It started as a hobby. David Hogg began roasting coffee beans at home in one of his cast iron skillets, buying beans in their immature “green” stage and cooking them to bring out new flavors.
He now runs Hogg Batch Coffee with his twin brother, Duane Hogg. They both life in St. Petersburg and by day, have jobs at New York Life and JP Morgan Chase in Tampa, respectively. In their free time, they age coffee beans in barrels previously used to house various liquors.
We sat down for a chat recently at Cycle Brewing in St. Petersburg, where the brothers and business partners explained how their interest in coffee grew from enjoying a cup to wanting to learn about every part of the process.
Over about a year and a half, David upgraded his home coffee equipment, trying to rig his own roasting contraptions while experimenting with different brewing methods. At one point, he used a stovetop popcorn maker to roast beans. Finally, he bought a drum roaster, a small one you hand-turn manually over a propane stove. It was a step in a more commercial direction.
“It was like I had a coffee equipment museum in my house,” said David. “In order to justify that big investment, I had to start doing markets.”
Back then, Duane said, family holiday gifts usually included some of David’s home-roasted coffee.
They decided to work together, and officially launched Hogg Batch in January 2019, bringing their backgrounds in creative work and marketing to bear on different aspects of the business. David Hogg previously worked at the Tampa Bay Times in marketing.
“We’re intentionally testing our way into things and being very incremental,” David said. “This is still a side hustle.”
Lots of precision and calculation is going into the small business, just like the coffee-roasting process.
It starts with unroasted green beans, which they order from companies sourcing beans from other countries. David worked with online vendors like Sweet Maria’s when he was starting out: “They really help the home roaster.” They now work out of a commercial kitchen, not David’s house.
“When I first started, I was into espresso and milk drinks,” David said. “At the same time I started roasting, I started tasting different beans and doing more pour-overs, French press, drips. I got caught up in the science of brewing methods.”
He came across the idea of barrel-aged coffees during his early roasting days. He saw some barrel-aged coffee in a gift shop on vacation in Chattanooga, Tenn. but couldn’t find it anywhere in Florida.
“It got me even more excited to try and create something unique,” he said. “It’s still pretty hard to find around here.”
Those green beans go into a barrel and the aging process begins.
“We’ll find the barrel, then we’ll look for beans that would go well with it, then we’ll pair the particular bean with the flavor of the barrel,” David said.
It sits anywhere from a month to two months. They use barrels from around the country and beyond. One of their latest was a Jamaican rum barrel. They’ve used barrels from American Freedom Distillery in St. Petersburg and St. Augustine Distillery.
For Mother’s Day, the brothers made a rosé-infused coffee, choosing an Ethiopian bean “because they tend to have a fruitier note that would pair with the rosé," David said.
“We respect that there’s other good coffee roasters around here,” he said. “We complement it and disrupt it, but it’s not a replacement. It’s something different.”
Duane describes the process of wetting the beans, of perfecting that ratio of liquid to raw green beans. It’s a small amount of liquid because the beans are porous and too much liquid would overwhelm them. But because the beans have direct contact with the liquid, they absorb the flavor.
“Barrel aging results in a complex flavor because it brings the barrel flavor and the flavor of the spirits,” he said. “We want to be fun and provide variety and be experimental."
He gestured to the barrel-aged beer releases currently listed on the wall at Cycle. It’s not so different from their aged coffee beans.
“We can never completely predict what’s going to come out," he said.
They’re working on increasing their reach, with an eye toward wholesale and retail distribution. They want to partner with more local distilleries. Maybe open a space of their own someday.
“It would be something really unique,” Duane said. “Probably not a coffee shop.”
“You might drink your drip coffee on a regular basis," David said. “But you drink this coffee to break you from your routine.”