Of the many hip cafes or chain stores where Pasadena locals buy coffee with their names spelled incorrectly on their cup, Home Brewed Bar stands apart from the shops with a “grab-and-go” camaraderie. With every drink made to order and staff members learning the name of every person who walks in, Home Brewed Bar strives to create a coffee community where customers find themselves at home in their intimate location in Old Town.
After owner Brian Molina lost the lease for a cafe he owned in Downtown Los Angeles, he found himself new property in Pasadena. To adapt with the new city move, Molina wanted the atmosphere to transition after experiencing the typical coffee shop workflow rush in his previous shop.
“When I worked in that old shop with Brian earlier, the atmosphere was so different,” manager Andy Dodson said. “The space was huge and the energy was fast. People were always rushing in and out, and Brian wanted to change that. He loves the sense of community.”
As a Los Angeles native, Molina likes his tea and coffee cold, and he knows others have their preferences on how sweet, strong, and creamy they would like their drink. With these in mind, he was inspired to centralize this place to customized cold brew. After much trial and error, Home Brewed Bar’s optimal time frame for the best quality drinks is a 20-hour brew.
“Specializing in cold brewed teas and coffees allows us to offer up a great assortment of drinks that are made in real time, mixed upon your order and built to your taste,” Molina wrote in an email to staff.
Tea leaves and coffee beans come from business partners Art of Tea and Jones Coffee Roasters. The coffee brewing process starts with grinded coffee beans being brought to a boil, shocked with an ice bath, transferred into cold water, then brewed for 20 hours. For their tea, tea leaves are bloomed, meaning the hot water is poured into the tea leaves and the flavor “blooms” as its shocked with hot water.
“This technique reduces the acidity while bringing out the flavor. Reducing the acidity prevents that jittery feeling most experience after drinking caffeine,” brewtender Cathy Nivera explained.
These techniques are uncommon because of how much time and space it demands, and Home Brewed Bar believes their patience is what executes their high quality drinks. Their slower pace and high attention on drinks is one of the many norms of Home Brewed Bar that make this place feel like a second home to customers.
Home Brewed Bar’s hello’s and goodbye’s are “welcome home” and “come home soon.” If a customer wasn’t greeted by their first name upon arrival, staff will make it happen next time, because they take their time into learning about customer beyond just their names, from where they work or go to school, to vacation plans, and personal projects they may be working on. They consider first-timers as regulars once they walk in.
“I’ve been coming here twice a week for three years,” regular customer Matt Redondo said. “They often know my order here. Sometimes, I get something different, but they’re pretty aware of my usual blended taro with boba.”
The staff does not prioritize time and quickness in their workflow, and avoids yelling out orders, names or running around the back kitchen. Instead, staff promotes their sense of community by getting to know whoever they’re serving and making sure that the drink they ordered is to their liking.
“My goal and vision for Home Brewed Bar is to provide a little bit of joy into our guests’ daily routine,” Molina said.
“We have to know that sometimes, we’re the start of someone’s day,” Nivera added. “We strive to make it the best experience for them instead of feeling like they have to get in, grab a drink, and go. It’s a different atmosphere from coffee shops, but it’s better.”
The coffee shop is furnished with bar tables, books, local art on the walls, and vintage light bulbs to promote Molina’s intention of a homey vibe and exhibit his personality through his own coffee shop.
“Brian is a whimsical guy. He enjoys that sense of random,” Dodson said. “He wants customers to look around and think ‘what is this?’ which explains the books, but the bar tables allow customers to mingle. This place has a sense of whimsical, just like him.”
Their diverse menu ranges from traditional cold brews, which they call “toddy” on their menu, and lattes, to global flavors like Vietnamese coffee and Thai milk tea. All drinks are customizable with Home Brewed Bar’s variety in milk alternatives, syrups, and drink add-ons.
Guests who’ve made their own creations sometimes become so popular that Home Brewed Bar makes it a permanent addition on their menu. Also, staff has an idea of which seasonal drinks are deserving of being year-round, such as their Nutella toddy latte and matcha pistachio milk tea.
Home Brewed Bar staff carefully crafts each drink to order, and do not like to rush any drink being made. They want customers to walk in relaxed and know that a coffee run doesn’t always have to be a frantic, first morning hour to a long day of school or work. Most people find themselves in and out of the coffee shop, but staff here take the time to learn more about their customers to put the “home” in their coffee shop name.
“I hope that our staff and guests find that bit of joy when they come home,” Molina said. “If it’s by laughing at stories told or enjoying a refreshing cold brew, I feel accomplished if we have sparked something in all those we come across and broadened their view on how guests should be treated and the different ways one can enjoy their cup of coffee or tea.”
Come home to Home Brewed Bar on 39 N Arroyo Pkwy. They’re open from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays.