We’ve been fans of Elevator since they opened their cafe in SE Portland. It’s a great place to meet for a group ride. Jay Sycip and Greg Watson are both friends from the bike world and also work at a certain maker of headsets and hubs in town. We chatted with Andrew Coe, head roaster for Elevator. We sampled their Ethiopian Hambela Buku and their Guatemalan La Joya. Both were delicious and recommended.
1. Do you have a philosophy for roasting? Our goals are to roast coffee so the inherent qualities of the beans shine through. We select coffees based on high levels of sweetness, so we want to preserve and optimize those sugars. We also aim to roast in a way that makes the coffee easy to brew at home.
2. What makes for a good cup of coffee, in your opinion? A great cup of coffee will have depth and complexity. Perception of flavors change as temperature of the coffee changes, and a really great cup should taste good throughout from piping hot to tepid.
3. Favorite region for beans? Ethiopia
4. Espresso or drip? Both! I tend to get espresso most places because shops generally tend to dial in their espresso and maintain that recipe. Whereas drip coffee is usually a preset option for every coffee. So I find outstanding coffee more frequently on espresso. But really exceptional drip is my favorite, but quite elusive.
5. Favorite brew method? V60 pourover.
6. Thoughts on bean prices and fair prices for farmers? What will Elevator be doing this year about this?
I am so glad this question is here, because it really is the most important question for coffee being a sustainable industry. Coffee is very underpriced. There are many smart folks working on this right now. But we can all contribute by asking questions and having discussions about how coffee drinkers pay for coffee and who makes the most from it in terms of revenues. For our part, we only work with a very select group of importers that we trust are paying producers and farmers fairly. There is still a long ways to go here, and we are doing work in this area in 2019.
For Elevator, we are going to continue to do education with all of our staff to help them all understand why this is a concern. I'm hoping to source coffee with Catalyst Trade and Terra Negra Trade again this year (mentioned above). They have both been real advocates about price transparency that is hard to always get with some larger importers, and so we want to support them and depending on the coffees we buy, hopefully will be able to demonstrate in dollar amounts how we are making a difference. For now, we are trusting the importers we work with that the farmers are getting a fair wage. We are also working on a way of communicating our pricing model with wholesale partners, and eventually, customers. I think education is really important here, because just getting numbers without their context can lead to some misunderstanding. It is also a little scary to "show your work" this way. In 2018, we paid on average $3.80/lb for green coffee, when the commodity price was around $1.00/lb.
For the average consumer, coffee is not any different than any good. Don't just follow the marketing, do a little research and ask questions. I'd encourage people to get to know the people you are buying coffee from and then ask them about the different coffees and see what they know. Every purchase is an opportunity to support people who are making a difference.
7. Portland coffee scene. How do we rank? How do you feel about the culture here? The concentration of high level coffee in Portland is definitely the best in the US, and likely in the top 3 globally. This is due in large part to the work of Stumptown. Not only for introducing a higher standard for specialty coffee market here, but also for producing a large number of people that went on to start their own companies here.
Check out Elevator’s beans here
Sam Ullman - Mean Coffee