About Us

We did it, thanks to you, Pueblo!

Helios 5 PV arraymike dave h5 roaster head
PV panels on the roof of Solar Roast Coffee, Downtown Pueblo Colorado.  Over 12KW of PV provide electrical power to heat the hybrid solar roaster Helios 5.

Solar Roast Coffee is proud to announce the completion of the Helios 5 solar coffee roasting system.  This groundbreaking solar powered coffee roaster was first begun in 2010 with an initial investment from the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation (PEDCO).  As of July 2012, we have demonstrated the full functionality of the Helios 5 solar electric roasting system, which draws electrical current from a PV fed grid-tie in order to power large electric heater.  This system is used in conjunction with a standard natural-gas heater, making the system a 'solar-electric-gas hybrid' system.  Further refinements are yet to be made, but the new system means that Solar Roast Coffee finally has its sales, production, and shipping departments under one roof for the first time!  We are also pleased to announce that we have officially removed our old roaster, the Helios 4, from the farm field in Pueblo County. Solar Roast Coffee would like to thank the people of the City of Pueblo for your unparalleled support.  This has been an important period of growth for our company, and we are proud to be part of your community!

A short history of Solar Roast Coffee

Solar Roast Coffee was started in 2004 by brothers Michael and David Hartkop. At the time, Michael was an apprenticed coffee roast master, and David was a special effects artist with an interest in alternative energy. So that they could move out of their parents' house in Oregon, they decided to combine their talents and go into business together.  The idea to build a solar coffee roaster from scratch came out of the necessity to build a coffee roaster for low cost, and the desire to create a practical demonstration of concentrated solar energy.
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Mike Hartkop roasting coffee with the Helios 1 in Central Point, Oregon.

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They constructed their first solar coffee roaster from an old satellite dish in their backyard. It used 100 plastic mirrors to focus sunlight to create heat, and a broccoli strainer, which served as the roasting drum. Dubbed the Helios 1, the roaster could produce one pound of coffee at a time. When Michael and David tried the coffee they had made, the realized that it was not only excellent in flavor, but also the most eco-friendly coffee ever created! Michael and David went online in the summer of 2004 with their website SOLARROAST.COM and were in business!

Helios 2mike in snow
Mike and Dave with their Helios 2 Solar Roaster. 

During the summer of 2005, the brothers constructed a new solar coffee roaster, the Helios 2, using glass mirrors and an improved balanced design. The new roaster could roast over 2 pounds of coffee at a time, and took just under 20 minutes per batch. They attended several festivals and events with coffee they had produced, and generated some local news interest.

Helios 3 at DaVinci DaysHelios 3 Unfolded and Folded
The Helios 3 mobile solar coffee roaster, designed and built by David to fold down into a trailer for easy transport.

In 2006, David and Michael realized they had to make a change if they wished to stay in business: Oregon afforded only about 3 months of sunny weather, and it was nearly impossible to sustain a solar powered roasting business during the winter months. They constructed a third roaster that was built onto a trailer that could be moved, wherever they decided to go! The Helios 3 mobile solar roaster could roast up to 5 pounds of coffee at a time, and easily folded up for travel. They attended several events, and made visits to Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado, looking for a new home for Solar Roast Coffee.

Moving to Pueblo
In 2007, Michael and David made the decision to move their business to Pueblo, Colorado. There they opened their first retail coffee shop, aptly named Solar Roast Coffee. Pueblo was their final choice because of its small to medium size, it's affordability, its excellent solar exposure, and the fact that it has its own university.  Their parents were their first investors, believing in the business enough to help them secure the resources to start the business in earnest. 
Solar Roast 3rd & Mainh3 roasterdomein roasterdome

They initially set up their Helios 3 roaster in a plastic dome behind a cabinet factory on Aspen Circle outside of town. Pictured above are images of the first Solar Roast Coffee shop on the corner of 3rd and Main Street, and shots of Michael and the Hartkop parents Dr. Thomas Hartkop and Michele in the 'Roasterdome.' Once the shop was established, Michael remained in Pueblo while David went back to Oregon to create a new large-scale solar roaster, the "Helios 4".

