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10 Questions with Case Coffee

In a new series, we meet an array of west coast coffee roasters. Up this week: Case Coffee from Ashland, Oregon.

 Case opened in 2006 as coffee shop catering to the college crowd from nearby Southern Oregon University. Tim and Kati Case, the shop’s owners, were barely college-aged themselves at the time (both were only 20—and the young married couple have been together since they were 16). But they graduated to roasting their own beans in 2011, and are studied in their focus on high-quality single-origin microlots, which they roast for both drip coffee and espresso. (They do have a simple blend—generally containing only two or three ingredients—called Epiphany. It changes depending on what coffees are in season.) Tim cites World Barista Champion and general man-about-coffee James Hoffman with influencing his foray into roasting (he also says he gets his news from Sprudge and the Coffeegeek podcast).

Case is about two miles south of the town’s main drag, which is dominated by the restaurants and hotels that serve visiting hoardes of theater-goers all summer long. Ashland, home to the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), is worth planning a dedicated trip to anytime between February and October. When you go, visit Case for an injection of youthfulness (the theater crowd is on the elderly side, despite major efforts by OSF to reach out to young audiences).

While you’re in town, stop by Ashland’s other quality-focused coffee roaster, Noble. Both are putting on an impressive show.

Good to know: Closed on Sundays
Address: 1255 Siskiyou Boulevard, Ashland, OR 97520
Website: http://casecoffeeroasters.com

Left Coast Roast: What inspires your roastery and your roasting?

Case Coffee: The thing that inspires us is giving people their coffee “epiphany,” which is also the name of our house espresso. I remember the first time I really tasted coffee, a natural from Ethiopia roasted by Stumptown—I was blown away by the strawberry juiciness. I didn’t know flavors like that existed in coffee and now we want to share it with others. It’s too amazing not to share.

How would you describe your roasting style?

Light and bright. Take it to the sweet spot, and no further.

What kind of roasting equipment do you use and what do you love about it?

We roast on a 1950 Otto Swadlo 7 kilo roaster. It was hand-cast in Otto’s small shop in Vienna, Austria. I love the history and the craftsmanship that went into making it, and how rare it is. There only six or seven in production in the world, as far as we know.

How did you start roasting?

I home-roasted for fun for a few years while we serving coffee from other roasters in our cafe (we used the multiple-roaster model for a while and served Verve, Intelligentsia, and Noble [also from Ashland]). When my results were consistently tasting just as good as these other great roasters, we started thinking, Why not? We took a chance and bought Otto.

(1) Tell us about the most memorable coffee you’ve roasted, (2) how you roasted it, and (3) what most excited you about it.

(1) Kenya Gaturiri from the Nyeri region, (2) I charged it hard at the beginning, then slowed it down right before first crack to keep it light but fully developed—this Kenyan is all about bright grapefruit and raspberry sweetness and a short profile brings that out, and (3) its candy-sweet aromatics and crazy juicy raspberry and grapefruit flavor.

Single origins or blends?

Single origin but blends are a lot of fun too.

What’s your personal preference: espresso or filter?

They are completely different and I like them both.

Do you have a favorite way to make coffee?

Chemex.

What do you love about the coffee scene in Ashland?

People are willing to pay $3 to $4 and wait four minutes for a pour over and that’s pretty cool. Quality is catching on!

What’s the best thing about being a coffee roaster?

Being able to hand select the green coffees you purchase and roast them how you want.

Preferred soundtrack for roasting?

Hip-hop and country, but only on special occasions.