The month of July is peak cookout season across the USA, with gas-, coal- and woodsmoke-fueled grills fired up far and wide in parks, patios, porches and yards. About four years ago, it was over a modest Weber grill that the first greens were browned by the founders of roasting company Backyard Beans in a backyard in the Philadelphia suburb Lansdale.
Through a swift period of what co-owners Laura and Matthew Adams describe as smart decisions, dedication and simply being in the right place at the right time, that grill gave way to a Diedrich IR 12 that in turn gave way this past winter to a 15-kilo-capacity Loring. And the yard, as it were, is now a roughly 2,800-square-foot roastery café and production facility.
Backyard Beans and local craft brewer Round Guys Brewing Co. recently partnered for a shared location, wherein the brewing company operates an event space with a full bar on the lower level, and shares the canned beverage packaging line on the main level that was custom built for both companies’ needs. The coffee shop occupies the main level with roughly 1,000 square feet of retail café space from which a roughly 600-square-foot roasting production zone is fully observable. Curious patrons are also free to peer through windows into the cold brew production and canning room.
“The grand opening at this point is just a formality,” Matthew Adams told Daily Coffee News of the celebration planned for Saturday, July 15, given that the Backyard Beans Coffee Co. Café has been open and gaining steam since April. “We withheld our grand opening until we were at a point where we were comfortable with our cocktail program.”
By a quirk of Pennsylvania liquor laws and the co-location partnership, the coffee company is able to operate under the brewing company’s liquor license, which expanded their range of beverages from the outset.
For espresso, the Backyard bar is centered on a Synesso Cyncra machine paired with a Mahlkonig Anfim grinder.The bar currently relies on two Sette grinders for general pourover and for decaf espresso while an EK43 grinder in the roasting area handles one-off pourovers, batch brews and other grinding needs. The company is also currently investigating use of the EK as its designated single-origin and decaf espresso grinder, with plans to acquire a second EK when the time is right.
Of course nitro cold brew is well represented on tap alongside Round Guys beer and a selection of local spirits and wines. Greens fed to the Loring are sourced with help from Olam Coffee, InterAmerican, Royal Coffee, and the small one-year-old Pittsburgh-based Peruvian “direct trade” facilitator Farm to Roast, one of whose coffees has become the Backyard Beans house single-origin espresso.
“We roast across the spectrum because we started off as a wholesale roaster,” Adams said, noting that the BB “dark” is what other roasters typically call a medium/medium-dark, and that these profiles are generally aimed at the wholesale market. The rest of their offerings are lighter, aiming for a combination of flavor clarity and full development.
“A lot of roasters are under-developing the coffees, they’re getting grassy notes or really juicy notes that taste great in a well-crafted espresso or pourover bar but that consumers at home don’t necessarily get the same effect out of. We’re trying to focus on buying quality green and developing it appropriately,” stated Adams, who has worked with Scott Rao and other Loring experts on the finer points of profile development on the high-tech machine.
And while full development is a primary concern in roasting for the local community, so is the development of a community itself, especially on the newly expanded staff of Backyard Beans, a company that prides itself on being partly woman-owned.
“We’re doing our best to have a diverse group of employees, especially in the café,” said Adams. “We’re trying to create a community within our company where everyone feels included in operational decisions that are being made.”
Everyone is welcome in the Adams’ Backyard, as it were. And while the delicate acidity of clarity-focused profiles executed on a state-of-the-art Loring may not be one’s first guess at what lies behind the brand name Backyard Beans, the roughly 1,400 pounds per week Adams roasts for over 50 wholesale accounts, a robust grocery presence and rapidly escalating RTD cold brew business tells the entrepreneur that the name works just fine as it is.
“I don’t send my coffee to third wave roaster shops across the country, because they’re going to look at it and say, ‘Backyard Beans? What’s this?’ and they’re going to toss it,” Adams admits, saying that if they were to build the company into a national brand there might be some consideration of changing the name, but not for as long as the company remains focused on the mid-Atlantic region, and either way, there’s no shame in sticking to one’s roots. “It’s where we came from, and it works locally.”
As for where they’re going, that might include a standalone tasting room in the Lehigh Valley sometime soon, though there’s no intention to open a shop in the city of Philadelphia, which Adams considers already well-stocked with excellent roasters doing great things in coffee. Focus for Backyard Beans for now will be expanding their wholesale business, ramping up online sales, continuing to grow the cold brew segment, and this week throwing a Backyard Beans grand opening bash.
Backyard Beans is now open at 408 West Main Street in Lansdale, Pa.