Drop Coffee Roasters, Stockholm
which has made itself known all over the world for its elegant coffee with a roasting that lets the origin of the coffee shine through.
When we first heard about Drop, we were on the other side of the globe. On a longer trip through New Zealand, we got to know really good coffee for the first time. During each visit to various roasteries and coffee shops, Drop was happily talked about as soon as we mentioned that we were from Sweden.
We heard so much about Joanna and her coffee that a trip to Drop was obvious as soon as we got home. Once in Stockholm, Joanna welcomed us with open arms to the roastery for a little hangout and the opportunity to cup her coffee. Our expectations were met with flying colors, in other words we were happy with Drop's high quality and Joanna's enthusiasm - the coffee was just as sparkling and interesting as Joanna herself.
We also visited Drop's café on Mariatorget (where everything started already in 2009) and got to know the friendly staff and try far too good espresso. After the visit to Stockholm, it was as obvious that Drop would be served at our own café, and it would be a welcome feature in an upcoming coffee-box.
Below is your chance to get acquainted with this wonderful coffee guru…
When we hear the name Joanna Alm we think of coffee, how did you get into coffee from the beginning?
I got into specialty coffee by running a café in Oslo 13 years ago. I could make hearts in coffee, but I knew nothing about the origin of coffee. One day I drank a coffee from Kenya and was completely overwhelmed by how coffee could taste. I began to understand the potential of coffee, what a subspecies it was, how it was grown and prepared. Then came roasting, brewing and presentation. I competed in the barista SM the following year and then went to visit the farm in Panama from which I used the coffee. It was a huge eye opener for me. After that, I just wanted to learn all about the entire production chain and how we can preserve and celebrate the flavors that are naturally found in a quality coffee.
You started Drop back in 2009. Can you tell us more about this trip?
In 2009, it was a lot about the brewing method itself. The perception was that "good coffee" was the same as espresso, brewed coffee could be had at home.
We challenged it by having a whole brew menu for different "single estate" brewed coffee.
After a while we started to roast ourselves on a 1.5 kilo Giesen roaster. We bought good coffee through partners such as Nordic Approach. Quickly when I started roasting, I wanted to stop blending, as it does not emphasize the taste of a unique coffee or the producer's hard work, and the following year we stopped with the dark roast.
I remember that I was ashamed to be too "nerdy" and never enjoyed the hipster stamp we got from working with a craft on Södermalm. I hid the scales as best I could when I brewed, afraid to scare away the guests.
We got a couple of resellers and saw this as a motivation to invest in a larger roaster and build a roastery. We bought a slightly too large roaster, but continued to do what we believe in and did not compromise on quality.
In 2015, I made a big investment in our work with sustainability and decided to only buy from farms I visited, and with guidelines in sustainability for the coffee we buy; it includes the environment, working conditions and finances. Today we work with a dozen farms that all produce high-end specialties and share visions with Drop Coffee.
What made you want to start roasting your own coffee and how did you learn?
I wanted a product that was the product that I myself loved and could develop and stand for. And then the only option was to do it yourself. I saw all the YouTube that existed and I read books, but most of it had aged badly. Today, there is much more knowledge available for those who want to start roasting, not least through SCA.
Between 2010-2012, all roasting was logged by hand, I drew curves and tasted every single coffee I roasted several times. Getting software on this and digital cupping protocols developed a lot in rust knowledge a lot. I still believe that every single cup can be made a little, a little tastier and constantly updating our rust curves.
As we understand, you grew out of your 1.5 kilo roasting machine that you started on fairly quickly. What happened to them in the first years and what made Drop hit so big internationally?
Yes, in 2012 we bought a larger roaster and invested in building a roastery. We competed in the Swedish championships and won in several disciplines. The fact that I came second, third and fourth in coffee roasting in the world championships meant that we sold more coffee to the rest of Europe and the world. That is why our communication is mainly in English.
Drop Coffee stands for a vision of sweet, pure flavors that do not compromise on quality to meet the market. The roasting is lighter, but with clearer and more intense flavors. This type of roasting is even more unusual in the world and many were curious. We also take a clear position in Coffee Price Crisis and how we work together with the producers. I have also volunteered a lot as a judge in barista competitions and started up the Coffee Roasters Guild and Europe and then the global Coffee Roasters Guild. Today I sit on the board of SCA, which is the global specialty coffee association.
It is exciting that you focus on a roasting profile that suits all brewing methods (Omni-roast). How did it come about and how do you succeed so well with this?
Regardless of which brewing method it is, I want to present the maximum of the coffee's flavors, from subspecies, the producer's job and country. If you roast too dark, those flavors disappear. Both on brewed coffee, french-press and espresso. An espresso became known from Italy for being dark and strong, it was because they bought poor quality coffee after World War II. If you instead have a coffee that is not defective, you can feel the coffee's potential. It is a positive circle that makes us need to buy extremely good specialty coffee, as no flavors can be hidden in the roasting. I strongly advocate that an espresso should taste of the origin of the coffee, regardless of the brewing method. If we just want chocolate, robust coffee on espresso, it limits us enormously in what flavors we can experience!
