Palmetto Clean Energy News & Solar Energy Blog

Toast to Solar Roast


In today’s America, you have likely spent some part of your day immersing your taste buds in coffee. Perhaps you sloshed a bit of black liquid in a thermal on the way out the door this morning, or you waited patiently in the drive-thru for your creamy lunch-break latte. Thankfully, a couple of environmentally-savvy coffee masters have invented the next best coffee sensation—a solar roast!

When the idea of solar coffee first dripped into the minds of Michael and David Hartkop, they knew that modern coffee drinkers weren’t getting the highest quality. Most “normal” roasts are overflowing with harmful pesticides, and we can’t exactly give coffee facilities a green stamp of approval either.

 Solar Coffee Arrives

So Michael and David Hartkop started tinkering in the garage of their parent’s Oregon home and brewed a different kind of coffee for the world to taste. If anyone had the qualifications for the job, it was this duo. They made the perfect blend, Michael’s business savvy and coffee know-how with David’s solar energy knowledge and special effects design.

Armed with a broccoli strainer, an old satellite dish, and a hundred mirrors, the Hartkops created the first ever solar roaster in 2004. They affectionately dubbed it the Helios I after the Greek sun god and could roast up to one pound of coffee beans at one time.

But they certainly couldn’t stop with good old Helios senior because it just wouldn’t keep up with the world’s coffee consumption. No, the Hartkops kept perfecting their design until they had a mobile, high-producing solar roaster—the Helios III.

Helios III could roast up to five pounds of beans and could attach to the back of a vehicle for traveling. The Hartkops had officially found a practical way of getting organic, environmentally friendly coffee to eager, health-conscious consumers.


Embracing the Brew

For the next few years, the brothers expanded on this design until they found one that could roast a whopping 30 pounds of beans, all while they were following the sun to Pueblo, Colorado, and promoting their invention. By this time, the brothers held a steady flow of customers in their Pueblo coffee shop and could support many wholesale customers as well.

Then, in 2010, Michael and David received the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation from the city, an award that would help them further develop the Helios. With this grant, they strayed from their original solar roaster design, and out came the Helios V, a roaster that used photovoltaic panels on their store’s roof. They could even send excess power to the store when they weren’t roasting coffee beans! You just won’t find more sustainable coffee anywhere else in the world.


Never to Return

Once you sip the smooth flavor of the Hartkop brothers’ solar roast, you won’t want to return to the conventional stuff.

These “normal” coffee blends come from all over the world, in countries where pesticides are not regulated and the environment is not considered. In fact, the United States produces and sells many of these harmful chemicals, often so toxic that companies could not use them on American soil.

Instead of putting your health aside to drink your favorite beverage, trade out the pesticide-laden blends from tree-uprooting facilities for the sun-kissed version. Just like the best ribs come from hours of tender loving care, the best coffee comes from slow-roasted solar energy. With this environmentally friendly solar roast, the Hartkops have changed the meaning of quality coffee for good.