I started working with Nick in May of last year working as a roasting apprentice; coming in about once a week to learn how to operate both the sample roaster and production roaster. A lot of the time we spent cupping coffee from the menu as well as looking for new offerings from samples. This quickly evolved into my current role, roasting the bulk of the coffee each week and continuing to refine my cupping skills. It's been a great experience and my workload has grown exponentially, a testament to the awesome that is this coffee and brand.
I’ve worked in cafes as a barista or in production on and off since I was old enough to get a workers permit. In college, I managed a modest roasting operation in a shed behind a community coffee shop in South City Saint Louis. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I trained as a barista for a specialty roasting company, also in Saint Louis, that I really began to hone my coffee skills. I was trained by competition baristas and two seriously skilled roasters. At that point I had worked in coffee for a long time, but was beginning to realize just how much there is to learn about coffee. That's part of why I wanted to learn more about roasting on a more commercial scale. I always want to be learning.
That's so rad. In your words, can you tell us what being a coffee roaster entails?
So far, my approach to coffee roasting has been to focus on the numbers. I want to learn how different coffee behaves in the roaster and this is easiest for me to do by analyzing the data. I record time and temperatures by hand pretty meticulously in order to anticipate at what rate each coffee will reveal it's best flavor characteristics. It's a very left brain approach, but there are also visual cues, sounds and smells that help monitor bean development. I like the intense focus of my roasting approach. I know there is still so much more to learn, but it’s rad cultivating your intuition, becoming more confident that it will yield consistent results. Plus, if I’m ever in doubt, quality control is as easy as drinking my morning coffee.
Amen to that! Why is Lake Tahoe home? What do you like most (and least) about living here?
I lived in Saint Louis, Missouri my entire life. I love the Midwest and living in a city like Saint Louis, but I love a challenge and I also fell in love with a guy who wanted to work in the mountains. It seemed like a good opportunity to try living in an entirely new place. It’s been an adjustment for sure, but I love living in the clouds and the lake is beautiful. Probably the most incredible thing is the wildlife. We have coyotes and black bears in Missouri, but to see them on the edge of the forest (or in town!) is amazing. I love animals.
My issues with Tahoe kind of conflict with the things I love about the place, but I think some thoughtful development could go a long way here. It’s a very small town and resources, opportunities and housing for year round residents are extremely limited. I feel very fortunate to be working with you all at such an ambitious company. It will be great to see DRINK COFFEE DO STUFF grow as a resource for more people in the area.
Your pup (and shop dog) Max is adorable! What kind of dog is he? How long have you had him?
Max is great! We think he’s a Chihuahua/Papillon mix with a long-bodied Dachshund wiggle, but really we have no idea. My boyfriend and I adopted him from a nearby shelter about six months ago and whatever breed he is, he’s that to the Max!
You have such a great taste in music. What kind of tunes do you jam out to while roasting?
I get in super early in the morning, so I usually like to start off with moody morning tunes. Some of my faves are Gillian Welch, Big Thief, Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen, Courtney Barnett, Fiona Apple. Other mornings it's En Vogue and Nirvana, it just depends.
Which is your favorite DRINK COFFEE DO STUFF coffee on our current menu?
At the moment, I recommend our coffee from Peru. It’s been a standout on the cupping table over and over again, and on my V60 at home it smells like cherry cordials and roses. Very romantic aromatics. Ha! I like that it’s a very bright cup from start to finish with cinnamon and ginger spice warmth carried by a candied sweetness. Yum.
Laura: It's my favorite right now, too! Lastly: who inspires you, and why?
Emily: Honestly, I mostly try to just inspire myself. Otherwise I end up comparing myself to other people and that’s a dangerous exercise when you have a self-critical bent. As a woman, I do think it’s important to look to other women for inspiration. Self-criticism can look a lot like destructive competition and I want to support and be supported by women. So I guess I’m also inspired by the women in my life, even those I meet in passing. We’re all in this together.