Best Coffee Roaster: Best of Omaha Winners Circle 2015

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Our marketing team, Basik Studios, asked me to write a blog on Tap Dancers Specialty Coffee being voted Best of Omaha 2015 second place in the category of Best Coffee Roaster. Before I go any further I want acknowledge that they have done a tremendous job helping us build our brand and market share.

This has been one of the more difficult blogs to write. Do I give the first place people props for winning? Do I say “Thank you for your vote”, even if I’m not sure the blog readers have voted? Do I try and sound humble?… “Ah shucks, it is just an honor to be nominated let alone win something.”

After giving much thought to these and other questions the answer is NO! Maxine and I are absolutely bursting with pride. To us it is the equivalent of parents watching their teenager win a silver medal at the Olympics. We were the 60-1 horse placing in one of the Triple Crown races. When voting got started this past July we were just over two years old and competing with several other coffee roasters who have been in business for decades. Just like the lyrics in the song “High Hopes”:


Just what makes that little old ant

Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant, can’t
Move a rubber tree plant

But he’s got high hopes, he’s got high hopes
But he’s got high hopes, he’s got high hopes
He’s got high apple pie, in the sky hopes


We knew our business model of importing the world’s finest coffee, roasting to order each week and then delivering this fresh roasted coffee to your front door at no extra charge, would take time to catch on in Omaha.  Being in the winner’s circle of Best of Omaha so early in our business life is a true confirmation that we are going in the right direction. We are so happy to share this recognition with each of you and look forward to becoming better and better at what we do each year. Thank you for allowing us to serve you.

Oh Wata Dara, say it ain’t so!

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In the previous 2 seasons (2012 and 2013) we had a coffee that was good enough to repeat. In fact it was such a good selling coffee, I was looking forward to adding it to our offerings again this year. For those of you who could not guess, I am talking about no other than the Ethiopian Wata Dara.  This amazing coffee really helped us launch and establish Tap Dancers Specialty Coffee as a purveyor of fine fresh roasted coffee and had a signature chocolaty finish that people came to love.

Two weeks ago I finally got the email from my coffee broker that the coffee had arrived in port and cleared customs.   He quickly sent me a sample of this season’s crop. Once the sample came in I eagerly got ready to go through our process of cupping coffee. The first step is to visually inspect the beans and give them a quality score.  I noticed the big variances in the size of the beans which was not the case in previous years. A roaster wants the beans to be the same size, otherwise, the smaller beans will be over roasted and the bigger beans will end up under roasted.

Upon further inspection, I started to notice more bug bites than usual. I justified this to myself because this coffee is grown organically but again, this was not the case in previous years. Then more issues arose with a lot of broken beans appearing. It got to the point to where normally, I would have already failed the bean on the inspection alone and not bothered to even roast them. But this was Wata Dara! Surely I can make an exception for this great coffee so I went ahead a did a sample roast.

Continue reading Oh Wata Dara, say it ain’t so!

A Roast is NOT Just a Roast!

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What does it mean when people ask for a certain type of roast?  Do they even know what it means or are they looking for a certain flavor?  Being a specialty grade coffee roaster, we do not often refer to roast types alone since our goal is to bring out all the natural and wonderful flavors of the bean itself.  Specialty grade beans are grown on purpose and are organic, fair-trade, low in acidity and not inherently bitter so it is easy to concentrate and talk solely about flavor.

For most other grades of beans (commercial, premium, gourmet), talking about the roast is way more important since there is high acidity and inherent bitterness to deal with.

Let’s start with how the bean looks BEFORE the roast.  Pictured below is the “green bean” which is how the bean looks when we receive it at our dock.

1 green-beans

22 °C (72 °F) Green Beans

Can be stored for one to two years.


Next, we will look at the stages and temperatures that the beans go through while in the roaster.  This initial phase is the “drying phase” when they lose water and increase in size:

2 drying-phase

165 °C (329 °F) Drying Phase

As the coffee bean stays in the roaster, the beans will eventually crack from the heat.  Unlike popcorn, it does not change its shape too much but there is an audible sound.  Kept in the heat longer, you will hear it crack again.  These two “cracks” are applicably called “the first crack” and “the second crack”.  Each roast level below is described with basic temperatures and cracks.  What it does not tell you are the amazing artisanship it takes on behalf of the roast master to actually bring it to that temperature, the monitoring of air flow, timing and great instinct needed to produce an outstanding roasted bean.  Dark roasts are not synonymous with strong or bold flavors.  The better the bean, the more you will taste and understand how flavors are brought out by a particular roast.


