A Look Inside Blue Bottle Coffee's Roastery

A Blue Bottle Coffee employee holds up roasted beans. Photo by Friends of the High Line

Holding ourselves to a higher standard is essential here at the High Line, and this commitment is reflected in the food and drink we serve on the park. This week, we headed into Brooklyn to Blue Bottle Coffee’s roastery to bring you a first look at how we source and roast our beans and train baristas to develop their coffee palates – all so we can serve a remarkably good cup of coffee to our visitors on the High Line.

Left: Coffee beans have a distinct color before they’re hulled during the roasting process, as seen here. Right: Large bags of organic coffee are a common sight at Blue Bottle roastery. Photo by Friends of the High Line
Brad Kornacki, a Blue Bottle Coffee employee, roasts the Sidamo SCFCU peaberry coffee bean, which goes into the popular Three Africans blend. Photo by Friends of the High Line

James Freeman, the founder of Blue Bottle Coffee, takes his coffee seriously. A former musician, you’d find him grinding his own beans on airplanes in between gigs using a personal hand grinder. James was obsessed with the idea of a good cup of coffee. That idea grew and became Blue Bottle Coffee.

What makes a good cup, we must ask? Much of it has to do with freshness, the type of beans being used, and the process in which the beans are roasted. Freshness affects taste the most, which is why Blue Bottle commits to selling all of its beans within 48 hours of roasting. This is no easy feat – they’ll be the first to admit – but makes the taste undeniably good. You’ll want another cup even if you’re already on your second.

The type of bean also affects how good your cup will taste. Single-origin beans means the distinct flavor of the soil is traceable. Blue Bottle baristas learn to notice the acidity of a Guatemalan bean and the earthiness of a Ugandan bean. Blue Bottle also makes efforts to work with bean farmers under a direct trade policy that allows farmers to negotiate their own prices and encourages kinder global relationships. When the beans finally arrive to the roastery, they go through the meticulous process of roasting. Then, hours of fun training and repeated tastings means the coffee is roasted and brewed near to perfection. It is prepared with care and served with cheer.

Coffee beans are churned and hulled during the roasting process. Photo by Friends of the High Line
Left: A row of freshly brewed coffee awaits a first tasting by baristas. Right: Training coffee is used to educate baristas and help them develop their palates. Photo by Friends of the High Line

Blue Bottle Coffee baristas will eagerly tell you the history of the New Orleans chicory or the Japanese iced pour-over instrument that is fascinating to observe in use and a rare find in New York City. Baristas, like our very own Caitlin McGinn, are known to get very excited upon inhaling the newest arrival of beans too.

Blue Bottle Coffee demonstrates its commitment to sustainability through company-wide practices, such as using only 100% compostable cups, lids, filters, napkins, and coffee bags. They also encourage reuse in other ways, such as offering ten pounds of chaff (the hull of a coffee bean) to a Brooklyn-based farmer in exchange for some of his eggs.

Brewing a sense of community among farmers and baristas at Blue Bottle Coffee is no less important than brewing a good cup. As you prepare to taste your cup on the High Line, you’re inhaling amazing flavor and this pretty awesome history.

Blue Bottle Coffee baristas taste freshly brewed cups of coffee. Photo by Friends of the High Line
A Blue Bottle Coffee employee prepares coffee via distinctive Japanese iced pour-over method instruments. Photo by Friends of the High Line
Don't these beans look delicious? Photo by Friends of the High Line

Blue Bottle Coffee is located on the High Line at West 15th Street, and is open daily from 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM through October 26.

High Line Visual Media Fellow Amelia Krales took this series of photographs inside Blue Bottle Coffee's roastery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

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