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 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|
|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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