Today’s featured interview for the Sprudge Twenty is JoEllen Depakakibo, founder of Pinhole Coffee in San Francisco’s charming Bernal Heights. Few cities in the world have changed more than San Francisco in the 21st century, but cafes like Pinhole maintain an urgently needed sense of community and accessability for this neighborhood, which has a busy urban-suburban hybrid feel set high above the bustle of the city streets below. It’s a beautiful part of the world, and Pinhole is a beloved hub for life in Bernal Heights.
“JoEllen has been working in coffee for over a decade. She started Pinhole Coffee in 2014 and it has become the quintessential neighborhood cafe in Bernal Heights. Pinhole provides a locus for the neighborhood to connect in all manner of varying ways, through coffee and art.”
Nominated by Johnny Randolph
How have the challenges of this last year informed your work?
More than ever my “protective mom” instinct kicked in to try and sustain my small business cafe baby. I did the most I could to keep things afloat while being a small business in a pandemic. It brought out my intentions of wanting to take care of my staff and the community. Applying for grants and loans, I had to analyze and understand my business more than I have ever paused to do in the past. Additionally, the challenges brought out how much love Pinhole Coffee produces as well as receives. So much gratitude for the community support.
What issue in coffee do you care about most?
I care the most about the relationship of cafes with communities. It’s beyond serving a good cup of coffee, it’s about sustaining each other in a positive sense.
What cause or element in coffee drives you?
The inexhaustible experiment with coffee drives me. It’s amazing to take the same coffee, change some variables, and produce different (tasty) cups side by side.
What issue in coffee do you think is critically overlooked?
Being a Barista for 19 years I’ve seen how passionate Baristas are and how loyal they can be to a company. In return, a lot of times, I see companies not give as much as they should to the Baristas. I knew when I opened Pinhole Coffee my intention was to make sure my crew was being taken care of, mentally and physically.
What is the quality you like best about coffee?
The positive affects it has on people: producing passion, smiles, fulfillment, a high, etc…
Did you experience a “god shot” or life-changing moment of coffee revelation early in your career?
I remember discovering using 175 degree water as a base for a short americano and it opening up some sweet flavors of my shot of espresso. I still drink short americanos like that in the afternoon.
What is your idea of coffee happiness?
There are many things, but in the selfless sense it’s truly satisfying to dial in a coffee for someone else and seeing them satisfied and appreciative of what you created for them.
If you could have any job in the coffee industry, what would it be and why?
19 years in coffee and I still have never traveled to origin. I would love to travel to farms across the world and learn from the experts about their different methods. In addition, and if needed, brainstorming with these farms on more sustainable ways of running their farms. I always believed in all of us being resources for each other, and this job would be an amazing way to learn from different cultures. Hopefully I would have something to provide to these community as well.
Who are your coffee heroes?
If you could drink coffee with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
My dad, Jose. I named one of our blends after him “Cup of Jose.” He introduced me to coffee as kid by dipping Wonder Bread in his Folgers, yum. When I visit him in Chicago he seems to enjoy driving me around to different coffee shops I want to try. He’s a chill guy, and has a lot of stories that I still need to hear.
Do you have any coffee mentors?
The Pinhole Crew, there’s 12 of us. It’s fun to talk to each other about how the coffees are tasting and how they got their shot or pour-over to taste how it does. They all come from different backgrounds, and I continue to learn a lot from them. They kill it with latte art, and have all these techniques I was never taught. Ha!
What do you wish someone would’ve told you when you were first starting out in coffee?
There is no one right answer on how coffee should taste.
You’re the first barista on Mars. What’s on your brew bar?
If there’s electricity, water, and coffee was only for me and maybe another person: my Olympia Cremina, Niche Grinder, V60 dripper, V60 Ebb reusable cloth filter and OXO plug in brew kettle.
Best song to brew coffee to at the moment.
My son is 11 months old. We listen a lot to “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana.
Where do you see yourself in 2041?
Retired, making coffee peacefully at home with my family.
The Sprudge Twenty Interviews are presented by Pacific Barista Series. For a complete list of 2021 Sprudge Twenty honorees please visit sprudge.com/twentyand check back for more interviews right here on Sprudge.