The Best Coffee Roasters in America
Get the very best beans in the business.
For some people the best cup of coffee in America is whatever is currently in their hand, but then there are those who treat coffee as less of an alarm clock and more of a poetic experience. These types of enthusiasts measure out their lives in coffee spoons, obsess about the best French press to buy, and even try to perfect their very own latte art at home.
Naturally, we also bow down in praise to a perfect cup of gritty diner coffee, but you won’t find Dunkin’ anywhere on this list. Instead, these 21 roasters are staffed by Type-A coffee aficionados who take a ridiculous amount of care in every step of the process, from visiting the farms that grow the coffee to developing unique roast profiles that bring out each unique bean’s individual snowflake flavor qualities.
Read on to learn more about the companies roasting the very best beans in the business, and if you’re curious whether those honeysuckle tasting notes ring true, most all of these beans are available to order online.
Mountain View, Hawaii
The bean: Kona peaberry coffee, a top rated, unique type of bean with rich flavors of cacao, cinnamon and black cherry.
Though Kona coffee has been cultivated in Hawaii for over one hundred years, the Big Island’s craft coffee scene only just began its ascent a few years ago. One of the most beloved producers is Big Island Coffee Roasters, which ripe harvests their beans and mill them in small batches. Their unique beans include a Kona peaberry—rare, pea-shaped coffee beans that produce an intensely flavored cup.
The bean: Rwanda Horizon, which produces a caramelized brew with notes of orange spice, molasses and ginger.
Q Graders are the sommeliers of the coffee world, trained to detect the most imperceptible defects and differences in beans. Camber's was founded by three such gold star coffee enthusiasts in 2015 and have since made their way into a handful of the best coffee shops in America like G&B and Go Get Em Tiger in LA. From their Flagship in Bellingham, Washington (halfway between Seattle and Vancouver) they roast coffees available by the bag.
The bean: Brazil Nunes—with notes of cocoa nib, toffee, and hazelnut—comes from a single-estate, sustainability certified coffee farm in the Patrocínio growing region of Brazil.
Established in 2002, Ceremony Coffee Roasters has now grown to six locations throughout Maryland and its roastery in the state capital of Annapolis. Known for its minimalist design aesthetic and meticulous attention to coffee sourcing and education, Ceremony partners were farms and importers around the world to create highly rated single-origin, blend, espresso, and decaf coffees. Be sure to enjoy its regular coffee workshops and helpful online brew guides.
The bean: Ethiopian Kilenso with notes of lavender and grape jam
When it comes to boutique roasters and coffee shops, it’s hard to beat Portland. One of the very best is Coava, who began wholesaling out of the owner’s garage in 2008 and have since spread their distribution network across the country. Like everyone on this list, these guys take sourcing seriously, picking each single-lot coffee only after trying beans from roughly 500 other neighboring farms. That commitment to excellence continues with next-level roasting tech like a sorting table that lets them weed out any defects that have made it past the processing stations. One of its Portland locations even features a brew bar and roastery with public tastings, giving visitors a better window into their meticulous methods.
Durham, North Carolina
The bean: Iridescent, a winter blend that tastes like dark chocolate and benefits climate change adaptations for farmers
These days the biggest independent coffee roasters are rolling in investment dollars, but Counter Culture has stuck to their guns as a wholesale only company, eschewing storefronts in favor of fueling the espresso machines of discerning shops across the country. The company has been certified organic since 2002 (on the first day it was legally possible!) and keep that conscious mentality alive through programs like Seeds, which provides financial grants to producers and producer organizations to implement sustainability projects. Plus, Counter Culture takes coffee flavors so seriously that it designed its own coffee flavor wheel, a matrix explaining the different types of fruit, floral, and spice notes found in their coffees.
Brooklyn, New York
The bean: Their signature Toro blend, with notes of Cacao, Vanilla, Cherry and Almond.
The founder of Devocion, Steven Sutton, knows fresh coffee when he tastes it. Born in Colombia, he started the company with a mission to cut out the traditional middle men of the coffee industry, and thus bring customers their beans without precious months of peak flavor being lost. Their beans are sourced, where else, from Colombia, and brought to their roasting facility in Brooklyn. Besides their fresh and flavorful beans, Devocion is known for their stylish NYC cafes, which feel more like stepping into a jungle than a coffee shop.
The bean: Farm direct from Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia. Notes of mixed berry jam, various citrus, buttercream and spice.
