The Heart and Science of Coffee – Part 1
~ Inside Deeper Roots Coffee ~

Vacant lots, old but staunch apartment buildings, and weathered storefronts line this Cincinnati neighborhood in West End. At the corner of Colerain and Bank, a freshly painted gray building rises from the 100-year-old landscape, disrupting the mellow, if not slightly tired, view.

As I get closer, the unmistakable smell of coffee wafts from the structure, signaling I’d arrived at Deeper Roots Coffee. Ryan Doan, one of the partners, buzzes me in. “Come on in,” he says, with a coffee-fueled twinkle.

The space is huge, made even bigger by the soaring ceilings. Even so, the magnificent hardwood floors radiate warmth and a sense of coziness. “This new facility is equal parts production and education,” Doan explains. “We bring coffee in from all over the world and roast it here.”

The display of all things coffee is front and center: two La Marzocco espresso machines, Hario V60 pour over coffee gear, a coffee grinder, a digital gram scale, and even a coffee flavor wheel for a table.

One minute inside and you quickly get the idea the space is steeped in serious coffee culture. I am about to find out what sticklers these folks are about coffee.

Without skipping a beat, Doan offers to make a cup of coffee, which he proceeds to do, pour-over style. The coffee gear comprises a coffee-filled V60 ceramic cone sitting atop a clear flask, which in turn sits atop a digital scale. The whole assembly looks like a meticulous chemistry lesson.

“We are using twenty-eight grams of coffee to 375 grams of water at about two hundred degrees,” Doan announces. He starts pouring the hot water over the coffee and then pauses.

Company founder, Les Stoneham, chimes in, “The coffee is so fresh, there’s still a lot of gas inside the grinds. The gas gets in the way of the water doing its work of extracting.” Thus, the proper technique is to pour ten percent of the water and wait thirty seconds for the air to release—and the coffee to “bloom”—before pouring over the rest of the water.

Then and Now

Established in 2011, Deeper Roots Coffee is primarily a wholesale coffee roasting company that supplies roasted coffee to the tristate’s restaurants and coffee shops, with a reach as far as San Francisco. The company also owns a couple of coffee shops—one in Oakley and the other at Findlay Market.

Deeper Roots Coffee has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception. In 2017, they roasted roughly one hundred thousand pounds of coffee compared to five thousand pounds the first year.

In search of more space, Stoneham, Doan, and the other partners, Adam Shaw and Courtney Robinson, relocated their roasting operation from Mount Healthy shortly before Thanksgiving in 2017. The building in West End is a cavernous forty-five thousand square feet, reaching two stories. They are occupying only a fraction of it—for now.

“The warehouse is big enough to store a container of coffee, which amounts to roughly thirty thousand pounds,” Doan notes. “If need be, we can store more. We bought the whole entire building.”

The First Roots

Stoneham and his partners started Deeper Roots Coffee with barely more than a gut belief they could make a difference in the lives of coffee farmers in Guatemala. Some years earlier, in 2004, Stoneham had made an exploratory trip to Guatemala and met many from the coffee-farming community. “They basically picked coffee from the fields, sold it to the guy at the side of the road, and never saw it again,” Stoneham recalls.

He saw how the farmers were stuck in the cycle of not making enough from the farms to better their lives. “If they continue this agrarian life, the only way the next generation is going to be a part of that is if there is real opportunity, not just a way of eking by,” Stoneham says.

Stoneham knew the way to break the cycle was to move the farmers from selling freshly picked coffee cherries to selling quality coffee beans that could fetch a premium price. Central to this shift was the building of a production facility to process and dry the coffee beans.

Over the years, Deeper Roots Coffee has invested in better processing equipment in Guatemala, making it possible for the farmers to fetch three times the average price for the commodity. The group at Deeper Roots Coffee is intent that the farmers not just survive but thrive. The key to doing that? Producing quality coffee and educating the marketplace here in order to grow the demand for premium coffee.

Their mindfulness of how they affect the coffee farmers guides Deeper Roots Coffee more than ever as they grow and broaden their global impact.

Deeper Roots Coffee
Website: DeeperRootsCoffee.com
2108 Colerain Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45214 | 513.655.6535

Editor’s Note: We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the people of Guatemala affected by the eruption of Fuego volcano.