Over the past few decades, the way America thinks about coffee has changed dramatically. Just as the rest of the food and beverage world has seen a shift away from high-volume, low-quality production and toward local, deliberately crafted options, coffee has evolved from its days as little more than brown diner sludge. Today, we’re living in the best era ever for quality coffee.
Like wine and beer before it, specialty coffee is finally getting its due as a complex, varied and exciting beverage. Coffee used to be seen as a commodity—lumped together in bulk, regardless of quality, and roasted dark to mask the flavor—but today the best beans are praised for the subtle flavor notes that differ based on the origin of the beans, the elevation at which they were grown, and dozens of other factors, just like the region in which a wine is grown might affect its taste. The old-fashioned coffee pot is out of style, and manual pour overs, which offer more clarity, are in. If you thought your daily trip to Dunkin’ Donuts made you a coffee snob, think again.
“Companies like Starbucks and Peet's opened people’s minds to what coffee could be, but [they] had stopped short of really completing the story,” says Chris Kornman, a roaster and quality control pro at Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago.
Stepping up to the plate are craft roasters, who engage in practices like sourcing their coffees from the best farms on the planet and roasting the beans in ways that highlight their unique characteristics. Tons of these companies have sprung up in recent years, and hardly any city is without a specialty roaster putting out coffee intended to be savored. Some of these companies have become national brands, while others remain regional favorites, relegated to a few select coffee shops for those in the know.
Long story short, it’s time to step your coffee game up. Just like discerning dudes should know what breweries are putting out great beers, the modern man needs to know where to turn for a cup (or a bag) of quality coffee. Cutting-edge coffee shops are increasingly offering lineups of multiple roasters to choose from, just like a wine bar might, while others are giving customers the chance to choose what equipment they’d like their coffee prepared with. And anybody can get some of the best coffee in the world by heading online. How can you navigate all of this and make sure your coffee dollars (we didn’t say this new era was cheap) are well spent? Know the roasters that are consistently putting out a great product and pushing the industry forward. Here are the Best Coffee Roasters in the U.S. Right Now.