HomeRoast Digest

Topic: The best commercial coffee roasters - my response (12 msgs / 499 lines)
1) From: Rstyler49
Please let me try to explain a few things to all of you nice people here.  
This is going to start out a bit off subject but I hope it will tie together 
and not read incoherent.  I have gotten many responses to my question for the 
names of the best commercial coffee roasters, telling me to switch to home 
roasting now, for various reasons, and only one person answered my question.  
If you asked me a question and I decided not to tell you what I knew, or made 
an assumption that I knew better than you, would you feel I respected you?  
Well, I understand all your motivations, which I appreciate, but it left me 
frustrated, as I find that now I have to justify or explain why I wanted to 
know what I wanted to know.  Hmmm, now what approach do I take?  
So, at this point [currently] I am in the middle of a communication struggle 
over why I do not give you reasons when I ask a question, or give reasons for 
what everyone knows anyway - "It goes without saying."  And it often has me 
not knowing whether I should just get right to the point or explain why I am 
saying what it is I have said.  For example, I got right to the point and 
simply asked for the names of the best commercial coffee roasters that I 
could buy some freshly roasted coffee from, until I have made the switch to 
roasting my own - and I said I WAS going to switch.  What I didn't tell any 
of you was that I am actually in the transition to roasting my own coffee.  I 
am simply the type of person that has to have all the information fall in 
place before doing anything.  I always say, "If it doesn't happen in the mind 
first, it ain't going to happen."  I live by this philosophy.  Everything I 
do is preceded by knowledge.  I try never to do anything haphazardly or with 
a shotgun approach.  Rarely has anything ever worked out for me when I did, 
it always fails.  So I am simply researching this [new roast your own 
movement], and slowly making decisions on what equipment I need, etc.  In the 
meantime I need fresh coffee and the local vendors sell stale goods.  Now 
this was an example of what usually happens when I get to the point.  
By contrast I find that many people have no patience for anyone that does not 
get to the point.  They simply want to now what I want and provide the 
information if they have it.  They do not ask questions, unless they also 
want to know something too.  They are practical people.  Now here is how it 
all ties in.  Most of my life I have gotten to the point.  But at some point 
I became aware that getting to the point did not work anymore.  Not sure why? 
.... Perhaps it was the information explosion that started many people asking 
questions? ... Or maybe I started hanging out with smarter people?  But it 
may also be because I studied law - I was trained to think very obsessively 
and analyze every fact, with the purpose of having a complete understanding 
of something.  At any rate, the effect it had upon me was that I started 
explaining myself to people in advance.  I would anticipate what questions 
they were likely to have and simply provided that information as background 
facts.  Many people appreciated that, but then in time I found that many did 
not.  So it looked as if it was simply a matter of pleasing myself. Been 
there, done that "Garden Party" just like Ricky.  
So, I simply had a choice of either to go into all my reasons why I decided 
to continue drinking preroasted commercial coffee until I switched to 
roasting my own or just ask the simple question.  Most of my previous 
questions were put forth with little reasons and I saw no reason to change.  
But perhaps there are other things involved here at this site that I do not 
yet fully comprehend. I was told that discussions about commercial 
competitors is not allowed.  Oops, if that is true, sorry folks.  And that 
makes it all moot.  But here are two of my main reasons why I am not making 
the switch:  
First, the grind your own whole beans movement that started out years ago, 
started out with lots of fresh coffee all the time.  I remember it well.  
People recognized the truth that whole beans were indeed fresher.  In fact, 
it became so popular, that it [the coffee market] became flooded with whole 
beans.  And Big Greedy Corporations moved in - they saw all those $$$.  So I 
am not convinced that this new [roast your own] movement will not suffer the 
same or similar problem.  Perhaps the big coffee corporations will decide to 
buy up all of the best and the freshest beans, and then jack up the price, 
forcing a new [take it or leave it] market on the people.  Excuse me folks 
but when people are motivated by $$$ nothing good comes out of it for the 
average common person.  
Second, when my coffee addiction first took over, I enjoyed coffee that I 
would never even consider purchasing today.  Coffees like canned, preground, 
supermarket varieties, that might have had some semblance of freshness on the 
first opening of the can.  I'm fairly certain it would gag most of you all.  
But here is the odd thing about that.  THAT coffee that I enjoyed had the 
SAME exact basic flavor as the more expensive whole bean specific coffees I 
now buy.  The ONLY thing that has happened is that I cannot drink those other 
coffees now.  They do not taste the same anymore.  They no longer have the 
same flavor as my whole beans I grind myself.  BUT they did before I started 
grinding the whole beans.  That is a fact!  
So, the second point is, if I already know that roasting my own will give me 
a fresher cup of coffee with THAT FLAVOR I am seeking, but the price I will 
pay is that I will not be able to go back {to the commercially available less 
fresh whole bean I now drink), then why should I believe that things are 
going to end up being any different than what happened to the grind your own 
whole beans - because of the big $$$ interests that will eventually take 
over.  See, I believe that there will be a catch to it all.  Now I ask you 
all (and I know full well that you all are sold on this roast your own way of 
doing up coffee), given these facts, why shouldn't I stay with the commercial 
stuff as long as I can hold out, so to speak, until the commercial coffee big 
money people decide what they will or will not do about the roasting your own 
movement?  At least then I may have other options.  But if it all goes sour 
what are you going to do, grow your own?
Hope I haven't offended anyone.  It was not my intent to do anything except 
explain myself.  I really would like to know if there is any hope for DIY 
roasters, as compared to what happened to the grind your own whole bean 
movement.  Perhaps there are other facts I am unaware of.  I welcome your 
opinions and want you all to know I fully respect your thoughts and feelings.
PS.  Why is true 100% Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee so hard to find?  Surely 
it still exists.  Is it really fair to impose a $50.00 price tag on a lb. of 

