Pinhole Coffee in Bernal Heights has long been a neighborhood favorite for the city of San Francisco. We absolutely love visiting this cafe, founded by JoEllen Depakakibo, a member of the Sprudge Twenty class of 2021 and one of the city’s coffee cultural leaders. We’re thrilled to mark a second entry for Pinhole in the Build-Outs series: their original cafe was featured back in 2014, and today we’re profiling Pinhole’s very cool new mobile coffee van. Go Pinhole go!
As told to Sprudge by JoEllen Depakakibo.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
Pinhole Coffee opened in 2014. We are a multi-roaster cafe located in Bernal Heights, “the neighborhood in the sky,” in San Francisco, CA. Our intention is to stimulate senses with coffee, art, and conversation. In addition, we are a Queer-, Woman-, POC-owned business. With that foundation, we also focus on providing a safe space for our employees and customers.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
Having an itch to expand, but not necessarily a brick and mortar, during the pandemic we decided to build out a coffee catering van. The idea occurred as I also as I reminisced about the epic days of working Farmers’ Markets in the Bay Area with Blue Bottle. One of the hardest things about those days was setup and cleanup. I purchased a Ram Promaster 136″wb van that will basically act as a mobile cafe where I drive in and turn on my espresso machine. Of course there’s more layers to that. I fittingly am calling the van Pinholita, an even smaller version of Pinhole Coffee. Maybe I’ll even turn the van into a camera obscura from time to time. Pinholita will mainly focus on private catering gigs between LA and SF. My family and I relocated to Ojai during the pandemic to be closer to my wife’s family. Having the van allows me to stay connected to Pinhole Coffee on a regular basis, as well as control the hours I physically work.
What’s your approach to coffee?
Science! Being in the industry for 20 years I have grown to recognize the importance of science behind a good cup of coffee. Time, temperature, and weight. Even in our nomadic setting we will continue our quality control utilizing science. The water in Ojai is pretty hard compared to the Bay Area, so I’ll be needing to find a source for soft water. In addition, Pinhole Coffee loves to support local roasters. Our brick and mortar cafe rotates offerings for pour-over and single origin espresso. Depending on the event location, I hope to utilize local roasters to the area.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
We are working with Terry Ziniewicz of Caffewerks for him and his crew to install a Mavam single-group undercounter machine. We will be using a Mahlkönig K30 Vario Air for espresso, a Niche grinder for decaf and possibly pour-over and a Mahlkonig Guatemala grinder for batch brew and Toddy cold brew, a Moccamaster KBT for batch brew.
How is your project considering sustainability?
A gas-powered vehicle isn’t a sustainable thing. However, having limited space for such things as a water tank, sustainability plays a part by truly calculating and using only what you need. Same goes for how I’ll need to order milk, coffee, cups, etc.
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
Ben of B Cooperative is the architect I used for my brick and mortar cafe. He helped me with the proper architectural drawings for Pinholita. Adam of SF Reveal is a good friend of ours too and has converted vans of his own. He helped a lot with technical things as well. The talented crew of Glampervan in West Oakland is physically building out our van. The team of Caffewerks helped us a lot with our coffee equipment, they are very knowledgeable on portable coffee systems. My brother, Joey D., is a Chicago artist who designed our Pinhole Coffee logo and did the “Cup of Jose” mural inside our cafe. He is designing the artwork on the outside of our van.