coffee brewing
May 2nd, 2014

Caffeine and Mastery

Ben Rosenbach

One of my favourite things about P'unk Avenue is the culture we create around mastery. Mastery is one of three tenets that determine whether a new project will take us one step closer to the company we dream of. Having the opportunity to master a skill or fine tune our craftsmanship increases our motivation to do good work and makes us better versions of ourselves. And this culture of pursuing mastery doesn't end with technology.

I love coffee. No, I mean I really love coffee. Not the way your average American loves drinking coffee, or drinking something that looks like coffee but is really more of a milk product. I mean that I love drinking single-origin, hand-poured, precisely-brewed, high-quality coffee. Like most people my age, I worked at Starbucks throughout college during what is now called the "second wave" of the coffee revolution (the first wave having been brought about by Folgers and the like). This is where I learned to appreciate a good cup. But when the third wave of coffee culture took coffee from a commodity to an "artisanal foodstuff", I was happy to treat my coffee like it was a fine wine or craft beer. I loved talking to baristas at new coffee shops about stuff like different brewing techniques, extraction time, farm lots, and much more. As a nerd, I was happy to have one more thing to be a nerd about.

Before I get into how all of this plays into the culture at P'unk Avenue, let me tell you a little history of my relationship between good coffee and my job. Before working at P'unk Ave, I worked about an hour and a half out in the suburbs. Since I'm not exactly what people would call a morning person, I rarely woke up early enough to brew a good cup before I had to head out the door. I would often settle for the nasty liquid that came out of our instant Flavia machine, load it up with cream and sugar, and call it a day. I would only really get to enjoy a good cup on the weekends. Then one day I had the idea to try bringing my brewing equipment into the office. This was a mistake. The looks I got were on par with growing a third arm out of my forehead. I continued to settle for the free stuff and kept dreaming of a day when I could work a quality cup of coffee into my morning routine.

This is why I was so excited when I walked into P'unk Avenue for the first time. There, sitting on the counter on proud display, was nearly everything a coffee snob could ask for! A burr grinder, a V60 pour over, a Chemex, and a Hario kettle. I didn't even own a Hario kettle! There was even a decent espresso machine! I was so excited that when I came in for my co-working day (something we do here with potential new hires to get a feel for working together) I brought a scale to complete the existing toolset for a properly brewed cup. This was also a mistake. Apparently, I had overestimated the coffee culture at P'unk Ave, and the team's interest in high-quality coffee brewing. While using good-quality beans and making pour-over coffee by hand was acceptable, weighing your coffee beans and water was just taking it too far! "What are you talking about," I said. "I thought this was supposed to be a place of mastery!"

Needless to say, we all now use the scale. I was made fun of for a little while for taking my coffee brewing too seriously, but in the end, mastery won out. For myself personally, I have been able to perfect my pour-over technique to a level I'm very proud of, something I may not have done without being in an environment every day that encourages mastery. I can also undoubtedly say that this experience has seeped into other aspects of the work I do at P'unk Ave, and the excitement I get for mastering other skills here. For the team, we can all share another passion and craft together. And for our clients? Well, they don’t complain about the coffee!

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