GRINDPOUR — Coffee crave from beyond the grave.
Oh coffee. The scent, the taste, the daily ritual. People tend to feel strongly about it; either love it or loathe it. I fancy myself the former. Coffee has been consumed for millennia by people around the world, and continues to be one of the most traded goods. And just as with any highly-popular goods, it breeds connoisseurs and their ever-evolving demand for niche products.
In Los Angeles, a new name in the craft coffee game is Grindpour. Started and run by coffee aficionado and metal wizard Eric Schuman — who you may be familiar with as Stark Cordwain from The Dread Crew of Oddwood — Grindpour brings carefully selected coffees and metal together. A match made in hell? Perhaps. And we want more.
I sat down over a virtual cup to pick his brains about this venture, coffee culture, and metal!
First, tell me how the idea for Grindpour came about. Eric: It actually started as a sarcastic comment I made to a friend, while riding an elevator just before heading to board 70000tons of Metal. The details are a little fuzzy, since we had micheladas for breakfast, but I remember saying something like "Yeah, and I'll start a heavy metal coffee bar called Grindpour, and serve the Cattle Decappuccino!". After the words left my mouth, I began thinking....YEAH! Actually, that sounds like a rad idea!
What is the link between metal and coffee, especially craft coffee?
Metal fans and craft coffee fans have created their communities based on sharing what they enjoy with other people. Recommending bands, roasters, venues, and cafes. Arguing about which is better, creating music together, sharing brew recipes. It's a cultural gathering to promote social activity and creativity.
How has the reaction been so far? Are locals into what you're serving up?
The reaction has been inspiring so far! Meeting other people that share my interest in heavy metal and craft coffee keeps me inspired. I've already started noticing some regulars visiting the booth, even though Grindpour is so new. The daily comments like "This is the best cappuccino I've ever had!" and "I can never go back to Starbucks!" make my beard blush.
What kinds of brewing method(s) do you use and why?
Right now, I am using Clever brewers for hand brewed coffee. They function like a full immersion brewing device, and that allows me to have several brewing at a time. Since I am usually running the booth by myself, this lets me brew a great cup, while helping other people in line. It's also a great device for making flash-chilled coffee.
What’s flash-chilled coffee vs iced coffee?
Flash-chilled coffee is similar to iced coffee, but a portion of the water that would be used to brew the coffee, is replaced with ice. The coffee is then brewed over the ice, chilling it instantly.
Tell me about Proserpexa's Effigy; what is in it, how did you come up with the recipe, what sorcery is it and can it actually bring about the end of the world? The popularity of this drink surprised me! If I take it off the menu, it may just cause the end of the world! Geeky Teas has been kind enough to let me popup in their space. The first event came about quickly, and I found myself thinking "What can I create that is both geeky AND metal?!". Proserpexa's Effigy is a spell from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Dark Willow tries to cast the spell in order to end the world in flames. That provided all the inspiration I needed! I broke out my mortar and pestle and began creating a syrup of black sugar and cloves. This adds the base of infernal dark magic to the latte, that is dusted with cinnamon and chili powder on top. I decided to work with Okinawan black sugar (kurozato) because black sugar sounds metal, but also brings a unique flavor that is similar to molasses. I use a very small amount, just enough to tickle your palate.
What other signature concoctions do you have and what are they made of?
The other signature drink we currently serve is called Night's Blood, which is a song from the band Dissection. The drink is an iced espresso tonic, swirled with black cherry juice, and topped with a mint and raspberry garnish.
Damned in Black (a latte with black sugar, orange, and black sesame) isn't currently being served, but may return again.
The Cattle Decappuccino and Thai By The Sword are two drinks that will take the stage soon. No spoilers on them though!
Night's Blood espresso tonic
What goes into creating a real unique espresso drink for you, and what do you need it to be?
This is something I struggle with, because I still want the drink to taste like coffee. Finding the right amount of ingredients to balance all of the flavors takes time, but I really enjoy perfecting each drink. The other limitation I set on myself is the ingredients must be inspired by a song or band. This forces me to get creative with the flavors I create.
