Air-roasted coffee is trending up in the Triad
AirWheel Coffee Company based in Winston-Salem, is bringing a fresh new version of roasted coffee to coffee-lovers. You’ll find Airwheel “popping up” at Bailey Park Stage Pop-up shop in the Innovation Quarter as well as local retailers.
AirWheel launched earlier this year, but its wheels have been spinning for much longer than the first half of 2017. I met founder Nick Broome, several years ago and sitting around my breakfast table, where we first learned of his emerging enterprise of air-roasting coffee and his coffee extract.
“It has been a hobby of mine for a long time,” Broome said.
He learned about air-roasting coffee from Macleod Fitzgerald after Fitzgerald brought his prized fluid-bed roaster from Oregon. Broome and Fitzgerald’s grandson, Shane Aaron, then sucked up as much knowledge as they could. There’s a bit of a family tree thing happening here; today, Fitzgerald’s son, Neal Pruett, who is Shane’s father, operates Magic Beans, roasts AirWheel’s coffee and also serves some local establishments and you’ll find them at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Farmers Market.
So how is air-roasting different than a traditional roast?
“Roasting coffee is usually done in a drum, which uses a eat source,” he said. “We use a fluid-bed roaster. We put in about 12 pounds of green coffee and air pressure blows the beans up and they roast by air.”
Think of it visually as a clothes dryer vs. hot air popcorn popper.
Only one percent of all the coffee in the world is air-roasted, Broome said.
“With air-roasting, you’re really able to dial in the degree of roast that you want,” he said. “Coffee is really precious and sensitive and if you go too far, it can bring out that burnt and bitter flavor. Air-roasting avoids burning the beans, which creates a smooth cup of coffee.”
They will also say that it avoids the jittery feeling that can also come with a traditional cup of coffee. Air-roasting aficionados and really, any coffee lover, will tell you that coffee should never taste bitter or burnt. It should also not leave you feeling like you have acid in your stomach and throat.
In addition to air-roasted coffee, AirWheel also offers its prized coffee extract, which is what I first sampled several years ago when the company was but a twinkle in Broome’s eye.
“It’s really one of a kind,” Broome said. “We take the fresh air-roasted coffee and we extract the essential oil from the coffee. It’s super bold and one ounce added to seven ounces of hot filtered water creates the smoothest, boldest flavor you are looking for in coffee.”
This extract is not the same as a cold brew (which isn’t extract at all), Broome said, “It’s a true extract that works wonderfully in a number of recipes.”
Since dropping into its first retailer, Village Juice back in April, AirWheel has been adding other retailers on top its pop-ups, such as Colony Urban Farm Store, Wine Merchants Gourmet & Vin 205, Stella Brew and Wiseman Brewing. They’re also found at 1703 Restaurant and Catering, and most recently The Humblebee Shoppe.
Brittany McGee, of The Humblebee Shoppe has only been open for five days, but has been using AirWheel’s extract for baking.
“AirWheel’s s extract is a bakers dream!” McGee said. “I like to use it in my buttercreams to compliment the chocolate mocha cake I make for Willow’s. I also use it at the shop for ice coffee and it is so tasty. It’s super concentrated so a little goes a long way.”
AirWheel continues to add more restaurants and retailers each week.
Broome added, “We also have the AirWheel Coffee Lounge at Venture Cafe in Winston-Salem and we are the official coffee for Flow BMW’s Cars and Coffee events at Reynolda Village.”
You’ll also find them at the Bailey Park Stage Pop-Up Shop every Tuesday and Thursday where he and Aaron are serving coffee and mixing up cool concoctions.
“Everything we use is organic and top shelf…honeys, maple syrup, no dairy, only cashew milk, almond milk, hazelnut milk or oat milk,” he said. “We really take it to the next level with the drinks.”
Broome suggests their bourbon-infused honey with hazelnut milk and coffee or get your Irish on with an Irish Cream Liqueur infused with coffee and oat milk. AirWheel goes that extra step in sustainability by repurposing wine bottles to seal and package its beans and extract.
Broome said he hopes that people will try air-roasted coffee and see the difference.
“A lot of people haven’t really had a really great, smooth cup of coffee the way it’s meant to be enjoyed,” he said. “It’s not just coffee, it should be an experience.”
Wanna go? Find AirWheel at Bailey Park Pop-up every Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. all summer. For locations and info visit airwheelcoffee.com or find them @AirWheelCoffee on social media.