Brooklyn Roasting Company

The Brooklyn Roasting Company's 25kg Loring coffee roaster in its current home on Brooklyn's Jay Street.The subject of today’s Meet the Roaster is the Brooklyn Roasting Company. Tucked away on Jay Street, under the Manhattan Bridge, it was a highlight of my visit to Brooklyn back in March. Occupying the ground floor of a sprawling five-storey building, it’s an amazing place, which, as well as being a wonderful coffee shop, is also the Brooklyn Roasting Company’s headquarters, with all the roasting taking place on-site.

So, as well as popping in for a great cup of coffee, you can also sit in the far corner watching the green beans being hoovered into the 35kg Loring roaster and enjoying the spectacle of freshly-roasted beans pouring out some 12 minutes later. Don’t worry about when to come if you want to catch the roaster in action; it’s pretty much a nonstop, all-day operation!

Although the Brooklyn Roasting Company is a very modern affair, the building on Jay Street is steeped in coffee history. It used to be the stables of the famous Arbuckles’ coffee roastery, which was situated across Jay Street, the horses being used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to haul the sacks of green beans from the ships docked at the nearby waterfront.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The corner of John St (left) & Jay St (right), home of the Brooklyn Roasting Company.
  • It also doubles as a lovely coffee shop and, normally, you'd come in here...
  • ... but if you want to find the roastery, you need to come in at this end.
  • If you do come in the main door, just head to the right, where the roaster's on the left.
  • This was once two separate spaces, by the way, but the dividing wall was knocked out.
  • Anyway, back to the roastry, which is where it all started.
  • The roastery, seen here from above, occupies the back of the building's right-hand side.
  • It has the usual components: green beans, roasted beans and a roaster!
  • The roaster, a shiny 35kg Loring.
  • It all starts here, of course, with the sacks of green beans.
  • There's already a load of beans in the roaster and another ready to go when I arrive.
  • That magical moment when the beans come pouring out of the roaster into the cooling pan.
  • The blades start up and the important job of cooling the beans down begins.
  • The roaster's now ready for the next load. I was wondering how they got the beans up there.
  • At first I thought that the tube went into the bin, hoover-like, but no...
  • It's attached to the bottom of the bin and sucks the beans up that way!
  • I was impressed. Everywhere else I've been, they pour the beans in the top out of a bucket!
  • The previous roast is still cooling as the new one gets underway.
  • You can see the green beans through the observation window.
  • By now the beans are ready to come out of the pan and into a big, blue bucket.
  • Almost all done now...
  • ... and there we have it. One (of many) roasts done for the day.
  • But what's this? Amy, the roaster, is pouring another bucket of beans into the cooling pan!
  • I've never seen this before, but she's actually blending one of the espresso blends...
  • It's quite clever, really, using the blades of the cooling pan to mix the beans together.
  • When they're thoroughly mixed, into the sacks they go.
  • Almost all done.
  • Just as well, since the current roast is almost ready to come out!
  • Oh good, the pan's empty.
  • And here comes the next batch and we start all over again!
  • The finished product, blends to the left, single-origins to the right.
  • More of the Brooklyn Roasting Company's output, this time in some neat-looking tins.
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The Brooklyn Roasting Company (BRC) started off in 2009 in a loft in Williamsburg, before moving, in November 2010, to the current building on Jay Street. Initially it was just a roastery, occupying the right-hand side of the space that the coffee shop currently occupies. Back then the roastery didn’t even have any windows, the fumes from the roaster being vented through the front of the building (they now go up five storeys and out through a chimney on the roof). Ironically, this was BRC’s best marketing tool since the smell of roasting coffee soon brought people to its door.

Initially, it was just used as a method of driving sales of coffee beans, but before long, BRC starting making coffee for visitors. Then, on Bastille Day in 2011, the first Brooklyn Roasting Company coffee shop opened, just three tables and six seats, on the site of what is now the current coffee shop’s brew bar. Success followed success and the coffee shop expanded, soon outgrowing its original space. Taking the space next door, the dividing wall was knocked through in September 2013, and the current Jay Street coffee shop was born.

In parallel with the expansion of the coffee shop side of the business (which also saw shops open on Brooklyn’s Flushing Avenue and recently in the Flatiron District in Manhattan), the roastery continued to expand, to supply both the coffee shops and the company’s growing wholesale and retail businesses. Having gone from roasting less than 100kg a week, BRC now puts out over 6,000kg a week, the roasting all done in the back part of the original space on Jay Street.

However, that’s not the end of the expansion plans: BRC has acquired a new space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. An old power plant, built in 1900, it will serve as the new hub for roasting, packing and distribution, so if you want to catch the roaster in its current location, you’ll need to be quick!

I got a tour of the premises and roastery by Michael, the original roaster and one of BRC’s founders, and Amy, the current head-roaster, who joined last year from Uncommon Grounds in Burlington, Vermont. Pride-of-place goes to a very modern 35kg Loring roaster which gleams in the half-light at the back of the store. It really is a beautiful machine, easily the biggest I’ve seen in action, and it’s in almost continuous use. No sooner has one batch of freshly-roasted beans spilled out into the cooling pan, than the next batch of green beans is being hoovered into the roaster.

BRC’s philosophy is very much “from green to ground” and it’s keen to support individual farmers at origin. Amy currently runs two or three espresso blends at a time as well as a variety of blended and unblended coffees, some from a single country, others from single farms or cooperatives. Both Michael and Amy are keen to showcase the wide variety of coffee that there is in the world, and the company’s coffee offering is evolving all the time.

There are currently 22 coffees on offer on BRC’s website, including two decafs and a number of interesting blends, one of which, the Sumatra espresso, featuring the same bean, roasted with two different profiles, something I’ve not seen before.

You can also see what I made of Brooklyn Roasting Company’s Flushing Avenue branch.

25 JAY STREET • BROOKLYN • NY 11201 • USA +1 718-522-2664
Monday 07:00 – 19:00 Roaster Brooklyn Roasting Company (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:00 – 19:00 Seating Tables, Comfy Chairs, Window Bars
Wednesday 07:00 – 19:00 Food Cake, Sandwiches
Thursday 07:00 – 19:00 Service Counter
Friday 07:00 – 19:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 07:00 – 19:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 07:00 – 19:00 Power Yes
Chain Local Visits 6th March 2015

For a very interesting interview with and feature on Amy, the head roaster, check out this feature in the Brooklyn Magazine.

If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, check out the rest of New York City’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to New York City.

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