Coffee Query: Ken Flood, Love Supreme
Ken Flood has been 'around a coffee machine, part time' for the past 9 years, with the last 2 becoming full-time since he co-started Love Supreme in Stoneybatter.
What got you into coffee and what’s kept you in coffee?
Drinking it got me into it. Living in Australia, where the cafe culture is well developed, a lot of your social life is based in cafes - as time went on, I was noticing I preferred one coffee over another, and wanted to find out why that was. Asking what beans they used, trying to find out why I liked it more. Then I got an espresso machine at home, and then that really made me start experimenting with different beans and tastes and extractions and so on - y’know, for fun! Not in any serious way..
I came home from Australia on holiday in 2009, for the first time in 9 years, and again in 2011, and I noticed a huge shift in coffee in Dublin. The interest was really starting to grow very fast, there was a developing culture there, being driven by the recession. It was too expensive to socialise in pubs, and people wanted a different option. So we thought there was a niche, a business model to develop, to get stuck into. We (myself and my wife, Katie) wanted to move to Europe, and we made the conscientious decision that we wanted to do coffee - so the moment we arrived in Dublin we started looking for a roaster, and that was how we found Ferg [owner of Roasted Brown].
What have been your favourite coffees, both in filter and as espresso?
Mm, jaysis, what a difficult question! The Kamwangi on filter I’d say, which might be an obvious choice - a Kenyan. It was in an Aeropress - loads of body, and probably one of the first really hugely berryish Kenyans I’ve had - it may almost be over the top for some people, almost not like coffee! I had it last year, around June or July - so I’m looking forward to that again this year. And actually, around the same time, was one of the maddest espressos I've had at that time as well - a Wote, Ethiopian - it was roasted for filter, and we put it through the espresso machine, and it was…well, mad. Great.. exciting! It had a really bright, sparkly high-end, but had a lovely caramel vibe to it as well, which was so exciting as an espresso shot. They were both from Roasted Brown.
What’s your home coffee setup?
I have an Aeropress; an Isomac Venus espresso machine, which is a small, one-group, home machine..but it’s kind of gathering dust now because I live four minutes away from here, so this is my new coffee machine. Ha. I also have the Zero dripper, which I like to use occasionally. My grinder is also an Isomac - a Granmacinino, and I have a regular kettle. Again, I drink most of my filter here!
Where do you want Dublin/Ireland’s coffee culture to develop next?
Customer education! I think if everybody who’s involved in high-end coffee pushed people, as regards feeding people information about coffee - what makes it good or bad, then [high-end coffee], well-made, could become the norm going forward. It’ll be what’s expected. Even a simple thing, like if milk is burnt - what does that smell like? What does that taste like and how does it affect sweetness? And the more knowledge customers have, the more demanding they’ll be, and the more demanding they are, the faster and further forward coffee culture will move - a sharing of information. Not in a snobby way, people don't have time for that, but more, "Check this out! This is awesome! Give it a go!"
Who’s someone you admire in coffee?
Well, there’s a guy in Australia called Toby Smith, of Toby’s Estate. I followed his story - from roasting coffee in his mother’s back garden to supplying 400+ or something cafes in Australia, and now he’s opened a couple places in Singapore and New York..amazing success story, but everything was done in a genuinely enthusiastic and down to earth way, and it was a right-time, right-place type scenario. It was just moving to see everybody just moving along with it. He’s a real down-to-earth guy, and he was making this designer coffee, 12-13 years ago. He’s one of them.
Colin Harmon, too - I think he’s done a huge amount for coffee in Ireland. I mean, he was pushing against the flow - people must’ve been very confused about what he was doing, but he kept going, so fair play to him. He’s taken a lot of people along with him, too, and I think Ferg [Brown] is the same.
What advice would you give to somebody just starting out in your field?
Develop a genuine interest, and get a genuine joy out of coffee because of the interest, because there’s f*ck-all money in it! [laughs] Well, let's just say it's hard to make money out of.
What are you drinking now?
There was a Burundian from Roasted Brown recently - their Buziraguhindwa, and I absolutely loved it. Rob [Lewis] from Roasted Brown made me an espresso of it, and it was just lovely. It was really entertaining and exciting - just spectacular. We had it here for a week, and what a great week. Specifically, the one that he made me that day, outside, was probably one of the best espressos I’ve ever had. Other than that, I’m just waiting for a nice natural filter to come along, like their Don Mayo - but I’m all about espresso at the moment. Lovin' it!