You’ll Want to Be Included in Pilcrow Coffee’s Narrative
Every coffee roaster has a story and we had the chance to catch up with Ryan Hoban, Director of Coffee at Pilcrow, to learn about Pilcrow Coffee’s story. Between winning America’s best espresso and cold brew in 2017 to crafting a one-of-a-kind nitro cold brew, Pilcrow has had quite the first year in business and we’re here for it all. If you don’t know who Pilcrow is, we’re here to introduce this flourishing coffee roaster to you. Coffee ‘N Clothes readers, meet Ryan Hoban and Pilcrow Coffee…
How and when did you get your start in the coffee industry?
My start in the coffee industry was atypical I think. I was living in Chicago and owned a small storefront window cleaning business. We cleaned storefronts off Danish cargo bikes and many of our original customers were local specialty coffee shops. One of these shops became my defunct office. While I would be there working on sending out invoices or emailing clients I noticed they would roast coffee right there in the shop. I instantly became enamored by the theater of the entire sensory experience from the roasting to the actual preparation of the coffee. I started to make my way from sugary lattes to iced coffee to regular coffee and eventually to straight espresso. It was quite the journey and I became increasingly more excited about new tasting experiences with coffee than cleaning windows. I figured there was a career change necessary and sold my portion of the window cleaning business to my partner and took a job at the cafe in Chicago as the Director of Operations. Not one week into the role and the lead roaster had quit, so I was thrust into coffee roasting and green coffee buying early on in 2015 and haven’t looked back since.
How long has Pilcrow Coffee been in business? Tell us the story of Pilcrow Coffee!
Pilcrow Coffee has been around for 1 year almost exactly. Shortly after taking my first job in specialty coffee I knew I wanted to roast and prepare coffees a certain way and that led to a change in environments and myself pursuing starting Pilcrow Coffee here in Milwaukee, WI. I loved Chicago and all the city had to offer, but with a young family was excited to move closer to where I grew up. Pilcrow has had a good run this first year. I knew I wanted to focus on Nitro Cold Brew as a way to differentiate ourselves in the local market of Milwaukee.
There are a handful of coffee roasters locally, but they all have been around, for the most part, 20+ years. I started the first nitro cold brew program in Chicago and saw the response and wanted to bring that here to Milwaukee before another roaster did. A few months after starting Pilcrow we entered a national cold brew competition to see how we stacked up and somehow won the Title of America’s Best Cold Brew, 1st Place. This helped not only affirm what we were doing but also helped our brand grab some local attention. We then entered America’s Best Espresso competition a few months after that and again amazingly won the Title of America’s Best Espresso. That competition was crazy to me because I had literally pulled about 30 shots of espresso in my life before we entered that competition!
So low and behold, we are a small batch roaster who sources the best coffees we can get our hands on. We roast 8lb batches at a time on a Diedrich Coffee Roaster in the Brewer’s Hill neighborhood of Milwaukee, WI. We have a focus on kegged coffee products that we wholesale to other coffee shops, bars and restaurants locally, as well as, some amazing single origin coffees and our Storyteller Blend for wholebean wholesale programs as well. Our only retail outlets are our Tasting Room which seats 12 people and is connected to our production space. We have a 2-Group Slayer Steam currently in use for espresso service. The Tasting Room is open 8-2p for the public and potential wholesale clients to get a glimpse of what we are trying to put out there in regards to coffee.
Where does the name Pilcrow come from?
The Pilcrow is the typographical symbol used to denote a paragraph, the backwards P thing. When thinking through the branding I wanted a name in front of us that reminded me of why we started this whole thing. I find a lot of humility in the Pilcrow as it is only used in rough drafts and never present in the final version. So we want to aspire to be a company of humility. Also, the Pilcrow helps in a sense form a narrative, and we see that as our role as well. We hope to connect consumers to the story of their coffee from the producer to the cup and we feel a responsibility to connect people to that narrative without making the narrative about us.
Where do your coffee beans come from?
All Over. Some origins we tend to love though are Brazil, Guatemala, Panama, Kenya, Burundi, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Colombia
What is your best-selling brew?
Beans: Storyteller Blend or Gicherori Kenya
Drinks: Nitro Cold Brew or Sweet & Creamy Nitro Latte
What is your #1 tip for making good coffee at home?
Consistency is key. Figure out a way to make coffee taste great for you at home and focus on replicating that experience. Also, some awesome tools are a scale, burr grinder, and filtered water!
What makes the Pilcrow nitro stand out from the rest?
I don’t know…I don’t have any little secret. We use freshly roasted coffee and brew a standard cold brew recipe…I honestly think a lot of it is the quality of the green coffees we source. We try to find the best raw materials we can because through the chain of roasting and brewing you are only going to screw up the coffee….so the goal is to screw it up as little as possible and have an amazing product in the end! I have been doing Nitro Cold Brew since 2015 so that does help.
How do you drink your coffee?
I either do a pour over, espresso, nitro cold brew or if I am looking for something sweeter, a Cortado.
What is your daily uniform?
Vans, Levi Jeans, Pilcrow Coffee Sweatshirt, Ebbets Hat
When you aren’t drinking coffee, what are you drinking?
Do you think the mentality around coffee in Wisconsin is different than in other parts of the world?
Wisconsin is unique in the fact that there are some amazing coffee experiences across the state. I feel the tides are finally turning right now where Specialty Coffee will be more in demand and educated consumers will be pushing the roasters to evolve into a more 3rd wave coffee roaster. I think cities like Chicago and Portland get a lot more press than we do here in Wisconsin but we do have some amazing coffee culture with Ruby Coffee, Kickapoo Coffee, Colectivo, Pilcrow Coffee and others…
Do you have plans to expand? Possibly open a separate coffee shop?
Retail is sexy! I would love to have a traditional café someday. I love the idea of creating a coffee space for our community and presenting our coffees in a way that honors the hard work of the farmers. When that happens is sight unseen at this point but hopefully, it will be sooner than later!
We are so excited to see what’s in store for Pilcrow this year and we will definitely be on the lookout for a traditional Pilcrow café. Until then, head on over to their website to shop their coffee and learn about wholesale opportunities.