All The Coffee You Ever Wanted, Roasted Right Here In Massachusetts
The local coffee roasting community is bringing a whole new meaning to Beantown.
Did you know that Massachusetts has a well-established and growing community of coffee roasters?
It’s easy to think of coffee as coming from the far corners of the earth. While it’s true that coffee beans are grown in subtropical regions (that’s definitely not New England), in order for the beans to become what we know and love in our morning cup, they have to be roasted. And they can be roasted anywhere, so why not right here? There are a lot of dedicated coffee roasters who agree.
It doesn’t get fresher than coffee beans that were roasted nearby within a matter of days. And when it comes to coffee, freshness really does make a big difference. Most of the coffee we drink is made with beans that were roasted a long time ago, then vacuum sealed. This helps large companies distribute large quantities of coffee cheaply (or at a great profit), but you get what you pay for.
Coffee roasting involves a lot of human intervention. The roast master must follow their well-refined senses to guide the roasting process, making tiny adjustments that affect the end result. Along with human intervention comes subjectivity, and everyone has their own preferences. Each of the coffee roasting businesses in Massachusetts has a quality that makes them unique, but beyond that, ever batch of coffee roasted is unique.
Here’s a roundup of who’s roasting in Massachusetts, where they’re doing it, and where you can find their coffee. Buying the freshest coffee available just might have you kicking your Dunks or Starbucks habit in no time.
Acoustic Java, Worcester
What makes them unique? On the practical side, Acoustic Java’s niche is the intersection of high-scoring and sustainable (fair trade, organic, bird friendly, shade grown, rain forest alliance, women producers) coffees. "Market forces can pull quality and sustainability in different directions so we work hard to seek out the highest scoring sustainable coffees available," says David Fullerton, Acoustic Java’s Owner/Roaster. On a philosophical level, "you could say we're the Don Quixotes of the MA coffee roasting community," Fullerton says. "We feel a deep connection to the historic ‘penny university’ tradition of the first coffeehouses. We feel driven as coffee roasters to bring together the third wave passion for the bean with the third space passion for community."
How much coffee do they roast? They typically roast between 30 and 60 pounds at a time, depending on the coffee, and feature coffees from 20+ different regions and/or countries of origin.
Favorite coffee of the moment: An Ethiopian natural process coffee.
What’s next? "We're looking to open another retail store in Worcester and then more stores in other New England cities," says Fullerton. They’re also developing their cupping lab and training and tech support teams to better serve retail stores and a handful of wholesale customers.
Where to find them: In addition to their two locations, Acoustic Java is served at a selection of places around Worcester and the surrounding towns. You can also buy online.
Roastery & Tasting Room: 6 Brussels St., Worcester // Café: 932 A Main St., Worcester, acousticjava.com
Atomic Coffee Roasters, Beverly
What makes them unique? Atomic is a family-run business distributing award-winning specialty coffee throughout the North Shore of Massachusetts. Their flagship café has been in business since 1996, and they’ve been roasting coffee for the past two decades.
Where to find them: Buy online.
Roastery: 45 Mason St. #1, Salem (appointment only) // Café: 268 Cabot St., Beverly, atomicroastery.com
Barrington Coffee Roasting Company, Lee/Boston
What makes them unique? Their large-scale roast-to-order model. "Our goal here is to be able to roast coffee to order each day of the week, whether it’s an order for twelve ounces or twelve hundred pounds of a particular coffee. That means we roast coffee only after an order has been placed and we only roast the amount we need to fulfill each day’s orders. To realize this, we have amassed a fleet of three coffee roasters, each of a different size, to help us get that job done with ultimate control and consistency."
Where to find them: Buy online.
Roastery: 165 Quarry Hill Road in Lee // Cafes: 346 Congress St., and 303 Newbury St., Boston, barringtoncoffee.com
Broadsheet Coffee Roasters, Cambridge
What makes them unique? Aaron MacDougall, Owner & Roaster, is the first to roast coffee in Cambridge. "With a young, international and open-minded audience, it’s easier to do something different and be accepted." MacDougall said.
The way he roasts is distinctive and his coffee choices unique to his competition. They also have an integrated coffee roasting and retail facility with 40 seats and a lot of outdoor space, plus a very progressive food program with a focus on international offerings all made on site. "We’re pairing really good food with really good coffee. Roasting on site allows for immediate feedback on the coffee from the baristas and the customers.” But what MacDougall is most proud of besides the coffee is that they are “really friendly people, focusing a lot on service."
Favorite coffee of the moment: Coffees from Ethiopia and Guatemala, which are very different from one another. Ethiopia is arguably the birth place of coffee and home to the greatest diversity. Their beans will arrive in less than two months. Guatemalan coffees that are coming out now are crowd-pleasers, with caramel and chocolate notes but also great fruit characteristics.
What’s next? Look for Broadsheet to thoughtfully expand in the coming years, with a limited number of wholesale partnerships that focus on quality.
Roastery & Café: 100 Kirkland St., Cambridge, broadsheetcoffee.com
What makes them unique? Phillip Schein, CEO/Owner, says "We’re trying to do the right thing all the way through." From knowing all the farms where the beans are grown, to improving sustainability and an environmentally friendly roasting machine, to creating great coffee and delivering it with an intense focus on customer service and community involvement – the Fazenda team cares about the entire chain.
