Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Subscribe | Submit News | Home RSS

Coffee bean roasting: Hobby to new enterprise?

March 10, 2014
By John Speer - Editor ( , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

For those who don't like coffee:

Brian Gumm was, at least temporarily, thrown out of his house. By his wife.

Really, it's that Brian and his hobby were relegated to the garage.

Article Photos

Brian Gumm, Toledo, hosts a cup of coffee on Wednesday, Feb. 26, brewed from beans he has roasted.
Chronicle photos/John Speer

When Brian and wife, Erin, were attending Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisburg, Va., Brian was first exposed to roasting green coffee beans. Since their move to Toledo his love for coffee has grown to include roasting coffee beans himself. At Christmas he gave friends his roasted beans as presents. It's now gone so far he is exploring expansion from selling his roasted beans to a few friends into a small enterprise, selling to a wider audience of coffee aficionados.

"My wife doesn't like to smell the roasting," Brian says Unlike himself, Erin isn't a coffee drinker, he said.

So, it was very recently out of the basement and into the unattached garage. But, as he learned last Wednesday, one of the devices he employs in the process won't work at low temperatures. As you know, the temperature has been nothing short of frigid lately.

Now, for the many who enjoy coffee:

"I first learned about roasting from Pastor Phil (Kniss), Brian says. "We were on an overnight road trip to a conference. I was driving and he told me all about it to keep me awake." Kniss has his own coffee bean distribution business -

Gumm says he liked coffee before arriving in Harrisburg, but found the city to be something of a small mecca for the art of roasting coffee beans. There's a number of local people there he discovered who roast their own beans and two commercial roasting business he says.

With his wife and daughter, Lauren, Brian traveled to Ethiopia where he taught a three-week class. Brian says the country is, at least by some accounts, "the birthplace of coffee." This furthered his interest in coffee and Lauren even developed a taste for it, he says. (But apparently not Erin.)

A look inside the art of roasting with Brian reveals he has followed others and adapted household appliances to do the job. Because, as he suspected, ambient temperature plays a role, his first choice for a roaster, a bread machine won't work in the unheated garage. But, the back up air corn popper did.

Each has a built-in paddle-type mechanism which, in this case, stirs the beans which prevents them from burning.

He bought the bread maker on the internet site Craigslist for $40 and the popcorn popper cost $20. Commercial-built roasters for home use are in excess of $200 in cost Brian says. He uses a $20 paint stripper gun to heat the bread maker, it only functions as a pan with a stiring mechanism.

While he can process a portion of a cup of beans in the air popper, the capacity of the bread maker is several times more. Brian uses coffee beans which are organic and environmentally (good for the earth and environs) and socially sustainable (grown by workers who are paid fair wages.)

No coffee is grown in the United States, a tropical climate is required according to Brian. The beans he purchases cost from $5 - $6 per pound.

And there's quite a variety from such countries as: Indonesia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Kenya and of course, Colombia.

After the beans are properly roasted - about seven minutes in the popper, 15 minutes in the bread maker - it's on to a "resting stage" for about 24 hours. Brian then seals the beans in bags or they are placed in his own coffee can.

Next is the electric coffee grinder which reduces the beans to the common ground stage. Brian, whose birthday was Saturday, said he had hopes for a present- a hand grinder which attaches to the brewing tube which, in turn, attaches to his coffee cup.

He uses a device which heats hot water to about 200 degrees, which is supposed to be ideal for coffee brewing.

With an extra garage on their property in Toledo, Brian is considering expanding the coffee bean roasting business. That garage opens on West Ross Street and he has coined the name : Ross Street Roasting Company and has that identity on a Facebook page. He may also be contacted by email at

"While I may decry coffee snobs...I have to admit: I'm kind of a coffee snob myself - given the amount of time I dedicate to all this!" Brian wrote in an email.

But, remember, he uses the bread maker or popcorn popper for roasting and is (or was) out in his garage.

In any case, he declared his cup of coffee "is better than anything you can get at Starbucks."

Brian and Erin background

Brian is a native of Prairie City, Iowa, and Erin is the daughter of Joe and Becky Thiessen, rural Toledo. Their families met while vacationing during the summer at the Lake of Ozarks and reunited for a week each summer over a course of years. While Erin was attending the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Brian was at Washburn University in Topeka. They began dating and married while in college. They both then furthered their education at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisburg, Va. Erin received an M.A. in counseling and Brian in Divinity and Conflict Transformation. She is a counselor at Center associates in Toledo. Brian was to become an ordained minister this past weekend and also works from home in technology.

Here's what Brian's friend and Toledo City Council member Travis Mullen has to say about the Ross street coffee:

I"'ve been drinking too much coffee for a long time and have tried coffee all over the country. I just told Brian the other day that the coffee from his roasted beans is equal to my favorite beans/coffee from the The Roasterie in Kansas City.

"Who would have thought that Toledo, Iowa would have a coffee bean roaster creating such a great product? I've said that if Toledo had a quality coffee shop it would be the perfect place to live. Thanks to Brian Gumm, Toledo is one step closer to perfection."



I am looking for:
News, Blogs & Events Web