Welcome to the 2018 edition of The Essentials, our catalog of indispensable and quintessential Phoenix food and drink. From now until May, we'll be sharing 50 dishes, drinks, and food experiences that make up the culinary backbone (and personality) of metro Phoenix. This list is highly eclectic, mixing classics with newer and lesser-known favorites. But all The Essentials have one thing in common: We think they're required eating (and drinking) in metro Phoenix.
46: Coffee made from ROC2 beans
The most interesting man in the world, if he were a real person, might be David Anderson. Anderson grew up on a farm in Kansas. He later had a career in business in Washington, D.C. Today he is a welder, black-and-white-photographer, and primarily high-end coffee roaster. At Roastery of Cave Creek, also called ROC2, Anderson has been roasting coffee beans for 20 years.
He sources beans from plantations in Central America, South America, Africa, and Indonesia. Farmers and importers often send him samples. He roasts these in test batches as small as 3 ounces. If he likes the beans, he may place a large order for a 150-pound bag, 50 such bags, or 100.
Other times Anderson takes “origin trips” to the source. He seeks out the “better, more prominent farms.” When visiting more dangerous regions, Anderson has been assigned armed guards by plantation owners. The guards trail him as he scrutinizes the fields.
The beans Anderson sources are destined to be roasted at ROC2 in Cave Creek. Anderson has three main roasters. His most impressive roaster is a Kirsch + Mausser UG22 Retro, an elusive machine from Germany that, following his order, took more than half a year to build. “Roasting coffee is definitely a blend of art and science,” Anderson says. “Every coffee has a sweet spot.”
He is as good at hitting that sweet spot as anybody in town.
ROC2 isn’t officially open to the public. If you want to drink coffee made from Anderson’s beans, you have to find the liquid goods around town. Given how widespread ROC2 coffee is, that isn’t too tall a task. Many of metro Phoenix’s landmark restaurants use ROC2 coffee, places like Chris Bianco’s restaurants, FnB, and Rancho Pinot. Anderson’s nitro cold brew is on tap at places like Whole Foods, new-age corporate offices, and even The Wandering Tortoise, a craft beer bar.
To describe what coffee made from ROC2 beans tastes like is a futile task. Anderson roasts some beans light. He roasts some dark. He roasts some at 410 degrees, some at 420, some 450. Each bean batch has different positive attributes. He accentuates those attributes in different ways. ROC2 beans have enough range that Anderson will sit down with a pastry chef, discuss flavor profiles, and then roast to match them.
ROC2’s nitro coffee is a great way to taste what the roastery can do.
Cold brew pours thickly from the tap. As it climbs in the glass, a thick froth builds on top. This froth resembles the head of a Guinness, and so does the froth's brilliant cascading down into the drink’s dark regions. The nitro is silky and creamy. It has a stout-like mouthfeel. There’s a slight sweetness, but not from anything other than roasted beans and water. The caffeine level is high. You'll be happily buzzing for hours.
Anderson pours nitro at his “tasting bar.” This sleek section of ROC2's roastery stands away from the roasters. Here, chefs and other industry peeps come to taste coffee. Anderson has a variety of gadgets out of Asimov to grind, brew, pull, and pour.
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If you drive out to ROC2 to buy coffee, your first bag is free. You buy bags is on the honor system. Anderson stocks a case near the entrance with bags that vary in roast intensity and country of origin. You take what you need, leave money, and drive away.
ROC2 is officially closed to the public. But if you show up, check to see if Anderson and his team are roasting. On days they are, Anderson may invite you to chill at the tasting bar, soak up some brewed knowledge, and knock back a coffee or two.
Roastery of Cave Creek (ROC2). 7003 East Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek; 480-488-6060.
The 2018 Essentials so far:
50: Soul food platter at Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles.
49: The Bear at Short Leash Hot Dogs + Rollover Doughnuts
48: Grilled squid and other specialties at Andreoli Italian Grocer
47: I-10 Nachos at Cocina 10
46: Coffee made from ROC2 beans