Mike Caswell, founder of NYC’s Roasting Plant coffee shops, has an engineering degree. To be completely honest, there isn’t any away he couldn’t have an engineering degree, judging from the system of vacuum-aided pneumatic tubes that automatically sort, roast, and transport a variety of coffee beans around the space of his two Manhattan stores. He calls the whole setup Javabot, the roasting component of which is visible through the store’s window and is frequently Instagram-ed by passersby.
At Roasting Plant’s Orchard Street Location, coffee beans are sucked from individual columns and deposited into the heating column that roasts them in small batches.
“Javabot is the name for the whole system, the automation that takes the un-roasted coffee out of their tubes, transports it to the roaster, roasts it in the air, and transports it to the roasted columns,” Caswell explained at his Orchard Street location, “When a coffee is ordered, the roasted beans get sucked up into the grinder.”
Roasting Plant just might be the only coffee shop in Manhattan with this kind of technology. Caswell should know; he designed and built his first Javabot when he opened Roasting Plant’s first location in Greenwich Village in 2007. Since then, they’ve expanded to two other locations in Manhattan’s Chinatown and Detroit. The coffee itself is good and fresh enough to come back, even without the fancy tubing and automation.
Some fancy tubing and automation
For Caswell, who worked for Starbucks in an “engineering and analytical capacity,” and for Boston’s Coffee Connection as a barista, Roasting Plant is a marriage of two careers.
‘Between the two of them, I’ve learned about coffee, beans, sourcing, different flavors and drinks, and how to manage it all as a business,” Caswell said of Roasting Plant’s founding, “It took a few years before opening the first store to design [Javabot], prototype it, find things that didn’t work, fix them, and come up with a really workable mechanism that could be installed.”
Roasting Plant’s world-spanning varieties of coffee
Roasting Plant offers a number of beans at each location, 7 in Chinatown, 13 in Detroit, and so on. They rotate with the seasons. “Like wine, some grow in regions that have good years and bad years,” Caswell said.
For now, Roasting Plant is looking to expand in New York and Detroit, as well as overseas. Even if you’re not a coffee expert, and, Caswell assures, you don’t have to be, a trip there is worth witnessing the spectacle of beans flying through tubes along the ceiling.
Next, read about the Top 10 Coffee Shops in Manhattan (For Design Buffs). Get in touch with the author at @jinwoochong.