By: Chris Vigilante

Looking for the Best Coffee Roaster in Washington DC?

Our company has been fortunate to be a part of great cities and communities like Washington D.C. & Hyattsville, MD.  We’ve also been fortunate to be awarded Best Pop Up (2013) , Best Coffee (2015) , Best Coffee (2016) by the Washington Post & Washington City Paper.  While we don’t do what we do to win awards, it does help tell us we’re doing things right.  That we’re roasting coffee for the city that loves to drink great Vigilante Coffee.  

All our coffee is roasted in our Hyattsville Roastery where we manually roast in 26lb batches. The coffee roasting process allows us to have greater control over the quality of product we serve in our cafe, the bags of beans available in our online store, and to our wholesale partners.

Unless you’re a coffee aficionado, it’s unlikely that you even knew that coffee beans are roasted. With that in mind, we thought our customers would appreciate coffee as much as we do by understanding how we roast can influence the taste of the coffee and what goes into making a great cup they can enjoy at 7am or as an afternoon pick me up.

DC Coffee Roaster

Coffee as it first comes out of the roaster

What Makes The Best Coffee Roaster?

Roasting coffee in its simplest form is like a giant dryer. We place “cherry sods” aka coffee seeds into a heated drum.  The drum is heated by two infrared burners that apply heat to the drum. The drum then in turn applies heat to the coffee seeds.  So, the coffee seeds are receiving indirect heat.  

Over the course of 12-15 minutes our roasters (who roast everything manually and do not rely on computerization to tell us when our coffee has reached its peak roast temperature, and profile) adjust the heat, the air flow, and overall time to develop a “recipe” or “roast profile” for that particular coffee bean.  

The coffee seeds go through at least 26 different chemical reactions (that we know of) while in the roasting process. One of the reactions that plays a large role in the development of flavor is the “malliard reaction” aka the caramelization of natural sugars within the coffee seed. Each bean can have different amounts of sugar based on the region, farm and growth process.   Our goal, as specialty coffee roasters, is to highlight the “Terrior” aka “taste of the land” from where that coffee comes from while also ensuring we “brown” the sugars within the coffee seeds.

By roasting with this goal in mind we allow the coffee to truly speak for itself and unleash the inherent taste qualities that lie within the coffee seed to come out and be easily detectable.  This care for the flavor is one of the main reasons we roast in small batches. Although more time consuming this greater attention to detail can be very rewarding for the end user when they drink our coffee.

Many large scale operations can have less consistency in the amount of heat applied to each batch. This could result in you having a different tasting cup of coffee in the same bag! In order to avoid this type of result, it’s not uncommon that many industrial roasters will use a dark profile.

Coffee Beans at Roasting Stages

A look at the difference in coffee beans at each stage of the roasting process

Dark, Medium or Light Roast?

How long a coffee is roasted determines the weight and moisture of the coffee. The longer the coffee is in the roaster, the more moisture and weight it loses. From a flavor standpoint a darker coffee will be the most full, while a lightly roasted coffee will have the most caffeine.

Many people think that a dark or a french roast will give them the most caffeine, however this is not true. The caffeine is a byproduct of the amount of water held in the coffee.

The longer the coffee is in the roaster, the less caffeine it usually has due to the loss of water. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the light roast may have more caffeine, however it may also retain some flavors from the bean that can be less desirable.

For instance, some light roasts may have a taste of grass or vegetables. This could be due to the process, drying method or other reasons, but it is also something that can be avoided by roasting the coffee longer.

Vigilante Coffee uses mostly medium roasting profiles for a balance of caffeine and flavor. We have found that medium roasted coffees produce the strong flavor we desire and enough caffeine that can keep you going with just one cup.

Once a roast is completed we recommend enjoying the coffee within 3 weeks of the roast date for optimum freshness and quality. An easy way to always keep fresh coffee in your home is to order a coffee subscription from our shop. You’ll enjoy regular delivery of freshly roasted coffee right to your doorstep. 

Choose the frequency and amount of coffee you want.  In addition, we refer to our subscribers as “Vigilantes”  and all “Vigilantes” receive great benefits, dibs on early releases of the seasons best coffees, and rewards for choosing Vigilante Coffee as their roaster!   Click here to view available options.