Brew Review

5 Coffee Shops in Metro Phoenix That are All About the Beans

There’s no shortage of coffee shops across the Valley, from laid-back lounges to bustling social spaces to serene study spots, but if your main aim is to sip on an espresso or drip coffee made using perfectly selected, roasted, and ground beans, then these five coffee nerd hangouts are for you.

click to enlarge Coffee beans roasting at Infusion Coffee and Tea. - ALYSSA TIDWELL
Coffee beans roasting at Infusion Coffee and Tea.
Alyssa Tidwell
Infusion Coffee and Tea
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Infusion Coffee and Tea is a spacious shop with a bright and inviting environment. And when it comes to coffee, the Tempe-based shop doesn’t mess around. The coffee shop and teahouse was founded by espresso extraordinaire Patrick O’Malley, and features its own roasting room and CQI-certified lab. Infusion’s coffee beans come from a variety of sources, including Guatemala, Ethiopia, and Mexico. In order to make the cut, the coffee beans must pass a rigorous selection test. In-house roast master Paul Oberg is a perfectionist, meticulously picking out defective beans prior to roasting, including beans that have been bitten by bugs, crushed from the hulling machine or picked overripe or under-ripe. Once Oberg has deemed a bag of beans up to snuff, he begins the roasting process.

When roasting, Oberg measures the airflow and speed in which the temperature rises, looking for a change from green to the ideal brown. Factors like the relative humidity content of the beans as well as the weather outside that day affect Oberg’s roasting approach. The key is roasting them to the correct temperature, then immediately cooling down the beans so they don’t roast any longer than desired, he says.

He can tell the difference between a dark roast and an underdeveloped light roast, taste-testing every brew of coffee. Oberg says when measuring the quality of the coffee he considers the acidity, sweetness, after-taste, and overall flavor. In addition, he assesses the feel and texture of each cup, which could be “silky or muddy.” Ethiopian coffees are one of Oberg’s favorites, as he finds them to be the most “fruity, floral and bright.”

While waiting for your perfectly roasted cup of joe, check out the coffee cup wall, filled with an eclectic collection of cups owner Patrick O’Malley‘s collected throughout his world travels.

click to enlarge Peixoto Coffee Roasters - ALYSSA TIDWELL
Peixoto Coffee Roasters
Alyssa Tidwell
Peixoto Coffee Roasters
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday through Saturday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

This Chandler-based roaster has tight family ties and strong Brazilian roots. While Julia Peixoto Peters and her husband, Jeff, run things in the States, Julia’s parents operate the Peixoto family farm, Fazenda São José da Boa Vista, in Minas Gerais, Brazil. While they source their beans from a variety of places, including Panama and Ecuador, the crops that come directly from their farm elicit a deep sense of connection to the coffee they serve.

“It’s the driving force behind what we do,” says Eric Hervey, assistant manager at Peixoto Coffee Roasters. “It gives us a reason to have an incredible amount of consistency and a real sentimental value.”

Hervey says everything is light-roasted, as this method is better for bringing out the natural fruity, floral, chocolaty flavors of the coffee, instead of masking them with a roasted taste. When brewing and cupping coffee, the team at Peixoto always look for quality, consistency, and balance, precisely measuring the amount of water and weight of the coffee grounds. This ensures that the coffee and espresso are never over- or under-extracted.

click to enlarge Kream Coffee - ALYSSA TIDWELL
Kream Coffee
Alyssa Tidwell
Kream Coffee
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Kream Coffee in Phoenix is a contemporary coffee shop selling a variety of pastel-colored, geometric knickknacks fit for the most hipster of homes, as well as budding succulents and beach cruisers. Far from being all about their looks, this shop features a weekly rotation of coffees, many sourced from Tucson-based Presta Coffee Roasters. Barista Steve McMillen says the beans are usually sourced from Colombia and Ethiopia, although they can come from all over the world, and Kream has a great relationship with Peixoto Coffee Roasters, as well, regularly purchasing beans from their family farm in Brazil.

