Roast! West Coast
Coffee People
Coffee People: Ricardo Lopez, Bellwether Coffee

Coffee People: Ricardo Lopez, Bellwether Coffee

It takes a little grit to push a new idea.


Guest: Ricardo Lopez
Role: Co-Founder & CEO of Bellwether Coffee
Based: Berkley, CA
Online: • @bellwethercoffee
What he drinks: He’ll ask what the barista recommends. It is an opportunity to share in someone else’s art form.

Whatever I put my energy into it has to help make a better tomorrow.
• Ricardo Lopez

Living up to our parents, leveling up, challenging ourselves to be as good, or building on the steps they’ve made to improve our lives and the world around us is a fairly recognizable pursuit for many of us, myself included. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’m able to recognize the challenges that my parents likely faced and yet never really let on to their kids were weighing on them.

I’m better able to see that they may not have had all the answers, and yet they kept on, succeeding through persistence and a willingness to make mistakes. I say this as the greatest compliment I can give my parents, and that is that I’ve been able to move past seeing them as heroes only. They’re humans with positive traits and flaws, and I still look up to them as an example of how to push forward in this life fraught and perilous with challenges.

During our chat, Ricardo and I discussed his company, Bellwether Coffee, and its effort to create a more sustainable future for coffee. I thought that meant creating a less impactful roaster, but I learned that it is much more than that. It includes their green coffee marketplace, roasting software, and efforts to create living wages for farmers across the coffee belt.


My biggest takeaway is that the experience of using, seeing, and working with the Bellwether is a key component of the product being put out. It isn’t enough that it looks good. It has to function. It can roast any coffee, but its green coffee marketplace offers more control over ethical sourcing. The machine isn’t just functional. It is accessible to a wide range of clients and draws customers into the relational experience of roasting…I think I just made up the word relational, but you get my drift.

Coffee is so much more than a+b=c. The collected energy of all the steps in the process, all the people who make up the chain from farm to cup, leave us with the feeling of having experienced something.

Since speaking to Ricardo for this podcast, I have seen the new roaster in person. The photos don’t do it justice regarding its functional scale and design. Seeing it operating on the back counter of the Bellwether booth at SCA made it easy to imagine a roast program operating within the space constraints of all but the tiniest cafe countertops.

Left: A close-up of a modern, electric coffee roaster. R: A bald, bearded man smiles with a taller thin gentleman in a bright yellow baseball cap in front coffee roasters on a countertop at a convention.
L: The Bellwether countertop roaster. R: I ran into Ricardo at SCA.

“Bellwether—from the ground up—is about impact.”
• Ricardo Lopez


Over the course of the podcast, Ricardo referred to Bellwether’s methodology for green coffee buying and selling, which includes their Living Income Pricing program designed to ensure a living wage at the farm level. Bellwether has committed to provide LIP across all of their supply chains by the end of 2024.

A Living Income Benchmark is defined as the annual income required to afford a decent standard of living for all members of a household—once costs of producing coffee are covered. A decent standard of living includes: a nutritious, culturally‑appropriate diet; decent housing based on local needs and expectations; the cost of other basic needs, like healthcare, transportation, clothing, and education; and minimum savings to withstand unexpected shocks and expenses.


The Bellwether Series 2 large format roaster next to the new countertop version.


  • Ricardo’s parents modeled behaviors on how to bridge communities that Ricardo has leaned on during his tenure with Bellwether.

  • The Co-Founders saw overlap between the appreciation for the nuances of wine in the coffee industry, and looked to find a way for coffee retailers to create unique experiences by asking, “How do we make this easier?”

  • Bellwether Coffee is more than a producer of electric roasting machines. They also offer a green coffee marketplace and the roast management software needed to create consistency in a roasting program.

  • Seeking personal fulfillment and a desire to create a better tomorrow for his family is one of the reasons Ricardo found himself seeking opportunity outside of the tech industry.

  • It takes a little grit to push innovation forward, and persevere in the face of roadblocks.

  • Bellwether is expanding internationally.

  • According to the Harvard Business School, the Triple Bottom Line focuses on the three “P’s,” which are People, Profit, and the Planet.
    Learn more:

A woman pulls a shot of espresso behind a coffee bar counter in front of a brick wall. To the right of frame is a Bellwether modern, electric coffee roaster.
The Series 2 Roaster in a cafe space. Photo ©@bellwethercoffee


The Specialty Coffee Expo promised to be an adventure. I decided to make it bigger by driving from Southern California to Chicago, and back, exploring coffee spots along the way. The weather did not do me any favors.

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