The Cinnamon Roast is the very lightest roast level and is completed BEFORE the first crack.  It is almost tea-like in its character.  It is light brown in color with toasted grain flavors and sharp acidic tones.

3 cinanmon

196 °C (385 °F) Cinnamon Roast


The New England Roast is preferred by some specialty roasters because it highlights the coffee’s origin characteristics and acidic complexity.  It is moderate light brown but still varicolored in appearance.  At Tap Dancers Specialty Coffee, we occasionally use this roast when we roast some of our more exotic beans.

4 new-england

205 °C (401 °F) New England Roast


The American Roast is completed during the first crack which enables it to preserve the bean’s original character.  It is medium light brown.

5 american

210 °C (410 °F) American Roast


The City Roast is the most common roast for specialty grade coffee roaster.  It is finished after the first crack and is a medium brown color.   The multiple varieties of the character of the bean are very apparent while tasting (cupping).  With this roast, we are able to detect most of the beans flavors and can then decide whether to roast darker or lighter to bring out a distinct flavor.  At Tap Dancers Specialty Coffee, we currently use this roast for our Guatemalan Pena Blanca.

6 city

219 °C (426 °F) City Roast


The Full City Roast is completed at the beginning of the second crack.  It is a medium dark brown and depending on the bean, may have a very light oil sheen.  You will begin to taste more of the lower notes in the coffee.  At Tap Dancers Specialty Coffee, we currently use this roast for our Kenya Kamviu Dark.

7 full-city

225 °C (437 °F) Full City Roast


The Vienna Roast is completed right in the middle of the second crack.  Most of the bean’s original characteristics are overshadowed and a more bitter-sweet, deeper caramel-y flavor will surface.  The color is moderate dark brown which may have a light oil sheen.  At Tap Dancers Specialty Coffee, this is the absolute furthest we will go on the roast. We are currently using this roast for our Ethiopian Wata Dara.

8 vienna

230 °C (446 °F) Vienna Roast


The next 3 roasts are used by many roasters or coffee shops that do not sell specialty grade beans or blends with lower grade beans.  They are roasts that use various stages of burning the bean.  Many lower grades of beans are inherently very acidic and bitter so by roasting them darker, they can sometimes take out the bitterness and most of the acidity.  At Tap Dancers Specialty Coffee our business’ vision is to bring out inherent flavors of the original bean so we have chosen not do the following roast profiles.  We are not snobs however in understanding the fact that there are many people around the world who have acquired a taste for these roasts and when these roast lovers do not find what they are looking for with us, we do not mind letting them know that we respect their taste and even refer them to other roasters that we know can fulfill the taste they are looking for.


The French Roast is completed at the end of the second crack.  Very little of the inherent flavors of the original bean remain and the taste of the bean now has burnt undertones and diminished acidity.  The beans are dark brown and have a shiny oily appearance.


9 french

240 °C (464 °F) French Roast


The Italian Roast which is completed at least 20 seconds after the second crack.  It is very dark brown and very shiny with very distinct burnt tones, a thin body and almost no hints of acidity.

10 itialian

245 °C (473 °F) Italian Roast


The Spanish Roast is completed long after the second crack is finished.  Its color is almost black (extremely dark brown) and the beans are very shiny and oily.  Charcoal and tar tones dominate the taste with a flat, thin body and no hints of acidity.

11 spanish

250 °C (482 °F) Spanish Roast

How to brew it better at home?

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I found this article on New Haven News  written By Tim Carman, The Washington Post

Sometimes obsession sneaks up on you slowly. One day you’re satisfied with 7-Eleven coffee poured into a used Big Gulp cup. A few years later, you refuse to choke down anything not prepared on a pour-over bar at the nearest specialty coffee shop.

Other times, obsession strikes you in a flash.

I can, for example, tell you the exact moment my home-coffee-brewing addiction kicked in: It was 10:58 a.m. on Dec. 12. I was sampling cups prepared by Alex and Chad McCracken, the brothers behind the Wydown, a forthcoming specialty coffee shop here. At their former pop-up in D.C., the siblings had brewed five different preparations of the same Finca Kilimanjaro, a Salvadoran bean roasted by PT’s Coffee Roasting in Topeka, Kan. Among the devices they employed was a siphon, a twin-chambered glass tower powered by a glowing halogen lamp.

