Whether it’s for a quick cup before heading off to work, or a relaxing brew to settle in on the weekend, coffee is enjoyed daily by millions of people all over the world. Juneau and Sauk counties are no exception, and some area businesses are seeking to deliver a premium experience to locals.
In Sauk City, John Brennan IV and his father, John Brennan III founded John Joseph Coffee, a roastery and coffee shop. The business began as a hobby.
“I had just kind of gotten done with teaching and was currently a stay-at-home dad and I was looking for some kind of outlet, something creative I could do to fill my extra time,” Brennan said. “So we built a roaster on an old gas grill and lined it with extra sheets of metal to make it really well insulated so we could reach the temperatures we needed to roast coffee… We could roast at 500 degrees and we just did this in our driveway.”
Brennan had met a man in Chicago delivering home roasted coffee to customers on a bike.
“He didn’t have any sort of storefront or anything like that,” Brennan said.
Brennan and his father developed a subscription model of their own.
“We have a number of customers that are part of our Regular Joe program,” Brennan said. “These customers are able to get coffee delivered to their homes through the mail, or just dropped off, at regular intervals… basically it’s just a way for them to always have John Joseph Coffee on their shelf.”
The subscription deliveries came before the space for the coffee shop, which remains primarily a roasting center for John Joseph Coffee. Word of the coffee’s quality got around mostly through word of mouth, and businesses took interest.
“We’re currently working with the Blue Spoon, providing them with an alternate coffee,” Brennan said. “Just to give their customers some variety.”
John Joseph Coffee offers coffee from Mexico, Brazil, Honduras, Sumatra, Peru and Nicaragua.
“The coffee that we get from Honduras is something we roast very dark to bring out cocoa and nut flavors that other coffees don’t really have,” Brennan said. “We have a coffee from Ethiopia that has flavors of berries and things like that underlying the coffee flavor.”
The Sauk City based roastery has specialty items available as well: barrel aged coffee beans.
“It basically involves taking unroasted coffee and putting it inside a whiskey barrel for a couple months,” Brennan said. “We get the barrel from Wollersheim Distillery and it’s a rye whiskey barrel (and) the bean absorbs a nice, smooth, oaky bourbon flavor to it… When we get the barrel it’s absolutely dripping wet (so) when we put the beans in it is wet and the beans are absorbing actual bourbon.”
Brennan said they’ve sold every pound of the stuff, and demand has proven more substantial than he anticipated.
Inspired by travel
Nearly 60 miles north of Sauk City in Camp Douglas, another coffee roaster is just getting established. Collin Boudreau started up Collin’s Coffees after a trip to Costa Rica where he met a bean grower and managed to ship a pallet of them back to the U.S.
That relationship grew into a steady business partnership, supplying Boudreau with single variety Costa Rican beans as he began to delve into the art of roasting. With commercial roasters being prohibitively expensive, Boudreau began with a perforated rotisserie drum.
“Before that I was doing it on the stove,” Boudreau said.
Eventually, he managed to acquire an Öztürk coffee roaster from Two Rivers Coffee in Portage.
“In the coffee industry, roasters are very friendly to other roasters,” Boudreau said. “We were able to work out a pretty good deal.”
Boudreau roasts at Target Bluff in Camp Douglas. He is exploring the potential of importing chocolate as well.
“There’s a chocolatier that I’ve kind of become friends with,” Boudreau said. “Maybe chocolate covered coffee beans would be a neat thing to release.”
With his Costa Rican supply stable, Boudreau is looking to establish more close relationships with coffee bean growers in other parts of the world.
“I’d love to check out Ethiopia, just because that’s where coffee originated. A lot of people regard Ethiopian coffee as the finest in the world,” Boudreau said.
He currently offers other coffees from Latin America and Africa.
Using socially responsibly sourced coffee is important to Boudreau.
“I like it when the people I buy it from take pride in their product and want to be compensated accordingly,” Boudreau said.
Providing single variety coffee is also a priority.
“Most people have heard coffee kind of tastes different based on where it’s grown,” Boudreau said. “But further refined inside of that, and what I’m going for, is I want the highest amount of quality (and the best) coffee I can find: the single variety.”
Some consumers are skeptical of artisan coffee, especially when it comes to paying more. Boudreau said he is aware some share of the market prefers a standard cup of Folgers, but he has a way of showing them the difference between what’s inside that tin drum and what he’s selling.
