Article By: M.T. Decker
Photos By: Josh Triggs
Coffee. It’s almost a ritual for a lot of us. Some drink it for the caffeine, some drink it for the flavor; there are a lot of coffee drinkers out there, and we all have our favorites. One of the biggest problems we as coffee drinkers have is consistency. While everyone’s tastes are different, we know what we like, and we want to be able to have our favorite coffee any time.
We’ve all had that cup of coffee that was perfect and when we go back to get another cup, with that flavor in mind, we’re disappointed because it wasn’t what we were expecting. It happens when you go to a different shop in a chain, and sometimes even the same store.
There are a lot of things that go into a good cup of coffee. I used to think it was just the water or how recently the coffee was ground, but there is so much more involved in making that perfect cup of coffee.
Talk to Sean Ricks of Ricks Roasters if you don’t believe me. When I asked him what the key step to making a good cup of coffee was, he explained, “Every step, from the coffee plant to your cup is key.”
I mean, we all know that the soil and the plant are the basic flavor of the coffee. It’s why we buy Guatemalan, Indonesian, Kona, pure Arabica or Peaberry. It’s the soil, the bean and the growing season, that make for good beans and the base flavor of our coffee.
Once the beans are grown, the next step becomes key – how is it prepared? Is it dried in the sun the traditional way, are the beans green, or ripe? How is it packaged and shipped to the roaster? Is it roasted on site or delivered by a roaster? Then there is the roasting process itself; that’s where Ricks Roasters shines.
When Sean and Keely Ricks decided to start a business together, the plan was to market and sell an Indonesian coffee Rick had enjoyed when he was stationed in Singapore. They both loved coffee and Sean knew sales and marketing; it was the perfect match.
Unfortunately, the Ricks never could find the roasters so they decided instead of distributing someone else’s coffee, they would roast their own.
Building on what they knew of coffee, they started working on mastering the skill of roasting coffee.
From the time their business plan shifted and they purchased their first roaster, it took them one week to deliver their first pound of coffee.
With the help of retired Navy Senior Chief Monty Ruckman, Sean and Keely Ricks built something special: a coffee roaster specializing in coffee for the average home coffee drinker. They started making different roasts with names like “Four Horseman” and “Senior Chief”, made with their mentor in mind.
The business has continued to grow. They now have over 50 commercial accounts and have a simple marketing plan. “I take an air thermos to the business and ask them to compare our coffee to theirs,” Sean explains. “You can make any coffee taste good if you add enough sugar and flavorings,” he adds. “The key is to compare the coffee black.”
That formula has helped them get customers, but it’s the consistency that keeps those customers. The Ricks know that good coffee comes from consistent work: they roast their coffees carefully and work to get the coffee to the client, soon after the roasting is completed.
“Good coffee takes a set amount of time, you can’t rush it,” Sean explains. “If you roast it too long, the oil is released to the outside. If you don’t roast it long enough, or at the right temperature, you can ruin the coffee.
“Once the coffee is roasted the next question is how it is transported, i.e., how long does it take to get to its location?
This is where the next phase of Ricks Roasters story begins. Ricks Roasters has partnered with Lorin Schwarz and Heather Karopchinsky of Martinsburg’s Mugs and Muffins to provide local fresh roasted coffee.
Mugs and Muffins is the first remote roaster for Ricks Roasters. In honor of this, they worked together to create two house blends for Mugs and Muffins – Peacemaker and Carpe Diem.
By purchasing another roaster and working with Lorin and Heather, Ricks Roasters has added one more selling factor for their coffees – local roasting.
This means people of the four-state area can get fresh locally roasted coffee that is both consistent and delicious.
This partnership allows them to improve on one of the final steps: getting freshly roasted coffee to the customer. While their packaging is designed to keep the coffee fresh, there is something about a cup of coffee made from freshly roasted beans that cannot be beaten.
The partnership with Mugs and Muffins gives Ricks Roasters a second outlet, and another business that toasts and brews their blends for its clients.
“I love that Ricks Roasters will work with a business to help develop a signature brew,” Lorin explains. “It’s a process that lets people find a blend that is perfect for them.
“And you get to name it!” Lorin adds with a smile. It’s hard to tell which she enjoys more: helping people work up their own blend or celebrating its creation with the customer.
I had the pleasure of tasting one of Mugs and Muffins’ signature blends, Peacemaker.
It had a slightly bitter start, but the coffee was full bodied and delicious without any sugar, milk or flavoring. After the bitter start was a smooth, rich flavored coffee that lasted for the entire cup. The flavor stayed on my tongue long after I finished the coffee. It was delightful the way the taste stayed with me, hinting at another cup.
For people unsure about coffee or their coffee flavoring, Ricks Roasters offers a 10 cup pack. Their flavored coffees are concentrated so you do not have to pay for an entire package of beans.
The plan for Ricks Roasters is stated on their page and sums up their coffee perfectly:
“Our growth continues by focusing on the forgotten coffee drinker, the average American who brews their coffee in their Mr. Coffee® every morning. We sell specialty coffee without the pretense. As many people as possible should enjoy great coffee. Ricks Roasters will provide access without the pomp and circumstance.”
For more information on Ricks Roasters, you can visit them online at ricksroasters.com. For a fresh cup of Ricks Roasters coffee that was locally roasted, stop by Mugs and Muffins at 220 North Queen Street in Martinsburg, West Virginia.