The siphon’s charms were immediate: evil-scientist-grade equipment that can make you feel like a 10-year-old with a chemistry set. But that childhood reverie vanished with one sip of coffee. Compared with the other devices (two pour-over cones, an AeroPress and a Clever dripper), the siphon-produced cup was more complex, balancing sweetness and acidity. If the other devices had emphasized the Finca Kilimanjaro’s bracingly sour brightness, the siphon had transformed it into candied lemon. I was hooked.

I was sold on the siphon, sure, but more than that, I was fascinated by the different flavors that each device unlocked in the same coffee. I wanted to experiment more.

Within a month, I had secured not only a Yama three-cup siphon but also other tools for my morning caffeine ritual: a Bee House dripper, an AeroPress coffee and espresso maker and a digital scale to weigh my coffee and water down to the nearest gram. Then came the more expensive stuff: a high-end electric drip maker often touted as the best on the market, and a single-cup device capable of brewing any freshly ground beans. That latter piece of equipment, I thought, would serve as a litmus test to see whether, when it comes to coffee brewing, convenience and quality are mutually exclusive.

But the paradox about trying to improve your home coffee experience is that none of those fancy instruments and machines will guarantee you a perfect cup every time. As any veteran roaster or barista will tell you, coffee is not a fixed commodity, its quality the same day in and day out. It’s an agricultural product that degrades like any other fresh ingredient you buy at the grocery store. Freshness is paramount.

Home brewing is “a moving target, because the coffee itself is a moving target,” says Joel Finkelstein, the owner and roaster behind Qualia Coffee here. He says only one kind of coffee will give you the same cup each time: “If it’s old and stale, you can get total consistency,” Finkelstein cracks.

So a high-quality cup begins with freshly roasted beans, but it doesn’t end there. Home brewing has evolved beyond the one-button convenience of Mr. Coffee and the disposable pods of Nespresso. You need education. For starters, you need to understand the benefits of a burr grinder, which pulverizes those fresh beans more evenly than your typical cheapo blade grinder. A burr grinder also allows you to adjust the grind size of your beans, an important feature when you start using the more labor-intensive tools to brew coffee.

One grind size does not fit all of these contraptions. Immersion brewers — devices such as the siphon and French press, in which the full complement of water remains in contact with the grounds for the entire steeping process — typically require a coarser grind to prevent bitter, over-extracted coffee. Pour-over devices — whether a Hario v60 dripper, a Chemex coffeemaker or some other contraption in which water passes over the grounds more quickly — generally take a medium or fine grind.

“The longer the extraction time, the coarser the grind,” the Wydown’s Chad McCracken notes.

From there, things can get really geeky really fast. Any barista worth her weight in Geisha beans will determine the perfect coffee-to-water ratio for every available bag, looking for a calculation that brings out a bean’s best characteristics. Baristas may start with a general ratio — say, one ounce of coffee to 16 ounces of water — but will quickly adjust the percentages to arrive at the perfect cup. Or at least the perfect cup according to their taste, which is important to remember.

“At the end of the day, it’s good to who’s making it,” says Judith Mandel, a former barista with Peregrine Espresso who finished ninth out of 40-plus competitors in the U.S. Brewers Cup last year in Boston. Mandel now works as a barista for Blue Bottle Coffee in the Bay Area.

Then again, those tattooed coffee-bar baristas probably know a lot more about their drinks than most of us. They know the proper water temperature for extraction (195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit), the proper technique for pouring water into a dripper cone (concentric circles from the middle, careful not to overfill the device) and the proper amount of time for “blooming” ground beans with hot water (variable, often dependent on how fresh the beans are as the wet grounds release carbon dioxide). They probably even use a timer and digital scale to make sure the weights and brewing times are airtight.

And that’s just for a pour-over device. At shops such as Chinatown Coffee, baristas must also know how to use even more tools, such as the Clever dripper and that high-tech siphon. If you talk to enough baristas, you begin to hear a pattern: They all have their own approaches, their own ratios, their own ideas about brewing the ideal cup. It begins to make you feel like it’s a Wild West out there, with no set standards for baristas and home-brewers to follow.

“There’s a lot of opinionated baristas who don’t have a lot of science behind them,” says Alex McCracken of the Wydown.

Yet there are standards. The Specialty Coffee Association of America has set them down in its “Coffee Brewing Handbook,” which is based on the scientific research conducted by the Coffee Brewing Institute (later the Coffee Brewing Center) in the mid-20th century. Of course, to make sense of the science, a barista has to become familiar with a refractometer and how to measure things such as the “extraction percentage.”

