Sort-of Secret: Full of Beans, a Little Portugal café with its own 115-year-old roaster

Sort-of Secret: Full of Beans, a Little Portugal café with its own 115-year-old roaster

Owner Lori Nytko likes to do things the old-fashioned way

Full of Beans owner Lori Nytko roasts coffee beans using an antique Jabez Burns roaster

More Sort-of Secrets

The sort-of secret: Full of Beans, a coffee house and roastery in Little Portugal doing things the old-fashioned way
You may have heard of it if: You’re a self-described coffee nerd
But you probably haven’t tried it because: If you’re a café regular, you likely already have your own local—though it may be time to consider switching

Since 2010, a cozy café at the corner of Dundas and Rusholme has been roasting coffee beans like they did over a century ago. Anyone who happens to look in the window as they walk by Full of Beans will likely see owner Lori Nytko standing in front of an ancient-looking iron contraption as it sputters and smokes. It’s a 115-year-old roaster that promises exceptional beans and highlights Nytko’s commitment to preserving the tradition of handcrafted coffee. Nytko has called Little Portugal home for nearly two decades, and her decision to open a café in the neighborhood was fuelled by a desire to contribute to the community she loves.

A couple of chairs sit on the sidewalk outside Full of Beans, a coffee house and roastery in Toronto's Little Portugal neighbourhood

Related: St. Brigid’s Creamery, the Ontario-made gourmet butter Emerald Grasslands fans need to know about

At Full of Beans, customers are treated to more than just a cup of joe—they get to witness the coffee-making process first-hand as Nytko roasts beans throughout the day, allowing customers to observe her craft in action as they wait for their orders.

Nytko’s journey into the world of coffee began during university. While pursuing a bachelor of commerce in business management, she worked part-time at a coffee house. It was there that she discovered the art of roasting coffee beans using a three-cylinder Jabez Burns roaster, a machine synonymous with the birth of commercial coffee roasting in North America. After graduation, Nytko explored various career paths, including working at an animal hospital, in music retail and in various corporate jobs. But, in 2010, she returned to roasting, which she realized was her true passion, and opened Full of Beans.

The five-cylinder Jabez Burns roaster used at Full of Beans, a cafe and roastery in Toronto's west end

Lori Nytko prepares to pour a scoop of coffee beans into her antique roaster

“I wasn’t happy with the coffee that was available many years ago,” Nytko says. “So I wanted to open a place that served the kind of coffee I liked.” She wasn’t drawn to the new wave of latte art or the emphasis on café lifestyle. Instead, she’s passionate about traditional coffee and bean-roasting techniques. With this in mind, she chose to embark on her own coffee business. After thorough research, she located a five-cylinder Jabez Burns roaster in North Carolina and had it shipped to Toronto. Upon its arrival, she named it Penelope. And it’s been at Full of Beans, in the window at the front of the café, since day one.

A closeup of the five-cylinder Jabez Burns roaster at Full of Beans in Toronto

A tray of roasted coffee beans

“Ultimately, I wanted to bring back more-traditional coffee,” Nytko says. “And it’s been well-received.” Having the roaster on display allows passers-by to see what Full of Beans is all about. (During the short time I was there taking photos, two people walking their dogs stopped to watch, then came inside to chat with Nytko.)

Nytko’s coffee-roasting technique combines intuition with precision. She prefers a double-crack roast and operates her machine without temperature gauges or electronic devices, relying on her senses to determine when each cycle is complete. Nytko observes the thickness of the smoke, the height of the flame in each vessel, the crackling sound of the beans and their aroma. Her hands-on approach underscores her commitment to the craft. “I want to be the one personally roasting each batch of coffee beans, not the machine,” she says. “Even our espresso machine is as basic as I can afford—because I prefer people to be the ones making each drink, not an automated machine.”

The workspace and menu boards at Full of Beans, a Toronto cafe and roastery

Inside Full of Beans, a coffee house and roastery in Toronto's Little Portugal neighbourhood

In addition to a curated selection of at least seven single-origin bean varieties, Full of Beans offers a range of signature blends tailored to every taste, whether the bold richness of the house espresso blend or the nuanced complexity of the roaster’s pick. And the café’s geographically diverse offerings—from Guatemala, Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Indonesia and beyond—should appeal to both coffee connoisseurs and casual drinkers.

“We’ve been fortunate to foster a sense of community here,” says Nytko. “All of the books are for trade—leave one, take one—which lets people share a bit of themselves. The artwork changes every few months as we collaborate with a collective representing local artists. I hope people walk away feeling the sense of community and support we have in this neighbourhood, centred around what I care about most: good coffee.”

Full of Beans Coffee House and Roastery, 1348 Dundas St. W., @fullofbeansroastery

Baked goods are displayed along the top of a bookshelf at Full of Beans, a Toronto cafe and roastery

Lori Nytko, owner of Full of Beans Coffee House and Roastery, alongside barista Shanna
Nytko (left) with barista Shanna