Like a cartoon apple pie on a windowsill, a toasty coffee scent lures you into Phil Tegethoff's West Boise garage. Walled off by a partition of board games and kids' bikes, Tegethoff--aka Afro Phil--charts the progress on his small Probatino drum coffee roaster like a heart surgeon. The Probatino can only roast about 2.2 pounds of coffee at a time and each batch takes 12-15 minutes, so this isn't just micro-roasting, it's nano-roasting.
"I'm specializing in single origin coffees," explained Tegethoff, who buys his green beans from Atlas Coffee Importers in Seattle. "Single origin coffees are unique just because each bean has a very distinct profile to it, so my goal is to roast to the exact profile of that bean to get the most out of it that I possibly can, as far as flavor."
For a family man, Tegethoff sure talks a lot about crack. In the coffee world, "first crack" and "second crack" refer to the sounds coffee beans make when they hit certain temperatures and release their gasses (it sounds more like Mexican jumping beans than popcorn). Aside from his espresso blend, Tegethoff tries not to let his beans hit second crack, when he says they lose oils and start to take on a bitter taste.
"It's a pretty common trend to be roasting on the darker side of things," said Tegethoff. "I'm very specifically not doing that. My slogan is "always smooth," and I really don't believe coffee should come back and bite you or have a bitter taste. Even my espresso, even though it's a dark roast, it has that espresso front and just a really nice caramel finish to it."
Moving aside a tiny Bob Ross figurine, which boasts a miniature plastic 'fro similar to his own, Tegethoff finely ground 11 grams of two separate coffees--his House Blend and the Papua New Guinea--for a cupping.
"This whole process here is really nerdy," smiled Tegethoff.
He placed the grounds into two small porcelain cups and swirled a stream of boiling water over the top of each, letting the coffee bloom then steep for exactly four minutes. Delicately scooping the grounds off the top with two soup spoons, Tegethoff dipped his spoon into the coffee and slurped it up loudly. The House Blend, he noted, offered smooth caramel notes with a little cocoa on the finish, while the Papua New Guinea boasted substantial acidity and citrus notes.
"In the long term, I'd love to be able to offer people coffees that aren't traditionally available to them or they're not used to," he said.
Though you can't buy Afro Phil's beans in any local coffee shops yet, you can have a bag shipped to you via his website or pick one up at his house. Just follow your nose to find the garage.