A Journey Heading Down The Rabbit Hole

Today’s most e-mailed arti­cle in New York Times is “Learn­ing to Cre­ate the Per­fect Cup of Cof­fee.” Cof­fee sure is a pop­u­lar talk­ing topic.
This is a cof­fee layman’s expe­ri­ence in cof­fee train­ing class offered by Sight­glass in San Fran­cisco. The author can­didly delin­eate his find­ing and mis­takes in the pur­su­ing of mak­ing a per­fect cup of coffee.
A train­ing class for brew­ing cof­fee? It actu­ally doesn’t sound all that weird if you fol­low the cof­fee trend or are par­tic­u­lar about your cup. After all, cof­fee is not that simple.
I found some quotes mem­o­rable in the arti­cle to save you time read­ing the whole thing.
Ant (Tris­tan Walach), the trainer in Sight­glass Cof­fee, San Francisco:

Peo­ple like you are the best to train,” “You don’t have bad habits or pre­con­ceived notions. You’re a blank slate.”

“It’s the most com­pli­cated bev­er­age we consume,”
“The dif­fer­ence between a good barista and a great one is the great barista has the courage to toss a shot.”
How­ever, if you read it, I have to bring some points I think you have to take with a grain of salt. One of them is the impli­ca­tions about how to make your  morn­ing coffee.
“I make drip cof­fee (in the morn­ing).” That’s because mak­ing a good espresso requires prepa­ra­tion and cleanup. Even when it all goes right, it takes time. Like mak­ing a good meal.
In a word, the pur­su­ing of mak­ing a per­fect cup of cof­fee takes a great com­mit­ment. As the last quote says, it’s a jour­ney head­ing down the rab­bit hole.

The Only Scale You Need For Coffee Brewing

Oliver Stran’s last blog post in Ristretto on T Mag­a­zine intro­duces a scale for cof­fee brew­ing for the first time. He talked about many drip gad­gets. But scale is the first time. It is not that scale is the least impor­tant thing in mak­ing pourover. It is that not until this scale, there’s no scale designed to cater all the needs in mak­ing pourover.

Hario V60 Drip Scale

Hario V60 Drip Scale

If my post­ing argu­ing the impor­tance of using scale to make pourover right, you may want to take a look at the scale rec­om­mended by Olive Strand: Hario V60 Drip Scale.

Hario is an estab­lished Japan cof­fee gad­get maker. In my opin­ion, this scale is a long cry-for essen­tial in their cof­fee mak­ing prod­ucts line.

Here are the things dis­tin­guish­ing it from the crowded generic-use mini scales:

—Style. Only miss­ing is the white ver­sion to choose from.

—Inte­grated timer . It clears the clut­ters on your kitchen countertop.

—Accu­rate read­ing. It mea­sures to the .1 gram for the first 200 grams; 0.5 after that.

—Two kilo­gram capac­ity. It’s enough for home brew­ing use.

—Full five min­utes auto turn-off. Other scales turn off in 90 sec­onds after the last activ­i­ties. And there were times you have to turn it on again when you were about to start pour­ing water.

Only thing about it may turn you off is its price. It will run you from 50 to 90 bucks. I actu­ally think it’s not that bad con­sid­er­ing it’s a timer plus scale and boost­ing your brew­ing mood with its min­i­mal­ism style.

I will let you know more details when I got a hold of it. The $35 mini scale I have? I prob­a­bly will put it away as part of my travel kit in plan.


The Cappuccino Moment in San Francisco

I just came back from a trip swing­ing by Mon­terey, San Fran­cisco and Napa. But the eight cof­fee shops my friends and I vis­ited within 24 hours are really excit­ing and inspiring.

And I think I had one of the great­est cof­fee moments of my life in San Fran­cisco. It hap­pened in a sunny after­noon in Blue Bot­tle Cof­fee on Mint Street.

I was wait­ing for my cap­puc­cino at the waist-level counter. The barista started pour­ing milk foam into the cup. His move was shrewd, pre­cise, and stead­fast. No hes­i­ta­tion, no jig­gling. That was a breath­tak­ing per­for­mance. When it’s done, with three fin­gers of both of his hands, he push for­ward the cap­puc­cino across the desk­top of the counter. The moment the cap­puc­cino stopped in the front of the counter I think I missed a heartbeat.

That’s art, ded­i­ca­tion, crafts­man­ship, and cor­dial­ity. The com­bi­na­tion of all of the above.

