The New Jersey coffee roasters on this list prove that making coffee doesn’t just start and end with deliciousness. Even those cafés accounted for on the tentacles of the internet and regarded as top in the nation see their role as being more complex than expert roasting programs. Coffee culture has matured here in the states. The coffeehouse and coffee itself have come to also represent that slow, intentional artisanship, is to be rewarded.
These New Jersey coffee roasters have been chosen because they honor the meticulous and passionate craft and take pride in serving it.
1. Black River Roasters – Whitehouse Station
“We seek to maintain the highest level of quality control while roasting our coffees to ensure that the final cup showcases the bean’s natural characteristics.”
Black River Roasters cares about a delicious product and the impact their sourcing can have on the environment. They use beans that are organic, fair trade and Rain Forest Alliance Certified, and their growers are small estates or cooperatives from around the world. Right now, their “roast master’s” selection includes sourcing from Ethiopia, Costa Rica and Honduras. You can join their coffee club to enjoy their latest specialty beans at home.
2. Penstock Coffee Roasters – Highland Park
“Quality, craft, and transparency are important. Where your coffee comes from and who you share it with—are everything.”
This roastery is doing exemplary work around transparency. They’ve joined a Transparency Pledge that was created by a group of roasters and organizations looking to create “a ‘community of best practices’ and set an example for the entire coffee industry.” The vital purpose of the pledge is to make the supply chain legible, so that those who are a part of it can make informed decisions about who to work with. The hope is that greater information sharing will eventually lead to living wages for farmers and producers. Besides an admirable ethos, Penstock has high-quality coffee from single-origin to blends. They were named the best coffee shop in New Jersey by “Food and Wine.”
3. Harvest Coffee Roasters – Medford
“With a seasonal rotation of 10 to 15 different varietals, customers can always find a bean that they will love.”
Harvest Coffee has a lead roaster running their coffee program, Joe Johnston. Johnston studied the craft with distinguished coffee expert Mané Alves, (a native of Lisbon, Portugal) at the Coffee Lab in Waterbury, VT. He then founded Harvest Coffee with his children after making sample batches at home and perfecting his light to medium roasting style.
4. Coffee Corral – Red Bank
“Each cup of coffee we hand to our customers is handcrafted and distinctive.”
I included this roaster on the list for two main reasons: they sell organic and fair trade coffee and make this statement on their website: “We would rather roast and re-roast ten times then sell one mediocre cup of coffee.” That’s the kind of perfectionism that I want from my roaster. Their hard work makes for a long menu too. They offer nearly 15 different beans to choose from and roast the coffee on site.
5. Booskerdoo Coffee & Baking Co. – Multiple Locations, Including Asbury Park
“Booskerdoo Coffee & Baking Co. started and continues to be a business that offers really really delicious things from really really nice people.”
This business is filling a niche that according to its co-owner, James Caverly, he wasn’t even finding much of in New York City: roasted-to-order beans and beans on the shelves that are not more than seven days old. His and his wife’s epiphany—that this type of coffee needed to be more available to consumers—came to them in their one-room apartment, tasting coffee from beans they had just roasted on a pizza pan. Now they run a popular café and bakery in Asbury park and have adopted the New Jersey spirit. Their menu includes a “Jersey Diner-Style Signature Blend.”
6. ModCup – Jersey City
“Our goal is to introduce people to unique and special coffee tasting experiences. Coffees that can taste like peach tea. chocolate liquors. blueberry pie. tropical fruit salads.”
A Jersey City favorite, ModCup values the distinctive tasting experiences offered by light and medium roasting levels. They patently refuse to offer dark roasted coffee beans, because more time in the roaster increasingly limits the flavor complexity in the cup. In addition to being passionate about coffee, the owners are also giant music fans, and it informs the culture at the café. They list their third company principle as, “coffee like music should be fun!”
7. Rojo’s Roastery – Lambertville and Princeton
“When we find a bean we like, we explore its roast latitude with additional cupping and tasting, determining the optimum roast that presents each bean at its best.”
You know your roaster is fancy when their machinery of choice is from France and has an Orwellian name like the “1956 Probat UG-15.” Rojo’s sources their coffee from micro-lots of Arabica farms that they say are usually lesser-known or overlooked by conventional companies. After the beans are sourced, they go through a treacherously difficult test. The Balmoral of cuppings (for all you fans of Netflix’s “ The Crown”). The grading categories are quality, consistency and potential. Right now, their bestseller is “Midwives’ Moonshine,” which has flavor notes of raspberry, dark chocolate and caramel.
8. Rook – Multiple Locations, Including Freehold
“We seek happiness with each and every interaction and believe your positive experience is just as important as the coffee you’re sipping.”
Started in 2010 by childhood best friends, Rook cafés have now opened up 11 times down New Jersey’s coast. The team subscribes to the idea that coffee can be a way to pause and center ourselves in the sea of all we’re meant to keep up with in a day. It’s nice to be reminded that small habits can always be elevated and indulged in. If you’re looking to refine your coffee routine, Rook has a great subscription program that even allows you to pick your own grind setting.
9. Afficionado Coffee Roasters – Online
“The people and coffee community around the world shape who we are and where we are going.”
Like many roasters on this list, Afficionado had a humble start. To be exact, their office was a backyard, their roaster an old barbecue. Now they travel the world to get the best beans with fair trade certification and work to give back to the community that farmed them. This year, they were able to assist with the build-out of a school in Colaya Village, Peru. To enjoy Afficionado’s coffee, you can join a subscription program on their website or order beans by the bag. A current favorite is the Asdelfor, Guatemalan.
10. Boardwalk Beans – Online
“My goal is for our beans to stand out as making the most outstanding cup of coffee, bar none, that even the most seasoned connoisseurs will know they’re drinking the very best.”
The owner, Gabrielle Cianfrani, is the roaster at Boardwalk and sources from all over the world. You can get beans from Africa, Asia, South, Central and North America. She was interested in coffee as a kid, even as it was just an aromatic background in her childhood home. Now she’s preparing conscientiously-sourced beans in small batches that are roasted for order.
Do you frequent any of these New Jersey coffee roasters or have someone in mind to add to this list? Let us know in the comments below.
Title photo courtesy of @nate_dumlao