A Fresh Approach to Coffee

words: Marcus Coker
Images: Courtesy of Hawk and Horse Coffee Roasting Company

Gabe and Kaity Gould, who live in Fort Smith and own Hawk and Horse Coffee Roasting Company, are just beginning to live their dream, a dream that started in Australia in 2006. At that time, Kaity was a barista in a coffee shop, and Gabe didn’t even like coffee. But once he tried it freshly roasted, he was sold. “Since then, when we travel, we always seek out the local roasters,” says Gabe, who’s thirty-one. “But there wasn’t one in Fort Smith, so we wanted to be the first. We wanted to start something that would grow.”

A graduate of Southside High School, Gabe grew up in Fort Smith. After graduating, he joined the Navy and met Kaity in California in 2001. In 2004, they married, and in 2006, they moved to Australia when Gabe joined a church leadership program. Kaity, who’s now thirty, says, “Before I worked as a barista, I never knew the difference between freshly roasted coffee and coffee on the shelf at the store. It’s like the difference between freshly baked bread and commercially processed bread, which sits for days and has preservatives. There’s a taste difference. Most of the coffee you buy off the shelf is essentially stale. But since people are used to that, they don’t know.”

Coffee comes from the coffee plant, which produces a red berry as fruit. The coffee bean that gets roasted for your morning brew is actually the pit or seed of that fruit and is green in its raw state. Gabe says, “There are different methods of harvesting raw beans, but the process from when it’s picked to when it gets to the roaster is not quite as essential as from when it’s roasted to when it goes to your cup.”

After leaving Australia and Kaity’s job as a barista, Gabe and Kaity moved around a lot, mostly to be near their families. Gabe worked at a bank and a medical technologies company, and he and Kaity even started their own cleaning business. But by the end of 2013, they settled in Fort Smith, with Gabe working at Gerber and Kaity taking care of their four children. She says, “We just wanted to be back here.”

Since their latest move, Gabe and Kaity have become more and more interested in roasting coffee, the process by which heat is applied to a green coffee bean and transforms it chemically and physically into what most people think of as coffee.

“We started hobby roasting on a mini fluid air roaster about a year ago. I totally fried the first batch,” says Kaity as she laughs. “Most places use a drum roaster, which tumbles beans around on a hot surface. The fluid air roaster is a large glass cylinder with a metal bottom that has holes in it. The raw beans go in the machine, and air comes up from underneath and rotates the beans.” Gabe adds, “It’s supposed to have a more even roast, a shorter roast time, and yield different flavors.”

Katy says, “We were roasting mostly for friends and family and would give roasted coffee as a gift in mason jars. Then enough people started asking about it, so we decided to start Hawk and Horse as an online business.”

The name for the company comes from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 91, which includes these lines: “Thy love is better than high birth to me, Richer than wealth, prouder than garments’ cost, Of more delight than hawks or horses be; And having thee, of all men’s pride I boast.” Kaity says, “We assume he’s talking about a woman, but it’s something that’s greater than earthly delight. For us, we have God as more important than our business.” Gabe says, “The name has multiple levels to it. We put God in front of everything. But on another level, we think our coffee is better than any other thing on earth.”

In February of this year, Gabe and Kaity bought a commercial-sized fluid air roaster, which roasts approximately three pounds of green coffee beans at a time. Gabe says, “The average coffee shop probably uses four to five pounds a day of roasted coffee. The bags we used can hold about a pound, so we roast two and a half bags at a time.”

Kaity says, “The beans go from a green, grassy color to an earthy color, getting progressively darker for light, medium, and dark roasts. It takes about ten to eighteen minutes depending on what we are going for.” The air in the roaster rises to about 395 degrees. At that point, the beans experience what is called “first crack,” the point at which enough moisture is released from the beans that they begin to pop. Kaity says, “You want first crack, but not second crack, unless you are wanting a dark roast. The sound is really subtle. If you’re not listening, you wouldn’t notice. We gauge it by site, smell, and sound.”

Gabe says, “If you heat the beans up too fast, you get a more acidic flavor. If you go too slow, you get a burnt flavor. The more you define those parameters of how you’re heating it up and how long, you can pinpoint how you want it to taste.” To help them do just that, Gabe and Kaity use what’s called Advanced Definition Roasting (ADR), which allows them to save the temperature and length of time roasted for each batch to their computer via Bluetooth. Kaity says,“ ADR gives us consistency. Because we have a record of what we did with each batch, we can drink coffee and tweak the next batch to personal and customer preferences.”

Hawk and Horse gets their beans from an online distributor and offers four types of coffee: Mexico Chiapas (Fair Trade Organic), Brazil (Fair Trade Organic), Costa Rican, and Mexican Esmeralda Decaf. Kaity says, “They are named for the country and state of origin. The differences are subtle, but we have customers that swear by each one. They are all Arabica coffees, which is the type of bean. Another type would be Robusta. The difference is the elevation at which they are grown.” Robusta coffees also contain twice the caffeine as Arabica coffees, meaning they are more bitter.

The coffees are sold for $9 for a half-pound and $16 for a full pound. (A full pound yields thirty-two espresso shots.) Since opening, Hawk and Horse has filled orders as far away as California and Virginia.

“We can grind the coffee for people, but prefer to sell whole bean,” says Kaity. “The more surface area that’s exposed by grinding, the more it’s exposed to air and humidity and heat, all those enemies of coffee. So it’s best to grind right before your brew it. We recommend a type called a burr grinder for a consistent grind. It’s not a special brand, but one with a specific mechanism for grinding. They can be purchased on Ebay or Amazon.”

For now, Gabe and Kaity are roasting their coffee from home and selling their product through their website and Facebook page. But they have bigger plans—much bigger. She says, “You’re seeing grassroots, the very start of pursuing a dream. We want to be the coffee roaster for this area. And we want to be face to face, maybe one day have a place where people can have fresh coffee and we can provide other local products like soaps and extracts and produce.”

Of course, dreams, just like a good cup of coffee, take time. But the extra effort is surely worth the taste of success that comes from the fruits of your labor. And what’s more, as Kaity says, “This is just the beginning, which is very exciting.”

For more information, find Hawk and Horse on Facebook, visit their website at www.hawkandhorse.com, or call 479.226.2437.

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