Hot 'n Tasty
Kentucky Ridge Roasters
is bringing Bluegrass flair to coffee
Trimble County's Plesser launched her business
BEDFORD, Ky. (May 2021) – Like many others, Valerie Gaines Plesser of Bedford, Ky., faced challenges in her career in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. “My business shut down last year, and I realized that I couldn’t just sit here and do nothing,” said Plesser.
As she sought to figure out her next steps, Plesser got into contact with a longtime friend, Warren Thomas, who also happened to be a Roast Master. They began discussing a new business venture of roasting and selling their own blends of coffee.
“I started learning everything I could. There’s a lot to coffee that happens behind the scenes,” said Plesser. She dug into the back story of coffee for months before launching Kentucky Ridge Rosters at the beginning of November of last year.
Plesser was born and raised in Kentucky but moved to Florida for several years before coming back to her home state. “I came back and decided to stay,” she said. “I really love what I’m doing now and want to build it and bring everything up to the ridge.” Kentucky Ridge Roasters is located out of Plesser’s home on her 11-acre farm.
Thomas spent 25 years as a chef before being offered a job with a large coffee distributor. “They sent me to an SCAA-accredited school to become their Roast Master,” he said. Thomas found that bulk roasting was not for him and began roasting small batch artisan coffee for independent coffee shops and retailers.
“When Valerie called me, I knew I had both a unique and different opportunity to share her vision for Kentucky Ridge Roasters. After conversing and consulting, I felt that we were on “common grounds – pun intended,” he said.
Kentucky Ridge Roasters buys and roasts its own beans for its product. “Anyone can get green coffee to roast on their own, but I wanted to get the best,” she said. Plesser said Kentucky Ridge Roasters’ coffee is considered artisan because she pays a premium for it in order to have only the best quality.
Kentucky Ridge Roasters sells 11 types of single origin coffee, six signature blends and 15 flavored blends. Single origin coffee is one type of bean from one location and comes in medium and dark roast, espresso, French roast and decaf. It is sourced from a variety of countries such as Colombia, Guatemala, Antigua, Honduras and Ethiopia.
Plesser says that though some of their beans might have similar origins to those of other coffee roasters, theirs are different because of their higher quality. One of the signature blends, Plesser noted Kentucky Ridge Roasters’ espresso, which uses four different types of single origin beans to make a dark roast. “We worked hard on our blends, and I’m really proud of them,” she said.
Kentucky Ridge Roasters’ flavored coffee is also made differently than other roasters’. “A lot of times, roasters put the flavoring on for just a little bit, but I let all of mine soak in the flavoring overnight, which helps them soak up so much more flavor.”
She and Thomas worked for two months on their bourbon coffee, which is made with Kentucky bourbon. “I wanted to perfect this one. It’s definitely for adults only,” she said.
All of Kentucky Ridge Roasters’ coffee names are related to the Bluegrass State. “Every name is all about Kentucky,” said Plesser, noting blends with names like Commonwealth, Kentucky Rain and their decaf blend cleverly dubbed Hold Your Horses.
Their breakfast blend, Kentucky Ridge Sunrise, is a fan favorite. “This blend is loved by people who never drink coffee but have two cups a day now. It’s really smooth and has a sweet taste to it,” she said. “Kentucky 120 is a darker blend and is named after all the counties in Kentucky. We’ve taken techniques my Master Roaster knows to make the best coffee we can. Anybody who has tried our coffee loves it.”
Right now, the coffee can only be ordered online, but Kentucky Ridge Roasters’ next goal is going wholesale. “We’d like to start selling to restaurants and hospitals,” said Plesser.
The coffee can be ordered whole bean or ground. “We don’t grind the coffee until we’re putting the order in,” said Plesser, who also mentioned the business’s priority to ship or deliver local orders on the same-day they are placed. Customers from Oldham, Trimble, or Henry County can have their orders hand-delivered.
Plesser said that right now, she and Thomas are the only two manning the business, though her grandchildren love to help. “They’re turning into little Master Roasters,” she said.
She is preparing to launch a newsletter that updates customers on the business and also provides some education on the world of coffee. “We also run specials all the time, and there are often discounts,” she said.
Plesser said that she keeps prices low and wants to do away with the mindset that low prices and quality can’t be combined. “People who love coffee should be able to afford it,” she said.
Thomas has enjoyed working with Plesser on this new venture. “I feel we have bonded our life-long friendship with the passion she has for fresh roasted coffee,” he said.
“I’m very proud of what we’ve created and that the word is getting out,” Plesser said. “I just want to grow it from here.”More information on Kentucky Ridge Roasters can be found on their Facebook page or their website: www.KentuckyRidgeRoasters.com.
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