It is said that coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world, right behind petroleum.
Whether or not that is genuinely the case, in Socorro coffee is thriving, and that trend is one of the reasons William – call me “Brewster” – Bird decided to start roasting coffee out of the Community Kitchen.
His brand is Outside Agitator Coffee, and he sells a variety of freshly roasted beans in 12 ounce and one pound bags.
“I roast in small batches in two small scale fluid bed roasters,” he said. “These roasters allow the most variety and freshest roast possible.”
Brewster began roasting in the community kitchen in November and has been selling his organic coffee at craft shows and the Farmers Market. He offers Java origin, Uganda Rain Forest Alliance, Chiapas Organic, Honduras Paca Vita and other organically grown beans.
“I believe in a faith-based coffee making,” he said. “That means I’m trying to buy my beans ethically, from people I have trust in. Trust that they’re going to treat their workers equitably and fairly.”
Brewster said he believes the workers in the farms must be paid fairly for their labors, “so, I’m trying to be an ethical person in buying beans. These are fair trade beans, which means they can be traced back to the farm they’re grown on. I purchase them from three ethical distributors.
"The coffee family I have acquired allows me to roast many different single-or-limited origin coffees. Most, if not all have an organic rating," he said.
Outside Agitator coffee is one of the coffees served at M Mountain Coffee Shop on Manzanares. “I love coffee shops in all their iterations,” he said. “M Mountain Coffee has been a Socorro staple for years and has really assisted me in getting my operation off the ground. I am grateful for their insight, wisdom and experience.”
A member of the Specialty Coffee Association of America and Barista Guild, Brewster loves to expound on coffee.
“Coffee traces its history through the sands of Araby and the Ethiopian provinces,” he said. “Coffee is filled with visions of change, rebellion and conspiracy. I am not against selling ideas; rather, I am for selling coffee.”
Currently, he markets his coffee through his website, coffeemicro.online, or through his Outside Agitator Facebook page. He charges $12 for 12 ounce bags and $15 for a full pound.
His penchant for coffee roasting goes back to 2014 when he was going through an idle period in California.
“My first roaster was a popcorn popper," he said. “I had one popper and went to a local roaster and asked for green beans. He sold me one pound of Guatemalan beans for $10.”
He was able to roast four batches in the one popcorn popper.
“These machines allow one to craft about a quarter-pound of green beans at a time. They turned out just fine,” Brewster said. "My wife was pleased. I was making her espressos that were dark, rich. She added milk to them. They weren't bitter. She was happy. And I thought, well … I could do this."
It wasn’t too long before he had an array of ten popcorn poppers.
"At that point, I could roast nearly a kilo of beans at a time. I was so proud of myself," he said. "But I had to plug each one of them in. It took half an hour, unplugging and plugging ... letting the beans cool off. When they come out of the roaster they're really hot.”
Two years later, he invested in a proper coffee bean roaster.
“I wasn’t selling anything. I was basically giving beans away to see if they liked my coffee,” he said.
After his wife Sally passed in 2017, Brewster decided to relocate with his son Jamie, to Socorro. Another son, Peter, lives in Ohio.
Although not originally from New Mexico, when his father became the priest at Epiphany Episcopal Church in the late 1970s, Brewster found himself in Socorro as a disc jockey at KSRC.
“I worked for Mike Olguin (Sr.) at KSRC, the country and western radio station here in the 1980s," he said. "He was one of my mentors. I worked whatever shift he wanted me to work, mostly nights. I did mornings 6-10, and then I'd come back and do the 6-10 at night."
Brewster left Socorro in 1984 and went on to other radio stations in New Mexico; Las Cruces, Aztec, and Farmington. His father, Henry Bird, led the congregation at Epiphany from 1979 to 1986.
“My brand, Outside Agitator coffee, is named after my father,” he said. “He was called an outside agitator in every town he lived in, except here. And he lived here the longest of any town he lived in.
“He was called that by people who did not agree with the image presented in the press of the actions of a believer," Brewster states on his website, coffeemicro.online. "He was called into the ministry and received his Master of Divinity while in his early 20s. At the behest of his bishop, he wrote a letter to Martin Luther King while King was sitting in the Birmingham jail. Dr. King wrote him back.”
Still remembered by many from his time in Socorro, Rev. Bird played a quiet but substantial role in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s and '70s before his stint at Epiphany. A veteran for peace, he supported peaceful actions for humanity throughout the community, church, and world and was instrumental in the ordination of the first Navajo priest into the Episcopal Church.
“What does this have to do with coffee?” Brewster said. 'Ever gone to church and smelled coffee after the service? Well, that's part of it, the welcoming smell of coffee."