Coffee talk and pop-ups are nothing new in this town, but that's not to say that both can't be improved. Every once in a while an innovative concept, a new flavor, or an idea that's just plain cool comes along. Case in point: MmmHmm Coffee -- a pop-up coffee concept that until recently has been housed in the Anchored Ship space in Ballard, serving coffee cocktails in the evening hours.
Eater featured MmmHmm in a coffee cocktail post earlier this year, and the time has come to follow up on their new installation, which for the past four weeks has been located in the lobby of the Sanborn Building. The minimalist but tragically hip bar (crafted by French and his team) is a minor feat in engineering using gravity systems for water flow, and it's entirely modular. Don't be fooled by its simplicity -- they're using a top of the line EK 43 grinder by Mahlkonig that is a darling in the barista community for its precise grind and particle uniformity.
Talking to proprietor Jon French about coffee is akin to pre-Heisenberg era Jesse Pinkman having a conversation with Walter White about chemistry. The dude knows his stuff and has the skills to back it up. He, along with partners Sheila Mulvihill and Jack Ellis, have created what may be the next viral beverage platform -- coffee installations that bring high quality brews made by expert baristas to customers with minimal overhead and setup costs.
So what's the concept behind MmmHmm Coffee?
I originally drew inspiration from Santa Cruz, CA based-Verve Coffee and their pop-up in Brooklyn. We are working primarily with Counter Culture Coffee, [who have] nearly complete supply chain transparency down to the co-op level or farm producer level. They know the grower, the coffees and the lots they come from.
OK, so what does this all mean for me and my coffee?
We're following the Counter Culture ‘any coffee -- any brew' philosophy and taking it and giving it a practical implementation. In using lighter filter roasts made for drip coffee we calibrate the settings on our machines to handle the variations to ensure we get the most out of the beans. We pull the shots very long and we'll do anywhere between three and six different espressos every day which are also available as pour overs. Also, there's no ordering by size here -- we do the work for you and create the perfect cup of coffee in the best format for enjoyment.
So what's the big deal with the EK 43 grinder?
Well, the EK 43 was originally marketed as a spice grinder by the manufacturer. It's become popular amongst the barista community for the incredible consistency and uniformity in its grind. It's what makes the lighter roast coffees work for espresso. It uses conical burs like most traditional espresso grinders but the amount of adjustment you can make is incredible. In the morning, I come in and dial in the settings for all our coffees on the EK 43 for optimal performance. We also purge the grinder between each use and it allows us to pull as many different types of coffee as we want.
We're the opposite of the big cafe experience dominated by people working on their laptops all day.
What else is on the menu for those that aren't espresso lovers?
Well, we have a house made chai (which is ridiculously good,) Rishi loose leaf teas, and we're serving locally made High 5 Pies.
What makes MmmHmm Coffee different?
I like to think that there's a couple of things for this space in particular. It's like a West Coast take on an Italian espresso bar. We serve small beverages with no seating. You come in for a quick conversation and pop in/pop out. We're the opposite of the big cafe experience dominated by people working on their laptops all day. It's a cool space and perfect for hospitality workers like myself or those passing through wanting a great beverage made quickly and without a lot of fuss. The biggest size drink we prepare is about eight ounces and it takes 45 seconds to prepare. And it's delicious.
MmmHmm Coffee, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, Sunday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the lobby of The Sanborn Building at 5325 Ballard Ave. NW.