Friday, January 17, 2014

Meet Frankie, Part 1

Jim has roasted on a variety of roasters, from an antique 5-kilo beauty, to a modern 120-kilo. Every machine roasts a little differently, so getting the best roast out of one requires getting to know its individual nuances. That's where coffee roasting becomes an art.

Jim's current roaster, a 12-kilo Probat, has been particularly challenging. Smaller roasters usually don't roast continuously and don't cool the beans quickly enough, especially on a dark roast. Most small roasters only have one heat control, making it more difficult to be precise. Jim is used to a bigger roaster with three controls, which enabled him to cut the heat at the right time, and bring it back up precisely to develop the beans. This roaster has two heat controls--a brand new challenge. Also, continuous roasting was not possible because there was only one blower to control the roaster air flow and the cooler air flow. So one batch would have to cool completely before starting another batch. What Jim really wanted was a small roaster that would function like a large one. That created a coffee engineering conundrum.

Let me just say it's a good thing we're fully insured, because in his zeal to build a better roaster, Jim tried his best to burn down the building. In my next post, I'll try to describe the modifications he made and how Frankie the coffee roaster came to be. Stay tuned!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Year in Review

In the eleven years that we have been together, Jim and I have made a tradition of reviewing the past year and marveling at our accomplishments and goals met. In the past, the focus always has been on our personal life. Now that we have Paramour, well, I'm not sure if everything is personal or nothing is personal!

To put it simply, 2013 was a blur. So, this probably will be a good exercise in laying the groundwork for some new goals. Summarize what we've done, so we can more clearly see the path ahead. Right? Here's what we did:

Launched our Website
Won a couple awards
Secured financing
Introduced Wizard's Blend and our first custom label
Got on Amazon
Spruced up the shop with a new counter
1000+ likes on FB
Got our name trademark registered
Made a sweet video

What lies ahead for 2014? Aggressively increasing our Web presence. Developing wholesale accounts. Experimenting with some limited edition roasts. Looking into alternate sources for beans. Doing more regular and frequent blog posts. My secret project that doesn't involve baking. If it works, you'll definitely learn the secret. If it doesn't work, I'll think of a new secret. Who doesn't like a little suspense? It's going to be a fun year!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Wizard's Blend!

We are elated to introduce The Wizard's Blend! Three things make this a very exciting announcement for us.

1. This is the reincarnation of last year's holiday blend, which Jim developed specifically to be a crowd-pleaser. We kept getting requests to bring it back. What the heck. Jim can come up with something new for the holidays this year.  Good stuff needs to be semi-permanent.

2. The fancy label was designed by a real artist who knows what he is doing, as opposed to yours truly, who sometimes fakes it well. This artist's name is Adam Birt, and you can see some of his impressive portfolio here. Unless you are on an iPad. Then you best get to a PC and follow the link.

3. The Oz Museum is carrying limited stock for us, so we're officially selling out of a second location now! It's a win-win, particularly if we are closed and they are open. Limiting the stock will ensure we can keep it fresh.


Visit us at

Friday, September 6, 2013

No (Coffee) Bullying

"Go somewhere where they are nice to you and have great coffee."

This was the closing line of a recent interview on an Esquire Magazine blog post.

Go somewhere where they are nice to you and have great coffee.  This perfectly expresses our philosophy. We want customers to feel welcome and appreciated. We don't want them to feel intimidated by fancy coffee jargon or looked down upon by the extreme geekery that is rampant in today's cafe culture (AKA Third Wave). What I really like about the interviewer in the Esquire post is that he confronts the coffee snobbery head-on. He may have just started a coffee anti-bullying movement.

Good coffee is accessible, doesn't require a PhD to enjoy, and you should drink it the way you like it. That means cream and sugar won't hurt our feelings. Neither will a half-caf almond soy latte with extra foam. If that's how you like it, we are happy to serve it to you. We are not worried about the coffee's flavor being muffled by milk, syrups or other additives because we are confident in our product and its ability to adapt to your taste preference. So, make up a drink! No need to stick to the menu.

