Running out of coffees is less fun than I thought!


Most companies I have worked for had coffees that were long in the tooth. Meaning, that the green buyer bought ambitiously and then the company had to get rid of the coffee somehow or made it work. This typically means making a blend from it if you are thoughtful or just sprinkling it everywhere until it's gone if you are not.

It's been difficult to measure how much to buy when I have no reference point for Maquina. I am a conservative buyer. So at this point, I think I have purchased enough when in fact I haven't by a long shot. For such a small company buying 5-6 bags at a time is a huge deal, and I have realized that I need to be buying AT LEAST 6 bags at a time if not more. This means that the coffee is moving well, and I am not sitting on inventory. This usually means I am spending a lot of times asking for samples, roasting them, cupping them and figuring out the logistics of it.

The best news about all of this tho, is that people love it. The customers have been crazy about every coffee I have purchased and roasted and slowly the reputation is working out to be one of real quality and ease to work with, two goals of which I am very proud of because I set out to do them and they were top priority. Now the priority down the list is to keep fully stocked to be able to provide these coffees for 3-4 months at a time.

When I keep getting more and more accounts, those 6 bags suddenly feel foolishly understocked!

Relationships and Labors of Love


Spring is here. It is difficult to understand that it's here when we got over a foot of snow just a few days ago in Pennsylvania. Now, a few days later it is 40+ degrees and what I think is the last snow of the season is melting. What a strange winter.

It's been a great learning curve both in home and work for myself and my wife who took a full time job at a great food market in order to get some benefits for the family and to provide some stability in a time where we felt anything but stable. I was put in a position where I lost benefits and stability, but I was also forced in a good way to really push Máquina forward and focus on what matters the MOST to me in regards to this brand which is quality of the coffee purchased or sourced and the quality of the roasting = brewing. Right up against those two is quality of the relationships I am starting to build with people all over the US who have found their way to us. I am humbled by the good things people have said and the praise the coffee has been getting because it's what I care about the most.

We are now in New York City with a great cafe called Third Rail. They have two locations and funny enough the owner and I know many of the same people and have never formally met until now (we haven't met yet, but we have been in contact finally). We have our coffee in Richmond Virginia and soon in Chicago and Cambridge, Mass. 

We have been getting inquiries here and there and there is even one from Rochester NY where I went to High School which is a total trip and I am super excited to really start to meet new people on this side of the country since I spent the vast majority of my coffee career on the West Coast. Spring is here, and then summer. HOT HOT and HUMID summer. I have not had too much experience with roasting in the humid heat of east coast summer so this should be interesting. Thankfully the garage keeps super cool in the summer, but it will be a great challenge to surpass to figure out temp/moisture fluctuations and keep them at a minimum for green coffee storage. 

Boost


Pinhole Coffee in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco.

Pinhole Coffee in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco.

We got our first wholesale account on the West Coast! In our most beloved city of San Francisco. JoEllen is someone I have known for years and she has an amazing space in the city that welcomes all kinds of people and serves all kinds of coffees from people she respects and considers friends. We are more than delighted to have JoEllen and her crew representing Máquina Coffee on the west coast. We couldn't think of someone more perfect. 

We are trying to get our coffees into the hands of super awesome folks who know what we do and understand our vision of integrity and quality. We are almost exclusively selling to multi-roasters as we know what it's like to try new things, and to do it well. Many companies won't sell to multi-roasters which I also understand, but with our humble model, multi-roasters work great for us!

Horizons


We are churning along here, roasting some great coffees for some wonderful people and trying to stay on our toes with what is going on with the rest of the country. These are some trying times so for us it is hugely important to keep making solid and meaningful connections with people regardless of those connections being "business driving" or "business positive". That just isn't good enough. I have always thought that doing things for the right reasons will right the ship, or set the vision on a clearer path and we will see if I will be proven wrong. We are in this for the long game, steady trickles of growth upward is what we seek, but only to become self sustaining. In trying to drive a bit more traffic we have thought of a few things that may work for us. One of them is a tip from a friend of offering some sort of trial bag at a really great price. 

