We've been more and more active lately on Instagram in the home manual brew coffee niche and the content from Ian Namiotka of @1to16_ratio has stood out above the crowd. His posts on the art and science of coffee, home roasting, brew methods, and manual brewing equipment reviews combined with beautiful coffee photos has made his feed and stories a pleasure to dig into. Here's his background and journey into the world of coffee.
Where are you located and can you introduce the readers to your coffee background and how coffee is a part of your life now?
I am currently located in Cleveland, Ohio, about 20 minutes west of downtown. I have been living in the area since the beginning of 2020, just a month or two before COVID hit. Previously, I was in Salt Lake City, Utah, with my parents, moving out there after graduating from college in 2018 with my degree in Industrial Design. I have moved around a lot over the past 25 years, which is a lot considering most of my high school and college friends have lived in the same house up until graduating college. Coffee for me, wasn’t really a thing until I turned 17-18. Before then, my parents didn’t want me to drink it, for whatever reason – not like it was alcohol (which I’ve yet to try…and don’t ever plan on). I am really not sure where the interest in pour-over coffee, or really coffee in general started. At the time, I was still in Ohio (before moving to Utah), and I remember picking up my first Hario pour-over set sometime around ’12-‘13, at a small shop in Hudson Ohio. The owner and I talked for a while, and she shared some information with me, none of which I remember. All I know is that the conversation certainly piqued my interest in coffee – with no clue as to what I was about to get myself into. For most of the seven or so years, I brewed with a pretty basic setup. I had the same Hario setup for the longest time (with the plastic dripper,) plus a simple kettle and scale. For a while I just used a blade grinder, but eventually upgraded to the Hario Skerton grinder, that I still have. Now that I have a Encore, it stays in the closet most of the time, then not.
I don’t like to say coffee is my life because it’s not. It’s one part of many that is contained within my soul – but it’s not looked at as a necessary element to sustain a life, that in any minute, could be blown away like a grain of sand, or simply return to dust. Utah, is really where my passion for coffee was kicked into high gear, for lack of a better phrase. For the longest time I was just sitting at home job searching, hoping to land a role in my field. Little did I know, my own plans were extremely frail. It wasn’t until April of 2019, that I landed a role at a local coffee shop. I came in knowing just enough to get started, but also extraordinarily little, adding enough to the learning curve, in order to set goals. Although that role only lasted exactly nine months (leaving for Ohio the first week of 2020) that role showed that maybe I had something going here. That, maybe design wasn’t going to be the entire journey, but at least part of it in some ways. Little did I know that a global pandemic was about to come like a thief in the night, really putting all “my plans” on hold. I now work as a Barista at Starbucks, which to be entirely transparent, was a place I told myself I wouldn’t ever work at for the longest time, because it wasn’t what “I wanted.” Although, Starbucks is not what I would define as specialty coffee (though they claim they are,) if there is one thing I can take from the job, it’s a better grasp on customer service and how to interact with people, whether that be my coworkers, or the customers. I don’t see myself at Starbucks forever, but regardless of that, I need to take in as much as I can for however long I am there. - Where do I see myself in the future of the coffee industry? I don’t know just yet, but I am confident that there are big things ahead for me. That although the coffee industry, much like the design industry, is “overly saturated” - with there being more people interested / working in the area, than there are jobs available; I still see myself being a part of the coffee industry, applying what I know to either showcase coffee in a different way, or contributing something new altogether. Opening my own shop / roastery, would be like the adding the cherry on top of the sundae. Starting a business in general, scares me and makes me question if I have what it takes to do just that, but as the saying goes, if your dreams don’t scare you, then you aren’t dreaming hard enough.
It appears you're deep into home manual brew coffee. Can you tell our readers more about this passion, your equipment, favorite roasts and recipes.
As far as home brewing goes, you name it, I probably have it. Okay not everything, but the current collection is up to about 10 brewers. V60, Kalita, Beehouse, Siphon, Aeropress, Chemex, Stagg XF, Clever, French Press, Espresso maker (Flair).