Cappuccino in Blue Bottle Mint St

Cap­puc­cino on the counter, Blue Bot­tle Mint St

For all the cof­fee shops we hit, they all stand out in dif­fer­ent aspects: crafts­man­ship, procla­ma­tions made through the inte­rior and ser­vice, and, of course, the cof­fee. Except for two shops, all these local cof­fee estab­lish­ments roast the beans they serve there — this is some­thing the fre­netic New York cof­fee scene is short of. These cof­fee shops are: Blue Bot­tle Cof­fee, Sight­glass, Four Bar­rel, Rit­ual, Philz Coffee.


National Coffee Break Day

Jan­u­ary 20th is the National Cof­fee Break Day. It’s announced so on the Offi­cial Blog of the National Cof­fee Break web­site.

Here’s a wrap-up of the related events in New York City. Hope it’s not too late for you to catch them ;)

Café Grumpy’s Chelsea loca­tion will have sev­eral pro­mo­tions through­out the day start­ing with early morn­ing espresso. Start your day with an espresso shot on the house between 7am & 9am. Between 11 am & 1 pm, take a cof­fee break with a friend and buy one cof­fee bev­er­age and your friend gets one on the house.  Finally from 6 pm to 8 pm, Cafe Grumpy is host­ing Home Brew­ing for the Cof­fee Enthu­si­ast Class, ($15 per per­son) Lim­ited class size please sign up online here: http://tinyurl.com/29wz3ho

Financier Pas­tries. Orig­i­nally from Finan­cial Dis­trict, this cof­fee house fran­chise offers a free small cof­fee with any pas­try or savory pur­chase on National Cof­fee Break Day at all six loca­tions. Listed as below:
Stone Street – 62 Stone Street (Bet Mill Lane and Hanover Sq)
World Finan­cial Cen­ter3–4 World Finan­cial Cen­ter (Bat­tery Park City)
Cedar Street 35 Cedar Street @ 10 Lib­erty Plaza (Bet Pearl and William)
First Ave (at 54th St) – 983 First Avenue (at 54th Street)
Sixth Avenue (at 48th Street) – 1211 Sixth Avenue (at 48th Street)
Grand Cen­tral Ter­mi­nal – 87 East 42nd Street (in the 42nd Street Passage)

The Ran­dolph at Broome. 349 Broome Street, btw Eliz­a­beth and Bow­ery
2 for 1 cof­fee cock­tails on Jan. 20th from Noon to 3PM. The Randolph’s cof­fee cock­tails have been fea­tured by the NYTimes Diner’s Jour­nal in their “Morn­ing Joe with a Jolt” arti­cle. They spe­cial­ize in aug­mented (spiced) cof­fee, avail­able to go or at their slow bar, where each cup is indi­vid­u­ally pre­pared and made to order. Cus­tomers can choose their brew method (press or pour over) and even their bean, from among the 5 roast­ers they carry at any given time. It’s a unique and cus­tomized cof­fee experience.

Juan Valdez Cafe. 140 East 57th street between Lex­ing­ton and 3rd
“Bring a Friend” pro­mo­tion and offer­ing all groups of two or more peo­ple 15% off their total check on National Cof­fee Break Day.  Cafe open from 7:30 am to 8 pm.

Root Hill Café. 262 4th Avenue, Brook­lyn, NY 11215
It will be offer­ing a free cof­fee with any pur­chase of a sand­wich or soup on National Cof­fee Break Day.

A lot of cof­fee houses are miss­ing here? It’s a shame, isn’t it? I guess we won’t get one extra cup for our friend until this day being offi­cially made offi­cial. Huh?

Glossary: Cupping

The pro­ce­dures used to eval­u­ate cof­fee beans.

Cof­fee beans pre­pared for cup­ping were roasted so light that most peo­ple would be dri­ven away by the sour­ness from its brew. The pre­cisely weighed cof­fee ground are kept in the han­dle­less glasses for cup­per to eval­u­ate its fra­grance. After­ward, rightly-proportioned hot water is poured in the glasses for aroma evaluation.

Four min­utes after steep­ing the cof­fee ground, cup­pers will spoon down the float­ing ground to bring out the nose and the bright­ness of cof­fee. Until this stage, cup­pers only sniff above the glasses — no sip­ping, no hold­ing the glasses. Scoop­ing out the floats, cup­pers deliver a spoon­ful of liq­uid out of the glasses into their mouth with max­i­mum aer­a­tion as pos­si­ble — slurp­ing the liq­uid with noise. The pur­pose is to bring the liq­uid back to the nasal cav­i­ties where the olfac­tory mem­brane resides. It is impor­tant because noses are actu­ally a much more sen­si­tive sen­sor than tongues. The fla­vor, body and after­taste are eval­u­ated in the slurp­ing stage.

At last, cup­pers will give cof­fee scores base on a 1–100 point scale. Although the per­fect is 100, scores are rarely higher than 90. In many regions where the cup­ping are joined by buy­ers, pro­fes­sional cup­pers and local judges, the cof­fee scored above 85 are qual­i­fied for auc­tions to fetch higher prices.

