Roaster of the Month: Vigilante Coffee


DSC_0002With so many exciting things rolling out for Vigilante Coffee, we are thrilled to feature them as our Roaster of the Month and share in their progress with you.

In the Beginning…

The concept of Vigilante Coffee began years ago, when Chris Vigilante was living in Hawaii. Quite the opposite of what you often find when cafe owners get into the business, Chris started out seeing coffee grown on the farm, and eventually started roasting, whole selling, and then getting into retail. Along the way he was joined by partners Austin and Ashley who each bring unique perspectives to the team and help the company grow and flourish.

The original espresso machine, now in the lab

Austin first met Chris when Austin was working the DC scene and Chris was a barista. They became friends and started roasting coffee together in the basement of Austin’s apartment. When they realized they were producing really good coffee they started selling wholesale and farmer’s markets (they’ve been at Eastern Market for five years now). Next they started hosting pop-up cafes and the success there really changed the game.

When a loyal customer caught wind that they were looking for a more expansive roastery, he introduced the team to a bright open space in Hyattsville that he would share with them while he continued to use part of the garage as his office. The community, however, kept inquiring when they were going to serve coffee rather than just roast it, and the friendly pressure gave way to the cafe it is today.


It’s such a great community, in fact, that when they were looking for a place to expand, that was their number one priority. A great community to grow into, in addition to a good space and an excellent relationship with a new landlord. They landed on College Park, Maryland, and are excited to open in September of this year.


Finding the Unique in the Second-Most Traded Commodity in the World.

What sets Vigilante apart? We think it’s their dedication to education and their desire to build relationships with their partners.

Austin heads up the education program and they offer classes several times a week in their new lab, both to their wholesale partners and the general public (you can register through the link on their website). They cover everything from different brew methods, to the history of espresso, to basic latte art.

The bright lab in the same property as the cafe offers the perfect space for classes and cuppings

If you follow Vigilante on social media you’ll notice they spend significant time at origin, sourcing new coffee and growing their coffee community with the producers. Awan and Chris are the green buyers for Vigilante coffee and they’ve seen how making connections with farmers allows the quality of the coffee to skyrocket. The directness of the chain is a major focus for Vigilante.

Roaster Franklin oversees a batch during a morning roasting session

We’ve seen before how this can be a two-way street and through their relationships they’ve been able to offer programs like harvesting incentives to their producers. Another perk is trying new innovative methods with the producers, like having them ferment the coffee in tea water. When working through importers they can select a certain flavor profiles and the importer might come back with 10 farms that can offer those that season.


Always Striving for Improvement

In addition to growing their cafes, Austin is also excited to tell us about service style! Called the Vigilante Experience, they are now offering table service in the evenings with the intention of rolling this out full-time soon. Throughout their travels they’ve all seen how relaxing full service cafes are, when their is a major focus on presentation and fulfilling all aspects of the customer experience. In a hurry? Your server will take your order electronically on your way to a table so they can get started on it right away. Prefer a splash of milk in your coffee? Your servers can better help you narrow down which coffee suits your needs and what complements them. We are excited to experience this for ourselves soon!


The Stats

Take a look at the stats, and let us know what you love about Vigilante Coffee in the comments!

Roaster manufacturer: Dietrich
Calibration Program/software: Roaster’s’ experience and a clipboard!
Capacity: Approximately 25 lb per batch output
Batches/hour 3 – it takes about 15-18 minutes per roast
Lbs per day/week: About 2,000 pounds a week
Bean sourcing (direct trade/importers): Mix – Direct importers like Caravela and Ninety Plus, and personally built direct trade
Cuppings frequency: Daily for the roasters, weekly for staff (keeping it interesting by cupping the same bean 6 ways, cupping defects, etc).
Packaging: Lined resealable bags.
Where to buy: 90+ places offer Vigilante Coffee in the area! Find it at a multitude of stores, bars, and restaurants, as well as farmer’s markets. Sign up for their subscription service on their website!
Personal favorite region (Austin): Kenya, though it sometimes changes with the seasons
Recommendation that’s on the shelf now: Burundi, and the Ethiopian Kemgin


Stay Grounded,



Travel Tuesday: San Fransisco Bay Area

Earlier this month, I made a long-overdue trip to visit one of my best friends in Berkeley. I had traveled there several years back, but that was well before my constantly-caffeinated days. I researched. I strategized. I asked for recommendations. What I learned was that the coffee scene in the Bay Area has a lot to offer, and there’s no way you can tackle it all in one visit. However, you can’t say I didn’t try…

Artis Coffee

This was my first stop for coffee once landing in the Bay Area. Located in Berkeley, Artis provides a friendly open space with large windows and sleek furniture. I brought a book to read with me but was easily distracted by the live brew bar where you can sit up close and become engaged in the process as well as the roasting beans in the background. They had many pour-over options, so I asked the barista what he recommended that wasn’t an Ethiopian (warning: this trip is very pour-over-heavy). He suggested the Brazilian, and it did not disappoint, setting the bar high for the rest of my visit. If you can’t make it out to the Bay Area, don’t worry – Artis also has a location in Bangkok!

