Mike and Dave Hartkop had been eyeing their
father’s abandoned satellite dish in the garage for
years. But it took an especially productive night of
brainstorming at the local pub to come up with an
idea that tapped into their respective interests in
coffee and solar energy to put that dish to good use.
The Solar Roaster was born.
The first version of the Hartkops’ solar coffee-bean roaster was built by attaching several hundred
homemade plastic mirrors to the frame of the 10-
foot satellite dish. Dubbed Helios, the roaster took
about two months to complete and looked more like
something off the set of Battlestar Galactica than a
piece of equipment you’d find behind a coffeehouse.
Photograph by Thomas Hartkop
The Hartkop brothers make a good team for a solar
coffee-roasting venture. Mike is the coffee fiend, developing the organic solar-roasted flavors and handling
the business details, while Dave is the designer and
engineer for their unique roasters. As the solar
roasters use no fossil fuels or electricity, Mike likes
to claim they’ve found the most environmentally
friendly method of roasting coffee beans in the world.
Dave has been building solar concentrators for the
past five years. He’s completed two solar coffee roasters and is working on the third and biggest version to
date. The solar roasters are getting progressively more
efficient, complex, and expensive (they retired Dad’s
satellite dish after the first version). The hardest part
has been building the miniature drum roaster heads,
which have to operate with very limited electrical
power, handle vibration and wind, and operate when
tipped to nearly 90 degrees when tracking the sun.
Helios 3 will be their first mobile solar roaster. The
Hartkops plan to take Helios 3 on the road to festivals
and shows (and to follow the sun in rainier months).
“I’m hooked on the concept of roasting coffee
because the product is instantly accessible by the
common person,” Dave explains. “It is not an abstract
figure given in kilowatt-hours, which supposedly
reduces X pounds of fossil-fuel pollution. Solar Roast
Coffee reduces those pounds and it tastes good!”