Now, I know what you may be think. “Coffee? That’s got nothing to do with shaving.” At first glance, you may be right. However, spend some in-depth, quality time in the wet shaving community, and you may realize that wet shaving isn’t a standalone hobby. For many, it’s one aspect of a traditionalist lifestyle of those who prefer quality over quantity, and to do things the right way, not just the most convenient way. Whether this be traditional shaving items, fountain pens, meerschaum tobacco pipes, or small batch coffee, all harken back to a time where men showed pride in their belongings. Since coffee is cherished by so many, I figured this would be a great place to start!
I’m not sure about you but, for me, coffee is an absolute daily necessity. I’ll admit that I don’t play well with others unless I’ve had at least one cup of this dark, glorious nectar. Many a late-night study sessions and mentally-taxing work tasks have been slayed with confidence due to the striking benefits I receive from said coffee. However, I was curious to find out exactly how coffee was made, and to what I could attribute the behavioral and gustatory benefits I receive. I decided to ask David, small batch coffee roaster and owner of “David’s Roasting” in San Diego, California, to get the inside scoop on coffee, and how to get the most out of your morning cup o’ joe.
What are the main differences between good and bad coffee?
“For me, there are 3 components to good coffee: High quality beans, proper roasting and freshness. There are different levels of quality in coffee just as any other food. Our bean broker specializes in really high quality beans sourced from all over the world. Our roasting process lends itself very well to the results we are trying to achieve and I believe firmly that fluid bed roasting is the best method. Medium and larger companies wind up having to roast in such large volumes, for cost efficiency, that at some point the volume overtakes the quality and in very large machines, you have to roast at a darker level to insure that the beans are all properly roasted. Our machines are tiny and we do very small batches and the consistency of the roast, even at light levels, is far superior.”
What is the best brewing method?
"Brew types are a personal preference. I bought an espresso maker about 15 years ago, and it didn't see much use until the first time I went to Italy, where all you drink is espresso. When we got back from our trip, I took the espresso maker out and it's been on the counter ever since. My morning usually begins with a double shot cappuccino....or two.... Espresso and French press or the best ways to extract the real flavors of the coffee (IMHO) but the bun-headed hipsters have found ways to fool the masses into paying lots of money for a good pour-over, which if done right, is much better than a drip machine. I waited 10 minutes for a guy to make me a pour-over and if his propeller had been wound any tighter, it would have snapped the rubber band. It was a mediocre cup of coffee....feh! Really, water temperature and quality have more to do with brewing than anything. You can't use tap water (unless it's pure spring water) and the right temp insures you don't scald the grounds."
Where do artisan coffee makers focus their effort in the workflow?
"Artisan coffee makers - or people who think they are - seem to run the gamut. I think at their core, they all want to make a better cup, but a lot of them don't know what they're trying to achieve and just seem to turn out to be another face in a growing crowd. Roasting and blending are the arts. Being able to discern the flavor differences in the beans is critical, but like any other chef, it's a personal taste. I've tasted really expensive coffee that I thought was lousy. I focused on creating an amazing blend that is repeatable, and my beans are not so specialized that they'll be unavailable when I need them. I'm developing an espresso blend that will have characteristics that more people may prefer in an espresso, but fundamentally it is built around my existing blend. Espresso is a method of brewing, not a bean or a roast level, but there are a lot of things that go into a good espresso blend. Our existing blends can be used for any coffee brewing method."
Where do coffees that people are most familiar with fall in the spectrum of types of coffee (e.g. Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, CBTL, Peet’s)?
"When I was in college Peet's had one or two shops in the bay area, and that was it. Their coffee was un-freaking-believable (albeit, more on the darker roasted side) and it was a staple on my shelf for years. Peet's was sold to another guy in 1979, then to the founders of Starbuck's in 1984.They expanded intelligently, but then they were bought by a large company in 2012 which is when you saw the huge explosion of Peet's stores. When Starbucks was sold in '84 they expanded exponentially and in both cases, the quality of the coffees when downhill fast because, as mentioned previously, they have to roast in such massive quantities in multiple locations that they are nothing like what they used to be, and it's all about revenue and nothing else.On the plus side, they own so many plantations worldwide, or buy in such huge volumes that their ROI on a cup of coffee is off the charts, even with the overhead of the stores. Coffee is Starbuck's least important thing. They are a marketing company, not a coffee company. They sell more sweetened coffee drinks now, and flavored coffees than straight coffee. Want to know why? Their coffee tastes bad. I have never liked CBTL's coffee. Not sure what it is, but I would guess that they just don't brew it strong enough. They are just another large coffee company. Imagine if Yuban and Maxwell House owned coffee shops. That's what you get with the big 3."
So, as you can see, there are actually quite a few similarities between the avid coffee roaster/fanatic and wet shaving enthusiast. For many enthusiasts, expanding companies are viewed to focus more on quantity over quality, yielding soap that is “good enough” for everyone. But the discerning and dedicated shaver is drawn more to the work of an artisan, who is passionate in concocting soaps which excel in cushion, comfort, slickness, healing, and post shave properties, as well as scents which exude uniqueness, complexity, storytelling, and so much more. If you’re a wet shaver who - like me - uses coffee as the cornerstone for competence and normal functioning, why settle? Shave on, and drink up (your coffee, of course)!