Matt Peirson of Simple Roast Coffee is—like the old Lynyrd Skynyrd song says—a simple kind of man.
“I told one of my friends back in college, ‘Yeah, I just want to own a coffeeshop, have a wife and a couple of kids, be able to enjoy my weekends,’” says Matt.
About a decade later, he’s done exactly that: married, with two kids (twins, in fact), and running one of Auburn’s most popular coffee shops, with two drive-through locations and a new roasting facility. By all accounts, he’s enjoying his weekends, even though the coffee business has proved to be more challenging than he originally envisioned.
“Back in college, I was more into the idea of what I thought owning a cafe would be like. You know, you’re the owner, come in while everybody’s working, read the paper and sit in the corner, that kind of image. That’s not what it’s like,” he says, laughing. “But I had romanticized it in my mind in college, and that kinda got the ball rolling. I’m still thrilled with what it is now. I love my job. There are days that are crazy and super frustrating and difficult, and it’s absolutely the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life—but it’s also incredibly rewarding. It feels good to be part of a team and get to interact with [the baristas] every day and have customers who love what we’re doing so much.”
Matt started out roasting coffee as a hobby in 2011. He’s a tinkerer by nature—interested in learning a process, getting the right tools, fine-tuning everything, and producing something interesting. Before roasting coffee, he’d tried his hand at home brewing beer but decided that it wasn’t for him. “I was brewing beer originally. That was a lot of work, and then halfway through you find out it’s contaminated and it’s ruined… you wait four weeks and then there’s no payoff,” he says.
Then he discovered coffee roasting.
“I got a cheap coffee roaster from my parents for my birthday in 2011, and just got hooked on it. All these different coffees and all the different ways to roast the beans just pulled me in,” he says. “I started selling coffee at the farmers’ market around 2013 just as a way to afford more beans so that I could keep experimenting… it just organically grew from there.”
Matt learned how to roast coffee the hard way. He started out watching instructional videos online, reading about other people’s experiences and techniques, and getting support from online communities dedicated to the craft. The roasting machine that he used in the beginning lacked almost all of the automated functions that a professional set-up would have. Matt had to teach himself how to roast by intuition.
“It was just trial and error,” says Matt. “I had a small roaster, so I could only do twelve ounces at a time, and if I screwed up a roast I was only out three or four dollars. The machine I learned on had no temperature gauge or computer hooked up to it, so it was truly just ‘How does it smell while it’s roasting, how does it look, what does it taste like when it’s done?’ It kinda forces you to learn the important things, instead of relying on a machine to do it, which I think helped tremendously in the beginning.”