Meet Seth Mills

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Name and Occupation:

Seth Mills, Director of Coffee at MistoBox Coffee

Where were you born and where did you grow up?

4th Generation Arizonan. Raised in Tepe. Still here. Great city.

What was your first coffee job?

I was tired of pushing carts in 115° summer heat and bagging groceries at 17, so I applied for the Starbucks kiosk in the Safeway I was working at. Worked there for about 8 months before getting hired and working at a company operated Starbucks for a couple of years.

What made you fall in love with coffee?
It was the first thing that I applied myself in that I found fulfilled my interests and I was good at. Started roasting at home, geeking out on brewing, and people I shared it with were generally interesting in tasting coffees and talking about it. I love serving people and being able to connect that hospitality side of things with a personal passion just made sense to me.

Tell us one thing about yourself that most people probably don’t know.
I love cooking and making cocktails at home. I’m a total food nerd and watch and read everything I can to make super tasty food and drinks at home for my wife and friends. Alton Brown is my hero and would love to become best friends with him. Also, I’m a huge fan of Disneyland.

What do you do when you’re not making coffee?
Taking care of my two kids, watching movies or The Office episodes on Netflix, or cooking/making drinks.

Whats one piece of advice for someone new to coffee who has aspirations to turn coffee into a career?
Immerse yourself in it. Taste as many coffees as you can. Don’t be afraid to be wrong or to not know the answer to everything. Find a mentor who is super passionate and willing to help you learn and support you along the way. Always be open to learning.

Who was your first coffee hero?
It has to be James Hoffmann. I was just starting to really get into coffee when he won the WBC in 2007, learning that there was this whole other world in coffee beyond Starbucks. I definitely wanted to learn everything I could from him and still really look up to him.

What’s in your hopper right now ?
On espresso I just got a fresh bag of Quills’ Blacksmith Espresso and for pourover I have been loving this honey processed Colombia from Augie’s we are going to feature this month.

Favorite movie?
Tough one. Hard to limit it to just one. I’d have to go with The Lord of the Rings Trilogy or Star Wars.

Favorite food item?
Anything that Chef Jeff Kraus from Crepe Bar here in Tempe makes. Everything he puts out is so good.

Favorite brew method?
I’ve been a V60-01 fan for a long time, but recently picked up a Gino dripper that I’ve been really digging. Chemex is also up there. Any kind of pourover really.

Favorite city to visit?
Anaheim, because Disneyland. No question. (I also love visiting San Francisco)

What are you worst at?
Haha, oh man. So many things. I’m probably worst at doing laundry or putting clothes away. My wife is a saint. Also, I’m a really terrible singer.

Cat & Cloud Coffee Podcast

When Jared and I started our blog in 2010 it had always been a dream of ours to do something more. Something that we could both proudly call our own, but also involved the entire coffee community at large. As with many dreams it’s easy for things to get in the way and steer you off course – other opportunities, money and lack thereof, and just the scary uncertainty of not knowing if something will pan out or not. Well we’ve decided it’s time to check our inhibitions at the door and wander out into the great unknown.

Welcome to the Cat & Cloud Coffee Podcast. We’re here to bring you a weekly dose of audible coffee magic featuring your two tightest bros, plus industry guests from all over the globe. We’ve started things off with a two-part episode from Ian Levine – Operations Project Manager for Equator Coffee & Teas, and the first of a three part series from current United States Barista Champion: Charles Babinski.


We also have a favor to ask of you: 

If you take a quick minute to log into iTunes, rate, review, and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes we will be forever grateful. This will allow us to keep bringing you awesome regular content. Even if you hate us, or don’t have time to listen to an entire episode, a review will still help! Click the banner to open the podcast in iTunes or go here: Cat & Cloud on iTunes.


We want to hear your thoughts and ideas…if there are topics that are near and dear to your heart you’d like us to discuss, or if you’d like to sit down and chat with us, drop us an email at info@catandcloud.com and put the word “podcast” in the subject line.

Additionally next week we will be re-routing the blog to live over at catandcloud.com. We’ve already uploaded all our existing content plus a few other fun summer offerings so go check it out. As always comments will be left on, and we’ll be addressing the comments we get at the end of all the yet to be recorded podcasts. We genuinely love to hear from you, so talk it out with us and we’ll get back at you.

