Bryan Schiele talks about his life in coffee—as a young barista, a home brewer, an avid photographer, and the co-host of the I Brew My Own Coffee podcast.
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Cover photo by Michael Butterworth
Bryan Schiele is one half of the I Brew My Own Coffee podcast, where he and Brian Beyke talk about a wide variety of coffee topics intended for a large audience. Bryan (@letsbrew.coffee) has been on both sides of the espresso machine, getting his start at Starbucks in Phoenix, and continuing his coffee journey as an avid home brewer and coffee photographer. We talk to him about the podcast, the intersection of coffee and design, and how he views his role in the specialty-coffee community.
Ashley Rodriguez: Tell us about your background in coffee.
Bryan Schiele: Almost 20 years ago now, back when Starbucks was starting to open their first shops here in Phoenix, my dad and I would stop in for coffee a few times a week. Fast-forward a few years when I started working at the location nearest our home, spending about seven years in a green apron. A few years before the third wave started to take hold, I happened upon a small family-owned shop called Lux. The owner, a transplant to the valley from Seattle, was roasting their own beans, baking their own pastries, and pouring the very first latte art I had ever seen. From there, the crew at Cartel Coffee Lab got me started with manual brewing at home, and I haven’t looked back since.
AR: Tell us about the I Brew My Own Coffee podcast. Who is your intended audience? What do you hope to achieve?
BS: I Brew My Own Coffee has been a passion project that Brian Beyke (@abandoncoffee) and I have worked on in our spare time for the last few years. Before Brian started working at Quills, we were both just home brewing enthusiasts. Our audience is pretty diverse, from those new to coffee, to seasoned coffee professionals, and even a few notable coffee producers. Our main goal is always to cover a wide range of topics that interest folks at all levels in an approachable way, letting our guests share their knowledge and experience. In addition to the show, we’re also sending out periodic coffee recommendation newsletters and hosting a coffee-focused Slack team.
AR: How do you prepare for an episode?
BS: I’ve always approached the conversations with our guests from the perspective of an interested learner, rather than someone with a particular viewpoint to push. Admittedly, that’s pretty easy to do for me as someone who doesn’t work in coffee. We always try to keep things focused around a particular topic and collaborate with our guests on rough talking points prior to an episode. For all our planning, though, some of my favorite moments happen when discussions casually diverge from that script and we get to cover ground that our guest is passionate about. We’ll let a conversation go as long as seems comfortable, and haven’t yet tried to pin ourselves down to a specific time limit.
AR: Which guests or which episodes are your favorites?
BS: My favorite episode so far was Episode 32 with Wilford Lamastus Jr. from Elida Estate in Panama. It was the first time we’ve been able to speak with someone in a producing country, and our conversations about the history and impact of the Geisha variety in Panama was incredibly enlightening. A close second was Episode 54 where we simply played back our recording of the inspirational intersectionality panel at this year’s SCA Expo. Being able to use our platform to highlight issues that marginalized people face throughout the coffee industry was something Brian and I were extremely eager to do.
We’re hoping to have more episodes like that one in the future. Aside from these episodes, a few of our guests (Steve Rhinehart, Seth Mills, and Maxwell Mooney) have been kind enough to jump on for multiple shows. All our recurring guests have been incredibly supportive of the podcast, and it’s been great to get to know them on air and hear their take on a broad range of topics.
AR: Your Instagram account is filled with beautiful photos of coffee—how do you view the intersection of coffee and design?
BS: One of the things I love most about coffee happens to be one of the things I love most about design and photography: the details. When someone presents a coffee or product in a way that shows a passionate attention to detail, the experience can go from good to great. For me, thoughtful and consistent design, branding, or marketing are a lot like Van Halen’s ban on brown-colored M&Ms backstage at their concerts. If a company is willing to focus on the smallest of external details, I’m more likely to trust that they’ve paid the same attention to the internal details as well. While great design is nothing without a quality product, it’s hard for me to expect something exceptional wrapped in a careless package.
AR: How do you view your position as a home brewer in the dialogue about specialty coffee? How can we better include non-professionals in our discussions about coffee?
BS: With the abundance of quality coffee, education, and ease of online ordering, being a home brewer seems easier and more accessible than ever before. For me, the pendulum of nerdiness has swung to both extremes. In the beginning I took a simple approach, sticking to the fundamentals of manual brewing at home. As time went on, I found myself obsessively chasing an endless series of variables in pursuit of the best possible cup.
Today I’m probably somewhere in between those two extremes. What I’ve appreciated about the coffee industry is the support I received all along my journey. Whether I was looking for basic guidance and advice for getting started, or wanting to dive head-first down the rabbit hole, there was always a community of professionals who were willing to help. I found the most useful guidance from those professionals who approached me where I was without a lot of judgment or criticism. I feel like there’s a place at the table of discussion in coffee for both the novice and the ultra-nerd home brewer.
AR: Who are some of your coffee heroes? Why?
BS: Over the years I’ve been fortunate to personally meet a good number of my coffee heroes. Though many will go unnamed, Brian Beyke, Seth Mills, Jenn Chen, Liz Chai, Maxwell Mooney, Michelle Johnson, David Salinas, and Bethany Hargrove are just a few of the many coffee professionals that have had the greatest impact on me. Each of these individuals have contributed in some meaningful way to my coffee journey and pushed me to be as passionate about coffee and our community as I am today.
AR: What’s important to you in coffee? What do you want people to know about you?
BS: Over the years I’ve really grown to value those opportunities to connect with and support folks in the industry who do exceptional work. As a home brewer, I’ve found with very few exceptions an incredibly warm and welcoming community in coffee, so I’m always on the lookout for ways to give back. Whether it’s talking with a guest on the podcast, providing one-on-one feedback about a coffee or product, shooting content for someone’s social media, or even just buying a bag of beans, supporting the industry continues to drive the “why” behind a lot of what I do.