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Oct 29, 2013 02:41 AM

A good Coffee roaster in greater Boston area any suggestions?

Thank you for any suggestions.

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  1. I have been consistently pleased with Barismo, on Mass Ave in Arlington, right over the border from Cambridge. I believe that they sell their roasted beans at a number of locations (other stores), so you wouldn't have to trek to Arlington.

    1. Like Gremolata, I like Barismo very much. Dwelltime cafe in Cambridge is same ownership. You can also get their beans at Simon's and Voltage, both in Cambridge.

      George Howell Coffee is the only other high quality roaster in the area that I'm aware of. They are in Acton. Crema in Harvard Sq uses and sells their beans. George arguably was the first to bring good fresh coffee to the region in the early 80s with Coffee Connection. He's not alone anymore, but is still one of the best.

      A bit further afield, Barrington Coffee does great work in Western Mass. They have a cafe and retail location in Boston. Cafe Fixe in Brookline sells and serves their stuff.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jajjguy

        Couldn't have said it better myself. I particularly like Barismo because for us super coffee-nerds who pull using PID machines, they put their temperature recommendations on the beans. I think Barismo beans could easily be a national contender.

        Recently I've been buying Barrington Coffee at Cafe Fixe (they also have a place in Fort Point) and have been very impressed and found them reasonably priced, especially considering the quality. My last two have been their most recent Yirgacheffe Kochere which is fantastic. Highly recommended.

        George Howell is great but his beans are more expensive than the others and I find it hard to find fresh beans at their distribution sites (ie. Whole foods, Crema Coffee) so I go directly to the store in Newton. If I'm paying for high quality coffee, I expect it to be freshly roasted.

        Counter Culture has a roastery here as well and I find their coffee good but I'm not sure it's quite as good as the other three given their pricing. Nevertheless, their beans are good.

        Finally, and most importantly, any good roaster will place a "Roasted On" date on the bag. If there is no roasted on date, or it says "best by" or "filled on," caveat emptor. Roasted coffee is best consumed within 10-14 days of roasting.

        1. re: jajjguy

          I agree with both posters above about George Howell and Barismo. As a home roaster, these two roasters consistently exceed what I'm capable of doing on my own.

          George Howell owns a cafe on Walnut Street in Newtonville that brews and sells his coffee. The Acton location, at least the last time I checked, was not really set up for on-site retail sales. They will sell you coffee, but they prefer that you call first to confirm they have stock of the coffee you want.

        2. I've been recently getting Karma Coffee beans at WF and, frankly, they blow away anything else I've had locally. We use them for espresso at home.

          They are located in Sudbury where they sell beans or by-the-cup

          1. Nth-ing the Barismo recommendation. Barrington too. I think those two account for about 95% of the beans I've bought over the past few years.

            You can buy Intelligentsia and Stumptown at Bloc 11 and Diesel in Somerville. Gimme! is available at Three Little Figs (also Somerville). They're not roasted in the Boston area, but they are on shelves within a couple days of roasting.

            Regardless of roaster, check the dates. Most places get weekly shipments, so ask for stuff from the back if everything on the shelf is older than one week.

            1. I like the way Flat Black roasts their coffees. They roast beans in Dorchester Lower Mills.

              BTW, I just checked their website before posting this and the news section on the main page had a "Loren ipsum" fill. Hilarious.

              13 Replies
              1. re: lergnom

                Do they have dates on the bags? I took a quick look one day and couldn't find any. Without dates, I can't bring myself to pay anything more than grocery store prices.

                  1. re: emannths

                    No dates on their bags. I was a regular there and asked several times. Unfortunately, despite them continually telling me that dates don't matter ("older coffee is actually better a lot of the time!" said one barista ... another time one seemed almost angry when I asked, demanding to know why I cared), I definitely had mixed luck. Some of the beans I bought there were extraordinary, and some of them were obviously ancient and didn't bloom at all.

                    These days I've switched to Tonx, an online/subscription-based service. I'm spending a bit more but the quality is fairly consistent and I'm much happier.

