Coffee Common: roasters roast one other at TED


Last week I was excited to announce the birth of Coffee Common, a project of coffee enthusiasts (one of them being me) coming together to improve the experience of coffee for both industry and consumers. I mentioned that to kick off the launch, the project organizers and a handful of baristas from around the world will be spending this week in conjunction with the TED conference talking about (and serving) a few noteworthy selections from a select group of roasters.

We narrowed our list to the roasters we know have beautiful coffees with clarity and balance on their offering menus—and, who would be able to produce, roast and ship enough coffee to meet the needs of the thirsty TED attendees, at their own expense.

Normally, these roasters would consider each others competition, but the Coffee Common project is about collaboration. So we had an idea. We could write a short introduction for each included roaster, or we could assign each participating roaster the task of writing the intro for one of the others - knowing very well that one of the others would be writing theirs as well. This sounded much more interesting to us. After all, your fans can gush about you, but what your competition says may be more telling. So with that in mind...

Intelligentsia - introduced by James Hoffman of Square Mile Coffee
Stumptown - Introduced by Benjamin Kaminsky of Ritual Roasters
Has Bean - Introduced by Peter Giuliano of Counter Culture Coffee
Square Mile - Introduced by Trevor Corlett of Madcap Coffee
Ritual Roasters - Intriduced by George Howell of Terroir Coffee
Terroir Coffee - Introduced by Steve Leighton of Has Bean

More introductions will be posted soon. As TED kicks off today and everyone will finally be together in person, we'll be posting interviews, videos and dishing out the info throughout the week on and on twitter @coffeecommon.
(photo of Ritual Roasters by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid)


  1. Coffee preference varies so widely among individuals (one person’s OMG is another’s WTF) that I don’t see how you can come up with universal principles about “good” and “bad” coffee.

    1. One persons preference of a certain kind of wine over another doesn’t negate accepted standards about what makes wine good or bad. Preference and quality aren’t mutually exclusive either – I have friends who swear they prefer $10 boxed wine over anything they get served in restaurants. Same goes for coffee – you and I may have individual preferences, but that doesn’t mean either one of us could get hired as a professional coffee taster.

    2. Couldn’t agree more. I’m baffled as to how Starbucks became so popular selling such awful coffee. But lots and lots and lots of people seem perfectly happy to pay for it. And people scoff at me when I say 7-11 coffee is way better than Starbucks.

      All’s I know is, every time there’s a thread like this, I gots to bust out my favorite ode to coffee snobs from the 1980s.

      Don’t turn around
      The coffee czar’s in town

  2. I’ve been roasting my own coffee beans for a few months and it has been awesome. After drinking my office’s dreadful freeze-dried Folgers for a year, I decided to bring in good coffee and a press and went characteristically overboard.

    Now I’ve got Indonesian beans roasted a bit into 2nd crack (dark but short of burnt French roast) and I’m making fresh coffee every morning in an aeropress (you can actually make good, regular coffee in these by completely ignoring the directions and treating it like a tiny French press with a filter: 1 scoop of fine ground coffee, 1 cup of hot water, stir, 1 more cup of hot water, stir, wait 4 minutes, press).

  3. @kmoser – so what are YOU passionate about? If you are really into potato chips, I bet you can come up with ways to compare good and bad chips.

    @scifijazznik – people refer to snobs when it’s something they don’t understand or aren’t passionate about it. I’m not into wine and it doesn’t matter how many wineries I go to or how many bottles of wine I drink, I’m not going to love wine. I’m never going to be passionate about wine, but does that make my friend who drinks wine every day, watches Gary Vee like it’s a sermon, and does wine tours for vacation a wine snob? No, it means that he likes wine so much that he takes time to enjoy it to the best of his ability.

    Go ahead and love your 7-11 coffee, but don’t bash those that truly love the whole experience of coffee and have taken the time to learn about and discover coffee from well respected growers, roasters, and baristas. Also, maybe try some coffee from some of those roasters listed above, made by people who are well trained in making it, and then get back to us on this thread.

    1. Oh, relax. I didn’t bash anyone. Snob is a term of endearment. Genuine snobs don’t bristle at being called snobs.

      Get back to “us” you say? You’re precious.

      1. Oy! Is it possible to have a discussion about something as innocuous as coffee without descending into sniping at each other?

  4. “Go ahead and love your 7-11 coffee, but don’t bash those that truly love the whole experience of coffee and have taken the time to learn about and discover coffee from well respected growers, roasters, and baristas. Also, maybe try some coffee from some of those roasters listed above, made by people who are well trained in making it, and then get back to us on this thread.”

    The implication being that someone who likes 7-Eleven coffee is someone who hasn’t had an awakening from one of those places, and doesn’t know what good coffee is? I like Intelligentsia coffee, but sometimes you’re not in the mood for a place as serious as that (and sorry, but I do think that they take themselves very seriously. It makes for great coffee, but it can be a bit much if you’re not in the mood for that).

    The coffee that I’ve enjoyed the most has been as Philz in San Francisco, which is far more laid back than Intelli or some other “serious” coffee places, and the cafe con leche that you can get anywhere in Peru, but sadly almost nowhere in America.

  5. Something I often face with coffee is that the temperature is often wrong. I used to whine that it was too hot at most places, then my husband explained that it’s because I’m the minority these days, in that I drink my coffee plain rather than adding cream/sugar/etc. and that the temp is right for most of the rest of the coffee drinkers because the things they add cool it down a little.

    This got me to thinking,though. I wonder if there’s an optimal temperature for coffee overall or even an optimal temperature for different types of coffee. It makes a huge difference serving different types of wine at the right temperature. I could totally see it mattering with different varietals and roasts of coffee,too. If so, nobody is likely serving them at the right temps. Everywhere I go, no matter what kind of coffee you order, it’s gonna be the same heat and home coffee pots only offer the one brewing heat.

  6. Redstarr, read around, temperature (to the 0.1°c) is incredibly important… for all brew styles and varietals, there is a huge amount of information online, a good start point would be if your interested in finding out a little more.

  7. “to improve the experience of coffee for both industry and consumers”

    I wish you’d also mentioned the growers/farmers and their families.

    1. That would be included in the “industry” header. Everyone from farmers to baristas is the coffee industry.

    2. What’s with the pet status of farmers?

      That said, TED is like Vegas. Whatever happens there, stays there. If this is going to have meaningful legs outside of it, it’s best outside of the TED circle jerk.

  8. Every comment thread about coffee contains: (1) someone mentioning how great their home roasted coffee is; (2) a plug for a cafe not mentioned in the article.

    Maybe we could just assume the existence of these kinds of comments from now on, with no need to actually post them?

    Couldn’t agree more about the Ritual logo — nothing goes better with a cup o’ java than a visual reference to communist dictatorships.

    Ah, the subtle nuance of gulags and purges.

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