Très Johnson is pouring water in a slow, circular motion around a paper filter resting just inside a glass jar. Inside the filter, coffee grounds are mixing with the water, tiny bubbles forming on the surface of the gritty liquid. The glass chamber below collects the drippings of fresh, dark coffee.
At 1010 S. Main St. in Council Bluffs, (drips) coffee shop serves only pour-over coffee.
Johnson had wanted to open a coffee shop almost since he managed one back in 1995. Unfortunately, “the cost of the machinery prohibits just jumping in,” he says.
He and his girlfriend, Amber Jacobsen, took a trip to San Francisco about a year and a half ago. There, they visited Blue Bottle Coffee, which does pour-over coffee—Johnson’s first taste of it.
“It was the best cup of coffee I’d had,” Johnson says. “And I realized it took a smaller amount of equipment to be able to make it. You just had to boil water, have the filter and the stand. And I actually use glass Ball jars instead of a stand.”
Re-inspired by this method, Johnson opened (drips) on July 1, 2013.
This particular brew is Nightingale Blend, roasted by Beansmith Coffee in Omaha, and prepared in a personal pour-over, which has four drips. He also uses a Chemex frequently, with a single drip.
“I do have some French presses and an AeroPress,” Johnson says. “But I’ve found that the pour-over just tastes better. The people that insist on French press have tried the pour-over, and now they don’t insist on the French press anymore.”
A coffee shop is the perfect place to be on a day like this—cold and rainy. Amber is doing a puzzle. Two locals are enjoying their pour-overs and accusing Amber of cheating by looking at the photo on the puzzle box.
(drips) is located in a mixed-use space occupied by artists, including low-income artist housing. The coffee shop definitely has an artsy feel, probably because Johnson is both a painter and a DJ.
One half of the wall space displays Johnson’s art. The other half is space for rotating guest shows.
For Valentine’s Day, (drips) will display the work of approximately 20 local artists in a show called “Lovesong,” named for The Cure song. A Brian Tait show will open mid-February.
The Cure is already present in lyrics painted onto Johnson’s pieces. He often uses stencils to inscribe lyrics from bands like Depeche Mode and Joy Division—words that “people from the ’80s, if they know the song, they connect with.”
He describes his style as “heavily influenced by street art, and then some post-World War II art thrown in.”
“When I’m tired of painting and waiting for paint to dry, I produce music,” he says with a laugh.
He DJs a set every Sunday night for an online radio station, lowercasesounds.com. “Then that’s what I listen to generally throughout the week when I’m painting,” he says. “I listen to it over and over again, because I usually listen to newer music or music that I just picked up. I listen and paint.”
Johnson describes his sound as “deep house and ambient.” He DJs Silicon Prairie News events, like Big Omaha, and he has recently released EPs on the label Deep Site Space.
“There’s always been a combination of the music in the art,” Johson says. “They’re both something that I let myself go into. I don’t really sweat it. I just let it all flow.”