KW Coffee Collective is Canada’s second-ever shared roasting facility.
BY KATRINA YENTCH
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of KW Coffee Collective
Canada’s coffee scene continues to flourish. The country’s readiness to embrace high-quality coffee is exemplified by barista champs like Ben Put and Jill Hoff, and roasters like Monogram and 49th Parallel paving the way for myriad specialty options in the urban cities of Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, and beyond. As more aspiring roasters enter the playing field, it only makes sense that shared roasting spaces emerge too to fuel their ambitions—in which case, KW Coffee Collective has arrived at the perfect time.
KW Coffee Collective
KW Coffee Collective is a co-roasting space that opened in the fall of 2021 in a restored historic building from 1916. It’s the first-ever co-roasting space in Ontario, and the second in Canada after Montreal’s Canadian Roasting Society. Tucked into the “Silicon Valley” of Kitchener-Waterloo, it shares neighbors with other ambitious young startups.
What’s a Shared Roasting Space?
The shared roasting space is the coffee professional’s equivalent to the co-working space. Consisting of large warehouses with shared coffee roasting equipment, they function on a rental system, in which members can reserve time on machines to roast. Oftentimes these businesses will also offer accompanying services like green storage space, labeling, and even event space. Thanks to the low-commitment style of this model, shared roasting has found major success in big coffee cities like New York; Melbourne, Australia; and Portland, Oregon. They’re especially ideal for small businesses that roast coffee on the side, new coffee roasting companies, and even hobby roasters.
Features at KW Coffee Collective
KW Coffee Collective is a 5,500-square-foot space that houses two Mill City drum roasters they’ve affectionately named Milly and Maddy, along with Kawie: a 50-gram Ikawa sample roaster. In addition to these machines, the collective has just about every kind of brewing equipment imaginable in the lab for quality control, plus an education center. There are also stations for logistics and packaging, with features like temperature-controlled green storage, packing stations, and a printer. There is also a water station that allows members to test roasts with specific water types. Combined with mentorship opportunities, members don’t have to beg for roasting apprenticeships and are set for success.
Meet the Team
Ron Donaldson is the mind behind KW Coffee Collective; he is a former geoscientist-turned-coffee roaster and founder of Contrabean Roasting Company. At a time in which small businesses were closing down by the dozens and coffee communities were dissolving, Ron found it an especially appropriate time to launch a shared roasting space. In hopes of making coffee roasting affordable and accessible, he hopes to see more young people enter the industry and encourage small businesses to flourish once again.
“Many young people enter specialty coffee, but few have the opportunity to make a career in coffee,” shares Ron. “So many young coffee professionals I have met over the last six years have had to make a career change in order to earn a living wage. By creating this space, I hope to be able to make it that much easier (simpler, cheaper, faster) for young coffee professionals to build their skills, increase their value to their employer, or launch their own business.”
At his side is director of coffee Shelby Merrithew, who can also empathize with Ron’s desires to make roasting something that everyone can do, regardless of their background or expertise. “In my experience in the coffee industry, I often don’t see many women or people of color pursuing coffee roasting,” she shares. “I’ve been to many coffee events and workshops, and more often the room is filled with more men than females, typically 80% men and 20% female. As a woman in coffee roasting, I can list a number of times someone has made a negative comment about me lifting a heavy bag of green coffee, or acting surprised that I fixed my roaster or did maintenance on my machine.”
A Shared Roasting Space for Everyone
As business partners from two different generations, Shelby and Ron also want to discourage age discrimination, and make KW Coffee Collective a safe space for everyone to learn from each other. The team continues to emphasize accessibility through touches like lower work tables, accessible washrooms, and level access to accommodate roasters with disabilities. Shelby and Ron are also brainstorming ways to build more diversity in their coffee community, and are reaching out to networks that specialize in minority support groups within coffee.
To be a part of the KW Coffee Collective, visit their website to book a tour and learn more about the space to see if it’s a fit for you.