The Kickstand is Richmond’s newest and most unique coffee bar brought to you by the people that brought us Lamplighter Roasting Company and the only place in Richmond serving pour-over coffee. I was able to chat with co-owner Noel Archibald about The Kickstand and talk about what the new spot is bringing to the coffee table of Richmond while she prepared me a cup of coffee by hand. At just a over a week old today, I think you will see why they stand out amongst the many local coffee shops around town (all of which we still love and support ;).
What spurred the desire for a place like The Kickstand?
Noel: We wanted a place where people could sample the coffee and taste the coffee, and this is something that eventually we would really want to be doing at a roastery. We are looking into options to move into a bigger building and expanding the roastery and we’re looking to keep it in this neighborhood. But we wanted something now; a space that we could use that’s a little bit away from the hustle and bustle of Lamplighter. Lamplighter is busier than we ever could have dreamed it would be, which is amazing and it’s wonderful, but has held us back from some of the stuff we hoped to be doing over there because now there really isn’t space for it since the food has been so wildly popular. Granted, it’s a great problem to have but it’s made it harder to expand what we’re doing with coffee. It’s really just trying keep everything as efficient as we possibly can at Lamplighter.
What is The Kickstand?
Noel: It is a coffee bar. Not an espresso bar, but a coffee bar. We’re really focusing on different coffee preparations, we’re selling a small amount of pour-overs and methods for people to make coffee at home, and it’s here you can really look at what we have roasted. All the beans we have at Lamplighter are amazing, but we pick the very best, what we love, and highlight our favorites here, monday through friday. So we will have around four varieties here and you can try a cup, you can try a Chemex; there is nobody in Richmond doing pour-overs and Chemex right now.
Yes! I was stoked to hear that and consider that a huge answer to prayer for coffee in Richmond.
Noel: Yeah! It’s a way we love to drink coffee, it’s a way we taste coffee when we get a new bean when we wanna know how the roast level came out. We roast things how we think they are going to be good and you’re basing it on sight and smell, but the first time you roast a bag of coffee, you’re kind of nailing down your roast level. And sometimes the bean is going to be great at different roast levels, but when we’re trying something new that we’ve roasted, we brew it using a Chemex, because it gives you the best clarity of flavor. The paper filters filter out a lot of the oils and fats, which are the parts that can make coffee taste the most bitter, and so the actual flavor of the bean, especially if you’re at a medium roast, which a cupping level for coffee, you’re really tasting the bean. For a lot of preparations, you taste the preparations more than you taste the bean. At darker and darker roast levels, you are tasting the roast more than you are tasting the origin. So with a light to a medium, maybe into a full city range, is where we want to keep it for the purpose of tasting the origin. We also only have our four best and most knowledgable baristas from Lamplighter work here.
(As she’s making a pour-over cup for me)
This is my favorite bean right now.
Yeah? The Uganda…
Noel: Uganda Bugisu AA Double Picked. So it’s hand picked, instead of being mechanically separated, so it has some variation in sizing which can give you a wider variety of flavor, even though it’s a single origin. One bean, one place. Because the beans are different sizing, you’re getting the benefit of a blend with a variety of flavors. It’s not just hitting your tongue and dying away, it’s different flavors, one coming after the other, because within the single roast level, the single bean, your getting different things from it.
Wow, it’s rich, but super smooth.
Noel: Yeah it’s very rich.
So how conscious are you about the details of the beans you are bringing in?
Noel: Very conscious. We deal with three different brokers, and we have specific people within those brokers that we deal with that we look to for recommendations for us for what’s cupping well. With organic coffees, they’re not as consistent from year to year as non organics would be, because weather and natural climate factors effect them a lot more. So something that we had, that tasted really great last year, might not taste as good this year. So we look at cupping scores and ratings that our brokers give the beans before we look at what we want to try. Then we will order a bag of beans and try it for ourselves. Everything we order is either organic fair trade certified, or we know that it is, but the farm hasn’t paid for the certification. So we order from some farms that aren’t certified, but we know what’s going into it; how the workers are being treated and that it’s up to our standard even though they have not chosen to pay for that certification.
A lot of people that I have told about The Kickstand are unfamiliar with the terms “pour-over” and “Chemex”. How would you describe these methods and what makes them special?
Noel: Well most people are familiar with drip coffee, it’s the most common way in America that people prepare there coffee at home. It’s simple: ground coffee, hot water goes on top, coffee drips down to the bottom. So the pour-over method is really not different in most ways than a drip coffee maker. The main difference is that you are preparing it fresh for each cup; You grind only the amount of beans for that individual cup, you’re choosing how hot you want the water to be, and then manually pouring it over, so it’s always going to be better. It’s fresher, it’s made at the time you are going to drink it and you have more control. Could you flip the record?
Yeah, totally! I was just about to ask.
Noel: Another problem with home coffee pots is a lot of the times the water will be too hot or not hot enough, and anytime your pouring into glass that’s been sitting on a heated element, it’s going to be heating coffee after it’s been brewed, so it may taste fine after it comes out but five minutes later it becomes stagnant and then burnt. If it goes into an air pot, it’s gonna stay fresher but whatever you are about to immediately drink is always going to taste fresher. You want to brew it within two minutes of grinding.
Noel: Yeah. The CO2 and oxygen is being released while it’s being ground. And same with the roast, you want to drink it within seven days of being roasted. So ya know, buy local, buy fresh, buy smaller quantities.
Chemex is just another pour over method and it was designed by a chemist and it gives the best clarity of flavor of any of the pour-overs I’ve tried. It’s also really great with how round it’s shape is, so you get a really even extraction. A lot of people are familiar with Melitta cones but they don’t give as even of an extraction.
With the amount of time it takes to prepare a pour over cup is it intentional to be able talk and nerd out about the coffee beans and everything having to do with coffee with customers.
Noel: Haha, yeah, exactly.
Anything you would like to set straight or educate as far as maybe a general misconception that people have about coffee right now?
Noel: I think people think that technology can make coffee better. There is a huge trend of all these gasket bags and canisters that is going to let off-guessing take place and big expensive Kurig machines… Even the Clover coffee machine that costs thousands of dollars to buy… Ya know, coffee is a simple product, its a simple item and I think the most simple preparations can give you the best results. I think people really underestimate their ability to make good coffee and their ability to get a good result, simply. So that’s one of the things we wanted to do with The Kickstand; educate people how you can do this at home and how you can get this same experience. In my opinion, coffee at home should be better than coffee at a coffee shop, with the exception of espresso, because you are making what you like, the way you want it, when you are going to drink it. So that should be better than most coffee shops. And I think people think they can’t do it at home so they go to a coffee shop because it’s going to be better than what they can do at home, and I wanna show them that they can do it better. No canister, container or bag in the world is going to stop the degradation of roasted coffee. If it’s roasted, it’s already on it’s way out.
Oh, and we’re cash only.
Haha, nice. Thanks so much for your time.
The Kickstand: 1717 Summit Ave. Richmond, VA
Hours: 8am-1pm M-F
Photos by Will Godwin