A high-tech robot is on a mission to caffeinate the nation’s capital. At D.C.’s newest coffee shop, a Javabot planted front and center precisely measures, grinds, and brews made-to-order cups of coffee.
NYC-born Roasting Plant Coffee opens its thirteenth store — and first in D.C. — in Dupont Circle (1211 Connecticut Avenue NW) on Wednesday, October 11. Fueled on giant test tubes full of aromatic, freshly roasted coffee beans, it’s safe to say Roasting Plant is unlike any other cafe in the city.
“We lean into a theatrical experience, beans flying through the tubes, to add a dose of fun, but at the end of the day our passion is providing the best cup of coffee for the customer,” says Sophie Penichet, head of Roasting Plant’s U.S. operations.
At its newest roasting and grab-and-go wonderland, customers order coffee and espresso-based drinks based on bean preference, with selections ranging from bold and dark blends to balanced single origins. From there, the Javabot gets to work roasting fresh coffee ready within 60 seconds. If you prefer a more complex blend, there’s an option to select multiple beans for a customized brew.
The company got its start in Manhattan in 2007 and has since expanded with storefronts across New York City, Detroit, and London, in addition to three airport locations and two Fresh Market supermarkets. Its next D.C. cafe will open just a few blocks away (1901 L Street NW) in 2024, and Penichet says the fast-growing chain plans to add as many as three more locations by the end of next year.
If you prefer iced coffee, there’s a patented contraption for that too. Roasting Plant’s “FlashChiller” quickly cools down hot coffee in its glass-enclosed ice bath system to prevent any flavors from watering down.
At a time when automation and the future of labor is on everyone’s minds on Capitol Hill, the Javabot and the FlashChiller do not work alone. Roast master Genevieve Kappler works closely with farmers across the globe to source the chain’s coffee, and a staff of expertly-trained baristas both manage the Javabot experience and finish all craft drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos.
In addition to coffee and tea, Roasting Plant sources pastries from D.C.’s Bluebird Bakery and serves a selection of homemade toasts and paninis. Roasting Plant is open on weekdays from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m., and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends.
Another high-tech coffee chain from the Big Apple is also making big waves in D.C. Fueled on private equity dollars and high-volume espresso machines, Brooklyn-born Blank Street Coffee, has ambitious plans to balloon to 10 area stores; its latest landed in Georgetown last month.
—Tierney Plumb contributed to this report