A Trip to Guatemala Enhances Dunn Brothers Coffee Expertise

Dunn Brothers owners travel to Guatemala for a look at coffee bean farming.
Harvesting and milling coffee beans is a labor intensive task.

Maple Grove Dunn Brothers Coffee owners Jeff and Vicki Zierden recently returned from a trip to Guatemala. Each year, Dunn Brothers coordinates a trip for its storeowners to various locales that are the sources of coffee served to U.S. customers each day. This type of hands-on engagement and education sets apart coffee roasters and brewers like the Zierdens from their competitors.

The Zierdens have been co-owners of Dunn Brothers Coffee in Maple Grove since 2008. Jeff had always wanted to own a business in a growth industry that he knew something about. Dunn Brothers presented him with experts who would continually help him learn about coffee. Zierden’s trip to Guatemala has served to further increase his knowledge and has better prepared him to educate his staff and customers about a good-quality cup of coffee.

“I was impressed with everything I saw in Guatemala,” Zierden says. “Everyone we met was friendly and helpful. We met farmers and pickers. We were walked through the entire process of cultivating and processing coffee beans.” Zierden was fascinated by how labor-intensive coffee production is; Guatemalan Arabica coffee beans are hand-picked in its mountainous regions.

Zierden notes that most people don’t realize that coffee beans are not actually beans—they are seeds from inside a coffee berry. Those seeds undergo a wet-mill, then a dry-mill process. Zierden toured and even participated in part of the milling process while in Guatemala. “It was exciting to get a feel for how the beans are milled,” Zierden says. “Also, the Guatemalan farmers we toured are utilizing more organic material as opposed to chemical fertilizers. They were excited to tell us about that.”

The Guatemalan coffee served at Dunn Brothers is known as single origin (as opposed to a blend). The coffee’s flavor is heavily influenced by the soil where it’s grown. The mountainous region of Guatemala has lots of volcanic material in the soil, making Guatemalan coffee unique among Central American varieties, and giving it a chocolaty, full-bodied, smooth flavor. Dunn Brothers serves coffee from many international growers but Zierden says many people say Guatemalan coffee is some of the best.

Zierden or any of his Dunn Brothers staff can recommend coffee varieties based on individual preferences. Coffee with bold, bright flavor tends to be more acidic; coffee drinkers who prefer a more earthy and smooth tasting coffee are directed to another roast variation.

Maple Grove Dunn Brothers roasts its own coffee every day. Fresh roasting provides a bolder, more flavorful cup. Zierden says, “Drinkers of canned coffee may think our coffee tastes too strong, but that’s only because they are used to coffee that’s been sitting around too long and has lost much of its flavor.” Dunn Brothers also brews a different coffee every day, so customers can taste and discover which coffee they like best for brewing at home.

Dunn Brothers sells quarter- and half-pound bags so customers can sample different varieties at home. But, Zierden says, “in the store, we brew with an expensive extractor brewing machine. Water temperature affects flavor. Most home coffee makers don’t get water hot enough to extract the same good flavor from coffee.” He recommends home brewers use a pour-over style coffee maker. Pour-overs are easy to use; all you do is boil water and pour it over your filtered coffee grounds. Dunn Brothers sells a variety of pour-over coffee makers beginning at around $5. “You can spend much more,” Zierden says, “depending on how into it you want to get.”

After traveling to Guatemala, meeting regional coffee farmers and experiencing first-hand what coffee production entails, Zierden has already made plans to send a business partner on the next Dunn Brothers trip. “Going to Guatemala has enriched my business and my life,” says Zierden. “I hope we can have someone from our coffee shop go on one of these trips every year.”