Coffee roasting field trip

“I” of GAIN and I had a lovely time at the local coffee roaster last week.

des moines iowa select coffee
the entrance to friedrich’s coffee

We learned about coffee farms, processing, buying, storing, taste profiles, artisan roasting, and the specifically about the Friedrich’s retail business. I was very impressed by the passion and knowledge that the owners had for coffee.

Gems and miscellany gathered:

  • The Tropic of Cancer is above the Tropic of Capricorn. The order of the Tropics is alphabetical like a phone book.
  • Hawaii is the only state in the Union that can grow coffee, Kona. Naturally cloudy skies every afternoon gives a special flavor.
  • Cupping is a profession.
  • The roasting area smells heavenly. The natural sugars caramelize upon roasting, so the air is…aromatic. One mom thought it was like chocolate.
  • Friedrich’s buys coffee of grades 85 and up.
  • One buyer Friedrich’s deals with graduated from Des Moines Roosevelt High School.
  • The owners are Christian, with four kids, who spent some time home schooling.
  • People with ADHD can be successful. And entertaining, too.
  • Coffee trees produce ONE POUND of coffee each.
  • Handpicked coffee is best because humans can discern ripe from unripe. Machines cannot.
  • Handpicking means up to three pickings per tree.
  • “Bird friendly” coffee growers create an ecosystem of biodiversity on the coffee plantation.
  • Coffee comes in 150 pound bags made of burlap. There may be a plastic liner inside to keep the beans wholesome for a longer time that without the plastic.
  • Friedrich’s gives the bags away to customers. They cannot be sent back to the packager; they are cut with a knife; the owner hates throwing them in the trash.
  • Decaffeination occurs in Germany with the solvent methyl chloride. This method gives the best flavor. The owner says it leaves no chemicals behind. He explained the process, which was a lot of steps involving solutions.
  • The TRANSLUKER from SpyKids is real! It is a measuring tool used to grade the coffee after roasting.
  • “Shade grown” does not indicate quality, but a taste preference.
  • My favorite line:  “Turkey is the Mexico of Europe.”

There was much, much more. Coffee is very complicated. I will leave you with photos.

Friedrich's coffee, des moines, iowa
“Who’s heard their mom say to stop climbing so high?” Yep, my kid. With the owner. She says that it’s like a down pillow because you can shift the beans where you want for comfort. They were dark, indicating decaf beans.
unroasted coffee, friedrich's, des moines
peeking into a barrel of unroasted coffee


friedrich's small coffee roaster urbandale iowa
This the small roaster. The big roaster didn’t fit in the picture.

I have an awesome photo from the end, but darn, I didn’t ask permission to publish it. Our field trip ended with tasting one light and one very dark roasted coffee and a “ritual” of putting espresso beans covered with dark chocolate in your mouth. Chewing was optional. In honor of Ethiopia, which has a coffee ritual. I had a few kids make a toast for the camera, very humorous and in the spirit of the trip. I will definitely be visiting Friedrich’s more often.

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