#69 - Alex Behrens: Coffee Roasting and Starting a Business

There’s a trade-off between ambition and patience.
— Alex Behrens
Episode 69.jpg

In this week's episode, we are joined by Alex Behrens of Maple Leaf Coffee Roasters. In this conversation, Alex shares insights into the world of coffee roasting; from roasting to sourcing and different flavors we are accustomed to. He also expands on ideas of starting a business and just how much thought needs to go into it. Even though he loves coffee roasting, adding a business on top of that takes it to a whole new level.

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 Alex Behrens and Lynn Greetis's passion for coffee started right in their home kitchen, beginning with a tiny air roaster and eventually expanding into more massive roasting machinery to create the best possible flavor combinations

Learning the basics from the comfort of their kitchen allowed them to learn the subtle dynamics of roasting and make the best coffee imaginable. This then led to realizing their dream of opening their very own roastery: Maple Leaf Coffee Roasters, a fast-growing artisan coffee roaster based in Roselle, IL.

Alex holds a B.S. from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an M.S. from Roosevelt University. In his spare time, he enjoys gardening, running, hockey, and motorcycles. Lynn has a B.S. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an M.S. from Michigan State University. Outside of making stellar coffee with Alex, she is passionate about horses and cats.

Website: https://mapleleafroasters.com/

Show Notes:

[00:04:18] - Where does this all start for Alex?

[00:05:48] - Starting with a Tiny Air Roaster

[00:06:28] - Barrel Roaster

[00:07:48] - Everything starts as the whole bean

[00:08:48] - Accepting that when you have a business that you're going to have a certain amount of loss.

[00:09:18] - A deep dive into coffee roasting 

[00:10:30] - As with anything, you have to start with quality raw ingredients

[00:10:58] - Knowing the sourcing game

[00:11:43] - Every coffee has a cupping score

[00:12:08] - You have to start with something good you can't roast quality into it.

[00:12:48] - Large roasters to deal with quality problems they roast the coffee darker

[00:13:48] - Finding similar coffee or you can mask flavors by roasting them dark

[00:14:18] - Americans are used to darker roasted coffees 

[00:13:58] - On a smaller scale, you're able to play around with a wider spectrum in your craft. 

[00:15:28] - Darker roasts are not a bad a thing, its a choice 

[00:15:48] - Sometimes convenience is good, but other times you want something that small

[00:17:48] - The Future: Craft Coffee Shop

[00:18:48] - There is a trade-off between ambition and patience

[00:20:33] - Entrepreneurship is popular right now, but people don't stop to think how hard it is

[00:21:48] - Opportunity to try more things or have hobbies on the side besides what you do for a living.

[00:23:08] - What made Alex leap to start the business?

[00:26:08] - Opening the shop

[00:26:48] - Calling in favors and relying on friends

[00:29:38] - Two ways of starting a business: Starting it from 0 or having money to self-fund it and grow at your own pace.

[00:30:08] - 10% is roasting coffee; the other 90% is how to run the business. 

[00:31:48] - Alex is always thinking about the organization and looking for the sweet of spending and revenue.

[00:33:58] - Common Misconception: Dark Roasts have more caffeine 

[00:34:28] - Decaffeinate Process 

[00:35:28] - Alex's style is 60% sensory and 40% technical aspects due to how he experimented and learned. 

[00:38:08] - Establishing a relationship with farms is not a quick process 

[00:38:58] - Access to a coffee from Yemen 

[00:39:28] - Being a coffee importer and coffee roaster are two very different jobs.

[00:41:28] - People seem to be valuing quality over quantity

[00:42:08] - Can coffee be organic? 

[00:43:18] - Not wanting to cut the demographic to thin. Knowing the audience

[00:44:38] - Administrative work - "Imaginary Work"

[00:46:08] - Behind the scenes work of the podcast 

[00:47:18] - Money vs. Time: Either you do it yourself, or you hire someone to do it 

[00:48:08] - A point where you changed your mind or view point on something?

[00:48:48] - What's your favorite coffee? Alex's answer try everything

[00:50:38] - We like to be tribal. Alex turns the table on them asks them what they think. 

[00:50:48] - Resources to learn about coffee?

[00:51:48] - Mill City Roasters

[00:53:28] - Advice to college students entering the real world?