From Scratch: Sightglass Coffee
FourBarrel Coffee was the end of the line for brothers Jerad, 34, and Justin Morrison, 29, whose 10-year apprenticeship in specialty coffee took them through their childhood home of Oregon and the caffeinated mecca of Seattle before luring them to San Francisco. Once here, in 2009, the brothers broke ground on their own homage to coffee, in an aban-doned sign factory at the corner of Seventh and Folsom streets. When Sightglass Coffee Bar and Roastery opened two years later, it was more cathedral than cafe—a house of worship devoted to the holistic experience of coffee. Their upcoming Mission outpost (planned to open in August next to Trick Dog) goes even deeper with small batches of coffee roasted onsite that will only be available there.
“We go to such lengths to find great coffee, and we know the work that goes into growing it,” explains roaster Adam Koehler, referring to the three to four months each year that the Morrison brothers spend sourcing beans at farms and cooperatives in Africa, Indonesia, and Latin America. “So when I roast, I want everything that I love about a coffee to be apparent in your cup.” This is the modus operandi of Sightglass—to capture and share a singular obsession.
To tease the qualities from a sack of raw beans, Koehler and fellow roaster Jon Grambone control just two variables (intensity of heat and the duration it’s applied) to seemingly endless variation. A complex, and fruity Caturra—from Maximino Gutierrez of Tolima, Colombia—is allowed to fully bloom from intense heat applied early in the roast, while Guatemalan Hunapu, with chocolatey notes evident in Sightglass’ espresso blend, benefits from a gradual buildup.
If it sounds formulaic, it’s not. Perfection is born of intuition, practice, and daily “cupping”—a systematic tasting ritual involving loud slurping and hushed coffee industry geek speak. Parsing the finer distinctions between coffees from nearly sixty farms across three continents is the job of Sightglass savants. For the rest of us, it’s what’s in the cup that counts.
This article was published in 7x7's June issue. Click here to subscribe.