Better yet, take home some beans and experiment with different brew methods. There are great ways to brew at home that don't cost an arm and a leg, such as French press, moka pot and cold brew. We'd love to hear about your favorite techniques! Read more about our coffee philosophy and check out our excellent selection of fresh roasts here, at

Friday, August 2, 2013


We went on vacation for 10 days, and not only is the place still standing, it thrived in our absence! We're pretty sure we have the best help ever. And although it is great to know we can leave, this vacation accomplished exactly what it was supposed to do: gear us up mentally for a long march through the fall and holiday season with little time off until Christmas.

Every day there seem to be more tasks on the to-do list: Website tweaks and ongoing development; working with the SEO guys; packaging for the Wizard's Blend (soon to be available at our local Oz Museum); tracking down some good beans and stocking up; planning holiday merchandise; figuring out cold brew equipment/technique; designing labels, ads and package inserts; and numerous random but time-consuming projects. All this on top of my day job, and with Jim already putting in 12-hour days. Who wants to clean our house? We sure don't!

For our vacation, we rented a lakefront house with friends, ate good food, drank good wine, and saw some sights. Imagine our bemusement with the options on the coffeemaker in the rental: 

Delay brew or brew now. Strong or regular. Pure silliness! On top of that, they had Maxwell House in the freezer. Or was it Folgers? I must have blocked it out. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fourth Wave

I have been reading up on the light roast v. dark roast debate, and it has me rather intrigued. In case you haven't noticed, there is a light roast craze going on in the coffee world. Coffee geeks are calling this the "third wave" of roasting in the U.S., with the first wave being the distinguished Alfred Peet, and the second being Starbucks.

In wave one, Alfred Peet introduced us to specialty coffee. (This will require further definition in a future post, but for now think, stronger, darker, bolder than anything commercially available in the 1960's.) He roasted on an antique, 5-kilo machine at his shop in Berkeley, California. Here is a photo of the actual, original roaster, which lived in our house in California until we sold it for a larger, more practical, less sexy roaster.

In wave two, Mr. Peet taught the Starbucks guys how to roast, and they applied their marketing genius to take the latte international. As much as we all hate to give credit to the evil empire, they taught the masses to appreciate more flavorful, fuller-bodied coffee.

Now, here we are in the third wave, and I keep reading inaccurate and disparaging comments about any coffee that has gone beyond the 'second crack'--terminology that refers to darker roasts (and another future-post subject). Based on all I have heard about Mr. Peet over the years, I'm imagining him at least fidgeting in his grave. 

Jim's take on this debate is multi-faceted. First, it's largely a matter of personal preference. Jim recalls Alfred liked the smokiness imparted by the super-hot perforated drum on the old Royal pictured. Jim prefers a cleaner and lighter roast than that. Personally, I can't stomach a coffee so light it tastes like tree bark. Next, there is a certain art to developing each bean to its fullest potential in terms of flavor, body, acidity, and the proper balance. That's the 'art' in artisan coffee. Finally, it's about bean selection. Every bean has an ideal roast profile, be it light, French, or anything in between. Some people think the flavor nuances of the region or farm are basically cooked out of a darker roast. However, it is possible for a highly skilled roast master to maintain these subtleties while still developing body--but this often requires venturing beyond the second crack.

For Jim, this is where things get exciting. If you have met him, you will understand completely. He talks about bringing the coffee right to the edge of a cliff, and knowing the exact nanosecond to stop the roast to keep it from going over the edge. That was in the old days, barely pre-second-wave. Knowing where the edge of the cliff is allows him to step back appropriately and find the coffee's sweet spot. Jim's style is passionate, bold, and adventurous. I believe these qualities are evident in his coffee, the same way he believes that if he is having a hard day or strife at home, it comes through in the roast. We do what we can to prevent that, and roast happy coffee.

So, what will be the fourth wave?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Our Website went live this week! We are excited, elated, relieved, and a little anxious.

Jim turned the office into a shipping room. He dug his old tile tools out of the shed and installed a beautiful black granite tile counter. Now we can process orders in style! Here it is not quite finished. Holy boxes, Batman!  Let's see...we have coffee beans stashed underneath, G's pink beanbag, a Post-it just waiting to multiply, my keys to the right, because everything I do is on the fly. Gotta run! Buy coffee!