Reflecting on 2023, it has been thematic for the crew here at The Crown in Oakland, California. Inspiration kicked towards the end of 2022 with the deliciously curious lots from Edwin Noreña (aka El Alquimista), a aji chili infused honey Bourbon and gesha galaxy hops infused coffee. This playfulness was the start of an explorative year around fermentation in many different articulations from the team at The Crown.  

The year started off with an article released in February by the Director of Education, Chris Kornman, titled “Additive Fermentation – ‘Infused coffee gaining popularity – and sparking industry debate’”.  Infused lots like Edwin’s cause dissonance for some people, and in this article Chris explores the controversy around experimental fermentation.  

Tasting Room Manager, Joshua Wismans took on developing and researching our fermentation program for 6 months aptly named The Fermentation Lab. Intertwining an appreciation for the abundant seasonal produce available in The Bay area and the fermentation inherent to coffee processing. Fermentation as the “unsung hero” of coffee processing plays an “ever evolving role in coffee production. It is only right that we engage with it with the same level of care and attention of our favorite producers” 

We now have four new offerings that represent this relationship, which include a coffee infused kombucha, a regular kombucha, coffee beer and a non-caffeinated option in the form of a shrub. The program is heavily reliant on local producers in the region like RiverDog farm, Full Belly Farm, Billly Bob Orchard, Barebottle Brewing to name a few. The list also includes sourcing from our in-house botanist, Sigrid Hubbel (Bouquet Improv) who specializes in native California plants, all grown and picked in her abundantly vibrant yard a couple blocks away from The Crown.

Since the launch of our fermentation program 6 months ago we have released 12 drinks and have sourced ingredients from 10 local producers. Our front-of-house team has seamlessly integrated this new product and continues to provide service at a high caliber we are very proud of.   

In the October/September issue of Roast Magazine, Lab and Education Coordinator, Isabella Vitaliano explored a different aspect of fermentation in the form of processing methods. Titled “How Microbiome impacts Post-Harvest Processing she dives in into the academic research behind microbes and processing methods to articulate to readers the impacts of microbes on flavor.  

Lastly, in December to round off our year Chris taught a Fermentation class and tasting titled The Power of Fermentation & the People’s Palate. In this course, the student is taken through a new wave of flavor exploration and go through a part-technical lecture, part-group discussion, part coffee (and kombucha!) tasting that explores flavor and innovation in coffee production. The course addresses topics like anaerobic, carbonic and co-fermented coffees and their relevance in the marketplace. We are thrilled to be offering this class again in 2024 

It’s been a wild ride this year exploring and pushing the boundaries of flavors and taste. Join us in the new year as we anticipate the arrival of new co-fermented coffees from El Alquimista, and dive even deeper into the wild and wonderful world of fermented beverages!