What does it take to be one of the best coffee roasters in America? To some critics, it’s innovation — the willingness to throw “rules” by the wayside and the skill to revolutionize new roasting practices, all in the name of better coffee. For others, it’s taste, perhaps best exemplified in a roaster’s selectiveness when hunting for the finest green coffees in the world. And sometimes, a roaster’s greatness is born by bringing troubling social issues to the forefront, putting life and well-being on the line to solve them. Or is it medals and awards, and the peer recognition that comes with them?

For the 25 coffee roasters on this list, it’s a mélange of all of these things. From Maine to California, these roasters offer the best coffee America has to offer.

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The Roasters

Bird Rock

Location: San Diego, CA
Founded: 2006

A Roast Magazine Roaster of the Year winner, Bird Rock is quality-addicted. The San Diego roaster has dozens of Coffee Review 90-plus rated coffees, rare Geisha varietals and single origins from Ethiopia to Mexico.

Counter Culture

Location: Durham, NC
Founded: 1995

Counter Culture is the specialty coffee what Sierra Nevada is to craft beer. A ten minute drive from Duke University, Counter Culture is one of specialty coffee’s old guard, but without the stagnation associated with that status. As its grown, it has continuously furthered sustainable practices, education and pure quality. Its training labs routinely crank out some of the best baristas in the country, and it pulls beans from every bean-producing continent on earth.

Devoción

Location: Brooklyn, NY
Founded: 2006

New York’s Devoción isn’t New York’s at all. Devoción is a love letter to Colombian coffee in roaster form. All its coffee is sourced from there, and it’s all stellar. Beyond a deep commitment to a single origin, it’s primarily known for two other things: being an early adopter of roasting coffees while in-season, rather than sitting on hundreds of bags of green coffee year-round, and its Williamsburg café, which is one of the prettiest coffee shops in America.

Dragonfly Coffee Roasters

Location: Boulder, CO
Founded: 2011

Last year’s Roast Magazine Roaster of the Year winner is based in Boulder ponies up for some of the world’s best and most interesting green coffee (coffee before it’s been roasted), including incredibly pricey Geisha beans and selections from Yemen and Myanmar.

George Howell

Location: Boston, MA
Founded: 2004

George Howell may very well be the most respected name in coffee. He is the godfather of American specialty coffee roasting, and time has not passed him in the slightest. His first run of roasteries and shops, The Coffee Connection, was bought by Starbucks in 1994 (a good sign you’re doing something right). His focus has long been terroir and a dedication to high-end single origin coffee.

Go Get ‘Em Tiger

Location: Los Angeles, CA
Founded: 2012

Specialty coffee veterans Charles Babinski and Kyle Glanville are both former United States Barista Champions, but don’t let that fool you: Go Get ‘Em Tiger (called GGET) isn’t just for coffee snobs. The roaster embraces high-end coffee don’ts like cold brew coffee and traditional dark roasts as easily as it does high-scoring single origins. It’s a specialty coffee roaster that doesn’t judge your coffee preferences. Basically, a unicorn roaster.

Heart

Location: Portland, OR
Founded: 2009

An elite Portland coffee roaster with a stuffed trophy cabinet and an enormous commitment to transparency and sustainability. Heart’s been a favorite of coffee nerds since it opened a decade ago, and the only change since then is the ability to buy bags whenever you want. Everything is great, but its specialty is light-roasted coffee.

Huckleberry

Location: Denver, CO
Founded: 2011

Home to the 2019 US Coffee Championship 1st Place roaster in Shelby Williamson, Denver-based Huckleberry Roasters has grown from a garage roaster to a global micro-farm sourcing powerhouse. Huckleberry offers plenty of single origins, blends and decaf options at varying roast levels — in other words, it doesn’t discriminate against your taste in coffee

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JBC

Location: Madison, WI
Founded: 1994

“We won’t buy a coffee unless we know that it will inspire you,” JBC’s site reads. Based in Wisconsin, JBC is an OG specialty roaster that never strayed from its quality-focused mission (the same can’t be said for many of contemporaries). There are few American roasters with more coffee-producing street cred than JBC, exemplified by an outrageous numbers of 90-plus (out of 100) scored coffees on Coffee Review. JBC is also a two-time Good Food Award winner and has seen its staff place highly in numerous US Taster’s and Brewer’s Cups.

Klatch Coffee Roasting

Location: Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Founded: 1993

Klatch is a coffee roaster’s coffee roaster. Helmed by Mike Perry, the company’s green coffee buyer and its head roaster, Klatch has raked in awards for high-scoring roasts, Direct Trade practices and its trademarked “Peak of Flavor” coffee development mantra.

LA Mill

Location: Los Angeles, CA
Founded: 1998

LA Mill (pronounced “luh-mill”) is one of the few roasters that roasts naturally-processed beans at the same levels as washed or machine-processed beans. This is no simple feat. The California roaster’s beans have found their way into Michelin-starred restaurants, a multitude of coffee shops and cafés and have even opened a shop in Waikiki.

Máquina

Location: Westchester, PA
Founded: 2016

Don’t be fooled by its recent founding date, Máquina isn’t run by novices. Roaster and founder Gabe Boscana has nearly two decades of coffee experience, from green coffee buyer, to barista, to educator at establishments like Intelligentsia, Sightglass, Gimme! Coffee and Ritual.