Dave on H4H4 from ladder
The Helios 4 used a mirrored solar concentrator measuring 35 feet across.  It could rotate and elevate to track the sun, and provided around 20KW of heat energy to the roaster in the container behind.

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Despite many challenges in creating this new solar coffee roasting system, the new roaster went into operation in the first quarter of 2008. It was capable of producing up to 30 pounds of coffee at a time, with a batch taking around 20 minutes. This enormous roaster uses a movable wall of mirrors to focus sunlight onto a receiver box, which heats air to several hundred degrees.This heated air is then ducted into the solar roaster. In addition, the new roaster is outfitted with a conventional propane heat source to assist when needed, particularly on cloudy or extremely cold days.

Wholesale map image
Michael and David worked through 2009 to extend the sales of their coffee into groceries, coffee shops, and restaurants throughout the region of Southern colorado. They added nearly 3 dozen pins to their map in this year alone, and began to ship and deliver coffee on a weekly basis, and in ever increasing quantities.  Thanks to the capacity of the Helios 4, there was plenty of room to expand.  By the end of 2009, the company was serving over 40 regular wholesale customers spanning most of the western states. Visit our wholesale map to find an outlet near you!

PEDCO announcement chieftain headerDavid and Michael present their plans to expand Solar Roast's wholesale department, thanks to PEDCO and the City of Pueblo.

Thanks to Pueblo!
In 2010, Solar Roast Coffee received a business development grant from the city of Pueblo through the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation (PEDCO.)  The grant was slated to be used by Solar Roast Coffee LLC to create a new generation of solar coffee roaster, the Helios 5.  The new system is designed to be a downtown attraction, located on the premises of the solar roast coffee shop.  Moving the roaster from Pueblo County into town also has great time benefits, streamlining the coffee roasting & shipping process.  
private label coffee

Solar Coffee launched into a new phase of business by offering its customers custom-designed private labels.  Businesses and organizations began using custom branded coffees for various fundraising and business promotional activities. To date, Solar Roast Coffee has created over 100 private labels for dozens of local businesses, schools, and non profit organizations.  You can find out more about private labels here on our site.


A Busy Year, and Much to Come
The year 2011 marked the start of construction on the new coffee roasting system.  Like the Helios 4, the Helios 5 roaster was designed to be a hybrid system, able to receive heat energy from solar power as well as from conventional natural gas.  The Helios 5 system, however, is a departure from all previous designs.  Rather than using a solar concentrator to directly heat air, the Helios 5 uses an electric heater, which draws power from a grid-tied array of photovoltaic solar panels.  Though this configuration is not as efficient as direct solar heating, it has an important advantage: When not roasting coffee, the solar panels on the cafe's roof act to reduce the over all electrical bill for the business.  In this way, Solar Roast Coffee is able to make the fullest use of solar energy falling on its downtown site.  
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Solar Roast Coffee Drive-Thru on the corner of N. Elizabeth and 28th Street in Pueblo.

2011 also saw the opening of our first drive through coffee shop in Pueblo.  The shop, located on North Elizabeth on the corner of 28th street, serves a full selection of Solar Roast Coffee drinks from two drive-through windows.  The shop is successfully expanding Solar Roast's visibility at home in Pueblo.

Solar Roast Coffee was also proud to announce a partnership with Colorado State University's Cafe Libro on the university library.  Students can purchase Solar Roast Coffee on campus, sold exclusively in the library cafe during all library hours.  
nathan and chris on the roadnathan chris, truck in bg
Solar Roast Coffee: On The Road, based in Denver CO.

Solar Roast Coffee is working in collaboration with fellow Coloradans Nathan Stern and Chris Bass in Denver. Their spin-off business, Solar Roast Coffee: On The Road, is a fully functioning cafe on wheels.  Together, they exclusively serve Solar Roast Coffee to the Denver area along a constantly updated rout. You can read more about Solar Roast On The Road on their page.

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