Meet the Maker: Compass Coffee
Michael and Harrison
Marines, Founders of Compass Coffee
For two Marines stationed in Afghanistan, Harrison and Michael, coffee offered consistency and friendship in their daily lives.
Michael and Harrison started every day with a cup of coffee together. What started as a source of energy, slowly turned into a ritual. By the time they returned home, they were determined to learn everything they could about coffee from different roasts and brewing methods to sources for beans. They wanted to bring that same enjoyment and passion for coffee to their friends and family in Washington, D.C.
“At its most basic level, that’s the whole reason to start a business. You see an opportunity to make the world a better place by making a great product and something that makes you proud.” - Michael Haft
And thus Compass Coffee was born! Well, not quite. It took a great deal of grinding (pun intended), a lot of caffeine, and resourcefulness to get to where they are now.
Michael and Harrison started from the ground up, working long days, stopping only for shots of espresso. They learned how to roast coffee beans, fix espresso machines, and develop a variety of blends. They learned about growing seasons in different countries and farming practices. In July 2012, Michael and Harrison self-published an e-book, Perfect Coffee at Home, which earned the attention of publications like The New York Times and The Atlantic.
Equipped with substantial knowledge of coffee, the pair then went to work gathering feedback on everything they possibly could. Was the coffee too bitter? Too light? Was it what consumers wanted? After months and months of recipe testing, customer feedback, and elbow grease, they opened their first cafe and roastery in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C in 2013.
“Our customers helped show us the path. Every day, working behind the bar, we asked our customers questions. ‘What do you think about this coffee? What would you like to see differently? What do you really like that we should keep doing?’’
Since then, Compass Coffee has grown from their single cafe roastery in Shaw to operating 12 cafes around DC, and are set to open a 50,000 square foot roastery this summer. There have been many lessons learned along the way. They’ve had to change up their blends, roasting styles, and add new beverage items. They’ve had to learn how to find the intersection between their passion for coffee with what customers want.
Embracing taking chances, making mistakes, and listening to customer feedback is the backbone of the organization. Michael and Harrison went with the name Compass Coffee to symbolize their desire for the organization to help customers get their bearings and point them in the right direction for their day. Ironically, they would be the first to admit that their customers provided them their direction for the organization, and have contributed significantly to the success they continue to see today.
Published Perfect Coffee at Home in 2012
Opened their first location in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, DC in 2013
Opened their 12th cafe in 2019
Plans to open an industrial roastery in 2020