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  • Writer's picturePenny Hieb

Roaster Profile: Horizon Line Coffee

I've come across some wonderful coffee roasters at Driftwood Coffee in Peoria lately. Committed to quality, they curate only the top 1% of coffee offerings in their shop. A recent national standout crossed my palate recently: Horizon Line Coffee of Des Moines, Iowa.

Horizon Line Coffee is a coffee bar and roastery located in the West End artist district of Des Moines, a destination known for its grassroots arts scene. After scouring the internet for more information about this most midwestern of midwestern American cities, I'm seriously ready for a road trip! Des Moines has undergone a cultural transformation in the last ten years and has become a vibrant city for art, craftsmanship, architecture, and music. No longer just the stomping grounds of hopeful presidential candidates, the city is home to around 800,000 residents and according to Politico, is the best place for young professionals, families, renters, and millennial home buyers.

Des Moines, a politically moderate and culturally diverse city, tapped into its collaborative midwestern spirit and worked to jumpstart its downtown and attract creative young professionals to the city center. This is what led Horizon Line's founders Brad Penna and Nam Ho, who were originally from southern California, to this midwestern city. Penna shared with me that the duo had done extensive research prior to starting their company and found that Des Moines had "an underdeveloped coffee scene, slower pace of life, and was more affordable". So they left their full time jobs at Cal Poly Pomona (and their part time jobs in coffee), pulled up stakes, and headed to Des Moines.

While in California, Penna learned the craft of coffee roasting at Arcade Coffee Roasters, which in 2019 was recognized by Food & Wine as one of the 10 best coffee places in the US. He also volunteered at Restoration Roasters, a coffee non profit that serves the homeless and works to transform their lives through the Corona Norco Mission. Penna took what he learned in these apprenticeships and truly mastered the craft of roasting prior to opening Horizon Line Coffee. He is "passionate about lovely coffees that have a bright acidity and sweetness," and works with importers who share the duo's values of sustainability and ethical sourcing.

As for their shop, they strive to "keep it simple. Do fewer things well instead of trying to do all things". Horizon Line is focused on serving excellent coffee with exceptional hospitality. Their intent for the coffee shop is to create an inclusive community in order to "serve good coffee and be kind to people". They have an underlying hope to bridge cultural divides and "provide a space that encourages unlikely and diverse friendships".

In 2019, Sprudge, a resource for coffee news and culture, chose Horizon Line as a finalist for the Sprudgie Award for Sustainable Cafes. As Penna shared with me, "sustainability has become a primary focus of the cafe in the last year". Horizon Line no longer uses any single use paper or plastic cups. Drinks are served in reusable glass jars or mugs. They have entirely transitioned to a glass reuse program with the help of their patrons and other local businesses.

If you aren't able to make the trek to their gorgeously appointed Des Moines store, you can still order their exquisite roasts online at Currently there are three selections available: the Guatamala Finan Isnul with notes of nectarine, toffee, and pineapple; the Guatamala El Tambor with notes of milk chocolate, almond, and orange; and the Ethiopian Misty Valley with notes of strawberry, brown sugar, and limequat. If you spend more than $30, you can get free shipping by entering the code: coffeetime.

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