Takeaways

1

Industry veteran Allen Leibowitz says his mantra is “There are no absolutes in coffee,” which means great coffee comes from curiosity.

2

Allen says that the more knowledge you gain about “the rules,” the freer it leaves you to experiment and push boundaries.

3

Today, Allen supports coffee professionals through his business, Pit Crew Coffee Service, which focuses on sales and service for high-end espresso machines, and gives back to the community by helping new coffee entrepreneurs navigate the intense startup costs.

Allen Leibowitz

Founder & CEO, Pit Crew Coffee Service

Expertise: roasting, education, safety, equipment sales and repair, Q grading

Coffee insight: The two biggest factors that cause equipment failure are ignoring preventative maintenance (which should be done every six months) and brewing with low-quality water.

Fun fact: Equipment doesn’t have to be a barrier to coffee! Allen’s brother doesn’t own a coffeemaker, so when Allen visits, he uses a blender and a scale to get the right ratio of beans to water!

Allen Leibowitz's Top 3: 1.) Chemex 2.) Espresso, and 3.) 2+ cups a day

Allen’s Coffee Origin Story

Allen was working in the tech industry in the early days of the internet when a colleague offered him an espresso (with beans from the original Peet’s coffee in Oakland). “It was, like, ‘Sure, I want an espresso, whatever that is,’” he jokes. After that Allen found himself experimenting with home roasting and eventually left the tech industry altogether to found Zingerman’s Coffee Company in 2003.

Allen’s Current Role

Today Allen supports other industry professionals through his company, Pit Crew Coffee, which works with businesses from small mom-and-pop shops all the way up to national chains. But Allen also leverages his skills, knowledge, and connections to support and invest in up-and-coming coffee professionals, helping small, bootstrapping coffeeshop startups by providing free labor and at-cost equipment and support. “We just do that as kind of a service to the industry.”

What Fuels Allen’s Work

Allen is helping other coffee entrepreneurs create successful sustainable businesses by sharing the best equipment and supporting them in making sure those high-investment items are working at their best for years to come.

“For whatever reason,” he explains, “people tend to just run the machine till it dies. You could have a $30,000 machine, that could be as much as a car. And you don’t just run it till it dies because you didn’t change the oil ever.” So Pit Crew Coffee works with coffee entrepreneurs to set up everything from water-filtering systems to preventative maintenance schedules to make sure their critical high-end equipment lasts.

What Allen Wants Coffee Drinkers to Know

Even having worked with the highest-grade equipment in the industry, Allen says to keep in mind that it’s always about finding a flavor profile that suits your tastes.

What’s he’s learned, he says, is that there is no single way to make an incredible cup of coffee. According to Allen, “There’s no one best coffee. There’s no one best prep method. There’s no one best coffee machine.”

And while, according to Allen, there are no absolutes in coffee, he does believe the one thing coffee consumers should make their baseline is the perfect ratio of water to coffee: 16 to 1. From there, anything goes.

How Allen Cultivates Community through Coffee

Allen goes above and beyond to help ensure that the next wave of café owners have the foundation they need to be successful. Allen says, “We tend to do work with people, usually for the first year or two as they get started, when we just know it’s something they need and something they can’t afford.”

That support can range from helping bootstrapping café owners purchase equipment at cost to setting up a water filtration system to providing time and labor to help them with technical aspects of their new equipment. “We do that as kind of service to the industry,” Allen explains.

Where You Can Find Allen

Pit Crew Coffee Service: pitcrew.coffee

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pitcrewcoffee/

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