– Can you please introduce yourself in a few words.
I am creator and host of CoffeeCon. Since school, I’ve worked as a writer, musician, humorist, photographer and producer.
– What’s your story in the coffee industry?
I was freelance writing when a client commented on my taking 20 minutes to brew coffee. He said maybe I should be writing about coffee. I took his advice, mocked up a newsletter and he sent it to USA Today. They published a blurb and I had reinvented myself. I reviewed (and still do) coffee makers.
– What’s your specialty and what makes you different?
Most coffee writers and event producers focus on trade issues and beans. What interests me is consuming and the big picture of getting the best flavor from coffee. This means I put beans and brewers on equal footing. I believe as a consumer in 2018 you need to know as much about how to brew as you do the beans sources. It’s not as easy as wine or craft beer, where it’s all done and bottled before you open it. Coffee has lots more for the consumer to learn and do. Hence CoffeeCon, my event, is totally different than other coffee festivals.
– What was your first coffee experience?
My dad used to pour a little coffee into my milk. My first experiences were with him.
– How/when have you discovered about specialty coffee?
My good friend Bob got into cooking and found a shop that sold beans in giant open barrels. He then purchased a grinder and invited me over. I learned how fun is the chase to find the best and how social it is to share it with friends.
– What was your best coffee experience?
Sitting with my lovely wife outside our first apartment and just sipping coffee and talking together. To this day, there’s nothing I enjoy more.
– Do you prepare coffee at home ? If yes, what method do you use?
I have 20 coffee makers in my kitchen. First thing each morning I pick one. My go-to when rushed is probably a Chemex. I grind coffee in a twenty year-old Ditting 804 that I keep in the garage because it won’t fit in the kitchen. I measure carefully, and only use good coffee beans, but I’m not a snob. I often like blends and rarely purchase ultra-high priced beans. I like to think I can extract the best from any good bean.
– How do you like your coffee? Black, sugar and milk, iced, vietnamese style,…?
I am skeptical of the current coffee purist fashion. I think people leave a lot of joy on the table by denying themselves cream and sugar in order to appear in lock step with coffee divas. Have it how you like. Even a great coffee gets even better when you indulge a little cream in it. I always put cream in my first cup, the higher the fat content, the better. A little sweetener doesn’t hurt either.
– How would you qualify yourself as coffee drinker (occasional, heavy, addict…)?
Anyone as fastidious about brewing as I am can’t drink too much. I live a busy life, so I often have just two 4/5 ounce cups per day. When I have time, I brew in the afternoon. When I entertain in the evening I always offer to make coffee. When the crowd says yes, I indulge them. I find I always sleep fine after an enjoyable evening, just as I’m always awake if I am disturbed. Coffee seems to matter little to my sleep patterns.
– Have you always been into the coffee industry? If not, what was your previous job?
I am not really into the coffee industry. I’ve never worked a day in the coffee industry. I do not have any avocation to own a coffee bar or roastery. It is too much hard work. I’m a passionate advocated for coffee. I’m a good storyteller. I like to think I’m fun to be around. Those are my abilities but they seem to be quite different than skills needed to own a successful coffee business. I think it helps that I’ve never been an industry jobholder. Keeps me neutral and relatively free of conflict. I am full of opinions, however.
– Do you have another passion or a hobby besides coffee?
Lots of them. I’m an audiophile. I also record sound effects. I have a microphone collection that rivals my coffee makers. I am a musician and record collector. I also have an estimable collection of vintage radio shows. I am currently working on what I hope will be the definitive biography of Jack Benny, perhaps the best-ever radio comedian.
– What other place would you recommend, anywhere in the world (coffee or not)?
There are so many. New York has so many. I can’t single one out. Oh, okay. I recommend Polly’s in Long Beach. Mike Sheldrake has a time capsule of specialty coffee as it was in the early 1990s. That’s a compliment to his finding the right beans, blending them skillfully and roasting them with just a hint of dark, but in every way developing their complexity and fragrance.
– What is/are your favorite website(s) to get information about coffee?
I have my own blog based on my newsletter, The Coffee Companion, that’s full of articles I’ve written over the years. I wrote so many I occasionally find one I swear I’ve never read before, even though I wrote it. Otherwise, I rarely read about coffee. I’d rather read about stereo systems and music.
– What would you say to people who don’t know much about coffee?
They don’t know how much power they have when they brew. I often brew several times before I discover the best method, tweak the parameters of time, temperature and how to extract for maximum enjoyment. I hope CoffeeCon will be remembered for introducing this concept to a large number of consumers.