My next visit led me to Pilgrim Roasters where Daniel and Ryan operate a great little café on the popular main drag of Manayunk. They keep a clean menu, designed to highlight the coffee rather than bury it underneath sweet flavorings. Daniel runs the roaster, a vintage Probat L12 and his dedication to craft roasting truly shines through their espresso and pour-over coffees. I had a difficult time leaving Pilgrim Roasters, as the conversation was intriguing and the vibe incredibly comfortable, but business was picking up and I didn’t want to take up space that was needed for the constant stream of customers.
I suppose it’s no surprise that when I travel, I tend to incorporate visits to other coffee roasters on my itinerary. This spring, a trip to Philadelphia, PA gave me a great opportunity to visit 3 roasters, spend some time getting to know their people and their product, talk shop, and soak up some of their coffee mojo.
My first stop was right around the corner of where we stayed in Lansdale, PA. Backyard Beans is a roastery and café that serves light dining fare, provides a fine selection of specialty coffees, and has built a substantial wholesale business that includes a cold brew in cans that ships to several states in the region.
Matt, the founder, has built a remarkable business over the past several years, starting out roasting in his backyard on a modified grill, and most recently in a 600 sq ft. facility located within a café, plus refrigerated and warehouse storage along with a canning line. For me, it was intriguing because his roasting facility is a parallel to the one I in the process of building, with the same footprint, capacity, and very similar equipment. Backyard Beans roasts on a Loring, which makes them the envy of many roasters around the world. Loring roasters are a unique hybrid of rotating drum and fluidized bed roasting, using high airflow to do most of the heavy-lifting. Evansville Coffee uses a more traditional drum roaster with a certain amount of computer recording and automation to aid in achieving consistency.
My last roastery visit was a drop by Reanimator Coffee Roasters. Just like Pilgrim, they roast on a Probat and feature a very clean, simple menu that highlights coffee over sweet additions. At Reanimator I was treated to a nice Geisha and a honey processed Brazilian that confirmed my belief in exploring the incredible array of coffees and roasting styles. The Reanimator roastery is located in an old factory building that you have to search out, just a couple blocks north of the Girard and 2nd trolley stop in Kensington.
When you are in Philadelphia, please make a point to visit these great roasters. You will thank me.
Our next stop was New Orleans for a short pre-summer vacation. Summertime is extremely busy for us and the chance to get away is practically non-existent. The most prominent roaster on the local coffee scene is French Truck, with a sweet café in the garden district, and a more industrial shop closer to downtown, where they keep their Loring busy roasting some fine single-origins and blends. Things were quiet at French Truck as roasting had been finished for the day, but I did enjoy a couple of nice pour-overs and a pastry. It would have been interesting to see how they operate because it looked a bit like they were out-growing their space.
We found another roaster in Algiers Point called Congregation Coffee. They operate in an old building with an open floorplan divided by an L shaped counter. The Probat roaster sits in the middle of the space behind the counter, and bags of greens for roasting are piled on the floor around the roaster. It is a very spartan setting, though their brewing equipment is state-of-the-art. Congregation bags are labeled with ink stamps, several stamps are used for each bag. My thought was that they could be vastly more efficient in their operation, but in the Big Easy, maybe it’s more about taking your time and enjoying the process than turning things around quickly.
It’s always fun to bring home souvenirs, and in my case, some awesome t-shirts and great coffee is the hot ticket. I’ll be brewing other roaster’s coffees for the next few weeks!