Dave Kohstall working at his coffee roaster at
Back Chat Coffee in the MillWorks Business Center on Walnut Street.
Kohstall of Back Chat Coffee
Springs micro-coffee roaster
Theres no such thing as an espresso bean. Some decafs do taste flat.
And fair trade doesnt necessarily mean organic. The nuances of the
coffee business can be as subtle and sophisticated as those of the viticulteur,
and dispelling coffee myths is an important part of local coffee roaster
Dave Kohstalls job.
Burlap sacks of green coffee beans stamped with markings from East Timor,
Peru and Malawi cover the floor of Kohstalls roasting space at the
MillWorks Business Center. An earthy smell, like browned toast, wafts
from the corner of the room, where the German Probat roaster churns socially
responsible and certified organic fair trade coffee beans from Chiapas.
The temperature of the cast iron drum is 420 degrees Fahrenheit, just
right for a 15-minute full city roast.
The smell of roasting coffee beans is not unfamiliar to villagers who
frequented Back Chat, the restaurant and coffee shop in Kings Yard that
Kohstall owned from 2000 to 2002. Though his restaurant closed last summer,
Kohstalls coffee roaster has never been busier. The business, now
called Back Chat Coffee, distributes 34 varieties of hand-roasted coffee
beans to stores and restaurants in the area and around the country.
There are four basic roasts, Kohstall explained, as the hot beans started
to pop at what roasters call first crack. City roast is the
lightest roast that extracts the least amount of oil from the bean and
usually produces a more delicate flavor. The next darkest roast is Viennese,
then French and finally the very dark and oily Italian.
We tend to specialize in the dark roasts, but some people drink
the stuff just before first crack, like Folgers and Maxwell House,
he said with a grimace.
Better beans generally grow at higher altitudes, Kohstall said. If its
grown at a higher altitude, its a harder bean with more oil and
more flavor. But good beans can also come from lower altitudes, and they
generally taste best city roasted, he said as he scraped the now cinnamon
brown beans out of the roaster bin.
Most of the common low-grade coffee beans come from Brazil, or lately
Vietnam, he said. Comparing a bean from Columbia versus Brazil
is like comparing a grape grown in France versus one from Ohio.
Because Kohstall knows his beans, his coffee orders have been growing.
Back Chat Coffee now shows up on store shelves at Toms Market, Dorothy
Lane Market in Dayton and in health food groceries all over Ohio and Kentucky.
Many local coffee shops and restaurants such as Youngs Jersey Dairy,
Central Perc European Cafe in Oakwood and 5 Walls Coffee House in Beavercreek
also serve coffee from the local micro-roaster.
What we do is unique, Kohstall said.
What he does is also very personalized. After roasting each 20pound
batch by hand and bagging the coffee, Kohstall maintains quality control
of his product. Everyone at Toms knows him because he comes in the
store every morning to arrange his shelf and make sure the coffee is fresh.
Whole-roasted beans last up to a month and ground beans up to two weeks;
however, none of them generally sits on the shelf longer than a week at
the most, he said.
Back Chat also carries decaffeinated coffees whose flavor hasnt
been compromised by the hot water and chemical treatment that commercial
decafs usually have to go through, Kohstall said. Most Back Chat decafs
have been processed with carbon dioxide and cold water, a German innovation
that allows the bean to retain its flavor and still come out 99.9 percent
I got a guy in Florida who orders three pounds a month of the CO2
processed decafs because he likes it because it tastes like coffee,
Many good things in high demand are considered human vices. But how can
a drink with excellent flavor that also promotes social equality be bad?
About half of the coffee Kohstall roasts comes from fair-trade plantations,
mostly in Central and South America. International organizations monitor
these growers to ensure that the workers are paid at fair and steady rates,
he said. Organic growers are also monitored by international organizations,
which often deal with fair-trade growers. Fair-trade organic coffees usually
cost only a small amount more than other quality beans, according to the
Back Chat Coffee Web site, backchatcoffee.com.
There are not many people like me doing these decafs and fair-trade
organics, he said.
Other people must be noticing the quality of Back Chat Coffee as well.
Kohstall spends 30 to 40 hours a week roasting 500 pounds of coffee beans,
about 100 of which are for Toms alone. Kohstall gives his supplier
in Minneapolis a lot of the credit. Cafe Imports sends him samples of
award-winning coffee. Last year a fair-trade organic Nicaraguan Segovia
coffee was one of the best of the year.
It was a killer, best roasted full city, Kohstall said.
He has only one more 70-kilo bag of it, and he is rationing it out carefully.
But there will be other great coffees to come. Some will have a rich,
bold flavor, some will be smooth, and then some will have a little acidic
bite to them.
When you drink an acidic coffee what happens is you pucker your
lips like this, see? Kohstall said.
Good coffee may start with the climate and the bean, but that is by no
means the end. The type of grind should be appropriate for the brewing
apparatus. Drip grind should be used for general purpose percolators,
French-press grind goes with the French-press method, and espresso grind
is for an espresso maker.
What makes espresso espresso, Kohstall said, is its extremely fine grind
and the intense 213-degree steam that together extract the deep dark flavor
of the well-known delicacy. And no coffee, no matter the type or grind,
should be stored in the freezer after its been roasted, he said.
It should be kept in a cool, dry, dark place in an airtight container.
Kohstall plans to set up more micro- roaster operations in other communities
in the future. But he maintains each operation has to be overseen independently
because of the quality control issue.
Theyre regional little things, if it goes, he said.
Besides its no fun for me to mail coffee to someone in Bloomington,
Ind., because I never get to meet them; I want to know who they are.
Kohstall misses seeing the people who used to come into his restaurant
to eat, meet and socialize, and to talk coffee. Though his current business
is not a retail site, there was a lot of traffic in and out of the roasting
room last week. Wholesale customers came in to pick up orders and coffee
connoisseurs from other MillWorks businesses stopped by to fill their
mugs with a complimentary cup of Back Chats own brew.
Kohstall likes nothing flavored, nothing sweetened, just a French-roasted
Celebes with a little bit of cream.
I deal in coffee because I like to drink it. I like the taste of
coffee, he said.
There is no myth in that.