2) From: Steve
This is a multi-part message in MIME format.
Speaking of getting to the point...
You did ask a question to a home roasting forum. Most people here are =
proud of their hobby so needless to say that's the answer you got. We've =
had many discussions on roasters and how hard it is to find a good one. =
The main reason a lot of us do home roast is because we were tired of =
the poor roasts we were buying.
But hey, try asking the specific question again, in shorthand. Second =
time might get through.

3) From: John - wandering Texas
	I believe the problem is with WHERE you have posed your question. If you
ask home roasters about coffee you can expect a home roaster response. You
have asked a group dedicated to roasting about commercial coffee vending. I
would suggest you pose your question on alt.food.coffee or one of the other
dozen or so coffee groups.

4) From: Gary Zimmerman
Rstyler49 (Rob) wrote:
Rob, I know you didn't mean to offend, but this message sounded awfully 
Understand that this is a list of home roasters, so it's only natural to 
expect that the folks here would encourage you to home roast rather than 
purchase.  Additionally, because most of us do roast our own coffee, that's 
another reason this is probably not the best place to inquire about 
commercial roasters - few of us buy pre-roasted beans.
Try asking the same question on the alt.coffee usenet list, if you are 
familiar with it.  I'm sure they would have lots of information on 
commercial roasters and lots of opinions on who the better ones are.
Also, I believe Tom at Sweet Marias does or used to sell pre-roasted 
beans.  I'm not sure if that's still the case, but naturally, as a 
participant in this list that Tom sponsors, that's the first place I'd 
Good luck in your quest, and please feel free to bring all your questions 
and comments about home roasting to this list.  But don't be too 
disappointed at the responses you got regarding commercial roasters.  This 
just isn't the best place to ask such questions.
-- garyZ
homeroast mailing listhttp://lists.sweetmarias.com/mailman/listinfo/homeroast

5) From: Andy Conn
This is a multi-part message in MIME format.
I don't think you were "unclear" or "not direct enough" in your original
post.  It's just that as someone else responded, this is a Sweet Marias
sponsered list.  We cannot freely post company names, number or URLs.
My advice would be that you go to Lycos.com and search on "Mail Order
Coffee".  You will find more than 1 roaster that attempts to ship within 24
hours of roasting.
Finally, if you are going to be a regular participant on this list, you must
accept the fact that the folk here will often use an original post to spawn
an unrelated discussion on some obscure topic.  Do not get offended by this.
Take it for what it's worth.
- Andy

