Welcome to the first entry in our 2014 edition of Build-Outs of Summer, Sprudge.com’s roving global construction site dedicated to impending new coffee spaces. The call was put out for submissions just a few days ago, and already we’ve been flooded with info on exciting new cafe and roastery projects from far and wide, major cities and small towns, emerging markets and saturated coffee meccas alike. Which is why we’re starting today with a new shop in Montana.
Yes, Montana. Not typically thought of as a coffee destination, but then again, a lot of outside popular conventions about Montana are just dead wrong. (Except that the state is beautiful and takes forever to drive through. Everyone is right about that.) The city of Missoula is undeniably cool: a music city, culture hub, and college town with cowboy roots that feels like a mountain valley version of Austin in many ways. The ongoing story of great coffee in small markets across America is well underway here, as evidenced by the work of local leaders Black Coffee Roasting Co.
Open since 2010, Black Coffee is set to expand to a much larger facility in the coming months, a steel quonset hut that will be outfitted with multiple coffee roasters, production work areas, a retail space up front, and even a collaborative work space to share with friends from other industries. Maybe this sounds like the kind of project you’d see in Portland, or Brooklyn, but you know what? It’ll cost half as much and look twice as cool in Missoula. This is where great coffee is happening in America in 2014, which is to say that it’s happening everywhere.
As told to Sprudge by James Chapman.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your company, and how it all got started?
Black Coffee Roasting Company opened in 2010 in a small corner of a building that sells recycled building materials. We are a 100% organic coffee roaster, based on the idea that coffee should be great as well as environmentally and socially sustainable and responsible. Matt and myself (co-owners) both have backgrounds in food. Matt worked as a cheesemonger for years while I worked in wine. We are a palate-driven roastery. We are lucky to have an amazing staff of people with a variety of outside interests including a modern homesteader, a photographer, an organic farmer, and an ultra-trail runner. We all are enthusiastic people who love what we do for work and love what we do for pleasure. Coffee offers such an exciting avenue for learning and we are all people who love to progress in our knowledge and skills.
Tell us about your new space.
Our new space is a steel quonset hut located just off Missoula’s downtown. This much larger working space will offer us room to stretch our arms while we work. We have slowly over the course of four years filled every working inch of our current space and now are excited to expand a bit. The front third of the building will be dedicated to retail space with a full coffee bar, seating and standing space. The other two-thirds will be dedicated to wholesale production as well as a shared office space with friends from other industries. This collaborative work space is something we are really excited about, bringing together a group of great minds and industries. We are firm believers in collaboration and the incredible synergy that happens when people work together. The building we are occupying is an open, industrial building which is really well suited for a roastery. We love where industry meets craft.
What’s your approach to serving coffee?
We want coffee to be great. Coffee has a unique capability to bring people and communities together, and we want to help foster that aspect. We also believe there is no single perfect way to serve coffee and we love to experiment with variables to see what works best for each specific coffee. We want to create an environment that fosters community and creativity, because so many great ideas start with people congregating around coffee. We also want to help foster an appreciation to all the work that goes into this common, world-wide commodity that is often so easily overlooked. Missoula is a unique town in that we have an unusually large percentage of people who are driven by the modern craft movement. This extends to building, beer brewing, distillery, knife-making, etc. We are excited to be part of this hands-on approach bringing coffee to the table. We take it seriously, but have a great time doing so with the focus of serving great, ethically produced coffees for the people of our community.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
In terms of serving coffee we have many of the tools common in the specialty world right now. We serve drip because it is one of the most efficient ways to serve great, simple coffee. We serve espresso and related drinks because we love them like we love whiskey. We serve pour-overs because there is something so uniquely delicious about a cup of coffee that is extracted by simple, hand-directed attention. We serve cold brew in the summer because with hot weather it is one of the best drinks we know how to make. We are going to have a beer-style tap to serve this year round. And we serve Kyoto slow drip because it drinks like an aged scotch.
What’s your hopeful target opening month?
We took over our new lease yesterday, and are hoping to move in late August, early September. The build-out includes more demolition than construction, so once the internal walls are brought down, things should move relatively quickly…of course there are inevitable unseen delays, e.g. permitting, etc… but we are optimists. Once we have the build-out complete we of course have to move our roasters across town and connect them. This includes moving a Diedrich IR-12 and a Loring Kestrel. We are hoping that the shut down is only a day or two as we get everything transported across town and hooked up.
Are you working with craftsmen/women, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
We have an incredible group of friends in Missoula that we get to work with on this project. The architects laying out the job are Gavin Hanks Architects who have been helping us on projects in our current space since we opened. We are drawing from a great group of designers and builders, including a designer/ceramicist/iron-worker/general-bad-ass Darcy Chenoweth and her husband Damian Mast who is a local builder of incredible things. We are also working with another builder and good friend Will Gaddy who is helping with the less glamorous but much larger in scale side of the project. Much of our metalwork and signage is produced by another great friend and talent, Nathan Kimpell. Missoula is an incredible place in that it is a magnet for incredible minds and we are so happy to be friends with so many incredible people. In relation to our build-out this goes all the way down to the sourcing of materials… we source our wood from locally harvested timbers by our friends at Bad Goat Forest Products. Our concrete work, wood and metal are all sourced locally by friends we drink beer with. Missoula has an incredible community of highly talented individuals.
Are you deep in the throes of a sweaty summer build-out? Let us know about it!