By Peter Daining
Micro coffee roasters are going the way of microbreweries in West Michigan.
While there was once a day when only a few roasters dotted the West Michigan lakeshore, they are now starting to pop up everywhere. And just like their brewery cousins, there are a few big names in the West Michigan coffee roasting game.
Ferris Coffee and Nut in Grand Rapids has been around for nearly a century, and Magnum Coffee Roastery outside Grand Haven is 25 years old. But neither of these companies are micro. Ferris sells coffee in the foodservice industry, and Magnum produces coffee brands for grocery and national retail chains.
Since Ferris is building its own brand of coffee and snacks and Magnum creates brands for other companies, they don’t directly compete with each other.
Ferris has more than 100 employees listed on its website, and Magnum has 45 employees, according to Rob Johnson, Magnum’s vice president of sales and marketing.
Johnson, who has lived in large metros like New York City, Houston, and Atlanta, says he’s seen Grand Rapids grow up in the last 15-plus years, along with the rest of West Michigan.
“Grand Rapids has grown exponentially,” Johnson said. “It used to be one of those small Midwest towns, but now it is a force to be reckoned with as a growing midsize town.”
The same combination of affluence and youth that has spurred on the microbrewery industry in West Michigan has allowed for many small coffee roasters to pop up and flourish. Johnson credits the millennial generation for expecting more from their coffee – not only do they care about the taste, but also where and how the beans are grown.
So for businesses like Magnum, roasting beans and sampling the resulting coffee is a daily exercise. The goal is to find beans that are among the top 5 percent in the world.
“We search for a specific origin based on growth and weather,” Johnson said. “Our motto is it only takes one bad cup of coffee to lose a customer forever.”
More than half of American adults drink at least one cup of coffee a day, according to Harvard University’s school of public health. With so many coffee drinkers around, a pound of locally roasted beans may be the perfect gift idea for someone on your Christmas list.
Check out this list of local coffee roasters. All of them sell their coffee online, and many of the coffees can also be found in coffee shops or other retail establishments.
Before you buy it, though, you’ll have to figure out what kind of coffee your loved one enjoys and how they prefer to prepare their coffee. For example, Water Street Coffee Roaster in Kalamazoo sells its coffee in eight different ways: whole bean, cold brew, French press, automatic drip, Chemex, Aeropress, Hario, and expresso.
Each of these is simply a different way to grind beans depending on the preparation. If you go the whole bean route, make sure the person you’re giving the beans to has a coffee grinder at home.
You can expect to pay about $15 per pound of coffee beans. Compare that to a national brand like Folgers, which is about $12 per pound. More and more West Michiganders are finding that the $3 difference is well worth it.
Grand Rapids Area
Ferris Coffee and Nut, 227 Winter Avenue, ferriscoffee.com
Rowster Coffee, 632 Wealthy Street SE, rowstercoffee.com
Madcap Coffee Company, 1041 E. Fulton Street, madcapcoffee.com
Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters, 1111 Godfrey Avenue SW, grandrapidscoffee.com
Schuil Coffee Co., 3679 29th Street, schuilcoffee.com
Jamnbean Coffee Company, 6860 Cascade Road SE, jamnbean.com
Joe’s Brother Coffee, joesbrothercoffee.com
Magnum Coffee Roastery, 1 Java Boulevard, Nunica, magnumcoffee.com
Simpatico Coffee, 714 Michigan Avenue, Holland, simpaticocoffee.com
Uncommon Coffee Roasters, 6785 Enterprise Road, Douglas, uncommoncoffeeroasters.com
Schooner Coffee Roaster, Muskegon, schoonercoffeeroaster.com
Kalamazoo Coffee Company, 414 Walbridge Street, kalamazoocoffeecompany.com
Water Street Coffee Roaster, 610 West Willard Street, waterstreetcoffeeroaster.com