Highwire Coffee Roasters

Another Berkeley cafe, I stopped in for coffee and a bagel before making my way to the city. I ordered the howling wolf, aka nitro cold brew, and despite one man inquiring why I was drinking beer at 10am (cue outward awkward laugh and inner eye roll), it was delicious. The place, which includes a back patio, was bustling with people studying, catching up, or just grabbing a cup of coffee before heading to work for the day. A panini shop, Cafe Crosta, had also opened in their space just days prior to my visit. Supposedly they will begin focusing on the food so that Highwire can go back to focusing more on their coffee.

Not a beer, but a yummy nitro cold brew.

Four Barrel Coffee

This was the one place that people consistently told me I had to visit while in San Fransisco. I was thinking about ordering a latte, but when I noticed the slow bar, I quickly changed my mind. There were six options available for pour-overs – three from Ethiopia – and these options rotate weekly. I chose *surprise* one of the Ethiopians and chatted with my barista about their beans and the somewhat isolated slow bar. “It’s like they’re Africa, and I’m Madagascar,” nodding his head first in the general direction of the other coffee station and then back to me. He offered me a small chocolate cookie from a local bakery while I waited and admired the art on the walls, a new installation called “Let My People Lego” by Elbe Spurling. I enjoyed my drink perched in the window while people watching and day dreaming about what West Coast life would look like for me.

Ritual Coffee Roasters

Ritual has several locations in San Fransisco, but the one I visited in Hayes Valley was not what I was expecting. It was the tiniest shop just popped up in the middle of a square. The structure of the place (I think it might have been a shipping container?) as well as their use of this bold bright red color drew me in, and I sat outside watching people go in and out while a man played guitar nearby. It seemed that the majority of people popped in for a quick espresso, though a few ended up hanging around for a while. I quickly realized why people might call this the “hipster” location, though no one seemed “too cool for school” (do people still say that?). After a little while I ordered a cold brew to accompany me as I walked to my next location.

Sightglass Coffee

Sightglass has three locations (one more coming soon) of which to choose from, and I went with the flagship location in the SOMA District. It was huge with seating downstairs and upstairs, and a giant roaster in the midst of it all. I placed an order for a Kenyan pour-over and was directed towards the young man who would be preparing my drink. I appreciated watching my drink crafted from start to finish and enjoyed how the baristas took each order one at a time, though there were plenty of friendly baristas so no one had to wait long. Something I unfortunately learned after my visit is that they have an affogato bar upstairs! How freaking cool is that?! Obviously my research wasn’t as thorough as I thought, but more obviously, I must go back.

Things are non-stop at the Sightglass flagship location.

Wreckingball Coffee Roasters

So this cafe was the one I was most excited about, and for a completely geeky reason: one of the owners of this shop is the person who coined the term “third wave” coffee. Located in the Cow Hollow neighborhood, the cafe was smaller than I expected but with fun pineapple wallpaper and several areas for seating. The friend I was visiting tagged along for this venture following a walking tour of the Castro. He has only recently become a coffee drinker, and he always orders a vanilla latte; however, Wreckingball didn’t offer any flavors, so he went with a little simple syrup…and he said it was the best latte he’s ever had! There were two pour-over options (I know, so many pour-overs! I’m sorry!), and of course I went with the fruity Ethiopian. As my drink was being prepared, the barista humored me by walking my friend through the whole process, from the proportions to the bloom. I think my friend also humored me by acting interested. However, I was too busy coffee fangirling to really care.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to visit all the shops on my list, like female-owned Scarlet City in Oakland or the famous Blue Bottle (my logic for this was that we will soon have one in Georgetown, though I know it won’t be the same as going to the original). I tried stopping by Verve Coffee Roasters, but they happened to be closed the afternoon I made it out there, giving me a good excuse to go back soon.

I left my heart in San Fransisco, along with a long list of coffee shops to visit on my next trip! Any recommendations?

