Cafe Grumpy roasts less than a block away from their original shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The streets are a mixture of residential and warehouses like the one pumping out Grumpy’s delicious roasts. From the street, the spot looks like it probably holds a mechanic’s shop, there’s a metal door that doesn’t sit quite flush with the frame, the windows are threaded with a grid of metal. Behind this door, you think, is a greasy guy in a tank top and the sound of some high wattage power tools. Instead, you find a 45 kilo ProBat G45 Roaster, bright red, surrounded by African and Central American masks picked up by the coffee buyers during their farm visits. By the gauges of the single-drum roaster you’ll find tiny little figurines standing guard over the various gauges.
While Cafe Grumpy opened in 2005, the roasters did not open until 2009. Owners Chris Timbrell and Caroline Bell spirit infuses the space–a mixture of the science of careful roasting and the quirkiness of an independent spirit. The head roaster Chris Cross took me though the steps from green beans to nitrogen-flushed, bright orange bags baring the determined, edgy grump face that is their logo.
Step One is Cheryl, the coffee buyer and one of Grumpy’s earliest employees, sample roasting on this little yellow roaster in the corner of the shop. Once the right metrics are found through a process of roasting and cupping, the roasting metrics are upscaled to the much larger 45 kilo ProBat that stands in the main space of the roastery.
Once the green beans are weighed, they are spilled into this loader which will push the beans up and into the hopper at the top of the roaster. Beforehand, any debris is sifted out by hand. Before Chris drops the beans into the single walled cast iron drum roaster, he charges the roaster to a certain temperature.
Chris then checks for flame height under the drum of the roaster where the beans are rotating, the temperature which is measured with probes inside the drum, the color, the aroma and the rate of rise on a graph tracked in Cropster, a software designed for this purpose, on a laptop hooked up to the temperature probe. Ensuring that the heat steadily rises allows the coffee to develop sugars while the acidity and body remain intact. If the beans stay at one temp for even just a minute, the coffee will end up tasting flat. Built in paddles inside the drum churn the beans to keep them from maintaining constant contact with the drum and scorching.
The beans are released from the drum onto a tray where they cool with the help of sweeping metal arms, and airflow down through the tray. The beans cool evenly to stop any further unwanted development.
Chafe (the papery skin that of the coffee seed that is released by roasting) is pulled away from the roaster and collected. Smoke is directed into the Afterburner which through intense heat, burns off any solids in the smoke exhaust, only to release clean, environmentally safe exhaust.
Finally coffee is flown up from the cooling bed and sifted to ensure that only the beans make it to the production line. A destoner ensures that only beautifully puffed up roasted beans make their way down the line.
The beans are measured and released before being flushed with nitrogen to prolong their shelf life.
A bag of fresh roasted beans on their way to Brooklyn Fare.
Thanks for letting us in to see the magic happen Chris! It was a pleasure to see the fun and earnest balance that fuels the behind-the-scenes roasting of some of New York’s best coffee.