May 31, 2023

Zoning Board Carries Coffee Roasting Decision to June 28 Meeting

By Anne Levin

At its Zoom meeting on May 24, Princeton’s Zoning Board listened to extensive testimony regarding Sakrid Coffee’s proposal to install a roasting facility in the coffee shop it wants to open at 300 Witherspoon Street. This left time for only a few of the more than 50 members of the public in attendance to offer comment on the controversial proposal, leading the Zoning Board to put off the vote until the next meeting on June 28 at 7:30 p.m.

Last week’s discussion had itself been carried over from the Zoning Board’s previous gathering in April. At issue are the potential smells, noises, and environmental effects of the proposed coffee roasting facility, on residents of the neighborhood, and the Community Park Elementary School.

Neighbors have expressed specific concerns about the volatile organic compound diaceytl, which shows up in the roasting process and in many other foods. Richard Ludescher, a professor emeritus from Rutgers University and a consultant in the food science industry, testified that all plants, especially their flowers, emit diaceytl, as do many cooked foods. The compound poses a risk only with very long-term, chronic exposure, such as for those in the food manufacturing industry. The levels at the proposed roasting operation — about 2.5 hours a week — would be much lower and barely discernible, he said.

Sakrid co-owner Jonathan Haley told the Zoning Board that in response to concerns about use of an afterburner, more research had been done and it was decided to go with a system known as the VortX scrubber. The system aligns better with Sustainable Princeton and Sakrid’s mission, because afternburners remove roaster emissions but contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, said Haley.

Representing VortX, Ron Kleist said the company has had no complaints in the systems they have installed at various locations across the U.S. “We wanted to help coffee roasting become a poster child for environmental responsibility,” he said. “We have been able to achieve that with the technology we’ve got. The product has been very well received by the roasting community, and achieving what we wanted to achieve as a business.”

Sakrid, which has an existing café at 20 Nassau Street, currently roasts its coffee at a facility in Moonachie. Roasting locally would cut out trips to and from that location, and would allow customers (at 300 Witherspoon) to see how their coffee is made, Haley said.

In 2021, Haley pointed out, New Jersey adopted the Cottage Food Law, which allows the production of many foods, including coffee, without permits in private homes. Urban planner Susan Favate testified that Sakrid was asking for a manufacturing variance because that’s how coffee roasting is defined under Princeton’s zoning code. “In fact,” she said, “it’s a micro-operation that should be considered ‘artisanal manufacturing,’ and that designation is being used in towns around the state to modernize their zoning laws.”

The June 28 meeting will begin with public comment on the Sakrid proposal, Zoning Board Chair Steve Cohen said. A video of the May 24 meeting is available on