The flavors that make a superb drink can depend entirely on where the beans come from, explains barista Carter Vaughan. Kream looks for coffee that is complex and expressive, with hints of fruitiness, like their current beans from Kenya, which Vaughan says are more naturally processed and have a dark, fruity flavor.

Kream is working with Case Coffee Roasters in Ashland, Oregon, to design a permanent house blend with a consistent roast on every bean. You’ve got a bad roast when certain beans are much lighter than others, so consistency in color can very much set apart the amateurs from the professionals. Their house blend will be 2/3 Ethiopian and 1/3 Colombian, with a perfect roast, of course. “When you have really great coffee, it makes our jobs as baristas easy,” McMillen says. “The coffee really shines.”

click to enlarge Bicycles at the entrance of Regroup. - ALYSSA TIDWELL
Bicycles at the entrance of Regroup.
Alyssa Tidwell
Regroup Coffee + Bicycles
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Regroup Coffee + Bicycles doubles as a coffee joint and a full-service bike repair, rental, and sales shop. Everything from beach cruisers to high-end mountain bikes have been on the operating table at Regroup, but don't be detoured: Their coffee program is way more than an afterthought.

Jonathan Ortiz, head of Regroup’s coffee program, says that a great cuppa comes from high-quality beans roasted with care and extracted by a team of well-trained baristas. Ortiz clearly loves coffee, a wide smile on his face as he describes the Slayer sitting on the front counter, a famed espresso machine hand-assembled in Seattle. “It’s an aesthetically beautiful machine,” he says. "The pre-brew function restricts the flow rate of water, allowing baristas to better profile the coffee, reduce acidity, and gain more control over the extraction of espresso."

Regroup works closely with Presta Coffee Roasters, but also buys their beans through importers or directly from the farm. Ortiz cups the coffee for every new shipment, constantly tasting and painstakingly assessing the flavor and quality of the roast, as well as visually inspecting every shipment for any defects in the beans. If anything tastes slightly off, they go back to Presta to make adjustments until near-perfection is achieved.

Whether a coffee blend or an espresso option, Ortiz looks for flavor that is balanced and slightly chocolaty—something people can enjoy as a latte or with a dash of cream. “I like to think of it as coffee with a purpose,” he says. If customers want something more floral and exotic, Ortiz recommends ordering single-origin or pour-over. At the moment, he’s most excited about Regroup’s coffee from Loma La Gloria farm in El Salvador, which has smooth yet striking flavors.

Bergies Coffee Roast House
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Bergies is a quaint spot in downtown Gilbert, nestled within a patio bursting with flowers, foliage, and charming lawn décor. Owners and brothers, Bruce and Brian Bergeson, custom-roast their coffee beans in small batches every day, never keeping them for more than 14 days.

“We want our coffee to be high-quality and really fresh,” says Bergies barista Adam Holliefield.

They make it a point to import only the highest-quality crops, sourcing their beans from 18 countries around the world, including Costa Rica, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia. Brian Bergeson explains that when working with a new crop of beans, it’s a matter of trial and error. After each roast, they’ll cup the coffee and assess the flavor profile, then decide whether a light, medium, or dark roast is best suited. Typically, they lean toward light to medium roasts, which allow the natural flavor and characteristics of the beans to shine.

For example, the Tanzanian peaberry elicits blueberry tones and hints of wine when light-roasted, Bergeson says. Another of Bergeson’s favorites comes from Caranavi, Bolivia. Roasted fairly lightly, the coffee is extremely smooth with wonderful chocolate notes.

If you’re looking for a bit of fun, try the “bruceé,” a delightfully sweet, rich drink made up of cold brew, half-and-half, and crème de cacao. “We’re coffee lovers,” says Bergeson, but not snobs. “You can drink a drink with whatever you want in it here, however you like.”