NOTE: Cross-posted from our coffee company blog. Readers here are probably less familiar with these products. Imagine traditional grits, and traditional cornmeal, only made from *roasted* corn. That’s what we’re talking about here. These products take it up about a thousand notches, with lots of sweet, nutty goodness you just don’t get in the traditional version.
They’re finally back – roasted corn products – roasted grits, and roasted cornmeal.
Many of you will remember that we offered these products last summer and through the spring. At that time, we produced them in collaboration with another party – we did the roasting, they did the milling. I’ll spare you the painful details, but this year it was necessary for us to become “vertically integrated”, as they taught me to say in business school. In other words, now we do it all except grow the corn, and I’m working on that, too. I mean if you’re gonna do it, you may as well do it all, right?
While it’s expensive, vertical integration is not without its benefits. We are now completely in control of the product, including its formulation, i.e., the types of corn we use, how they’re roasted, how they are blended, screen sizes of the sifters, etc etc. We now have a mill that is appropriately sized to our demand pattern, so it’s efficient to run and we’re not killing ourselves trying to sell more than the market will bear. We’ve re-engineered the traditional sifting system and come up with something that’s about 4x as fast in a quarter of the footprint (to be fair, the technical work on that was done by a couple of friends with only minimal input from me – shout-out to Alan and Dave!). I had a season to think about how to roast corn better, more efficiently, and came up with some process innovation that almost completely eliminated waste and fire danger while allowing me to achieve a darker, richer roast.
- Our 2011 Grain Dealer License. This process was enough to turn the biggest liberal into a Republican.
We also jumped through the extra hoops required to be a licensed grain dealer in North Carolina, and we think we’re just a few weeks away from harvesting the crop we contracted in Eastern Carolina. This is not just any corn – it’s an heirloom Peruvian purple corn, grown without chemical inputs (which is why we’re so nervous right now – because of the heirloom varitey, dry summer, and organic methods, we expect a low yield, how low remains to be seen). Less than 30% of North Carolina’s milling operations are also licensed grain dealers, so they are restricted to where they can purchase their corn. We’ll be able to buy directly from North Carolina growers, something that the majority of millers are not legally allowed to do.
Anyway, the first output of our months-long effort will be available tomorrow at Western Wake Farmer’s Market, or place your order online. We expect to have some fits and starts with respect to meeting demand the first week or two, but we should settle into a pattern shortly.
- Stone grinding mill in action
- Our custom designed turbo sifter in action. That’s roasted cornmeal coming out the bottom into the tub.
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