Roaster of the Month: Zeke’s

What would Washington, DC be without Zeke’s?


Zeke’s has been a Baltimore institution since 2005, and it was almost happenstance that they are in the District. John Kepner was working the grind at a DC non-profit while becoming increasingly interested in his uncle’s coffee roasting business, spending a lot of time commuting to Baltimore. At some point he realized he would find more joy if he flip-flopped his profession with his volunteer time; he came on board with Zeke’s full-time, eventually adding the roastery in DC three years ago.

Even then, he hadn’t necessarily planned on the cafe. They would roast beans in the back and offer some pour over coffees and tastings in the front, but the neighborhood was eager for more, and eventually it became a full-fledged cafe.

They continue to be a roaster first and foremost, offering about 45 (you read that right!) varieties of single origin and custom blends. Just about all of their beans are specialty grade (the exception being the occasional decaf non-specialty), and mostly organic. They support sustainability and use a combination of importer beans and direct trade.

2016 is a great year for Zeke’s: they installed a new roaster earlier in the year that greatly increased their roasting capacity and is better for the environment and neighborhood. They just updated their labels to include more information and roast profiles, and are now using heat sealed bags to keep the beans freshest. [They still deliver to their wholesale partners once a week (and more if needed!), within a few days of roasting to again ensure freshness.] If you follow Zeke’s on Instagram you’ll have noticed more storage capacity – increased production is on the horizon!

We featured Zeke’s in our first article together for Perfect Daily Grind – we’re on a great journey watching them grow.

The stats:

Roaster manufacturer: Loring S15 Falcon
Calibration Program/software: Loring – still relying on sight/smell but working with Loring program for consistency
Capacity: Approximately 25 lb per batch output
Roasting schedule: Roasting 5 days a week
Bean sourcing (direct trade/importers): Mix – Royal Coffee, some single source importers
Cuppings frequency: Daily for quality control and staff tastings
Packaging: Heat sealed bags – New
Where to buy: Currently offering retail at coffee shop; 15 farmers markets; mail-order or pick-up Coffee Club; Local stores such as Glen’s Garden Market, most MoM’s in the Beltway; other cafes like Bullfrog Bagels and Sugar Shack donuts, AND: soon expanding – stay tuned!
Personal favorite region: Guatemala
Recommendation that’s on the shelf now: Night of the Living Blend (Happy Halloween!)

What’s your favorite Zeke’s coffee? Sound off in the comments!

Stay grounded,




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