Even before the Howe Company was established, our founder George J. Howe was the original Master Coffee Roaster. Mr. Howe opened a tiny grocery store in Grove City, PA in 1917. In an attempt to boost his steady business, he purchased a small coffee roaster and began roasting and selling fresh-ground coffee in the store window. Customers would receive a free pound of Howe’s unique blend when they purchased $10 or more worth of groceries. It wasn’t long before people were traveling from out of town and lining up to scoop up their free pound of coffee. And with that, Howe’s famous gourmet coffee was born.The demand for Howe’s brew was so high that the innovative grocer sold his store in 1927 and became a full-time coffee merchant.
There are several steps that go into our process to help perfect the coffee before it reaches our customers. So “Howe” do we do it? Coffee importers send pre-shipment samples of various coffees from desired countries and regions. We then roast small batches and start with a process known as cupping. This is done by our quality assurance manager, Micaela Vrabel, who is the great-granddaughter of George Howe. First the coffee is smelled to determine the aroma. Tasting is done by slurping the coffee to the back of the tongue and then expectorating it to determine the right balance of body, acidity and sweetness. All of this takes place at the original table which was used by Mr. Howe.
Once we determine the specific beans that fit our desired profile, they are purchased and shipped to our roasting facility. Micaela then cups coffee from the delivery to ensure that the quality matches the sample which was provided. Our Master Roaster Mike takes over from there. Mike has been with Howe for 28 years and for the last 16 has been roasting some of your favorite coffees. The coffee first moves through a cleaning machine to remove any unwanted debris that occasionally is present. After the beans go through the cleaning machine, they are then moved to the coffee roaster. Green coffee is roasted in quantities ranging as little as 5 pounds to as much as 528 pounds.
Once the beans develop to the accurate temperature, our larger batch roaster begins the “quench cycle” where several gallons of water are sprayed on the beans over the course of a few minutes. This keeps the beans from over-developing. The next step is the “cooling cart” which is a machine that uses paddles to slowly rotate the beans. This allows room temperature air to quickly cool the roasted beans and takes only a few minutes. Next we take a small sample of beans to brew and test the quality of the coffee by repeating the cupping process. After approval has been given, the beans from the batch roaster are sent through yet another quality check-point, the coffee stoner. Finally the beans are either ground and packaged to specific standards or packed to sell as whole bean coffee.
We pride ourselves on our strong family heritage. For four generations and more than 90 years, direct descendants of Mr. George J. Howe have searched and secured the perfect beans to go into your cup of coffee, ensuring that you really can “taste the difference”.