At this point, my own personal obsession stops just short of refractometers. I’m not sure I’ll ever reach the level of Mandel, whose OCD-like labors have led her to employ screens (to sift grounds for precisely uniform particles) and a rubber restrictor in her kettle (to slow the flow of water). But she’s striving for Brewers Cup championships. I’m merely looking for a great cup of home-brewed coffee.

This is where the bad news comes in: There is no ideal brewing system, perfect for every bean and every taste bud. I’ve been absorbing that hard lesson through a lot of trial and error, testing and retesting, and yet some part of me still wants to pronounce that one of these devices outperforms the others. Some days I think it’s the siphon (which generally produces a balanced, full-bodied cup). Other days I think it’s the Bee House dripper (which always seems to extract a bean’s best flavors). But one morning the Clever might surprise me with an exquisite cup, and I want to hold it forever close.

Then the Moccamaster KBG-741 AO arrives via delivery. It’s a handmade automatic drip machine, the top model produced by Technivorm in the Netherlands, engineered to heat water to the proper temperatures and steep grounds the proper length of time. It’s one of only four home brewers certified by the SCAA. I don’t want to believe this contraption can brew something as complex as my (increasingly sophisticated) efforts, but it does. Or it can, I should say.

The Moccamaster’s performance reminds me of something Ryan Jensen, owner of Peregrine Espresso, told me recently: Large-batch brewers may one day reclaim specialty coffee shops. Think of it as the rise of the machines, again.

“The next wave is actually not doing manual brewing,” Jensen says. It’s sort of an admission, he adds, that “machines are better at this than humans.”


It’s not about the caffeine!

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I truly enjoy bringing our coffee out to public venues and sharing it with people. Interacting with folks from all walks of life. It is definitely one of the perks for me. I confess that one thing that irks me are people who only want to drink coffee for the “caffeine kick”. Sometimes I want to shout “It is not about the caffeine. It’s about the taste! If caffeine is all you desire, just pop a pill!”  Alas, my wife holds me back from reacting like that.

There are highly caffeinated coffee beans available on the market that contain up to 50% more caffeine. They are not specialty grade and they honestly taste terrible. In fact, in my original business plan we were going to offer a “geek blend” for programmers and gamers to offer a highly caffeinated coffee. However, when we adopted the tag line “The world’s finest coffee roasted fresh for you” we made the commitment to only buy, roast and sell specialty grade coffee.

What Tap Dancers Specialty Coffee is all about is a lifestyle that appreciates and enjoys life to the fullest. We feel that life is too short to drink bad tasting coffee. While getting up is not always a pleasant experience, drinking that first cup of coffee does bring a simple but wonderful joy into our lives that helps us start our day. When coffee tastes this good, it is also something that can be enjoyed at various times of the day and in great drink and food recipes.

So let’s focus on the taste, not the caffeine.  When you are at an age where you have more years behind you than ahead of you, you will never regret the choices in life when you decided to simply experience the best.


Rwandan Coffee Farmers Turn Premium Beans Into Harvest Gold

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I found this article on and I wanted to share this with MICHAELEEN DOUCLEFF

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Photos: Courtesy of Jonathan Kalan

Yesterday on All Things Considered, Allison Aubrey explained how coffee is the new wine — or, at least, how our morning brew is catching up with the evening Chardonnay in terms of our appreciation for its flavor and textures. And that’s piquing our interest in learning where our coffee comes from.

So, we wondered, how does this new trend impact coffee farmers around the world? On Twitter, we stumbled on Jonathan Kalan, a freelance photographer and journalist in Africa, who just happens to have returned from visiting coffee farms in Rwanda.

Coffee from Rwanda, you say? Believe it. About 10 years ago, Rwandan farmers started selling premium coffee instead of plain-old joe. Now its coffee fetches some of the world’s highest prices and is sought after by coffee giants and gurus around the world, including Starbucks. We caught up with Kalan, and asked him a few questions about his recent work, featured above.

Q: What’s it like on a coffee farm in Rwanda?

A: Aptly named the “Land of a Thousand Hills,” Rwanda has endless rolling, green hills dotted with banana trees, tin-roofed houses and small farms. In Western Rwanda, where it’s ideal for growing coffee, the altitude is around 5,600 feet, and steep hills plunge into the crystal blue banks of Lake Kivu.

