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Chapter 34: Dreams

Posted by on Mar 5, 2015 in Coffeediem, Family, Featured | 0 comments

Chapter 34: Dreams

Please hear this dream which I have dreamed…
Genesis 37:6

Has God ever given you a radical dream to dream?  I remember sitting in Dr. Samples Intro to Ministry class in college and hearing him preach about dreaming big dreams for God.  I am always amazed at how God speaks through people in our lives to mold our future; how one thought sticks with us through the years.  I thought I might share some more details on our families dreams:

God gave me a dream in Middle School about starting my own cafe.  Though it has evolved from a video gaming cafe to a coffee shop, the core remains the same: Community.  We are in the works to open a Cafe here in Kraków with our friends mentioned in the last newsletter.  More details are to follow, but God has some crazy awesome plans in store.  We want to create and foster community.

God gave Michelle a passion for people, giving, and, more specifically, Hospitality.  God has given our family a dream of owning a house in Poland so we can better serve others with space for a play room for the kids and their friends, space to host guests for both the short and long term, and space for small groups and other gatherings to take place on a regular basis.  We recently had four girls over for a sleep over party, it was a blast and hope that many more are to come!

God has given us a dream to connect Coffee communities from Bean to Cup.  We are slightly delayed in our purchase, but we will soon select the coffee and farm.  We plan to send additional support to the farmer to help meet a need in their family or in the local community.  We are truly blessed with the people who  are making this happen.  Thank you Glen, Sindy and Bojan!  One day it would wonderful to roast this coffee myself, but I know that baby steps are in order.

Some of these dreams may seem crazy, farfetched, or unrealistic.  That is also what I said!  But God, who works in crazy, farfetched, and unrealistic ways, responded.  Sarah, our friend living with us, allowed God to speak through her, “Sounds crazy, like when God provided a babysitter for your training day, renters for your house, a buyer for your car, money for you to come to Poland, friends and family in Poland, free miles to fly to and from the States 4 times, a buyer for your house…”  I got the point.  There is no dream too big for God, especially when it is God breathed.

We place limitations on a limitless creator, limiting dreams to become manageable. 

I think it is time I stopped getting in the way of God and embracing the path He has set before my family.  After all, it is not by our strength, our means, or our ability, but God’s.  God supplies our strength.  God is our provider, financially and otherwise.  After all,

He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

-1 Thessalonians 5:24

Please join my family in prayer as we seek to pursue big dreams for God:

  • As we establish a cafe here in Kraków
  • As we look for our future home and the finances to purchase
  • As we select a coffee and farm to purchase from in Honduras
  • As we open our home :to the kids friends, families, short and long term guests and future small groups
  • As we return to the States May 1 – August 6
  • As we connect with people in our community


If God has given you big dreams, we would love to join you in prayer!  Send us an email at thegravesabroad@gmail.com


If you feel lead to partner with us financially you have two options:

Make checks (or cash) payable to: “Centerpoint Church”
In the notes say it is for: “mission to Poland”
Send to:
Centerpoint Church (Attn: Erica Shamburg)
2750 Cornerstone Dr
Pagosa Springs, CO 81147
(This is Tax-Deductible)
you can visit our blog at www.gravesabroad.com and donate through PayPal (not tax-deductible)


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The Honduran Connection

Posted by on Nov 7, 2014 in Coffeediem, Featured | 0 comments

The Honduran Connection

Exciting news!  Last Friday I met with Sindy.  Sindy and her husband, Bojan, work closely with coffee farmers in Honduras.  Their objective is to connect smaller, lower yielding farms with roasters in Europe.  Sindy’s family owns a farm in Honduras and has many close relationships with her neighbors and fellow farmers in her community.  By connecting the farmers in Honduras and the roasters in Europe, these farmers will see more money and gain a wider audience.

Some of you may know my passion for helping people and for coffee.  When I talked with Sindy and Bojan, they picked up on this right away.  We are in the works of creating a partnership from which we can go above and beyond just purchasing coffee from these families in Honduras.

This is how it would work:

Sindy and Bojan  select 3-4 farmers in Honduras.  Each farmer would have an estimated farm yield and their current needs.

These needs could range from home needs(clean water, food allowances, clothing for children, transportation, education, medical needs, etc.) to work needs (clean water to farm, processing needs, broken down equipment repair/replacement, etc.).

I select the farmer and need to be addressed.  Based on this information the coffee would then be pre-sold, share cropped, or donation-based purchase. 

The idea is simple.  We want to support the farmer beyond the purchase of the coffee.   The farmer already is receiving more than they would if they had sold to a middle man, but we don’t want to just invest in the farmer financially.  We want to SUPPORT the farmer.  We want to stand beside them so they know they are apart of a global community that recognizes all they go through in life.  We want to encourage!

