Making Coffee for Blue Bottle's Founder, James Freeman

January 26, 2016

Anyone who’s known me for longer than a few years would’ve thought I was lying when I told them I offered to make James Freeman, the founder of Blue Bottle, coffee.

While my high school friends were busy guzzling caramel mocha what-have-yous, and my college classmates slurped black coffee to survive finals week, I proudly stuck my nose up and recited, “I’ll stick with tea.”

And I did just that, until three years ago when I interned for the Good Food Awards in San Francisco and discovered that my boss loved to conduct meetings at her favorite coffee shop, Four Barrel. Seems silly to order tea at a place that’s known for its great coffee, I thought at our first meeting. Do they even serve tea? A cappuccino seems...approachable. As I quickly learned, spend more than a week in San Francisco, and you will learn to like coffee.

That’s a dare.

Fast forward a few years and the food geek in me — the part that obsesses over tools, methods, and ingredients — has officially staked a claim to the beverage, and she’s not letting go. My kitchen cabinet is filled with Blue Bottle, Stumptown, Cuvee, a scale, a Hario grinder, a clever dripper, a thermometer, and an aeropress.

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Top Comment:
“Can't wait for you to make me some coffee Ali !!! Fabulous read !!!”
— Robin E.

So when our COO Bridget asked for a brave soul to make some coffee for a visitor—and not just any visitor, but Blue Bottle’s CEO and Founder James Freeman—I raised my hand hesitantly. With cheers of encouragement from my co-workers, I beelined to the Chemex, which is one of the three brewing devices we have in our office, and the only one I know how to use.

Typically I aim for 40 to 50 grams of coffee with a coarse-ish grind, and about 750 grams of 200° F water. I let the grinds “bloom” for 30 seconds with 80 grams of water (translation: I pour twice the coffee’s weight in water over the grinds and let it sit), and then slowly pour the hot water over the now wet grinds. Four minutes later: coffee.

This process might be right, it might be wrong, and it might take a Goldilocks approach of “somewhere in the middle.” It works for me and none of my coworkers have complained yet—but how would it work for James?

I decided "winging it" wouldn't work this time around: I hit up this trusty guide, watched some video tutorials, and decided to switch things up. I ground more coffee. I heated extra water. And sure enough, a few minutes into the process, the doubt started to creep in. Why would I switch things up? My process worked! What if it tastes wrong?! What if the baristas find out I served the CEO of Blue Bottle horrible coffee and I lose my coffee aficionado license! Surely that’s a thing.

So how did it turn out? Did James like it? Did he spit it out? Was it the best cup of coffee he ever had? Admittedly, I never asked, but it sure was lovely to meet him.

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Micki Balder

Written by: Micki Balder

Software Engineer at Food52


Robin E. February 1, 2016
Can't wait for you to make me some coffee Ali !!! Fabulous read !!!
Micki B. January 27, 2016
Thanks everybody!
Jackie S. January 27, 2016
Such a fun read!
Olivia B. January 26, 2016
My go-to coffee gal since day 1.
Leandra January 26, 2016
LOVE this! Reigning Coffee Queen of F52
ClaireS January 26, 2016
Where can I get those fabulous coffee cups with the low, long handle?
Ali S. January 26, 2016
They're from Heath:
Sarah January 26, 2016
What about the other darker mug, where is that from? :)
Connor B. January 26, 2016
Micki, this is great!