Solar–Roasted Coffee: Sipping on Solar Energy

Coffee is an old soul. Its bold flavor has glided down the throats of humankind since its first sighting in the Ethiopian Plateau and has burrowed its roots into 15th century farmlands. Then, people brought the pungent, energy–enhancing beverage to the hearts of the Middle East, where it swelled in popularity. Today, coffee has seeped its way across the world and finally puddled into the mugs of Michael and David Hartkop’s Solar Roast Coffee.

An Idea Brewing

The Hartkops knew about modern coffee production. The world hasn’t exactly been growing it green, pesticides oozing into every cup of liquid goodness.

At the time, coffee–lovers were already scanning packages for an organic or environmentally friendly promise. So the Hartkop brothers confidently proposed their answer to the world’s polluted coffee—a solar coffee roast. No longer would customers have to turn a blind eye to health just to sip their treasured black gold.

The brothers set to work on their idea at their Oregon home, applying the mixed brew of talents they both had. Between Michael’s business degree and coffee–roasting experience and David’s special effects and solar energy knowledge, the brothers made the perfect entrepreneur duo for the job.

The Beginning of Solar Coffee

By 2004, Michael and David Hartkop were able to release their first solar coffee roaster, made from their parents’ garage ingredients, including plastic mirrors, a satellite dish and a broccoli strainer. They dubbed their creation the Helios I after the Greek god of the sun. This preliminary roaster could heap up to a pound of coffee beans.

Over the next two years, the brothers perfected their creation. In 2005, they heralded in the Helios II, quickly followed by the more mobile version Helios III in 2006. With this perfected version, the brothers could roast five pounds of coffee at once, giving their business a boost in production. They could also travel anywhere they wanted in the US, catching a more intense sun from other states and gaining recognition too.

Solar Coffee Business Expanded

Finally, in 2007, the brothers set up shop in Pueblo, Colorado. They continued to perfect their roasters until they created the Helios IV, which could follow the sun’s light by raising and pivoting. Since this new roaster could hold up to 30 pounds of coffee, it seriously picked up the speed for the business. They were even able to expand their reach to 40 US wholesale customers!

In 2010, the city of Pueblo awarded Michael and David Hartkop with the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation, a grant to further develop Solar Roast Coffee. The brothers used the grant to introduce the Helios V.

Departing from their usual model, this new roaster used solar panels that captured electricity for a heater. The heater, in turn, roasted the beans. The brothers could also use the solar panels to power the coffee shop when the roaster wasn’t being used. Talk about energy efficiency!

A Solar Roast

But we know the real question that you coffee gurus must have. How does solar–roasted coffee taste? According to the Hartkops, the coffee itself has a smooth taste since they can roast it more gently than a commercial manufacturer.

You’ll also breathe their coffee’s aroma more easily since they use entirely organic ingredients. As you enjoy your next cup of Joe and ponder all its health benefits, such as better circulation, a faster metabolism and infused antioxidants, consider solar–roasted coffee. We love how a solar roast’s biggest energy expense is the steam hazing at the top of your cup.


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Renewable Energy Creative Director, Content Manager & Freelance Writer.

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