an explorer's club of Wisconsin foods and recipes

One of the Perks of Living in Wisconsin: Coffee Roasters


This month I asked three Wisconsin Bites tasters to give us their take on a good cup of coffee.  Sherry Stilwell, Clinton; Colleen Sciano-Hine, Hubertus; and Matt Potter, Portland, Ore., did us the favor of sampling “Breakfast Blends” from three Wisconsin coffee roasters.

Colleen, Matt and Sherry brewed coffee from Berres Brothers Coffee Roasters, Watertown; Steep & Brew Coffee, Madison; and Victor Allen’s Coffee, Little Chute.  We’ll share what they said about the taste, but here’s a little bit about each roaster.

berres bros

Berres Brothers

More than 100 types of specialty coffees are offered by Berres Brothers, a company that began as Coffee Host, Inc. (a coffee, soda and snack vending business) by Marvin Berres in 1970.  The company became Berres Brothers in 1992 when Marvin’s sons, Peter and Jeff, took over the business.  Peter took over complete ownership in 2000 and renamed it Berres Brothers Coffee Roasters, Inc.

With a roasting facility, retail area and cafe in Watertown, Berres Brothers offers more than 40 flavored varieties, along with single origins, blends and Fair Trade certified organic coffees.  Master Roaster John Johnson has ranked in the top 5 of the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s (SWAA) annual Roaster’s Choice Competitions.

Berres Brothers sells their roasted and brewed coffees in grocery and convenience stores throughout Wisconsin and on their site.  They describe their breakfast blend as a signature roast that’s “perfectly balanced, exquisitely smooth. Wake up to this lively blend of South & Central American beans.”  Their gourmet coffee roasts beans from Columbia, Kenya and many other countries from around the world and “use only the top 10% of mountain-grown Arabica beans and roast them in small batches to guarantee quality, full flavor and freshness.”

Steep n Brew

Steep & Brew

Mark Ballering founded Steep & Brew in Madison in 1979, but as a coffee house… a place to enjoy coffee and conversation.  But after finding an 1890’s Italian coffee roaster, things changed.  Mark started learning about coffee — traveling to coffee farms in Central America — and roasting coffee himself.

The result?  Steep & Brew’s own precision roasting process and high quality standards for bean selection.  As a result, their coffees — such as Breakfast Blend, Kona Blend and Costa Rican — have received national recognition.  They describe their Breakfast Blend as “a full mild blend designed to be lively and satisfying.”

Steep & Brew still manages their own coffee shops, but has almost 20 years experience in grocery.  They also have convenience store and office coffee programs.  Steep Brew also developed Cafe Fair in 1997 to “address the inequities facing small farmers who we had gotten to know in Central America. and to educate consumers about Fair Trade, Organic and other biodiverse farm practices.”   Cafe Fair is now available in bulk and prepackaged retail bags.   You can also buy Steep & Brew coffee on their site.

Victor Allen

Victor Allen’s 

Victor Allen’s Coffee was established in Madison in 1979, striving to be the best in coffee selection, precision roasting and brewing.  It began in the grocery market, but then expanded into several Madison and Milwaukee coffee shops.  Purchased in 2002, the company was moved to a state-of-the-art, 40,000-square-foot facility in Little Chute.

By 2008, Victor Allen’s had expanded its corporate headquarters facility to 70,000 square feet and had acquired Trade-Mark Coffee.  Now Victor Allen’s offers three brands:  Victor Allen’s, Rio Grande Roasters and Avalon Organic Coffee as well as private label offerings.  They search for beans in Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands, and the Americas.

Victor Allen’s brand alone offers 48 coffee varieties.  Their Breakfast Blend is among their most popular offerings.  They say it’s “gentle but balanced and interesting, this blend of Colombian and Central American beans is always a safe bet. It is moderate in body and acidity and
always has a smooth finish. (Medium Roast)”

You can buy Victor Allen’s at convenience stores, grocery and club stores or on their site.

So who did our tasters favor?

berres bros
Wisconsin Bites Favorite

Wisconsin Bites Favorite

Berres Brothers was chosen because of it’s “pleasant (aroma) and full, rich flavor.”  In fact, one taster called it a “great way to wake up.”  Getting high marks for great aroma, taste and finish, it offered “a smooth, light taste with a crisp finish.”

Steep & Brew was singled out, however, for anyone who wants a bolder, stronger flavor.  Tasters said it has a “rich, bold aroma with a strong, deep taste.”  Summed up:  “bold taste with bolder body.”

Hope that helps you the next time you’re in the coffee aisle wondering which of the what-seems-like-millions to try!  Thanks Tasters!

Have a great weekend!

3 Responses to “One of the Perks of Living in Wisconsin: Coffee Roasters”

  1. Tom

    We wake up to Berres Brothers every morning. The coffee, not the actual brothers.


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