Bean Here Coffee Lab And Studios

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Bean Here Coffee Shop & Roastery In Houston, TX

Mike Ouano is the sole roaster for Bean Here Coffee Shop and Bean Here Lab & Studios in Sienna and Arcola, two suburbs south of Houston, Texas. The Coffee Lab is where he spends most of his time, roasting on his MCR-10, 10 kilogram roaster to supply both locations with high-quality coffee. Setting the Scene

In college, Mike Ouano lived on energy drinks and entire airpots of coffee daily. He studied medical technology and business computing, which filled his schedule and mind to the brim. Afraid that he was drinking too much coffee for his own good, Mike Ouano pumped the caffeine breaks, trying to look after his health. The drinks had been a way to get through long days, and they’d done their job. When he stopped drinking them, he missed them.

His return to coffee came through a DNA genetic test, which had been a gift from his wife Marina. The results of the test surprised him: he was a fast caffeine metabolizer. Which meant coffee, finally, was back on the table. And the desk, and the counter. And, eventually, the books for the future. He made a decision; he wasn’t going to lose coffee again, he was going to pursue it professionally.

The Way Up

In order to jump-start his career, Mike attended the Texas Coffee School in 2015. While there, he learned what it would take to open a coffee shop. That was his ultimate goal, a cafe.

After attending Texas Coffee School, Mike made the trip north to Minneapolis to attend Mill City Roasters’ Roasting 101 class. Following the class, he felt affirmed in his goal and his ability: he bought an MCR-1, 1 kilogram roaster and took off, sampling and experimenting and roasting all the time.

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“It started with fear,” he says, laughing. “I wasn’t sure what roasting coffee meant.”

Even if he didn’t know what it meant, he knew what it felt like, and what he wanted his coffee career to look like. He knew the experience he wanted his future customers to have.

To start, he gave out his product for free. Once he’d practiced enough to create a commercial product-no small feat, as he estimates he roasted and gifted a thousand pounds at least, to “get the hang of it”-he started selling at farmers markets.

In the early days, the roasting felt more like troubleshooting. Because he worked out of his garage, there was always a lot to contend with; unpredictable weather, space constraints, unruly propane. There was, and still is, he says, always something to adjust to. “My entire time in the industry has been like that,” he says.

While the farmers market was a good place to start, he’d wanted a coffee shop since the beginning. The idea of a permanent neighborhood meeting space appealed to him. And so he opened the first Bean Here Coffee location in late 2016 in a residential suburb of Houston.

By 2019, his operation had reached the upper limits of the MCR-1’s roasting capacity. Doing two pounds at a time meant that his roasting days lasted ten hours, if not longer. For the next step up, he set his sights on an MCR-6, 6 kilogram roaster. When the MCR-6 was unavailable, he decided to go for a MCR-10 rather than wait. “That was a blessing in disguise,” he says. The extra capacity not only returned some time to Mike’s schedule, but also opened up opportunities for him to offer his roasting space to the community.

He opened the second Bean Here location, the Lab, in 2020. The Lab is a multi-use space that serves a variety of community members. It’s also outfitted with a coffee bar and the MCR-10, where Mike spends most of his time.

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The Bean Here Coffee Menu

Both Bean Here Coffee locations serve one single origin every two weeks. Mike orders the greens in bulk at the beginning of the two weeks, from Genuine Origin, for traceability; Copan Trade, to support local; or, occasionally, Coffee Shrub, for the highest quality greens.

The two-week model gives him a way to rotate through a variety of coffee and origins. “Good coffee is very versatile,” he says. The current roast is available on the Bean Here Coffee website, and also used at the both shop and Lab in drip, slow pours, and espresso drinks.

Since 2016, he’s rotated through a lot of origins. Right now, Guatemala is on the menu; before, it was Burundi, and before that, Mexico. Cycling through origins means that Mike is always, always learning.

If you visit either of the Bean Here locations, you’ll be able to order a variety of drinks, from traditional menu options to customer-created favorites. “Our top three sellers are guest-inspired,” Mike says.

At first, Mike tried to keep the menu simple and offer drinks that centered the coffee. But as he went, he found that what sold was different from what he wanted to focus on. Guests came in wanting size options, a variety of syrups, and more milk options.

“That was the biggest change to make,” Mike says.

If it were up to him, the menu would highlight his specially-curated roasts. But ever since his garage-roasting days, he’s been adapting as a roaster. So he had no problem adapting his menu to what his customers wanted to buy.

And, he says, no matter what, he’s not compromising on coffee or water quality. The customers who order sweeter drinks are drinking the same high-quality single origin as the pourover drinkers.

Other than coffee drinks, the Lab also offers a space for new or small batch roasters to roast. The cost to roast at the Bean Here Coffee Lab starts at $60/hour, a price tag that Mike sometimes discounts or waives for beginners. He likes being able to support other up-and-coming coffee people in the community, and he also enjoys building relationships with roasters just as people. “If anything,” he says, “we get to be friends.”

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In the Bean Here Coffee Lab, other community members can find a space to work alongside coffee folks. Really, it’s a multipurpose space just for that purpose. In the kitchen, home bakers can grow their markets and build beyond cottage laws. Artists can rent out studio space to work in. Any group can reserve it, from PTOs to junior leagues to entrepreneurs looking to throw “business showers” for their startups.

Coming Up Next

This year, Bean Here Coffee is making another big forward move: a third location.

This one will be the centerfold of a business-community center. Mike was approached by a local credit union with the opportunity to be the center’s resident coffee shop-a deal, he says, “too good to pass up,” since the build-out will be paid for.

He’s looking forward to the high traffic volume from the business community. He anticipates once the store is open, it will be the busiest location because of its location and easy access.

Later down the road, Mike would love to open his own coffee school, to help others gain the head start he did at Texas Coffee School.

Bring Bean Here Coffee Home

If you’re in the Houston area, you can drop by either the Bean Here Coffee Shop or the Bean Here Coffee Lab any day of the week from 8 to 4. If you’re not in Texas, you can buy online or subscribe to the Bean Here subscription on the Bean Here Coffee website. Or you can follow Mike Ouano and Bean Here’s expansion into its third location on Facebook and Instagram.