We really appreciate all the love you cats have given us here, and it’s hard to express how excited we are to just ratchet it up a notch for you. So to all who make it a point to come here:

Thank you. You’re the reason we love working in coffee.

-Team Trubaca

Climbers & Builders

I once heard that there are generally two types of people. Builders & Climbers. Deep down if you were to assess your values you would be one or the other.

Climbers are the type to look out for número uno. The “how can I get to the top and who do I have to beat out to do so”. The whatever it takes to be making the most or getting the cred, type. These people can be superstars to those outside looking in, but they have no interest in helping others. Success stems on a singular goal, make myself more awesome. Make my legacy.

These people can be good people in general, don’t get me wrong, but they typically aren’t able to be be best version of themselves. They are missing a major element. Making more of themselves. They are too internally focused to spread the love.

If we ever want to be respected, known, or to grow we must stop looking out for our individual legacies. We need to be looking holistically at our entire industry to teach, support and progress.

I think it’s natural for us to want to be climbers. The world is full of people who have been taken advantage of and walked on. We must stop believing that the only way to make something special is by self serving. See also, service, it’s not about us.

I think we need more builders, more supportive leaders.

Think about it like this. If you put your effort into growing others, making superstars, and letting them do big things for your company or store you win. Yes, you don’t get the credit at first, your superstars do. Guess what though, your superstars will never say they were self made if you help make them. The credit will come one day. Be patient.

I am calling on builders. I wanna see more.

Builders want to get to the top too. They are ambitious. The difference is, they want others to rise to the top with them. They want to make strong supports that allow for collaboration and growth on so many levels that you make a monument. An empire.

This takes vision, leadership and intentionality. You must know before you start a business what you want out of it. Then you must lead & teach by example.

I am tired of everyone opening companies to make “the best coffee”, to offer a “unique experience”. Sure those things are great…..and singular.

There are enough of us to start collaborating and understanding business, roasting, prep, quality, sourcing, service & build outs. Why don’t we?

Being the one person in a company or industry who can make something big happen means that when you move on, nothing happens. Everything falls apart. Dramatic. Everything CAN fall apart.

My people, this will work. Humans all have genius qualities in them. They need to be supported, they need to be allowed to fail, to learn AND they need to be in a supported place of coaching. The payoff will be insane.

Sure, the people you grow may not open more cafes, but they will learn valuable skills to move the Industry forward and they will willingly help you succeed! Because they are truly valuable, doing something important and learning.

Beyond that. How many companies grow organically, truly. All the “Big” companies in coffee…did they set the plan and grow the original employees up or are all the top dogs therein from other industries or outside companies? Was their vision strong enough to keep the believers? Was it something else?

The company that starts with the philosophy of the builder will have a high percentage of people doing pivotal things for them. This is my belief.

If we are leaders, builders, we need to figure out what we want to achieve, set some values, standards, a mission statement and get going. Let your people be free to produce their own interpretation of your vision with the guard rails of your values and standards, then go kill it. It may happen slightly differently than you planned but the buy in from staff will be huge. The success will be real. The loyalty will be out of this world and who knows maybe you’ll make something no one has seen yet.

We need bold leaders to think beyond themselves and try unique things.

When my business gets up and running it will be about building. Not to expand for profit solely, but to teach, grow & plant. To bring a community together. I dream to offer that take on this craft. I aim to teach people to go out and spread specialty coffee with the foundation of understanding their business as well as our craft in such a way that they may be successful. Their success will then be mine. Be specialty coffee’s. If you love specialty coffee for more than just money & a “fun” job then dare to build. It will be infectious enough to spread and become something special. I guarantee it.

…I know I ranted. Sheesh.

How Fresh is it? Words from Pete Licata

​Once upon a time I made coffee with my bare wits, a grinder, and an espresso machine.

Some of you might call this the dark ages, but some of you might remember this time with nostalgia. During this time long ago (2006 wasn’t that long ago right?!) I was competing in a regional barista championship in the Midwest. This was also one of my first experiences making espresso with extremely fresh coffee.

You see in my preparations for the competition I had been using one of the main line espresso blends from the roasting company I worked for, as single origin espresso was not really a thing at the time. The week of competition we received a fresh crop of coffee that had just arrived, which was decidedly pretty delicious, and the day before the competition I was given a bag of this coffee and encouraged to use it for my espresso instead of the blend. Sadly, in those days the connection to the coffee itself was not as emphasized as it is now. Regardless, I took the “Sugarfoot” espresso blend and made coffee.

