“The history, the cherry, the farmers , all of that really intrigued me. You know where that bean came from and you can transform it into a cup people drink.” – Laura Sickles, owner and headroaster of Woodchip Coffee
By Colorado Coffee Zine
The Colorado Coffee Zine headed to 1933 Brewing Company on a warm Spring day to interview Laura Sickles, Colorado’s very own wood fire roaster. The prohibition themed brewery that she calls home and headquarters is not only a local Fort Collins staple, it is also where Sickles roasts coffee and develops coffee beer collaborations for the tap room. Owner and head roaster of Woodchip Coffee, Sickles is one of a dozen or so roasters in the country who use wood as the primary roasting method.
“I have never worked with a more collaborative industry” she says about being part of the beer scene in Colorado. Replete with fresh chaff in her hair, Sickles sips on a coffee stout that features Woodchip Coffee and tells us more about her long history with roasting.
She describes Sunday mornings at home with her family, reading comics from the newspaper on a stoop and getting a sip of her mother’s coffee among her fondest coffee memories. “I started roasting in an old school popcorn maker when we would go camping. When I turned 18 my parents gave me my first roaster” she says of her origins in roasting. The rest was history.
Her curiosity about coffee and its long journey from seed to cup inspired her to teach herself all about it by getting a hold of books and reading everything she could find. “You know where that bean came from and you can transform that into a cup that people drink,” she says describing the things that impresses her the most about the process. “I roasted just about every origin you could get and eventually started taking notes to get consistent roasts.”
She offers to take the Zine through a roasting session and we join her in the back. Sickles swings her ax and prepares the locally gathered wood with powerful, precise strikes. She points out the elements of the roaster, an impressive assembly of hand crafted materials and moving parts. The process from start to finish is so enjoyable for Sickles as she warmly explains and methodically focuses on each step, that it feels smooth and easy to any onlooker. The Zine team watches Sickles bite into a few of her freshly roasted beans as she manually cools them. Not to be left out, we ask her about this tasting quirk and try a few beans too. Unbelievable!
“I’m always learning from other people and from myself and from my mistakes” Sickles says of her roasting technique and beer collaborations. Her coffee is available on a subscription program and at local weekend markets. The beer collaborations can be found at 1933 Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado. Be sure to stop by and say hello, she’ll be the smiling roaster-brewer with chaff in her hair.