Ray: Hi Kandace! This is Unpacking Coffee. Today, we’re talking about Four Barrel Coffee Roasters, San Francisco, California.
Kandace: Four Barrel just turned seven.
Kandace: In August. Just got on Thrillist as one of the 21 best coffee roasters in the nation! Beyond that, they’re just amazing!
Kandace: Yeah. So, we’ve known the Four Barrel People for a long time.
Ray: So, Four Barrel was started seven years ago by Jeremy Tooker. We actually have known Jodi…I actually used to work with Jodi at Stumptown.
Kandace: Hi Jodi!
Ray: They seem to be on the road like two hundred days out of the year. So they spend a lot of time looking for amazing coffees. Let’s talk about the space. The canonical spot is on Valencia. It has a little bike space out front.
Kandace: The park-let.
Ray: I’m sure it has a name.
Kandace: The park-let right? The park-let! Yeah.
Ray: They serve coffee out back. They have a main bar where they serve espresso. They have a pour-over bar.
Kandace: The slow bar is particularly interesting to me because it’s the way it’s set up, right? You can walk in and you can have a long conversation about your barista and get to know everything about your coffees. But if you wanna walk in and have a shot of espresso and leave then there’s a line for you.
Kandace: And so, it’s wonderful because you never have that experience of one person who’s sort of like hanging out wanting to talk about coffee and there’s like five people behind…
Ray: They also roast in there. They have their HQ in there.
Kandace: Their roaster is a vintage German Probat.
Kandace: So they do talk a lot about the fact that their coffee is made by hand and not computers. And also they have an artist and writer and residence there and so….
Ray: Yeah. So Kevin Tudball does the very distinctive graphics for them.
Kandace: Yeah. And then Matthew Hein does the writing. I mean they talk about the coffee and the handmade approach, but then they also support artists and have someone on staff that’s like continuously creating all of their..not just their merchandise but their posters and events and you can see that playfulness throughout.
Kandace: Yeah. On the Thrillist List.
Kandace:They were the only ones who mentioned their website. And one of the things they mentioned—by the way we made their website—one of the things they mentioned is that they are sorting coffees by flavors instead of region and I think that was something that was really interesting to be doing.
Ray: They’re small in terms of, you know, what you would think for someone who has been around for seven years and is such a household name. They partnered with Josey Baker to open The Mill and then they have their main spot and then one other. They have three locations.
Kandace: Can we talk about the Mill?
Ray: Sure! Toast. They have toast. Really good toast.
Kandace: So that was a really interesting space because it looks completely different than the Four Barrel Space.
Kandace: It’s little less….might I say….hipster?
Ray: It looks more like a bakery.
Kandace: Jeremy said that. And one of the things that Jeremy has talked about is the fact that he, when he was opening up that space went into the community and asked people what they really wanted and what a lot of people were saying was a bakery. And so, he ended up partnering with his friend Josie, and kind of giving that area what they were asking for and instead of making another Four Barrel, kind of made what that space wanted or needed. And, it’s just, it’s beautiful. But it’s also serving amazing Four Barrel Coffee. Yeah.
Kandace: And toast.
Ray: And toast. So, I would also say that, we had a chance to speak to Mike Squires.
Mike: My name is Mike Squires. And I am, I like to call myself the brand ambassador for Four Barrel to New York and the east coast, and, I think they would call me an account manager. I think brand ambassador sounds so much more sophisticated and I have a mustache so…
Ray: Are you, your account like, you do the whole west coast?
Mike: I do the east coast.
Ray: Oh east coast.
Mike: Yeah I don’t know if you’ve looked at a map lately.
Kandace: So you’ve probably known Mike about as long as you’ve known Jodi.
Ray: Right I’ve known both of them for…
Kandace: Almost 20 years?
Ray: I’m just gonna cut to Mike there.
Mike: You wanna see my cupping kit?
Ray: Yeah I’d love to.
Mike: Aw this is fun!
Ray: Yeah show us your cupping.
Mike: Okay so here’s my cupping kit. I bring the kit as it exists right now. I have four cups here on the top. Here’s some Chemex filters that I didn’t use in the last tasting. Base, three layers. I have some signage. Here’s my kettle down here. Scale. Couple of scales. Chemex. My grinder. My hopper. Timer here, That’s the whole kit-n-caboodle right there Ray. That’s all it takes to get it done buddy.
Kandace: They also have the whole De La Paz line.
Ray: That’s true.
Kandace: Which is all based on blends.
Kandace: I find that really interesting too because they basically took like three flavor profiles and they created blends that were in that profile and so they’re all like one color. So you’ve got the red, the yellow the blue and I think it’s kind of, you start with the lightest and most accessible blend and then you can sort of work your way. But they are one of the few coffee roasters that’s going out and sourcing coffee specifically for their blend. So this isn’t a blend that’s there to like, hide coffees that other people don’t want. It’s a blend that’s there specifically curated.
Kandace: And their Peel Sessions are pretty amazing right?
Ray: It’s a really good blend.
Ray: We have been subscribers of the Four Barrel espresso here for ages. It was a family favorite.
Ray: But it’s always a delight to try when they’ve got something new, that you know….an exciting coffee that we haven’t tried.
Kandace: Yeah. I also love the way they celebrate their birthdays. So every time they hit like a big birthday, they give out free coffee all day and have like kind of big events around that.
G: And photo booths…
Kandace: Photo booths.
Ray: Photo booths.
G: Free cake.
Kandace: Free cake yeah.
Ray: A former bay area resident here telling us all the fun stuff they do. Yeah. That’s nice! What I thought was funny is I was on their Twitter and they’re just now having a Christmas party, and it’s March! They said they got really busy you know. I guess when you’re spending a lot of time in origin and stuff it’s really hard to figure out when to have a Christmas party because a lot of the…I think during the, you know, that’s the harvest season right around Christmas so a lot of times they’re not all gonna be there.
Ray: What else can we say about Four Barrel?
They’re really into their mugs. We have a couple of their mugs and they’re favorites around here too. And they uh, look there’s the little boar!
Four Barrel Coffee, San Francisco, California. Awesome. It’s awesome.