In a classic Breaking Bad scene, lovable supernerd Gale Boetticher gives Walter White a tour of his new meth lab. They stop at a series of tubes, flasks, and a vacuum pump: Gale's own coffee machine designed to regulate quinic acid, tannins, and other things only coffee snobs care about. Walter exclaims it's the best coffee he's ever tasted before asking, "Why the hell are we making meth?" Real-life cafe Walter's Coffee Roasters—which started in Istanbul and opened a second location this week in Brooklyn—reimagines what it would have been like if Walter had worried more about the source of his beans than the source of his methylamine. (Gale's Coffee Roasters doesn't have the same ring).
Owner Deniz Kosan is careful to point out that Walter's is only inspired by the show; this is no Breaking Bad theme park cafe. Instead it has the hipster minimalist aesthetic typical of a coffee shop in north Brooklyn. The nods to Breaking Bad are subtle—hazmat yellow trim, a periodic table on the wall, coffee served in beakers. And while he might not have the fanaticism of Gale, Kosan takes his coffee seriously, sourcing beans from all over the world, roasting them daily, and using Chemex for brewing (for purposes of taste and aesthetic).
With plans to expand to several more locations in New York, as well as California and Dubai, Kosan has at least one thing in common with Walter White: he's not in the meth business; he's in the empire business. We talked to Kosan about coffee, Breaking Bad, and his plans for the future.
MUNCHIES: So you're a big Breaking Bad fan? Deniz Kosan: I like the show. I also like other shows. I like House of Cards. I like Baxter. I like Vikings. But I wanted to open up a big space, and Breaking Bad was the closest one to a laboratory, and there were some short scenes about coffee in the show which people can relate to, so that was what I chose.
In what ways does the coffee shop take inspiration from Breaking Bad? It's spacious. It's really big. You're talking about 2,400 or 2,500 square feet. We don't have any colors on the wall. It's concrete. We have wood furniture. Everything else is white tiles and stainless steel. Also, the containers where we keep the coffee are plastic. We have a lot of glassware originally used in laboratories.
So you prepare your coffee with Aeropress and with Chemex? Chemex looks like a wine carafe. It's actually a really old method. It was made up in the '40s by a german chemist and then an American company bought all the rights.
Did you start using Chemex because it's aesthetically similar to Breaking Bad or the other way around? Yeah, because it's glass, and also the taste. We had all brew methods at the beginning, but we figured out which are customers prefer more and we decided to go with Chemex and Aeropress.
So in the Istanbul location you guys had the hazmat suits and blue rock candy? We don't do that anymore, because we don't want to step on toes of other people, such as AMC. We opened up in New York now, and we want to be careful. It was a nice joke, and it was fun at the beginning to make blue rock candy. But we still have the hazmat suits and people can put them on and take pictures.This is something unique we offer.
You have hazmat suits for customers to wear?We have hazmat suits they can jump inside and take pictures for a memory, but we don't have them in Brooklyn, because in Bushwick you don't want to be cheesy, and that gives a soft little cheesy touch. You don't want to overwhelm people.
How do you balance the desire to take inspiration from Breaking Bad with the desire not to overdo it? I think we have really good balance. We want to be a unique, minimalistic, clean, fresh coffee shop, and after you ask for a wifi password and it's Heisenberg, and the name on the awning is Walter's Coffee Roastery, and you see the periodic table menu, then you add 1 +1 and you think, "OK, this is Breaking Bad inspired." We don't want to make a space that's in your face Breaking Bad.
Who's your target customer base? Our main target is definitely the freelancer, the young creative. That's why we chose a really spacious store, and we have outlets, and really good wifi. And they don't feel bothered if they sit too long, because we have the space. But also people who appreciate good coffee.
From where do you source your coffee? We don't source directly from the farms. We buy from wholesalers, but we source them green. We roast them in Istanbul in-house. In Brooklyn, we roast with Pulley Collective in Red Hook. They're offering the service where you can go rent a machine and roast your own coffee.
It seems like it's going well. Yeah. We are growing really fast. We just opened up 18 months ago, and now we have a location in Brooklyn. Dubai is coming up next. We will definitely expand, and we are looking at a second location in Lower East Side right now on Clinton, and the third location will likely be near Columbia. So we have big plans. Also, we're looking at opening in California in 2017.
So what do you like to drink? I'm a big big fan of our cold brew. We have a Japanese Cold Brew. It's a cold drip where they use the glass towers and put ice on top. The coffee is in the middle and it's collected in a beaker underneath and it takes about 12 hours to brew the coffee. There is no exposure of heat or pressure, it's just gravity. It takes a lot of time, but it's totally worth it. You can taste every single flavor the coffee has inside.
So It's fair to say you take your coffee pretty seriously? I do. I do. Alright, thanks a lot.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.