We work with an in country roaster who will help roast and package our coffee for distribution.

Great coffee needs a great roaster who wants to make more of an impact than through profits!

We will need help in all parts of this process.  If you think you would like to be a part of this idea moving forward, please let me know! 

Ministry: In Detail

Posted by on Oct 11, 2014 in Coffeediem, Featured | 0 comments

Ministry: In Detail

When working at Starbucks, as I’ve stated before, I witnessed a diverse community that gathered under one roof.  It seems to be the most diverse place I’ve ever been.  I believe this is why ministry in coffee shops is so vital to the future of the church.  I don’t believe I adequately answered what Coffee Shop ministry looks like, so let me show you some examples.

Let us start with the understanding that their are two points of ministry at coffee shops; behind the counter and in the cafe.  As a Barista, I never dreamed that I would find myself involved with ministry while making coffee.  I don’t know how many times we would find ourselves mid-rush and mid-discussion.  Sometimes our topics would simple, like a new concoction of syrups to add to our coffee, the latest video game that you had to try, the best new release in theaters, or ‘what in the world did that person just order, is it even legal?!’  But more often than not, we would find ourselves waste deep in life.

Some will argue that you can find good conversation at any workplace.  I have found a deeper level at coffee shops.  Maybe its the close space in which we work, the smaller staff to familiarize yourself with, or maybe it is the environment that we work in.  Coffee shops are places of intimate space.  We find the quick responses to why one missed a shift, how school is going, and ‘what’s up?’ are expanded to shift long conversations.  Sometimes we parry ideas, bridge question to meaning, and other times we are just present.


Maybe even a shoulder to cry on or another to hug.

I’ve played part of counselor, friend, and pastor.  I’ve discussed what I believe develops successful marriages and relationships, all matters of theology, homosexuality, politics, and life struggles and victories.  All these conversations were discussed in an open dialogue that allowed me to share my beliefs without their being judgment.

Then there is the cafe side of ministry.  This can be to, with or as customers in the coffee shop.

Most of my early ministry at coffee shops, I was apart of a few bible studies that met regularly.  We found the environment to be right for open discussion as well as a pick me up in the early morning.  I thought this was the extent of ministry in the shop (on the customer side), until I arrived at Sweet Surrender.

As a cafe owner/operator:  You need to be invested and involved in your local community/city.  Outreach programs, cleanups, game nights, movie nights, book clubs, presentations from non-profits, workshops on resume building, homeless and lower income initiatives.  Whatever you can to get your customers involved.  Whatever you can do to be present in another persons life.  Whatever you can do to open the door to conversation.

As a customer: You need to take what you love to the coffee shop.  You like to knit, read, edit pictures, play games, hang out, plan stuff, organize events, pray, or breathe.  Take it to the shop.  It is amazing what happens when you live life in the public.  Sure it is not always quiet, not always the best alone time, but you open yourself up to community.  You would be amazed at how many other people are interested in the same thing you are…and how much you have in common with others!

Think about it.  Any and Everything can be ministry.  Get out there and share life with others.  That is what it is all about.  Why not search in the most diverse gathering point you can find?



Coffee Shop Ministry: What and Why

Posted by on Sep 26, 2014 in Coffeediem, Featured | 0 comments

Coffee Shop Ministry: What and Why

They very phrase “Coffee Shop Ministry” sounds weird.  It’s almost like I took a business and thought I could add fulfillment or meaning by ending with the word ministry.  That is not the case, trust me.  If it were, I would have chosen an occupation like “Wall Street Executive Ministry.”

So what does this phrase mean?  Ministry that takes place in, around, and through a Coffee Shop.  After you finish your long and over the top eye roll, allow me to explain how it is so much more and why it matters.


Think back to the last time you were in a coffee shop.  What brought you there?  Were you meeting family or friends? were you studying for a test, completing a project, reading a book, or out on a date?  Regardless of whether or not you even care for the taste of coffee, there is something different about the environment of a coffee shop that brings us together.

Community is fostered.

This is important.

We go to coffee shops to share life, live life, to give life.  Sometimes it is about the coffee.  Enjoying a single-origin Ethiopian Yirgacheffee that your barista has just coaxed a fruit filled flavor that seems to kick your taste buds with goodness, you begin to question whether syrup was added!  Other times coffee is nowhere close to your heart, so far that you cannot fathom why anyone would punish their taste buds with such an unpleasant stout beverage…if you can call it that!  In the end, it becomes more about people than what you are drinking.  It’s about your friend, your barista, your life. You find yourself at a coffee shop.

This is why.