Merit

Location: San Antonio, TX
Founded: 2001

Texas’s lone representative casts a large shadow. Merit is a roaster built up and down with the coffee rabid, but the company isn’t in your face about its nerdery. The only sign of the obsessive approach to roasting in its branding is a gold-lettered “Carefully Selected” stamp on the side of the bag. Like most great roasters, Merit isn’t a passive bystander waiting for whichever bags of whichever green coffee to arrive — it dispatches its team to the far reaches of the coffee-growing world to personally find the greatest crop on the planet.

Methodical Coffee

Location: Greenville, SC
Founded: 2015

David Baker, Will Shurtz and Marco Suarez’s trio of Greenville cafés all share a stark-yet-cozy aesthetic and baristas who know what they’re doing. Their coffees run roast level and origin gamut, with plenty of lighter and darker roasted beans from Honduras, Colombia, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Costa Rica and more. The roaster also comes at the recommendation of the New York Times, Bon Appétit and Architectural Digest.

Mostra

Location: San Diego, CA
Founded: 2013

Founded by four Filipino-Americans, Roast’s Micro Coffee Roaster of the Year Award for 2020 wants to put Filipino coffee on the map. Beyond high-scoring bags of coffee and its origin focus, the company is most known for its absurd commitment to brewery collabs (600 and counting) and inventive drinks in its San Diego cafés.

Mudhouse Coffee Roasters

Location: Charlottesville, VA
Founded: 1993

This Virginia Roaster of the Year winner sources coffees from Indonesia to its co-op in Panamá, but it started with a husband-wife team running a coffee cart in the local mall. Expect powerful, balanced coffees roasted to display flavors inherent to their origins. Plus, they’ve got a damn charming origin story.

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Onyx Coffee Lab

Location: Fayetteville, AR
Founded: 2012

Removing Alaska from the equation, there’s few states more surprising to find a competition-level craft coffee roaster and coffee lab than Arkansas. But Onyx Coffee Lab is no fluke. Hundreds of bean varieties are tested to find one, maybe two, the Ozark’s coffee champion might go for. Its barista routinely place highly in competition, as do its roasts, and the upstart roaster has only just begun.

Passenger Coffee

Location: Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Founded: 2014

The name comes from the founding partners’ love of traveling and the feeling of being a passenger, and its cafés and coffee aim to recreate that feeling with varied single origins and high-scoring roasts. Passenger is also one of few specialty roasters to deep freeze green coffee at peak freshness to ensure its stocked with roastable beans year-round. The company also started a novel roasting program on the side called Necessary Coffee, which buys specialty-grade, but otherwise middling beans from farmers and roasts them a bit darker. Prices are nice and low (typically about $13), and the farmer’s get to make coin on coffee that might’ve otherwise gone unsold.

PT’s

Location: Topeka, Kansas
Founded: 1993

Another Roast Roaster of the Year winner, PT’s is a craft coffee stalwart with a stacked trophy case that includes more than thirty 94-plus point scored coffees and a slew other awards. PT’s is another Good Food Award winner and conducts an enormous percentage of its coffee buying through direct trade with producers.

Sightglass

Location: San Francisco, CA
Founded: 2009

At the top of coffee roasteries in one of America’s best coffee cities, this Bay Area coffee-roasting stalwart started out roasting out of a garage. Brothers and co-owners Jerad and Justin Morrison’s brand has a knack for sustainable packaging, pleasant branding and wicked ultra-light roasted coffees.

Southdown

Location: Huntington, New York
Founded: 2014

Earning a top three finish at the 2019 US Roasters Championship, Mark Boccard’s growing Long Island coffee roaster and café Southdown has picked up steam in recent years. Steam that’s culminated in features in Food & Wine and coffee publication of record Sprudge.

Tandem

Location: Portland, ME
Founded: 2012

Nestled in arts and culture-rich Portland, Maine, Kathleen and Will Pratt’s Tandem Coffee is a revelation. The couple first cut their teeth in San Francisco’s specialty coffee scene long before opening their extra-small batch roastery, and their experience shows. Roasts are rotated in and out (like the one pictured above) according to the harvest season, and each batch is roasted to perfection. From its home state to New Orleans to Brooklyn, the couple’s roasts are some of the most sought after in the country.

Temple

Location: Sacramento, CA
Founded: 2005

Temple’s constantly refreshed coffee lineup is stacked with high-scoring roasts and all the origins you expect from an upper echelon specialty roaster. If you’re looking for a heavy-hitter, wait for a Temple limited release drop, where the brand turns out small batches of extraordinarily rich coffee.

Verve

Location: Santa Cruz, CA
Founded: 2007

California surfers turned some of the best coffee roasters in the US, Verve exploded onto the specialty scene from Santa Cruz in 2007 and hasn’t slowed since. With cafés in Tokyo, across California and legions of loyal devotees, Verve is going nowhere, and no list of America’s best coffee roasters is complete without them.

Wrecking Ball

Location: San Francisco, CA
Founded: 2011

Try and find two names in coffee with more street cred than Trish Rothgeb and Nick Cho. I’ll wait. Rothgeb, formerly a member of the Specialty Coffee Association’s Roasters Guild Executive Council, a charter member of the World Barista Championship Board of Directors, a founding member of the Barista Guild of America and the first American woman to become a Q Grader, literally created the term “third wave coffee.” Cho has served on a number of the same boards, committees, won a number of barista competitions himself and redesigned one of the most famous coffee brewers you can buy (for the better). If you want the coffee people’s coffee roaster, this is it.

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Will Price is Gear Patrol's home and drinks editor. He's from Atlanta and lives in Brooklyn. He's interested in bourbon, houseplants, cheap Japanese pens and cast-iron skillets — maybe a little too much.

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