We are working on it.

Mae works full time, and we have an almost 4 year old hyper active  daughter (aren't they all hyper active at that age tho?) so setting something up as simple as a trial coffee run takes a lot of energy and coordination both which I lack after being mostly a stay at home dad. But , we are working on it.

The other thing we have going on is the idea of eventually opening up a tasting room of sorts. A cafe seems so overdone, but when we look at some of our smaller communities around us even a regular old quality coffee shop is completely absent so then what do we do?

Do we decide to do it ourselves because we know we can kill it and bring people together over great coffee? Or do we just keep doing the wholesale + online subscription only game until we are forced to move to a larger roasting space? I like the idea of focusing on customers both subscription and wholesale without having to worry about staffing a cafe. It's so much work to open a cafe. SO MUCH WORK. I know intimately. I value time with my family, and I value the privilege to focus on what I do best which is buying and roasting coffee. However, community is a big part of our overall plan, both local and at coffee producing regions.

So I am open. Always remain open. Closed doors gather cobwebs and dust. Open doors let the air and light in. 

Onto superficial news: We will have new tshirts in a couple of weeks! New design but lovely as ever! Stay tuned.

 

~Gabriel

word's out


Máquina has been receiving some press, and some amazing word of mouth love. This is exactly how we want things to go. We have friends voicing their love for us to their friends and family, and vouching for what we do well which for us it's coffee.

Our biggest challenge is figuring out how much coffee to purchase as we have no history to look at. However, what we have figured out, very fast is that nothing takes the place of quality green coffee. We must look at the COST of green coffee as something merely to be worked into the budget. NOTHING is worth sacrificing  quality for.  Every time someone send us an email or an IG or FB shout out about how much they loved the coffee, we understand how important it is to start with quality ingredients. 

Another part of our coffee purchasing is knowing when coffees have JUST landed after harvest. The more we cup and taste, the more we have realized that nothing is better than a fresh crop high quality coffee. The mouthfeel and vibrancy of all nuances is so apparent that when we cup anything else, we immediately taste the "age". Also, with high quality green in general you are more likely to get a longer shelf life in green form. All we can do is preserve what is already there, we cannot improve on it.

 

Growth


I have been thinking a lot about growth and speed of growth and how to grow and how to push myself to uncomfortable places in business in order to make a difference, bring in more revenue and help my family live the life we want to live out here in the "sticks".

A friend sent me the following quote and I feel grateful for it, because is speaks to how I think about business, especially in an age where expansion and exit strategy seem to be the norm. 

"If a tree suddenly grows very fast the rings of the tree will be unstable, and the tree will be weak." -Akio Toyoda President of Toyota Motor Corporation.

We have been getting some small time, but important press here and there and this is wonderful. But what we love most about it is the response from people, and the word of mouth movement of our little company. We had the biggest week this week, and it felt great to check the email inbox and keep seeing orders pop up! For me, in a very very real way it means sustainability for my family, at least eventually if sales grow. But the other thing I thought about was, well, at what point do we really aggressively push for growth? What would it look like? 

I am not in this to grow rapidly. Maybe I am foolish to say I am not in it to grow at all. I am in it, to have the business pay its bills and be able to continue to buy great coffees, bring in a modest salary that afford me paying the mortgage, my kids day care, health care and groceries. Seriously this is all we want.  I want to be able to roast the coffees I like to roast and taste, and pay the bills and share good quality stuff with customers. I want to forge relationships based on a mutual understanding of making a living doing a craft that is often overlooked, or undervalued but that is so meaningful in so many peoples lives every single day. 

On the other end are the producers, my brothers and sisters in arms. Growth for me would be crucial in regards to being able to buy more green and potentially really contribute to the different communities that make buying coffee possible. 