Keep caffeinated,


P.S.- On a non-coffee-related note, macaroni & cheese might be my favorite food, and there is a restaurant in Oakland called Homeroom that’s all about the mac & cheese that you must visit if you’re anything like me! You’ll thank me later 😉

Irish Coffee on St. Patrick’s Day

The first time I tried Irish coffee was actually within my first few months in DC. Classmates and I got to campus at 6am on a frigid November morning in hopes of scoring a coveted seat to an event at which Hillary Clinton was speaking. Around 9:30 we were turned around, told the venue was full. Feeling cold, tired, and dejected, I was in need of two things: coffee and alcohol. So what did I order when we were finally seated at Kafe Leopold? An Irish coffee…and another…and another…

Irish coffees at Kafe Leopold in Georgetown

What is an Irish coffee? Well, it wasn’t actually named as such until the mid-20th century, but drinks of the sort have been around for ages. However, it was officially “invented” on a stormy night in 1942 at Foynes, an airbase near Limerick, Ireland. After one plane was diverted back to Foynes due to the storm, the recently-opened restaurant at the base was prepared to warm up agitated passengers with food and drink. Chef Joe Sheridan created a warm concoction of coffee, sugar, whiskey, and cream for the passengers, supposedly resulting in a silence among the crowd while everyone imbibed. As legend has it, one man piped up, “Is this Brazilian coffee?” to which Sheridan responded, “No, that’s Irish coffee.”

Travel writer Stanton Delaplane brought the recipe back to his bartending buddy at the Buena Vista Hotel in San Fransisco, and that is really where the drink took off. However, the bartender couldn’t get it to work – the cream would always sink to the bottom of the mug. So he made the trip to Foynes and learned from the master. Buena Vistas are now famously known for their Irish coffees, and this is how we got the drink in the States.

You can’t go wrong with Jameson in your Irish coffee.

The best places for an Irish coffee in DC are cafes with both a coffee and bar program, such as The Coupe or Busboys & Poets. However, it’s also easy to make at home, which is exactly what I’m going to do when I get off work today using the following recipe.


-one cup of hot coffee (I recommend something chocolate-y)

-one tablespoon of brown sugar

-three tablespoons of Irish whiskey (Jameson is my go-to)

-heavy cream, slightly whipped

First warm up your mug by sticking it in the microwave or flushing it with hot water. Add coffee until your mug is about 3/4 full. Stir in brown sugar until fully dissolved, followed by whiskey. Top with cold heavy cream, slightly whipped, pouring it over the back of a spoon or gently spooning it in. Drink your coffee through the cream and enjoy! If you’re not a whiskey person, try substituting Bailey’s instead. This will result in a sweeter, creamier drink.

Where’s your favorite place to get Irish coffee in the District? Do you have a secret to making it at home? Let us know in the comments below! And have a fun, caffeinated, and safe St. Patrick’s Day!

Keep caffeinated,


Neighborhood Crawl: Union Station

When Lauren and I first began collaborating about this blog, one of the topics we were so excited about were Neighborhood Cafe Crawls. With so many fantastic neighborhoods in Washington DC, it was always hard to pinpoint where to start. Then it occurred to me that a great place to start would be where many start their time in DC: Union Station.

While not necessarily a mecca for specialty coffee, we’re here to celebrate coffee AND the District, so read on for how to fill a few hours doing both.

1- Start out at Ebenezer’s with a vanilla rose latte. Feel good about your purchase as their proceeds go directly back into the community, and enjoy a relaxing setting with a book or a friends and some people watching.


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2 – Head over to Union Station and admire the newly rejuvenated main hall. The station celebrates its 110 year-birthday this year, and some original building material can be found in the antique train gates in the Train Concourse. Enjoy some shopping in the bustle as you admire the 36 Roman Legionnaires watching over the main hall.


3- Pay a visit to the underrated Smithsonian Postal Museum. Even if you don’t have time to go into the atrium with a 90-foot-high ceiling to see the 1851 stagecoach and 1931 Model-T mail truck, you’ll be glad you stepped in just to take in the magnificent historic City Post Office Building that was constructed in 1914. (PS – It’s a Smithsonian Museum so it’s FREE!)



4- Walk east on the outside of Union Station this time and admire the Capitol Building from directly in front of the train station. The arches on the south side of Union Station are magnificent, and the Capital peeking through the flagpoles is breathtaking.


5- By now you’re parched for more coffee so head over to Union Kitchen Grocery where you an pick up a handcrafted Compass Coffee espresso drink, and a few bags of  fresh coffee to take home from one of the many local roasters sold there.

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{Disclaimer: Technically not a neighborhood, Union Station is actually in NoMa (North of Massachusetts), which to many DCers implies H St NE.}

TIP: If you’re traveling by car we hope you’re lucky to find some parking near Ebenezer’s and UKG- otherwise park at Union Station and have your ticket validated at the machine before walking back out to the garage. It’ll get you two hours for $6.

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Where else do you like to stop in while near Union Station?

Stay grounded,