Bay Area CoRoasters’ communal space and welcoming environment makes roasting in the San Francisco Bay Area a wonderful thing
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
All photos courtesy of Bay Area CoRoasting
On a quiet, tree-lined street in Berkeley, Calif., warehouses wrap around the entire block. There aren’t very many people ”the street is far west from the bustling food culture and progressive culinary institutions that define Berkeley, a small town north of Oakland and across the Bay from San Francisco. And yet, the street is teeming with new food projects and innovative new products and ideas. œThere’s a pizza company right next to us, a winery, a pickling space, says Floy Andrews. Floy is one of the founders and CEO of Bay Area CoRoasters, which is smack in the middle of all these new spaces, and is an innovative company in its own right.
The idea is simple: Bay Area CoRo (as most shorten it to) offers a roasting space and equipment for coffee companies that don’t have their own. There are three roasters on-site: a Loring S35 Kestrel, a Loring S15 Falcon, and a Probate Probation 5. Companies can join as members of the space, which entitles them to a scheduled time on a roaster and an array of other services. It’s in those services that CoRo really distinguishes itself, and Floy, along with Dani Goot, head of operations for CoRo and a member of the board for the Roasters Guild of America, walked me through their small, yet growing space, and chatted about their hopes for the future and beyond.
The CoRoasting space has had a few previous lives. It began as the headquarters of Supersonic Coffee when the Berkeley company launched a few years ago. When Supersonic was restructured and the brand could no longer sustain such a huge space on its own, Floy and her business partner, Tim Hansen, bought the space intending to open it to other roasters in addition to Supersonic as a communal roasting space.
Initially, Floy and Tim called it Berkeley CoRoasters, but quickly realized that felt exclusionary of the greater Bay Area coffee scene, so they changed “Berkeley” to “Bay Area.” œWe opened our doors in October 2015, and just waited to see what would happen, says Floy. They had just the one Loring, and weren’t sure who would be interested in using the space or what they’d need, but were quickly met with inquiries and requests to use the space. And the space and concept have just gotten more and more popular ever since. Floyd and Tim have since bought another Loring and a Probat, and are looking to expand their services to include other equipment. œWe’ve been asked about buying a bigger grinder, says Floy, as one of the members grinds coffee on a MalkÃ¶ning Kenia. œIdeas are rampant, and members come to us with their needs all the time.
After we walk around the roasting space, Floy and Dani show me the cupping room and coffee lab, which are filled with tools and equipment available to CoRo members. œMost spaces like ours are a-la-carte, but we include use of everything, says Dani, who is often pulled aside by members to taste coffee and give advice. Dani also teaches roasting classes and helps members learn skills and refine their roasting. œIt took me years to learn all the things I’ve learned, says Dani, referring to how secretive a lot of roasters can be about their process. œBut spaces like this shorten that time. This is a space for people to learn a new skill set at an entry level.
Bay Area CoRoasting currently houses 15 roasting concepts, from established shops like Paramo in San Francisco, to passion projects like Caitlin McCarthy-Garcia’s roasting concept Neighbs Coffee, to Supersonic, who still uses the space to roast and promote their Nordic-style coffee. œWe’ve just started working with Tartine, which we’re really excited about, says Floy, and it doesn’t look like the space is slowing down. œWe’re not sure if people are going to grow out of the space or if they’ll grow with us, but people are already saying that they want to stay with us even if they do grow and expand.
One reason for that is the spirit of collaboration and education that the space encourages. œOther roasters cup together and are incredibly collaborative, says Dani, who observes members of CoRo helping each other out and offering suggestions. œI once saw a guy who had a huge order of coffee, and one of our other members stayed behind to help him bag coffee. Members aren’t competitive, and share tips and suggestions with each other about how to better their craft. œIt’s OK to be a beginner here, Floy observes.
Floy and Dani are the first to admit that they’re still beginners in this venture themselves. When asked about the future, they looked at each other and smile. œWe have so many bad ideas sometimes, but that’s how you find the good ones. We throw out ideas everyday here, says Dani. And both are open and comfortable with the idea that the future is uncertain. œThere’s all these different ways we can grow, and we’re learning as we go. Right now, we’re filling the gaps that need to be filled.
One the ways CoRo does this is by connecting new roasters to importers. In the cupping room, there’s a wall full of green samples from about eight different importers. Members are encouraged to take samples and roast them on the sample roaster and can get in touch with any of the importers for more information or samples. Dani teaches classes on roasting to new and interested roasters, and invites other professionals to come in and teach courses to members. The space has already hosted a number of events, from importer cuppings to a session of Stump the Roaster, a roaster-focused panel that happened earlier this month. They’re also concerned with health issues, and have built a ventilation system and installed exhaust fans to get as many of the fumes created throughout the roasting process. œWe want to make sure that we’re emphasizing safety, says Floy.
As much as the space provides, there are dreams for more. œOur vision for this building is to be a coffee-centered oasis, Floy shares. One of the first steps CoRo is taking to realize this vision is building a retail cupping room. œIt’s meant to be like a tap room, Dani explains, where the members of the space can showcase their coffees and make them available to the public. Guests can have curated experiences, like a flight of coffees or a special single-origin offering, and the roasters can get meaningful feedback about their coffees. œWe plan to feature members for three months, and we can provide things like barista training and coffee program set up that our members might not be able to provide if they were to work with a café as a guest roaster, for example, Floy says, speaking to the difficulty roasters can run into when they begin working with a new café, especially if the café only plans on featuring them in a guest role.
Floy, Dani, and Tim ”whose position with CoRo is head of innovation ”have big plans to continue to grow and push the space, and they’re always open to new ideas. œThere’s so many new things happening, says Floy. The staff at CoRo isn’t sure what that looks like yet, but that’s not a bad thing. For them, the chance to adapt and grow in response to the needs of their members and their community is what they’re about.
Check out upcoming CoRo events and classes at facebook.com/corocoffee.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ashley Rodriguez thought that she’d take a break from teaching middle school science and putz around in a coffee shop for a few months. She ended up digging it way more than teaching (and was vaguely better at it). After spending 5 years making coffee in New York, she now works for Sightglass Coffee in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter at @ashcommonnam