For the consciously minded coffee drinker, Dragonfly is pretty much bar none. The Nevada-based company has taken home accolades and awards not only for their product quality but also for their sustainable and ethical practices. They work to support emerging coffee bean markets that many others haven’t yet tapped, such as Myanmar, Yemen and Timor-Leste, and let legit nothing they use go to waste. Burlap sacks get repurposed, pallets are turned into packaging filler, dried coffee bean skin (called chaff) finds new life as fertilizer—the whole deal.
San Francisco, California
The bean: Friendo Blendo, a mix of Colombia, Ethiopian, and Guatemala beans that they describe as having “citrus flavors swan dive into fresh berry full forward fold, which jumps or walks back into down dog, then ascends into a toffee sweetness sun salutation. Swan dive.”
Life’s too short to drink bad coffee, a philosophy that translates to person-to-person direct trade relationships with roasters and a golden rule-like dedication to Four Barrel’s employees. The Bay Area coffee shop sticks to that person-focused mentality by cutting out wi-fi and classes ranging from homebrewing to cupping ensure that their clientele knows how best to enjoy their home (with some delicious wi-fi). For those ordering Four Barrel beans online, they have a handy list of flavors that highlights the perfect brew as you click—from “honeydew melon” to “lemon bar” and “whipped cream.”
The bean: Ethiopian Halo, with notes of jasmine, gooseberry, and butterscotch
Ever since Starbucks doubled down on dark roasts, the specialty coffee industry has swung towards the light side in order to better showcase the individual flavors of each bean. Heart does offer some beans with the chocolatey flavors traditionally associated with darker coffees, but it’s beloved by coffee aficionados for its lighter touch. Three three Portland shops ooze Scandinavian chic, while also showcasing stellar methods by putting a fully functioning sexy black Probat roaster front and center in the flagship shop.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
The bean: Juan Angel Honduras, a bean exclusive to Madcap, with notes of mango, marshmallow and dates.
Knockout beans mixed with a flair for creative coffee concoctions has earned Madcap a permanent place in the conversation of best roasters around. The company has maintained relationships with some of their farmers since its first year in business (2008!), keeping in such close contact that their sourcers spend a third of the year outside of the U.S. Plus, Madcap invites fans along for the ride via journal posts, featuring an inside look at small production farmers.
San Diego, California
The bean: El Gaucho, a comforting and award-winning chocolate-y blend of three different beans.
Those within the coffee community love to share that it has more flavor compounds than wine, but rarely does that manage to sway a sommelier to trade their grapes for beans. Manzanita is one such coffee company that features a former wine power couple at the helm. Since opening Manzanita in North County San Diego ,they’ve taken a serious approach to sourcing—looking beyond organic certifications in favor of farms who're doing good but can’t afford the costly inspections. Manzanita is also one of the most environmentally friendly companies on the list, thanks to a specialty roasting machine that cuts greenhouse gas emissions by 80%.
San Diego, California
The bean: Single origin Kalsada Mill from the Philippines, a light and bright roast with notes of stone fruit, sweet florals and cream.
Most coffee aficionados are well-versed on delicious beans from places like Kenya and Guatemala, but far fewer have had the pleasure of tasting coffee brewed from Filipino beans. The four Filipino founders of San Diego-based Mostra are on a mission to change that, bringing single origin beans from their country of heritage to the U.S., as well as other Asian countries like Thailand and Papua New Guinea. Keep on the lookout for the next iteration of their ongoing collaborations with beer companies, too, if stouts are your thing.
The bean: Tropical Weather, a fruity seasonal blend described by co-founder Andrea Allen as “sunshine in a cup.”
Every coffee company on this list prizes themselves on their transparency, but few lay out their process quite like Onyx. On its website, the Arkansas-based roastery and cafe explains the whole process, from its roaster model (rebuilt Diedrich IR-12 and IR40s) to cupping schedule, each coffee is tasted at 2, 5, and 10 days to learn how it ages. Onyx is also crystal clear about its blended coffee varieties, a mix of the same high quality beans featured as single origin coffees. The dedication to quality continues down the line to its more than 60 baristas across three stores in Arkansas.
The bean: Nicaragua Finca Pastoral Honey, with notes of honey graham cracker, lemon, and fruity sweetness.
Does your local roastery have an on-site daycare facility for their staff’s children? Most likely not, and that’s just one of the conscious practices that sets Red Rooster apart. Besides other supportive practices for their staff and transparent trading of their coffee, the small town Virginia-based company has won a slew of awards for their popular blends, which can be found in select places like the stylish Eaton Hotel in Washington, DC.
