The U.S. has emerged as a leader in specialty coffee thanks to the growing number of discerning, quality-minded consumers looking beyond latte art. Customers want to know from where beans are sourced, how they are roasted, and the nuanced flavor profiles to expect in the cup. In fact, there’s a coterie of home brewers eager to replicate the cafe experience at home, flaunting professional-grade setups and demanding beans to match. Luckily, for the true coffee sophsticate, small-batch producers have the legroom to innovate on roasting techniques and to experiment liberally with taste. The smaller guys are often more transparent about the suppliers with which they work, so each cup of coffee can be enjoyed guilt-free. Below, 14 small-scale roasters to watch.
Supersonic Coffee Co.
Location: Web Only
The Supersonic team is a superpowered troupe of coffee’s most valuable players, with John Laird (Verve Coffee Roasters, Pacific Bay Coffee), Brian W. Jones (Dear Coffee, I Love You blogger), and Björg Brend Laird (co-organizer of Nordic Barista Cup) at the helm. Under their tutelage, this Bay Area roaster quickly rose to the top of coffee critics’ lists. Their commitment to sourcing the best coffees in the world from top suppliers such as Nordic Approach and Red Fox Coffee Merchants has gotten them in front of industry stalwarts like Sprudge and Barista Magazine. Currently, Supersonic is operating out of an industrial space in Berkeley, but their beans are for sale online. Stay tuned because while Supersonic is still in its infancy, the company has some exciting things brewing, including a retail Bay Area-based coffee bar to come.
Little Red Wagon Coffee Roasters
Location: 507 Bond St., Suite A, Bozeman, MT
In the mountain town of Bozeman, Montana, Little Red Wagon Coffee Roasters is the little roastery that could (and does.) The operation was born from owner Natalie Van Dusen’s inspiring motorcycle trip in Colombia, where she learned how to roast coffee from a local farmer. Thus began her hobby-turned-3rd wave roastery. Now, Little Red Wagon keeps the coffee-drinking wayfarers caffeinated with products like the GEO—freshly packed single-serving pour-overs and on-the-go brewing equipment. Little Red Wagon also has a mobile espresso bar, which travels through Bozeman, delivering their seasonal coffees to you.
Location: Multiple Locations
Brooklyn’s got the coffee thing down with the rise of local roasters and superb cafes. But Devoción offers both a beautiful, serene backdrop for coffee drinking and perfectly roasted beans. Though the company has been around since 2006—founded by Steven Sutton in Colombia—its Williamsburg outpost (the first location is in Bogotá) is only a year old and already attracting fanatics with its farm-fresh Colombian coffee. Beans arrive mean and green, and are roasted to perfection every week onsite. With high profile clients like New York's Del Posto on their roster, expect to see a lot more from Devoción in the coming year.
In the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, there’s been an influx of local businesses setting up shop in underutilized loft spaces. But none do it better than Lofted Coffee, the brainchild of college buddies Tobin Polk and Lance Schnorenberg. What started as an empty loft filled with a few sleeping bags and a 1-kb sample roaster is now a growing enterprise on the verge of taking on some of Brooklyn’s top players. Some of the city’s trendiest cafes are picking up on Lofted’s carefully-procured and beautifully-roasted beans, like Budin, Culture Espresso, Dear Bushwick and more. Lofted has come a long way, but the journey’s not over yet. Tobin and Lance will be taking their first coffee sourcing trip to Huila, Colombia in January.
Rising Star Coffee Roasters
Location: Multiple Locations
Always ahead of the game, Rising Star Coffee Roasters has made important strides in putting Ohio on the coffee map. The conscientious team behind Rising Star has championed "Relationship Coffee," forging strong connections with suppliers, baristas, and production workers to ensure quality and fair wages, never buying beans from anonymous producers. This year, they sourced their Guatemala Finca Candelaria from the Zeleya family in Guatemala, who they’ve worked with for many years. As for taste, Rising Star believe in roast profiles that neither slant too dark or too light and have fine-tuned their coffees to land on the sweet spot in between. And that whole pour-over craze? Rising Star is onto the next best thing—batch brewing, which is the one button automated brewing that has taken a backseat to those 10-minute long pour-overs in recent years. Thanks to Rising Star, Cleveland definitely rocks.
Argyle Coffee, spearheaded by Manuel Carrera and Amy Miller, has grown from a home operation to a major player on the Ft. Lauderdale coffee scene. Since their official launch in 2014, Argyle has successfully fostered partnerships with cafes and restaurants like Warsaw Coffee Company and Foxy Browns, supplying them with custom in-house roasts. Argyle has even collaborated with breweries like Due South Brewing Company where their coffee helps give the Cafe Ole Espresso Porter its coffee-scented goodness. Next up on Manuel and Amy’s to-do list is to develop more specialty coffee education programs in the region which, at the moment, can use them.
