Carlsbad roaster focuses on the art of coffee
When Doug Novak talks about “a nuanced bouquet” and “flavor profile,” he’s referring to the craftsmanship involved in transforming raw ingredients into a rich drink. After all, he is an expert.
But he isn’t talking about wine; this man’s talking coffee. As the owner of La Costa Coffee Roasting, Novak is a master blender and roaster and he’s passionate about the brew.
“Wine is a finished product. It only has 213 constituents that make up its flavor profile. Coffee has over 820,” he said.
Novak, the single father of a high schooler, started roasting because he wanted to control the quality and freshness of the beans for his family’s first coffee shop, formerly known as The Coffee Merchant, in the Plaza Camino Real mall in Carlsbad.
When he took over the business right out of college, he opened the coffee shop in La Costa to do the roasting and named it both for the community and to describe exactly what he does.
His coffee roaster is a large machine that looks like Thomas the Train. Novak prepares the beans right in front of his customers. It’s an 18-minute cycle where the beans go in green and spill out brown as they crackle, fresh from the roaster.
But he says the rest of the process is up to the brewer.
“Coffee’s not a finished product; you have to go home and treat it with the respect and care that you would any fine product, to bring out its best flavor,” he said.
In addition to great beans, he said filtered water is also essential.
While a commercial coffee house like his uses a drip system with enhanced features, Novak said the best choice for an at-home coffeemaker is a manual system such as a French press or Chemex-type hourglass carafe. The advantage of these simple systems is that a person can control what Novak called “the three Ts” – time, temperature and turbulence.
Novak said the time it takes coffee to brew is critical because it loses flavor if the process goes longer than six or seven minutes. Regular at-home coffee machines often cross the line to brew a big pot. Manual systems he recommends only take three or four minutes.
The temperature controls the flavor profile of the drink. Coffee is best served piping hot or iced cold to bring out its flavor. Lukewarm java just isn’t happening, according to Novak.
Finally, turbulence is vital because the coffee grounds will need a stir. Stale grounds sink. But fresh coffee floats and causes a mat that rises to the top. A quick swish disperses the flavor.
But coffee isn’t the only reason people return to La Costa Coffee Roasting. The cafe’ boasts a large seating area along with an expansive patio dotted with umbrella-topped tables.
Regular Richard Stanczyk brought out-of-town guest Marty Kovacevich to experience the ambiance.
“They’re openly friendly to locals in the area. It’s a great place to come,” he said.
Stanczyk said the coffee house also provides entertainment such as guitarists. He said one day there might be a large group of cyclists, the next, a large group of seniors. Whether in a group or alone, he added that the customers are treated especially nice.
“If they see you coming, they’ll ring you up ahead of time, if they know who you are,” he said.
Novak takes note of customers’ favorite blends so reordering a bag is a breeze. Because freshness is such a priority, he’ll make quantities as small as a quarter pound. Some of these customer favorites have made it to the permanent menu, such as “Grady’s Magic.” The blend’s namesake told so many people about it that the coffee shop made it a staple.
Novak said he wants all his customers to learn about coffee and develop their palates.
“They can come, stand next to me and ask me all the questions as they watch their coffee come tumbling hot out of the roaster. Then taste truly fresh coffee,” he said.
Novak lights up when he talks about the beans, the brewing cycle and the blend. It’s obvious his goal is to roast and brew great coffee and provide an atmosphere where his customers can sip, savor and relax.
La Costa Coffee Roasting is located at 6965 El Camino Real in Carlsbad.
Helen Hawes is a North County freelance writer