There’s lots to love in the Los Angeles scene right now, from classics keeping the form to upstarts pushing things forward, and everything in-between, with something for everyone. And now, a new addition to LA’s coffee culture in the form of Heavy Water Coffee Roasters, located in the heart of Echo Park. This new shop is helmed by Tim Riley, a Handsome Coffee Roasters alum roasting on a vintage Probat. Riley spent the last three years developing his skills (and building out a clientele) before at last launching a brick and mortar with a tiny footprint (just 170 square feet).
Put this at the top of your must-visit list for you next time in LA (or next visit to Echo Park). Let’s learn more!
As told to Sprudge by Tim Riley.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
Hi my name is Tim Riley and I’ve worked in coffee off and on for about a decade. I started out at some local shops in the Santa Barbara area and then worked for Handsome Coffee Roasters, Blue Bottle, Commissary, to name a few. I started Heavy Water Coffee Roasters June 2020 during pandemic after I had been shadowing roasters for the year prior. I was about to start a production roaster job when pandemic hit and that went away so I started my own project. I import, roast, package, and sometimes deliver on bike if it’s in the neighborhood. I roast on a vintage Probat L12. I’ve always wanted to open up a shop but I wanted to focus on the product first before investing into a storefront. The last three years I’ve spent developing my roasting and green buying skills, creating relationships with farmers and importers, and building a following in Los Angeles and across the US.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
The space is approximately 170 square feet. It was previously a two-car garage. We replaced the garage door with a storefront salvaged from an old LA municipal building that was about to be demolished. The space has high ceilings and a wrap-around floating white oak bar suitable for four or five people. The colors of the shop are based on vintage Dodgers colors given our proximity is 1/4 mile from the stadium. Connected to and behind the shop is a big courtyard with vast seating and a large vegetable garden that overlooks the downtown skyline. We have a really special space in a historic neighborhood of Los Angeles.
What’s your approach to coffee?
I believe the foundation of the coffee industry is community and I live for that. The community I have with the farmers that grow the coffee I roast. The customers I get to chat with about tweaking their pour-over recipes. The laborers who I had the privilege of working next to as I helped dig the plumbing lines for the coffee shop. In no other way would I get to know these people on such a unique and intimate basis. That is all through coffee.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
We are running a Slayer Steam EP two-group espresso machine with a Mazzer Robur, and a Kafatek Monolith Conical on the way. For drip we are running a FETCO XTS with the Scott Rao UFO spray head attachment and are using both a Mahlkönig EK43 and a Tanzania for drip, pour-over, and cold brew.
How is your project considering sustainability?
A lot of materials for the shop were upcycled. We are using reusable buckets to store our espresso and filter coffee instead of bags. Our retails bags are fully compostable. The outdoor tables for the shop are made out of a door i purchased on offer up i cut into circles and then painted. We also only serve plant-based milks and pastries.
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
The shop is now open! Our first day was July 1st.
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
Yes! The team that built the shop are absolute stars. Rogelio, Milton, and Carlos had to problem solve on the fly time after time and it was one of the most impressive things I’ve ever witnessed. The professionalism they maintain while juggling multiple trades is astounding. From tile to framing to paint to electrical to plumbing to windows. And Rogelio the superintendent just got his citizenship today! Shout out to Rogelio! Also the designer Rachel Dao helped me execute my vision for the shop early on with CAAD and sourcing materials. Jingbo Lou the developer had a huge hand in making this happen as well. He guided me through the jungle that is the city and county permitting system.
THANK YOU! thanks for running this series. I’ve used Sprudge as a reference for years to find specialty shops all over the country. It’s an honor to be featured!