Yesterday, Thrillist (a daily newsletter of curated recommendations) published a list of the “best coffee roasters in America.” I was one of the “jurors” asked to recommend my top ten coffee roasters in the US and provide a brief description as to what makes them special. Beyond that, I didn’t know who the other jurors were, or how the results would be calculated until the list was published.
The other jurors included:
Bill Walsh (Pure Coffee Blog)
Jordan Michelman (Sprudge.com)
Kelly Stewart (Roast Magazine)
Chris Cusack (Down House)
Sean Henry (Houndstooth)
Sarah Allen (Barista Magazine)
Joshua McNeilly (Black Black Coffee)
Greg Martin (Urban Bean)
Here’s how the final list was complied: all of the roasters who were named by jurors received points based on how they were ranked by the respective juror who mentioned them. For example, if I listed Heart Coffee Roasters as #1, they would receive 10 points towards their total score. If I ranked them #10, they would receive 1 point. If I didn’t name them at all, they received no points—a simple (and fair) format to balance the blind recommendations of nine jurors.
This list is not scientific. It’s not written in stone. It’s only valid until the next internet list of 10 greatest things is published. And it’s all in good fun to reflect the recommendations from a small group of people who drink a lot of coffee—both as professionals in the industry and as consumers. You don’t have to agree. But just maybe there are some roasters on here you haven’t heard of, or tasted, and maybe you’ll find something new that you like. If you’re personal favorite roaster didn’t make the list, don’t hate the internet over it. Drink what you enjoy.
For the sake of transparency, I wanted to share my personal list of top 10 US coffee roasters below (which is not an easy task). However, seven of my selections made the final list—so I wasn’t alone in thinking those companies deserved a mention. Agree, disagree, either way, please enjoy.
1. Heart Coffee Roasters, Portland
Heart stands out as having clearly embraced the Nordic influence of their owner Wille and the taste of the coffee reflects it. There’s always something juicy, lively and interesting to enjoy in coffee from Heart.
2. Ritual Coffee, San Francisco
Ritual has always felt like an underdog of the San Francisco coffee scene to me. They often fall to the wayside of Blue Bottle’s marketing prowess and the unexplained hype of Phil’s, but they offer some of the best coffee you’ll find in the Bay area and the country as a whole.
3. Intelligentsia Coffee, Chicago
Intelligentsia is where I first discovered the joy of black coffee in the mid-2000’s. They may be “big” compared with newer, smaller roasters in the US, but they still discover some of the most unique coffees around and haven’t lost their touch.
4. Verve Coffee, Santa Cruz
Verve stands out for representing where they come from better than most other coffee companies. Their brand and their attitude reflects the lifestyle of Santa Cruz in almost every way. Verve’s green-tip gesha from 2012 remains one of the best coffees I’ve ever tasted.
5. MadCap Coffee, Grand Rapids
MadCap may not come from a large metropolitan area, but they push forward with unique varietal series and Sunday tasting experiences. They’ve also got a stellar brand, one of my favorites, by the renown designers Chuck Anderson and Seth Herman
6. Gimme! Coffee, Ithaca
For a time, Gimme! was one of the only “local” roasters in New York City serving quality coffee before an influx of outsiders like Stumptown and Intelligentsia forced others to jump into the game. Gimme! still remains one of my favorite roasters and cafés in New York.
7. Handsome Coffee, Los Angeles
Handsome formed from a team of big names in the world of specialty coffee with lots of experience and knowledge to transfer into something new. They added fresh variety and energy to the LA coffee scene after forming in 2011 and haven’t slowed down since.
8. Four Barrel Coffee, San Francisco
Four Barrel has really progressed over the years, helping to further expand San Franciscan’s access to good coffee and sourcing really delicious beans in the process. Their coffee shop puts their roasting on display and stands out among the many options in San Francsico.
9. Ceremony Coffee, Annapolis
Ceremony underwent a successful name and brand overhaul in 2011 that better reflects their values and the ceremony involved in crafting a delicious cup of coffee. Since then, they’ve been showing up in even more places around Washington D.C. and throughout the country with some really tasty coffees.
10. Counter Culture Coffee, Durham
I consider Counter Culture a part of the “big three” in terms of US specialty coffee roasters (including Intelligentsia and Stumptown). However, with CCC’s unique training-based wholesale model that lacks high profile coffee shops, they rarely get the awareness they deserve among average consumers.
See the final collective list published on Thrillist.