Oregon-roasted Sisters Coffee grows with third retail cafe, spike in sales

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A local coffee roaster is seeing a notable spike in sales.. Find out more here.

In Sisters, Oregon, you can find the early risers inside Sisters Coffee. The family-owned coffee roastery and cafe is often bustling at 6 a.m., filled with skiers and hikers about to start their adventures in the gateway to the Oregon High Desert.

Head roaster Bubba Abbajay is there even earlier, putting the first batch of coffee beans into the roaster by 5 a.m.

Coffee roasting is a sensory experience. Abbajay checks the beans often during the roughly 15-minute roasting process for each 50-pound batch, watching their color change from a pale lime green to a chocolate brown.

The roaster consists of a cast iron drum that heats the beans as they tumble inside like clothes in a dryer.

He removes samples to smell the beans, which start with a vegetal, earthy scent before they take on the familiar aroma of finished coffee.

“It’s a balancing act of how much flavor you can leave in while still caramelizing sugars, without destroying too many organic compounds,” Abbajay said.

And he listens, ear near the roasting drum, for the popping sound that indicates the roast is almost done.

“All coffee has a moisture content, so pressure is building inside the coffee as the water becomes steam, and at a certain point late in the roast, all that steam will erupt,” he said.

Sisters Coffee was founded in 1989 by Winfield and Joy Durham. The couple, who are originally from Beaverton, first got their start working with coffee in Alaska in 1984.

“When they were in their 20s, they moved up to Sitka,” said their daughter, Jesse Durham. “They got their hands on this tiny soup and sandwich spot called the Coffee Express.”

The shop had a small coffee roaster, and the Durhams developed an interest in craft roasting.

Five years later, after too many dark Alaskan winters and now with three young children, Joy Durham was ready to move back to Oregon to be closer to family. But she was also ready to settle in a place with a bit more sunshine.

The family chose Sisters, a small town in central Oregon about 20 miles northwest of Bend.