Everybody knows that smell—that flavorful, permeating, eye-opening aroma wafting through places as diverse as home kitchens, restaurants, cafés, potlucks and weddings. Yes, we're talking about coffee, that ubiquitous drink served at every occasion. But some coffee just tastes better than others. What's the difference? Master roasters Christopher Ruess and Shane Mosby share a few secrets.
Chris took an international course in coffee roasting, learning every aspect from bean characteristics and types of roasters to roasting methods. With the new title of Master Roaster in hand, in 2004 he started Mississippi Mud Coffee Roasters. He won over St. Louisans with his great blends and expanded when Shane Mosby became a partner in 2008. Shane learned the roasting ropes from Chris, also became a master roaster and now does the roasting duties for the company.
“There are three important aspects to making a great cup of coffee,” says Chris. “First is to use the best quality beans you can buy. The flavor of the beans varies with the soil, the altitude, how they're grown, how they're dried and many other aspects. We buy only top-market beans, because we want the best flavor. We cup each of them to determine their individual aromas and flavors.
“Good roasting is the second aspect. That's where Shane steps in. Each bean has its own taste profile. We roast the beans to bring out their best flavor. Big companies roast about 500 pounds of coffee at a time. We roast in small batches of about 30 pounds, so we can control every aspect of the roast."
The third aspect of roasting is freshness. “We roast and deliver our beans to over 30 St. Louis area coffee houses, cafés, restaurants and Dierbergs Markets," Chris says. Mississippi Mud strives to roast within 24 hours of delivery, so that their customers are getting the freshest beans possible.
“Making a great coffee is a lot like making wine,” explains Chris. “When you buy coffee, you buy 'the roaster and his palate.'" The biggest seller is the Mississippi Mud Coffee, a breakfast blend made of Guatemalan and Colombian beans. Another popular blend is the Up All Night coffee, which has a higher content of caffeine. Mocha Java is a blend that lots of roasters use. It must be made from Java beans, and the 'mocha' part of the title doesn't mean that it contains chocolate—it means that it is shipped from the port of Mocha, Indonesia.
Their new coffee house recently opened at 1223 Pine St., in the former headquarters of the Missouri Pacific Railroad. They've partnered with Art Saint Louis to create a gallery/café with changing art exhibitions and free wi-fi. They currently offer espresso drinks, coffee beans and pastries; plans include adding new menu items.
This fall, customers will be able to order beans and coffee equipment online through their website www.mississippimudcoffee.com. Also, they're starting a program, called Community Beans, in which a portion of each retail sale will be earmarked for worthy local causes.
An artisan roaster, with a passion for coffee—what's not to like? And an invitation from Chris: “Come on in. We can always roast more.”