Q+A with Stumptown Coffee Roastery

We visited the Los Angeles roastery of Stumptown Coffee Roasters, our favorite morning fuel and the caffeine providers of this year’s Vissla Cosmic Creek. After our visit we got a chance to chat with Portland-based Jenny Censky, the Lead Creative Designer behind Stumptown (and surfer on the weekends) and Ryan Jimenez, the Orange County / San Diego Sales Manager who finds time in the water in between his coffee shop rounds.

Hey Jenny, what do you do for Stumptown and how long have you been there?
JC: I’m lead creative designer and I’ve been here about 4 years now.

RJ: I am the sales manager for Orange County and San Diego and have been with this rad company for nearly 2 years.

Where did Stumptown start, when did it start and where is it based now?
JC: Portland, Oregon in 1999; still based here, not far from the first cafe.

Where do you source your beans?
RJ: From great farms in Latin America, Africa and Indonesia -- I've been asking them to take me on a sourcing trip to anywhere with waves, but for some reason they're not taking me up on it ;)

Where do you roast your beans?
RJ: We roast in Portland where it all started, plus Seattle, New York and, of course, Laker Nation–er, I mean Los Angeles.

Pretty sure I get the best buzz ever drinking cold brew on tap. What “jitter level” would you say your coffee is?
RJ: Everyone is different, but I'd say we can take you from 0-100 real quick.

JC: It's a smooth jitter.

What makes Stumptown different than the rest?
RJ: Quality for one, and how we source our coffee. It's definitely a different approach than our competitors. We take pride in the direct relationships we have with coffee farms. And we always seem to hire rad people that have other interests as well, like cycling, motorcycles, camping, art, surfing or playing in a band. Doing so creates such a great culture within Stumptown. It brings all these people with different interests together over the love of coffee.

JC: I think that Stumptown does a great job at being simultaneously super high end and elevated while still keeping it a little punk.

What’s your take on weighing coffee and the water to bean ratio?
RJ: Every pour over, I weigh my beans and brew my coffee on a scale. With Stumptown's recipes, I'm always making the perfect cup of coffee. I've never looked back after brewing this way. I get consistent, good coffee, every time.

JC: I eyeball it -- scales are for nerds! Just kidding, but I don’t have a scale yet, working on it. I'm lucky if i have a filter in my house and don't have to brew through paper towels (which works if you’re in a pinch, FYI). The main thing is start with good coffee and brew it how you like it.

Preference of milk?
RJ: Whole milk and half and half. But, recently I tried Milkadamia which is macadamia milk and it's delish.

JC: Usually drink my coffee black. Unless it's our Coconut Cold Brew.

What do you think of the Keurig movement :)?
RJ: Nope.

JC: Seems wasteful.

What’s your preferred brewing method when you camp or are on a surf trip?
RJ: I either use a Beehouse or an Aeropress. If there is a big group at our campsite, then of course everyone wants me to make the coffee, so I make 12 cup French Press.

JC: I usually take along a little Jetboil and Snow Peak dripper to make a pour over, or our cans of Nitro Cold Brew in a cooler pack in pretty solid, too.

What does your morning routine look like?
RJ: Wake up, start my electric Bonavita to get the water boiling and choose a single origin bean to brew for my Chemex. Check emails and Surfline, and Snapchat my Chemex brew process. My friends get jealous of all the different coffee I brew. Then I follow that up with a flat white from one of our accounts.

JC: Hit snooze a couple of times, get up, get dressed, hop on my bike – it only takes me about 10 minutes to get to the office. I usually wait to get coffee when I’m there, so I’m pretty spoiled.

Do you drink coffee before or after surfing?
RJ: I'll always make two thermoses of coffee either from a 20 oz Chemex brew or an 8 cup French Press and drink it before and after. I apparently consume quite a bit of coffee!

JC: Both! The drive to the beach is about an hour and a half to two so I usually have coffee on the way out and back.

Where do you surf in Portland, Jenny? How often do you make it to the coast?
JC: Wait, aren't you not suppose to give up your spots? Ha! I usually head out towards Cannon Beach, there is always Short Sands and Indian Beach, and then some others around the area that I had to work hard to find out about ;) I usually try to get out on the weekends. Now that the weather is getting better, hopefully more.

What’s a typical surf excursion look like if you live in Portland?
JC: It usually starts early: meet up with friends, pile in a car, stop for snacks and coffee and hit the road. Now that it’s starting to stay light so late, if I leave work a tad early, I can still make it out and surf until the sun goes down, which is like 9ish in the summer. Or camp for the weekend out there, which I do a lot in the summer, too.

Ryan, where do you surf in OC?
RJ: Since I cover all of OC and San Diego I find myself surfing everywhere along the coast. I live in Costa Mesa though, so I surf Newport, but still spend a lot of time down in the Trestles area. And if the south wind is heavy, you'll find me down… well, I better not say or I'll have some haters!

What’s your favorite post surf Stumptown coffee?
RJ: You'll usually find me at Sidecar Doughnuts in Costa Mesa or Haute Cakes in Newport Beach drinking a flat white or two.

JC: Either what I brew in the back of my van, or Sea Level Bakery in Cannon Beach.

What’s it like working for a coffee company, is everyone just super jazzed all day and then just really mean at the end of the day?
RJ: Everyone I work with is always super pumped (might be the Cold Brew). Sometimes we get a little over caffeinated and need to eat something. We are constantly trying espresso and Cold Brew so sometimes we can go a little overboard.

JC: Super jazzed, yes, and then we switch to Cold Brew in the afternoon to keep it going. Seriously work with some of the best!

What are you most excited for at Cosmic Creek?
RJ: I ride a lot of retro boards. In fact I just picked up a vintage 7ft single Fin Hobie and had it refinished. It's pretty rad. I'm afraid to ride it now, because now it's in stellar shape -- so Cosmic Creek is right up my alley. But, I will have to say I am most excited about the Allah-Las. They are my favorite band right now and I was super stoked to hear you guys booked them for Cosmic.

Sun, music, babes/dudes, surf?
RJ: Ummmmm all of the above!

JC: So bummed I'm not going!!! All the things -- surf, dude-babes, music!! Next year though, can I come??

Anything exciting we should be aware of coming out of Stumptown in the near future?
RJ: We just opened up a new cafe in New Orleans next to the new ACE Hotel. It's beautiful, and we have some rad new Cold Brew drinks with matching glassware. It's pretty dope.

JC: Always things happening around here, check back!

Where can we find Stumptown?
RJ: Monarch Beach Market down the street from Salt Creek just started with us. But you should visit The Dirty Penguin, Sidecar Doughnuts, Haute Cakes, Newport Coffee Company, Coffee Nature, Ink and Bean and there are more in the works... Stay tuned.

Any last words for the coffee lovers out there?
RJ: Death Before Decaf

Instagram / @stumptowncoffee

For more information and a schedule of events for Cosmic Creek, click here.

Interview by Keegan Fong
Photos by Kenny Hurtado