The Grind: Perq Coffee Bar
Edible articles often incorporate a bit of backstory when introducing a place to its readers. But perq coffee bar doesn’t need an introduction, does it? Of course not. You’ve been there already. Many times. In fact, you’re probably reading this article on the mahogany leather sofa by the front door, your feet casually planted on the brushed concrete floor, a flat white in your coffee claw. And you do have a coffee claw, don’t you? If you’re a perq fan, you’re a coffee fan, and coffee fans tend to be a bit extreme in their love of “beans,” thus I already know your hand, like mine, is forever fashioned into that familiar sip grip.
If you just moved to town yesterday and don’t know perq coffee bar, then, my friend, it is time. Go now, sidle up to the handmade coffee counter and have owner Keith Zolner concoct your perfect cup. Light, dark, double, whole milk, almond milk, what have you—perq has it.
In the meantime, gather ye brew and digest a little Q&A with Keith. Whether you’ve been at perq since day one or have yet to spend one day there, there’s always something new to learn about Sarasota’s preferred coffee shop.
When did you start drinking coffee?
I started as an undergrad in college, mostly for the caffeine but as an agricultural operations major I understood how different cultivars, microclimates, and processing methods affected the flavors in the final cup. So, I got pretty geeky about trying micro-lots from individual farms and co-ops from all over the world.
And, your favorite brew?
I’m usually sipping on some test sample of a single-origin coffee brewed on a Kalita Wave pour-over. I tend to gravitate to lighter bodied, brighter, wet-processed coffees that express soft fruit or floral characteristics. I mean, coffee is actually the seed of a fruit, you know? It’s not actually a bean at all.
What are the main challenges that the coffee industry faces?
Coffee is one of the top 10 exported agricultural products in the world but specialty coffee is a very small percentage of the coffee grown and served. Our main challenge is educating the consumer in the significant differences available to them. When you consider that in the world of wine the very best estates sell for over 100 times more money than the least in the market, upgrading from a $1 commodity beverage to a $5 specialty pour-over is a pretty affordable luxury.
What makes your perq coffee bar unique?
We do things a bit differently than the average café. We rotate a variety of single-origin micro-lot coffees of which all are available in espresso-based drinks or as filter coffee. Micro-lot coffees are still not the norm in the industry and having several to choose from that we hand select from some of the best roasters around the country, and occasionally worldwide, is certainly unique. Our espresso-based drinks are crafted Australian/New Zealand style, our cold brew is a Japanese Kyoto-style slow-drip, and our Seattle-made Slayer machine gives us precision in our brewing that isn’t found at many other coffee destinations.
What makes a Slayer espresso so special?
The Slayer espresso machine is an industry leader for a few reasons. We get pretty geeky about extraction and the Slayer gives us precise control of many variables that other machines don’t. It has independent brew boilers with temperature stability to within 1° of accuracy, a separate steam tank that produces dry steam without end, and water flow rate control at our fingertips so we actually manually control each espresso extraction: We craft drinks. We test and identify a specific brew profile for each coffee using the variables the Slayer affords us.
Is there a showmanship in coffee making as there is in cocktail mixing?
I’m not sure I would call it showmanship. Giving customers a show while we make the drink isn’t that important to us, but we are very particular about how the drink is presented so the customer’s first impression sets the stage for appreciation of the experience. I would call it craftsmanship.
Perq Coffee Bar: 1821 Hillview St, Sarasota; 941-955-8101; perqcoffeebar.us