Community forms naturally around most coffee shops.  During my time with Starbucks I picked up on this.  Not just a community of coffee drinkers, but almost a perfect cross section of Humanity.  Every creed, religion, race, sexual-orientation and Political affiliation.  Life happens here.  Why wouldn’t we want to be involved in this community?!

If we, the church want to engage others, share life, and be present in our local communities, we must find where the people are.  In most cases, you can find a coffee shop nearby.  A non-threatening environment full of acceptance.  Not every coffee shop is ideal, but there are people in each shop.


At at the very least, when you are ready to a purchase your drink, remember there is a person staring back at you.  Put the phone down, make eye contact, and share a moment.  Because ministry is about to happen.

Ingredients for Success

Posted by on Sep 14, 2014 in Coffeediem, Featured | 0 comments

Ingredients for Success

I thought it might be a good idea to mention a few of the most important ingredients for making the best cup of coffee.

Before I begin, I want it to be clear that I am making a big assumption:  You actually like the coffee you selected.  Sometimes no matter how you prepare a coffee, you just won’t like it.  This is the case with me and Starbucks’ French Roast.  No matter how you prepare this coffee, it will always taste what seems to be an ashtray.  Every time.  Guaranteed.

Here are the basics:

  1. Fresh Coffee
  2. Filtered Water
  3. Correct Grind Size
  4. Proper Measurements
  5. Clean Equipment

  Fresh Coffee

I always buy coffee from local Specialty Coffee shops and roasters.  Here I can talk to the Baristas (sometimes even the roasters!) about the coffee and find out more than a bag can offer.  I usually ask about when it was roasted, what flavors they can taste, and what the best brew method and tips.  Good first time tip:  Ask them what their favorite is!

I avoid coffee from the grocery store.  Before you go all “You Coffee Snob!” on me, let me explain.  I don’t know how many of you have worked in a grocery store before, but I have.  As a customer you normally don’t notice the specifics of how long product has sat on the shelf, but as an employee (night stalker) you do.  Think about this, the coffee is bought in bulk (usually lower quality beans), roasted in bulk, shipped to a warehouse, then distributed a stores back room, then onto the shelf.   Ever picked up a product covered in dust?  Thought it might be more than a few years old?

The longer a coffee oxidizes the more stale it becomes.  This process begins immediately after roasting and the rate at which it oxidizes increases when the coffee is ground (more surface area).  So think about buying pre-ground coffee…

Filtered Water

Have you ever enjoyed sweet delicious spring water?  You ever settle for city water?  Notice the differences?  The main ingredient in your cup of coffee is…water.  So maybe next time you take a little more care when selecting what water you put in.  Even though tap water can be super delicious, it also has to do with what minerals are in your water supply and whether they play nicely with coffee molecules or not.  Using a filter helps remove impurities and provide a cleaner cup.

Grind Size

When you grind the coffee fine, it provides more surface area for the water to pull flavor from.  This requires a shorter brew time.  Think Sand.  Think Espresso.

When you grind the coffee coarse, the water has less surface area.  This requires a longer brew time.  Think small pebbles.  Think French Press.

Using the correct grind size depending on your brewing method, amount of coffee/water, and desired brew time.

Proper Ratios

I recommend that you start with a baseline of 7grams of ground coffee for every 100ml of water.  This is not the golden rule for every coffee, but it is a starting point for finding the right ratio for you.

Clean Equipment

Coffee is rich with oils and stales soon after grinding.  It is important for cup quality and machine function to clean your brewing equipment after each use.

At the end of the day, no matter what you do or don’t do.  You need to discover the right method to make the best tasting coffee TO YOU.  After all, You are the one who will be enjoying this delicious cup of joe…not a book, blog, or “coffee connoisseur.”

Let’s talk about soda…

Posted by on Sep 11, 2014 in Coffeediem, Featured | 0 comments

Let’s talk about soda…

Frequently I get asked the question, ” Brad, how do you make the perfect cup of coffee.”  What a challenging question!!  The answer to this one is extremely complex, yet frustratingly simple, “By making the one you like best.”

Let me ask this question, ‘What is  your favorite soda, beer or wine?’

I don’t drink alcohol, but I have had my fair share of soda, so lets talk soda.  If I were to answer that question honestly it would depend on my mood.  Sometimes I enjoy the rich dark flavor of a Dr. Pepper, the spicy Ginger Ale, the sweet Cream Soda, the bite of a Barqs, or the fruitiness of a Cherry Pepsi(or Coca-Cola…we don’t need to get into that debate here).  Do you see where I am going?

