Local foods, Product info

Artisanal Micro-Roaster Jed Vander Zanden Strives for Perfection, Says Hansen’s is Perfect

You may have noticed a new product in the Hansen’s stores recently…or perhaps a new aroma – coffee! We are now carrying coffee from Sidecar Coffee Roasters, a new and very local business in Cedar Falls. We’ve had a lot of questions about the new coffee, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to tell you a bit more about Sidecar and the man behind the whole operation. This is the first in a series of features that we will post on the product lines we carry at Hansen’s stores. Aaron McNally, local poet, writer, grad student, and Moo Roo employee, wrote this feature on Sidecar.

When Jed Vander Zanden sets out to roast a batch of coffee beans, he has a lot on his mind.

“Every time you get a different coffee you have to figure out how to develop it,” he explains. “The longer you roast it, you gain some things and you lose some things. It’s a matter of finding the balance of time and air and heat to really get it where you actually nail it. You go way too dark, you get that carbony bitter dirt flavor. If you don’t go dark enough, it’s equally bad.”

Throughout the roasting process, Jed has to constantly monitor the progress of the beans.
Throughout the roasting process, Jed has to constantly monitor the progress of the beans.

The Ethiopian bean he’s working with today “is a wild coffee, it’s funky. It’s really good. I’ve been trying to figure out how to roast it now for it seems like forever. It’s been fun—it’s a real challenge. I’ve gotten to where I actually think it tastes good, it’s just this never-ending pursuit of making it better.” What are his goals for this particular bean? “I just wanna see if I can tweak the profile a little bit. Maybe stretch it out a little longer or speed it up. see if I can get a little more balance, a little more body, a little more sweetness. Which is a little harder in a really dark roast.”

 Jed can perfectly control the freshness of his product by constantly monitoring and refreshing his inventory. His small batch coffee stands out in stark comparison to nation-wide suppliers.

Jed prides himself on controlling every element of his roasting process, from selecting the perfect beans to making sure he has the freshest coffee on the shelf. This is something that only a local, small roaster can do to perfection. In a larger operation, “the level of precision that they achieve is not anything like this,” he says. “I can adjust and modify the profile within ten to twenty seconds, just by controlling the air and temperature. The amount of variability I can create with this type of roaster is just entirely different.”

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In addition, Jed can perfectly control the freshness of his product by constantly monitoring and refreshing his inventory. His small batch coffee stands out in stark comparison to nation-wide suppliers. With larger operations, “we’re talking about millions of pounds a day being roasted. Then it goes to a warehouse. Then it goes to a distribution center. Then it goes to a secondary place before making it to the shelf. Who knows? It could be three months, it could be nine months old. Coffee is perishable, like anything. The flavor compounds, the essential oils, they all dissipate, they go rancid.”

Jed says that the “sweet spot” for coffee freshness is about one to three weeks. Every bag that he has on display at Hansen’s is stamped with the roast date, so that our customers can determine for themselves whether the product is fresh enough for their liking.

 “People who like really good stuff, care about it being local, people who want value but aren’t opposed to paying for quality. That’s Hansen’s.”

Beyond that guarantee of freshness, Jed is also very excited to be selling at Hansen’s Outlet and MooRoo stores for other reasons. He says that Hansen’s customers are the perfect customers for his coffee: “People who like really good stuff, care about it being local, people who want value but aren’t opposed to paying for quality. That’s Hansen’s. Really good milk, cheese, eggs, butter—all those things. Everything Hansen’s provides is stuff that I want to buy. Every week, for my shopping, I have my Hansen’s list. There isn’t a better place for this coffee than Hansen’s.”

In particular, Jed is a fan of Hansen’s whole milk, and prefers it to Half & Half in his coffee.  “The milk makes this coffee taste so good. It adds a whole depth of sweetness. I always think that the fat content of Half & Half kind of coats the roof of your mouth, limiting the palate. But the whole milk seems to mix in perfectly.”

Vander Zanden moved to Cedar Falls with his wife, a professor at UNI, two years ago. He has lived in Indiana, Colorado, and D.C., though he grew up here in the Midwest—in Wisconsin. He’s very excited to be in an area where local businesses seem to be popping up and thriving. His coffee business seems to be doing very well here. “I’m loving that it’s growing organically, slowly and steadily, by word of mouth,” he explains.

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Here you can see the finished product in comparison to the original, raw bean.

Come meet Jed on March 16th at Hansen’s Moo Roo location. He’ll be performing a tasting from 1-3 p.m., and will be happy to answer any questions and explain more about his roasting process.

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