The art of coffee

A Dunn Bros roaster shares some tips for making the perfect cup

Bob Vaseleski has one request of his fellow coffee drinkers: savor at least one cup a day out of a standard coffee mug.

“The coffee experience is 80 percent aroma driven,” said Vaseleski, who explains that when a lid covers the coffee, the customer misses out.

Vaseleski has spent too much time appreciating and creating coffee to let anyone miss out on the experience. He’s been the Master Roaster for Dunn Bros coffee for 12 years. Before getting that job, coffee was a serious hobby. His vacations included visits to coffee shops in different cities. He would search out quality local roasters the way other travelers look for museums. And now that search for quality coffee starts at the bean’s country of origin, and he is the quality local roaster.

Vaseleski selects many of the beans that Dunn Bros serves from Café Imports, a commodities broker off of Highway 280 in St. Paul. He examines the raw beans for any imperfections including mold or fermentation. Beans that pass muster are then taste-tested as a very lightly roasted coffee. If they are deemed appropriate for the Dunn Bros customer, the price is fair, and there are enough beans to supply the more than 100 Dunn Bros locations, then a contract is written to purchase the beans. Vaseleski waits a few months and then the
beans arrive.

Dunn Bros also works directly with quality farmers, a process called direct buy. This ensures that farmers receive a high enough price for their beans to continue to grow organic. Vaseleski says this arrangement is even better for the farmer than fair trade organic. There are many coffee regions and therefore growing seasons, so the company is always in the process of picking new beans.

Once the beans arrive, Vaseleski takes the green beans, an unusable product and develops a roasting profile. The roasting, which occurs at temperatures of about 440 degrees F, consists of three main steps.

The first step in roasting is drying out the bean. This process starts the evolution of the coffee bean color — it turns from green to yellow. Next, the chemical reactions begin to occur. The heat breaks down plant fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Finally, the bean starts to become that characteristic brown and the simple sugars start to caramelize. This last step is when flavor and aroma come together to make the perfect bean.

Vaseleski plays with each new bean’s profile. When he is satisfied, the profile and the beans are sent to the local stores for roasting. And the beans are ready to be ground and brewed within moments of the roasting process.

Some people would say that a bean reaches its potential three days after being roasted, said Vaseleski. So, Dunn Bros sells the beans right away. When a customer takes a pound home, they will hit the three day high-point and still have quality beans for the next two weeks.

And if you buy a cup of coffee in house, the beans are never more than three days old. How old are some of the other beans out there? Rumor has it that Folger’s is roasting 10-year-old beans. Other coffee shops may roast their own beans, but they are roasted in a warehouse. The beans can take at least two weeks to get to the retail location.

So, if you’re looking for fresh roasted or have a serious coffee hobby like Vaseleski, Dunn Bros is the place to go. If you’d like to learn more, check out the Dunn Bros in Linden Hills and on 50th & Xerxes for upcoming roasting seminars and coffee tastings.

Contributing writer Bridgett Erickson
lives in Linden Hills.