Fort Kent entrepreneur roasts up devilishly good coffee
FORT KENT, Maine — Alan Susee, owner of Sears Hometown Store in Fort Kent, has turned his passion for coffee into a new business — the Red Devil Roast Coffee Company.
“Coffee should not be that bitter brown water you need to wake up. Coffee is a magical beverage that can be sweet, smooth and drinkable without the need to smother it with sugar, flavors and cream just to get it down,” he said.
Red Devil Roast Coffee Company features beans from a variety of countries and includes such uniquely named flavors as “Perkatory Roast,” “Demonic Dark” and K-cup alternatives known as “The little Devils.”
“Any brand or product is easier to sell when you can inject a little humor,” Susee said.
Capturing the coffee’s flavor is serious business, however, according to Susee.
“I have traveled the world and experienced coffee in more than a dozen different countries and that opened my eyes to what coffee really should be like,” he said. “Here in most of Maine we have a plethora of ‘truck stop’ grade coffee served; it is that bitter brown water.
“With a few exceptions it is nearly impossible to get a really good ‘the angels sing’ cup of coffee. After years of experimenting, learning every detail about brewing coffee, and still failing to achieve that ‘golden Cup,’ it became obvious something was missing.”
As a result, Susee said he took his quest for the perfect cup of coffee to new heights in recent years.
“I traveled to visit real cafes, spoke with expert baristas and roasters as well as suppliers of beans to learn every detail of the coffee business,” he said. “It was apparent early on that the one ingredient that had the biggest impact was the coffee [bean] itself. Nothing can make old stale coffee better, you can only hope not to make it any worse. You must have fresh roast coffee to achieve that golden cup.”
As a result of his research, Susee orders his coffee beans from Brazil, Costa Rica, Peru, Tanzania, Honduras, Mexico and Columbia. Then, he puts great care into roasting the beans.
“As an artisan roaster, each roasting session is a sensory challenge that requires intense concentration,” he said. “There is no multitasking, no daydreaming, only focused determination. Seconds define the difference between success and failure. Meticulous observations of aroma, color, sound, and bean temperature determine the exact moment that perfection has been achieved,” he wrote on the Red Devil Roast website.
Susee has a license from the Department of Agriculture to roast the coffee beans in a roasting facility he designed at his home. Each roasting session takes about 15 to 20 minutes.
“It’s a pretty fast process. Things happen in a hurry,” he said. “Sometimes 10 seconds means the difference between dark roast and charcoal.”
Susee said the roasting method also is an important factor in capturing the coffee’s best flavor.
“Ninety-nine percent of the world’s coffee is roasted in a drum roaster. A drum roaster is a rotating drum with baffles to keep the beans moving and almost all are heated by natural or propane gas. So essentially the coffee is roasted by coming in contact with the scorching hot drum walls and bathed in the hot exhaust gas of the burners,” he said.
“Here at Red Devil Roast Coffee Company we utilize a fluid bed method that pushes high pressure superheated air through the bed of beans to roast the coffee. The air is electrically heated so no exhaust gasses are used in the production of our coffee. The only flavors are those developed within the coffee itself. This produces a cleaner tasting coffee and a more consistent roast.”
Susee said he personally enjoys drinking his own coffee creations.
“…..We drink every coffee we roast. We do that because we love coffee and it is vital to test each roast to ensure the quality of the product,” Susee said. “A few things to try with your coffee are chocolate cake, brownies, stone fruits like peaches or apricots, berries, scones, plain donuts, or cinnamon buns. Our favorite — English muffin, salted butter, strawberry preserves or maybe it’s chocolate.”
Red Devil Roast Coffee is available freshly brewed as well as bagged at The Bakery on Main Street in Madawaska and Susee brews up pots of his coffee to provide free samples for visitors at his Sears Hometown Store in Fort Kent.
The coffee also is available through the Red Devil Roast website for delivery or pick-up at the local Sears Hometown Store. The bags of coffee cost $12 for regular or $14 for decaffeinated per 12 ounce bag. Five pound bags are available for $55. A box of 12 single serving pods costs $10.