Brookings man roasting, selling small batches of coffee

BROOKINGS – You wouldn’t ordinarily imagine an entire world, culture and geography in a single cup of coffee. 

Matthew Rhodes/Register: Above, barista and coffee roaster Andrew Litz works on his roasting machine. The machine holds and can roast 4 pounds of coffee beans at a time. Litz works with several different origins of coffee beans and can modify how they are roasted by adjusting the temperature of the roast as well as how much air the beans are exposed to. Below, One of the best ways to determine the quality of a coffee beans’ roast is by smell. Here Litz is able to determine whether or not the coffee beans need more time roasting based on what kinds of aromas come from the beans.

That’s precisely the notion that barista, manager, coffee roaster and businessman Andrew Litz aims to achieve with every cup of coffee brewed from his company: Westbound Coffee Company. 

“It came to be because of my love and passion for coffee,” Litz said. “After being in the coffee industry for that long…that was the next progression for me, to develop my craft (and) to move on from managing and preparing coffee – which I still do – to roasting.”

A Sioux Falls native who now calls Brookings home, Litz has been a barista at Choco Latte for the past eight years and worked his way up to the position of manager. During this time, he earned his undergraduate and eventually master’s degree in exercise science. Litz had originally anticipated becoming a professor but realized soon after teaching for a short while at Dakota State University three years ago that his passion was in coffee.

“The two overlap a bit. I wanted to do education because I like to try and influence other people in good ways, you know? To influence and to have an impact on other people’s lives and that was what I intended to do with my education. But I found I can definitely do that as a manager now … the impact is still there whether it’s employees – no matter how long they’re there for – or just customers. The impact is still there, that’s my favorite part about working at a coffee shop and also roasting coffee.”

Litz first began his roasting career three years ago with the same equipment he still uses today. He uses a coffee roaster from BC Roasters that can hold four pounds of coffee beans. It’s housed behind his home in a shed that can hardly fit Litz, his roaster and his coffee beans. The small roaster (the average size roaster for most coffee roasting companies is between 15-20 pounds) allows Litz to roast more often, which creates a fresher roast each time.

The comparatively small-sized roaster and even smaller shed allow for Litz to have acute control over the temperature and air-intake; therefore, he is more capable of achieving the “perfect roast.” Litz roasts a few days a week for several hours at a time. 

“By the end of a session, I’m sure it’s somewhere around 100-110 degrees (in the shed).”

Litz has several different kinds of coffee beans shipped to him through Café Imports from all over the world. Westbound has Columbian, Guatemalan, Brazilian, Peruvian, Papua New Guinean and Costa Rican bags of coffee, each with the option for a different kind of roast (light to dark).

Litz is also partnering up with the SDSU women’s soccer team in creating a new coffee blend called the “Core Values Blend,” from which 10% of the proceeds go to the SDSU soccer program.

Common flavors that are brought out with these variations are often chocolates, caramels, fruitiness and even different kinds of spices. Coffee can be compared to wines in how different geographies of different countries all impact how it tastes. 

“Geography is taste,” Litz said.

Westbound offers a few different options for sales. His website has beans for sale, and Westbound also has a subscription service that allows customers to have randomized bags of coffee shipped to them; if they’re in the Brookings or Sioux Falls area, Litz will personally deliver the coffee himself. Litz’s coffee can also be found at Choco Latte and the Carrot Seed Kitchen Co.

A few coffee shops and stands also brew his coffee. Choco Latte often does a Westbound drip coffee. The cupcake and coffee shop Half Baked in Sioux Falls makes all of their coffee drinks out of Westbound coffee, as does Good Day Café out in Spearfish. A coffee stand at the Pierre farmer’s market has Litz’s coffee available for pour-overs, as well.

A cup of coffee is all about the experience one has while drinking it, Litz said, whether that is from the tastes, the people one is with or even the place one is at. That’s how he got the name for his company.

“(Westbound) kind of explains my goal as a coffee roaster, because it came about with a design team …. We were just sitting around talking about what is important to me about coffee and kind of what was the driving force behind that, and I knew that coffee – to me – was about experience and adventure and bringing in that little piece of the country to you and getting to experience that just because of how unique coffee is,” Litz said.

For more information and purchasing options, visit www.westboundcoffee.comor visit Litz while he’s working as a barista at Choco Latte.

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