There are about 400,000 families who farm coffee in Rwanda, and most of them live in small mud and brick houses, or a concrete house, when they are better off. The average family owns around 450 coffee trees, but they also harvest sorghum, beans, sweet potatoes and vegetables.

Q: Why did Rwandan farmers switch from growing regular coffee to growing premium coffee?

A: Rwandan farmers didn’t switch beans to start producing specialty coffee; they simply switched their methods. Unlike regular coffee, premium beans must be fully washed, and they must score at least 80 points on a quality scale. Many factors influence the score, from climate and soil quality to the time between when the ripe coffee cherries are picked and dropped off for processing.

Coffee has been a major source of revenue for Rwanda since it was introduced by German missionaries a century ago. For most of this time, the state controlled nearly all stages of production. Beans were exported as regular, unwashed coffee, and farmers were given a set price by the government. Farmers clearly had little incentive to produce specialty coffee, or invest in better production, harvesting and washing methods.

But then, after the genocide, the coffee industry was privatized. This opened up new markets and avenues for selling coffee.

Q: How did the farmers learn to grow and produce top-grade coffees?

A: Many people credit a project called PEARL for kickstarting the specialty coffee industry in Rwanda. PEARL is a collaboration among Texas A&M, the U.S. Agency for International Development and Rwanda’s Ministry of Education.

Since 2000, PEARL has trained young Rwandan students in agronomy (because most people with expertise in this field either fled the country or were killed during the 1994 genocide), cupping and quality-control management. They also built new washing stations and formed farmer cooperatives, which was key because cooperatives give farmers more control of their product and a further economic stake in the quality of their coffee.

Q: Premium coffee beans can cost five times more than regular ones. Do the farmers actually reap the benefits of these high prices?

A: Definitely. In 2000, farmers from Rwanda’s first coffee cooperative earned around $0.20 for one kilogram of ordinary coffee. In 2011, these same farmers got roughly $3.50 per kilogram. That’s a pretty monumental difference.

Take the case of Uwimana Immaculee, a farmer in southern Rwanda. For years, she and her family had been struggling to produce beans, sorghum and other small crops, with little financial success. Seeing her neighbors benefit from specialty coffee, she decided to take a risk and invest her family savings in 100 coffee trees.

She has never looked back.

Uwimana’s farm has tripled in size now. This season she sold 700 kilograms of freshly picked coffee cherries to a local specialty coffee washing station, earning over $350, which is no small change in rural Rwanda.

The extra money from coffee has helped her put two children through school, build a new house and even invest in new land to expand her plantation.

Q: What was your favorite memory of visiting a Rwandan coffee farm?

A: When I was touring the coffee washing stations with an eclectic group of international buyers, one of the U.S. buyers had tattoos of coffee cherries up his arm. When one of the local women in a tiny village saw it, the whole village erupted in laughter. Tattoos are quite taboo in Rwanda, but here is some self-proclaimed coffee geek who has cherries — the economic lifeblood of her and her family — inked on his arms.

Coffee Brewing Tips

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Lately, I have been asked a lot of questions about how to brew a better cup of coffee. I’ve heard a few people who tasted our coffee at an event say, “It somehow doesn’t taste the same when I make it at home.” Since I am a passionate coffee geek, I use all the steps listed below. However, if you just incorporate just one of these things to your brewing methods you will find a nice improvement to your coffee enjoyment.

Let’s start with the obvious to get it out of the way. Start with fresh roasted Tap Dancers Specialty Coffee. Fresh roasted coffee is only fresh for 2-3 weeks. After that it is stale coffee. Store the coffee in the air tight bag that the coffee comes in and squeeze the air out through the one way degassing valve. I will refrain from discussing the cost of these bags or the many different features they have at this time but know that we have bought the best.

Use filtered water. Besides not having a pleasant taste, water from the tap has minerals that will create mineral build up in your brewer. This build up will weaken the brewer’s heating ability to get the water to the proper temperature. I personally prefer distilled water but again I tend to go to extremes.

There are a plethora of brewing methods. The most important feature of all of them is to get the water to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Too cold and the coffee becomes bitter, too hot and the coffee becomes sour. Because one can control the temperature with all the pour over methods, that is the main reason they work so well. I feel our Clever Dripper is the best of all the pour over systems. If you bought the $30.00 coffee brewer you can be assured that it is not getting the water hot enough.  At home we use a Technivorm-Moccamaster. There are no bells or whistles on this brewer… simple gets the water to 200 degrees.

