Dunn Brothers: Coffee Changemakers + Five Easy Fixes For Making Better Coffee At Home

By Amanda Paa – Updated April 20, 2023

This post is sponsored by Dunn Brothers Coffee, a Minnesota based company that I’m honored to work with. As always, opinions are my own. 

Most often I find it’s the small things that bring a constant to our lives. When I was young, it was my well-used blanket and Curious George. It was being tucked in at night, our eighty pound black lab who slept at my feet, and a bowl of Cheerios in the morning.

At 33, those things are so different, yet the same. Now it’s a tattered sweatshirt, and a stained pair of yoga pants. It’s a kiss goodnight from Brian, our cat Grace who sleeps at my feet, and a cup of coffee in the morning.

Within that cup, there are so many things I find comfort in. The routine. The smell as I grind the beans. The sputter of the water boiling on the stove top. The swirling motion of the kettle while I brew. My hands around the warm cup. And the first sip of rich energy.

But I’ve realized my favorite morning beverage, well, I take it for granted. Because its always there. On the shelf, or around the corner. I have so much reliance on it, yet I forget that not one single place on the United States mainland is fit to grow this crop. Millions of miles away, it’s people far less fortunate than myself, working in the coffee fields to bring the morning fuel to our hands.

Five Easy Fixes For Making Better Coffee At HomeFive Easy Fixes for Making Better Coffee At Home

These people have a story too. One I’m grateful to have learned about through my recent partnership with Dunn Brothers, a local Minneapolis coffee roaster who’s been around for 30 years. Since the beginning, their philosophy has always been that the people who walk in the door deserve coffee that adheres to higher standards of quality every step of the way, from cultivation to cup. From sustainable, ethical sourcing practices to daily, on-site roasting, artisan coffee drinks, and community-connected local ownership. They also work with the American Refuge Committee (a non-profit based Minneapolis organization), supporting families and farmers in coffee growing areas who are displaced in their own (or nearby) countries, having fled conflict and crisis situations. A life situation I can’t even imagine.

Their partnership is passed down to us through the Changemaker Collection of coffee beans, as Dunn Brothers supports the ARC efforts in these areas, buys beans direct for a worthy price, and provides farming education to better the crop production and quality, and ultimately their wages. This year, Dunn Brothers committed $10,000 to help support the ARC’s work in the Congo, of which the beans are now available in stores, fresh roasted every day. Last year it was Uganda, which sales of those beans helped the ARC team provide this area with things like clean water and protection to refugees living in places like Nakivale refugee settlement – a refugee camp established 60 years ago.

I talked with Dunn Brothers Coffee franchise owner and coffee buyer Skip Fay about what it’s meant for them to work towards a common goal with the ARC. “We have a chance to do more than just pay a fair price for an excellent coffee from East Africa through this program. Giving back to a group of displaced peoples from coffee-growing regions can be more than an aspirational goal with our store owners, staff, and customers. That’s real, meaningful work.”

inside a Dunn Brothers coffee shopFive Tips for Making Great Pour-Over Coffee At Home // Dunn Brothers Barista

I was struck by his passion, and inspired to think more about the coffee in my cup each morning, the shops I visit, and my part in helping support this industry in the right way. That afternoon we tasted a fresh brewed batch of the Congo beans, rich and dark. Each sip had deep chocolate notes and dark fruits (think berries and plums), bright acidity and full body. It’s what I’ve been brewing at home now too, fulfilling my morning routine with a little more meaning. If you’d like to do the same, you can purchase the beans at any Dunn Brothers location.

As I mentioned, I’m a pour-over convert at home. It’s essentially pouring hot water over coffee grounds that go through a paper filter sitting on top of your cup. It allows you to control the speed of the pour (making it slower), giving the water more time to come in contact with the grounds, making a richer and more flavorful brew. It’s the type of attention I feel like great coffee beans deserve. To learn the exact process, I recommend this tutorial.

