Endenich · Lars Arenz and Klaus Lücke have been successfully roasting coffee beans in an old factory in Endenich's Westend for six years. Good coffee has always been important to them.
Where 20 years ago the Wilkoplast company produced special floor coverings and now, in the direct vicinity of the mammoth new "Westside" development project, children's furniture or guitars are made in small workshops in the old brick annex of the local junk factory, Lars Arenz and Klaus Lücke have also been housed for six years with their coffee roasting company "Bezirk 53". "Of course a shop in the city centre would have been a better address for us, too, but eight or nine thousand euros rent is simply too much," says Arenz. That's how much it would have cost Arenz - despite the landlord's concession - if he had not only taken over the "heart" of the Weidenbrück coffee roasting company on Sternstraße in 2015 with the "Probat" drum roaster, but also its shop.
For a few years, Arenz was able to look over the shoulder of coffee roaster Edgar Ockenfels, who had taken over the business from Weidenbrück in the 1980s. "It was the time when there were still more than forty roasteries in Bonn," says Arenz. "The time Ockenfels told us that government people still bought marzipan from him for 600 marks and had it delivered by taxi." Even if these times are probably a thing of the past in Bonn, Arenz knows of at least eight inner-city coffee roasters that now exist in Bonn again. "Everything about coffee has become totally hip today," says Arenz. "If you don't have a Stetson on your head and tattoos on your skin, you're not a real roaster either," Arenz laughs. In Berlin, at least, that goes together. A style that Ockenfels could not or would not keep up with.
Arenz used to work at the Pantheon
"Good coffee has always been important to me," says Arenz, who, as a trained event manager, still managed the Pantheon's advance sales and later its outside productions until it moved from the former Bonn Centre to Beuel. This is also where the friendship grew with Lücke, who was responsible for technology at the Pantheon and who has now discovered the coffee roasting business for himself in retirement.
Arenz, who just turned 50, has completely devoted himself to roasting with the onset of the Corona pandemic and his accompanying retreat from the rather fallow gastro scene. "Coffee roasting is a great craft," he says, "where you go on a journey without moving." Opening one of the 60-kilo bags of coffee he has piled up from Ethiopia, Brazil, Congo and Kenya - to name just a few of his preferred coffee-growing countries - he is always met with a "crazy aroma". "And they are all different," he enthuses. His job does have something to do with enjoyment, he says after a moment's reflection. He doesn't drink much coffee, but a day without coffee is "kind of stupid".
Most recently, he said, he was pleased to have discovered his coffee in a doctor's office. "It's just nice to know that the result of my work is in many pantries." He says there are some hotels and cafés in Bonn that prefer his coffee, just as there are now many online orders. On his website (www.bezirk53.com), roasts with names like "Der Südstädter", "Hofgarten" or even "Zweidrittelmehrheit" (two-thirds majority) surprise, the latter not being of political origin, but consisting of 60 percent Arabica and 40 percent Robusta beans.
The art of the roaster
The description of this blend recommended for espresso reveals the roaster's art of creating a cuvée from different ingredients: "Colombia and Brazil give body and strength, Indonesia the spice and Peru brings life and freshness to the coffee, and last but not least Indian Robusta, which conjures up a velvety „crema“ on the coffee," it says. If it were only up to Arenz's taste, "I would only have single-origin coffee from Ethiopia," he says with his convincing smile. Personally, he prefers light roasts, where the aromas of the coffee varieties can fully develop, especially in a filter coffee. For his blends, he roasts each variety individually to be able to do justice to the beans which have to be treated differently. Just one minute or even a few seconds of moving a variety too long in the drum roaster, which has a temperature of up to 240 degrees, decides whether the variety of aromas is preserved or spoiled.
Roasting is what gives coffee its flavour. If it were not roasted, the result would be a very bitter, extremely acidic drink. It is up to the art and experience of Arenz to recognise and reproduce the right roasting time for each coffee variety. Above a certain degree of roasting, the roasted aromas can overpower the natural coffee aromas. The darker the roast, the further the coffee flavour moves away from a bean's original flavour profile, which can be desirable with darker (espresso) roasts. With rather light roasts, on the other hand, it is the subtle nuances of the coffee aromas that reveal the variety's country of origin and must not be "burnt". Only in this way should it be possible, as Arenz said at the beginning, to embark on a journey with the aroma of freshly opened coffee bags.
(Original text: Stefan Hermes/Translation: Mareike Graepel)