Just like the complexity of a soda selection, we have the complexity of coffee selection even more so!  Not only would we be determining which coffee to brew but then the choice of how we brew it that accents each coffee differently.  Just as no two sodas are created equal, no two coffee’s are equal.  I would argue that no two coffee farms, in the same country at the same elevation on the same mountainside would be identical in flavor…that is assuming they are the same varietals!  We won’t go to much further down this road now, but I think you are starting to get the picture.

Let me answer the initial question a second time, “Practice and Patience.”  If you don’t practice and you are not patient, I suggest you trust your coffee ritual and time to the local Barista.  For myself, the perfect cup requires farmers, processors, transporters, roasters, and Baristas to play their part in the big picture of coffee.  It only takes one mistake, at any level to transform this sweet nectar into dirty water (also known as instant coffee).

If you enjoy the cup of coffee that you make in the morning, by all means keep enjoying!  I cannot promise that you will enjoy any cup that I make you more, though a majority do.  I can give you specifics on measurements, methods, and coffees, but unless you are doing the exact same steps with the same coffee, you probably wont match it…unless you practice and have loads of patience.

When I was practicing for the Polish AeroPress Championship, I would use the same base formula for making my AeroPress: 14grams of Ethiopia from Java, 2 clicks coarser than medium on my Concept, 80 C water temp (175 F), 18 seconds pour time for 205g of water, let it sit for 1:10, then flip and 30 second press at most(ending around 1:40).  No matter how many times I made the coffee, it seemed to change in flavor each time.  I discovered that if I poured to fast or to slow, poured over or under the amount of water, or pressed to slowly or too quickly it would affect the taste of the coffee.  Even the water temperature being off by a few degrees drastically changed the outcome!  The joy of the perfect cup outweighs the challenge to brew it.

Coffee, Soda, and Food all are a preference of our pallet.  You may never like coffee, no matter how I make it or until we add a little bit of milk.  I do not call myself a purist, connoisseur, or snob; I just enjoy good coffee.  I, like you, have my favorite way to enjoy coffee.  Let us begin to understand this journey together.

Coffee Diem

Posted by on Sep 1, 2014 in Coffeediem, Featured | 0 comments

Coffee Diem

When people talk to me, they learn very quickly that I love coffee.  I have come to understand it as so much more than a love for coffee, because it is so much more than just coffee.  It is a way of life, to life, to live life.  For some it is a source of income, others a means to function.  Until the opportunity for me to prepare you a cup of coffee in person, I want to share that passion with you through this blog.

I plan to discuss coffee origins, brewing methods, cafe experiences and reviews, best practices, equipment recommendations, ministry in the workplace, community, and discussing coffee shop ministry.  I wont promise that you will always agree or that I will even have the best answers.  But I will bring my passion to my writing, speak from experience, and answer as many questions as I can to the best of my ability.

So here is my background:

I started my coffee journey on November 15, 2007.  We will call this time Post-Cream.  Before this time, my use of coffee in my cream and sugar was about as useful as plano glasses. On this day, I began my training with Starbucks.

I worked with Starbucks for 5 years to the day.  They gave me a foundation from which I built my coffee knowledge, management know-how, and customer service expertise.  Of the 5 years I spent with Starbucks, 4 were in management positions as a Shift Supervisor, Assistant Manager, and Store Manager.  Throughout the 5 years, God’s peace and presence manifested itself.  I am sure I will talk more in detail about some of the challenges and successes of my time there.

It was in my final year with Starbucks that I started to rediscover my passion for people and new found love for coffee.  I started to read magazines and books on all things coffee.  Any Tuesday morning you would find my family at Elemental Coffee Roasters in Oklahoma City, OK enjoying a delicious cup of freshly roasted and brewed coffee while appreciating the aroma of freshly roasted coffee.  Talk about bliss!

Our friends Aaron and Brittany realized that my beautiful life partner (love you Michelle!) and I would fit into Coffee Shop Ministry very well.

They asked.  We prayed.  God lead.

6 Months later, we arrived in Poland.  Since December 4, 2012, we have been living in Kraków, Poland working at the Sweet Surrender Coffee Shops in partnership with the Church of the Nazarene Mission Corps.  We manage the shop, work the floor, run the church, and allow God to flow through us in all the creative ways he moves.  I have competed in the 2014 Polish AeroPress Competition, Volunteered with the 2014 Polish Barista Championship, and have trained with several other competitors in Polish Coffee Competitions.

Each week I will write about a different topic.  I would love to focus these posts on or around questions you may have about anything and everything coffee:  From bean to cup, from customer to management, from farmer to barista, and business to ministry.  Until next week I leave you with this:

I was taken by the power that savoring a simple cup of coffee can have to connect people and create community.
-Howard Schultz

Nicaraguan Coffee

Posted by on Aug 28, 2014 in Coffeediem | 0 comments

Nicaraguan Coffee