HADDON TOWNSHIP, NJ
Royal Mile Coffee Roasters
Location: 101 White Horse Pike, Haddon Township, NJ
Though Royal Mile borrows its name from a street in Edinburgh, Scotland, it’s based in Haddon Township, New Jersey. This mom and pop roaster is the long-awaited answer to South Jersey’s coffee wasteland. Back in 2013, owners Jess and Jamie Blanchard started Royal Mile from the ground up, combining their digital advertising and marketing expertises to reach coffee drinkers online. This approach worked and has even caught the attention of retailers like Whole Foods. Even so, their operation remains mighty but humble. They continue roasting beans in a Diedrich, a custom built Huky 500, as well as at Pulley Collective, a roasting facility built for local small-batch roasters across the water in Brooklyn.
JERSEY CITY, NJ
Location: 479 Palisade Ave., Jersey City, NJ
Everyone’s been abuzz about Jersey City’s burgeoning food scene. A high-quality cup of joe has also become readily available, thanks to Modcup Coffee. Since it debuted in 2013, Modcup has set the (coffee) bar high. They refuse to brew or sell roasted coffee past 18 days after the roast date. Unlike other local cafes and roasters, Modcup also shies away from darker roasts, preferring to retain the beans’ wild, exotic flavors. This is reason enough for founders Travas Clifton and Justin Hicks to maintain a close relationship with their supplier, Colombia’s La Palma y El Tucan, a farm that yields the area’s most unique-tasting coffees, which they sell at their Jersey City cafe and roastery.
Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters
Location: 1619 Reed St., Lakewood, CO
Drive 10 minutes west of Downtown Denver to Lakewood, Colorado where Sweet Bloom roasts beans in a 25-pound San Franciscan for topnotch coffee. Founded by 12-year coffee industry veterans Andy and Laurel Sprenger, Sweet Bloom has received national and international awards for its roasting and brewing techniques. In fact, a number of last year’s World Barista Competition challengers chose to brew Sweet Bloom’s beans. Making the award winning stuff at home? Andy, who is a a certified Q-grader (aka a coffee sommelier), suggests using a $15 ceramic #2 Melitta brewer for Sweet Bloom’s light, bright roasts. Seems like a pretty good deal for luxury in a cup.
PASO ROBLES, CA
Location: 619 12th St., Palso Robles, CA
There’s more to Paso Robles than just wine—there’s Spearhead Coffee, a cafe and roastery in one that opened mid-January of this year. It’s the first of its kind in this popular grape destination, providing visitors and locals their much-needed caffeine fix. Founders Jeremy Sizemore, Matthew Klomp, and Joseph Geradis spent nine months transforming the downtown Paso Robles location into a space that’s worth seeing in person. The cafe/roastery is replete with a warm, rustic interior built mostly out of repurposed wood. It’s where cafe-goers can relax and sip on a Miel—Spearhead’s signature honey cinnamon latte—and watch the beans roast right in the in front of them.
Roseline Coffee Roasters
Location: 800 SE 10th Ave., Portland, OR
Behind every stellar coffee shop is a superb roaster. And Roseline Coffee is currently the preferred purveyor for some of the West Coast’s most prominent cafes like Portland’s Good Coffee and Los Angeles’ Go Get Em Tiger. Owner/seasoned barista Marty Lopes, who has tasted and roasted thousands of coffees, understands true quality and where it comes from. His nuanced experimentation with a variety of global coffees and roast profiles help to show off the subtleties of terroir. One could say that Roseline is made for the barista, or an aspiring one.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA
Andytown Coffee Roasters
Location: 3655 Lawton St., San Francsico, CA
San Francisco has garnered a reputation for being a tech-bro, yippie hub filled with sleek coffee shops teeming with fancy brewing tools and indie records. Since its launch, Andytown Coffee Roasters has set out to be different. This Outer Sunset fave grew from a desire to serve amazing, fresh coffee roasted in-house, and home-baked Irish soda bread in a cozy space. The husband and wife team consists of Michael McCrory (who’s from Belfast, hence the soda bread) and Lauren Crabbe and they have turned their dreams of homey, Irish bliss into a 580-square foot storefront that’s a cafe, roastery, and home away from home, all in one.
Topéca Coffee Roasters
Location: Multiple Locations
Topéca Coffee Roasters has what other roasteries can only dream of—two farms in El Salvador where beans are grown, milled and roasted. Descending from a long lineage of coffee producers, the family-owned operation has thoughtfully created a seed-to-cup business, ensuring quality, transparency, and sustainability. And with their many ventures including a second roastery in Tulsa, two cafes, a bakery, and a craft-coffee and cocktail bar (and more on the horizon), Topéca offers unlimited ways for customers and baristas to enjoy their unique product.
Presta Coffee Roasters
Location: Multiple Locations
When Curtis Zimmerman was unsuccessful in his search for decent coffee at St. Mary’s hospital in Tucson, Arizona, where his wife was working, he decided to take matters into his own hands. He launched Stella Java, the hospital’s first (and probably only) pop-up coffee cart selling top-shelf espresso drinks. This bizarre marriage of scrubs and grounds worked so well that it has since grown into two cafes and Presta, his roastery located in one of the them. With the lobby brew days behind him, Zimmerman is able to source beans directly from Colombia, Ethiopia and other growing regions. He also continues to create community-driven coffee programs, from Tuesday morning cuppings at the roastery, where Presta’s 120 PSI espresso blend can be sampled, to latte art throw downs. Suffice to say, Presta has always been doing things a little differently from the rest.