Those are the drivers. Sustainability on both ends, and the possibility of having an old school craft support communities locally and at the farm level. I don't think it is too much to ask. I am not interested in the million dollar build outs or the huge investments or the ties to investors and their boards. I'd rather focus on steady, soft but deliberate growth and stay true to who we are.

End Rant. Thanks for reading.

Happy New Year


We feel gratitude in what has been an interesting year to say the least. We have been working hard and really multi tasking on many different levels in order to keep ourselves sane and to try to thrive here in a totally different environment socially and geographically.

We took on a 30 day raw vegan diet challenge to kick start a new year and just to clean some of the nasty stuff out from 2016. Maybe we should push it to 90 days in that case!Been roasting in super cold weather which has not been fun, BUT, it is rewarding and shit is getting done and shipped out and people are really digging what we are doing from our humble abode.Sometimes I start to think about growth and what that would mean right now and I have to remember that the whole point is to maintain control, and quality of life. We want to be able to spend a lot of time with loved ones, caring for our little plot of land (which we need to figure out gardening plans soon!) and enjoying the fruits of our labor. This is what life is about no?

We have some exciting ideas we would love to implement, and we want to try a couple of things that I don’t think I have seen done before with subscription. Cross your fingers people keep digging what we are doing and that we are able to remain in the zone of quality and joy with doing something we love to do.

Coffee is a miracle in my life. Kept me out of trouble and forced me to focus and grow. Running a tiny business is consuming in so many ways, but when you are putting yourself out there to the world with every bag you ship, it just doesn’t feel like work at all. Cheers to no work, cheers to all love and cheers to damn fine coffee.


Happy New Year.

Rituals

2016 is has been tough.  But, we all have to keep living, for our kids, for our families, for our communities, and for ourselves.  Self-care is a radical act: not allowing ourselves to be diminished when we feel threatened or saddened or confused is both difficult and deeply powerful.  What can I do to find my center and get more grounded?

Daily rituals offer a unique opportunity to center and ground oneself.  As a daily ritual, it is already a steadying feature of life.  And when we pay attention to the rituals we perform, we can transform our mood, our mindset and our daily trajectory.  

Coffee does this for me.  As many people would say, if I don't have coffee in the morning, I feel totally unmoored, like I left my house in my pajamas and without brushing my teeth.  But when I really pay attention to my morning coffee ritual, almost an incredibly pragmatic meditation, noticing the scent, the sounds of the pouring of water and beans, grinding and pouring again, considering its color and, of course, its flavor, it is like I am steadying myself, becoming myself again.  And if I am lucky enough that someone makes coffee for me, I feel warm and taken care of, and I try to be fully aware to enjoy the process of drinking.  

I've lived in many different places, had different jobs and kitchens and weather many other things, but my coffee remains.   

-MB

Winter walk in Stroud Reserve, PA.

Winter walk in Stroud Reserve, PA.

2016 - GOODBYE


Oof, what a year eh? Things are moving along at a good pace here in Pennsylvania as winter starts to settle in. Roasting in 25 degree climate is no joke! Do what you love right?

We have had many blessings with friends and family coming out and supporting our little roastery. I feel both humbled and loved by these gestures. So thank you.

We are not looking to get big fast or to build an empire, but rather create meaningful relationships with people that get what we do and this usually takes a little longer than any small business owner would want to admit.

Do yourself a favor and make sure that whenever you come across a great small business, let them know they are great and why and then tell your friends about it. Word of mouth is by far the most satisfying and most genuine way to get the name out there in the world. For those of you who have already done so, thank you. We feel super grateful.

We are looking to get involved with the West Chester Food Co-Op here in West Chester, and I think there we will find some kindred spirits!

As the Holidays come around, remember your loved ones (friends or family or chosen family) and think about how easily we could change the world for the better, if we are just supported each other as if we were siblings. The world is a beautiful place, we just have to see passed all the noise.

Happy Holidays to all and to all a Happy New Year!

 

2 weeks down


 

She is alive!

