Best Indie Coffee Roasters
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10 Local Coffee Roasters That Put Starbucks to Shame

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Best Indie Coffee Roasters
Penstock Coffee Roasters/Facebook

Beans Beyond Compare

Let's get one thing out of the way: There is nothing really wrong with Starbucks coffee. They brought good beans to the masses. But if you care — truly care — about brewing a great cup of coffee, there are so many great roasters out there you could be trying instead. Many are far from the big coastal coffee cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and New York, but all of them sell freshly roasted beans online, making it easy to discover varieties you may never otherwise taste. For the devout drinker, most also offer subscription services as well. And all of them operate hometown coffee shops where you can sit, sip, and savor — and maybe get the chance to learn from the roaster themselves. Our list is by no means exhaustive, but according to coffee pros and travel experts we consulted, these 10 coffee roasters are brew up something good.

Related: The 60 Coolest Coffee Shops in America

Congregation Coffee
Congregation Coffee Roasters/Facebook

Congregation Coffee | New Orleans

Take one New Orleans native and one Seattle transplant, a shared love of coffee, and a background in the city's vibrant restaurant scene, and you get Congregation. What began in a garage soon turned into a boutique coffee roastery that supplies beans to local restaurants, including the landmark Brennan's, and by subscription. (They've got two storefront cafes now as well.) The half-dozen roasts Congregation sells are a mix of blends and single-origin beans from Africa and Central and South America, all of which produce brews that can be described as "traditional" in the best sense of the word. "For a city famed for chicory-laden cafe au laits, Congregation is one NOLA coffee roaster that has helped turn the city on to specialty coffee," says Bill Walsh of Pure Coffee Blog. (And in case you're curious, a group of alligators is called a congregation. No lie.)

Related: 26 Best Cheap Or Free Things To Do In New Orleans

BeanFruit Coffee Co.
BeanFruit Coffee Company/Facebook

BeanFruit Coffee Co. | Jackson, Mississippi

As founder Paul Brooks puts it, "I grew up in southern Mississippi, where zero coffee culture exists, and you bought a can of Folgers if you wanted 'the good stuff.'" Brooks taught himself how to roast coffee at home and slowly built a reputation by selling his beans at local farmers markets and to a handful of restaurants. Coffee lovers took notice, and by 2010 BeanFruit Coffee Co. was off and running. Brooks' focus is on sustainability, selling a half-dozen blends and single-origin varieties, plus a decaf roast. For his efforts, Brooks has earned Good Food awards and praise from Coffee Review, as well as being crowned the "best dang coffee roaster" in the state by foodie website Sprudge.

Madcap Coffee
Madcap Coffee/Facebook

Madcap Coffee | Grand Rapids, Michigan

This city may tout itself as "Brew City, U.S.A." for its thriving craft beer scene, but don't overlook Madcap Coffee. They've been keeping locals caffeinated since 2008, earning praise from Thrillist and Epicurious, among others. Founders Trevor Corlett and Ryan Knapp go through about 3,000 samples per year just to narrow it down to the 24 or so small-batch roasts they offer customers, Knapp says. You'll find single-origin beans and signature blends like their Three One Three roast, which pays area-code homage to their new Detroit coffee shop, which opened in March.

Penstock Coffee Roasters
Penstock Coffee Roasters/Facebook

Penstock Coffee Roasters | Highland Park, New Jersey

New York City may be considered one of the coffee capitals of America, but for people across the river in New Jersey, there's no reason to cross the Hudson in search of great local roasts. "Penstock is one of the finest," Walsh says. "They have been churning out excellent coffee across the river from Rutgers University for close to a decade." Farm-direct coffee is the order of the day at Penstock, which began life in a basement as OQ Coffee, and their roster of roasts reflect their emphasis on beans from such unexpected sources such as Haiti, as well as quick-to-sell-out microbatches.

PT's Coffee Roasting Co.
PT's Coffee Roasting Co./Facebook

PT's Coffee Roasting Co. | Topeka, Kansas

Epicurious calls PT's Coffee Roasting Co. one of the pioneers of the modern coffee roasting movement, and little wonder. They've been in business since 1993, when the modern microroasting trend was just beginning to take off, and have grown into a sizable roasting operation with three locations in Topeka and an outpost in Kansas City. Coffee junkies can load up on the 26 coffee varieties of single-origin, direct-trade, limited-production, and blended roasts that PT's sells online. They even sell green coffee beans if you want to try your hand at perfecting your roasting skills at home.

Onyx Coffee Lab
ONYX Coffee Lab/Facebook

Onyx Coffee Lab | Fayetteville, Arkansas

The folks behind Onyx Coffee Lab take their roasting very seriously. And it shows. Since opening in late 2012, they've garnered attention from Food Network, Food & Wine magazine, and Epicurious, as well as numerous Good Food awards and U.S. Coffee Championship titles (and a whole lotta other press as well). They roast in small batches, offering about a dozen different varieties of beans at any given time (some of which sell out quickly), including seasonal, limited-edition, and house blends.

Three Ships Coffee
Three Ships Coffee/Facebook

Three Ships Coffee | Virginia Beach, Virginia

Locals Brad and Amy Ewing started Three Ships in their garage in 2013; today, they recently moved into a 7,000-square-foot building that houses their blooming roastery as well as a small-business incubator. "In the past few years it has become one of the best reasons to visit Virginia Beach," Walsh says. Act fast and you may be able to score a bag of their Six-Year Anniversary Blend, a microlot from Colombia.

East Pole Coffee Co.
Melissa R./Yelp

East Pole Coffee Co. | Atlanta

In the five years they've been roasting coffee beans, East Pole has carved out a space for itself among Atlanta coffee connoisseurs. You'll only find a handful of roasts for sale, but their small-batch, single-origin coffees have been honored by the likes of Conde Nast Traveler, Eater, and Food & Wine. And while they've gotten lots of press for the cafe they opened in 2017, founder Jared Karr says the main focus remains on roasting. "We're a wholesale business first," Karr told The Bitter Southerner. "I wouldn't want our shop to impact any of the businesses we sell to. They're our first consideration."

Populace Coffee
Populace Coffee/Facebook

Populace Coffee | Bay City, Michigan

Today, this coffee roaster is known as much for its beans as it is for the annual Flight of Fancy coffee tasting, which this year drew 300 contestants. But founder Andrew Heppner says that things almost didn't get off the ground after launching a small roastery in 2012. But years of hard work have paid off, and Populace now enjoys a thriving wholesale and online business in addition to its storefronts in Bay City, Detroit, and Petoskey, with nearly a dozen single-origin and blends available at any given time.

Noble Coffee Roasting
Noble Coffee Roasting/Facebook

Noble Coffee Roasting | Ashland, Oregon

It wouldn't be fair to overlook Oregon, a state that's done more than just about any to promote good coffee. Noble Coffee in Ashland has been in the roasting business since 2007. From the beginning, founders Jared and Carolyn Rennie say they've placed an emphasis on roasting only certified organic coffee beans from highly rated suppliers. That care has paid off with seven Good Food awards — including one earlier this year for their Ethiopian Buku Sayisa roast, sourced from heirloom coffee beans indigenous to the region.