December marks a decade since Chad Morris turned his hobby into a booming business. “I’ve had a lot of hobbies and this is the one that stuck,” Morris said.
Morris became a music teacher when he and his wife moved to Las Cruces. During his time teaching, the former Chicago musician started roasting coffee for his own personal use. “I rewired a popcorn popper and used it as a heat pulse,” Morris said. Add a Campbell’s soup can and thermal coupler to the mix and Morris had himself his very own coffee roaster. Once his colleagues got wind of his hobby there was no turning back. “I scraped cash together and bought my first industrial roaster,” he said. “I was teaching full time and roasting at night.” As his client list grew, Morris quit his job and begin roasting full time and Picacho Coffee Roasters was born.
Setting up shop
An increase in business allowed Morris to open a coffee bar on Conway Avenue. The open space allows for customers, not only to enjoy a cup of coffee, but to see the roasting process and learn about the different varieties offered by Picacho Coffee Roasters. Morris not only wanted a larger space to fulfill the needs of his wholesalers, but to introduce his coffee to the community. “It’s crazy to be in business for 10 years and have people say, ‘I didn’t know you existed,’” Morris said.
At the coffee bar, customers can either stay for a tasting of each coffee and get a peek at the roasting process, or just stop in for a quick cup of coffee and pastry.
For Beck’s, the growth was also organic. As their customer-base at the farmers market grew, the couple begin looking for a retail space to showcase their brews. “The shop just naturally progressed,” Thacker said. “When we opened it was more an outlet for retail coffee sales, which for the first two years, all we did was pour-over and pound sales.” Now, the shop not only acts as a retail space for Beck’s coffee and roasting room, but serves up a variety of coffee drinks, pastries and house-made ice cream. “I think there’s definitely been more coffee shops popping up lately, and I think that’s really good for the community, having these little coffee houses... to really relax and enjoy yourselves,” Thacker said. “I think that if more people got into the roasting aspect of coffee that would be really interesting, but it can be something that’s a little bit tougher to break into.”
The roasting process
Although there’s only a few local coffee roasters in the area, Morris sees it as a small, local industry moving in a very positive direction. “It gets more quality product into the Las Cruces market,” he said. The roasting process itself is straight forward. The different types of coffee beans arrive to the roasters with a greenish-white coloring. “My job is simply to prepare (the beans) and show off what the farmers grow,” Morris said.
Once the beans are dispensed into the roaster they begin to caramelize and brown. Morris watches the temperature, which best determines when the beans are done roasting. The roasters are manual which, he remarks, “is what the coffee is all about.”As they reach temperature, small amounts of the beans are pulled out and color and smell are examined. Once each batch is finished, the beans are released and cooled. The time the batches remain in the roaster depend on the type of coffee it is and whether it is a light or dark roast.
Thacker says one thing most people may not know about coffee is that the longer you roast the coffee, the more caffeine burns off. “Most people think that the lighter roasts have less caffeine, when the lighter roasts have more caffeine,” Thacker said. “Most people equate that to the fact that the darker roasts have a lot of flavor, they’re very bold… so they’re actually more full-bodied, more full-flavored, but less caffeine.” In fact, Morris adds that contrary to popular belief, espresso has less caffeine that a cup of coffee, and cold brew has the most amount of caffeine. “I think the biggest surprise is when someone says, ‘Man, I never drink my coffee black,’ or ‘I never drink coffee. I like the smell but not the taste,’ and then they say, ‘I’ve never had coffee like this,’" Morris said. “I think it’s a whole kind of experience for them.”