Connection & conversation make Good Coffee
As the name implies, Good Coffee knows how to create a delicious drinking experience. But, for brothers Nick and Sam Purvis and their team of over 30 employees spread across four cafe locations, Good Coffee is more about connection than coffee. We chatted with Nick about roasting, business sustainability, team work, and the perfect morning espresso. All with the overarching theme of community-minded growth.
What are the top three things you look for when you are sourcing coffee for Good? What is the initial connection you make with the coffee farmers like?
As far as coffee, and what we look for, how we structure that decision is based on our consumers and what they look for. Sweetness and balance are the more flavor driven things we look for. Interesting coffee is part of that, but at the core of it is coffee that people want to drink every day, and finding a coffee that makes sense on our menu in terms of seasonality and whatever coffee it’s replacing.
A lot of the work we do, as part of our position in the supply chain narrative, is doing a lot of work in our warehouse to make sure our coffees stay fresh. We work with an importer who is very involved at the farm level. We’re not super involved with the farms directly, but we’ve been fortunate to partner with Red Fox Coffee Merchants out of the Bay. With Red Fox we get quality information about the farms and it’s our job to communicate this to the consumer. We’re doing our due diligence to continue that narrative to the end. It’s like the difference between coffee and wine. Wine is being grown right here in the Willamette Valley. Coffee is being grown a long ways away, and there are so many steps in getting it here. It’s really important to stay connected to those steps. We feel very lucky to have access to traceable narratives about how the coffee was farmed and the people behind it.
When did you decide to take the leap from being a multi roaster cafe, to roasting your own coffee? Was this always the goal?
I would say that it definitely was part of the conversation of starting a company in the coffee industry.
There’s a lot of reasons that might seem obvious or might not. We wanted to create more jobs for our team, we wanted to be more connected with the supply chain with starting to source raw product, and we wanted to take the responsibility of roasting coffee in a way that made sense on a brand level.
We started that process in 2016 spring and released that coffee in the late fall. There’s a shared roasting space, Buckman Coffee Factory, and part of the story was having access to that space, and access to the community they were trying to create. It was all part of connecting to the community, and relating to our consumers and what they were asking for.
We worked with Heart, Coava, and Madcap before roasting our own and had really great experiences with all of them. During that time, we really listened to what people were excited about what they liked drinking.[Roasting our own coffee] was definitely in the cards, and about a year and a half in we asked the question of whether we were ready to open a new cafe, or roast our own coffee, and it felt like a fortuitous time to start roasting.
What is Good’s roasting approach? How has it changed or been refined over time?
I think we definitely continue to get better and better at the skill and craft of roasting coffee. Our palettes are always getting better. Every coffee roasts differently, every coffee develops differently. Our roasting team keeps getting better.
Sam oversees the roasting team, and Chancellor Reeder is definitely the leader of the roasting team. In terms of our roasting style, we really try to put coffees in the cafe that are really sweet and balanced. And for us, it’s really important to roast coffees that transfer well into home use. We have state of the art tools to extract coffee at a really high level in our cafes, but we want to make sure this translates well into the home experience.
I know you have a coffee subscription program. When did this start and how does it work?
The heart behind this was for consumer convenience. To choose how often you want to drink coffee, and have it shipped out to your home. For us, it was a very convenient base decision to have this be part of our website. We launched the subscription when we launched the ability to purchase on our website. We are always trying to find ways to please consumers, we’re trying to make coffee more convenient and better for consumers, and we’re trying to make it easier for them to enjoy what they want to enjoy.
I don’t know exactly how many states we are in, but our websales and our subscription program have been growing since we launched. It’s really humbling to see people get excited about what we are doing.
Quality and connection seem to be tantamount at Good -- how have you had to shift and grow in order to maintain this as you went from one cafe to four?
That’s a great question. It’s something we’re figuring out every day. For us, it was never about me and Sam, it was about inviting people into this conversation and this idea of being hospitable to people, and welcoming to people, and paying attention to people. Coffee was obviously the vehicle, but I think sometimes we get caught up on the production side of things. We love coffee and love drinking it, but for us, it is about using coffee as a vehicle to bring the light and community and restoration. When it comes to creating sustainability around more growth, it becomes more about trying to motivate more people to have that same perspective. At our core, as human beings, we need love, we need experience, and we crave human connection. For us, it’s about creating that community with each other, and starting that conversation.
It’s not always easy. We probably serve 800 - 1,000 people every day through our doors in Portland, and its alot of hustle, and a lot of work. We take it seriously, and at the end of the day we are trying to create a community of people. We have had incredible effort from our team, and our team is the biggest part of why we have been able to grow. They have picked up the torch, and integrated this mindset into how they live and influence the people around them. It’s been amazing, and it’s an ongoing and continuous process towards striving to get better. Everyone who interacts with Good is the hero of the story, instead of the product.
What’s next for Good?
This is something our entire team talks about all the time. That’s the fun part of working with so many talented people, is growth is inevitable and something we all get excited about. Absolutely we are going to continue to grow as a company, and continue to grow as a team. We have a lot of ideas and things in the works. We have committed to not growing the footprint in 2019, and instead really taking the year to continue to build the support systems, and really spend time with our team and invest in all the people and all the logistical back end support that is needed to continue to grow. During a heavy growth time some of that stuff takes a back seat.
We are looking for a building to move our roastery into, as well as move our bottled cold brew into. We’re actually expanding that in the next six months to a year, and bringing all that under one roof is really important to us. So finding a space where we can bring our manufacturing into, and finding a space that we can really host our team in. As we have continued to grow, we can’t really show up to a three bedroom house and have dinner together.
It’s important to create space and time to continue to create what was the heart behind this business in the first place. We all love serving people. I am a huge nerd when it comes to throwing dinner parties and hosting people, and having people over. Whether it is two or 10 people, and I think a lot of our team shares that passion for bringing people together, and sharing good food and good beverage. What will always be a huge cornerstone of what drives our cafes is that we are creating time to be together.
Once we get building, and streamline roasting in that way, and allow ourselves to grow, we’re really excited to see what else is there retail wise. We’ve always called ourselves a hospitality company, and part of that is being able to control the retail, and control the environment that we serve people in. Instead of having a heavy wholesale element, we have always liked focusing on retail. So there will probably be more retail environments, and space to continue to put growth in front of our team and our consumers.
Do you have a morning coffee routine?
I would say the only routine is drink espresso as early in the morning as I can. I keep it really simple and just drink espresso or drip coffee everyday, most often at one of our cafes. So the rotation is which cafe I’m drinking at. My favorite part of drinking coffee in the morning is being able to hang out with our staff, and hang out with the people who come out to our cafes and drink coffee.
So much of the inspiration and motivation to do what we do, is to be in our cafes and be around other people and our products. We’re so often focused on the details of operating a business, but we also love hanging out in our cafes and hanging out with our staff and people in our cafes. My daily coffee routine is to always have a good conversation, and always drink good coffee.
What is your approach to brewing on the Ratio Eight?
I’ve definitely brewed on it a number of times and I love it. The best part is it makes it so easy and so inspiring to drink coffee. The Ratio is a beautiful machine and really easy to use. The whole user experience is really enjoyable.
I brew with a 1:16 ratio, or maybe a little under. About 40 grams coffee to 600 grams water. Paper is the type of filtration I prefer. I love the cleanliness you get off the paper, and the sparkling balance you get off the paper filter.
You put the water in, you put the filter in, you put the coffee in, and enjoy the brewing experience. It’s such a perfect size too. It’s big enough to brew a good amount, and it’s not harder to brew a smaller amount.
I’m pumped about the Ratio Six!