A Day at the Big Water Coffee Roastery


This is part of a series of posts written in collaboration with Bayfield Chamber of Commerce + Visitor BureauCome learn more about Bayfield at Northerly Collective's Pop-Up Truck event with Big Water Coffee + Bayfield Tea Company this coming Sunday, August 6th from 8am to 2pm in Koller Park in Manitowish Waters. Event details available here

If you follow us on social media, it’s no secret that we LOVE Big Water Coffee Roasters in Bayfield, WI. We recently had the privilege of getting a behind the scenes look at how Big Water Coffee roasts your favorite cup of jo. Stormey + Jake, the team behind the roaster, are incredibly precise, diligent, and passionate about good coffee. They are the heart and soul behind the 60,000 pounds of coffee roasted annually. Here are some of the highlights from our trip and a step-by-step guide from grower to the shelf.

One - The Coffee Bean Scoop

Coffee starts out as a red fruit (cherry) that grows on a tall bush in countries along the equator including Ethiopia, Indonesia (Sumatra), Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Mexico.  Each country that grows coffee has its own unique “terroir” - environmental factors such as altitude, rainfall, and temperature that contribute to the flavors in the coffee. Big Water Coffee is very particular about where their coffee beans come from, purchasing coffee from eight different countries around the world depending on what is in season. One of our favorite fun facts about Stormey and Big Water Coffee is that they try to source all coffee from women farmers around the world. All of their beans are certified Fairtrade and Organic.

Two - Green Beans

Big Water Coffee receives the beans in the form of green beans, after the cherries have been pulped, washed, dried, hulled, sorted, packaged and brought to an exporter. The beans are imported by Cafe Imports in Minneapolis, then distributed to roasteries around the country, including Big Water. They purchase up to 20, 150 pound burlap bags of green beans weekly.  All bags of green beans are single origin, meaning they come from a single farm, crop, region, or country. Many of the producers are a part of a co-op, which allows for small growers to put their beans in a larger pool of beans to be exported. The green beans are roasted by origin separately before being mixed to ensure that the flavors of each coffee remain unique + distinguished. In addition, each batch is roasted to order so every day is different!

Three - The Roast

The roasting process is where Stormey shines. She moves around the roastery with an intuitive confidence, knowing when the roast is right simply by color and touching + smelling the beans. She is from Bayfield and has worked at Big Water Coffee since she was in high school! She walked us through the entire process from adding the beans to temperature monitoring to cooling and storage. Their Probat Roaster has a cast iron drum that is heated with flames from underneath. The drum spins the beans throughout the roasting process to ensure consistent heat for each of the beans.


The Process

  1. Pour beans into the holding chamber while the roaster heats to correct temperature.

  2. Release the beans into the roaster

  3. At 380 degrees, first crack occurs (you can hear it!), which indicates that the sugars have been baked out.

  4. At 390 degrees, second crack occurs

  5. Depending on whether you are roasting a light or dark roast, beans can roast up to 8 more minutes, but never exceeding 500 degrees.

  6. Dump into the cooling tray

  7. Empty into bins for mixing and bagging.  


Four - Mixing + Packaging

After the beans are roasted, the coffee is mixed to create specific flavor profiles. Each bag of Big Water Coffee is perfectly crafted to ensure a unique coffee experience, including seasonal blends that contain an ingredient that can only be found that time of year. Big Water Coffee hires high school and college students to do their bagging so that they have the opportunity to make money to help pay for school. Total time from roast to shelf is 48 hours so it’s always fresh!

Five - The Perfect Cup of Coffee

Stormey’s recommendation for the perfect cup of Big Water Coffee is to use a Chemex Coffee Maker, because it captures impurities in the filtering process leaving a less acidic, smooth cup of coffee. Need a perfect cup for bringing your coffee with you? We are loving Big Water's coffee mugs and if you're taking it to go, Keep Cups!


Decaf Dreams

Stormey’s ultimate new project is to create a decaf roast that tastes just as full and rich as a caffeinated roast. Decaf beans start the same as regular beans, but are put through a washing process that removes the caffeine molecules through chemical extraction. As a result, some of the flavors can breakdown, so Stormey is determined to make the best tasting decaf coffee for those of us who just can’t handle their caffeine (nudge, nudge, Elizabeth, Northerly co-curator).


Northerly Recommends…

Our favorite Big Water Coffee blends are always the seasonal blends because they are perfect for your mood + vibe of the season. We particularly love Apple Festival Blend (fall) and Sugarmoon (spring). For any time of year, you can’t go wrong with Sea Smoke. Buy their coffee online + get it delivered right to you door here


Special thanks to Big Water Coffee + Stormey for letting us spend an amazing day in the roasters! Visit Big Water Coffee Roasters in downtown Bayfield for a relaxing retreat on your next trip north - enjoy a cup of coffee or fresh baked scone. You'll also find the newly launched Bayfield Tea Company.  

For more adventure suggestions, sign up for our newsletter, The Current Collective and explore with the Northerly Collective Adventure Guide.