THE MACHINES BEHIND THE ROASTERY
From its inception, Apotheos has always been about people. Our passion for making coffee, for serving the community, and for inspiring others has always been at the heart of what we do.
But shelling out hundreds of pounds of ground and brewed coffee per week is more than any one person could handle. That why we've come to depend on some pretty awesome machinery to help us deliver the products you love most. Come by our roastery in Kennesaw, and you can tour the entire production line, filled with our unique, state-of-the-art equipment.
So what kind of machinery helps us deliver our roasted ground coffee and canned cold brew? Here are just some of the gadgets that keep our coffee factory churning.
The anchor of any roastery is, to no one's surprise, the roaster! When we opened our first Atlanta coffeehouse thirty years ago, the shop revolved around the legendary Probat L-12. For years we relied on that red-and-yellow mammoth, which could roast 12 kilos (about 25 pounds) of beans at a time. These days, while we continue to serve up delicious hot and iced coffee from our cafés in Virginia-Highland and Candler Park, we no longer roast the beans on-site. Instead, we roast all our beans at our new flagship operation in Kennesaw.
Inside that converted church, we now roast coffee in a custom-built Diedrich CR-35 roaster. This baby was designed specifically for us and pump out hundreds of pounds of fresh coffee each week. And while I had to learn the intricacies of roasting by hand, using the old Probat, (something I recommend) our modern roaster delivers a perfect roast every time and it does it all on its own. That's because this digital machine has a computer interface, allowing us to set precise temperature, speed, and airflow. As a result, every new bag of Beacon Blend is roasted exactly like the one before it. There's no error, only consistency.
Want to know more about how green coffee turns into the aromatic brown stuff we use for brewing? Check out our previous post on the roasting process!
Bagger, Sealer, Nitrogen Doser
Once the Diedrich has worked its magic, the beans are ready for bagging. Our industrial bagger uses a massive vacuum to suck up the freshly roasted coffee and distribute it, in exact portions, to paper bags—the kind you'll find on the supermarket shelf. But before we use the band sealer to close up the bags and ship them to market, we take advantage of one last tool that really keeps the coffee in pristine shape. That's the nitrogen doser.
If you've read our post on the cold brew process, you already know how integral nitrogen is to making creamy, textured iced coffee. But nitrogen also serves a function in packaging roasted beans, namely it reduces the amount of oxygen in the bag. Since oxygen can make beans go stale as they sit on the shelf, displacing it with nitrogen gives them life while helping to maintain that fresh-from-the-roaster taste.
Of course, not all of our beans go straight from the Diedrich to a paper bag…
The beans we don't package are used for making our signature cold brew. But before we brew them, we need to turn the whole beans into ground coffee. That's why we move the beans into one of my favorite pieces of equipment: the grinder.
Made by Modern Processing Equipment, based up in Chicago, our giant grinder can crush between 200 and 600 pounds of coffee beans every hour! And to prevent the beans from heating or over-cooking once they've left the roaster, the grinder is also decked out with a cooling system. Surrounding the grinder is an inner chamber filled with glycol, or in plan language, antifreeze. This keeps the coffee at the proper temperature as it grinds to brew-ready size. Once it's ground, it's ready to head to the tanks.
Our roastery is home to three beautiful holding tanks, manufactured by my friends at American Beverage Equipment. These stainless steel barrels are the same kind of tanks you'd find at a beer brewery, designed to hold 600 gallons of liquid each. Like the grinder, these tanks are jacketed, which means they are surrounded by a vacuum-packed layer of refrigerated glycol, keeping that coffee nice and cold as it brews.
At this point, the ground coffee dissipates into cold water over the span of a day, creating strong, irresistible cold brew concentrate. Once the brewing is complete, that precious liquid is ready for the cannery.
In addition to brewing the best cold brew coffee in Georgia, we also can it right on premises, stamping it with the Apotheos seal, then shipping it around the country. One of the most crucial pieces of equipment in any cannery is the depalletizer. We receive empty aluminum cans on pallets, but without anything inside them, they are light and delicate to the touch, making it difficult to move them manually onto the sleeving line. That's where the depalletizer comes in. This autonomous machine lifts the delicate cans from the stack and places them on the line delicately.
At that point, our sleeving system slips custom-made labels directly over the cans, one-by-one. An 8-foot-long heating tunnel warms the sleeves, sealing them around the cans. From there, they turn a corner onto the canning line.
Our canning system is made by Wild Goose, one of the industry's leading manufacturers of canning and bottling equipment. The system fills the cans with liquid coffee, before running them under the nitrogen doser. In addition to giving our cold brew its signature mouthfeel, the nitrogen also tauts the can, making it stiff, which protects it. Finally, the Wild Goose seals the cans shut, making them ready to hit the shelves.
While our canning line might seem small compared to Atlanta's biggest beverage operation (you know the one), our industrious little line manages to pop out about 35 cans of cold brew per minute. Not too shabby for a community coffee plant.
Still, all of this impressive machinery would be worthless if it weren't for the people behind Apotheos. From our hard-working roasters, to our friendly coffeehouse staff, to our beloved customers, it's the people behind the coffee that make the whole operation worth it.