For a guy who used to make board games, Brian Beyke is well-steeped in the world of coffee. Nowadays he works in digital sales, marketing, and communications for Louisville, Kentucky’s Quills Coffee, but even before that Beyke built not only a devoted following but his own mini-coffee empire. Together with Brian Schiele of @letsbrew.coffee, he is the co-host of the I Brew My Own Coffee podcast, as well as running his own blog, Abandon Coffee.
Beyke originally got into coffee because he was having trouble with two of his other favorite drinks: beer and wine. “The beverage world has always intrigued me, but about nine years ago I noticed that drinking beer or wines would give me migraines. I stayed away from them for about six years or so, and coffee was something that allowed me to still explore,” says Beyke. “Now, I didn't exactly go into coffee thinking, ‘hey, this is your new thing.' It just sort of grew over time.”
As his own learning curve about coffee developed, so did his desire to share it with others, and if there’s one thing that comes across in Beyke’s work—whether it’s his Instagram feed or his podcast—it is that he’s there for the joy of sharing. While other coffee lovers on Instagram may just focus on a beautiful image, for Beyke it’s as much about explaining what’s in the image as the image itself; you always get a sense of his excitement for whatever he is drinking, and you want to drink it too.
“I've started to unravel a lot of things in the world of coffee and sort of made it my personal goal to learn as much as I can on a home level,” says Beyke. “Brewing, extraction, espresso preparation, education, etc. Sharing any info I've learned along the way is also exciting for me.”
We caught up with Beyke to learn more.
How would friends of yours finish this statement “Brian is…”?
Brian is always excited, and whatever he is talking about is currently the most important thing he knows.
You share coffee photographs on Instagram as @abandoncoffee. What do you hope that people take away from your feed?
I really enjoy cafes, their aesthetics, the beauty of people at work and just having conversation and the conversations themselves I have over coffee. I try to post in, or close to, real-time and try to capture those “in the moment” shots, but also nothing all too unfamiliar to what anyone else could capture. At home, I just try and post about the various coffees I get in, or how I've been playing with the brewing methods. Overall, I just try and stay consistent with the look and feel overall. I hope people notice the feeling behind the shots or can see themselves in the spaces, and that they don't mind seeing all the chocolate I consume.
The feed has definitely changed over time. The concept in the very, very beginning (back when it was @losantivillecoffee) was only to be seen as a tool for folks local to Cincinnati. As I started writing about my brewing experiences more on the website, I started getting in more coffees and it just sort of took off from there. I don't ever really use hashtags, I don't try to fish for followers, I just share photos of coffee and I think people have learned to trust that. I don't have expensive gear, I really only shoot with my phone or Canon eOSM which is a little mirrorless point and shoot for under 300 bucks. I'm fortunate to get to try a lot of coffees and gear, and I want to (to the best of my ability) share that information with others who may be curious about it too.
How have you seen the world of coffee change in the last several years? How do you think social media has affected that?
In the specialty coffee world, in general, I've seen several trends from brands switching to newer, sleeker packaging, to an increased focus on home brewing and the home brewer setup (in terms of gear and gadgetry). I've also seen way too many products going to Kickstarter or crowdfunding sources, but that's a topic for another time. In terms of social media, and I didn't think about this at the time, but I've been contacted by a lot of companies and roasters and friends I've made in the industry thanking me for the recognition that has come from “highlighting” or trying to spread the word about them. I think we all know social media is great for businesses because a lot of times other people are doing the marketing and communication work for them for essentially free. I like to think of myself as a loyal guy, and I like to promote what I think is good and worthy of being talked about, regardless of any gain I may get from it.
You run the I Brew My Own Coffee podcast together with Bryan Schiele. Tell us a little bit about how that podcast started and what you try to do with it and what you hope listeners get out of it.
The I Brew My Own Coffee Podcast has been a really fun tool. My co-host Bryan Schiele and I both were previously guests on the show when it was being run by Alex Carpenter. Bryan and I had previous conversations about the desire to start our own podcast at some point, but we never followed through on anything, not wanting to step on Alex's toes with what he was doing (there weren't really a lot of coffee podcasts at this time.) When Alex was looking to let go of the reins, he reached out to [see if] either of us would be interested in carrying it on, and we both vocalized that interest. Bryan and I have been very privileged to organically weave our coffee experiences and growth as home brewers with one foot in the door of the greater, professional specialty coffee world and that comes with making a lot of friendships and connections to roasters, brands, and farmers—from Acaia to the Lamastus Family to Baratza to AKA Coffee to Mahlkönig to Mistobox and on and on. With those connections, we try to stay true to Alex's home brewer roots but with some interesting insight from professionals on current coffee issues. A few I still want to get into would be parallels with cacao and coffee, coffee branding, water, and probably more than any, farm-level stories. We had really incredible reception with our From-The-Farm series with Wilford Lamastus, and I find for anyone, not just the home brewer, that there is incredible insight that comes from that.
One thing I think we've failed to do, and something I want to fix, is having a wider range of diversity on the podcast. Most of our episodes have been with men, and most of them in our general age range. I'm not happy with that, and I recognize there are listeners who aren't also. That's a goal I have moving forward.
What are some of your sources of inspiration?
I'm always inspired and challenged by Bryan's (@letsbrew.coffee) eye for products and photography. In terms of lifestyle, general tone and eye for architecture, landscape, and people: @jalexandertan, @mynameiscolton, @bbenzer. In terms of exploration of beverage and all things that give them inspiration (which in turn gets me excited as well): @sethmills, @caldwellcoffee, @pilgrimaged. I am daily inspired by things not on a feed at all—just being around people, looking at people, watching people interact. Moments being created, good or bad, are fascinating to me.
What coffee are you drinking right now?
I'm currently drinking the Kayon Mountain from Quills on V60 01, EK 43 ground. Fourteen grams to 228 water, and I can't get enough of this coffee. Beautiful florals, pronounced acidity, very fruity with incredible juiciness. One of those washed Ethiopian coffees that give me a lot of characteristics that I love from a Gesha variety.
Favorite coffee shop?
Maybe it is due to being one of the freshest experiences I've had, but I had a really amazing experience when I went to Black Fox in Manhattan during the New York Coffee Festival. Beautiful space, delicious food, and an array of wonderfully prepared coffees. On top, they had tableside service, I believe through our time there we were checked on four times if we needed to order more coffee or needed anything. Definitely an inspiring place.
If you could drink coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
As the list of friends who have met the two of us grows, Bryan and I have still never met in person! We talked about heading out to the West Coast together, meeting at SCAA or something and then road-tripping the coast, coffee shop hopping, and obviously taking a ton of photos.
Anna Brones (@annabrones) is a Sprudge.com staff writer based in the American Pacific Northwest, the founder of Foodie Underground, and the co-author of Fika: The Art Of The Swedish Coffee Break. Read more Anna Brones on Sprudge.
Photo of Brian Beyke by Jenn Chen.