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Issue Date: April 2008


Roast Chief

Martin Reuben is obsessed with the coffee bean. It started as a home-roasting operation. Then, it invaded his photography studio. Now, he’s taking his passion public with Erie Island Coffee (and teaching us how to get the best out of our daily jolt of Joe).
Ilona Westfall
Mo most of us, coffee is merely the caffeinated kick in the pants needed to get us out of the house each morning. For Martin Reuben, it’s become a way of life.

Unlike him, few of us roast our own coffee beans at home, or use a voltage regulator to make sure the electricity is just right for roasting, or have a vent from the basement to let out “coffee exhaust.”

And, in addition to his home operation, the professional photographer also roasts coffee beans at his downtown studio. He easily rattles off prices of espresso makers, grinders and coffee roasters. In short, he knows aboutreallygood coffee.

“It’s just a hobby that grew,” he modestly explains. “I just started roasting more and experimenting with different kinds of beans and such at home.”

Reuben’s first rule is, forget the canned stuff. He says you’re missing out if you’re not roasting and grinding your own beans. Surprisingly, this is something you can actually do at home relatively easy. He says that even a cheap popcorn popper from a thrift store would work to roast coffee beans, and a basic grinder can be found just about anywhere. Reuben himself uses top-of-the-line equipment, of course, but mere coffee mortals do have cheap at-home alternatives.

No matter what equipment you use, Reuben says, it is crucial to enjoy your freshly roasted beans quickly. “Coffee, once it’s roasted,” he says, “is good for maybe eight days, that’sall.”

Ground coffee has an even shorter lifespan — about 50 hours, he says. Reuben dislikes how most packaged coffee doesn’t come with a roast date printed on it, leaving you only to guess its age.

“For the amount of coffee that people drink in this country,” he says, “there is so little realization of where it comes from.”

If all this talk has you craving a cup, you’ll soon be able to sample Reuben’s coffee for yourself, because the hobby is becoming a business. After Reuben schooled his friend Alan Glazen, founder of Glazen Creative Studios, on the finer points of coffee culture, Glazen encountered a coffee shop on Kelly’s Island that the previous owners had left in the hands of the property’s landlords. Glazen guided them through the pinch by teaching them how to run the shop.

“At the end of the season, they said, ‘Would you guys be interested in taking this thing over because wehate running a coffee shop,’ ” Glazen recalls, “I talked to Martin, and we [thought it] would be really fun.”

The pair found a third partner, Scott Stevenson, who had never had a cappuccino before he tasted one made with Reuben’s coffee beans. Now he’s hooked.

The shop, Erie Island Coffee, is slated to open in May to coincide with the tourist season. Reuben says he and his business partners already plan to develop the brand into a local chain.

“What’s interesting about this is that it’s almost like a science experiment,” Reuben muses. Having sampled the stuff ourselves, we’d have to hypothesize the results will be consistently delicious.

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