 

The roaster is hooked up to propane, the triple walled ducting is set up and she is roaring! Exciting times. I roasted around 10 batches to get used to her and for the time being it is gonna be old school. No digital probes , just good old analog temp gauges forcing me to really pay attention to what the coffee is telling me to do for it. I have some very nice coffees I bought from Shrub and from Red Fox so I am excited to roast and cup these and share them with the world.

There isn’t much quality coffee around here, so it is a great place to throw down some roots because I get the pleasure of introducing people to how great coffee can be. They have no idea how good they will have it from now on. I think in many ways coffee can be such a wonderful and easy thing, and this project is going to prove that.

We are not here to impress anyone or to even create something to sell off in the future. This is seriously a labor of love for friends and family and if we happen to grow it will be in a way that makes sense for myself and my family. I still have a day job I enjoy very very much and I work with great people, so Máquina can remain my passion project and in that sense there is very little pressure to expand. I like having a work life balance. You only live once, and I wanna spend as much time with family and friends drinking delicious coffee.

Lateness


I am sometimes an impatient person, clarification: most of the time I am an impatient person. I think I am this way because I am acutely aware of the shortness of the time we have on earth if we are lucky enough to live a long healthy life. Coffee both contributes and deters the impatience and speaking of coffee…

The roaster finally arrived albeit 10 days later than expected. Now what we have to do is set up the ducting and propane gas tank and line and fire the baby up. I cannot wait as the garage is cold and it is JUST November. The timing of things rarely work out and this is a lesson every time for me. Coffee is a great teacher this way too as we wait for coffees to fully mature and harvest and ferment and dry and ship and land and THEN we wait for the truck to pull up to the roastery so we can rip open the bag and toss in the green beans to roast and make delicious brown coffee. We were planning on roasting no later than August, but things always change and this time it was for the better. We were able to purchase my dream machine, a Probat 5 kilo roaster. It is what I learned on, and for what we want to do it is the perfect capacity. We have been thinking about what to do with ourselves while we get this passion project off the ground, and our 3 year old keeps us plenty busy, but with the extra time we have been having some pretty amazing conversations about what we want Maquina Coffee to be. Just you wait.

 

Rebuild


ProbatL5

We started to remodel the garage to make it a roasting space. We got word our roaster ships out this Friday and will be here in a week. Super exciting stuff! I have been waiting and working towards this day most of my coffee career so I am giddy with excitement about the truck pulling up next week with our little Maquina.

We ended up having to basically build up the garage from scratch, saving only the concrete slab, the roof and most of the rafters and the siding. Everything else had to go due to age and some insect damage but all was taken care of and the garage is looking beautiful. We will have room for shipping supplies, green coffee storage and other fun coffee schwag.

I will be knee deep in creosote, brunt chaff and scrapers for a while and I couldn’t be happier. It’s been a long time I must admit since I have gotten dirty cleaning a machine, but I am looking forward to it like you wouldn’t believe. I cannot wait to teach my daughter how these machines work and how to roast coffee. I hope she takes to it and loves it as much as I do. I would have given anything to have had my dad teach me anything like this, so it’s time I do for her what no one did for me.

 

My wife is gonna have a hard time getting me out of the garage once everything is set up and running.

What it Means, part 1


I feel and think a lot of things about the fact that I am joining my husband and my best friend in bringing Maquina Coffee Roasters into being.  One thing that I think about quite frequently is why  we are creating Maquina and the way in which we hope to get it done.  

I've worked in management and the running of businesses in various capacities for well over 10 years, and now I have the chance to really consider what I hope to bring into being with Maquina and how we hope to operate.  

As many of you who are reading this know, businesses operate on the expectation of growth.  Constant expansion. This makes sense for many financial reasons:  brand awareness (i.e. everyone in your neighborhood/town/region etc knows about your business, which then becomes its own marketing engine), economy of scale (one marketing, hr, accounting team can service multiple locations, also greater buying power and negotiating leverage), and of course, the potential to make more money (and power and leverage and status).  

