As the yellow water taxi backed away from the ports of Red Hook, and Statue of Liberty’s robes draped still against forty mile per hour winds, I reached Stumptown’s Coffee Roasting East Coast Headquarters on a punishingly cold Friday in March. Inside an unassuming industrial building block, stacked with bags of green coffee beans and two shiny two-story-tall roasters, I met Ryan Johnson, the East Coast Roasting Manager for Stumptown Coffee. Like everyone I’ve chatted with who works for third wave coffee giant Stumptown, Ryan spoke of the passion that he feels for his company the way some people speak about their mothers or their alma maters. Stumptown is known for its direct sourcing of coffee done by a traveling group called The Green Team, a team of travelling Coffee Buyers, Relationship Managers, Quality Control, Roasting and Logistics experts. They work directly with some of the best Coffee Producers in the world, building long term relationships in a commitment to quality and attempt to maintain those relationships year after year. This industrial roasting box on the water’s edge of Brooklyn seems to be a strange place to feel the warmth of the balmy coffee belt where the beans are grown, but the pride of connection and quality can be found here nonetheless.
Burlap sacks stack against a brick wall, large coffee-cherry red plastic cylinders that house the green beans prior to their roasting, pounds of chaff (shed by the beans as they heat) gather in large plastic containers, two commercial roasters (one Probat, one Loring) stand gleamingly with various ducts to pump in air, pump out byproducts, and saturating it all–the malty steam of roasting. This is the scene of production, but more than this it is the scene of pride. In each step of the process, the roasting team relays these beans with a gravity of purpose that comes from their awareness of the coffee growers deliberate care in producing each bean.
The facility roasts over 20,000 pounds a week and supplies Stumptown shops and wholesale relationships East of the Mississippi. Their roasters in Portland and LA handle accounts further west. Each roasting team (NYC, Portland & LA) ships samples to the other teams each week. They cup their own roasts and those of the other teams comparing quality and adjusting their practices as needed. Roasters undergo a year long apprenticeship before they begin roasting independently. All of this training leads the team to be able to make judgment calls with each batch, responding to changes in the environment, equipment and the beans themselves.
Thanks for sharing your facility and your pride with us!
The Coffee Roasting Process: A Visual Guide
View window of the beans roasting from the cast-iron Probat 45 kilo roaster.
Roaster pulling a sample of beans mid-roast to determine readiness.
Roaster releasing the beans onto a cooling platform to stop roasting process once he determines they are ready.
Recently roasted beans leaving to be checked for any debris.