One of my favorite espressos in Manhattan is Joe: Art of Coffee’s. They are consistent, delicious and at times very slow but I keep coming back because it tastes great. Ed Kaufmann is a licensed Q Grader with a great coffee background and a whole lot of love for what he does. Ed is the roaster for Joe and he is doing a tremendous job transitioning them from café company to coffee company.
Here we discuss his take on roasting and his place in the supply chain.
F+B: How long have you been roasting?
Ed Kaufmann: I started roasting when Stumptown moved to NYC. That was my first roasting gig.
F+B: When did Joe begin its roasting program?
EK: August 1, 2012
F+B: Roasting on?
EK: We are test roasting on a San Franciscan and production roasting at Dallis Brothers on a 50’s Probat G45 and UG15 which is cool cause when I roasted at Stumptown it was on a G45 from the 50’s as well. Everything is manual.
F+B: Why did Joe decide to start roasting? Why was it important to them?
EK: To be closer to the process. We wanted to have more control over quality and menu selection. They had intended to do it for a while but were waiting for the right people and scenario to have it take off.
We have over 120 employees now with 10 cafes and we saw roasting as an educational opportunity as well. Most baristas are disconnected from the process of roasting and how the coffee turns from green to brown. They just see it arrive all packaged and ready. Now we are taking our team on tours of the roastery with our employees and exposing them to the process.
F+B: Do you have plans to expand to blended coffee?
EK: Right now we do 10% of our coffee and we’re working at perfecting that but eventually I’m sure we’ll move into blending.
We are just getting set up to deal with the whole process in a controlled manor. Luckily we are still purchasing 80% of our coffee from Intelligentsia so that we can ease into the process of inventory management, green ordering, cupping coffees and making the tough calls between an 82 or an 86 point coffee. Taking cupping notes and translating them into roasting notes and profiles.
F+B: What is your philosophy when roasting?
EK: Every coffee has a way it wants to be roasted. That’s why we roast test batches in a variety of curves and temperatures to find the ideal profile. Some coffees do well with a variety of profiles. Basically it is a complex matrix of what my mom would drink and what I like. Not just my fellow coffee nerds. We really like to think about who the end drinker is so it’s a balance between geekery and approachability.
Here at Joe we are really lucky because we already know our customers so well. We’ve been serving them for years so we know what they’re going to like and how to steer them toward new things.
F+B: What do you look for in a coffee?
EK: Balance. Like this PNG (Papa New Guinea) I’m working with. It has this amazing cantaloupe characteristic and then a molasses side. If I can bring out both sides of that, I’m happy.
F+B: Do you plan to expand to wholesale?
EK: Eventually, yes. but that is farther down the line.
F+B: What roasters do you like?
F+B: People often discuss the consumer trend toward putting an emphasis on the source of the coffee… Do you see this trend?
EK: People definitely ask more questions. Just as they do with their food, they’re more interested in where it comes from and how it is produced. Who the roaster is seems to be a given. They check roaster first and then origin.
F+B: Who do you believe the author of the coffee is?
EK: You can’t do it without all of it. It’s the journey and it is getting more and more mixed. We visit the farmer to see the crops. They visit the states to taste their coffee on an espresso machine as the end product. It all starts with awesome green. None of this happens accidentally.
F+B: Joe obviously sees value in roasting with your addition; will you start sourcing your own coffees as well?
EK: No origin trips yet but we have started ordering directly from some of our producing partners and one of our producers is processing the coffees in a couple special ways for us. We still work with an importer and respect the whole chain. I love seeing the contract with the name of the producer, the importer and then our name at the bottom, which to me is a thing of beauty. The whole chain fits on one half-page piece of paper.
We really just try to stick to our mission. The same mission we have here at the counter, “fair, traceable transactions that are mutually beneficial.”
F+B: What do you believe makes a master roaster?
EK: A master roaster is like a Swiss Army knife: managing inventory, green ordering, and freshness standards; know how machines work and how to work on machines. Cup and decode cupping notes and translate them into profiles in the roast. A humble servant to the flavors. Allow, the taste of the coffee to drive his actions. Educator.
The stunning conclusion of this interview is exclusively on Facebook here: Joe’s Ed.