As far as roasts go, I’m a stickler for light roasts, and on very rare occasions will I choose I medium roast. And quite frankly, the times I have had a medium, have been when I purchase specialty grade coffee from a grocery store, and the roast level stated on the bag, wasn’t exactly truthful. And in that case, I would end up brewing it as cold-brew, showing the coffee better and ultimately standing up to my personal preferences in terms of flavor, body, sweetness, and acidity – even with the coffee being my least favorite end of the roast spectrum.
I can’t really say I have a favorite brewer – although if I was honest, I would say my Siphon is a super invigorating way to brew coffee. It’s anything but easy, because there is a lot that happens in a short amount of time, and if you are not paying close attention, you’ll end up with a majorly over-extracted brew. Every brewer has its unique qualities – so saying that one brewer is better than the other, is a highly probable statement.
How I drink my coffee now, is a lot different than how I used to drink it. Like most people, I started out drinking a lot of coffee at Starbucks, filling the cup with more cream than anything, and drinking those sugar laden caramel macchiatos, that now, I have idea why I put myself through that. I only drink black coffee now, that is, unless I decide to get a milk based drink at Duck Rabbit Coffee, which are few and far between. When I do, it is usually a cortado – I love the smaller size, and it allows me to really take in the espresso. The milk in this case is just the right amount that it brings out some additional sweetness and acidity from the coffee.
In the last year or so, since starting my Instagram – I have really begun to step out of my comfort zone and try things I wouldn’t normally do. For the longest, even after picking up my Fellow EKG, I continued brewing most of my coffee at about 195 degrees, but in the last few months, I almost strictly brew at 205, but no lower than 200 (the Aeropress, is likely the only brew I’ll ever experiment with at a lower temperature). Since changing that variable, I’m extracting a lot more out of my coffee – and noticing a huge difference in cup to cup. Bloom time for me sticks around 30 to 40 seconds – I have heard of people blooming as long as 120sec, but I don’t see much value in blooming any longer than 30 / 40sec. The one variable to blooming that I have changed is how much water I bloom with. My preference was about 2:1, but I was reading somewhere not too long ago, that a 3:1 bloom is more desirable. Although I haven’t done much, if any, experimenting, to see if that helps with overall extraction, I’d like to argue that it is probably one of the variables that is really helping me to achieve greater results. My ratio preference is to always start off with 16:1 for new coffee, but I enjoy using any ratio from 12:1 to 18:1. 12:1 almost exclusively for Siphon and French Press – 15:1 / 16:1 for V60 (most drippers,) – and lastly, 17:1 for Chemex.
Towards the end of last year, I created my first recipe, with the Aeropress. Historically, I haven’t really enjoyed the Aeropress – it isn’t necessarily a difficult brewer, but I find it a bit fidgety at times. Although, I did not do any major testing and experimenting to get to this recipe, I just wrote down a few variables and what I wanted to do during the process, and came to something I really liked. A few other individuals have given it a try, and it has been getting multiple thumbs up. Recipe is as followed:
Brew process: Add all 216 grams of water within the first 25seconds, and give it a 5sec stir clockwise, and a 5sec sec stir counterclockwise. Let brew until 0:00.55sec and then give it another stir clockwise, and a stir counterclockwise. At 1:05 screw on the cap and filter, invert and plunge gently for 40sec.
Do you strictly brew at home or do you have a favorite hangout that you go to for coffee when you're feeling like someone else preparing for you?
With COVID in the picture last year, and likely to be the case for most of this year, I have been brewing almost strictly at home. However, there is a local shop in downtown Cleveland, Duck Rabbit, that I have been stopping by about two or three times a week. Their shop unlike most others that I have visited, is extremely specialized. They only have a few offerings available – usually one or two offerings for pour-over and the same for espresso. Milk based drinks, are just about the same – cortado, latte, flat white etc. I have only been to one other shop that was as “niche” as them, and that was also back in Utah. People will nit pick places like this and say they aren’t providing enough options to customers, and that’s fine. But if it was my shop, I would be in exactly the same position. This may sound harsh, but customers (the ones that really have no idea what real coffee is,) shouldn’t be comparing everything to Starbucks. Third wave coffee in my opinion, is defined by showcasing coffee in the best way possible, and that means few options – so as to better educate customers in the world of specialty coffee. That’s ultimately what I enjoy most about Duck Rabbit – they do what they do and they do it well, which also means paying a little extra for a coffee, and I am okay with that.