Water to coffee ratio is probably the hardest concept to conquer. The best way I have found to get a consistent ratio is to use a kitchen scale and a calculator. The ratio I prefer to use is 17:1. Weigh the water you use in your pot an divide that number by 17 and that will tell you how much whole bean coffee to use. A lower ratio will give you a sweeter coffee and a higher ratio will bring out the bitter parts of the coffee.

Why the ‘slow coffee’ movement is gaining ground?

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Here is an article from It talks about where the trend in coffee is headed. The use of espresso based drinks is dying and specialty grade brewed coffee is gaining momentum. While I know there are plans for a couple of these type coffee houses in the works for Omaha. You can enjoy this fabulous coffee in your home now.

By Lisa Baertlein, Marcy Nicholson and Martinne Geller, Reuters

Posted at 06/03/2013 9:40 AM | Updated as of 06/03/2013 6:08 PM


A barista prepares a coffee drink at Sightglass, a coffee bar and roastery, in San Francisco, California May 8, 2013. Photo by Robert Galbraith, Reuters

For exotic coffee connoisseurs like Geoff Watts, the search for the perfect bean isn’t the solitary quest it once was.

On a recent visit to Ethiopia’s southern Yirgacheffe region eight hours from Addis Ababa, the buyer for Intelligentsia Coffee bumped into a familiar face.

“I saw a random white guy walking around in a field, and it turned out he was a friend and competitor,” said Watts.

U.S. craft coffee purveyors are getting less lonely. The segment is a small but growing slice of the $27.9 billion U.S. coffee market, which has increased in recent years at an annual average rate of 5.6 percent and is expected to reach $33.7 billion by 2018, according to research firm IBISWorld, though it does not yet separate revenues for high-end purveyors.

Small bi-coastal chains Intelligentsia, Blue Bottle Coffee and Stumptown Coffee Roasters lead the so-called “third wave” or “slow coffee” movement, while industry behemoth Starbucks Corp shows off its craft roots selling limited-supply “reserve” coffees for up to $50 for a half-pound bag.

The new generation of upscale coffee shops and roasters includes dozens of operators around the country. They are in a race to find rare and distinctive beans and hope to elevate one of the world’s oldest and most popular drinks in the same way that craft beer brewers, boutique wineries and olive oil makers won fans by focusing on high-quality ingredients and production.

During the last two years, private equity firms, venture capitalists and wealthy individuals such as former professional skateboarder Tony Hawk, and tech luminaries Instagram Chief Executive Kevin Systrom and Jack Dorsey, a co-founder of Twitter and Square, have poured in well over $55 million – including a large cash jolt for San Francisco-based Philz Coffee in May.

Not your typical retirement investors, they are often coffee connoisseurs themselves and are eager to capitalize on the new breed of enthusiasts who were raised on espressos and lattes popularized by Starbucks.

Customers are willing to pay dearly for their java habit – $80 for a half-pound of rare, roasted beans and $3 and up for a cup of individually prepared “pour over,” high-tech “siphon” coffee, or old school espresso. Those prices are as much as triple the cost for an average cup of coffee and bean prices are at least 10 times more.

Sales are expected to climb as the U.S. job market improves and more Americans treat coffee as an experience rather than a utilitarian pick-me-up, said IBISWorld analyst Andrew Krabeepetcharat.

But experts also wonder if there will be enough demand beyond wealthy, urban enclaves to support meaningful growth and whether getting bigger would hurt the mystique that fueled the craft operators in the first place.

“I don’t think the (exotic) market is that big,” said Bonnie Riggs, restaurant analyst for the NPD Group’s foodservice unit. While many people may try such coffees as a treat, winning the loyal, frequent users needed to support significant growth will be a challenge, she said.

Blue Bottle founder James Freeman and his peers say they do not aspire to Wall Street-style expansions, nor the pricey exclusivity of high-end wine.

For around $5, “you can have an incredible experience at a high-end coffee bar and get something impeccably sourced and roasted and made,” said Freeman. “It’s the democratization of luxury.”


The new movement is built on the success of Starbucks, whose founder and CEO Howard Schultz often speaks of the “romance” and “theater” of coffee and is credited with pioneering coffee’s “second wave” by shifting the masses from cheap, hours-old brew to fresh-made drinks from premium beans.

With some 12,900 cafes in its U.S.-dominated Americas region, Starbucks holds the biggest share of the country’s coffee market with 18.7 percent of revenue, according to IBISWorld. That figure shows how competitive and fragmented the business is in the United States, where local cafes, fast-food chains and even gas stations peddle coffee and lattes.

