AN INTERVIEW WITH ROAST MASTER PHILIP BROWN
From hating his first cup of coffee to becoming Master Roaster of PERC Coffee in Savannah, Georgia, Philip Brown talks with TLP about how to make the ideal cup of coffee.
The Local Palate (TLP): How did PERC come about?
Philip Brown (PB): I was a touring musician in Athens, GA looking for a job when I wasn’t on the road and a coffee shop seemed like fun. As time went by I was promoted to manager and head trainer and then started working at the roaster as an assistant. I worked for the company around 16 years.
TLP: Have you always had an interest in coffee?
PB: I remember the first time my dad let me try his coffee. He took it black and it was awful. After I started at the coffee shop, I fell in love with drink making, which led to an interest in origins, and then coffee from seed to cup. As my love for coffee grew, the next natural step was to apprentice at a roasting facility.
TLP: Where do you source your ingredients?
PB: We have a few direct relationships in Brazil and Nicaragua and are always looking for more. We also work closely with a few importers to bring in top quality coffees. Right now, we have coffees from Tanzania, Bali, Burundi, Nicaragua, Brazil, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and an amazing decaf from Mexico.
TLP: What makes the perfect cup of coffee?
PB: There are a lot of factors that contribute to an awesome coffee: climate, processing, altitude, cultivar, etc. The thing that makes coffee so beautiful is that around fifty or sixty people helped get that bean to us, so each person in the chain of supply is responsible for keeping that beauty intact. Without diligence and respect, all that toil can be ruined.
TLP: How has Savannah supported you and PERC?
PB: Things have been going remarkably well in Savannah. Much like Charleston, Savannah is a port city with deep-rooted traditions. However, there are rumblings of a movement here where passionate people are trying their hands at local business and working together to surpass conventional expectations. It’s a really exciting time to be here.
TLP: Where can I buy your coffee?
PB: We’ve got about fifty-six accounts right now that are selling PERC in one respect or another. Brighter Day Natural Foods has the largest selection of beans. Peter and his team over there are great. If you looking coffee by the cup, check out The Coffee Fox. Also, you can find us at the Forsyth Park Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.
TLP: Will there be web sales in the future?
PB: Yes. The new website is almost finished and will incorporate e-commerce.
TLP: What is your favorite blend of Perc Coffee?
PB: That’s like asking someone which of their children they like best.
PERC Coffee Pro-Tips
DRINK IT FRESH / Once you open our coffee, it’s good for about twenty days if it’s stored properly, but we recommend that you try to finish it within a week. The oils on the coffee are volatile, and evaporate off the bean more every day.
BEAN STORAGE / Keep your beans in an airtight container in a cool, dark place- like a kitchen cupboard. Avoid dramatic temperature changes and direct sunlight. Never put them in the fridge or freezer, unless you want your coffee to taste like leftovers and condiments.
GOOD GRINDER / Get a burr grinder – they’re more expensive, but well worth it. I prefer the Baratza Encore. It’s about $130.
COFFEE-TO-WATER RATIO / Get a digital gram scale and weigh both your coffee and your water. Weigh your water and divide that number by 15 to get your coffee mass (we usually round up to the nearest half gram). An eight-ounce cup of coffee full to the brim takes about 250 grams of water. Example: 13.5 grams of coffee to 200 grams water.
GOOD WATER / Start with cold, filtered water. Remember, just like cooking with wine; always use water you would enjoy drinking straight.
WATER TEMP / We are looking for a water temperature of 195 – 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Any cooler and the coffee will be flat, lifeless, and sour. Any hotter and the coffee will be bitter, harsh, and caustic.