We love having repeat visiting to ye ole Build-Outs of Summer and that's what we have going on today. Kind of. Spokane, Washington's First Avenue Coffee is a sister company to Roast House, whose coffee kiosk inside My Fresh Basket we profiled a year ago almost exactly to the day. So let's skip the rigamarole and jump straight to the good stuff, the lovely new First Avenue Coffee in Spokane, Washington.
As told to Sprudge by Aaron Jordan.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
First Avenue Coffee is a sister company to Roast House. Roast House values and sources only organic and ethically traded coffees from reputable and sustainable sources. Both locations are in the process of becoming Zero Waste and Green Certified.
Owner Deb Di Bernardo’s coffee education began while working for a local Spokane roaster. It was during this time that she started dreaming of a more sustainable and ethical model of coffee production and retail—one that she believed was vital to our health, our environment and our coffee community. Within a few years of Roast House’s inception, Aaron Jordan came on as an apprentice roaster. This is where life truly became transformational. Deb insisted on Fair Trade, shade grown, certified organic coffees, and Aaron met those criteria, coming back with higher quality green coffees along with much more expensive, crazy delicious coffees from the Cup of Excellence and single cultivar separations. The Roast House tasting room was born of a need to guide and educate consumers through the value of these exquisite coffees. Visitors now find their way to the industrial area that houses the roastery to take advantage of tasting the wide array of seasonal and core offerings.
First Avenue Coffee is an opportunity to take the Roast House experience to the broader public, and create a new coffee experience for the people of Spokane. We hope that by modeling a cafe focused on sustainable coffees and business practices, other local businesses will be encouraged to do the same.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
First Avenue Coffee opened this past July in the historical 1912 Music City Building. Music City Pianos, who occupied our space and for which the building is named, has given us a player piano on “permanent loan.”
Our suite is long and narrow, 3,000 square feet with north facing windows and a 450-square-foot mezzanine. With respect for the age and historical value of the building, our design incorporates the rough cut 100-year-old beams, ceiling joists, original maple wood floors, capitalizing on the drama of 20-foot ceilings.
Our goal in opening this retail location is simple—move more of these small lot coffees, assuring them/our world their long term viability. Our commitment to these producers transcends from roasting through the exacting brew recipes employed for the best representation of their beans. It’s our job to make people fall in love with these coffees. We believe that each time we put a cup in someone’s hands it’s an opportunity to change that producers world.
Starting with the concept of a soft curving bar at the front of the house (developed by roasters Aaron Jordan and Kyle Siegel), we built a 40-foot-long C-shape bar, three support islands, and a 30-foot-long back bar. We chose to play off the heavy wood and beam structure with the very clean and classic neutral palette of stainless steel and white solid surfaces—creating a very streamlined look.
Pour-Over Station: The “top” of our C-shape counter—the first visual looking in from the street features four chrome, Modbar pour-over systems with countersunk drip trays spaced evenly across this first eight feet of stainless steel. Immediately behind the pour-over modules on the first “island” are four Baratza Forte BG grinders, featuring seasonal single origins, and one darker roast option. Behind those grinders and mirrored on the island at the end is a 4-Faucet Kegerator system where we serve our F-Bomb nitro, a rotating single origin nitro, chai nitro, and a carbonated tea option which is currently a Cascara Soda from Las Lajas, Costa Rica.
Retail Station: We dropped the height of this station for easy customer access to the POS system, retail items, and pastries. These locally sourced pastries (vegan, grain free to fully leaded gluten) are featured in this first curve of the C, immediately across from the entrance door. Behind this station on the first of three support islands we stage brewed coffee, with a BUNN H5X water tower, ICB brewer, and G3 retail grinder set up on the back bar.
Espresso Station: Moving into the long curve of the C, we’ve layered white solid surface over the stainless for a visual change to showcase the following nine feet of Modbar AV espresso taps, steam wands, a countersunk refrigerated well, and pitcher rinsing sinks. Modbar AV is the newest release from Fort Wayne, Indiana-based Modbar, makers of modular undercounter brewing equipment. Modbar AV was developed in partnership with La Marzocco over the course of more than two years of collaborative R&D and manufacturing.
We configured our bar into two work stations, each with two Modbar AV’s and one steam wand to facilitate volume and efficient barflow. The two systems are separated by the countersunk refrigerated well to allow two baristas to work seamlessly during events and rushes. We chose Modbar systems for their unique design which encourages engagement, interaction, and education between our crew and our guests. Modbar’s support and help throughout this buildout has been incredible. Thank you to Will, Chanelle, Nancy, and Lena for all that you do. This project came together because of your sage wisdom. Immediately behind this station is the center island, where we placed three Nuova Simonelli Mythos Clima Pro grinders, knock boxes, undercounter freezer, and double refrigerator. We chose the Mythos for its consistent particle size, dose, and extraction, providing our customers the same anticipated experience day after day.
