Behind the Beans at Stumptown

Over the weekend I made a visit to the Stumptown Coffee Roasters’ plant in Red Hook, Brooklyn, to see how they turn green coffee from farms all over the world into some of the best coffee out there.

While I was there, I met Ed Kaufmann, one of the roasters, who was happy to show me the minutiae of coffee roasting.

The process starts with the green coffee beans. These beans are delivered from the farms in big burlap sacks that crowd much of the warehouse’s space.

First, the beans are siphoned into the roasting machine, a German Probat from the 1950s, complete with retro control panels, straight out of a sci-fi film. The roaster, powered by natural gas, gets up to a stifling 400 degrees while the beans tumble around within its steel walls. It, understandably, gets a bit loud during this part, so Ed hands me a pair of earmuffs.

The next 15 minutes are a combination of timing and intuition on Ed’s part. He constantly checks the beans for the right color and the perfect aroma. Once he’s satisfied with the roast, the beans are released into the cooling tray where they are spun around by steel brushes until they reach room temperature. Finally, the beans are ejected into plastic barrels to be scooped out into individual bags and prepared for shipping.

The process seems so simple—it takes less than 20 minutes—but without experience, most of us would end up with a batch of badly burned beans.

In addition to roasting beans in Red Hook, Stumptown recently opened up a tasting room in the front. The room itself is beautiful, with lots of rustic wood and industrial metal throughout.

Not unlike a tasting room at a winery, the Stumptown tasting room allows visitors to select from up to 18 varietals of coffee and four different brewing methods, including pour-over, Chemex, AeroPress, and French pressed—all freshly roasted, of course.

You won’t find any espresso machines here, and if you want milk or sugar, you’re out of luck. It’s so good you may not miss any of those things, either. This tasting room is all about the expression of coffee.

If you’re nervous that you can’t get your double tall half-caf skim latte, you shouldn’t be alarmed—the baristas are all incredibly friendly and will help you find a cup to suit your tastes.

They also sell various brewing equipment for home use, so if you absolutely must have your own Chemex or AeroPress (skim latte, be damned), you’re in luck.

I rode my bike across the Brooklyn Bridge in 90 degree weather to drink hot coffee, which should speak volumes to Stumptown’s appeal. Although, if you go this summer, get a cab. You’ll thank me later.


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