BANGOR, Maine — From the outside, Jeff Savage’s home on Silver Road looks like any other — an unassuming ranch-style house with maroon shutters.
But on the inside, a full-scale coffee roasting operation takes place daily. At its heart is Savage, a Bangor native and owner of Savage and Sons Gourmet Coffee. The fledgling company, started in November 2010, is the city’s sole commercial coffee roaster licensed with the state.
“It doesn’t get much fresher than this,” Savage said Wednesday as he stood examining bags packed full of raw coffee beans from Honduras. “Whole bean is the best way to drink [coffee]. When you buy it ground, it has sat on the shelf for weeks in most cases. I recommend grinding it yourself.”
In 2009, when he found himself between jobs after an accident that prevented him from working, Savage decided to put his experience, ambition and creativity to good use. After an exchange of ideas with his brother, and at the urging of friends and family, he decided to make gourmet coffee his business.
“It was a lot of work and a lot of research, but I had the time on my hands,” he said. “I had been in the grocery business for years, so I knew a thing or two about selling product.”
Savage worked as a salesman most of his life with companies such as Kraft Foods. He also worked in management at grocery stores.
“I’ve been on both sides of the fence, both selling and managing these kinds of things,” said Savage. “So it’s really made for a nice marriage.”
For Savage, one crucial factor involved in the “marriage” between himself and the stores selling his product was learning the time-honored tradition of roasting coffee. With help from his mother, fiancee and his two sons, Kyle and Cody, Savage was able to bring his vision full circle.
As a result, Savage and Sons now is brewing three gourmet blends of coffee, one of which is exclusively brewed for Pepino’s Mexican Restaurants. His products are sold in 15 Hannaford Supermarkets from Pittsfield to Millinocket. Other points of sale include The Corner Store on Hammond Street, Rebecca’s in the downtown and Van Raymond Outfitters in Brewer.
The key to his company’s success, Savage says, is the process of microroasting. Savage chose this method for the freshness it instills in his coffee. By roasting small amounts of beans, he can give greater care to each batch he makes.
Depending on the blend being made, the process starts with raw green coffee beans from Honduras, Indonesia and Ethiopia. The beans are dumped into a high-tech, automated roaster. They are heated to 302 degrees Fahrenheit.
After approximately 20 minutes, the beans then are cooled and either stored in buckets or placed in a weigh-and-fill machine, which measures the 12 ounces of coffee that are included in the final package that will be sold in stores. Savage then seals and labels each bag and delivers them to stores himself.
The process takes place in Savage’s basement, which was completely renovated to house a modern roasting room. A roasting machine, the weigh-and-fill machine, a heat sealer and an industrial coffee maker — used for taste-testing the product — line the walls. Next to the hardware, marble countertops hang off the walls and, for the long hours Savage spends roasting, he has installed a flat-screen television and wireless Internet in the room.
A Bangor company, Quantum Corral, designed the company’s packaging, and one of Savage’s relatives does all the artwork for the labels. In addition to the Pepino’s blend, there is the Lobster Pot Specialty Roast — which Savage said does not taste like lobster — and the company’s most popular blend, the Morning Sports Page Roast.
Savage said even though it is difficult to estimate how much coffee he roasts in a week, his goal is to reach 320 pounds soon.
Eventually, he said, the goal is to sell the product out of state with the help of his relatives.
“It has been worth it. I think people like to buy locally,” Savage said. “I think support from friends and the community is what we’ll continue to need.”