“We are all focused on that highest quality cup of coffee and there is room for everyone to grow,” said Craig Russell, senior vice president of Global Coffee for Starbucks.

Seattle-based Starbucks is a major buyer of artisan beans, going up against rivals like Chicago-based Intelligentsia, which sells half-pound (8-ounce) bags of its Santuario Geisha roast from Colombia for $80.50 and expects to grow to 12 stores this year from nine.

“The third wave of coffee really is about understanding the craft and the lifestyle of coffee,” said Instagram CEO Systrom, a self-described coffee addict and one of a group of investors led by True Ventures and Index Ventures that poured $20 million into San Francisco-based Blue Bottle late last year.

He and fellow investor Hawk, who said he kicked in $100,000, also advise Blue Bottle on its growth plans.

Investment opportunities appear limited to the very wealthy – but it is not for a lack of effort from fans of the cafes.

“We get all sorts of weird inquiries all the time,” said Sightglass co-founder Jerad Morrison, who did accept startup capital from Dorsey, a personal friend.

Baristas at the new coffee shops often sport handlebar mustaches, bow ties or suspenders. They spend long moments lovingly tamping espresso, coaxing clever designs from frothy cappuccino milk, or coaching customers as they select beans.

It is a time-consuming process that bears little resemblance to the button-operated speed and efficiency of Starbucks’ current generation of espresso machines.

The third wave caters to fanatics like Northern California author Bill Tancer, 47, who said a “coffee concierge” opened his eyes to a new world of coffee during a visit to Philz, which received an “eight figure” investment from Summit Partners, a private equity firm. TechCrunch reported that the infusion was in the $15 million to $25 million range.

Summit and Philz declined to comment.

“We had this back and forth about what I was looking for in a cup of coffee – did I want rich, light, more acid, flowery?” said Tancer, who since has become a home roaster.

“There are so many coffees out there to discover. It’s a bit of an adventure,” he said.


In 2011, Portland, Oregon-based Stumptown, which has nine coffee bars, took a large investment from TSG Consumer Partners, a private equity firm. The parties declined to quantify it, but two sources familiar with the deal said it was in the area of $20 million to $25 million and constituted a controlling stake.

The sources declined to be identified because the information is not public.

Some die-hard fans fretted that the craft coffee trend-setter had sold out, considering that TSG has a strong track record of investing in small brands, helping them grow, and selling them to large corporations. Indeed, one of its most notable investments was a stake in vitaminwater maker Glaceau, which was ultimately sold to Coca-Cola Co for $4 billion.

TSG declined to comment, but Stumptown’s new president, Joth Ricci, said maintaining the brand’s identity would be a major factor in any future deal.

“You figure out the right fit for a brand. Some work really well and some don’t,” Ricci said.

Customers said Stumptown’s quality remains high, even if it now seems a little more corporate.

“I’ve definitely seen them go from their scrappy roots to almost acting like a franchise. … It feels a little less genuine but, I don’t think the quality has gone down at all,” said videogame maker Lindsay Gupton, 47, who lives in Seattle.

While he is still loyal to Stumptown, Gupton is on the lookout for coffee’s “fourth wave.”

“I’m such a coffee purist. I’m always going to seek out the latest, greatest,” said Gupton.


Let’s talk about crack!

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I have been toying with removing the roast type from the labels on our coffee. You know …..the part that indicates if the coffee is a dark roast or a medium roast. Too many people relate the roast type to strength. Understandably so since in Coffee shops and grocery stores the dark roasts are often bitter and strong.

In the specialty grade roastmaster world, the roast type is referring to “crack”. Before you head off into a different tangent, “crack” is referring to the noise the coffee bean makes during the roast. The first crack is made when the center membrane of the bean breaks. If you listen to the beans it will sound a lot like popcorn popping. First a few will crack and then a bunch will crack and then it slows down until the remaining beans crack. The second crack happens when the walls of the cells break. This is a much quieter crack. In fact it is so quiet I make sure to not have any music in the background or I might miss it.

A light roast or a “blond roast” as Starbucks calls it describes when the beans are “dropped” (brought out of the roaster) just after the first crack is finished. A light roast truly does produce a light taste. I spoke with a roaster in Louisiana and because people there grew up with chicory added coffee and sweet tea, he sells a lot of light roasts. I offered a wonderful light roast last year and it just didn’t sale here in Omaha so I discontinued it.