An Innocuous Felony

The cof­fee new wave sanc­tu­ary, with Clover on the altar, is this local cof­fee shop in New York City.  As the faith­ful enjoys an aro­matic caf­feinated after­noon, a devoted Barista knocks a jar of beans to the floor, send­ing the pre­cious pods a-scattering. What comes of this?  Smite, wrath, agony among the masses! Div­ing, aghast, to save the loot!
Nay. Last Sat­ur­day at Café Grumpy, said sac­ri­lege threat­ened an upris­ing; when the hum­ble but imitable Barista stood up and saved the day by announc­ing “It’s okay, it’s only decaf.”
Most of us burst into laugh­ter. But, the age-old ques­tion that remains is not, can a soci­ety really be judged by how it treats its least; but:  Is decaf the lesser after all?  In no one’s’ mind has decaf ever been hon­ored in the Hall of care­fully processed Spe­cialty Cof­fee Fame.  Nor has decaf ever been praised in terms of fla­vor, aroma and body, but con­sid­ered the lack­lus­ter cousin of the time-honoured tra­di­tional Prac­tice of the Bean.
Is the decaf­feinated bean so worth­less a ser­vant to war­rant men­tion?  Does the del­i­cacy known as Cof­fee lose its essence or endurance with the lack of caf­feine? » CONTINUE READING

The Show And Hassle Is Coming To Town

Snap 1: time to com­bine the upper bowl with the lower one when bub­bles become medium size.

I had plans for what I was going to write here: brew­ing meth­ods 123, elab­o­ra­tion of the pros-and-cons of them, and ulti­mately, help­ing you find the solu­tion to your daily decent cup.

There are meth­ods that I think would be a good start­ing point because of their friend­li­ness: low-cost ini­tial invest­ment and full con­trol over the vari­ables fac­tor­ing in a cup of excellence.

It would be inter­est­ing to talk about them espe­cially since they seem exotic to many peo­ple here. At the same time, it’s kind of chal­leng­ing to explain every­thing since cof­fee lovers have never seen them in person.

For­tu­nately, before got my hands dirty, a show­room of these cof­fee brew­ing meth­ods is arriv­ing to let you take a peek at them and save some work for me. Blue Bot­tle Cof­fee is sched­uled to open today in Williams­burg, New York City. They stock­pile a hoard of 19-century-style cof­fee brew­ing gad­gets: “pour over” and “iced cof­fee drip­per” accord­ing to the pre­view of The New York Times. » CONTINUE READING

The Need To Be Precise

New York City is a fas­ci­nat­ing place in the way that it’s hyper-congested. How so? Walk­ing on the street, with all kinds of things pass­ing by, you actu­ally enter another world by pass­ing another block. Hence, every­thing is within your reach — as long as you know where to find it.

bongs on shelf, St Mark's Place in NYC

Bongs, bongs, bongs… and mini scale

Today, I am strolling on St. Mark’s Place look­ing for this “thing” to ele­vate my cof­fee pro­fes­sion. St. Mark’s Place is a busy street lined up with Japan­ese beer houses, restau­rants, sou­venir shops and tat­too shops, but not a cof­fee shop. (Puerto Rico Import­ing is beyond 2nd Ave which I don’t pass often, so that doesn’t count:) I come here for yak­i­tori and Japan­ese beer all the time. But today, I passed by all the restau­rants and headed to the tat­too shops… Yeah, if you want to name peo­ple Japan­ese, Goth or Punk by where they go, today I am a punk. But label­ing me won’t deter my deter­mi­na­tion to hunt down the “thing”: a mini scale.

I have seen a lot of baris­tas use a mini scale to weigh cof­fee grounds for brew­ing. No doubt, that’s a promis­ing scene no mat­ter how the cup ends like later. » CONTINUE READING

Glossary: Blend

The mix­ture of beans from dif­fer­ent cor­ners of the world in com­par­i­son with a straight or sin­gle ori­gin cof­fee, which is cof­fee from one region. Blend can be of the same roast or at dif­fer­ent roasts to cre­ate desired flavor.

His­tor­i­cally, blend orig­i­nated from the need to cre­ate var­i­ous “fla­vors.” Blend­ing beans was devel­oped in early cof­fee drink­ing his­tory to work around the lim­ited roast­ing knowl­edge and facil­ity in pre-industrialization. Blend is also impor­tant in com­pen­sat­ing each year’s crop vari­abil­ity to keep the fla­vor con­sis­tent. » CONTINUE READING

Glossary: Straight coffee

The beans of one coun­try or a region within it. See “sin­gle ori­gin.”