Do you have any funny stories involving coffee?
One day I was on bar, at my first Barista job out in Utah. It had been a fairly busy day, like almost every Saturday. I was sitting in the back shoving some food down my throat in between rushes, and all of a sudden, this panic swept over me, because I realized I made a really bad mistake. On a shelf behind the batch brewers, were all the five-pound bags of coffee - a few for espresso, and the rest for everything else. What I realized, was that I pulled down a bag of the regular coffee (not the espresso blend), and refilled the espresso grinder with it, not remembering to look at either the date, or what coffee that was. Luckily, I corrected that mistake before we had even used much of that new coffee. A close call none the less. Same job (a different day), sometime during the winter months, I had a bad encounter with the steam wand and some drinking chocolate. Similar to steaming heavy whipping cream, stretching it is like nails scratching a chalk board (what’s that you ask? I don’t know, never used one). Joke aside, remembering that drinking chocolate isn’t milk is an easy thing to forget, and I had that happen on numerous occasions. When it did happen, I would end up spraying chocolate all over me, and then nervously look around wondering if anyone saw me make a complete fool of myself.
Your Instagram photos are amazing do you carefully prep photos lighting, background, etc. or do you quickly pull out your smartphone and take some quick pictures?
I wish my answer to this was, just a boring, terrible lighting, no background image, shot on a phone with no editing, whatsoever, but that wouldn’t be true. I recently upgraded to an iPhone 12, from a Samsung Galaxy S7, which for the record, when done right, could take phenomenal photographs. I have a few from my trips to Zion and the other national parks in Utah, that still cause me to ask myself “did I take that?” Photography has really begun to peak my interest in the last few years, and although I don’t see myself spending any money on a professional setup right now, I likely will in the coming years. As for my page, I don’t really think I need to do much, because as James Perry mentioned the other week in an Instagram, who cares if you took a professional photograph, or just took something quick and dirty with your iPhone. What should be more important to us “coffee influencers,” is creating engaging content. I’d much rather create meaningful and detailed content, to encourage engagement, than simply post a photo, and a few words in the caption and done. I just can’t do that. I look at that as adding tasting notes on a bag, that are so wild some people just won’t taste it, therefore discouraging engagement. So yes, great pictures and layouts are nice, but that isn’t everything.
I've seen some of your posts on home roasting lately can you tell us a bit about that?
Anything else you would like to share with the readers?
As an Industrial Designer by degree, a lot of that plays into what I do, and why I do what I do. The design industry is very much a field that obsesses over the details, and I do not mean that lightly. Yes, how a product functions is ultimately more important than what it looks like. But, let me be honest, whatever piece of equipment that we are using as fans of specialty coffee, they all function extremely well (not without some faults, of which can be adjustment through the many brewing variables,) but they also look so good. I would say looks are what plays into buying something for most, and even more for me. That’s not to say there are not some brewing devices that are just visually boring *cough Aeropress cough, but again, they do the job as intended, and they do it well. - I mentioned above that my passion for design and coffee can go hand in hand together. Do I see myself creating a new dripper no, but do I see myself using the design abilities to add enjoyment in creating coffee. Maybe it’s simply an interesting coffee coaster, or a pour-over stand that’s actually practical unlike most, something I am working on – that will integrate with an Acaia scale, similar to the plastic stand that Hario has which slips over top of their scale. There are many ways for me to incorporate the things I enjoy together, it’s just all a matter of perspective and thinking out of the box, just as I was trained to do.
Find Ian on Instagram and follow him. Shoot him comments or questions, he's always quick to help. As always, Brewtoria is looking for more people to share their love of coffee. If your story needs to be heard, feel free to contact us @firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below. Enjoy your coffee today and everyday!