How do you source your beans? There are so many INCREDIBLE roasters on this planet! I buy all of our coffees from talented roasters, that source their beans ethically. I look for single origin coffees that have a high traceability. All the way down to the washing station, farm, or even the farmer's name. That info usually shows that the coffee was purchased ethically, and that the green coffee buyers are working with the coffee farms directly.
How often to do rotate the coffees you serve?
Right now, I am serving new coffees about once a month. There are too many insanely good coffees out there, and I want to showcase as many as I can, while they are available. Rotating frequently also allows me to work with new roasters. Since Grindpour is a small operation right now, I buy two coffees a month. I serve one as espresso, one as hand brew, then swap them after a few weeks.
Doesn't that make it hard to keep a consistent taste for your specialty beverages?
All the coffees I've served so far have been bright and fruity African coffees, so the profiles are similar. The slight variation in the cup is part of the fun, since the difference is just enough to be unique without creating a completely different drink.
You have traveled around Europe a lot in the last year with the Dread Crew and on your personal time. Did you have time to be coffee tourists? Have you found new beans to bring back and serve to the US coffee lovers? What you mean to ask is if we had time to perform, in between all the coffee questing! I am fortunate to be in a band that appreciates a good cup of coffee. Before we head to a new city, I already have all the roasters near the venue, bookmarked on Google Maps. We try to visit as many as we can before the doors to the venue open. Personal travels are very much the same, without the impending set times!
I've found a lot of roasters in the UK and Europe that I would love to work with. Orders can get held up in customs though, so I'm going to wait until I can serve at a higher volume before ordering from them.
Since you'll be playing Wacken Winter Nights this year, are you expecting to bring back any German goodies?
Glühwein und Schwein!!! There are a lot of coffee roasters I want to visit in Berlin. I am not sure we are performing there though. Either way, the answer is yes. If I don't return with coffee and food, what's the point?!
Craft coffee has sort of just recently taken roots in the US, and shops are popping up all over the place; how are you keeping your customers' attention, especially in a place like LA? Craft coffee has been here for a long time, it's just becoming more popular. There are a lot of newer cafes popping up in Los Angeles, but I've found very little consistence in their drinks. If I know a drink I'm making is slightly off, I will throw it away and start over. This is craft coffee. What is craft without seeking perfection?! The heavy metal theme also draws in a good crowd. There really are no heavy metal hangouts in Los Angeles. Grindpour aims to become one.
Quick shoutout to Dayglow. They take a lot of pride in the coffee they serve, and are my favorite coffee bar in Los Angeles.
Do you usually have music playing at the Grindpour booth?
What is on your playlist for maximum coffee slinging magic?
I created a playlist on Spotify that is growing daily. Limited to one song per artist, which is the hardest thing to do. EVER. The bands range from all over the metal spectrum, with a small peppering of punk bands as well. The first two songs added were "Clandestine Ways (Krokodil Rot)" by Cattle Decapitation, and "Super Sonic" by Bad Religion.
Do you see a specific market for coffee-loving metalheads?
Absolutely! At first, the fear of "Am I the only person that loves both of these things?!" moshed around in my head, but I am seeing that the fear was unfounded. I have nothing more than an A frame sign outside my booth that says "Heavy Metal + Craft Coffee". That has been enough to draw in the right crowd. It seems I am not alone in my obsessions.
Other than espresso drinks, what can people get if they visit the booth?
We offer hand brewed coffee, either hot or flash-chilled. We also sell retail bags of coffee, coffee brewing books, t-shirts, and concert tickets! I plan on offering brewing gear and reusable cups in the near future.
What are your future plans for Grindpour?
Keep building the brand until I can afford a brick and mortar coffee bar that has metal acts doing acoustic sets. That has always been the goal, and I'm excited to create a heavy metal, craft coffee hangout. I've also been toying with the idea of opening a shop in Sweden, but....one thing at a time.