Episode 29: Chris Capell

Brew The Right Thing

“When I have a really well made cup of coffee, I’ll notice my worldview will literally shift. There’s something in there that makes you feel like the world’s a better place.”

“I can take the best bean in the world, the best roast in the world, the best machine in the world, and I can still make something that is utterly undrinkable. I don’t want to say that most of the flavor in a coffee comes from the brewing, but which flavors come out in your cup can be massively shifted by your barista.”

“If you’re going to fail, fail sooner.”

“I’ve gotten close to that level of caffeine consumption, and I can verify that it’s near-hallucinatory at that point. You start seeing and hearing things that aren’t there.”

An Incisive Vision

Chris Capell is the founder and former owner of Le Couteau, a Montreal coffee hub now integrated into the Cafe Myriade brand, and the founder and owner of the Montreal Coffee Academy.

The Coffee Episode!

This is THE episode! I had this one circled on my agenda many times and, dare I say, it delivered. It’s the coffee episode!

Regular listeners on the show know that I am a big fan of the dark, blissful miracle that is called coffee. It was quite exciting to welcome Chris, one of Montreal’s best coffee minds, into the studio for an episode on the subject.

How Many Waves Does It Take To Brew A Cup Of Coffee?

Our time together was spent going over some necessary topics. First off, what is progressive coffee? Is it the same as Third Wave coffee? What were the first two waves? Thankfully, Chris clears up some basic definitions and ideas such as these, and sets the stage in explaining to us the many steps of brewing a delicious cup. From how the earth and growth process affect taste to the method of extraction itself, we go through the step-by-step best practices that can produce a coffee flavor worth celebrating.

And we don’t stop there! We also talk about the origins of espresso, the Japanese influence on coffee, which coffee growing culture eats popcorn with their java (an idea I will definitely implement into my own routine), and much, much more.

Is your inner coffee geek getting excited yet?

Running A Coffee Business

We dove into some of the nuances of what it takes to run a successful business in the food sector. Chris shares some of the highs and lows of his own experience, and tells us what he would do differently if he had to start from scratch.

He also happens to be a lot of fun around a microphone. Stories come quick and easy, and his naturally candid style meant that no question was off the table! A podcaster’s dream!

100% Delicious, Every Day

I pride myself in the consistency of my delicious, daily pour-overs, but this was an earned skill! There is no doubt in my mind that Chris is 100% responsible for gracing my life with the capacity to fix the little mistakes that made my coffees fluctuate from bitter to acerbic. This episode cemented some notions and best practices, and I can’t wait for the next cup!

May all you coffee-drinkers out there be blessed with a delicious cup on the daily!

Chris Capell on The SpiritBros Podcast!

Want to spend more time with Chris? Check out these links:

Try out a workshop or book some consulting at The Montreal Coffee Academy.

Chris on Twitter.

 

SHOW NOTES

TIME MARKERS

  • [5:14] “We’re not worthy!”

  • [5:44] What is Chris’ favorite song to play on the Ukulele?

  • [11:29] How Chris got into film, TV, and video game production before his coffee career.

  • [15:14] Chris on why he goes all-in with passions and work.

  • [16:19] Chris’ origin story with coffee.

  • [17:54] Progressive Coffee (also know as Third Wave coffee).

  • [19:44] “Buying an espresso machine to just have a coffee in the morning is like buying a vintage Vespa scooter in order to go from home to work. You’re going to get from home to work, but you’re also going to spend a lot of your time in the garage on the weekend tinkering with it, and trying to order parts that aren’t being made anymore online and in forums with Vespa owners, and stuff like that. And that’s exactly what espresso is at home.”

  • [21:04] Is espresso the summit of coffee-making? On espresso and its origins.

  • [22:59] On the nuance between the quality of ingredients and the brewing method used in determining the quality of a cup of coffee.

  • [24:44] “The actual, technical lethal dose for caffeine is really, really high.”

  • [25:24] “I’ve gotten close to that level of caffeine consumption, and I can verify that it’s near-hallucinatory at that point. You start seeing and hearing things that aren’t there.”

  • [29:04] What does five seconds change in espresso brewing? A LOT!

  • [29:44] “I can take the best bean in the world, the best roast in the world, the best machine in the world, and I can still make something that is utterly undrinkable. I don’t want to say that most of the flavor in a coffee comes from the brewing, but which flavors come out in your cup can be massively shifted by your barista.”

  • [31:14] Chris walks us through the steps of cultivating a coffee bean and how each step impacts the end result.

  • [36:44] What is roasting?

  • [38:24] What is the difference between a ‘greener’ bean and a darker roast?

  • [40:44] “When you give people a chance to taste a lighter roasted coffee, and a couple of different ones next to each other, it’s a real revelation.”

  • [41:14] Chris on the origins of the term “Third Wave Coffee.”

  • [44:29] ‘Classical’ espresso and the laws in Italy that govern what a true espresso is.

  • [45:24] The very beginnings of progressive coffee in 1975.

  • [48:44] On the number of compounds that have been found in coffee.

  • [52:14] “Coffee is still the foodee bargain.”

  • [55:44] On the process of extraction of coffee from the coffee bean and how to extract the optimal amount for flavor.

  • [59:04] “That’s a surprise question!”

  • [1:00:04] Chris gives his play-by-play of Pete’s coffee making technique.

  • [1:01:14] On Japanese coffee.

  • [1:05:29] Can Chris still go out and enjoy a simple cup of coffee?

  • [1:07:14] “When I have a really well made cup of coffee, I’ll notice my worldview will literally shift. There’s something in there that makes you feel like the world’s a better place.”

  • [1:11:14] On how at one point in history, coffee was considered a disruptive element.

  • [1:13:44] Chris on committing to coffee as a career in 2009.

  • [1:15:44] “I’m kind off a reluctant entrepreneur.”

  • [1:19:14] What did Chris learn in his year spent working at Myriade?

  • [1:22:04] On the years it took to find the perfect space to open his cafe, ‘The Knife.’

  • [1:23:59] On the end of the peak of St-Denis as an industrial street and the negative effect it had on Chris’ cafe.

  • [1:26:14] Chris on the hustle required to make money with a coffee business, and some things he would have asked and done differently as he was starting.

  • [1:27:34] “A really good restaurant makes about an 8% margin.”

  • [1:29:59] Was it bittersweet to sell the Knife and how did he find a buyer?

  • [1:36:14] On starting the Montreal Coffee Academy while he was running the Knife.

  • [1:39:44] On the value of a great partnership agreement when co-founding a company.

  • [1:42:14] What advice would he give himself as a budding entrepreneur?

  • [1:44:34] How does one find resilience when facing the challenges of entrepreneurship?

  • [1:52:14] “Don’t negate the possibility of just packing it in.”

  • [1:53:14] “If you’re going to fail, fail sooner.”

  • [1:59:04] Chris on some of his mentors.

  • [2:00:29] “If there’s a cautionary tale in any of this stuff it’s: you need more information than you think you do. Talk to more people.”

  • [2:01:14] What is Chris’ best failure?

  • [2:02:29] What is Chris’ vision or dream for 10 years from now?

  • [2:05:59] En-Lightning Round.

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