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Part one: Behind the scenes of Chattanooga coffee roasteries

Have you ever wondered how your local cup of coffee is made? We went to five roasteries in town and found out more about their process.

NOOGAtoday | coffee plant

Learn about the work and process behind your local cup of coffee.

Photo provided by @goodmancoffeeroasters

Table of Contents

This piece is part of our Q+A series. Do you know someone we should interview? Let us know.

We asked you all a while ago what coffee roasteries in Chattanooga you would want to learn more about, and we sat down with five of them to learn more about the process from their shop to your cup.

New Wave Coffee Roasters

With its first roast in March of 2021, this newer roasting business is a sister company to Be Caffeinated. Hear from the owner Luke Pigott on his process.

Q: How did you get into roasting?

A: I got started in specialty coffee probably back in 2008, I used to live in a town called Hattiesburg, MI. I started roasting a bit in my garage, and started a teeny, tiny, goofy company with my college roommate.

The owners of Be Caffeinated are also from Hattiesburg. They asked me what would I make a coffee company look like — the idea of New Wave is taking some parts of the second wave of coffee culture, like the late 90s, and then some parts of the third wave that is the more scientific side of it.

Q: Where do you source your beans from, and what does that relationship look like?

A: My philosophy on green coffee sourcing is you kind of have to scale your sourcing connections to the size of your company. I know that New Wave isn’t a super big company, so I really wanted to utilize the buying impact that I do have. I found a partnership with a green coffee importer in North Carolina that owns a couple farms in Honduras + works with other farms and buy directly from them. I would say it’s as close to direct trade as you can get.

Usually, there’s two, and often three or four, countries that are represented in our offerings, but Honduras tends to be the backbone. I try to buy coffees that are all good specialty-grade coffee, but that is still accessible to people in Chattanooga.

Q: Can you break down the process, and what you like to get from the beans?

A: We roast and package here, it’s all done by hand. I feel like something that probably makes my approach to coffee different is I don’t sell coffees with a roast designation like “light,” “medium,” or “dark.” In the roasting process, a lot of different things are happening, we use a traditional drum-style roasting machine.

In the first phase of the roast, moisture is cooked out of the green coffee. The second phase, which is what we call the Maillard Reaction phase, the beans turn yellow and slowly also turn brown — it’s a non-enzymatic browning chemical reaction, it’s the same reaction as toasting a piece of bread. The final stage, I call the caramelization phase, it’s the phase that determines how dark the coffee is.

Q: What does your distribution look like?

A: It’s always changing, right now we’re at any location of Be Caffeinated, The Daily Ration, Shady’s Corner, Naughty Cat Café, and places like that. You can also order online.

Q: What drives you to roast, and what message do you want your coffee to say?

A: Right now, I’m probably driven by education and the roasting process itself. We’re discussing with a developer to build a roasting and production facility, that could be in two to three years, but it is a conversation that is happening that I think people will be excited about.

Bonus: New Wave currently has a microlot series “Oscillator” that features a more experimental-style specialty coffee.

NOOGAtoday | Goodman Roaster farm

The crew at Goodman Coffee Roasters have visited the farms they get beans from to maintain the close relationships.

Photo provided by Goodman Coffee Roasters

Goodman Coffee Roasters

The roastery side of Goodman Coffee began in 2016. Hear from the owner Ian Goodman on his process.

Q: How did you get into roasting?

A: I started my first coffee job in 1991 at a small shop roaster. I was enthralled with the whole café culture and coffee, my senior year at Covenant I started Greyfriar’s, and I owned that for 12 years before I sold it. I did something else for a while, but I missed coffee.

Q: Where do you source your beans from, and what does that relationship look like?

A: I would say 60% of the coffees, we have a direct relationship with the farms, and then the rest of the coffees, I use a broker. I’ve always had a heart for the communities that grow coffee, and having that connection with the farm enables us to build that relationship and grow with them. Finding ways that we can work directly with the farm to help them be more financially stable, that’s really crucial and important.

