Saturday, December 9, 2023

Playbook: Toledo’s DIY Coffee Roasters

In an ever-busier world where even beef jerky is now being caffeinated, who cares how you get your fix? Why care where your coffee comes from if it keeps you awake long enough to endure an afternoon of endless spreadsheets and Facebook game requests? Toledo has coffee roasters who care an awful lot;  roasters who make coffee like Steve Jobs made computers. They work in garages and makeshift offices because they believe their coffees can’t be found anywhere else. They plan to make you think about the next cup you pour.

Maddie & Bella

“The huge myth of coffee is that it has the shelf life of a Twinkie,” said Rich Jambor, who owns Maddie & Bella Coffee with his family in Perrysburg. Rich makes sure that all their coffee is fresh. He limits his wholesale orders from local grocery stores so that bags are not left sitting. All of the coffee they sell at the Perrysburg Farmers’ Market is roasted that week.

Maddie & Bella began one day when Rich’s father, Dick, came home and announced that he was going to start roasting coffee. He had tried home-roasted coffee from a friend and never looked back. He and his wife, Susan, bought a commercial roaster in 2012, and kept trying new beans and roasting techniques. Dick now has handwritten logs of over 1,000 roasts. “I’ve always been an engineer tinkerer at heart.” he said.

I tried their Sunflower blend. It was clean and noticeably fresh, with red fruit and a pleasant, acid finish. All the flavors hit consecutively, accordingly. It tasted like anything but a first try.

Dick can sound like a mad scientist when he discusses country-specific roast profiles, and a drug kingpin when he talks about the “20 kilos of Colombian coming tomorrow.” But, at his heart, he is just a giant coffee fan. Roasting was a hobby at which he became too good; his family and friends and neighbors couldn’t get enough of his beans. “I’m trying to get the most out of coffee,” Dick told me. He is.

Check out their website,, for more information.

Actual Coffee

Lance Roper shoveled green coffee beans from a barrel-sized bag and dumped them into a six-foot-tall roaster that looked like an oversized cake mixer from the 1918 World’s Fair. We stood in a former law office, with drop-tile ceiling and gray, plaid carpet. Roper set the timer on his steel Casio watch, and we waited while the beans spun inside the machine.Roper, 25 and thin, with hipster-swept blonde hair, started Actual Coffee after he read about coffee farm workers routinely being exploited. He knew he could make a difference. “Coffee’s been something that western civilization has enjoyed at the expense of everyone else in the world,” he said.

He found two importers that share profits with farmers and ensure fair wages. He raised $15 thousand on Kickstarter, bought a roaster, and now funds his business through mail orders and two part-time tech support jobs. His headquarters, 321 Superior St., in Rossford, has a roaster, a computer, some shelves, a guitar amp to keep him company, and bags of fresh coffee from around the world.

Meticulous about roasting, Roper regulated the airflow to ensure that the beans’ temperature hit the desired degree at the exact second. After the beans cooled, he hovered over them, using a wooden spoon to separate ones that were irregular or discolored. “I can’t sell someone this,” he said, showing me a coffee bean that was only slightly warped.

His roast from the day before, beans from Ethiopia, released a cacophony of fresh coffee scents that gave me a head buzz. He ground some up and poured filtered water over them at exactly 206 degrees into a glass beaker. It tasted perfect; smooth and nutty with dark chocolate and a light caramel finish. Roper refused to compliment his coffee, or accept any of mine. Like the farmers in Guatemala or the fluorescent lights in his office, he told me, “It’s all about the story.”

For more information, visit Actual Coffee’s website,

Dorian Slaybod is 28, a local attorney and happily living in Toledo.

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