Battle of the Band Coffees: Hot Water Music vs. Brain Tentacles


In retrospect, it’s a little baffling that someone hasn’t made a Descendents-inspired coffee yet. (Update: or so I thought! As it turns out, Sweetwater did exactly this in 2013.) As a recent article on Vice pointed out, bands are increasingly lending their names to various foods and drinks: among others, Dogfish Head has collaborated with Juliana Barwick and Guided by Voices on beer; the former also resulted in a very good EP, Rosabi. Coffee roasters based near the labels in question have also given the world roasts inspired by Sub Pop and Jade Tree Records.

I’d been kicking around the idea to try out some music-inspired coffee for a while now, and finally decided to pit two band-inspired roasts together. Specifically, a blend inspired by the experimental group Brain Tentacles from Chicago’s Dark Matter Coffee, and a single-origin roast from Sweetwater Organic Coffee inspired by Florida punk heroes Hot Water Music.



If you like your punk bands shouty and anthemic, odds are good that you like Hot Water Music. Maybe you even have a tattoo–they’re that kind of band. They’ve been making fantastic music since the mid-90s, and their side projects, solo projects, and offshoots are also uniformly solid. They’re pretty much the definition of a band for whom hard work has paid off.

Brain Tentacles are a more recent group–they’ve released a split LP on Dark Matter’s label Press Pot Recordings, and have signed to Relapse. They also feature Dave Witte on drums, which is a fine thing to hear. Witte is the only drummer whose playing has inspire me to shout, “OH MY GOD!” mid-show–and I’ve done it twice. (Discordance Axis at CBGB; Burnt by the Sun at…the Court Tavern, maybe?) Witte’s no stranger to beverage collaborations, having worked with Pennsylvania’s Tired Hands on Play Fast stout in 2014.




Sweetwater’s Hot Water Music-inspired coffee is bracing stuff: it’s a dark roast that’s left my brain feeling like it’s running a little overheated. The taste is on the earthy, gritty side, and there’s a hearty flavor that persists. The beans come from a co-op in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the coffee itself is a benefit for the community radio station WGOT.


Dark Matter’s Brain Tentacles is a lot subtler. It’s a very drinkable coffee, with a rich and slightly sour flavor, and a unique texture that suggests a soft French cheese, albeit in a way that works within the larger context of drinking coffee. There are two distinct coffees here: one from Guatemala, and one from El Salvador.

As with all good coffee, everyone’s a winner here. Though I’ll confess to a slight preference for Dark Matter’s roast: it took me by surprise and went to some unexpected places, especially for a cup of coffee.

Follow Vol. 1 Brooklyn on TwitterFacebookGoogle +, our Tumblr, and sign up for our mailing list.