To celebrate the launch of the Life Measured pitcher, a collaboration between the editors of MOLD and the design studio Visibility, we spoke to creative practitioners about the delights of their daily routines.
Here, Steven Sutton, owner of Devoción, shares stories from the coffee farm, why he prefers porcelain cups and what it means to be the only distributor of farm fresh coffee year round in the United States.
MOLD: Where did the idea for Devoción come from? Why open up a location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn?
Steven Sutton: Devoción started in Bogotá in 2006. We were the first to do third wave coffee in Colombia and soon became the most important high end coffee company in Colombia. It was a matter of time before we showed what we could do outside of the country. We decided to open in Williamsburg because people there are interested in learning about new things, other cultures and high end gastronomy. There is a savvy consumer there that wants only the best and wants to know what makes the product amazing and out of the ordinary.
It’s not so much about the cafe—it’s the actual sourcing. Nowadays, the methods we use at the cafe have become standard in a high end cafe environment. What we do differently is the way we source coffee—the places we source from and our philosophy towards sourcing. Whenever you drink coffee at farm level, you notice that coffee tastes different—it has more minerality and just tastes so much better. It’s like eating a tomato straight from the vine. With our process we are actually showing New Yorkers what coffee at farm level tastes like. We are the only ones delivering farm fresh coffee year round in the United States. It not only makes us unique, but very Colombian as well.
How do you brew coffee at home?
I love using a french press because there isn’t a filter. The extraction is very pure, almost like a cupping. There’s no paper filter that takes away anything. Not only that, it is super easy.
Describe your daily coffee ritual.
I drink coffee all day and all night. Every form or shape…as long as it’s pure coffee, I’m in!
How do you take your coffee?
Black. No milk, no sugar.
Do you end your meals with a coffee/espresso?
Always. Depending on my meal I will end with a different type of brew.
Do you reach for the same beans, or are you always trying new ones?
I’m always trying new beans. I like to discover new flavors each time. And it also, depends on my mood. When I wake up, I usually go for more chocolatey notes, something a bit bolder. If I’m happy I usually go with more fruity notes, lighter notes. And if I’m eating something delicate, I go for something smoother, a citrusy coffee that washes your palette off. It depends on what i’m doing, what I’m eating and what time of day—it varies a lot, there’s no real standard bean.
How soon should beans be roasted once they’re dry milled to ensure a super fresh cup? What’s the shelf-life of roasted beans?
The sooner the better—you want to have every component of each bean full of life. As time passes by, you will lose intensity of the flavors and the minerality will dissipate. The idea is to have a coffee that is farm fresh—roasted coffee should not be out on the shelf after 15 days. As for our clients, we recommend buying a weeks worth of coffee—the fresher the better!
Coffee evolves every day, even every hour—you should be able to evolve with it.
What process do you use to drink coffee on the farms?
In most cases at farm level, it’s just hot water directly on the grounds in my actual mug. You let the grounds sit and start drinking or cup it. It’s not very sophisticate but I believe that the method allows us to bring out and distinguish different things in the coffee. Like cooking, if you have fresh ingredients you don’t have to do much.
When we go to farms, we always bring a small roaster with us. When we cup coffee, we do a light roast on site, grind the beans with our own grinder and pour hot water directly over the grinds, let it steep for four minutes so the grounds settle. We take the upper part out with a spoon and start slurping the coffee to understand the tastes.
When I enjoy a cup of coffee with the farmer, I just let them do it. Not only is it out of respect for the farmer and the different ways they do things, but when you’re at farm level, it’s really hard to have a bad cup of coffee.
Does the cup the coffee is drunk from matter much to you? Do you have a personal preference?
Porcelain, if I have it, is always my first choice. Not only does it have a feel to it that I love, it actually maintains the temperature. And if I preheat the cup, the temperature maintains much better than in a ceramic cup.
Are store-bought, mass-market coffee makers really so terrible? If so, what do they get wrong? Are there any you might recommend?
The stability, temperature control, and quality of the components are not the greatest. Furthermore, you really don’t have any control on the extraction and the extraction itself is not that great. When you’re a coffee geek like I am, you want to have control over everything you do. My recommendation is not to buy one. Get a french press or use a method where you can control every aspect of the extraction and grind. At the end of the day, you can make changes to your coffee to create that perfect cup. Coffee evolves every day, even every hour—you should be able to evolve with it.