6) From: Michael Allen Smith
Many people ask about commercial roasters or cafes they might visit while on
vacation in a particular area.  I've lived in 4 metro areas and can give you
a the name of a quality roaster in each of those areas (Philly isn't one of
them).  Because of shipping times (3-7 days), I cannot recommend a good
mail-order commercial roaster.
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7) From: jim gundlach
this format, some or all of this message may not be legible.
on 7/11/01 10:11 AM, Rstyler49 at Rstyler49 wrote:
  >Much previous text cut<
 why shouldn't I stay with the commercial
stuff as long as I can hold out, so to speak, until the commercial coffee
money people decide what they will or will not do about the roasting your
movement?  At least then I may have other options.  But if it all goes sour
what are you going to do, grow your own?
 >more cut<
I think it is unlikely that the home roasting effort will be completely
corporatized (if there is such a word)  because most people are not crazy
enough to go through what we go through to  just get a good or great cup or
shot of coffee.  Home roasting, with a supplier of green beans like Tom,
offers an infinite variety of potential flavors.  In fact, I don't think any
two roasts tastes  exactly the same.  I like home roasting because it has
provided me with thousands of coffee experiences that corporations are
unlikely to even try to replicate for anyone else.  In fact, I would bet
that when the  corporation approach tackles home roasting it will be to what
we get from home roasting what the bread machine is to real home made bread.
It will be a little better than the current corporate offering but no where
near the real  thing.
The only for you to  know if home roasting is for you is to  try it.
Jim Gundlach
roasting over pecan wood fires
in Shorter, Alabama

8) From: Mike & Debi McGinness
This is a multi-part message in MIME format.
Greetings Rob
I've was buying pre-roasted whole bean coffee since early 1984 before =
switching to home roasting. The challenge I faced is the same one you =
are facing now: finding "fresh" roasted coffee beans. I've NEVER =
purchased whole beans at a Grocery Store. I was buying from two =
different local shops that roasted their own beans and donated beans =
over 7 days old to charity. The closer  "lost their lease" to a large =
corporate concern and got put virtually out of business. The other is a =
45 minute drive and I quit going to them for some reason even though =
they do a wonderful job. I began searching for new sources online and =
found some good ones.
In fact I just discovered that Hawthorne Coffee (the 45 minute drive =
shop) now has a website for ordering. (Just did a web search for this =
reply...) I haven't purchased from them for a number of years but for =
what it's worth maybe give them a try until you're ready for the home =
roasting plunge.http://www.jps.net/hcm/A site for Kona Esate Coffees I've dealt with for 2 years and Highly =
Recommend is Pele Plantations, roasted to your choice or 3 roasted when =
ordered & greens:http://peleplantations.com/index.html Their roasted =
coffee is so fresh when I'd recieve it I couldn't vacumn seal the bags =
for a day or two, still giving of CO2... (They only ship USPS Priority.) =
Of course, I now buy only greens from them. I've talked with Gus, the =
"Head Bean" (says so on his biz' card), & his better half Cynthia =
numerous times. Very friendly and helpful. We'll be dropping by for a  =
visit in November while we're attending the Kona Cultural Festival on =
the Big Island...
Another roastery I purchased from that roasted to order with roast =
degree choices was Cafe Maison: =http://www.gourmetcoffeeroaster.com/cafemaison/index.html But not =
enough roast choices for me! 
One of the reasons I switched to Home Roasting was that although I could =
specify my roast, it was limited to a just a few roast degrees.
Since switching to home roasting 4 months ago I not only roast to the =
exact roast I want but have discovered dozens of greens available I =
hadn't seen available pre-roasted. Plus greens cost less and the savings =
will pay for my Cafe' Rosto roaster in under a year.
Why is JBM $50+ per pound? People pay it. If people around the World =
quit buying it the price would undoubtedly go down. Personally I've been =
buying pre-roasted JBM since 1985 and will continue buying the greens. =
In truth I've found other coffee to have very similar characteristics, =
particularly good Kona's (I have 5 different Kona greens at the moment), =
but part of the fun is brewing some Jamaica Blue Mountain on the weekend =
KNOWING it costs so much and therefore is to be considered for daily =
consumption (at least from my pocket book.) Sweet Maria's doesn't sell =
JBM greens, they are available athttp://www.coffeebeancorral.com/ JBM =
greens go for $25ish per pound. Overall I find Sweet Maria's a better =
source for greens but no JBM...
I personally doubt the large commerical enterprises will "take over" the =
greens market for home roasting. Not enough of us "Fanatics"  for the =
type of volume "Big Business" considers Big...  Even if they did somehow =
corner the greens market, as long as greens are available I'll keep =
roasting my own and loving it!
From the Pacific Northwest
-birthplace of the inFamous Charbucks!

