This week we wanted to give some insight to someone who works behind the scenes here at Method. Dustin Gregory is our extraordinary coffee roaster who every week is working so hard to supply hundreds of pounds of coffee. We wanted to thank him for all his hard work and let you guys know about the backbone of Method Roasters.
When and How did you get started in the coffee industry?
I got my start in coffee purely by happenstance. I moved back to Chicago after taking a semester off from school in January '07 just before my 21st birthday. I had one months' rent saved up, but I was otherwise broke with no prospects. My roommate put in a good word for me with his former manager, who hired me around April on the bottom rung of a Caribou Coffee on Michigan Avenue across from Millennium Park. So I'd say my start is pretty much the same as most in the industry--a lot of cleaning, and trying to stay out of people's way.
Chapter two was much more intentional. I started seeking more in coffee, and found myself trying my first cup of Intelligentsia. If my time at Caribou was like being in the first room of a party, that cup was a cracked door to where the real action was. I had decided to move back to San Antonio, so I began searching for the best show in town while trying to teach myself what I was learning were the fundamentals of where I needed to be. I remember watching a Youtube video on how to prepare a Chemex, and thinking that that particular one was the best I'd seen so far. It turned out to be a roaster in San Antonio, Aaron Blanco. My first week in town I dropped in to Brown Coffee Co to check it out and hand off my resume. I got the call, and for the next eight months or so I apprenticed under the tutelage of Blanco on the roasting side, as well as the whole team on the barista side. So I'd say my start in third wave is pretty much the same as most at this level of the industry--on the willing shoulders of others with far better competencies than myself.
Why did you Decide to start Roasting coffee?
Caribou fostered in me a genuine intrigue and love for coffee. To move up, though, often means moving away from the coffee. I wanted to focus on the beans more than the baristas at that time. I wanted to learn everything, and roasting seemed to be the best intersection of all things greens. And let's be honest, the idea of saying "I'm a coffee roaster" was just cool. Otherwise, the nature of coffee roasting, with the spectrum of comprehension that goes into it, the detail, the struggle, the craft, the creativity, the outlet, all fit too well with how my mind works, for better or worse.
What is the most memorable batch of coffee you have roasted? What was so special about it?
Dustin's Debacle. Early on in my apprenticeship, I butchered a batch of coffee. It was unusable. We put it into a bucket, titled it Dustin's Debacle, set it aside, and made a joke out of it. It was lighthearted and in good fun, but it was not lost on me how much my mistake cost, and even more sickening, what that looks like divvied out into 340 gram retail bags. I tend to come down hard on myself, and given the nature of roasting, I could see how a person could drive him/herself into madness with the wrong mentality. How Aaron handled my mistake set my perspective. Striving for perfection doesn't mean you have to beat yourself up when you fall short, or in the case of that batch, fail miserably. I absolutely hate hearing "it's just coffee;" but to mess up coffee definitely is not the end of the world. That single incident framed my mentality for how I approach roasting, and also how I interact with my colleagues. Like coffee, it's best to keep it light.
Where are some of your favorite places to source beans from? Why?
Colombian coffees tend to be my favorites, so anytime I can bring in something special and interesting from there I get amped. Otherwise I like to keep my ear to the ground for coffees coming out of developing regions within origins that already have great reputations. As these areas develop their programs, producers will be able to bring better greens to market and demand higher prices to help their farms and their communities.
Is there anything you want the readers to know about the coffee you roast?
I think what most people don't realize is how much care, intention, and love go into the coffees they drink. Growing coffee is hard work, and it’s very knowledgeable work. Processing methods have become ingenious. It takes a professional-level OCD just to get the greens into our hands. By the time I have a batch in the roaster, all I can do is find what the beans want to taste like, and not mess up all the work that went into this before it got to me. Baristas are starting to get their fair due respect, but people still, I don't think, recognize how much work and training goes on behind the scenes before you're even face to face with someone for your coffee order. That barista didn't spend 2 minutes working on your latte, they've (often) spent two years working toward that latte. And none of this painstaking work can happen at this level without a genuine love for what we're each doing individually, and all doing for the collective. All in the name of keeping the integrity of the whole chain to bring you a cup of warm, tasty kick to get you through your day.