When you love good coffee, you really, really love good coffee.
You want the whole world to drink better coffee. And you want them to understand why it’s better.
Chip Grabow, the founder of Radio Roasters Coffee, is one of those people who loves good coffee. A former national producer for NPR who spent some time working for a local NPR affiliate in Portland, Oregon, Grabow cemented his relationship with coffee while he was there.
After moving to Atlanta for a change of jobs and hitting a few bumps in the road along the way, he decided he wanted to go “full bore” into roasting coffee.
“I wanted to go bring better coffee to Atlanta, particularly to the Decatur area where I live. I decided to go to work for myself. I wanted to source really good coffee beans, roast them and then get them into people’s homes right away. I want people to see the big difference in fresh roasted quality coffee.”
Another bump put Grabow back in the news business but he isn’t giving up on the coffee. “It’s a tiny bootstrap company. I spend my spare time searching for coffee, roasting coffee, doing deliveries and shipping coffee.”
Grabow isn’t totally alone in this project. He has part-time baristas who work on Saturday mornings when he hosts Open Roastery hours in his location on E. Ponce de Leon Avenue in Scottdale. From 10am to noon, they host shoppers and sippers who come to buy coffee beans, a pour-over or an espresso.
“We want to be resource to coffee lovers, a place they can learn how to make coffee. We’re glad to answer questions and hope eventually to offer classes. In the meantime, you’re welcome to come in and watch how we do it.” When I dropped in, he was roasting beans for a customer who had four pounds of coffee beans imported from Ethiopia.
He’s been in his space in Scottdale since February 2015. It’s a building with an eclectic group of tenants where you can volunteer with Lifeline Animal Project, get your exercise at Tapmania or just enjoy a great cup of coffee. Radio Roasters has no retail hours except during Open Roastery. You can buy Radio Roasters’ coffee any time though through the website [http//radioroasters.com] where you’ll find a selection of single origin coffees, sold in quantities from 4 ounces to a pound. There are also 80-ounce bags (five pounds of coffee) available for those brewing coffee for a crowd. And if you live in Decatur, he’ll deliver for free.
“Right now we’re focused on our ecommerce business. We don’t roast until we have the orders. Then we roast the coffee and deliver it within 48 hours. We like to think of ourselves like the milkman of old days, delivering fresh coffee to your house on a regular basis. I always suggest people not buy more coffee than they can drink in a week or two. It makes a difference. Don’t buy bulk coffee to hold you for a month. Buy it fresh.”
At Radio Roasters, things that look good are almost as important as coffee that tastes good. Maybe this is a surprise coming from a guy who spent most of his career in radio where the audio quality is what matters. But Grabow is a big design fan who had specific ideas for the look of his website and coffee bags. The name of his company reflects his years in the radio business and all his graphics have a charming old time feel, taking you back to those days of the milkman and home delivery. Grabow says his ultimate goal is “get Atlanta on the map as a good coffee town.”
The company is too small right now to do direct trade with coffee farmers so Grabow works with an importer. “I sample tons of green coffee, roast it and taste it. If I like it, I buy larger amounts. I’m always looking for special coffees with interesting notes, one that will make a solid cup of coffee. It’s possible to buy cheaper stuff, but that’s not coffee I want to drink. Higher priced coffee is where the quality is. And you feel good about buying quality coffee because you know the farmers took care to grow a quality crop and they should be paid better. Coffee farming is not an easy business, but that’s where the quality of the coffee starts, in every step the farmers take with the coffee and then how it’s treated along the way to get to you.”