The bean: Yosotatu, a single origin blend from Oaxaca, Mexico, with notes of juicy and sweet berries.
Since launching in 2014 in Downtown Birmingham, Revelator has opened locations across the South as well as a 15,000-square-foot roasting facility. Despite its quick growth, Revelator maintains an emphasis on creating community and fostering local leadership in each of their cafes. Besides its cafes and by-the-bag bean options, the shop also features a customizable coffee club for regular ordering.
Haddon Township, New Jersey
The bean: Gritty Jawn, a nutty medium blend with notes of brown sugar, walnut and apple.
After drinking a revelatory cup of cold brew from iconic Texas roaster Cuvee, the founder of Royal Mile's life changed forever. The experience inspired him to buy a manual roaster and experiment with one pound batches until he was confident enough to unveil his beans to the public. Coffee connoisseurs quickly took note, spreading the gospel of coffees like a Tanzanian Peaberry microlot and Nicaraguan beans sourced through a close relationship with the farmer's son. Soon enough Whole Foods hopped on the bandwagon, selling Royal Mile in stores across Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The bean: Creamery, their flagship offering sold by the bag and by boxes of single serve packets. The flavor profile on this seasonal blend changes throughout the year.
The best that most small towns can offer in terms of coffee is a fresh pot of diner drip, but Nelsonville isn’t most small towns. The 200-person population dot on the map is within driving distance of not only close to a heartland of farms and a trio of solid craft breweries (Central Waters, Kozy Yak, and O'so), but also boasts a world-class coffee company in Ruby, the roasting project of an Intelligentsia veteran that's made waves far beyond the local diner. The flavor profile skews towards sweet and juicy, with a focus on Kenyan, Ethiopian, and Colombian coffees, and beans come from a host of other Latin American producers with which Ruby’s developed personal relationships that will bear brewable fruits for years to come.
Brooklyn, New York
The bean: Yukro, top tier Ethiopian beans with notes of stone fruit, florals and citrus. Besides its ultra stylish Bushwick cafe, Sey is known for their unique approach to buying micro-lots, sometimes even the whole harvest of an individual farmer, which has won the admiration of New York coffee aficionados as well as wholesale accounts as far south as Texas. Their approach is three-tiered, with a spectrum of beans ranging from “sweet and simple” to “round and loud” to “intricate and animate,” which ensures that customers know what to expect from their cup, even as the beans change on a monthly basis.
The bean: Hair Bender, the company’s very first offering, is a complex blend of Indonesian, Latin American, and African coffees
Over the years, Stumptown has become perhaps one of the most ubiquitous names in the craft coffee game, with bags to be found everywhere from the bougiest cafe in town to shelves of your neighborhood bodega. We love that Stumptown has remained committed to transparency in their practices despite their wild popularity, and their attractive bag designs don’t hurt, either. Though Stumptown is most typically associated with hip urban vibes, they're also aiming at the outdoorsman with a special camping coffee kit with a custom burner, drip brewer, and even a Stumptown bandana.
The bean: Juan Peña from Ecuador, a tropical-tasting blend processed by carbonic maceration with notes of kiwi, mango and pink Starburst.
Bloom is the term used for when water first hits coffee beans and creates an aromatic bubbling in the grounds. It's one of the most magical moments of the brewing process for people who find brewing processes magical, and also happens to serve as the namesake for Lakewood, CO's Sweet Bloom. The company's founder has won first or second place in nearly all of the coffee world's most important competitions and takes direct sourcing a step further than most by actually inviting farmers to visit his headquarters. Their roasts skew lighter than normal with an emphasis on sweetness (go figure) and floral aromatics, look for standout Colombian coffees available for the holidays.
Santa Cruz, California
The bean: Streetlevel espresso, with notes of stone fruit, zesty citrus, and syrupy sweetness that makes it ideal for milk-based drinks
Co-founded by a guy who grew up with his hands in the soil farming pears and wine at his family farm in Northern California, Verve has maintained an incredibly trained eye for coffee terroir. Founded in Santa Cruz, the brand now has cafes across California, and Japan, and a wide variety of coffee offerings, from signature blends to Cascara and canned flash brew.
Dan Gentile is a freelance writer based in Austin, TX. He drinks Kalita Wave in the morning, Japanese-styled iced coffee from a Chemex in the afternoon, and is searching for another pretentious coffee drink to enjoy after dark. Follow him to tweets and disco and barbecue at @Dannosphere.