I have closer relationships with Central and South America, but we work connections in Congo and Rwanda.

Q: Can you break down the process, and what you like to get from the beans?

A: We’ll test the moisture of the coffee to get some insight into roasting, understanding how the coffee was processed, I would approach a washed coffee differently than a natural coffee. We’ll try to dial in a roast profile, and once we get it, we’ll try to match it every single time.

I want to roast in a way that highlights the work of the farmer, more than the effects of the roasting. I’m trying to pull out what is inherent in the bean. For me personally, my favorite coffees are the more fruity ones with exciting flavors, we’ve seen in the last decade an explosion on experimenting with fermentation on the farms.

Q: What does your distribution look like?

A: Six months after starting roasting, we got the opportunity for the Warehouse Row location. There’s offices and churches, shops around town and in North Georgia that carry our beans, and ship retail all over the country.

Q: What drives you to roast, and what message do you want your coffee to say?

A: I’m driven to continue just as a passion for the product, and I love sharing that with other people. I also really love the relationships I’ve built around the world and getting to know these farmers.

NOOGAtoday | MeanMug roast

Mean Mug Coffee Roasters used to roast inside its Northshore location before relocating to its own facility in 2022.

Photo by NOOGAtoday

Mean Mug Coffee Roasters

This roastery behind Mean Mug Coffeehouse began in 2017. Hear from the owner Monica Smith + head roaster Dean Johnson on their process.

Q: How did you get into roasting?

Monica: We started in 2011 with the brick + mortar shop. I didn’t first envision this is where we would be, once we expanded to the second location, we started thinking we wanted to grow this and after opening multiple shops, we realized we would have to roast our own beans for it to make sense and be self-sufficient. Around 2015 was when we really started thinking about roasting.

Q: Where do you source your beans from, and what does that relationship look like?

Monica: We source our beans mostly from Cafe Imports, and they are an in-between with these farms. We see what they have in supply seasonally. We have one family that we work with in Canton, GA, Alma Coffee Roasters, they’re family-run and own a coffee farm in Honduras, I believe its fifth generation, woman-run. We’ve built a good relationship with them.

Dean: I’ll look to see what they have and tasting notes, especially if we haven’t had something in a while, like a Kenya or something. It depends on what flavor we want to get out of our seasonal blends.

Q: Can you break down the process, and what you like to get from the beans?

Dean: A lot of it will depend on the tasting notes they gave us are, we will also sometimes do a sample roast and cup it to see what it tastes like. Usually, it will take us a roast or two to get it dialed in. After the first roast, we’ll cup it and see where it sits to tell if it’s too dark, or acidic. It all depends on how the coffee is acting in the roaster and what the cupping tells us.

With blends, I’ll start by cupping all of the coffees to try to find the best-case scenario of the coffees meeting. For example, I’ll take some tasting notes I really like and mix it with a lower coffee like a Brazil to calm it down a bit and find the equilibrium, and even retry ratios.

Q: What does your distribution look like?

Monica: We’ve always been like, start small and then grow, so Publix was our first time branching out outside of local shops and restaurants, it was the first one to see what we could do next in regional sales. We’ve been doing that for a little over a year. We’ve opened to franchising, and are trying to push the envelope on that. We have our four shops and about 20-30 wholesale accounts.

Q: What drives you to roast, and what message do you want your coffee to say?

Monica: We’ve always approached what we do with a very humble attitude. We’re always trying to see what we can do better, and we all want our brand to be recognized regionally, bringing a good quality product that’s approachable. We’re flexible with our accounts, we’ve done some co-branding accounts and want to be as hands-on as they want us with training.

Dean: Sharing the coffee, for me, getting to work with our wholesale accounts, I like figuring out what they need and how we can do better. We want to be a good resource.

Stay tuned for an inside look at two more roasteries in part two.

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