How much coffee do they roast? They can roast up to 1 ton of coffee per day, in small batches, and they roast a variety of different types of coffees within that.
What’s Next? Look for micro-lot reserve coffees coming from Fazenda in the near future. There’s also potential for new milling and drying processes at the origin, which Fazenda looks to support and have greater involvement with.
Favorite coffee of the moment: A new coffee from Java, Indonesia. "There’s not a lot available so this will be an example of a special reserve," says Schein.
Roastery: 502 Sprague St., Dedham, fazendacoffee.com
(Coming soon) Fuel America, Brighton/Worcester
The red, white, and blue Fuel bags that catch your eye at Market Basket will soon be filled at their very own roastery in Worcester’s Mercantile Center. Slated to open in September, this location will be feature a robust café as well as coffee tastings and tours of the roastery.
Where to find them now: All Market Basket stores and Boston-Area Big Y Supermarkets.
Cafés: 152 Chestnut Hill Ave., Brighton, Logan International Airport, Terminals B & E, fuelamericacoffee.com
George Howell Coffee, Acton
What makes them unique? Known for its focus on terroir (the taste of place), George Howell Coffee was founded in 2004 by its eponymous, long-time coffee pioneer. Just 14 years later it is available well beyond the borders of MA, and even in Canada. Look for single-origin Terroir® Coffee a prime example of what they do best.
What makes them unique? Founder and director, Patrick Barter, says "it’s the people." It’s coffee thoughtfully crafted with an unusual amount of intensity, by a group of people with unusual backgrounds - specifically, in music. For some of Gracenote’s caretakers, the connection between music and coffee is in the appreciation for beauty, which clearly inspires great work.
Favorite coffee of the moment: A Burundi coffee coming out this week, and some well-balanced Colombian coffees on the horizon.
Where to find them: Stop by their walk-up coffee bar in Boston’s Leather District for an espresso and a chat about coffee. Buy online. Also, find Gracenote coffee at select places around the state, from Intrepid Café in Cambridge to the Harvard General Store in Harvard, MA.
Roastery & Café:108 Lincoln St., Boston, gracenotecoffee.com
Muddy Water Coffee, Acton
What makes them unique? Owner and Roaster, Tim Van Sipe, is focused on freshness! "I want the customer to have the coffee within a few days of roasting it. There’s always a roast date on the packages. I want it to be the freshest coffee the customer has ever had."
How much coffee do they roast? Muddy Water can roast 20 pounds at a time, and typically offers between 6 and 8 different varieties at a time, based on the growing seasons of the beans.
Favorite coffee of the moment: From La Florida in Peru, it’s a coffee with chocolate-y notes roasted medium to dark, but not too dark.
What’s next? Van Sipe just built a coffee truck, which will make its debut this summer in the Acton area. Look for eventual expansion toward Boston.
Where to find them: Look for Muddy Water coffee at the Springdell Farm in Littleton, Chip-In Farm in Bedford, and other Acton-area farmers’ markets this summer. Buy online, with free local delivery to Acton and its surrounding towns.
Mystic Coffee Roaster, Medford
What makes them unique? "We’re not coffee snobs" says Sharon Hepburn, Owner and Roaster. "We just want to make really nice coffee that a lot of people can enjoy." Hepburn loves the roasting process, and experimenting with blends of beans that complement each other’s flavors. "It’s not Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks, but still appeals to a wide range of tastes. I’m not going to lecture people about how they should be drinking it. We just make the best coffee you can get and let people take it from there. As far I’m concerned there are no rules."
How much coffee do they roast? Their roaster is small, with an 11-pound capacity, but they roast up to 120 pounds per day, and between 15 and 18 varieties regularly. They offer a combination of single origin coffees and blends.
Favorite coffee of the moment: Hepburn really likes the blends because "they’re very intentional. Blends can offer more than what you can get from a single-origin coffee." She points to the Mystic Blend, which has evolved over the years. "I was shooting for a certain profile and I hit it! With beans from Africa, South America, and South East Asia, it’s got everything from fruit to chocolate in a medium roast that’s not too acidic but not charred. Very nice, well-rounded coffee."
Roastery & Café: 30 Riverside Ave., Medford, mysticcoffeeroaster.com
Redeye Coffee Roasters, Hingham
What makes them unique? Delicious coffee with a sweet view, and the only artisan roastery and café in the south Boston suburbs. "What we can promise you, is a vibrantly flavored, flawlessly frothed, top-notch cup of liquid happiness. Plus, good company and a killer ocean view."
Where to find them: Buy online.
Roastery: 3 Otis St., Hingham, MA, redeyeroasters.com
What makes them unique? A local wholesale coffee roaster with a straight-to-your-door subscription option.
Shop & Learn: Speedwell's coffee descriptions do double duty as coffee education, and make it hard to choose which one to try. They do offer a cold brew-specific bean from Guatemala.
Where to find them: Here’s an interactive map of all the retail locations you’ll find Speedwell.
Roastery: 208 South Meadow Rd., Plymouth, MA, speedwellcoffee.com