                    1. re: davis_sq_pro

                      Wait, are we talking about Flat Black or Karma? I was sure Karma dates theirs.....I'm getting impossibly lost in this thread...sorry!

                      1. re: Science Chick

                        I was specifically referring to Flat Black. I think your Karma subthread is a few messages up. Maybe you replied at the wrong place?

                        BTW, two other things worth noting:

                        A) Another WF offering is Allegro in bulk, which often includes dates. I've had some excellent batches from the Fresh Pond WF (notably, a Kona blend they were doing for a while).

                        B) Flat Black's Bali coffee is worth getting even without the presence of a date on the bag. It's really interesting, with a lot of strawberry aroma.

                        1. re: davis_sq_pro

                          Thanks for the clarification, davis_sq...yes, looks like I hit reply in the wrong spot.

                          FYI, the dates on the bulk Allegro coffee are not roast dates...they are dates the bins were filled! However, I have purchased the bin coffee there and it is pretty decent most of the time. Not on caliber with most of the others mentioned here, though

                          1. re: Science Chick

                            Hm, admittedly it's been a year or two since I've bought there, but I seem to recall it saying "roast date." Maybe it depends on the WF? I think some of them (e.g. Fresh Pond) roast in house. Or at least did.

                            Agreed that it's not on the same level as many of the places listed herein, but I think it can be significantly better than a lot of the other offerings available in the area, e.g. Dunk's or Starbucks. And as I said, there was this one particularly transcendent Kona blend...

                            1. re: davis_sq_pro

                              Yeah I remember there was another thread where I was complaining about this and that my local WF (Brighton) does "filled by" as opposed to "roasted on" and someone, maybe you David_Sq, did say your local does "roasted on," so it probably just depends on the WF.

                              That said, I buy beans at WF from time to time as they are decent and inexpensive and definitely better than the rest of the coffee in that class (DD/Charbucks)

                              1. re: Klunco

                                It does depend on the WF location. Not all of them roast on premises. The Fresh Pond store has bins that say "Filled on" and bins that say "Roasted on". I can't say the beans are particularly complex and certainly not of the quality of Barismo or Barrington, but I will pick up their fresh-roasted beans for convenience on occasion.

                                I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned Stumptown, but I'll throw them into the mix for quality beans. I've gotten them at Thinking Cup and think they are right up there with the best.

                      2. re: davis_sq_pro

                        I too am a regular at the Lower Mills Flat Black. Although I enjoy their coffee, I have also noted that not all their bags have dates... (although some do)

                        That said, although the commonly accepted principle is that fresh beans are best, I actually prefer coffee beans a few days off roast for the reason that a fresh grind creates so much co2, and the crema is so thick, that I can't get extract enough flavour. I have discussed just this with the morning guys, and they seemed to share the sentiment. Perhaps that is the origin of their comment?

                        1. re: redips

                          Correct. Freshly roasted coffee needs 24-48 hours to degass, so fresh is a "relative" term. Also, some espresso enthusiasts will wait a day or two longer arguing that too much crema is after only 24-48.

                          That said, after 14 days, it would be a tough argument to say that the coffee is still at its peak, so freshness does matter.

                          1. re: redips

                            I think it depends on your brewing technique. If you're doing pourover (which is how I brew), you can pour in maybe 100g of water to start, let everything bloom and de-gas for a minute or so, and then pour on the rest. This way you can work with fresh coffee and not worry about the CO2 getting in the way of your water.

                            1. re: davis_sq_pro

                              Yeah--the degassing thing is really only relevant to espresso. Drip/pourover/presspot/etc, it doesn't have any effect as long as you manage the bloom.

                              I think a lot of places don't think about the fact that most customers won't use more than a 12oz bag per week (I make coffee daily and a bag usually lasts me two weeks). So while a bag that's 10 days off roast is probably fine that day, by the time the customer uses it up it's way past its prime. When you're a barista/manager that goes through several pounds of coffee per day, I don't think you realize this, thus the "eh, it's fresh enough" attitude.