Kool Beans: home business to downtown destination

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Twelve years ago, Kool Beans Coffee and Roasterie owner Kurt Osborne started roasting his own coffee on his stove top, and later his garage. Today, he’s serving Brookings from a coffee shop in the heart of downtown.

“I read a story about how you can roast your own coffee in the top of a popcorn popper and the interest just grew from there,” Osborne said. “Pretty soon people were asking about buying it so we bought a small home roaster. In May 2012, my partner Joy Nelson and I formed Kool Beans. Until now, we’ve been working out of the garage.”

Osborne met Nelson in 2012 at Joy Ranch in Watertown. Together, they turned Kool Beans into a fully-operating business.

Kool Beans began building in their downtown location in March and opened a month ago. Their shop features some personal touches, like a Hobo Day mug collection and Osborne’s father’s and grandfather’s letterman jackets in a shadowbox on the wall from their days as athletes at South Dakota State.

The shop is a collaborative, local effort, with glossy wooden countertops and tables built by the Ugly Duckling downtown. The baked goods served at Kool Beans are produced and delivered fresh daily by Carlie Appletoft, owner of CC Bakery and Bread.

“We get a lot of comments on the space that it’s welcoming and inviting. To hear that feedback is great,” Osborne said.

Before establishing Kool Beans as a coffee shop, Osborne could be seen on weekends at the Brookings Farmer’s Market offering pour over coffee. Kool Beans was also found in downtown locations such as The Carrot Seed and Threads of Memories, as well as Mission Coffee House at First Lutheran Church.

Kool Beans offers coffee from 12 countries around the world, 22 flavors in brewed coffee, espresso, French press and a pour over bar. The shop also features nitro cold brew, which is a cold brew coffee on tap from a keg. 

“The nitrogen bubbles are smaller than O2 bubbles which adds volume and creaminess to the coffee,” Osborne said. “It’s a new trend in the coffee business, we really wanted to have it from the get-go.”

Kool Beans roasts all their own coffee in-house with two brand new roasters.

“We still have the one in the garage for a backup, but we wanted people to be able to watch us roasting in the shop,” Osborne said, pointing out the viewing window and counter outside the roasting room.

Sophomore human biology major Cole McDougall has already established himself a regular at Kool Beans since its first week in business. He said he’d never had their coffee before their shop opened, but it’s already a staple in his week.

“It’s definitely some of the best coffee I’ve ever tried, and I love coffee; I’m definitely a coffee connoisseur,” McDougall said. “It has its own homey feel. It’s got so much character compared to other coffee shops. That’s the big thing that drew me in and kept me coming, especially since they do everything themselves by roasting their own coffee.”

Although Kool Beans is only open until 6 p.m. daily, Osborne said there will often be events in the evenings keeping the shop open later, and groups are also welcome to inquire about renting the space for events.

Kool Beans’ first public event is this Friday, Sept. 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. for the first day of fall. Osborne said they will be serving pumpkin cold brew and pumpkin baked goods.

Kool Beans is also looking forward to national coffee day on Sept. 29 and participating in “Sip ‘N Shop” with other downtown businesses, as well as Hobo Day on Oct. 14. Osborne said he’d like to host educational events about coffee, like “coffee around the world.”

“Helping people enjoy coffee in a lot of different ways makes it all worthwhile,” Osborne said. “It’s been fun. We have a really talented crew. It’s a good vibe and a good place to work. It’s been a pretty diverse crowd of college students, business people and families with kids playing in our ‘Kool Kids Corner.’”

One of Osborne’s employees, Erin Hollmann, moved to Brookings during the summer and was in search of another job outside of the school year when she isn’t teaching. She stumbled upon Kool Beans right before the shop opened and said it was “all hands on deck” to get things up and running.

Learning to make lattes and various drinks typical of coffee shops was a result of many YouTube tutorials and customer feedback, Hollmann said.

“It’s a really nice environment as a worker or as a customer,” Hollmann said. “You will be treated like family here, and however specific people’s needs are, we will find a way to meet them.”

Kool Beans is open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Students can bring their student ID for $1 off coffee.

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