BlackCat MotorCoffee: A Story About How I Almost Burned Down My House
Good morning and welcome to another episode of the BlackCatBlogClub. I am your host, Nick Galaura. Sorry.
So one of my favorite things to do is watch documentaries. I mean I love all documentaries...alot of serial killer documentaries, that show How it's Made, and if you haven't yet, go to Netflix and watch Evil Genius-SO good...but ALSO, I really used to enjoy those "Behind The Music" episodes that they would play on VH1-where you would get a small view into a super well known band or artist either as they came up to reach stardom or once they were established, how one event changed everything. Do they still have that? I don't have cable. Anyways.
I really enjoy documentaries and those super cheesy reenactments of how something came to be, because I love learning about the process. "How did you get here? What was the prototype like? Was it easy? Did you do whatever it is you did right the first time? Are you a magician? What's your favorite color? Is your cat nice? Do you have a cat? What is his/her name?" and so on and so on.
Here is a tiny documentary about how I started roasting coffee:
I knew literally 0 things about how coffee was "made". I didn't realize that beans actually started out as like a tiny little fruit-like a cherry! With a seed in it! And then that seed was dried (there are different ways that those seeds are dried too) and then that dried seed is sold as "green coffee" to roasters. Those roasters take that green coffee and build these flavor profiles and sometimes they give those profiles really fun roast names, which is why you can have 10 different coffees from 10 different shops, all with the same origin and they could possibly all taste different. And so if you don't know, now you know! (Thanks Notorious BIG)
When we first started BlackCat Motorcycles and Coffee back in 2016, I never even thought we would be roasting coffee. I just wanted the brick and mortar shop and I wanted to be in charge of ordering cool stuff and delicious coffee, made by anyone else that wasn't us-also high fives. And I didn't add "Coffee Roaster" to our description-NOT because I didn't want to, I just literally had NEVER even thought about that even being a possibility. At this point, coffee was just coffee and it was delicious and it was important and it was something that someone else can do because I don't know how and I'm scared.
So through Instagram (Btw. If you're starting a business, start a business instagram. It's the easiest marketing tool. Even before you have product, even if you just have the IDEA-start the instagram, generate a following, a brand, a culture. It's super rad and you have access to literally EVERYONE around you and across the country), we met a motorcycle based company named Chopper Coffee, later renamed Big Iron Trading Co. Mickey, the owner and roaster, had been asking for people to take pictures of people with his gear and in return he was paying coffee. SOLD.
So I reached out. We hung out. We talked about BlackCat and Chopper Coffee. And I asked if Mickey would be willing to build us a profile that was a "BlackCat Exclusive". And I thought that would be that, we would sell one coffee roast. Every month, we would just buy more, and that would be it! Easy.
So, as some of you may know: starting a business is expensive and everything costs money. And you ALSO probably know, that we did't have any. I mean, we WANTED to have money; money at the get-go would have been TIGHT. But nope, we were paying out of pocket and trying our best to generate as much traction as we could! We had maybe 300 instagram followers, and I'm pretty sure that 200 of them were robots...or Meme pages (Which is fine, but they don't buy coffee or t-shirts with cats on them). I mean, we sold out of that first roast in under 24 hours, it was amazing. But it just wasn't sustainable.
So I had to have the hard conversation with Mickey about how we were too poor to keep buying beans and supplies and paying for Mickey's time and from there...Well from there, I just got really sad because I thought the gig was up.
So I get on the internet, and Google, "Can you roast coffee in a house?" And thanks to the wonderful place that is the internet, I found out that you CAN! And there are ALOT of different (And super dangerous) ways to do it. So I watch every YouTube video that I can: gear reviews, homemade coffee roaster construction, roasters that people have made with butane torches, popcorn machines, ceramic pots, and then I find the Behmor 1600+-through Bodhi Leaf Coffee, who ALSO sells green coffee beans. ALL the green coffee beans. To anyone. You don't have to prove that you know what you're doing! Game over.
So after bothering Cory to approve buying this roaster, like a child begging their mom for the candy in the last few feet of the checkout counter at the grocery store, it's ordered, its on it's way and then the thing shows up. I am STOKED.
I am so stoked that I plug the thing right in.
I'm so stoked that I power it right on.
I'm so stoked that I don't even read the manual because I have watched over 100 hours of "How To's" and "Home Roaster Profile" videos that I am just ready to GO.
I weigh out the green coffee that smells like dirt, I put it in the little roller, I hit all the fancy buttons-I remembered what each of them did-I watched the video, this is fine. And it's ROLLIN! IT'S DOING IT! I'M DOING THE THING!
So the Behmor has this safety feature where at the last quarter of the timer, it makes sure that you're paying attention and it has a 30 second count down, I knew that and when it got there, I smashed that "start" button like nobody's business. At this point, I AM A TITAN OF INDUSTRY, I am feeling great-this is gonna be a thing. We're gonna save money on labor and this is the best move that BlackCat could have made.
...and I walk away to probably check Instagram or pet my cat.
Not even 10 seconds later, EVERY smoke alarm in my house is going off. There are 4. They are all loud and they are MAD. I run over to the roaster, the brand new roaster we just bought...and theres FIRE COMING OUT OF THE TOP. FIRE. So I'm screaming, I'm trying to unplug the machine, the smoke alarms are screaming, I'm pretty sure the cats are screaming. Everyone's screaming.
Needless to say the coffee was DELICIOUS...
It wasn't even coffee, I had professionally made cigarette ash.
And that is the story of the first time I ever roasted Coffee for BlackCat. It was the worst and I was terrible at it. But eventually, I started to really understand the process, really paying attention to how each bean reacts to heat, how different weights and different volume affects each roast, and most importantly: how to keep every roast consistent to the BlackCat brand. We even come up with some fun names, which is one of my favorite parts.
Usually when something terrible or frustrating happens, or when a plan that Cory and I feel like is FOOL PROOF-even for us-totally tanks, I always try to say, "This is going to be a great story when we're done being super pissed about it." And I mean, for the most part, it's really true.
This entire business is one big failure AND success story and I think that even outside of just business, I could say the same thing about my life. And that's kind of tight. I've started saying, "tight" more, don't really know how I feel about it.
Happy Wednesday. -- Nick