At coffee tastings, Boudreau keeps a tin of Folgers hidden, and offers it to patrons after they’ve sampled some of his wares. The contrast in taste and quality is immediately apparent after sampling a variety of single source coffee.
“The night and day look in difference on their face,” Boudreau said. “I think that right there explains the price difference… I’ve found if people enjoy it and appreciate it, they’re willing to pay the slightly higher premium.”
Someday, Boudreau hopes to have a brick and mortar roasting facility with a coffee shop in the front. That dream seems alive and well in Reedsburg.
Roasting in Reedsburg
Marilyn and Muhammad Kharbush opened Deli Bean in May of 2003.
At Deli Bean, a symphony of soft jazz piano the regular whirring of the old Promac espresso machine and the din of a busy kitchen plays over a room of cafe tables draped with whimsically themed clothes.
Tea, honey and jam crowd onto the shelves for customers to peruse before they order.
Cakes, cookies and bagels stand in formation behind the glass displays awaiting their fate.
There are two glass displays for baked goods. Newspapers sit ready for patrons to grab them up and snap them open.
Towards the register, a repertoire of coffee beans sits in rows of jars, the colors and fonts of the labels as varied as the scent and flavors of the beans promise to be.
A Little Free Library sits next to one of the tables near the door, inviting patrons to do some reading while they sip a cup of coffee, and even borrow the book if they don’t finish.
Elegant antique glassware sits along the uppermost shelf of the place, old enough to have earned their retirement from the kitchen yet still aesthetically pleasing enough to have won a place in Deli Bean’s Pantheon.
Marilyn Kharbush said loyal customers make all the difference. Deli Bean’s menu has expanded over the years without eliminating old favorites.
“People try something and like it, you can’t take it off the menu,” Kharbush said. “So the menu gets to be finer and finer print. We bake some of the cookies from scratch, we make the quiche.”
Kharbush also emphasized the importance of location and quality ingredients. “Here is a great location because there’s two state highways running past here,” Kharbush said.
In Wisconsin Dells, Bella Goose Coffee understands the necessity of a good location. In the coming months, they will have two.
Bella Goose recently moved from their old location on Stand Rock Road to a pop-up shop on Broadway. The next step is moving the coffee shop into Maurer’s Market in Wisconsin Dells and establishing a roastery in a building a few hundred feet away.
Bella Goose’s Alison Heesch said the roastery is an exciting new venture for them.
“We’re really excited for that to just be a really lowkey space,” Heesch said. “It’s sometimes hard when you’re pumping coffee out to be able to have the time to sit and tell people and educate, so we’re really excited about that space.”
“Bella Goose Coffee was founded by Bridgepoint Mission Center,” Heesch said. “And really we just sought out to create a unique coffee experience in this community… And bigger than that is we wanted to use coffee to be able to fund missions. That kind of started small, but now we actually have two Bella Goose Coffee houses overseas: one in Chiang Mai, Thailand and one in Angeles, Philippines.”
Bella Goose Coffee contributes to anti human trafficking efforts.
Bella Goose takes the art of making coffee seriously, avoiding additives at all costs and offering something truly homemade to customers. In particular, they make their own syrups for lattes.
“We have our own salted caramel latte,” Heesch said. “We make our own caramel syrup for that and handcraft that with Wisconsin milk… everything that we’re putting into our drinks, we’re making ourselves.”
Using local ingredients when possible is also important to Bella Goose.
“We make a really good lavender syrup,” Heesch said. “There’s a few lavender fields that just opened up in Baraboo. We’re talking with them.”
For Brennan, the local aspect of a good coffee shop and roaster is a priority.
“We’ve actually had customers reach out to us and we’ve recommended they look at a local roaster,” Brennan said. “We believe the best coffee is fresh coffee, and if you can find somebody down the street doing what we’re doing, we’re really in favor of you working with those people. Keep your money in your community.”
In Brennan’s view, the pursuit of placemaking is one of the responsibilities of good coffee shops and other community craft businesses.
“One of the things that make a place a great place to live is when your relatives come to your home, that there’s places you can take them and they will be impressed,” Brennan said. “If there’s a winery, or a distillery, or a brewery, or hopefully a coffee roastery, places that people think ‘Hey when my mom and dad come to town, this is a place I want to take them.’”
As coffee beans continue to be roasted, ground, and percolated by artisan businesses who know their craft, Juneau and Sauk Counties can count on having places to take their loved ones and be proud of.