Customer Profile - Eldorado Coffee Roasters
In February 2012, Solar Energy Systems (SES) commissioned a 240.24 kilowatt (kW) solar photovoltaic (PV) system at the Maspeth, NY, location of Eldorado Coffee Roasters. The 27,035 square-foot solar array was the first project financed by SES Renewable Assets via a power purchase agreement, or PPA, and became Eldorado’s gateway to clean energy, with no up-front cost to Eldorado. Solar Energy Systems handled the financing and construction, and now operates, maintains, and owns the system. Eldorado Coffee Roasters purchases the solar electricity at a discounted rate.
The PPA-financed solar system includes the following benefits for the customer:
- Focus: No up-front capital expense means companies can spend more on their core business. SES takes care of everything: no worries about installation, monitoring, or repairs.
- Consistency: Long-term, fixed energy expenses with no fluctuation from month to month.
- Consumer Appeal: Generate clean energy and align with the growing consciousness of a customer base that wants to buy from a supplier with sustainable practices.
For Eldorado Coffee Roasters, a family business involved in the New York coffee industry for 35 years, the decision to go solar was “very easy” and “a win-win situation,” according to Segundo Martin, owner and founder of the Eldorado legacy. With his sons, Andres and John Paul, Segundo runs the full-line vertical coffee firm, from sourcing the green beans, roasting and grinding, to servicing coffee shops in the New York Tristate area.
Segundo and Andres Martin gave SES a tour of its 49,665 square-foot roasting facility, and a glimpse of a green future for coffee.
SES: Eldorado Coffee Roasters is deeply rooted in New York. How and when was the business born?
Andres Martin: Eldorado has always been a family business, with my father, my brother, me, and even my mother and two cousins, working together. We have grown over the years, but we started with a ten-by-twenty-foot booth in Jackson Heights, Queens, in 1980. I was seven years old at the time, and I would help grind and package our coffee, and deliver every day to local restaurants.
From there, the coffee business began to grow and so did we. In 1997, we consolidated our business in Maspeth, NY. Finding the right building took two years; we needed at least twenty-six feet of height to fit all the roasters and silos under one roof.
Now, we roast on average forty-thousand pounds of coffee every two or three days, and we have diversified from importing, all the way to selling the coffee cups. The closer we get to the end user, the coffee drinker, the happier we are. It’s instant input.
SES: How did you come to the decision to go solar?
Andres Martin: We had always been aware of the existence of solar systems, but we didn’t know how it would help our business on a daily basis. It was a learning curve, trying to figure out how it worked. John (John Salmon, Head of Business Development at SES) was very knowledgeable in explaining how it could help our business, how it could be paid for, in addition to discussing the federal and state incentives. It’s a large project, a cash flow that we didn’t have available as a smaller company. SES was able to provide the financing with the PPA.
Segundo Martin: When Davis & Warshow, our neighbors, were having their solar system installed, they recommended Solar Energy Systems. And so did my good friend at Con Edison, which was even more reassuring. John Salmon explained and showed us the numbers; from there it was a very easy decision to make. I am really happy, and I have already recommended SES to two companies. I told them that SES is serious, they are businesslike, and they have a tremendous service department. Authenticity is very important to us. The minute John walked through the door; we knew that he was authentic, honest, and knowledgeable. And that authenticity helps us to ever improve to the perfect cup of coffee.
SES: Can you describe the energy usage at Eldorado?
Andres Martin: We use a tremendous amount of energy: All of the roasting is done with natural gas, but all of our equipment is powered by 220 watts. We have four roasters, and each roasts 450 pounds of coffee every 15 minutes, taking the beans from 250 to 450 degrees. That takes a lot of energy. We have three grinders, and our production floor is where we use 80 percent of our electricity, including brick packing, fractional packing, pod and whole-bean packing machines.
SES: How has the solar system on your roof affected you?
Andres Martin: Energy-wise, on a sunny day, we are powering about 80 percent of our operations from the array.
Segundo Martin: The system is here, out of sight, out of mind. Everything is nice and safe, and there were never any worries about interference with our business. The people at SES are great professionals; they work around you and will not harm your operations whatsoever. And once we had started to install the project, within a month it was done! We are very happy. SES provides great service and the feedback from our customers is great, people really appreciate it.
SES: Eldorado seems to be ahead of the curve with 80 percent of electricity generated by a solar system. Do you think that the coffee industry is going green globally?
Andres Martin: The coffee industry still has progress to make; the question is still about awareness. We have been proposing Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade Organic Certified coffee for years, and we have always chosen the farms that we work with carefully. In general, it all comes down to economics, but when someone from SES walks through the door, it lets you step back, and see what your business could grow to be. SES helped us to see other areas in which we could become a better plant. It’s awareness. It’s a mindset.
Since we decided to go solar, we’ve been constantly looking for other ways to evolve, for different green initiatives. We changed all of our light bulbs to energy-saving models; we are in talks with Brooklyn Union Gas to capture and use all the heat generated by our roasters . . . And since the PV system has been on our roof, the building has been cooler and our roof will last ten years longer than before.
We’re a family business, we like history, and authenticity is very important to us. People respect things that are authentic. We’ve been roasting coffee for thirty-five years, and we’re always looking for new ways to better the business. Solar adds to the environment of the facility and improves the value of our coffee.
SES: Where do you source your coffee beans and how do you guarantee their quality?
Andres Martin: Eldorado was a "specialty coffee roaster” before the term came into place. We have always believed in roasting high-quality coffee and finding the best product to roast, pack, and sell to our customers.
On my mother’s side, in Colombia, our cousins have been in the green coffee business for a long time. From the beginning, we were importing Colombian beans from our family’s farms and roasting locally in Brooklyn. In green form, you can keep coffee for years. But to guarantee the freshest product, we try to get the raw material in as quickly as possible. Where most countries only have one crop per year, Colombia has two annual crops and a large infrastructure for farming, producing, milling, and creating the final product. Colombian coffee is our number-one seller. It is what we’re known for, and it allows us to maintain consistent quality.
But just like wine, every single origin has a different profile and we now carry beans from all over the world, from Nicaragua to Kenya, from India to Hawaii. We pick each coffee ourselves during the “cupping” process, which consists of sampling a pinch taken from forty to fifty bags of coffee, and smelling and tasting the brewed product. I "cup,” my father “cups.” We pick all the coffees, make sure they get here on time and everything is first in, first out. We don’t keep any stock whatsoever; everything is made to order. You place your order on Monday, and your coffee will be roasted and packed that week.