Slow Bar Station: After the last Modbar espresso tap we’ve set up a station similar to that of a cocktail bar. A small selection of bar seating allows for guests to sit down one-on-one with a barista and enjoy a selection of seasonal drinks from our slow bar fresh sheet. Over the last several years, we’ve gleaned inspiration from the rich history of the cocktail world. While coffee will never be an exact representation of the spirits in cocktails, taking the versatility of single origin coffees and pairing them with a variety of ingredients in mixed drinks keeps things fresh. Ultimately, we wanted to create a piece of our menu that allowed us to experiment and create a unique coffee experience for our local area. The menu currently features a Nitro Fashioned using our F-Bomb nitro, orange and aromatic bitters, and simple syrup garnished with a Luxardo cherry and orange peel like any good Old Fashioned. The Cold Brew Sour combines our single origin nitro from Ethiopia with lemon juice and house-made chamomile grapefruit syrup—perfectly refreshing on a hot summer day. If sweet is more the guest’s speed, our Cherry Bomb combines cold brew concentrate with Luxardo cherry syrup, shaken and served frothy and neat in a coupe glass. As the seasons change so will the menu. We plan to roll out a lot of fun drinks in the coming months.
Our occupancy is approximately 140, covered with a variety of seating options. We offer a 13-foot live edge walnut slab community table, live edge 12-foot wide wall mounted walnut “buddy bars”—to accommodate those wanting to throw back a quick espresso, check their messages, and run. For people watching, the window bar overlooking the street and two balcony bars overlook the cafe from the back of the space. The mezzanine also features comfy soft furniture. We plan on utilizing all this space, hosting special private events as well as coffee industry specific events.
Cupping Kiosk: The final element in the very back of the space is a beautiful 2.5 kilo matte white Diedrich Roaster surrounded by a curved cupping bar with a 5’ x 5’ SCA Flavor Wheel next to it. This space will be used to sample roast for green coffee purchasing, and to host classes and public cuppings.
Okay, that’s it. That’s the whole space…we promise. No more.
What’s your approach to coffee?
Roast House was founded on a firm commitment to only sourcing and supporting producers growing sustainably certified farms. We’ve worked with Rainforest Alliance, USDA Organic, and UTZ since the beginning. As we roll out a new chapter, opening a retail cafe, those values will not change.
Roasters Aaron Jordan and Kyle Siegel spend a lot of time evaluating and working with our sourcing partners to find the most delicious offerings available. Green quality is paramount to the success of a guest’s experience with the finish product. We roast on a 12-kilo Diedrich Roaster approaching each coffee to showcase the qualities we found on the cupping table. A house blend is featured on espresso and batch brew alongside a more developed blend option for our dark roast fans on pour-over. The remaining offerings are single origin, roasted to highlight their terroir. Highlighting those qualities means we roast on the lighter end of the spectrum. Although structure and sweetness are a big deal to us when it comes to roasting lighter, so we preserve flavor clarity and acidity while still providing a chuggable cup of coffee.
From there, the coffee is sent to our amazing team of coffee magicians. Using the Modbar AV’s and automating flow on the Modbar pour-over systems allows dialing in to be approachable and efficient. Leveraging integrated scales in the drip trays and a simple interface to adjust espresso yield has been a lot of fun to work with. Our pour-overs are brewed via Kalita 185‘s, with Modbar’s spray tip and extraction adjusted for the Forte BG grinders. The replicability of this system is really important, especially because specialty coffee is not an inexpensive commodity. We want to ensure that when our guests pay a premium for a quality product it is the best it can possibly be.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
4 Modbar Pour-Over Systems
4 Modbar AV Espresso Systems
2 Modbar Steam Systems
1 BUNN ICB Batch Brewer
2 BUNN H5X Hot Water Towers
1 BUNN G3 Grinder
4 Baratza Forte Brew Grinders
1 Baratza Sette 30 Grinder
3 Nuova Simonelli Mythos Clima-Pro Grinders
1 Diedrich IR-2.5 Roaster
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
July 13th, 2018
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
Thank you for the opportunity to share our space.
The Build-Outs Of Summer is an annual series on Sprudge. Live the thrill of the build all summer long in our Build-Outs feature hub.
Photos by Doyle Wheeler.