The results were amazingly unpredictable, with massive quantities of bubbly crema that collapsed within seconds and shot times between 15 and 30 seconds. I’m going to just skip talking about the flavor of freshness for the moment… Perhaps it was not my best day with espresso (given hindsight I can guarantee I was at least part of the problem). From that experience I learned just how important the “aging” of coffee can be.

That coffee I used was about 3-4 days out of the roaster.

I bet many of you have had some type of experience with fresh espresso like this. While it is pretty common to have a standard 5-7 day aging of espresso beans before pulling shots, people are all over the board on how soon to make coffee after roasting for both espresso and filter. Conventional wisdom will say to use espresso 5-10 days and filter coffee 3-7 days after roast. I think the biggest issue with this understanding is that it is too vague and generalized, yet set in stone. Anyone who has been working in coffee for over a year or two has probably had the realization that every coffee behaves differently. Aging is no exception. I have had espresso that peaked from 10-14 days and filter that tasted way better from 5-10 days out.

Welcome back to the present. There have been various trends to promote coffee freshness out there, not the least of which being what I call the “kraft movement”. It seems to be more and more common for roasters to put coffee in an unsealed kraft bag and expect the world to drink it all before it goes stale. This is a beautiful idea in theory, but doesn’t always work in the real world.

The problem is not always that the coffee is simply fresh or stale, but that it has been exposed to oxygen and moisture in the air constantly since it was roasted. The result has a lot of variance, but I usually experience something along the lines of it tasting stale, flat, AND a bit sharp. Personally, I prefer something that has been sealed in a valve bag for at least 3 days before I try brewing it. That technology was created for the express purpose of prolonging the quality of the coffee and typically does its job well.

This is not to say that selling coffee super fresh, or packing in kraft bags is a terrible thing. Some companies do a good job in these methods, and kraft bags can definitely be cost effective packaging for smaller companies. When you are regularly shipping that bag across the country to wholesale clients a little preservation and protection against the elements makes sense though.

The point here is that it is important to understand how your coffee ages either in a sealed environment or unsealed bag. In the specialty sector of coffee there are a lot of versions of the definition of “freshness”. Yes, fresh tends to be better and stale coffee sucks. However I have found more and more baristas who insist that a coffee hitting one week past roast (sealed in a valve bag) has somehow gone “bad”. In the case of espresso I probably wouldn’t even want to pull a shot until this point, so why is 7 days the death of a filter coffee?

Since starting my current business (RoastRatings.com) I have tasted a number of coffees from 2 weeks to 3 months old, and plenty have at least tasted “good” if not “damn tasty”. Granted at those longer ages many coffees start to lose vibrancy and intensity, but they are far from “bad”! They can still be balanced, and even sweet.

Somehow it is common to expect coffee grinds to yield an eruption of gasses as soon as water hits them which, for me, I expect a mouthful of carbonic, metallic funk (not fun and crazy as I would imagine a heavy metal funk band to sound either). If the bloom doesn’t blow a hole in your v60 is it automatically unacceptable?

The simple answer is “no”.

As with everything in this crazy industry, a number of factors play into this game of coffee freshness. The roasting technique, green bean density, and environmental factors can all affect how your coffee ages.

Unfortunately there is not one simple solution for maximizing your coffee’s flavor through freshness and aging. You have to work for it. You have to pay attention. Coffee that is too fresh sucks, but so does coffee that is stale. Having minimum and maximum ranges for our coffee aging is a good thing, but having those range as immovable barriers will limit your ability to make great, tasty coffee. You should try some of those coffee that are outside of the standard age range, it might just surprise you. Be flexible, understand each coffee, and keep an open mind. This is advice I believe in.

-Pete

Let us re-introduce you to Pete Licata

Over the years we have had a lot of great conversations with Pete. He is one of those people we see eye to eye with on a lot of different topics.

He has helped me with competition routines, challenged philosophy and critiqued service.

He truly is one of the great thinkers and competitors in our industry.

We figured we would ask him to share what’s hot in his mind so stay tuned for a guest blog from former WBC Champion, Pete Licata.

First though, let’s get to know a bit more about him.

-JT

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Name and Occupation:

Pete Licata, Consultant and coffee taster

Where were you born and where did you grow up?

