Confessions of an Air-Roast Addict

Posted on

Air-roasted coffee, locally roasted, award-winning, Roasterie tours, The Hangar event space



photo 5 (2)


My name is Heather, and I’m a coffee-holic. I eat, sleep and breathe coffee. Ok – not entirely true. I drink it, I dream about waking up to it, and breathing it in would likely drown me. Nonetheless, it’s my fuel, my saviour, my one true love (sorry, hubs). I drink it all day long, and often consume my last cup in the evening when I know damn well that I shouldn’t. I simply can’t resist the bitingly beautiful thing that is a good cup of coffee.


Weird, right?


Wrong. It is people like me who’ve helped crown The Roasterie as Kansas City, Mo.’s, best coffeehouse (based on an actual vote in KC Magazine) five years running. We’re not rare, we coffee-lovers, but we’re certainly choosy when it comes to our brew. Forget the old tradition of drum-roasting and step into the progressive era of air-roasted coffee.


The trademark method employed by The Roasterie involves words like “fluid bed,” “vortex” and “chaff” – I’ll leave it to Norm Killmon to explain. Killmon, Master Roaster and guider of free tours Mondays through Saturdays, breaks it all down into fairly understandable laymen’s terms. Book the tour online and discover the wonder of a coffee factory. Reawaken your dulled senses in an environment of sleekness, metal, glass, brightness and heavenly aroma.


photo 2


If the inviting scent of fresh grounds alone isn’t enough to draw you in, surely your curiosity will be piqued by the building’s dandelion-hued façade. Oh, and there’s also just a REAL-LIFE DC-3 plane atop! The theme continues throughout the factory and café – the airplane emblematic of the air-roasted product they boast.


Be sure to try cupping while on the tour. Start with the freshest of grounds – perhaps you’re a 40 Sardines blend type? Or maybe, like me, you prefer Le Fou Frog, a sensational blend of coffee and chicory (rivaled only by New Orleans’ famous Café Du Monde, in my opinion). Add a little piping hot water and inhale that aroma. Continue inhaling as you insert a preheated spoon (the “preheated” part is key!) into the “crust” – formed by the coffee grounds on the water’s surface – and slurp a spoonful of grounds-crust onto tongue. Inhale and taste. Repeat the slurp. Critique. Critique some more. Norm Killmon, and green coffee buyer, Paul Massard, along with founder, Danny O’Neill, do this a lot. Every day. Multiple times.


From the conception of The Roasterie in Danny O’Neill’s Brookside, Mo., basement to his burgeoning business at present in Kansas City’s Westside neighborhood, the company’s main concern is quality. This is why they ingest grounds on a regular basis and also participate in direct trade with farmers in 31 coffee-producing countries. This basically means that the middle-man is removed, Danny and Co. travel and hand-pick bean farms, pay above price and procure the highest-quality Arabica beans the world over.


Their dedication to producing perfection echoes the attitude of Kansas City’s Westside. From the ambitious and savvy William K. Mulkey (original settler of the Westside, a district spanning 13th to 31st Streets) in the mid-1800s, to the railroad laborers finding unexpected prosperity in the early 20th century, to its present inhabitants, the district is well known for its ever-devoted, never-give-up population. Each trade represented here is a local star, always taking care in creating the best. The Red Star Yeast Company (Now Whiskey Design) at 821 W 17th St., operating in the early and mid 1900s, stood proudly by their widely-exported product, as now, places like Fervere Bakery and Bread Studio at 17th and Summit rival the most outstanding bakeries in the country. This continuous commitment to business and community alike ensure that the Westside ain’t going nowhere soon – it continues to expand as establishments find welcoming and overwhelming success.


The Roasterie is no different. “Bean Baron” O’Neill studied abroad in college; it was there in Costa Rica in 1978 that he plucked his first coffee beans. The future-entrepreneur eventually hatched his green coffee plan and, 15 years later, took his rightful place on Kansas City’s green coffee bean throne. He’s also environmentally green – in building the factory he installed numerous solar panels and the structure is LEEDS (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. He’s certainly fulfilling his mission: “Creating extraordinary coffee experiences.”


John and Charles Arbuckle, of Arbuckle Coffee Co. out of Kansas City, were the first to offer roasted coffee sold in one-pound bags. Prior to the Arbuckle brothers, coffee was sold green and the consumer had to roast the beans on her own stove. The coffee had wild success in the Old West, especially Dodge City, Ks. and Tombstone, Texas.  Thanks to folks like O’Neill, drinking good coffee continues to be a lot easier than it used to be.


All noise aside (quite a few large machines are required for the air-roast process), The Roasterie tour is approximately one lovely hour of the ins-and-outs of the most delightful beverage known to (wo)man. Stick around afterward and check out the factory café, a bright green abstract coffee bar in the Bean Hangar. If you can’t make it to tour, visit the other café locations in nearby Brookside, Mo., or Leawood, Kans. They serve tea if coffee isn’t your cup, and various pastries and food.


Whoops, gotta go. My Roasterie latte is ready at the counter.