Regardless of how you brew, here are my five easy fixes for making better coffee at home:

  • Use filtered water. Since the coffee bean is a fruit, it’s sensitive and definitely affected by subtle changes. If the water tastes bad, your coffee is going to taste bad.
  • Water temperatureShould be 200 degrees. (I stick a Thermapen into my kettle to check.)  Above that is too hot and burns the grounds, below will not extract the flavor.
  • Freshness. 
    • Be sure that the roaster you’re buying from is roasting regularly and marks the date on the bag. Beans will go stale in four weeks, so things you buy from a conventional grocery store (the majority of the time) are not fresh.
    • Once you have fresh beans, only grind with each batch of coffee you make. This also ensures the freshest cup possible.
  • Grind. Use this chart to determine how coarse or fine your grind should be. It matters! For pour-over, it should be pretty coarse. As a general rule, brewing methods with longer contact time require a coarser grind (and vice versa – your espresso should be very fine, french press very coarse).
  • Storage. Never in the freezer, ever. It creates too much moisture in the package, which one of coffee’s biggest enemies and turns coffee dull and flavorless very quickly. Instead, use a glass container, and place in a dark spot.

Thank you to Dunn Brothers and the ARC for your impact, and continued outreach.

Dunn Brothers Coffee -- Congo limited editionAmanda Paa // photographer

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May 3, 2017


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  1. Julie Bourne

    Hi! Im having them grind my beans for the cone filter for this model Cuisinart DCC-3200W 14C Glass Carafe. Ive used filtered water. Thanks!

  2. Julie

    I’m blessed to live across the street from The Freight House location. Every cup I get there is amazing. The light roast selection is wonderful. However I still can’t get it to taste the same at home no matter what I try! Any tips would be helpful. Or Insider tips as to how they actually Brew it in the store…

    • amandapaa

      Lucky you! That is such a beautiful, historic location. What type of method are you currently using to brew? That may help me guide you in making a better cup.

      • Julie Bourne

        Hi! Im having them grind my beans for the cone filter for this model Cuisinart DCC-3200W 14C Glass Carafe. Ive used filtered water. Thanks!

  3. amandapaa

    Yes, we are so going on! they have a coconut machiatto that is INCREDIBLE>

  4. Mary

    My husband has been begging me to invest in a coffee maker. I’m more of a tea girl myself and don’t know the first thing about coffee- much less on how to prepare it. This post inspired me! And the photography completely stole me away!! Hugs!

    • marymargaret

      wow. special. heartfelt. valuable. important. merci. gracias. thank u. oh!! and the pictures! ex-pecially liked the one upstairs ON a chair at DBC freighthoooose. ?

      • amandapaa

        thank you for reading, Mary! and gosh, the DB Freighthouse is such a beautiful space. old buildings have the character that lasts a lifetime. xo

  5. Jodi

    Such a good post, Amanda. I think we often take these things for granted, coffee, chocolate, quinoa – all the . things we can so easily grab at our supermarket that have traveled such a long way and have a story behind them. I do believe it’s our job to tell that story, to bring an awareness like this to the foods we eat and photograph. Thank you for starting such a great conversation and way to go Dunn Brothers! Oh and swap out the cat for a dog and we’ve got the same morning ritual, stained yoga pants included :) x

  6. Sara @ Cake Over Steak

    Great post, Amanda! I wish I had some more local roasters in my area like you guys do. Your discussion of where our coffee comes from is so important to remember. It also makes me feel better about paying premium prices for quality coffee with sustainable practices. I think people expect their food to be way too cheap these days. Way to go Dunn Bros!

  7. Kayleigh Kosmas

    I’m not a frequent coffee drinker these days, but I wouldn’t have made it through college without the Dunn Bros on Grand! It’s great to hear they’re doing meaningful work. Lovely images as always, Amanda!

    • amandapaa

      That was the first store they opened! So good to hear from you Kayleigh. And yes, I love seeing companies who have such a bigger vision than just what’s in front of them. Coffee is such a commodity, and one of the most exploited crops grown. Yet we often don’t think about that when making choices. xo!

  8. Heidi | The Simple Green

    Ah, what a lovely post, Amanda! I’m always slightly jealous when someone talks about how much they love coffee in the AM. It’s always given me the jitters, but I just adore the aroma of fresh brewing coffee in the morning! Beautiful photos as usual :)

    • amandapaa

      oh gosh, the smell is just as good as drinking it! i’m sure of it. :) have you tried a few of the coffee alternatives out there made from tea? I know Big Heart Tea Co out of St. Louis makes one. xo