Coffee in Alaska gets a bad rap, but America's wildest, weirdest state is home to excellent coffee (if you know where to look). We'd suggest you start with SteamDot.
You could drop SteamDot into southeast Portland, or Brooklyn, and it wouldn't look at all out of place. From their custom-designed “barista nest” service stations to a cutting-edge roster of coffee equipment, SteamDot is not messing around. They're promising nothing short of “a palate-exploding experience for caffiends in Alaska!”
Them's brewin' words.
As told to Sprudge by Ian Doumit. Photos by Ian Doumit and Jonathan White.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
SteamDot Coffee was founded in Anchorage, Alaska way back in 2009 with the express purpose of bringing handcrafted, origin-oriented coffee roasting and presentation to the 49th state. Our Espresso and Coffee Lab was the first third-wave café in Alaska, featuring only hand-poured filter coffees with Hario V60 drippers, Chemexes, and Yama siphons, the first in Alaska to highlight single-origin espressos, and we have since expanded to distribute our beans to cafés all over Alaska, from Fairbanks to Denali and down to the Kenai Peninsula.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
We’re super stoked about our newest location, and for good reason—while at all of our locations innovation in coffee has been fostered, in this space it will be writ large. Our goal has been to obliterate the separation between guest and barista by featuring two fully independent barista nests, each housing a highly trained barista equipped with a custom-built Slayer Espresso machine and a standalone filter coffee hand pour station. In addition, it will be the first of our four locations to offer batch brew, but batch brew prepared our way; we will be the first in Alaska to utilize the Marco JET brewing system to deliver over-the-top flavor clarity in our batch brews. Cold brew taps on nitro will be on hand as well. We have also been working with Saint Anthony Industries to provide our baristas with adequate protection from the fierce awesomeness in the form of beautiful and durable custom aprons.
Did I forget to mention that it will also be the only place in Alaska to offer coffee cocktails?
It’s not only our café that will be a radical departure from the status quo in the Alaskan coffee community either—the entire building project is a unique urban architectural experience for the state. The historic building, which has stood at the corner of 6th and F Streets since before the 1964 Good Friday earthquake, is being rebooted as a multistory, multifunctional space, incorporating our café, a casual dining restaurant, a speakeasy-themed blues bar, a national acts music venue, and a rooftop garden serving area overlooking the downtown plaza and the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. Spaces within the building will be flexible as well, and allow for multiple configurations thru clever deployment of a system of sliding barn doors.
What’s your approach to coffee?
SteamDot’s focus is nothing more or less than to source, roast, and present the finest coffees possible. To that end, we work closely both with individual farmers at origin and with specialty green importers such as Ninety Plus, Café Imports, Atlas, Zephyr, and InterAmerican to ensure that only the coffees that unequivocally wow us in our cupping lab are those that we source and feature on our bars and distribute to our many partners in Alaska. Our roasting philosophy is geared toward the maximum expression of the terroir of our beans, whether they are a microlot Costa Rican or an heirloom Ethiopian. The majority of the coffees that we present and retail in our cafés are single origins such as these, though we do also offer a bright and nuanced house espresso blend alongside our single-origin espresso.
Of course, it would be of no purpose to agonize over the origins and roasting of our product if we were to then allow an untrained hand to overdose and underextract a big old batch brew of it and leave it to congeal at the bottom of an urn—no way! Presentation is of the utmost importance to us. We offer both our house blend espresso and a rotating single-origin espresso at our locations and four rotating single origins for filter coffee on slow bar. Our cafés feature La Marzocco Strada espresso machines on bar and Baratza Forté grinders for slow bar grinding purposes. We also have a multilevel training system in place inspired by the SCAA barista certification program, and we have proudly hosted the last two Barista Guild of America Member-Driven AKTNT latte art throwdown events.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
We will have the first two Slayer espresso machines in Alaska, custom builds, anchoring our two barista nests, and each will be partnered with matching Compak grinders. Each barista nest will also feature a lineup of Baratza Fortés for filter coffee, Hario V60 and Chemex options, and Acaia Pearl scales. Our back bar will be equipped with Marco under-counter water boilers and a Marco JET brewing system paired with a Mahlkönig EK43 for batch grinding.
We have also partnered with Ninety Plus Coffee to feature their Panama Gesha Perci as our opening day coffee, sold in limited-edition tins and featured on bar. Paired with our Slayer espresso machines, it’s sure to be a palate-exploding experience for caffiends in Alaska!
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
We are set for an August opening and are straining at the reins.
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?