Field Report: Stumptown Coffee - LA's Brew Masters

May 26, 2015

Coffee is the world's second most valuable commodity behind petroleum, so I think it's fair to say that most people enjoy a cup of coffee to get their morning started. Well over half of American adults drink coffee daily and to most, coffee is just coffee, no matter where it comes from.  For others, it is much more than that.  Studies and statistics are showing that coffee drinkers are ditching their basic beverages for quality, strength and taste. Gourmet coffee, fancy espresso drinks and unique coffee concepts are becoming super trendy and sought after these days.  In a market that is so saturated and competitive, roasters and brewers have to focus on perfecting their product and differentiating themselves to stay on top.

I'll admit it, I was not a huge coffee drinker, but I enjoy the taste and it saves me from passing out at my desk a few times a week. When I first stumbled upon Stumptown Coffee, via one of its milk carton cold brews, I instantly loved it. It was chocolate milk for adults and man was it strong!  Since we are always downtown at meetings, events or photo shoots, Stumptown's Los Angeles location at 806 S Santa Fe Ave has become one of our favorites. This place was not only a coffee shop, but a full on roastery and distribution hub for the southwest - an extensive operation. I thought to myself, this would make an awesome Field Report, and with the help of manager Lisa Reeve, we made it happen!  It was incredible to see the whole process and we can't thank the staff enough for rolling out the welcome mat for us. 

Stumptown is doing it right. You walk in to a large, open space that is clean, modern and minimal - just the way we like it!  There is usually a line, but you might just be lucky enough to walk right up. As you place your order with a friendly and educated staff member, you are tempted by a variety of fresh pastries in a case next to the register. Today we were fortunate enough to meet assistant manager, Jason, and master barista, Matt, who were both crazy busy, but managed to answer all of our questions and let us taste a ton of great espresso drinks. You are in good hands with these gentlemen, they know their coffee!


The staff are not only super chill, but they know pretty much everything there is to know about coffee. This isn't your average cafe, it is a full circle coffee operation from bean to brew. While working in a roastery, you see it all and learn it all. Stumptown's mission is quality, taste and consistency. Their coffee and techniques are so far from average that they have a large test kitchen to train baristas and wholesale accounts their ways. Training can last from 2 weeks to 2 months, depending on experience. We couldn't wait to get the full tour and learn more, but first we had to do some taste testing.

The cafe has a great atmosphere and vibe.  Barista, Matt puts on some classic tunes before whipping up some tasty espresso for us.

Unlimited Cold Brew on tap.  Don't think about sleeping anytime soon...

Cold Brew with Nitro.  A unique twist that makes their ridiculously strong Cold Brew with nitrogen like Guinness.

3P1A2349bw Highest quality, roasted daily.  This sign says it all.  Stumptown coffee is roasted to order with a three day lead time and a two week shelf life, so customers only get the freshest roast possible.  They care more about the quality, consistency and taste than anything else.  They take care of their suppliers around the world and aren't afraid to pay more for a better product.  A team visits each of their farms multiple times per year and strategizes with the farmer on growing, cherry/bean selection, separation and preparation.  Producing great coffee is expensive and Stumptown knows it.  They care so much about the quality of their beans, that, at their own expense, they help educate their farmers on what they are looking for and how to achieve this standard.  Long term relationships are developed with farmers to insure they can make the most profit and not give in to standard bean prices. Very impressive. 

 Stumptown works with coffee growers from all over the world.  Some of it's biggest sources come from Colombia (of course), Africa and Indonesia.

Raw beans, it all starts here.  The beans are picked in their cherry form (the fruit around the bean) and have to be picked at their ripest to ensure quality.

Beans are roasted daily in order to deliver the freshest product possible.  Each batch is made specifically to fill an order, so there is no excess produced.  Stumptown's Los Angeles roastery will usually roast 25-30 batches daily.  Batch size is 60 kilos (or 132 pounds), which means they roast around 3500 pounds daily!  Stumptown has roasteries in Portland, Seattle and New York, but when you are the only one in the South, you have to roast a lot of coffee. 3P1A2179bw Beans are sent directly to the roaster, where they roast at between 300 to 500 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes depending on the batch.  The massive Probat roaster acts more like a convection oven churning out very hot air that gives the beans an even roast.  It is very important that the beans get roasted evenly, not just on the inside or outside. The beans are checked very carefully during the roast to make sure they are roasting properly and do not burn.

As soon as the batch is done roasting, the beans drop into the cooling tray and are spun around for a few minutes to cool off.  You can only imagine how good it smells in the roasting room!  Head roaster, Ben Angelo, educated us on the full roasting process and walked us through it step by step.

After the beans have cooled, they are sucked up by this Willy Wonka looking tube, dropped into a bin, and go straight to bagging.  Freshness at it's finest.

The beans are brought to a packaging area in back where they are scooped up, weighed and bagged. The bags are stickered with the bean/roast information and then sealed tight for optimal freshness. From here they are ready to sell and ship to all of California, Arizona, and Texas.

Fresh Stumptown beans can be found at finer coffee retailers, or you can subscribe at Stumptown's website and get coffee delivered right to your house!


We got a sneak peek into the Stumptown tasting lab, the key to their consistency.  This regional tasting guide was pretty rad and broke down the flavors. 

Stumptown has 10 cafes in 4 states and a roastery in each state. They are growing rapidly and can be found across America in gourmet coffee shops, grocery stores and even taco shops. The key to their success is consistency and they do an excellent job of monitoring this. Each roastery sends weekly samples of their featured coffees and the time and temperature to roast at.  From there the coffee is roasted, brewed, compared and adjusted if necessary. 

To serious coffee drinkers, even brewing makes a difference. This is a Chemex coffee maker that uses thick oxygen-cleansed filters. These filters regulate the filtration rate while extracting undesirable components and allow a perfect infusion of the grounds to give the coffee a richer flavor.  Stumptown's LA cafe specializes in amazing coffee, but they have a great selection of pots, filters and mugs to complete your caffeinated experience.

Hard at work. Touring Stumptown's Los Angeles facility was truly amazing and educational. We can't thank Lisa and the staff enough for having us and taking time out of their busy day to show us around.  Hats off to you guys, we had a great afternoon with you and will be seeing you real soon! 

 If you are downtown, go see our friends at Stumptown at 1pm daily for a free tasting. Warning: This is how they get you, you'll be hooked at first sip!

Take home a growler of cold brew and bring it back for a refill.  You can never have enough cold brew!