9) From: coffenut
I think the bottom line here is that most of us have already been where you
are for many years (myself since 1974) and we're simply telling you there's
a better way.  You have come to a forum where people have taken the next
step in fresh coffee.  Only you can decide if it's worth the effort and if
you would enjoy home-roasting.  I fully appreciate your need to make careful
decisions based upon facts.  I read a lot about home-roasting before
deciding to dive in, and the more I read, the more I was convinced to do it.
Check out some of the books by Kenneth Davids and if nothing else you'll
gain a lot of basic coffee history and understanding.
Even if the day were to come where we couldn't obtain green beans, it
wouldn't be a ruin IMO (although I would have to curse).  I still drink
coffee from restaurants, vending machines, other friends vendor roasted,
etc.  If your current situation was satisfactory, I don't believe you would
have come here to post.  Now that you have, please understand that you are
in the company of lots of people who can help.  If you're not ready yet,
hang out anyway until you decide.
Coffenut  :^)
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10) From: TFisher511
When I relocated with my job just over two years ago, I had to move into 
temporary housing for about two months. I chose to send my roaster and other 
goodies to storage and took only a small hand grinder with me to my temporary 
quarters. Within a week I was checking out the local roasters and found one 
about eight miles from my temporary home. I soon discovered two important 
things about my temporary source of roasted coffee:
1) The roaster really knew his stuff and seemed to choose high quality beans 
for his shop.
2) The only question I asked on my weekly treck to get coffee was 'What have 
you roasted in the past 2 - 3 days?' I made my selection entirely on his 
response to this question.
This was a quality specialty coffee shop I had fortunately found but he 
roasted large batches and stored the coffee in open containers. 
I know this is not a direct answer to your original question, but it may give 
you an idea where to look for the fresh roasted coffee you want and the 
question you need to ask. If they don't know what was freshly roasted in the 
shop, you are probably in the wrong place and need to look for another 
Terry F
Clearwater, FL
PS: I got hooked when I finally found a store on-line where I could buy a 
high quality hand grinder. When I asked about all these weird people roasting 
green coffee beans in hot air popcorn poppers, this guy named Tom at this 
place called Sweetmarias offered to sell me a pound of fresh roasted Costa 
Rican coffee. I lived in Indiana, which just happened to be UPS overnight 
standard from Columbus, Ohio, and I said "Why not?" The rest is just several 
years and a lot of wonderful coffee later.
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11) From: Benjamin L. Alpers
Despite all of our obsessions on this list, it's best to think of 
homeroasting as a form of cooking (which is what it is).  Like any 
other cooking task, one can approach homeroasting more or less 
obsessively.  Some folks hardboil an egg by putting it in a pot with 
water, putting it on the stove, letting it boil a good long while and 
then taking it off.  Pretty simple.  Other folks (I suspect many on 
this list ;-) ) find that if you do that, the egg doesn't peel well 
and has a green, off-tasting sulphurous ring around the yoke.  So we 
try first to get our eggs up to room temperature, then put them in 
already boiling water for about nine minutes, then quickly plunge 
them into cold water.  And we probably obsess a lot about where we 
get our eggs (locally produced organic is best).  Now, for a lot of 
folks all this fuss about an egg probably seems ridiculous.  But it 
shouldn't discourage them from boiling eggs in a less obsessive way; 
chopped with a little mayo and celery they're still better than the 
egg-salad sandwich you buy wrapped in plastic from the convenience 
store.  In short, you can worry as much or as little as you want when 
roasting coffee.  If you hang out here, you'll be among those who 
probably worry a little more.
On your roast term question:  "city," "full city," "Vienna," 
"French," "Italian" (and the less frequently seen "New England" and 
"cinnamon") are conventional labels for degrees of roast.  That's why 
they are used here.  They are, unfortunately, famously inaccurate. 
You'll find different commercial roasters using these terms in 
different ways (e.g. Charbucks calls -- or at least used to call -- 
its standard roast full city...it isn't; it's much darker).  But most 
of us still find them helpful.  These roast stages can be related to 
color, crack, smell, temperature of roasting bean, taste 
characteristics, time (on a particular machine with particular beans 
at particular roasting conditions, etc.).  For more on all this, 
there's a lot of good info on the Sweetmaria's website.  But it's 
really worthwhile taking a look at Ken David's book on homeroasting, 
that covers this (and many other areas that you've asked about) in a 
lot of detail. [In fact, I believe there's another commercial site 
that has much of David's book online for free.  I don't know the URL 
off the top of my head and I'm not sure whether it would be kosher to 
post it if I had it...OTOH, it might actually be linked from 
Sweetmaria's internet resources page.]
Ben Alpers
Norman, OK
(where there are NO local commercial roasters, good, bad or indifferent)
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12) From: Mike DeZelar
On Wed, 11 Jul 2001 11:11:19 EDT, Rstyler49 wrote:
The answer to both questions is:  Limited supply coupled with high
demand (at least higher than the supply can meet).
Michael DeZelar        Elk River, Minnesota, USA
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