Mikey Rinaldo: Coffee Insurrection Hero Chapter #77

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Mikey Rinaldo: Coffee Insurrection Hero Chapter #77

Coffee Insurrection
1- Introduce yourself: who are you, where are you from, where do you work and what’s your job.

My name is Mikey Rinaldo. I was born in Indonesia, but currently live in Chicago, USA. I am the roaster/founder of New Math Coffee, a roastery focused on Asian producers.

2- When and why did coffee become important to you?

Probably around 2011-2012. When I was a graduate student, I often hung out and did my school work at a newly opened specialty cafe. I didn’t even drink coffee then. One of the baristas eventually taught me how to brew coffee manually, which kickstarted my long term fascination with it.

3- Do you remember the first coffee you had that was more than “just a cup of coffee”?

Like many people who got into coffee during the 2010s, it was a blueberry-forward natural process Ethiopia that gave me the aha moment. It was an Ethiopian Ardi roasted by Anthology Coffee in Detroit.

4- What’s your favorite thing about going to work in the morning?

The quiet, modest deliciousness of the first cup. I find the first daily coffee often most enjoyable since that’s when my body craves caffeine, but often in a half-asleep brewing ritual. It makes me think of this line by the American environmentalist Aldo Leopold: “The coffee pot, from its first soft gurgle, underclaims the virtues of what simmers within.”

5- What’s your favorite brewing method and why?

I prefer anything with a paper filter for drip. By default, at home I’ve just been using my beat-up metal V60 for so long now.

6- Which is the best coffee you ever tasted?

Oof I prefer not to answer this : ) In all earnestness, I’ve had many outstanding and memorable cups, some due to taste, others due to circumstances or people I shared them with.

Mikey Rinaldo

7- Is there a country of origin that you tend to favor coffee from?

Not currently. I say this because I see quite a few farmers and roasters from various producing countries redefining the taste profiles we usually consider typical of those regions. So my taste runs pretty catholic these days and I want to keep an open attitude to different regions/flavor profiles.

8- Suggest us a roastery to check (not the one you working at/you use at work).

Most recently, I’ve been liking Silverbird from Minneapolis. It’s the roastery started by Tony Querio, former longtime roaster of Spyhouse Coffee, another Minneapolis-based roastery. This year I also got to travel to Vietnam. I was really digging 96B roastery in Ho Chi Minh City as well as Cafe Le J’ in Dalat. I love the work they both do with different Robusta farmers planting and processing newly developed cultivars.

9- What’s the most important things you’ve learnt while working in the business?

That it’s super humbling and important to have a hospitality mindset. A cafe owner/manager can curate the types of coffees or syrup flavors you offer. But it’s become especially important to me never to belittle or begrudge a customer for requesting sugary, milky drinks.

10- How your work and the specialty coffee world are coping with Covid and the new challenges for hospitality?

I was fortunate that my roastery started during the pandemic as a mostly online-only business. So I did not have a cafe lease.

11- How do you see the specialty coffee scene in 10 years?

I don’t know if I can predict the scene per se, but I personally would love to see specialty roasters and consumers being much more open to finding quality in other coffee species besides Arabica

12- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Tough question. I may still be involved in coffee, but I’m also at peace with the possibility that I may be done with it by then.

13- Any last word? Any tip or suggestion you wanna share with someone that want to start this path?

The one advice I would give to those wanting to pursue coffee—one I wish I had received myself—is to not let your passion for it be exploited by employers, particularly when it comes to compensation. I’ve also worked at enough places and seen enough cafes/roasteries that have “cool” branding but poor workplace culture and communication.

Mikey Rinaldo

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