Roaster of the Month: Compass Coffee

We at District of Coffee love our veterans as you might have noticed from our last couple posts. Today we round out our veteran-themed week by highlighting one of DC’s favorite coffee roasters: Compass Coffee.

Compass was founded by two former Marines – Michael Haft and Harrison Suarez. Both grew up in DC, but they didn’t meet until going to college at Washington University in St. Louis (Go Cardinals!). While deployed in Afghanistan, the two bonded over their lack of access to good coffee. And thus, upon returning home from serving our country, they began to serve people in a brand new way, with real good coffee.

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A real good latte

They first started with an e-book, Perfect Coffee at Home, and soon grew that into Compass Coffee. Why the name Compass? According to the website, “Our coffee and our cafes will always help our customers get their bearings and point them in the right direction for the rest of the day.” Sounds like something I need every day.

Compass’s Head Roaster Alex Parker didn’t intend to find himself in the coffee biz. In fact, he moved to DC to work at a nonprofit and “change the world,” a narrative I and so many others can relate to. He came across Compass as they were preparing to open their first store in Shaw over 2 years ago, and soon enough he became part of the family, graduating from Assistant Manager to Manager at their Shay location to Head Roaster. The latter is still a fairly new position, one with a steep learning curve, but Alex welcomes the challenge and even has two apprentices working under him to learn the craft.

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Compass’s Loring roaster rests between batches

The roaster serves as a centerpiece of the store, a conversation starter, with a roasting bar that invites customers to sit and ask questions about the roasting process. The brand of roaster produces 85% less emissions, allowing it to be out in the open and give customers a behind-the-scenes peek you might not get other places.

Compass offers 9 blends year round – 3 from each major coffee-producing region (Americas, Africa, East Asia), each with one light, one medium, and one dark roast. They also offer single-origins, but it is their blends that prove the most popular. You can see the flavor profiles of all their coffees colorfully marked on every can of beans. They are currently serving an Autumn Blend Alex worked to create, and he is currently trying to determine the perfect recipe for their Holiday Blend.

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Behind the scenes in their coffee lab

It’s hard to imagine Compass has only been around for two years when you consider their fast-growing presence around the city and how they were on the precipice of the Made in DC movement. Two new locations opened up in 2016, less than four months apart, bringing them to four cafes total. For those in Ivy City, you might also notice Compass’s presence beginning to take shape. They have simply outgrown their original roasting space and are planning to open a new, larger roasting facility at the Hecht Warehouse that will also include a storefront.

So what is it about Compass that keeps people coming back? Is it the product? The story? The atmosphere? Alex suggests it’s because they work hard at making good coffee that’s approachable for everyone. He also marvels at the consistent upbeat attitudes from the baristas – “I don’t know how they’re all always so nice.” What do you think it is?

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Outside Compass’s first location on 7th St. NW

The Stats:

Year founded: 2014
Roaster manufacturer: Loring S35 Kestrel
Calibration Program/software: Varies with roast
Capacity:  About 75 lbs.
Lbs per day: 2000-2200 lbs.
Bean sourcing: Work with several importers they have developed close relationships with
Cuppings frequency: As needed when roasting
Packaging: Tin cans, all displaying their flavor matrix
Where to buy: Currently offering retail at coffee shop and online, Whole Foods, Yes! Organic Market, numerous other restaurants and shops
Store Locations:  4: Shaw, The Shay, Downtown, Farragut
     BONUS:
Recommendation that’s on the shelf now: Autumn Blend

Keep caffeinated,

Lauren

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