I was born in Kansas City, KS. I grew up all around the KC area, which at the time wasn’t very interesting.

What was your first coffee job?

Barista at PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. in Kansas City

What made you fall in love with coffee?

I had a long obsession with caffeine as a teenager. Pretty sure I thought I loved coffee then, but really it was the buzz I was seeking. IT wasn’t until I was working at PT’s that I found the customer service aspect as well as the depths of knowledge and training to be truly fascinating.

Tell us one thing about yourself that most people probably don’t know.

I used to work at a potato restaurant called 1 Potato 2 in a mall food court, and to this day I still know the secrets to the perfect french fries. (hint: no, your fries aren’t perfect)

What do you do when you’re not making coffee?

I’m glad you ask because for a while coffee was really the only thing I was doing. Talk about a downward spiral into madness! In free time I enjoy practicing martial arts, video games, and reading. Nothing out of the ordinary really.

Whats one piece of advice for someone new to coffee who has aspirations to turn coffee into a career?

Be patient. Real knowledge and mastery of a craft takes time, and there is no real substitute. Also, don’t be afraid to talk to coffee “celebrities” about the things you don’t know. We are all people too.

Who was your first coffee hero?

Those Capuchin monks. There was an old (Folgers, International Delights, something?) commercial when I was a kid talking about how they are responsible for the cappuccino, which may or may not be total garbage. If we are talking about modern and real coffee heroes, I would definitely say Tim Wendelboe. He visited KC early in my career as the reigning WBC champ and for the first time I saw something that I wanted to achieve.

What’s in your hopper right now ?

El Salvador Colomba Natural from Messenger Coffee in Kansas City

Favorite movie?

The Sound of Music. Don’t mess with Julie Andrews yo

Favorite food item?

The short answer is bacon, but there are so many things out there. Rice in Japan, Ahi poke in Hawaii, Khachapuri in Russia/Georgia. These are all serious yums.

Favorite brew method?

Filter. Chemex, Fetco, Beehouse, or BonaVita auto.

Favorite city to visit?

So far, Tokyo. I have a feeling Kyoto or Sapporo might be my jam though.

What are you worst at?

Not gonna lie, accounting, taxes, and graphic design.

If you want to get ahold of Pete for consulting, follow him on social media or to get involved with his new adventures, here are the goods:

Twitter –
@petelicata

Instagram –
petelicata

Facebook –
http://www.facebook.com/pete.licata

http://www.roastratings.com

http://www.licatacoffeeconsultants.com

Again, tune in this weekend for more from Pete!

Chefs, Bartenders, and Baristas

The following is a transcription from a text message thread that was inspired by an earlier draft of Jared’s latest post on service. Particularly in reference to a comparison between bartenders, chefs, and baristas that the draft contained. The particular comparison in question didn’t make it into the final edit, but it did spark some incredibly interesting conversation.

I must admit that cross-industry comparisons have always made me cringe, although I understand how they are sometimes applicable. There are indeed similarities between being a bartender, chef, and a barista – but at the end of the day we are in our own unique industry, governed by its own unique set of economic and social forces.

One of my personal hopes is that one day we (baristas) will be comfortable and confident enough in what we do to not have to compare our industry to any other; and we can instead just focus on taking the next best step for our industry.

My points of view on this topic may not be the most popular in Specialty Coffee, or with the people reading this bog but that’s ok. I think in order to move forward we need to be really honest with ourselves when it comes to what we do, what we hope to do, and what steps we need to take to get there.

In any case, we thought it might be interesting to get a little insight on the stuff we spend our spare time talking about, and how our thought process works. For your reading pleasure I’ve conveniently transcribed our conversation back into nice little text bubbles without fixing any grammar or spelling, so you can really get into the moment.

Begin transmission:

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Why indeed is the world so hard?

At the end of the day I believe that many of these struggles come out of our industry being so young. The relative newness of Specialty Coffee combined with the uphill battle of getting people to recognize that there is something  truly special about this thing that for decades has been seen simply as a commodity, makes for a tough fight.

But I’m with JT…we can win the battle, and excelling at service is a must if we plan on doing so. Earning the same level of respect as some of the worlds best chefs and bartenders is of little consequence to me as long as we continue to put our best foot forward – the rest will fall into place over time.

-Chris Baca