I fell into the world of specialty coffee somewhat by accident. I took a year off while getting my undergraduate degree, and, without a car, found myself with limited work opportunities in the neighborhood surrounding my parents’ house. I dropped in an application at the local coffeehouse and was behind the bar within a week, learning how to extract espresso and steam milk. I found the fast-paced cafe environment to be strangely energizing and began spending my days off visiting other cafes locally and sampling a wide variety of coffees from around the country.
Soon after taking that job, I happened upon a video online of the United States Barista Championship, a coffee service competition that takes pits the best baristas in the country against one another. I was immediately inspired and excited by the level of passion and professionalism displayed by the baristas competing and resolved that I would try to create coffee service that mirrored barista competition in Cincinnati.
The opportunity to do so came sooner than I thought. Less than a year after stepping behind an espresso machine for the first time, I met someone looking to open a coffee shop in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Cincinnati. I jumped at the opportunity to develop a cafe menu from scratch, and soon, M5 Espresso was born, with a small, rotating menu of coffees from some of the best roasters around the world. In that space, I was able to experiment with brewing technology and a wide variety of signature drinks and train a staff of baristas to efficiently and consistently serve high-caliber drinks. I also was able to work with other local businesses including restaurants, bakeries, and cafes to design coffee programs to suit their customers.
Unfortunately, M5 closed its doors in November of 2017 after a change in ownership and a number of difficulties with the building we were renting. While it was disheartening to see that cafe shuttered after so much work, it also presented me with an opportunity to help an old friend to open a new cafe in Cincinnati’s northern Madeira neighborhood. La Grassa opened in December of 2017, and I joined their staff in February. The cafe pairs coffees from Intelligentsia with housemade gelatos and sorbettos. La Grassa’s menu is streamlined and simple, with a strong focus on local dairy and seasonal ingredients.
Through my experience at both M5 and La Grassa, I’ve gained a lot of insight on what makes coffee shops work, from equipment to staffing to menu development and beyond. I love helping businesses and individuals to up their coffee game, so if you’re interested in chatting about it, please get in touch through the Contact page in the menu above.