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Roaster Profile: Harbor Perk

Posted by Emily McIntrye

Sat, Mar, 01, 2014 @ 07:03 AM

The story of San Franciscan owner Harbor Perk Coffeehouse and Roasting Company starts like that of many who fell in love with coffee and coffee roasting: Kelly Sposito was unhappily employed in a downtown Cleveland law firm when her husband Jake bought a coffeehouse in Ashtabula, Ohio in 2006. Over the next few years, Jake did a lot of research on coffee roasters, and in 2009 Harbor Perk Coffee moved to its current 100-year-old location where Steve the SF6 creates conversation and where Ryan Sposito, Jake’s younger brother, roasts daily in the busy season.
The Spositos are a big Italian family, and Kelly jokes “My husband and Ryan have a natural palate for food and beverages, while I’m a wino.” Working with the highly supportive staff at Royal, and doing their best to educate their clientele gently, they’ve enjoyed exploring many of the single origin and micro lot coffees available. Ryan says, “I tend to like like Africans, especially Yirgecheffes, and I get down with Sumatra as well. Our customers appreciate us selling Fair Trade coffees, and we get a kick out creating fun blends to sell around Ashtabula.”
Things for the Spositos were going well until Jake was diagnosed with brain cancer. Kelly says, “Ryan was in college. When Jake got sick, he came home and we taught him to roast so he could take over.” The very communal nature of coffee which they love so much was one of the hardest aspects of dealing with Jake’s illness. “Since Ashtabula is such a small town, everyone knows us and witnessed it from beginning to end. Can you imagine being stuck behind a roaster for 8 hours a day and having to talk about cancer the whole time? But the whole experience really brought our customers and us together as a family.” Jake passed away in August, and Kelly and Ryan carry on his passion at Harbor Perk with a sense of humor and a lot of hard work.
Being the only high-end roaster in Ashtabula gives Harbor Perk a unique position in town, and Ohio’s weather cycles make for a different busy season than other roasters—the summer is hopping for Harbor Perk, while the extreme cold of the winter keeps people in their houses (and not buying coffee.) Customers include a lot of Kent State students, and Kelly says, “We let people do whatever they want as long it’s not too crazy.” In the summer Ashtabula has become a tourist destination, which the Spositos enjoy. Business is going well.
As many San Franciscan customers acknowledge, care and maintenance of their roasters is easier vs. other makes--but it's still a lot of work! “We take very good care of Steve,” says Kelly. Given his residence in an old building, cleaning the flue is a bit more complicated than usual: the lucky cleaner has to crawl up an elevator shaft, take the entire flue apart, and climb out onto the roof to finish the job. Still, the onerous task has become a bit of a coffeehouse event, with friends helping by bringing along various kinds of equipment to aid the process and cheer it along.
With a lot of bravery and a warm sense of community, Kelly and Ryan are moving forward, and one thing is certain: Ashtabula’s got a good thing going in Harbor Perk! 
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Topics: roaster profile, coffee roaster, roaster, Successful business, SF6, ohio

Roaster Profile: Insight Coffee Roasters

Posted by Emily McIntrye

Wed, Jan, 29, 2014 @ 14:01 PM

Lucky Rodrigues is co-owner of Insight Coffee Roasters in Sacramento, and roasts on an SF25 coffee roaster. He's also a bearded man with unmistakable excitement and humility in his demeanor. "I’ve worked for every local coffee company in town except for Chocolate Fish," he says. "I’ve been in coffee in Sacramento since I was 15."
Starting as several other prominent Sacramento coffee folks have by working for Chris Pendarvis of the Naked Lounge, Lucky and his co-founder Ben Lance opened doors at Insight in 2011. The company has grown rapidly and draws visitors from around the country to California's capitol city.
"Having a machining background, I approached the selection of my roaster from a simple standpoint," he says. "How does the machine work? I like very simple, straightforward equipment." He also liked the design of the SF25--specifically the air flow, cyclone, and afterburner designs. Driving three hours to the Fallon, Nevada plant and being able to talk directly with Bill on the phone certainly helped, and he's enjoyed watching the revival of the company since he bought his roaster.
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Topics: roaster profile, SF25, California, roaster, Successful business

