Ever sit in McCarren park and just wish the cup of coffee would come to you? Well starting this Saturday it will, thanks to the boys at Kickstand Coffee and their custom-made bicycle-powered mobile coffee stands.
For the past few weeks Kickstand founders Peter Castelein, Neal Olson and Aaron Davis (all veterans of Gimme Coffee), have been furiously building, welding and brewing. So far they’re serving coffee from Cafe Grumpy and Gimme, all with as little environmental impact as possible. They’ll be officially launching their DIY transformer-like bike kiosks at
Artists & Fleas in McCarren park this Saturday (and every Saturday this summer), but you can also track their location on their website and twitter feed.
We got the chance to sit down with the boys pre-launch and geek out about bikes, welding and, well, coffee.
Neal, Aaron and Peter. Image Taylor Long All other images via Kickstand Coffee.
Free Williamsburg: So what, exactly, are you trying to do? And why bikes?
Neal Olson: The concept is definitely to be as mobile as possible. We always dreamed of popping up on wall street or in midtown and all of the sudden we’re there serving amazing coffee to these people that don’t have access to it, or who are stuck to bodega coffee or Starbucks.
Aaron Davis: And it made sense, especially when we were trying to figure out how we could make it efficient and mobile and eco-friendly.
Peter Castelein: We have no interest in maintaining a truck.
Neal: Well and let’s be honest. What’s the fastest way to get around New York? It’s on a bike.
FW: You’ve said the carts weight around 160 lbs. Are they going to be cumbersome at all?
Peter: We have these two amazing carts that Neal’s roommate Ben Schleif put together that are really incredible.
Neal: He’s amazing at conceptualizing that stuff.
Peter: We all collaborated and kicked a general idea to him, a really basic idea of how we wanted things to face, and he took it and ran with it. I had reservations if all of our shit was going to fit and flow well, and he just took it and went 100% nuts. The carts are only a little bit wider than our shoulders — we can pull them straight through the door to our shop, which is just a normal hallway door width.
Neal: And it turns into a ten-foot stand.
Peter: It does a transformer move with wings and stuff, and we put the coffee bar between it. All the shelving is stacked low in the cart, and then you pull the stuff out and boom, boom, boom! There are shelves for containers of iced concentrate to sit on, and the water tank sitting over there, and everything’s where we need it to be.
Aaron: And it has a built-in canopy.
FW: Tell me about the coffee. Where are you getting it from?
Peter: Well we’re sticking with a lot of local coffee that’s roasted here in Brooklyn. There’s been a huge explosion in the last two years with some really great roasters in town. We have a ton of cafe grumpy right now: I think we’re the first wholesale account with them, and they’re doing a great job. They’ve only been going at it [roasting] since January, so it’s really exciting to work with them.
Neal: I can’t believe how quickly it’s gotten good. Roasting is certainly a process you have to feel out.
Peter: The coffee that Stumptown is roasting in Redhook is also really top notch. We’re looking to carry an option from them. It’s an opportunity for us to just cherry pick the best coffees going on in town at the moment.
Neal: So many shops have wholesale accounts that are tied to Verve or to Intelligentsia or Counterculture or whatever it might be. In our case, we can just drink what we think is really good right now.
Peter: Like Bluebottle is roasting over on north 6th and we can just run around town and collect the best NY coffees going on, and serve the best three options. Like hey this is what *we* think about these coffees, not what you’re hearing from the people at coffee companies
FW: Tell me more about the pour-over bar.
Peter: Each individual station is set up for brewing an individual cup of coffee, so you grind and brew it to order. And what we’ve done is create a custom pour-over bar with my brother (Matt Castelein, of Sub Rosa Fabrication), who runs a metal shop right below our shop in the same building. We all like the taste of Chemex brewed coffee the best.
Aaron: It’s a method that was developed in 1941, so it’s been around for a long time. What really makes it special is the bonded filters that they sell.
Peter: It’s twice the thickness of a regular coffee filter, with a super tight mesh. That creates a more vibrant cup of coffee that pops right from the start. The best way to have a cup of coffee is to grind it on the spot, because as soon as you grind it all these essential oils start to dissipate. With this method we get the freshest possible cup of coffee immediately, and we can have like four different options and grind whichever one the person wants. It’s also mostly a drinkable cup of coffee right off the bat too — a lot of coffee is served too hot, but with a Chemex you don’t even need a sleeve.
FW: Where is your headquarters?
Peter: It’s a shop space over on Lorimer. Our pour-over bar is 100% custom because we had to do a bit of glass-cutting. When the Chemex brewer comes it looks like a beaker from chemistry class: you brew coffee, it lands in the craft bottom and then you pour it out. We wanted to use their shape to hold the filters, but wanted the cups to go in and out underneath the four stations. So we chopped through the glass and then set it up on the frame my brother welded.
Neal: We’re quickly amassing a coffee lab there too.
Aaron: We’re always tasting coffee and testing different ways, like doing different types of grinds or water.
Peter: We have a lot to learn, so it’s great to have a space where we can experiment with everything.
Neal: You definitely need to get a coffee honed in before you bring it to the public
FW: Tell me how you came up with this idea in the first place?
Aaron: It’s Pete’s brainchild.
Peter: In the farmer’s market in San Francisco, Bluebottle has a kiosk with a super-serious setup. They have a ton of electric pads heating up kettles and they do the classic pour-over bar set up, and have an espresso machine. Seeing them on the market it was like oh, coffee in the market is fucking sweet.
Neal: And then we were like brainstorming — we always wanted to do an espresso machine full on in the back of a cart, but it’s just a logistical nightmare. They’re so heavy and it takes so much power.
Aaron: I’m almost happier without.
FW: How long did it take to put this together?
Peter: We started brainstorming in December, but when we really started making shit real was like two and a half, three weeks ago. We didn’t want to commit to anything until we knew we could be a part of a venue, because it’s so hard to get a mobile food venders license. We knew we had the green light with artists and fleas three weeks ago so that’s when we moved into the shop space and started getting buck wild.
Neal: And when we started to make absurd purchases.
FW: So what next? Are you going out on the streets?
Aaron: we can’t go on the streets until we get a real street vendor’s license, so right now through the park we’re getting a temporary special event license that’s good for every day of the event through the summer. We definitely want to try and get into another farmer’s market, or something on Sundays. Really long-term we really need to figure out how and what we’re going to do with it through the winter.
Peter: The beauty of our setup is it takes us like fifteen minutes to put one of those carts out, so it’s not impossible for us to do two events in one day.
Neal: Moving this sort of thing you have two options ‚Äì you have cars or bikes. We just chose the one we love.