Beans to Beer: Stonehouse Coffee in Nisswa Brewing Up Plans for Beer Making

Stonehouse Coffee in Nisswa, MN // Photo by Kate Perkins

Stonehouse Coffee in Nisswa, MN // Photo by Kate Perkins

A family familiar with bags of coffee beans ready for roasting will soon be lugging bags of grain awaiting brewing. 

The French family owns Stonehouse Coffee, a company founded in 2001 that roasts its own beans for its coffee and grinds its own wheat for fresh-baked scones. Soon they will take their hands-on, homemade philosophy to a second location with a brewery, opening this October at the earliest.

Their new location will be only about a block away from their current coffee shop, which will also remain open, in the pictorial town of Nisswa, just 20 minutes north of Brainerd. The new location will add not just beer but also a full restaurant, serving breakfast and lunch. Mike and Julie French will run the coffee shop and roastery, their son Chris French will be brewer, and their other son Nate French, along with his fiancée Joy Ciaffoni, will run the restaurant.

The family gathered in the roasting room of their coffee shop and took a seat on the sacks of beans to talk about their next venture, comparing and contrasting coffee roasting to beer brewing.

French Family (left to right): Nate, Julie, Mike, and Chris // Photo by Kate Perkins

French Family (left to right): Nate, Julie, Mike, and Chris // Photo by Kate Perkins

“There’s a lot of art and science in both of these,” Chris said, adding that getting coffee and beer to taste as good as they can takes an understanding of the science behind the process. As for art, that comes in the form of creating new drink recipes.

“The sense of creativity to try new things, I see that as one of the major parallels. It’s this creative endeavor of going out and making a new product.”

“And I think the possibilities are endless,” Julie said of both coffee and beer.

Mike, who does much of the roasting, said he’s always actively on the trail of new ideas, but he looks forward to the consistent taste of a particular batch of beer. With coffee roasting, beans sold in their retail section can have widely different tastes when brewed at home, depending on the home’s water source and coffee maker. The beer, though, will have much the same taste across each batch, without much room for differentiation on the customer’s end.

“You know how it’s going to taste when they get the beer,” Nate said. “With coffee they can end up with a whole different experience.”

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