As the regional sales and support representative for Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters, Bryan Martin—who led the coffee cupping featured in our January issue—knows good coffee. His job is promote the Batdorf & Bronson brand across the U.S. and educate the public about specialty coffee. And five months ago, Martin and his family moved from Atlanta to Sarasota to escape the cold and explore our city’s coffee culture. He discussed his background in coffee and brewed up some tips on how to pick and prepare the best bean.
How and why did you get into this business?
I've been in coffee for most of my adult life. I’ve [had every job] from barista to coffee roaster. I'm also a musician and a visual artist, and the coffee biz is where people like me go for a rewarding career with benefits, vacation time and a steady paycheck. Coffee bars are full of musicians and artists—if you don't believe me, just ask your regular barista what he or she does when they're not slinging coffee!
What do you think of Sarasota’s coffee culture?
Sarasota is a unique beast. When coffee culture happens here, I'm sure it will be unlike anything else. And Sarasotans love the good life, so why should that not extend that to their morning cup of joe? If you routinely spend $20 to $30—or more—on a bottle of wine, why skimp on your coffee? There is an entire world of specialty coffee waiting for the discriminating palates of Sarasota to discover.
And I'm all about neighborhood coffee shops, too. The best coffee shop is one you can walk to. I would like to see this develop here in Sarasota.
What should the average person look for when selecting coffee?
Look for a roast date. Most good coffee roasters will put the roast date on the bag. Would you buy a gallon of milk without an expiration date? It's easy to forget that coffee is food; it doesn't last forever.
Look at the beans as well. If the beans are very dark brown or black with visible oils on the surface, they have been dark roasted—this is often referred to as French or Italian roasts. Dark-roasted coffees can have a mellow, sweet, smoky flavor, but if they are over-roasted they can be very bitter.
What’s trending in coffee right now?
Light-roasted coffees are very popular in the specialty coffee industry right now. Light roasts look brown and dry, and they typically taste very bright or acidic in comparison to dark roast. If you like drinking your coffee black, you will get way more flavor and complexity out of a light roast. But since dark roasts dominate the market, due to the influence of Starbucks, it's actually rare to find a good light roast in a grocery store. If you want to go down the rabbit hole of specialty light-roasted coffee, I suggest you spend some time at Perq, a cutting-edge coffee bar for any city, anywhere.
What is your favorite way to prepare coffee and what are some tips for preparing it this way?
There are dozens of way to brew coffee these days, one of my favorites is the Chemex brewer. Use filtered water [and heat it to] about 200 degrees F. Use two tablespoons ground coffee to 6 oz. water. The trick with pour-over brewers like the Chemex is practice and experimentation. No one gets the perfect cup the first time, that's why these sorts of brewers are so much fun.