A medium roast is when the beans are dropped just before or just at the second crack. Some coffee purist think that this is the only way coffee should be roasted. Typically, a medium roast is going to be bright where the floral and fruity notes are predominate. On a personal note, while I like fruity notes in coffee I do not like coffees with flowery aromas so I doubt if we’ll ever offer a flowery coffee.

A dark roast is when the second crack is fully developed. As a coffee is roasted darker the brightness (citric acid)  is roasted out and the lower notes (chocolate and nuts) are brought out.

Our extra dark roast is 30 seconds after the second crack has fully developed. This is the darkest I will go with a roast since any longer will produce a burnt taste. It will take out most of the acidity and leave you with a silky smooth and the flavor hits the back of the tongue coffee.

I hope this helps clear up some confusion about the different type of roasts. It was hard for me not to get into more detail about the artisanship of a true roast master because it is a whole lot more that dumping the beans in and dropping them out when they hit a certain color.


We support the small business owner.

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{In my email last week I had a little blurb about not being able to be at the farmers markets because we were not compliant with new state statutes. After talking with some of you, it turns out that I was too cryptic and I need to clear things up. Below is the full story.}

“We support the small business owner.”  That was a phrase I have heard several times in the past couple of weeks from county commissioners, bureaucrats, supervisors and inspectors. In fact, I started hearing that phrase 2 days after I just invested all our cash on hand into purchasing raw coffee beans. Again I heard the phrase just after I was told I could not roast coffee until I have a $6,000.00 commercial kitchen installed in our warehouse.
Before I started Tap Dancers Specialty Coffee last year, I checked out all the rules and regulations to make sure I was compliant with all the laws in the State of Nebraska. Importing coffee and roasting coffee falls under USDA regulations. There were absolutely no regulations from the state, county, or city for roasting coffee. So with the help of my specialty coffee consultant, I established industry best standards for storing, roasting and packaging coffee so we could offer the best product possible.

On Monday April 29th I got a call from the Omaha farmers market stating I did not have a health permit from Douglas County. I explained that I did not need a permit because serving coffee at a farmers market does not require one. My wife even forwarded the Farmer’s Market rules from the Douglas County Health Department’s own website where it specifically states it in the 2nd paragraph

After making several calls to the Douglas county health department, I was told on Thursday, May 2nd that I needed to install a commercial kitchen at my warehouse and until it was done I could not roast any coffee for the Farmer’s Market. I called my lawyer to see if I had any options. It turns out that the state of Nebraska made sweeping changes to the laws in the middle of 2012 which now requires me and every other roasters and beverage companies in Nebraska to have a commercial kitchen. It really would have been nice for them to let us know.  We called around to find that other business are still operating in the old system and are also oblivious to the new laws so we are definitely not alone.

I had to make a decision. I could try and get permission to continue operating, which would involve paying my lawyer to write a letter requesting a “temporary variance” and wait for an answer and then still have to pay the expense to install a commercial kitchen? Or, believe the plumbing contractor who looked me in the eye and told me he could have it done in 2 days.

I needed to make sure that it was possible to add a commercial kitchen to our warehouse. So, I spoke with the health department inspector and made an appointment for him to come out Monday the 6th to give me a list of everything I needed to qualify for a permit. Well, he could not make it on Monday and I had to wait till Tuesday afternoon. I finally got the list, called the contractor and got to work on Wednesday thinking it would all be done and approved on Thursday the 9th and I could roast into late that night and be making money. Let’s just say that on Friday the 10th the plumbers left and nothing was connected.  We are now hoping for them to finish by the morning of May 14th!

My wife loves to look at the bright side, “Well, at least we will be the first roaster in full compliance to the new laws.”, she said.  We have tried to figure out what we will do with all of our new sinks (3 stainless dish sinks, a new hand sink to add to the 2 we already had and a mopping station sink) since roasting requires no water and the water we use for brewing and rinsing airpots are all bottled water.  I guess we should start keeping fresh flowers in our warehouse so we have a reason to turn on the faucet every once in a while.

We have currently lost 2 weeks of anticipated Farmer’s Market income, with a chance to lose a third week. People have asked me “what can we do to help?” One answer is….buy a bag of coffee on line to help us pay for all of this.  For those of you who believe in prayer, we would greatly appreciate that first and foremost.  We do trust that God will work it all out and we will be the better for it.  As our pastor once said, “It is true that when God closes one door, He will open another BUT it sure is hell in the hallway.”