Barista Magazine

APR-MAY 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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F O A M : N E W S + T R E N D S BEHIND THE SCENES WITH COMPAK GRINDERS: A NEW CAFÉ AND THE PK SERIES DAMIAN ASCASO IS A STRIKING fi gure as he strides toward where I'm sitting at one of the long wooden tables in the back of Compak Grinders' new café, Black Remedy, located in Barce- lona's Barrio Gótico. The shop is all tall stools and comfortable lighting—it's stylish while still cozy. "Should we shoot a few espressos?" Damian asks me right off. It's an apt assumption. Damian—who is the son of Jesús Ascaso, owner of Compak Grinders—motions to one of the baristas, who soon brings us a shot of Black Remedy's house espresso from local roaster Tusell Tostadores. It's an El Salvador single-origin to get things started, and it's phenomenal. I'm here to investigate the latest technology going in to Compak's new line of grinders, the PK Series. I've been hearing good things—enhanced particle distribution, fi ne adjustment knobs, portafi lter scales for real-time dry weighing—but I took the opportunity to sit down with the man himself for the inside scoop. "So, what's going on? How are things?" I begin. Damian is a man on fi re: He's constantly in motion. He focuses on me and sits back down, half on his stool, still ready to take care of business at any given moment. "Really busy!" he says with a laugh, but he's far from kidding around. Compak's sales have been on the rise across the globe, and the café build-out has just added to the chaos. Still, the 15 months it took to get the space exactly right was, Damian says, completely worth it. The Ascaso family had always wanted to open a shop, something close to home, with a focus on great coffee and a quality menu. Damian explains how they had a moment in time where they could do something like that, and in that moment, they managed to fi nd a space in a perfect location. "All the stars aligned for us, so to speak, y'know?" he says. He's careful with his words as he describes what he hopes Black Rem- edy will contribute to the legacy of Spanish coffee. " We've been living in a constant lie for ages," he says. "It's Spanish tradition, but it's really the worst coffee." As a response, Black Remedy is partnering with some of Spain's most innovative microroasters: Right Side Coffee Roasters, Hidden Café BCN, Tusell Tostadores, 80plus, and others. The reason for my visit extends beyond sipping espressos and gorging on gourmet sandwiches, however. We wave our thanks to the bar staff and head out the door, hop in the car, and peel out in the direction of the Compak factory itself, a good half-hour drive outside the city, to lay down some company history. As the story goes, Damian's grandfather, an engineer, got a call one day from Gaggia headquarters. The Italian espresso-machine company wanted to hire him on the spot to assist on technical engi- neering, and, of course, he said yes. After a few years of working his magic, Damian's grandfather moved back to Barcelona and decided to open a spare-parts shop for espresso machines, eventually passing the legacy down to his son, Jesús Ascaso, when Jesús was only 20 years old. Jesús started distributing Wega machines in Spain, and soon added Rossi coffee grinders to his lineup, as well. Then he started to give more thought to grinders, specifi cally for his home country. No one's doing this in Spain, he thought, so the story goes. I'm going to create espresso grinders. Thus, Compak was born. We roll into the factory parking lot in record time and, after a few more espressos from the showroom, head down to the production fl oor. "It's like a supermarket," Damian says excitedly, gesturing around the vast space. "The production manager comes out and checks all the bins for quantity and the quality of grinder parts so he can place orders and keep track of what's in the inventory." Line one is for the assembly of the larger grinders, line three is for smaller grinders, and line two exists for parts like the lungs, supplying both sides with the smaller, intricate parts necessary to put everything together. We make our way over to line four where the retail grinders are being assembled. "We almost need a line fi ve at this point!" Damian says. "Four years ago, we were doing close to 70 percent national sales, and 30 percent export. Since that time, we've grown 68 percent and the sales have completely reversed: 30 percent national, 70 percent in- ternational. I was with a client the other day, and he asked me, 'You do 38,000 grinders?' I'm like, 'Yeah!' He goes, 'You sure you don't mean 3,800?' I'm like, 'No, no, 38,000!'" Today, Compak produces close to 40,000 grinders per year with distribution in more than 80 countries. It's a big deal. Located in Barcelona's Gothic quarter, the Black Remedy café by Compak enjoys close relationships with numerous Spanish specialty microroasters, as well as food suppliers specializing in local ingredients, making it a terrifi c brunch option in a city not known for the weekend meal beloved in other cosmopolitan cities. Barcelona's specialty-coff ee scene has been steadily growing over the last few years, but Black Remedy stands apart for its decidedly third-wave style and culture. 26 barista magazine

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