Justice of the peace turned roaster of the beans Randy Lint has just rapped the gavel on a significant expansion for his Hamilton, Montana-based company, Big Creek Coffee Roasters.
A 4,000-square-foot facility now houses the company’s two roasting machines under one roof, while expanding opportunities for wholesale training and coffee education of all kinds.
Big Creek’s dual Diedrich roasters now hum side by side after years of shuffling and reshuffling. Big Creek’s first machine, a bright orange IR5 purchased in 2010, originally worked its magic in a 300-square-foot space in the garage of Lint’s wife’s legal office, and was then moved to roast on site at the 1,200-square-foot Big Creek Coffee shop on Main Street in Hamilton. That machine moved once again into the large new facility last year.
The second machine, a blue IR12 the company purchased in 2015, took the IR5’s old spot in the office garage at first, and then jumped straight into the new headquarters earlier this year. An Ikawa sample roaster has also joined the lineup.
“We’ve moved roasters quite a lot as we scramble for space with the evolution of the business,” Lint told Daily Coffee News.
In the spacious industrial warehouse, Big Creek now houses production, green coffee storage, offices, mail order operations, merchandise and training lab, with additional space set aside for public events such as cuppings and classes on home brewing and roasting.
The former lawyer gained some of his professional expertise through the Diedrich roasting course in Idaho and a roasting and cupping course at Atlas Coffee in Seattle, but he is largely self-taught.
“I learned to roast the same way as hundreds of others, through Sweet Maria’s, one pound at a time, trying anything and everything and making every mistake in the book,” said Lint. “Ten years ago, there weren’t any books on the market and there was very little on the internet, other than Sweet Maria’s. The forums were pretty quiet, and the local roasters around here were all doing proprietary blends and were less welcoming than people are now.”
At Big Creek’s Hamilton coffee shop, a La Marzocco Linea turns out the espresso menu and drip coffees are prepared exclusively on a 4-bay TruBru pourover station with Beehouse drippers. While customer service there remains as informative and transparent as possible on matters of tasting, production and more, the company’s main educational opportunities have shifted to tours and classes at the off-site roastery.
“We used to do home roasting and brewing classes at the cafe, and they were a real hit, but with the cafe being open virtually all the time, we can’t fit those classes in there anymore,” said Lint. “Holding them at the roastery allows us quiet and space to spread out and have a great time. For example, this coming Friday, we’re doing a cupping with a group of tourists who wanted to do a ‘bike to the roastery’ event. They’ll meet in the morning, bike the six miles from town to the roastery, and we’ll do a fun and informal cupping and tour while they’re here.”
“I’m trying to balance my own love of amazing quality coffees roasted light enough to taste the nuances, with my customers’ interest in heavier bodied and less acid-y coffees,” said Lint. “I think we have found that balance over time. Longtime regulars who only loved dark roasted coffees before have come to appreciate what we offer and routinely tell us that they can’t go back to what they were drinking before.”
A recent package redesign incorporated a roast-level indication for the first time in Big Creek history — a move Lint made with some reluctance.
“I resisted for years because I didn’t want people to reject an otherwise great coffee based on it not fitting into their preferred roast range,” said Lint. “Anyway, looking at the dozen or so coffees we offer, the bulk of them are in the medium roast range, well short of second crack. We do offer a couple of consistent quality dark roasts, which sell very well, and we always have a couple of light roasted show stoppers, too.”
As Big Creek continues to wend and swell, it hopes its coffee reaches more Montanans and folks farther afield.
“I want to hear them say, ‘That’s the best coffee I’ve ever had,'” said Lint. “That’s the adrenaline shot that drives me. We never get tired of hearing that.”