Engage with Ninety Plus

View the Ninety Plus Portfolio and reserve our coffees

Connect Four by Amy Zavatto - Imbibe Magazine Sept/Oct 2011
Ninety Plus Profile Processing

Coffee has been bringing people together over tables, kitchen counters and in neighborhood bars for as long as ground beans have been put to hot water. And there are plenty of people out there preaching the gospel of great coffee. But in some obvious and not-so-obvious corners of the world, a busy network of coffee pros is spreading that word in new and interesting ways. They’re pushing at the edges of what’s possible behind and in front of the espresso bar, at coffee farms in faraway lands, and just about everywhere else they can get out their message about why coffee matters and how it connects all of us. From New York to Wisconsin to Oregon, we found four people whose efforts are inspiring new ways of connecting with coffee.

(Well, it's actually one pro that we are allowed to publish on our site out of respect to Imbibe Magazine.  Want to know who the other 3 are?  Get a subscription to Imbibe Magazine and find out.  Well worth the small investment for liquid culture. - NP)

Joseph Brodsky (The Explorer) - Article by Amy Zavattophoto by John Silbiski

HE’S SUPPOSED TO BE STUDYING LIONS or wild African dogs. At least that was Joseph Brodsky’s intention when he was a student in Natural Science at Evergreen State College in Washington State. But Brodsky, 37, would wind up devoting his life, time, savings and attentions to something even more exotic—the coffee trees of Ethiopia, of which thousands of ancient, wild varieties have yet to be identified.

It started post-graduation in 1998, when Brodsky spent eight months back home in Madison, Wisconsin, helping his older brother, Michael Johnson, write a business plan for his expanding roastery. "The idea stuck in my mind that I might want to get into coffee and be a coffee buyer,” he says. He moved to Spain for two years and became fascinated by coffee culture, and when he returned, he took a sales job at Boyd Coffee and started reading up on beans. He was particularly struck by Kevin Knox’s book Coffee Basics—“I was fascinated by the Ethiopian coffees he wrote about,” Brodsky recalls.

In 2001, Brodsky cofounded the family’s second roasting business, Novo Coffee in Denver, with his dad, Herb, and younger brother, Jake. Joseph and Jake started cupping African coffees from Denver’s Allegro Coffee, where Knox was a coffee buyer, and Brodsky was amazed by the different aromas and flavors he found, but he was disappointed by the beans he was receiving from importers. “I was especially intrigued by the Ethiopian coffees, and we ordered so many samples, but I couldn’t find one coffee that had the fruit that I smelled in those [Allegro] coffees or that Knox had described in his book.” 

A call to Knox clued Brodsky in to the fact that finding those elusive beans was a catch-as-catch-can endeavor. “I thought I would get some kind of secret formula for finding the great Harar coffees, but he told me that he did exactly as I was doing: he would cup through all Harar samples available until he found one, and some years he would find none, and Allegro would have no Harar coffee that year. That was among [my] first clues that coffee processing lacked controls. The way coffee is harvested, stored, processed and transported—there are so many ways to damage it. And in Ethiopia, for every possible problem you could have—they have them all.” So he took matters into his own hands.

In 2005, Brodsky was invited to Ethiopia for 10 days to judge a coffee competition. He wound up staying for two months, hiking into the forests, studying ancient coffee trees, discovering wild coffee strains, and cupping coffee samples in labs. By August 2006, he had returned, but this time as a buyer. That year, he built the foundation for NinetyPlus and what he would eventually call “coffee-making,” creating a new way of identifying and categorizing coffees. He implemented better quality-control methods for a family who owned three processing mills in Ethiopia, creating a new system of processing and separating coffee lots by things like microclimate, variety and time of harvest, instead of lumping them all together and hoping for the best. He also discovered that it’s possible to highlight specific flavor profiles by controlling the drying patterns for the coffee cherries—and the efforts paid off.

He returned to Denver in March of 2007 with his first harvest to sell under the NinetyPlus name—bags of Aricha and Beloya, which quickly caught attention. Within a year, his beans were winning praise and becoming the prized pick of baristas around the globe.