But for me, roasting is also an expression of coffee, a type of species. We know the coffee incredibly well and know what nuances are in the coffee.The producer hands over the coffee to me as a roaster as the finest product with the most possible potential taste, the same I want to do to the baristas and those who brew the coffee at home. Although it requires a little extra attention to get the optimal taste.
You like to visit the farms from which you import coffee, what is the most rewarding thing about having a close collaboration with the producers?
In 2014, I set a vision that was that we would buy the coffee that we loved, all coffee would cup over 87 points in my opinion, and from people we loved. Those were high goals then, but today it is true. The producers we work with are not only exceptionally good, they are wonderful people we know well. After several years of visiting each other and working on projects together, you get to know each other well and have a huge trust in each other.
Then there are some projects that feel more. Coffee is mainly produced in poor areas and has its roots in colonization. Changing these structures and paying a higher price for coffee creates a direct difference in a family's income year on year. We want to be a part of raising coffee prices further. Commercial coffee is priced so that only very large investors can create a profitable production.
So to notice that the coffee gets better but also to see the children have healthier clothes year after year is what is incredibly fun. And to be able to refine (roast) and present their product to the end consumer is an enormous pride. Then there are some projects I love a little extra, when we challenge how to process a coffee differently against the tradition in Bolivia or Nicaragua. As well as sustainability projects; a larger farm in Ethiopia where we contribute to a school, another farm in El Salvador, we have installed water purification filters and solar panels, etc.
You have written the book Manifesto for better coffee - can you describe a little bit about it and what made you write this nice book?
My biggest target group was to show those who drink dark commercial coffee an alternative, and a knowledge of why it is important what we pay for coffee. Today, a cup of commercial coffee costs 0,05 EU if it is brewed at home on the coffee maker, for 0,3 - 1 EU per cup you can get a nicely produced coffee that pays for the entire production chain. Put it in relation to what we pay for wine or soft drinks.
I wanted, in an understandable way, to explain how coffee production is done. Throughout the chain, from berries to cups. With the light on how the coffee is produced and where. When we ask each other "what coffee do you like?" so we should think about origin at least as much as roasting or brewing method, and ask questions about where the product comes from. I wanted to show that it is a conscious choice and what an enormously complex and fine product coffee is!
Therefore, I asked early on if we could take a photographer on a trip. Nature and Culture was responsible for arranging a photographer to both Costa Rica and Ethiopia, where we made step-by-step pictures of how the production goes.
What is your vision with Drop in the near future, something new and exciting going on?
We are releasing a coffee from Los Favoritos organized by the Alliance for Cup Of Excellence in August. And also an old favorite called Wote from Ethiopia the same month. Me and my partner (in Drop and in Life) Stephen Leighton are expecting children. So at the end of September, Drop Coffee will be a true family business :)
Many thanks Joanna for your time, you will rock like a mother :) Is there anything you would like to say to those who drink your coffee?
The pleasure is ours! So much fun that you are on Swerl's journey with really good coffee! I hope you like it. Thank you for buying good coffee and contributing to a better coffee world!
By the way, do you have any tips on how to brew Ana Sora best on brew versus espresso?
Regardless of the brew or espresso, read what the coffee has for potential flavors. These are your goal. Ana Sora is a light and juicy coffee with lots of flavors of blueberries and lemon. I love how sweet and sour it is combined!
As a brew: 32 grams of coffee to 500g 93-95 degree water. Grind the coffee slightly finer than powdered sugar. It should take about 3-3: 30 minutes for the coffee to brew. If the water flows through the coffee too fast, not all the taste and mouthfeel will come with it, then grind the coffee finer.
As an espresso: Let the coffee rest for at least 5 days after roasting.
Use a brew temperature (measure the temperature that actually comes out of the portafilter) of 93-96 degrees.
The most common challenge at home is to have a good enough espresso grinder, which can grind as finely ground as a non-dark roast needs. Make sure you can grind the coffee really well, otherwise it is better to run it as a brew at home.
To extract Ana Sora well, the goal is for you to get 2.2 times as much coffee drink as the ground amount, in almost 30 seconds. At the café, we have baskets that can hold 20 grams of coffee, but dose a little less so that the coffee can swell properly.
For Ana Sora, we dose 18 grams in and have 39-40 grams out in 30 seconds.
Do not be afraid to let it become a light and juicy cup.
For both brewing methods, I recommend stirring and also tasting the coffee when it drops slightly in temperature.
If you missed august coffee box you can still order the beautiful Ana Sora coffee here.