Roaster Profile: Bill Kennedy

Posted by Emily McIntrye

Fri, Jan, 03, 2014 @ 17:01 PM

San Franciscan is built through a world-wide network of coffee roasters who engage with the roasting process in every way, and usually they are driven by love. Love of coffee, love of roasting, and love for the San Franciscan. CEO Bill Kennedy is no exception.
Bill often comes home from a day at the factory to roast a batch or two on his private refurbished SF25, while his sons rollerblade around the bags of coffee behind him. "I’ve loved the roaster since the first time I saw a San Franciscan," he says. "I thought it was the coolest piece of equipment on the planet. It had that old fashioned look to it, and I love that. And it just seemed like a sweet, cool-looking piece of equipment. I guess you could say I was drawn to the roaster first and then to coffee after."
Bill's journey as a coffee roaster and then owner of CoffeePER is driven by the unique nature of the San Franciscan roaster, a tool for artisans.
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Topics: roaster profile, roaster, Local, who we are

Coffee Roaster: Welcome to our Factory

Posted by Emily McIntrye

Fri, Dec, 27, 2013 @ 09:12 AM

Since not all of you coffee roasters get the chance to fly to Fallon and experience our creative, slightly cluttered working environment, we thought we'd welcome you to our virtual lobby with a photo walk-through. Art and ingenuity, with a healthy dose of classic Nevada frontier grit: that's us!
Welcome to San Franciscan.

Bill is a fan of old radio, fans, and grammaphones. Can you tell?
Our very own coffee plantation
We have an eclectic mix of visitors.
An experimental template in zinc.

This hand-tooled copper bird was given to Bill by the Governor of Papua New Guinea's Central Province. He traveled across the world with his entourage to choose a SF25 and take a coffee tour of the Northwest with us.
And on that note, a rarely-updated map of our roasters across the world.
That's it for now, folks! Thanks for visiting us!
More peeks into our operations to come.
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Topics: who we are, tour, trivia

Roaster Profile Series: Espresso Elevado

Posted by Emily McIntrye

Sat, Dec, 21, 2013 @ 07:12 AM

Teresa Pilarz’ coffee roasting company and coffeehouse, Espresso Elevado, opened its doors in March 2011, using a San Franciscan SF1 coffee roaster to get started. In a suburb strategically located between Detroit and Ann Arbor, Elevado is the first quality-focused coffeehouse in the area and, says Pilarz, offers a unique take on coffee with a culinary approach. 
Like many coffee people, Teresa Pilarz has a widely varied background—at one point she taught Spanish, as well as worked in business for years. But through all the jobs she held, her first coffee job during the early 90’s stuck with her. She dreamed of starting her own shop and, being Teresa, started putting action to her dreams by taking classes in coffee, meeting coffee people, and teaching herself the basics of coffee roasting. 
“Our customers have really embraced what we do—whether roasting our own beans to doing our own mixology to crafting our own syrups. One of the things I value in business is innovation and not copying anyone else,” she says, and one of the ways Pilarz and her Elevado team distinguish themselves is by putting together their own syrups using spices, herbs, and simple syrups. The syrups can get rather involved—their holiday Gingersnap syrup has around ten ingredients!
A SCAA Certified Lead Instructor and BGA Level 1 Barista, Pilarz now roasts on a SF6, which she says is “Super easy to clean and maintain, and a real craftsperson’s roaster. Since you don’t have the benefit of digital data logging, it forces you to understand every aspect of your roasting process. We log our own data and use our senses when roasting.” Originally looking for a 1 lb roaster, Pilarz shopped around for a while before settling on San Franciscan and flying to Fallon for further roaster training on her SF1. She says that Bill’s background in artisan roasting played into her decision as well as how helpful he was and the ongoing support he promised. 
Pilarz’ enthusiasm for what she does is undeniable. Look out, Michigan! Here she comes!
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Topics: roaster profile, roaster, SF6, woman roaster