This is  a heady mix, and makes it hard to adequately assess the negatives of why growth can be undesirable.  But you know what?  Its not good enough.  Perhaps the biggest reason is that as a business owner, growth forces your job description to change.  If what you love about work is working closely with your community and being hands-on through the whole process, your ability to offer that will quickly disappear.  As your staff, your customer base, your marketing needs, etc etc grow, you can lose the things that made you want to start a business in the first place.  

With Maquina, I hope to seek out what I think of as the sweet spot.  The spot where the business always stays small enough that Gabe and I can be deeply involved with the day to day running of the business-- because that is what we love.  But also that it is large enough to have abundance for everyone who comes into contact with it: super-high quality goods to our customers, sustainable pay to our employees, good prices to our coffee farmers and a fair return to our family.  

On a more human level, I want something I can be proud of, something that is a positive contribution to our community and isn't afraid to do things differently.

No time like the present.



I have some idea as to what I want Maquina to be but I also believe in the beauty of community and feedback loops. I think small businesses thrive or die based on customer loyalty and vision of your own company. Máquina is definitely here to roast and ship awesome coffees for our friends and family and potential new friends. We are open to see where this road takes us.

We purchased an awesome little 5 kilo Probat from a friend, and we will be crating it and shipping it out here to work on and polish and bring it back to life. It’s gonna be great to be back on a 5 kilo which is what I originally learned on. Couldn’t be more stoked really, except for maybe having my buddy Ryan Brown next to me cheering me on like way back in the day. He’s taught me a lot throughout the years about friendship and coffee and we have commiserated plenty of times about our two little daughters both nicknamed Millie. This roaster will be a great throwback for sure.

Our plans thus far is to build friendships, roast and ship great coffee and see where the road leads. Remaining open to the world is not only one of my strengths, but I think for this endeavour it’s absolutely necessary. We are going to have a blast in the next few years building this thing up and making it thoughtful and joyful and full of good stuff. Plans come a little at a time, but if you keep joining us and reading these you will get a little bit of the vision we are trying to manifest for our little company.

We want to be able to support local artisans, artists, workers, makers and builders whenever possible even if it means paying a little bit more for everything. You cannot build anything alone, you always need other people who get what you do and who will inevitably help you shape it. The goal from the coffee side is to eventually have ONLY relationship coffees. We will be sourcing from people we can call friends and in other circumstances we will be buying coffees as directly as possible from the coffee producers and using our friends logistics to bring in the coffee to roast in my garage and ship out of our local post office. We must remain present and active in our own communities because a rising tide raises all boats. For us this means building new relationships, and that's both a little daunting but exciting.

 

Heart


cundinamarca.jpg

I was a barista for a long time. Then became a roaster to get closer to the source of coffee. When I started traveling and buying green coffee my world truly truly changed and just when I thought I didn’t have the capacity to love coffee more….well, I did.

 

Traveling to coffee producing countries and meeting up with producers was a life changing gig for me. I have never learned as much as I did talking to producing families and pickers at coffee farms. I learned a ton beyond just coffee terminology. I learned about what it is truly like to devote your life to coffee production. It’s hard work. Lots of hard work, and for the exemplary producers it’s an all year thing though you only have one harvest (some exceptions apply here). This is really their livelihood. When I visited everyone felt like family. I will proudly say that my Latino roots kicked in big time, as I immediately connected with families as if they were my own in Latin America. I found my calling with speaking with them not only as a potential buyer, but as a REAL ally. When you talk about coffee at the producer level, not about export/import or customs/contracts...well, it isn’t romantic, it’s real. I think if every person that consumes coffee every day, had a chance to travel and meet the person that produced the coffee they love and opened their hearts and mind and learned directly from the source how they get their coffee every day, the world I deeply believe would be a better place. I miss traveling to visit folks that to this day I call friends and family. I am hopeful that in the future I can return to see them, check in on how the farms are doing and how their kids are growing up. Coffee isn’t just what is in our cups. Coffee is humanity and I say that with total seriousness. I could go on and on about this stuff, and maybe I will. For now though just think about what it would take to trace back that cup you had this morning and how powerful it really could be if everyone took the time to do so.

