Local roasters brew the perfect cup of coffee


Millions of Americans warm themselves up with a hot cup of joe during the bitter winter months.

But what if they want more out of life than instant coffee and drive-thru shops? That's where local coffee roasters come in. These modest-sized operations turn out thousands of pounds of java each year for the wholesale and retail markets. They get coffee beans shipped in from around the globe to be roasted, cooled and sold to the public. Sometimes the beans — which are actually seeds of the Coffea plant — are left intact for bulk sale and other times they are ground to become beverages in quaint cafes.

Mocha Joe's at 82 Main St. in Brattleboro, Vt., opened as a cafe in 1991, and a separate roastery started up a stone's throw away three years later. Pierre Capy, who owns Mocha Joe's with his wife, Ellen, said the majority of his business comes from supplying coffee to co-ops, restaurants and other cafes.

Coffee roaster Simeon Farwell-Miller, who roasts coffee at Mocha Joe's, explained coffee beans are green when a powerful vacuum sucks them into three different hoppers of a roaster machine, before they are sent into a cast-iron drum (which can reach temperatures of up to 450 degrees) to be roasted. The beans are then poured into a cooling tray before being whisked off for weighing.

Capy recommends Sumatra coffee during the winter months. Named after the Indonesian island where it is harvested, the coffee is earthly, syrupy and low in acid, like most Pacific and island coffees.

Not too long ago, Capy sold an espresso machine and two espresso grinders to Julia and Thomas Doyle, who started their own roastery in Pittsfield, Mass., called Assembly Coffee Roasters.

Assembly opened its doors in May. Julia and her husband met and fell in love in New York City, where Thomas — a career coffee roaster — learned the trade from Blue Bottle Coffee founder James Freeman. Julia, who grew up in Conway, Mass., owned the commercial contracting company that built Blue Bottle's roastery in the Brooklyn neighborhood. Eventually, the Doyles decided to leave the city life behind and set up camp in western Massachusetts.

Julia's favorite java for winter is a Peruvian organic coffee called sol y cafe — a full-bodied, creamy and decadent blend.

Assembly focuses on wholesale, according to Julia, but the business does custom roasting and blending for restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts. Assembly's maiden season was spent retailing at more than 100 farmers' markets from Lenox, Mass., to New Lebanon, N.Y., to Bennington, Vt., she said.

"We use farmers' markets for networking and brand recognition," Julia said. "We've met a lot of new clients at farmers markets and now have a very loyal customer base."

Spicy and Sweet Coffee Rub Steak

Courtesy of Benjamin Zeman, an employee at Mocha Joe's


Any cut of steak (perhaps hanger or apron)

1 Tbls Olive Oil

1/2 Tbls finely ground coffee

1/2 Tbls brown sugar

1/2 Tbls salt

1/2 Tbls fresh ground pepper

1/2 Tbls granulated sugar

1/2 Tbls smoked paprika

1/2 Tbls chili powder, red pepper flakes and/or 1 tsp cayenne pepper (You choose the spice level)


Combine all the dry ingredients in a dish and mix together well.

Rub the steak with olive oil and then generously apply the dry rub. Make sure to rub it in deeply. Let it sit for about two hours before cooking. Sear the steak on high heat in a pan before placing it under the broiler to cook.

Brewing basics

"There are many ways to brew coffee and it really comes down to what tastes the best to you. I heat my variable temperature Bonavita water kettle to 204 degrees Fahrenheit — the water tends to lose some temperature as it is being poured, so it is hitting the coffee around 198 to 200 degrees. I use a 17.3:1 coffee brew ratio for almost all drip coffee. For every 16 ounces of water, that means 26.4 grams of coffee and because of water retention in the coffee grounds you will get about 14 ounces of brewed coffee. For immersion coffee, like a French press, I will use a 15.2:1 coffee brew ratio. For every 16 ounces of water, that means 30 grams of coffee and about 13.8 ounces of brewed coffee. The general rule of thumb if you are using these coffee brew ratios is to grind a little finer if the coffee tastes too weak, and grind a litter coarser if it tastes too strong."

— Benjamin Zeman

Contact Domenic Poli at 802-254-2311, ext. 277.


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