Coffee Talk (CT): When did you start roasting your own coffee and why did you start roasting?
Wess Daniels, Fireweed Coffee (WD) -- I started roasting in 2011 when we were living in the Pacific Northwest because well, if you’re gonna learn how to roast your own coffee, that’s the place to do it. But the big reason why is that I’ve been on a journey with coffee since at least college. I had to work to put myself through school, so I worked at my stepdad’s family’s donut shop. I was glad to have had a job, but it’s probably not the best job for a college student. I’d go to bed at 1 a.m. and get up and go to work at 3 a.m. So coffee became a necessity. My first coffee was heavily loaded down with sugar and cream. Over time, I grew to like just coffee more and more. It was in Washington State where I had my first cup of Stumptown coffee during our first visit there. That was a revelation. This will sound so ridiculous, but I almost had tears of joy in my eyes the coffee was so good. I will never forget that first cup of coffee. That really set me on this quest of finding and sharing good coffee with people I love.
CT: How do you choose your beans?
WD: Up until this summer, I have been roasting coffee mostly for my wife and myself, so selecting beans was based very much on our preferences. Light to medium roasted batches of Costa Rican, Guatemalan, and Ethiopian beans tend to be my go to because I like their flavor profiles. Since I started Fireweed this summer, I’ve had to start branching out. Some people like darker roasts, others like coffees from places I don’t usually buy from, and some people like blends of different types of beans. So right now, I’m roasting coffees I know and love, and doing roasting that pushes me in terms of my own preferences and experiences. That’s actually part of the fun of this coffee roasting journey; putting myself out there has pushed me to learn, grow, and change. I love that.
CT: What do you tell people about coffee prep or buying coffee beans to help them brew a delicious cup of coffee at home?
First and foremost you need fresh beans. Unfortunately, most of the stuff you can buy at the grocery store is often too old. In my opinion, coffee is a lot like bread. Yes, you can purchase wonder bread, but it doesn’t taste anything like the stuff a baker makes. Please don’t buy coffee because it's cheap or organic and direct trade. That’s all well and good but get something that is organic, direct trade AND fresh. That usually means your best bet is to buy from a local roaster. I think coffee is best in between day 3 and 8 of when it was roasted.
Second, learn more about how you’re brewing your coffee. There are a lot of different ways to make great coffee, and they all have their advantages and disadvantages - so just learn about how to do it using the method you have and/or like. Check out a site like www.brewmethods.com and read up on it. An excellent place to start brewing is with a French press. It’s pretty easy to use, inexpensive, not particularly finicky, and it gives you a lot of control. If you look on my Instagram page, I have some instructions there for how to brew a great cup of coffee with a French press.
Third, the more control you have over the brewing process, the better. Here are the things that make for a good cup of coffee: fresh beans, grind right before you brew, proper grind size for your brewing method (fine, medium, coarse), temperature of water (usually between 195–200 degrees), and how long the water and the beans are in contact with one another (no longer than six minutes). The more control you have over each step of the process, the better your cup of coffee is going to taste.
CT: What’s your favorite way to make coffee at home and why?
WD: Generally speaking, we make drip coffee at home with OXO Barista Brain that I found on super clearance last year on my birthday. It involves almost no effort on my part and takes into account all the different aspects of control I shared above. My other favorite is a lot more fun, and that’s the Aeropress: it’s portable, made out of heavy duty plastic, you control all the aspects of the brewing process, the coffee tastes great, it has tons of different recipes, and it’s easy to clean.
CT: What else do you want people to know about you or Fireweed Coffee?
WD: Good, local coffee is a lot like other local items, it may cost a little more, but I think you’ll find it’s worth it in the end. And try different kinds of coffees; think of your coffee drinking as an experiment and find the roasts, origins, and brew methods you like best. There are infinite possibilities.
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