ROASTER NAME: Jeremy Brooks
YEARS ROASTING: 4 years
COMPANY: Coffee Manufactory, San Francisco, CA
Jeremy Brooks might not be the first person you talk to at a party, but he wouldn’t be the last, either. “I’m not really the most out there person in a group of people. I’ll tell you anything you ask me, though.” And that’s true—talking to Jeremy, who is our featured roaster for the month of July—you feel as if he’ll tell you anything if you ask.
Jeremy is the Director of Coffee for Coffee Manufactory, an offshoot coffee project by the folks who brought the world the magnificent breads and pastries of Tartine. Jeremy was called to work on this project by his former co-worker at Verve, Chris Jordan, and is in charge of buying coffee and developing roast profiles. You know, easy things, right? “I had lots of freedom when I was young,” shares Jeremy when we talk about how huge and intimidating a job like his can seem. “But lots of freedom gave me the confidence to do a job like mine. I’ve had to push myself hard to get to the next step.”
We chose to work with Jeremy because of his drive and ambition—we saw that working side by side with him at Bay Area CoRo, a co-roasting space that Coffee Manufactory has been using until their roasting space opens in Jack London Square in Oakland later this summer. Jeremy approached Dani with an exquisite coffee he purchased from a farmer named Yon Jairo Duque who operates a farm called La Travesía located in Montebonito, which is in the Caldas region (near the border of Tolima) of Colombia. “We originally bought this coffee—all 80 pounds of it—for Manufactory but couldn’t really find a way to showcase it since we had such a small amount; we’d be out of it by the end of the week. I cupped it with Dani and we decided it’d be perfect for this project.”
The term ‘project’ comes up a lot for Jeremy. It’s how he refers to his work at Manufactory. “I say project a lot because it’s not really a start-up or a business,” he shares. “We’re all invested in seeing this project through.” Jeremy isn’t a pencil pusher or someone who puts in eight hours of work and then clocks out. “I’m the type of personality where I go 100% into something.”
Although now coffee is Jeremy’s passion, it wasn’t always what he poured himself into. “I studied archaeology in college.” After he graduated, he spent years traveling around the United States—sometimes for months at a time. After a few years traveling, he and his wife decided to settle in Santa Cruz. “We decided on Santa Cruz with no real jobs or expectations.” After volunteering as a docent, he started working at Verve running the register. “At Verve, you have to start at the bottom, and you can only move up if they think you’re ready. So I spent eight months working the register.” Jeremy rose through the ranks, and eventually ended up as a production roaster at Verve, following roast curves and executing established profiles for the first six months. “It was definitely a lot of hand holding at first,” he shares. “It was there I started to understand how the way I approach a coffee affects a coffee’s flavor.”
After a year back in Austin, where he’s from originally, working for Flat Track Coffee, Jeremy was tapped to head the roasting and green coffee department for Coffee Manufactory, which is no small task. Coffee Manufactory hit the ground running in the Bay Area in 2016, and plans to open a second roasting space in Los Angeles (Jeremy just moved to head operations down South). “We’re in the process of trying to make our entire supply chain direct,” he shares, talking about the ideas and projects he’s working on with his team.
Jeremy’s approach to roasting the Yon Jairo Duque—the coffee will be named after the producer—is simple: “I want to taste the coffee, not the roast.” There’s not really much more to say on that and Jeremy has no lofty metaphors or grandiose descriptions to explain his roasting style. “Honestly, I’m not a very creative person,” he reveals—his wife, who he admits is much more creative, has done all the artwork and design for his coffee release. However, Jeremy is industrious. Along with putting 110% of himself into everything, he’s a capable craftsman. “When I was traveling for my archaeology work, you’d be on these jobs for months at a time and come back to a lonely apartment. My wife’s grandfather was a leather worker, so I took that up for a bit. I didn’t make anything huge; a couple of wallets and bags and even a few pairs of shoes. Those were not easy.”
Towards the end of our conversation, Jeremy is a little more candid, and we joke a little about astrological signs and Myers-Briggs personality traits and how he and his wife are so different. “I’m definitely a person who just does and asks questions later. She’s much more like, ‘ok, sure,’ but then the next day will say, ‘no that’s a bad idea.”
Is she a Capricorn, I ask.
What are you?
I wouldn’t have guessed that, I said. In fact, I can’t tell if you’re an introvert or an extrovert.
I don’t know a ton about astrology beyond a passing interest for the sake of enjoyment. But I looked up some common traits of Scorpios and Jeremy definitely falls into some of them—driven, independent, and not necessarily secretive, but not an open book, either. Maybe mysterious is the right word. Initially a seemingly straightforward person, Jeremy is fascinating, multifaceted, and motivated. We hope you can taste these traits in what will arguably be one of the best coffees we’re honored to serve you here at Matchbook.
Describe and explain the way you use science vs. art with your roasting techniques.
I don’t see myself as creative or an artist…so I lean heavily on science to help me produce the results I want. I am a big fan of long maillard reactions and short but aggressive post first crack development.
Do you prefer using technology when roasting? Are you opposed to using technology? If there is a balance for you, where would that be?
I think technology is great to help create consistency and repeatability, especially when roasting on smaller roasters, but you have a large demand. I use technology when profiling coffee to help create a guide for our production roasters and a reference for me when cupping multiple trial roasts. I typically roast ‘blind’ while Cropster records everything.
How do you use airflow with your machine?
On drum roasters I typically have a set airflow with the flue as wide open as possible without causing the burner to blow out. On a Loring I roast below capacity, but above 50% capacity to increase airflow. I’ve found this helps produce slightly cleaner flavors and allows for better development.
What have you found to be the most effective way to keep a consistent roast profile when batch size can vary from roast to roast?
A lot of that comes down to understanding the machine you are working with and how gas adjustments impact the coffee. Bean density and moisture content can also have an affect. I try and keep batch sizes uniform on each coffee, and when it's necessary to roast less or more, that’s when roasting experience is very important. This is also an area where technology can offer some assistance and guidance.
How did you choose the profile for this coffee and how do you plan to achieve it? What in the sample roast did you find that told you, ‘this is the one?’
We are one of the very few roasters buying from Siruma Coffee Labs. We received about 30-40 samples and this was by far my highest scoring coffee that cupped. Incredibly sweet and complex—mango, cantaloupe, brown sugar—all the hits and crisp clarity in each flavor. We bought this lot, along with three or four others, but Yon Jairo was set aside for Matchbook Project because of its size (only 54lbs—about 50 12oz bags) and its quality.
I profiled this coffee the same way I do for all coffees: roasted trials with different approaches then cupped them blind with our coffee team. The unanimous favor becomes the profile. I’ll be roasting on a Probat P5, which is a machine I am very comfortable with so I think the results will be something everyone will enjoy.