Moon Eyes Coffee Roasters in Fort Benton now open

 

March 29, 2023



My wife and I moved to Big Sandy from a community with nearly the same population as the entire state of Montana. The peace and quiet are amazing. Having a tight knit community and the lack of traffic are even better. The one thing we find ourselves missing about living in a larger community is in the things-to-do-when-we-go-out category. Over the years, we have discovered that the Golden Triangle has plenty of amazing options as well, though it might take some exploring and searching to find them. This is why I will be sharing the hidden treasures we discover in an ongoing series: Things to do in the Golden Triangle, though I may change the name later.

Last weekend, my wife and I visited the Moon Eyes Coffee Roasters in Fort Benton. This cozy little coffee shop/coffee roaster is tucked away from the main drag in The Courtyard on Front Street. Jake Berger and his wife, Maren Engen, have been running the company since late last year. You might be familiar with Jake’s previous work roasting Old Bridge Coffee at the Wake Cup. He explained to me that when the Wake Cup changed ownership, he looked at it as an opportunity to strike out on his own. “I did Old Bridge from the inception of the idea straight on through to a little bit after when Amanda sold the Wake Cup. We were given a lot of flexibility to kind of operate things how we wanted to, and we got into that idea of actually running things for ourselves and taking on that responsibility. So, I had inquired about purchasing Old Bridge.” Jake explained that “the ink was still drying on the sale” when he asked and that was one of the main reasons he was turned down. So,he decided to start his own company.

From the start of Moon Eyes roasters, the intent was to exclusively roast coffee for wholesale distribution. However, the plan evolved from there. “I started off, and I was going to have essentially a tasting room right alongside the roasting. I was gonna do wholesale roasting for retail, and that’s how I was gonna pay my bills. With only having the tasting room, we would manage the company as a wholesaler. But community demands and community requests led me to bringing in the espresso machine. That grew to bringing in Chinese and different tea offerings. And just recently, we’ve added baked goods.”

The coffee at Moon Eyes is excellent, but I’d be short selling the story to neglect to mention the baked goods they offer. Jake does all the baking for the shop, and it would be difficult to miss his excitement in describing his experimentation with variations of more traditional baked goods. The baked goods are quite delicious and fit well with coffee served at one of the few tables surrounded by artsy wall decorations, painted by Maren. Jake is a friendly, funny guy. My wife and I enjoyed chatting with him as we drank our coffee and soaked up the atmosphere.

The most noticeable feature of the shop itself is the two beautiful brass and chrome coffee roasting machines that dominate the space. Jake explained that the larger of the two machines is an antique of sorts, that he uses to produce the larger roasting orders. The smaller machine, which is capable of roasting a pound at a time, is mainly used by Jake in the experimentation process for developing new roasts and flavor profiles.

When I asked Jake about how he got into roasting, he explained that it was a bit of a funny story that started with the inception of Old Bridge. “I had recently moved from working in the kitchen of the Wake Cup to the front, and I was really getting into the idea of making coffees and the barista thing. I have a deep love of coffee to begin with and this was giving me a way to really explore that. I had mentioned to Amanda. One day that I’d like to explore roasting coffee from a hobbyist standpoint. This was in 2017. A lot of things have happened since then that made it more of a realistic hobby. At that point, you were spending quite a bit of money on a home coffee roaster or you were doing some work on a little air popper to make it work. That idea kind of fizzled out as I realized how cost prohibitive it was. Then one day out of the blue, I get a text from Amanda with a picture of a roaster and she says this is the thing you’re going to be learning to roast coffee on for me if you’re still interested.”

Jake explained that he learned the basics from a mentor. “Amanda brought in Levi, who has been working in the coffee industry for some time, and he acted as my mentor for a few months and set me on a path from there. He wasn’t around for much longer after that to get the basics and then kind of how to operate a machine, how to read the roasting graphs, and understand the roasting curves. From there, I kind of had to develop my own roasting profiles. And to develop your own roasting profiles you have to kind of figure out the different roast phases and kind of just build on itself roasting.”

Today, Jake sells his coffee wholesale to grocery stores and custom roasts for different businesses. He mentioned the Dedman Animal Shelter, which sells a custom roast for fundraising. You can also buy Moon Eyes coffee at MoonEyesCoffee.com or directly from the shop in Fort Benton. They have a Facebook page (Moon Eyes Coffee) as well with photos of their shop, baked goods, and videos. The shop is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 7 AM to 2 PM (2ish according to their sign).

For a casual afternoon out and delicious coffee, I give Moon Eyes 5 stars out of 4. Check it out today.

 
 

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