Bull Run Roasting Company’s New Cafe

Jena Modin / Heavy Table
Jena Modin / Heavy Table

In 2005 Greg Hoyt, owner of Bull Run Roasting Company in Minneapolis, made a trip to Rwanda that he says turned him on to “third wave coffee.” Rubbing shoulders with industry leaders like Peter Giuliano of Counter Culture Coffee and Geoff Watts of Intelligentsia, Hoyt says he saw “the length to which people will go to bring it [quality coffee] to consumers.” His experience in Rwanda motivated him to buy out his partner in 2006 with the hope of pushing Bull Run Roasting Company into the third wave, where people go to extreme lengths to discover the ultimate possibilities of coffee; this is in contrast to the first wave, post WWII, wherein coffee was merely consumed, and the second wave in the ’60s, when Arabica coffees began replacing lower grade Robustas.

Bull Run has been a prominent roaster in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area since it opened in 2001, but has been heretofore unknown in the cafe scene. Currently Bull Run roasts for couple hundred restaurants and country clubs including The Strip Club, Vincent, and Hell’s Kitchen, but only one coffee shop, The Beat Coffeehouse in Minneapolis. “Hundreds of people drink our coffee everyday and don’t know it is us,” says Hoyt. Lunds and Byerly’s is a Bull Run account that relabels the coffee for sale in their stores. Until now, Bull Run Roasting Company has been a wholesale roaster with little recognition for sourcing and roasting high-end coffee. With the new cafe Hoyt says: “I am trying to get something associated with our name.” He hopes state-of-the-art equipment, extensively trained baristas, and a new line of coffee will aid him in his goal to set Bull Run apart as a roaster pushing the threshold of coffee in Minneapolis. The new cafe is slated to open in early November.

Jena Modin / Heavy Table
Jena Modin / Heavy Table

Teaming up with Rustica Bakery, Bull Run will take the place of Java Jack’s and run the coffee bar in Rustica’s new location near Lake Calhoun. In April, Hoyt brought on Stephanie Ratanas, formerly of Metropolis Coffee Company, to put together a team of baristas to work on some of the most advanced brewing machines available. Ratanas says, “We want baristas who are humble, and willing to learn, and who also have an interest in the industry.”

Jena Modin / Heavy Table
Jena Modin / Heavy Table

The new Bull Run cafe will be a brew-to-order cafe featuring four brewing methods including French press, pour over brew bar, Clover, and siphon brewers. The pour over brew bar is where pour over brewers are lined up in a tray and a barista grinds and pours water over each as they are ordered. The Clover, the most advanced brewer in the world, allows baristas to change grind, temperature, and brew time based on each coffee.

The siphon brewers are a Japanese brewing device wherein water is heated in a bottom beaker until it boils and moves up and into an upper beaker. Coffee is then added and stirred. Next, the coffee is siphoned back into the lower beaker by removing the heat — this creates a cup that is clean and sediment-free. The advantage is that the barista can control the extraction time of the brew by heating or cooling the bottom beaker. The siphon brewer is the closest rival, capability-wise, to the Clover. From the siphon the Ethiopian Amaro Gayo, one of the coffees lined up for the cafe’s opening, tastes clean with an abundance of fruit alongside floral layers of chamomile and lavender.

Bull Run will have a signature espresso blend called Dogwood that will be served alongside a seasonal single origin espresso and decaf espresso. For the opening of the cafe, the Dogwood blend will be a four-bean blend including coffees from Brazil, Kenya, Guatemala, and Panama. The current blend is clean and balanced, offering up floral and citrus notes that are bright but still balanced. Baristas will brew espresso on a brand new Synesso Hydra. According to Keith Mrotek, one of Bull Run’s baristas, “the Hydra has a different pump and boiler for each group head, allowing for them to be set at different temps.” This will allow baristas to create settings for each group head that will maximize the extraction for each espresso.

Jena Modin / Heavy Table
Jena Modin / Heavy Table

“We want this to represent a fundamental switch of who we are as a coffee company,” says Hoyt, who is dissatisfied with the current reputation of Bull Run. Hoyt plans to taste coffees by conducting cuppings in the cafe two to three times a week. “Our current wholesale coffees get 85 to 89 points [from Coffee Review]; we want all of these coffees to be 89 and higher.” Bull Run has already received a 92 from Coffee Review for their Rwanda COE (Cup of Excellence) Lot 16. Along with the cafe, Hoyt plans to launch a website where coffee will be sold and an informative blog will be maintained.

Tom Becklund, the roaster at Bull Run, currently roasts on an archaic 12-kilo Komet and a 25-kilo Probat. The majority of the roasting is done in the 25-kilo Probat, and Hoyt plans to move another roaster into their warehouse. He plans to get a smaller roaster so that Becklund can roast in smaller batches. For the cafe, Becklund will be roasting small micro lots and single origin coffees that will require expertise with the bean and complete control over the roaster.

“I want to bring my current accounts into this cafe to taste these coffees to show them what coffee can be,” says Hoyt. What Kopplin’s Coffee and Black Sheep Coffee Cafe have done in St. Paul, Bull Run hopes to do in Minneapolis. “It will be an educational place,” says Hoyt, who knows that teaching people about the third wave of coffee is no easy task.

Bull Run Roasting Company Cafe

3220 West Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55416
Greg Hoyt


  1. Lisa Kochiras

    Greg, excellent article, got it from Jeff. As a former coffee seller its’ really good to see people/retailers bringing information about coffee and the process to the public. We can handle more than Caribou in our lives! Were going to check out the store today. Good luck. Lisa

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