TOTM Columbia Roastery1

Columbia St. Roastery installed its new, state of the art roaster this week, which owner Mark Herriott said will allow the company to treat its coffee like painter with a blank canvas. Submitted

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This week’s stop in our series on local businesses with stories to tell: Champaign’s Columbia Street Roastery.

Fans of coffee from Columbia Street Roastery — and there are plenty, what with the shop doing business since 1998 — might notice a small difference soon. That’s due to the new, state-of-the-art roaster the company installed this week.

“It’s like you have a blank canvas. This roaster allows you to paint a picture any way you want on that canvas,” owner Mark Herriott said. “Whereas with a different roaster, the design kind of dictates what you can and you can’t do. Because we can manipulate airflow at any stage in the roast, and we can change the temperature.”

The roaster is also twice as big as the one that was installed when the roastery opened in 1998, accommodating the 250,000 pounds of coffee the company makes each year. It can also control the speed of the drum as the coffee moves around, which Herriott likened to a dryer. All of those tweaks and controls, he said, will allow them to make their coffee noticeably better.

“We can increase the natural sweetness in the coffee and we can highlight the characteristics of our well-known single-origin coffee,” Herriott said. “I just think that we can develop the coffees a little better. The goal is always to improve.”