Neff Coffee, a roaster on the go

A father-and-son mobile roasting operation hits the streets

Neff Coffee Roasters doing business at Grape Street Dog Park
  • Neff Coffee Roasters doing business at Grape Street Dog Park

While exercising my dog last week, I found San Diego’s newest coffee roaster; or should I say the coffee roaster found me? Neff Coffee Roasters isn’t San Diego’s first coffee truck, but it is the first we’ve seen that actually roasts its coffee right there on the vehicle.

Roasting beans on the Neff coffee truck

The namesake operators of the truck are David and Matthew Neff, a father-and-son duo who decided to turn son Matt’s coffee roasting hobby into a business that doubles as a chance to spend time together. With permission from the parks and recreation department, they set up shop some mornings in the parking lot of Grape Street Dog Park. That’s where I found them, exactly during that part of the morning I’m usually there and starting to crave my daily cup.

Cold brew and drip coffee, part of a menu that includes hot and cold espresso drinks

Cold brew and drip coffee, part of a menu that includes hot and cold espresso drinks

Since first hitting the road in December, they’ve served coffee beside the main lifeguard tower in Ocean Beach, and the San Diego Holiday Half Marathon. The Neffs plan to operate up to six days a week, and will likely lock into regular rotations as they pinpoint places that need coffee service. The best way to keep track of daily locations and events is monitoring their Instagram account.

They’ve tricked out their mobile coffee operation so a side panel swings up to provide shade structure over the ordering window, and with built-in audio speakers that play music while you wait. But the most important built-in here is the Sonofresco fluid bed coffee roaster installed in the center of the truck, which draws propane power from a tank affixed to the bottom of the truck, and vents out the top of the vehicle.

Cooking two pound batches, they’ve created a “Neff blend” of Guatemala, Ethiopia, and Sumatra-sourced beans. The light-medium roast drinks plenty chocolaty in my 16-ounce order of cold brew ($3.95), and reveals a smooth, earthy, and slightly nutty character in a cup of drip coffee ($2.45). The Neffs offer a full line-up of espresso drinks, including rotating specials such as a s’mores latte, and provides hot chocolate for the kids.

They’ll sell you a bag of beans, whether you go for the blend or request any of its components as a single origin. If you like, you can even have them roast beans on the spot — though it takes about 15-20 minutes, and you’ll want to let the beans rest five days to a week before brewing for best results. Buying a pre-roasted bag is easier, but then, you don’t get to see the beans hop about through the plexiglass window of its truck-mounted coffee roaster.

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