Roasting with Mill City: Palace Coffee Company
Roasting with Mill City is an ongoing series where we highlight companies using our roasters to build their business, make a difference, and roast delicious coffee.
It may be surprising to learn that some of the best coffee in Texas isn’t roasted in Austin or Houston, but in the small northern city of Amarillo. It’s there in the Texas Panhandle, a former cattle and grain producing landmark along the famous Route 66, that Patrick and Krystal Burns are building a small coffee empire under the name Palace Coffee.
Now boasting an impressive 3 cafes, Palace is caffeinating a large population of Amarillo with locations in Canyon Square, Southwest Amarillo, and in the heart of Downtown where their combination roastery/cafe is based. In addition to serving great coffees, highlighting seasonal lattes to support local causes, and showcasing some of the best baked goods in the area, Palace is now also proudly roasting their own beans at their Downtown location on two Mill City Roasters, a 1 kilo roaster for sample roasting and profile development and a 10 kilogram for production roasts.
During this time of Social Distancing, Palace has managed to pivot their business model to stay connected with customers and to continue serving their community. With two of their cafes still open for business they are offering carry-out service, allowing folks to order by text message, offering contactless payment options, and providing local delivery of coffee, pastries, whole bean coffee and merchandise – including brewing equipment for folks making their own coffee at home. In a recent Facebook Live video hosted by Patrick and Krystal, they showed off their new menu item for people staying home: Half Gallon containers of their cold brew concentrate, cold brew vanilla latte, and their iconic “Melty” (a vanilla cold brew latte made with half and half that reminds them of melted vanilla ice cream).
We caught up with Patrick last summer, but with our busy Truck Tour schedule, hosting multiple classes each month, and selling roasters, this interview didn’t get posted. Now we’ve got more time on our hands, so we’re dusting off our conversation and sharing it here as the first in a new blog series that highlights our customers around the country.
MCR: What led to your decision to roast on a Mill City Roaster?
PB: I was researching many different drum roasters and was very interested in a few of them. Our pal Joe told me not to overlook MCR. I emailed you guys on a Wednesday night before a management staff trip we were taking on Thursday. I had an email and a scheduled call with Steve by 10am. He wasn’t just interested in selling us a roaster. He wanted to know our roasting concept and why we wanted to roast. We had a great talk with our entire team in the car and I knew that the MCR team would take care of us as we launched this new venture for Palace.
MCR: What do you enjoy about your machine?
PB: The 10 kilo we roast on is simple to use and has the variables to control the entire roast. You also can roast it at its full capacity without lag.
MCR: Where did you learn to roast? What resources do you use to further your craft?
PB: When we decided to roast our initial production roaster and myself went to Topeka Coffee in Tulsa and took our Level 1 roaster classes to become certified. I use MCR’s youtube channel to watch Roasters School. I have sat in a Scott Rao seminar at SCA. I also read and talk with other roasters about different aspects of the craft.
MCR: What was a roasting “A HA!” breakthrough moment for you?
PB: My biggest A-Ha moment was being ok to push past limits. Being able to go too aggressive and see what that does to the coffee. Increasing charge temps to see what that does. Playing around with the drum speed for different sized batches also helped.
MCR: You receive a new coffee. How do you approach it? What factors lead to your decisions on adjustments during the roast?
PB: When a new coffee comes in we have already sample roasted it a few ways on our IKAWA Roaster. We do a density check and water content test and use that data to help us choose a similar coffee that we have a profile for. I then do two to three roasts at different development rates. We then cup and see which one is closest to what we are wanting out of the coffee. We then make smaller changes from there.
MCR: What is your favorite coffee to roast?
PB: I don’t know that I have a favorite coffee to roast to be honest. They all have unique things about them that make roasting challenging.
MCR: What flavor on the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel best describes you, and why?
PB: I want to be described as warming. It’s important to make people feel valued and in my mind warming is a good way to do that.
MCR: Do you have any advice for new roasters?
PB: Research and talk with as many people that you look up to in the industry. Also know that everyone knows the “right” way to do it. Listen to their advice but don’t become too dogmatic in your approach. Keep it fun and taste everything that comes out of your roaster. It’s the only way to get better. Surround yourself with other people that can taste your coffee, not just high level cuppers. It’s good to know how all people taste and describe your coffee.
MCR: What would you like people to know about Palace?
PB: Come and experience it for yourself if you are ever in the area. We love meeting new people!!! If you can’t make it in we’d still love for you to try out our coffees and share your feedback. We also love helping people start off in the coffee industry. We would love to consult anyone who is thinking of starting a shop or roastery.