Today, he partners with several Ethiopian processors, offering a portfolio of sought-after coffees that sell out almost as fast as they’re listed on the NinetyPlus website (you can purchase some of the coffees from Novo Coffee). He shares his journey and discoveries through writings and videos on the site, where he also sells silver cupping spoons, handmade by an Ethiopian artisan, and a photo book, Coffee Story: Ethiopia, which he produced and published. He has also created the NinetyPlus Sensory Room in Madison, where he and his colleagues rigorously analyze and categorize flavor profiles. It’s all Brodsky’s way of honoring coffee’s roots and sharing that story with coffee drinkers. “All of the world's special coffee originated in Ethiopia, and it has varieties that have the potential to taste as different as 10,000 distinct grapes made into 1,000,000 different wines,” he says. “Ethiopia is the origin of coffee and the only country with a correspondingly deep and authentic coffee culture.”

Last year, Brodsky invested in his own 331-acre sustainable farm in Panama, specializing in the highly prized, Ethiopian-born heirloom varietal Gesha (boutique roasters around the U.S. should have supply available in 2012). Seeking an interchange of ideas, he brought in partners from the international coffee community to invest in the farm. “We'd like to produce beautiful, highly valuable coffee,” he says. “It all starts with someone who takes a well-produced coffee bean and processes it properly.”

+ If this has made an impression, engage with us. +

Lotus H2 & Sillvia N2 Reservation - Maruyama Coffee, Japan
Ninety Plus Gesha Estates

Maruyama Coffee is now offering a premium coffee set of Ninety Plus Lotus H2 & Sillvia N2 (Solkiln™ Processing).  Reserve your coffee now ... read more.

Ninety Plus Maker Series - China
Ninety Plus Profile Processing

The Event

2014 WBrC Champion, Stefanos Domatiotis of Greece, and 2014 WBC 4th place finisher, Craig Simon of Aust ... read more.

Stefanos Domatiotis wins world coffee championship with Ninety Plus
Ninety Plus Gesha Estates

Stefanos Domatiotis wins world coffee championship with Ninety Plus ... read more.

The Maker Series by Ninety Plus
Ninety Plus Profile Processing

With this, one of the most extraordinarily profound and complex coffees we have made, Ninety Plus introduces the Maker Series with a signature Taste Profile designed by our Ethiopia Processing ... read more.

Single-Lot, Single-Variety Excitement
Ninety Plus Profile Processing

Single-Lot, Single-Variety Excitement
by Kenneth Davids; Reviews by Kenneth Davids with Jason Sarley
In the new world of ... read more.

2013 Taste Profiles sold out. Reserve 2014 now.
Ninety Plus Gesha Estates

Sold Out: Lycello W2, Perci N2, Perci Red N2, Nekisse Red N2, Nekisse Ruby N2, Lotus N2, Sillvia N2 
read more.

Ninety Plus Coffee in Nice, France
Ninety Plus Sensory Room

Taste NP Taste Profiles in Nice. Limited availability. Pleas ... read more.

Purchase Ninety Plus Coffee's Nekisse Red N2 and Nekisse Ruby N2
Ninety Plus Sensory Room

Limited amounts of Nekisse Red N2 (L39) and Nekisse Ruby N2 (L95) are available for purchase.  Please contact ... read more.

Ninety Plus creating Comparative Coffee Culture at MICE - Melbourne, Australia
Ninety Plus Sensory Room

Ninety Plus creating Comparative Coffee Culture at MICE with @AlphaDominche & @ThinkTankCoffee on the #Steampunk - Booth 14. May 23rd - 26th. ... read more.

Ninety Plus Sensory Sessions at MICE - Melbourne, Australia - May 23-26
Ninety Plus Sensory Room

Ninety Plus Coffee is excited to be an exhibitor this year, and would like to invite you to taste new crop Taste Profiles in a Ninety Plus Sensory Session.