When Robert Benedetto of Mount Airy makes coffee his whole neighborhood can smell it.
To the delight of many of his neighbors, Benedetto, the owner of R.A. BenZ coffee roasters, processes an average of 600 pounds of coffee beans a month in his roast house about 20 feet away from his home.
“The smell travels all over the neighborhood,” he said. “When I started the business, I asked my neighbors [how they felt] about it. They are all coffee junkies [too].”
Benedetto started roasting coffee as a hobby four years ago after he was laid off from his job as the project manager of a weather company. After finding a limited selection of coffee at area grocery stores and coffee houses, Benedetto said he starting buying beans from across the globe.
“I just started ordering things I had never heard of before and trying them,” he said.
It wasn’t until 2009, when his one-year job contract at a nonprofit organization was up, that he decided to pursue roasting as a career.
“I’ve always liked coffee,” he said. “My wife and I always joked that ‘Wouldn’t it be easier if we just stopped everything and just brewed coffee?’... It was a hobby that turned it into the career.”
On Halloween Day of 2010 Benedetto received his commercial roaster — a machine that roast about 8 pounds of coffee beans at a time — and started his business.
Now, Benedetto said he makes roughly $4,000 a month selling his coffee beans, which come from as far away as Kenya. him.
“Each bean from a specific country has a way that it wants to be roasted,” he said.
Ranging in price from $3 to $13 per pound, Benedetto sells his coffee at local farmers markets, include the West Frederick Farmer’s Market and the Towson Farmer’s Market, and online at www.rabenzcoffee.com.
He also sells his coffee to area coffee shops, including The Music Cafe in Damascus and Trader’s Coffeehouse in Oakland, Md.
Bethany Beeghly, an employee at Trader’s, said that the Oakland coffeehouse has been brewing Benedetto’s coffee for about four months, and it has become an instant hit with customers and employees.
"We have some customers coming in and asking, ‘Are you brewing R.A. BenZ today,’” she said. "Being a coffee drinker [myself] I would always recommend drinking his coffee.... It has a good flavor."
“The response [to my coffee] has been really good,” Benedetto said.
He said his favorite kind of roast always changes but currently he really likes Kenyan and Guatemalan coffees.
In the future, he said that he is considering starting a coffee sampling house, where visitors can sample and learn about brewing coffee.
“It would kind of be like if you went to a wine tasting,” he said.
For more information about Benedetto or R.A. BenZ go to www.rabenzcoffee.com.