Earlier this year, David Yake of Tony’s Coffee and more recently Camber Coffee approached us about using the Ratio Eight in a restaurant setting. David was asked to help set up the coffee program at The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, which is in the archipelago that includes the San Juan Islands. Award-winning head chef Blaine Wentzel, who apprenticed at noma in Copenhagen, takes an approach that he calls a “story about the land.” The NYT calls The Willows worth a plane ride.
We were intrigued, but not entirely sure it was a good fit. The Ratio Eight was designed for home use. Could it also be used in hustle and bustle of a restaurant, with batch after batch that must be perfectly extracted?
We decided to find out. But first, let’s meet David.
So David, tell us about your coffee journey and what you’re excited about.
I started in coffee as a barista in 2005. Since then I have home-roasted, worked as a delivery driver and wholesale account trainer. Most recently I launched Camber Coffee with my business partner Andrew Bowman. Our mission is to roast sweet, complex and balanced coffees, and share our passion with our customers. I get excited about every new coffee we bring in. There’s no feeling like cupping through a table of coffees and finding “the one.” I also get excited about making great coffee experiences repeatable.
So the Willows crew has been using the Ratio Eight for a few months now. How’s it going? What problems does using the Ratio Eight at the Willows solve?
David: Consistency. Before landing on the Ratio, the staff at the Willows was preparing all drip coffee with V60’s. This yielded some stunning brews, but it was hard to control all of the variables, most notably water temperature. The Ratio Eight sped up service considerably by freeing up a staff person, who would otherwise be tending the pourover bar.
What’s the cup quality like?
David: Clean, clear, complex. And best of all – consistent!
How is serving coffee in restaurants evolving?
David: I see it evolving with the food. It makes more sense to serve a heavy, bitter cup of coffee next to a rich, decadent dessert. But with the nuanced, delicate dishes being served at establishments like the Willows, it makes more sense to serve a complex, floral coffee. I have also noticed that there is a lot more knowledge about, and passion for great coffee among the staff at great restaurants than there may have been 10 years ago. The staff often seeks out great coffee outside of work, and so they expect the same level excellence from the coffee they serve in their restaurants. I also see world class drip coffee being served in place (or at least alongside) espresso, more often. This is a great shift, since executing high-quality espresso can be such a hurdle for a restaurant.
What other challenges should the Ratio team think about?
Keeping the coffee warm. Restaurants can always transfer to a thermal carafe, but it’s just one more step. It also often makes sense to brew up to 8 cups, which can be a challenge with the Chemex-style filters (the fines have a way of clogging at the bottom of the filter). The grinder on-site at the Willows created too many fines and produced much too long of a brew time, so we opted to grind the coffee for their drip program on our EK43, which produced fewer fines and yielded a cleaner, sweeter cup.
[Editor’s note: the Ratio Thermal Carafe is slated to be released in 2016]
Thank you so much David! We can’t wait to see what’s next for you.
You can read more about David as interviewed by Sprudge about microroasters.