Roland Rodriguez, the owner of newly opened Jibe Espresso Bar in an off-the-bar-and-restaurant-scene path in Ballard, just wanted easier access to high quality coffee. His family is one of the more than 600 who live onboard ships at Shilshole Bay Marina. He, his wife and their children gave up apartment-dwelling three years ago, which is also when he had to give up making his own coffee at home.
Rodriguez put it simply: “I had a decent espresso machine, but it wouldn’t fit on the boat.”
After a couple of years of traveling more than a mile and a half to find the sort of coffee he enjoyed, he started thinking about opening a coffee cart to have proper espresso closer to home. But as he thought more about starting a business, he soon found himself aiming higher.
“I knew what the bar was that I wanted to set for coffee that I want to consume. A coffee cart wasn’t going to fit that format,” reflected Rodriguez.
An information technology consultant in his day job, Rodriguez loves geeking out on coffee, tea, and even the way his staff makes almond milk as Jibe’s dairy-free alternative. All those details add up to a his idea of a culinary café—one where the baked goods, sandwiches, and sweet treats are all composed with ingredients of the same high quality as the beans used for espresso and filter brews.
As just one example, his team makes the syrup—a reduction of cold brew and turbinado sugar—used on Jibe’s selection of ice cream beverages. Rodriguez described it as tasting “almost like maple syrup, but it’s got this long coffee aftertaste that’s really cool.”
Rodriguez plans to rotate through some of the best roasters in the Pacific Northwest, and picked Red E Café for Jibe’s maiden voyage. He said of Red E co-owner Keith Miller, “He’s got a very strong following down in Portland, and a lot people up here know about his coffee.”
In addition to bringing exceptional beans dockside, Rodriguez has equipped his team to take great care of the coffee. He explained, “We weigh out all the doses for the grinders. We weigh out the extraction from the machine so we know we’re always getting the right ratio. We write down our ratios on the chalkboard so everyone can see how we’re producing it.”
In offering up those brewing details, Rodriguez is solving one of his own pet peeves with coffee shops. And, he hopes, educating customers so they will be more apt to buy beans from his shop.
He has assembled an experienced staff including Neal Oney and Dave Clark, both baristas who know their way around the La Marzocco Strada EP that gleams in the center of the counter. Underneath it and facing the seating area is old dock wood from Tyee Marina in Tacoma. You might notice walking in that the floor, inspired by a photo of one at The Standard Grill in NYC, glints too. That’s because it is made of pennies—and one dime.
The head of the culinary team has a nautical background, too. Rodriguez first met Chef Rachel Moore through her role as Club Chef for the Corinthian Yacht Club. Her familiarity with boating was integral to the Jibe team’s approach to designing the food menu–the breakfast sandwiches are meant to be eaten with one hand, so boaters can still steer with the other.
Providing more than food service to yachting families was even a consideration for Rodriguez when it came to setting up Jibe’s point of sales system. It can be accessed via customers on a MESH wifi network—one that can be extended with inexpensive nodes and which gains stability and range the more nodes it has. He hopes this will make it easier to take orders from boats coming into the guest dock, a popular stopping off point for recreational boaters.
Seattle has both a deep maritime heritage and a history of tech workers turning their geeky energy towards cafes, so it makes sense that this would be the first coffee market to realize the “order an espresso and an iced tea wirelessly from your yacht” dream. With the end of summer closer than I care to consider, I’ll be back to sample that dream, or at least an affogato, soon.
In the adapted words of one of America’s foremost yachters, I’ll leave you with this toast: It’s easy to grin, when your yacht comes in, and you’ve got the tech market beat — but a nerd worth a clap is a nerd with an app for a latte onboard their own fleet!
Jenny Neill is a Sprudge contributor based in Seattle. She writes about beverage and travel at jennyneill.com. Read more Jenny Neill on Sprudge here.
All photos by Mike Russell/MikeRussellFoto