans are shipped to a processing plant that reduces the moisture even further. Just prior to shipping the beans are put through a milling process that removes the outer skin. Beans are shipped “green”. There is no coffee odour at this stage and they look more like grain than coffee. However, true roasters can discern quality by the look of the beans at this stage.
TRIVIA: Commercial coffee can contain up to 20% “other”
on their ingredient lists. This may include chicory root which is a popular filler.
Coffee beans are typically sent by ship taking four to six weeks. Shelf life of the green bean is two years.
Ben’s favourite and this day’s sample shared with us was Brazilian PeaBerry. Brazil is the largest producer of coffee beans in the world.
Roasted and Green Beans. The round brown beans, “Unsplit” are referred to as PeaBerries.
PHOTO WITH BLACK BEANS
… when the seed doesn’t split, you’ll find these black “PeaBerries”.
These require a different roasting process.
Typically the coffee industry measures in pounds. However, Ben noted bags imported are approximately 60K (132 lbs) and that he roasts in small batches of 5K. These batches take 12-15 minutes, thereby roasting 4 batches per hour. He asks his commercial clients to give him one weeks notice and recommends stocking quantities for just 2-4 weeks. Freshness is key.
TRIVIA: Arabica bush grows up to 10 feet high.
Robusta is more like a nut tree and grows up to 45’ tall.
Production yield is much higher although quality is not as good
and the caffeine levels are significantly higher.
Through the Coastal Roastery Cafe in Grand Bend, Ben employs eight staff seasonally. He also employs a full time roaster as he, himself, is working in sales and managing the administrative side of the business. Coastal Coffee is available at many sites across the county and beyond (full list of sites here
Ben’s describes his product as organic but as yet he is not certified citing paperwork is lengthy and time-consuming. He feels he may have to go this route in the future as consumer demand for organic increases.
Micro processing continues to be a growing trend. Networking and peer support doesn’t quite fit the needs of small roasters in Canada, Gingerich noted, although there is a vibrant Roasters Guild in the United States. Here in Canada there is a Specialty Coffee/Tea Association that is of greater benefit to restaurants and diners.
At Coastal Coffee, Gingerich likes to blend different beans to create unique flavours. He sells the full bean for grinding at home ~ and he now has grinders available through his retail space. Even the grinder is a specialty product …
WHO KNEW? Burr grinders are best for coffee beans
as they offer more consistency than the blade grinder.
This creative entrepreneur enjoys having consumers appreciate his creations. “It’s satisfying when they enjoy it,” says Gingerich. He is committed to revitalizing his community by opening his retail space in Zurich. He also offers fundraising programs for schools and organizations raising funds. Check out full details HERE
on the website.
PO Box 309
17 Goshen Street N
Zurich, Ontario Canada N0M 2T0
MEET COASTAL COFFEE’s ROASTER, Jeff
Jeff, a German Mennonite, comes from a cooking background. He enjoys the creative nature of the Roastery and likes to create something unique for discerning palates. He would like to get more involved with Veteran organizations to help support them.