If you're in downtown Sawyer, Michigan any time soon, don't be surprised if you smell the enticing aroma of coffee beans.
A small business is brewing in the small town. The up and coming company is called Infusco Coffee.
“They cook, like popcorn. They actually almost double in size and in the process. They dry out.” Roast master, Rich Siri, has become a little bit of a nut for these little beans. “What I tell most people, is that it was a hobby that went horribly crazy. We started off roasting just for fun, like loved the flavor of fresh coffee and liked the science behind it and it was something that I did with my kids a lot.”
Electrical engineer by trade, Rich had no problem building his first roaster. “We actually started out with a pizza oven that was about could do about 12 ounces of coffee and graduated from the pizza oven to a one pound roaster.”
Soon after that, he got his first order. And it was a rather big one.
Rich explains how he made sure that the first batch was roasted correctly, saying, “To roast 40 pounds of coffee with the one pound roaster was about a 65 hour process. So, I slept in the basement next to my coffee roaster for a couple of days until we got the roast done.”
Rich's first customer came from the town of Sawyer. In fact, it is right across the street from his current roasting operation.
Scott Sullivan with Greenbush Brewery, explains how he got involved with Rich, saying, “I have always been interested in people who do, do-it yourself projects, and then I tried his coffee and it was really good.”
Scott didn't want to just drink the coffee; he wanted to brew with it. “So I took his Sumatra and did a Sumatra cream stout and it was kind of our first try at using coffee in a beer, and it was something that I had been wanting to do. His Sumatra is awesome so it worked and kind of balanced perfectly with what we were doing."
It worked so well that Greenbush is using his coffee again.
“The beer that we did with that coffee was so successful that it is getting re-brewed again," Sullivan said. "It is going to become one of our standards, the feedback was so good, and people like the way the coffee worked in it, it went over huge.”
Growing popularity helped to persuade Rich to upgrade to a much larger roaster. He is also increasing his variety thanks to recent trip to Kenya.
Rich said, “The coffee that comes out of Kenya is excellent coffee, and it is one that you can find but it is almost a specialty coffee ... Currently the situation is the beans get bought for pennies for a pound and get sold at a much higher price, to the point where the farmers are getting cut out and they don't have enough to live on.”
“Our goal," Rich said, " ... is to pay the farmers three times what they are getting paid right now. Our goal is to provide coffee to the US that has a story and also serves the people it comes from.”
Eventually Rich would like to open a coffee shop in Sawyer.
If you're interested in trying Infusco's Coffee, they offer tastings on Saturday at Greenbush Brewery in Sawyer. It can also be found in the Kroc Center here in South Bend and at coffee shops across southwest Michigan.