In San Diego County, there are 135 coffee shops per capita (the 13th highest in America), so it’s no surprise we’re ranked among the top ten best coffee cities in the country. The one thing we didn’t have was a roasting collective.

Elliot Reinecke and Len Geiger of award-winning Steady State Roasting invested 750,000 dollars to create a beautiful 4,000 square foot space in San Marcos where both coffee shops and individual aficionados can roast their own coffee on one of four different roasters.

“People can come here to make their art,” says Reinecke, who sees the space as providing services similar to that of a recording studio.

Reinecke and Len believe the collective will be a catalyst for improvements in quality, taste, and sustainability in San Diego, and beyond.

“This approach allows customers to know what the process looks like, and costs, from bean to cup.”

Due to the increasingly high standards and costs, many coffee farmers are closing up shop and switching to more income-producing crops. Less coffee farmers translates to more expensive coffee in the future. However, Reinecke believes that we as consumers can turn that around through ethical sourcing and complete transparency.

California Roasting Collective currently buys directly from farmers in Central America, South America, Africa, and Mexico, to ensure that the farmers are adequately paid for their product and to provide stability and profit for their work.

Reinecke feels it’s important to foster long term relationships, so he has personally met some of his farmers and plans to regularly visit the farms.

The farmers aren’t the only ones who will benefit from this new collective. Small or growing coffee shops can save thousands of dollars and increase the quality of what they serve by roasting their own, and members have the option of sharing fees related to buying coffee beans directly from farmers.

“You don’t have to concern yourself with a lease payment, or green (coffee bean) storage, explains Reinecke. “You also don’t have to worry about building anything, electronics, gassing, permits, bagging equipment, or technology. We already figured that out, so you don’t have to.”

For those new to roasting, both individual consumers and new coffee shops, the relationship starts with a thirty-minute, in-person consultation, followed by a two-hour initiation meeting if the collective is a good fit.

“The goal is to get everyone comfortable enough to roast coffee on their own,” says Reinecke.

The initiation includes two hours of roaster training, safety protocols, layout, and cleaning guideline. Aside from the benefits of self-roasting with professional commercial machines and ethically sourced coffee. The collective can also help with branding, mentoring, and sourcing and private in-person and online consultations are also available.

Members then have the opportunity to start roasting. A sliding scale is used, depending on the roaster: the larger the roaster, the more expensive it is to rent per hour, though the larger roasters also allow more beans to be processed at the same time.

Although there is a slight learning curve, with the help and support of other roasters, most find the process enjoyable and the outcome tasty.

Beyond equipment, there are ample opportunities for growth and support when collectively roasting.

“There is a sense of community, shared knowledge and love for coffee,” Reinecke says.“We are true customers of the collective ourselves. We also rent space and equipment. You can come here, learn, screw up. We are all screwing up together, and making good coffee.”

Experience the Collective

There are currently no walk-ins allowed and visits to the collective are by appointment only.

However, you can taste the current roasts at Steady State in Carlsbad, Hawthorn Coffee in North Park, Tired Eyes in East Village, and Bear Coast Coffee in San Clemente.

In the near future, the collective plans to host lectures from green coffee importers, farmers, and experts, offer barista training, home roaster lessons, and cupping lessons, as well as public tastings.

California Roasting Collective, San Marcos, CA

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About the Contributor
Christina Kantzavelos
Christina Kantzavelos is a freelance writer and the owner and editor of the award-winning gluten-free and health-conscious travel and lifestyle blog @BuenQamino. She enjoys writing about food, travel, health, culture, and sustainable living in San Diego and beyond.