Coffee beans are tossed and heated by hot air in a fluid bed roaster at David’s Roasting.
3725 Greenwood Street, San Diego
While not a huge coffee-drinking destination, the industrial district behind the Sports Arena in the Midway District has grown into a coffee-roasting hub. Modern Times opened its brewery there three years ago with small-batch roasting equipment, which it’s since upgraded to keep up with constant demand for the brand’s roaster of coffee beers, its onsite café, and its packaged cold brew. In November, Modern Times released Ethiopia Sidama Werka — the first single-origin cold-brew coffee sold in cans.
3515 Hancock Street, San Diego
Just up the road, Swell Coffee Co. moved its roasting operations here in 2015. The company — which started out tucked into a back corner of Mission Beach’s Swell Café — now boasts a 2287-square-foot production facility, as part of the Patio restaurant group.
Sales & logistics manager Mondo Rodriguez notes the move included a roaster upgrade allowing head roaster John Hermann to increase from 5-pound batches to 30 and 40 pounds at a time. The addition of several dedicated 95-gallon tanks has given a boost to its cold-brew program, which includes providing coffee for beer collaborations with a slew of local breweries including AleSmith, Pizza Port, and Point Loma neighbors Bay City Brewing.
3990 Hicock Street #A-1, San Diego
A block from Swell, an inconspicuous third roaster in the neighborhood roasts only a couple pounds at a time and, for now, plans to keep it that way. David’s Roasting doesn’t have any retail storefront, only a 400-square-foot office and roasting space — the smallest commercial space David and Alena Leyton could find to lease.
Content to let the brand develop slowly while their children finish high school, the husband-and-wife team set up in Point Loma three years back. David — a full-time audio engineer — says rather than catching on to the third-wave coffee movement, they modeled their business after San Francisco’s Graffeo Coffee Roasting, which dates back to 1935.
“They came up with their own proprietary blend of coffee,” Leyton says of Graffeo, “and their target market was commercial.... This was obviously long before the current state of hipster coffee, where you have all these single-origins.”
So, rather than $17–$20 per-pound single-origins, David’s Roasting offers only a $14 signature blend, offered as a “darker” or “lighter” roast. “This was as much about creating a unique flavor that is our signature as it was coming up with the pound of coffee that everyone wants to drink every day and can afford to drink every day.”
One reason David’s sticks to small batches is its use of a fluid bed roaster. Unique among San Diego roasters, it cooks beans inside a glass tube on a pressurized bed of heated air. Leyton notes the constant motion and lack of a direct heating element result in more even roasts than traditional drum roasters, but gravity limits the amount of beans it can handle. Which is fine for the Leytons: the tiny business roasts every batch to order.