For the uninitiated, Public Espresso began as a hobby, roasting coffee on our kitchen counter on the weekends. James started roasting after a few business trips granted him some exposure to different styles of coffee.
We've been fascinated by the process ever since and have bean able to taste and share coffees from around the world — Bali, Ethiopia, Brazil, Mexico, El Salvador, to name a few. Sourcing good, sustainable coffee can be expensive and tricky, but putting out a product we're proud of has always been important to us. Roasting coffees that have ben sustainably farmed and sourced responsibly drives that cost up, but it allows farmers and going cooperatives to build businesses of their own.
For centuries, the roasting process has required fire. As technology has evolved, the process has been refined, but gas-powered coffee roasters with heavy exhaust systems have maintained a dominant presence in the industry.
Then along comes Bellwether Coffee with their electric, ventless, zero-emissions coffee roaster. We followed their story closely as they made waves across not only the coffee industry, but start-up and tech industries, too. This year, they were awarded Best New Product by the Specialty Coffee Association. We'd been looking for ways to expand our roasting business and increase the visibility of our coffee program at the same. The Bellwether now lives in our cafe and the entire roasting process — loading, roasting, cooling and bagging — will take place in the shop during business hours. All with zero carbon emissions.
We could not be more thrilled to get started and to share more about this machine, their mission and the new layers of accessibility and sustainability it provides. If you stop into the shop, ask us about it. Going forward, all of the coffee served and sold through our shops and wholesale partners is 100% carbon emission free. You can order some from our online shop, too.
It's a question we still get frequently and it's fair to ask; our name is Public Espresso + Coffee, after all.
Plus, we've partnered with some talented Buffalo bakeries in the past. When we moved from our lobby bar in The Hotel Lafayette into our new space at the end of 2017, we gained access to a commercial kitchen. That's when we launched breakfast and lunch service and started making our own pastry.
Earlier this year, we expanded into a second, larger kitchen in The Hotel Lafayette to give our savory and pastry programs a little elbow room, increase our capacity and gear up for the opening of our Seneca Street shop in South Buffalo.
Our philosophy has always been that if we can't do something at a level we're proud to serve and stand behind, find someone that can do it for us. That's why we continue to get our bagels and sourdough bread from our friends at Breadhive Bakery & Cafe. With our pastry team, we are proud to sell pastry alongside our coffee and food programs that are mixed, baked, fried, glazed and made in-house. Moving things in-house allows us to get creative on the fly, innovate and incorporate our coffee and food programs in unique ways.
If you follow us on Instagram, you probably see our daily pastry posts. If you stop in and share a pic, be sure to tag us @publicespresso!
One of the great things about coffee is the sheer variety of beans on the market. As coffee roasters, we work with importers and farmers to source green coffee beans. They send us samples to test and then we buy, in quantities ranging from hundreds of pounds to thousands of pounds, based on price, demand and how much we enjoy them. In a few rare instances, we've bought coffees without even sampling them based on certain characteristics or market demand.
We roast a lot of great coffees (and some not so great coffees), but only a select few ever make it to our pour over bar or retail bags. It allows us to keep our menu fresh by rotating our offerings seasonally, based on what the market is providing. A coffee's lifespan can be anything from a couple of weeks to a few months, based on how much we were able to purchase. When the supply runs out, that coffee is gone and the process starts all over again.
It's one of the most exciting things about being coffee roasters and it gives us an opportunity to grow, learn and try new things with coffee almost daily. Which is why we're particularly excited about our current coffee offerings.
Our current slow bar menu is one of the funkiest we've had in a while. We're featuring coffees from Bali, Burundi and El Salvador, each with unique roast profiles and palettes.
The most widely accepted scale of coffee roasting, from lightest to darkest, looks like this:
Coffee beans are grown and harvested seasonally. A coffee plant takes about 3 years to mature before it produces anything worth picking, processing and selling. The fruit on a coffee doesn't all mature at the same rate either. Particularly in specialty coffee, coffee cherries are hand-picked multiple times during the season when the fruit hits maximum ripeness. These factors and elements like climate, exposure to sunlight and processing method can change the way a coffee tastes from season to season. And that's all before it's even seen a roaster!
So while we've featured this particular bean, from this particular region in Bali before, it's a very different coffee with the same DNA as coffees we've served in the past. It usually has notes of strawberry, a common characteristic of coffees from Indonesia, and one year in particular it smelled and tasted like a strawberry patch. This year, the strawberry notes are a bit subdued, but they're buoyed by creamy peanut butter and tart grape flavors.
Lastly, we're featuring a complex bean from El Salvador. It's also the darkest roast on our Slow Bar Menu at "Full City". It's a natural process coffee, too. The natural process means that once the coffee cherries are picked, they enter the drying phase. Rather than picking the sweet, tart fruit off of the coffee bean, or pit, the whole coffee cherry is dried in the sun. This process is more environmentally friendly because it doesn't require the washing and soaking phase of many coffee processes. It also results in much sweeter, juicier tasting coffees because of the sustained contact between the fruit and bean.
When a natural process bean remains in that state longer than usual, it sometimes leads to a somewhat fermented profile. In this particular instance, the El Salvador has notes of sweet malt, rose hips and strawberry. A longer than usual drying phase likely contributed to that malty flavor.
All three beans are currently available on our Slow Bar Menu, while they last. Don't sleep on these funky coffees. If you want to see a coffee from a certain region make our menu, tweet us at @publicespresso!