May 3, 2011 7:54 PM by David Ortiviz

Solar Roast heats up coffee business

Pueblo has more than 300 days of sunshine a year--and for that reason two brothers moved here from Oregon to open a unique coffee shop powered by the sun. Their invention is like no other and now they're expanding. Michael and David Hartkop are the founders of Solar Roast Coffee. Their innovation is a solar coffee bean roaster. "It's kind of like using a giant magnifying glass," said David Hartkop, co-owner of Solar Roast Coffee.

It's a unique concept--their device uses a series of small mirrors to reflect heat from the sun into a cooking chamber. After the chamber heats up, they add coffee beans and roast them for about 25 minutes. "There is nobody else that we found that is solar roasting coffee," said Hartkop.

Hartkop says using a solar roaster has several advantages. "The most immediate advantage is going to be cost savings," said Hartkop.

But what about the taste? Hartkop claims there is a difference. "The roasters that I make are designed to hold the heat in and to let you slow roast the coffee--versus burn through a batch as fast as you can. So it makes for a more even taste," said Hartkop.

"I think it's a smooth coffee," said Fran McClave, a customer.

However there was a big problem when the Hartkop brothers first opened their business in Oregon in 2004. There wasn't enough sunlight in the Pacific Northwest. So they went looking for a new home, with plenty of sunshine. "We looked at a lot of places, we looked at Flagstaff, Arizona. We looked at Barstow in California. We looked at the Mohave Desert," said Hartkop. They finally settled on Pueblo--claiming the steel city had the clearest sunlight year-round.

Today they have three stores in Pueblo. Their main location is at 421 N. Main St. They also have coffee shops at Pueblo Mall and the CSU-Pueblo library.

"We're building Helios 5 right now," said Hartkop. Solar Roast has received a $100,000 grant from the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation to build a new roaster on the roof of a downtown building. "We'll be able to produce about six times as much coffee," said Hartkop. As part of the agreement with PEDCO, Solar Roast plans to eventually hire 10 more people.


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