Seen In Vancouver #389: Roasting Coffee At The Fraserhood’s Awesome Matchstick
by Rommy Ghaly | Back in January, Matchstick Coffee Roasters opened in the Fraser & Kingsway neighbourhood. In that short period, they’ve secured a spot as one of Vancouver’s premier coffee shops, serving up great filter coffee and espressos and featuring an outstanding selection of freshly baked goods and sandwiches. More recently, they’ve taken their operations to the next level and started roasting their own coffee. We recently had the chance to catch up with owners Aaron Braun and Annie and Spencer Viehweger on the joys and challenges of building an in-house coffee roasting operation.
Coffee has seen a mass cultural shift in the past 15 years, from the rise of Starbucks in the 90s to the advent of artisan roasters today. The way it is consumed is ever-evolving. While the traditional espresso still exists as the long-standing method of preparation, many are embracing a shift to filters. Modern filter brewing methods have advanced considerably, with fresh grinding, metal filters, and single cup brewing replacing percolaters and drip coffee machines. Attention to fundamental preparation elements such as beans, grind, temperature, and time have significantly improved the taste of these brews and have allowed addicts a new way to enjoy the stuff that gets them through their days.
Big decisions at Matchstick are made by all three owners collectively. If any one of them disagrees with a major decision, they don’t follow through with it. Generally speaking, Annie oversees the food operations, Aaron oversees the roasting operations, and Spencer oversees the retail side of things. When smaller decisions need to be made and they can’t come to consensus (something that has yet to happen), they default to the person that oversees that aspect of the business.
What makes Matchstick a bit different than your standard coffee shop is that their roasting is done in house. On Tuesday and Friday afternoons, you can go to the back of the shop and see Aaron working away at the roaster, clipboard in hand, taking notes and tasting beans. This is a big draw. It makes me feel like I’m buying something more than just coffee, like I’m paying for a very special service.
Matchstick’s constantly evolving coffee menu allows them to try out different beans and hone their roasting strategy each time. Roasting allows them to have another element of control over the coffee creation process. They can ensure that the coffee they serve is a reflection of their tastes and an expression of what they love. Roasting ops began back in May and they’ve been working feverishly to nail the process and hit their stride ever since. As perfectionists, they try to make each batch better than the last (“We’re always seeking…we’ve never arrived,” Spencer notes). To listen to them speak about it is pretty inspiring, and it’s clear that they love the challenge.
Factors such as variety of coffee, agricultural practices, and processing play the primary role in how a coffee will taste. A good roast is one where you can taste the coffee clearly without tasting the adverse effects of the process. The adverse effect that can occur is carbonization – a consequence of burning the coffee. The process is trickier than it sounds because every coffee is different, and only through trying and tasting each batch can they ensure that they’re approaching the level of quality that they seek.
If you’re the type who likes to make your coffee at home, here are some tips from Spencer:
- For about $150, you can buy all the equipment you need to make better coffee than 98% of the coffee bars.
- Buy awesome (and fresh) coffee.
- Get a good grinder. If your grinder sucks, your coffee will always suck.
- Use water that’s the proper temp. Depending on the kettle, it can take over a minute for water to come down from the boil to reach the appropriate temperature for brewing. 200ºF/93ºC is a good starting point. Most home drip machines don’t even get this hot.
- The pourover method, like we use at Matchstick, gives a lot more control over water temp and extraction process than many other methods. I would certainly recommend it to anyone looking to better their at-home brewing.
If you have any questions about brewing and coffee in general, stop by and chat with Annie, Spencer, Aaron or any of the baristas behind the counter. And remember to pick up some beans on your way out.
Rommy Ghaly was born and raised in New York. He’s spent the past sixteen years moving around from city to city and country to country, trying (and failing miserably) to find himself. You may see him out in the streets with his cameras taking photos of people he doesn’t know. The results of those adventures can be found at vancouverish.com.