International Roasting Post Brings an Experience to Coffee Drinking
Coffee beans are roasted fresh each morning in downtown Hightstown.
Walk through downtown Hightstown on any given day and you may see smoke billowing out of a Main Street business, and smell the fresh aroma of roasting coffee – no the building is not on fire, but rather it’s the Borough’s newest business in action.
Although the International Roasting Post micro roast moved into the downtown location about six months ago, all of the permits to operate were completed two weeks ago, according to business owner Basem Hassan.
Drafting the idea after discovering green, organic coffee beans online and ordering a batch to roast on the stove at home, Hassan knew he had to open a store when friends and family raved over the significant difference in taste of the home-roasted coffee beans.
“I started in a frying pan in the kitchen, literally cowboy style,” Hassan said. “The first cup that I had from the home roast – it was as if I’ve never tasted coffee before. It was so dramatically different.”
Living about 20 minutes away in Franklin Park, Hassan chose the Hightstown location for his first store because of the downtown, Main Street feel of the area.
Each day the store is open, Hassan goes through the roasting process with a variety of beans to ensure customers get the freshest cup of coffee possible, and each roast can take anywhere from six to 15 minutes.
He has two roasters, one that stays inside for daily roasting, and an antique 1918 gas fired machine he wheels across the street on Fridays to freshly roast beans at the Farmers Market.
On a few occasions, people passing by called 9-1-1 thinking the building was on fire, but it was only fresh beans roasting in the back. Hassan has worked with the police and fire department to develop a system to let police and firefighters know if there is a real emergency – a large, bright red “Now Roasting” sign hangs in the window when beans are heating in the back.
When you come in to the small shop, you select your bean from an array of about eight choices, and tell Hassan what type of drink you want. Unsure of what bean to select, he will help – just tell him stronger, or weaker, sweet or bold. Currently hot and iced coffee, custom spiced coffee blends and espresso is available, but in about a week he anticipates everything from lattes to cappuccinos will be offered.
After you select a bean, Hassan grinds it to order and makes your drink. Depending on what you’re getting, it can take anywhere from a minute to about three minutes to receive your drink.
“It takes longer for them to figure out that they can pick their own bean, than it does to make the coffee,” Hassan said. “I want the whole experience of being in here to be so unique that you want to go home and tell your family and friends ‘you’ll never believe what happened to me today.’”
Comparing coffee beans to a fine wine, Hassan explains they are a crop and flavors change based on the harvests.
“What I’m doing is, when I run out of an origin I switch to a different farm or a different country because I want to keep changing what I have,” he said.
But Hassan is not stopping at just coffee. Over the past few months he has been experimenting with chocolate bars with fresh ground coffee beans inside. He anticipates them to hit the shelf after he selects the right shaped mold for the chocolate bar, and picks out which high-quality chocolate to use.
“It’s got real coffee in it, so you get your caffeine kick,” Hassan said.
You can also buy coffee beans by the pound or half pound, and he will grind them based on the type of coffee machine you use at home – such as espresso, French press or a regular coffee maker. He can even make pods for machines that take the mini pods of ground coffee.
But one of the options Hassan seemed most excited about was being able to sell K-cups that can be recycled at home. He explained that the K-cups you purchase in the store are not recyclable because of the foil.
“I’ve had an issue with k-cups because you can’t recycle regular k-cups,” Hassan said. “But I ran across this process that allows me to make essentially k-cups out of those beans [referring to the freshly roasted beans.”
All of the beans are roasted on site, are certified organic, fair trade, Rainforest Alliance beans, that he selects from farms all over the world. He recommends using purchased beans within a month and to store in an airtight container, as they do eventually go bad. A misconception is if beans are stored in the freezer, they will last longer, but rather it takes flavor from them.
“As it goes in and out of the freezer it condenses,” Hassan said. “That moisture ends up on the bean and then goes back into the freezer again, which is not really good for the beans.”
Hassan said he is also making his business as green as he can.
“If I have control over something I’m going to try my best to eliminate as much waste as possible,” he said.
If anyone in the community needs coffee grinds for their compost pile, Hassan said to stop by with a container and take as much as needed.
The micro roast is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and accepts cash and credit cards. Hassan can also be found at the Hightstown Farmers’ Market on Friday afternoons.