Roots


I started in coffee almost 17 years ago. Crazy. My first serious coffee job was at Gimme! Coffee in Ithaca NY right after college. I needed to pay the rent and I was a sociology major with no desire to do research or go on to graduate school. There was the roastmaster John Gant working on the Sivetz Fluid Bed Air roaster and he had an intense passion for coffee and roasting and espresso. On my first day or orientation we spent a couple of hours talking about the history of coffee and to be honest I was hooked from the get go. We tried coffees and espressos and I was fired up (more like wired up) about everything coffee. I have been in coffee ever since.

We moved to the Bay Area soon after that because we were young and adventurous and I had never been west of the Mississippi and my wife had this wild dream of living in the Bay Area. I worked at Peet’s for a hot second, then another small coffee company but then I saw a new shop in San Francisco opening up using Stumptown Coffee Roasters and I jumped at the chance to work for them. Eileen and Jeremy were both energized, passionate, friendly and on a mission to bring GREAT coffee to San Francisco. Ritual Coffee Roasters was where I truly found my joy and fire for coffee. I was their 2nd official employee. The idea that Stumptown was bringing to the table; one where the farm and producer matter, that the processing matters, that the relationship between buyer and producer matters and has great impact was something that I never thought about before Ritual. It helped me become an aware and educated citizen of the world. As a Latino I was blown away at how little I knew of the market, of the traditions, of the antiquities that still survive in the process of importing coffee. I also knew, it was an industry full of bright, good people wanting to make a difference and one in which they actually COULD make a difference. That is when the hooks got deeper for me, and it is why I remain in coffee. I have worked for fantastic people, that have taught me so much more beyond just coffee. They have taught me that actions speak louder than words, that communication and heart are hugely important and that in coffee cash may be king, but if you want to help the world, HEART is hugely important. More on heart, roots and communications on the next post. Meanwhile, sip your coffee and enjoy, because someone put their hard work and love into it!

 

Throwback pic, returning with a gift from Honduras and Amelia trying a teeny bit of coffee for the first time. Coffee is in the family tradition.

Throwback pic, returning with a gift from Honduras and Amelia trying a teeny bit of coffee for the first time. Coffee is in the family tradition.

West to East


After almost 14 years in the Bay Area, my wife Mae and I decided it was time to move back east. I never thought we would do this! Never say never. We wanted to raise our kid in a place that we could afford to truly live in, with access to beautiful parks, amazing farms, rich history and a good education. Pennsylvania seemed like an obvious choice.

I was excited because there just isn’t that much good coffee outside of Philadelphia and this was an awesome opportunity to introduce some great people to quality specialty coffee right at home!  The people out here are relaxed, kind, friendly and care about where food comes. We are living in an area where the local farm is an everyday thing. I don’t think quality coffee, thoughtfully sourced and roasted will be a stretch to understand out here. Lots of small businesses with focus on quality already exist, and I am really interested in what things will be like for Maquina Coffee once we start introducing the coffees we really dig to the public. I care immensely about what I do professionally with the craft of roasting, but I also deeply believe that people are what make everything possible. If I can connect people to each other through coffee, and have coffee drinkers be more aware of what they are drinking and how it got to them and why it’s so good (due to human intervention and processes) then I will have done my job. I’m excited to take the time to curate great coffees, roast them well and share them with those who value work, dedication and a delicious cup. I miss my west coast comrades a great deal, but I would never be in this place in my life had it not been for the last 14 years spent in the Bay Area, honing my craft and meeting wonderful people along the way.

Here’s to a new journey! Paso a paso. (One foot in front of the other.)

 

California, we will miss you old girl.

California, we will miss you old girl.