Friday, May 31, 2013

CC: The Cup

Subject: The Cup Espresso Cafe
Location: Boulder, CO
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

A coffeehouse that does not encourage congregating is one doomed to failure. Sure places like drive-thrus survive solely as a grab-and-go, but that seems to be the exception. Even if people rarely sit and talk, all folks desire access to an inviting cafe to gather for friendly discourse.

In the lovely town of Boulder, The Cup Espresso Cafe seemed to be the prime spot for the hordes to meet. Open 7 AM - 10 PM daily, the place was genuinely hopping the night I swung by. As the air was warm and the patio doors wide open, both the inside and out were abuzz with patrons. Inside, the many high top tables sat amidst a very brightly lit room, with laptops and small posses dotting the landscape.

The coffee comes from Conscious Coffees, Roast's 2011 Roaster of the Year. For my evening beverages, I ordered an espresso of the Espresso Mantecca and a drip of their Ethiopian Sidamo. The espresso, pulled short with brown crema, held notes of curry, cocoa, vanilla, pound cake, nutmeg and a little rosemary, proving pleasantly sweet, full and spicy. The Ethiopian smacked of raspberry, malt, licorice, marble rye, sage and sunflower seeds, demonstrating a medium-heavy body with a thick, malty flavor dominating.

In the end, I found The Cup to be a nice spot for an evening meet-up or a late cup of joe. The only detraction I found was that I found my drip of Ethiopian a bit to thick and astringent for my tastes, but even that minor aspect did little to dampen an otherwise ticklish overall coffee experience. Delay not in giving The Cup a visit at their lovely Pearl Street location.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013

CC: Yeti's Grind

Subject: Yeti's Grind
Location: Vail, CO
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 5+ [see key]

If you're looking for a breathtaking highway drive, take I-70 through western Colorado. Few roads are so beautifully boxed in by gorgeous mountain scenery on practically all sides. One opportune stop along the route sits the tourist-centered town of Vail, a must for a mountain sportsman or alpine naturalist.

Stopping by one evening for a bite to eat, I had located a possible coffee house of promise called Yeti's Grind. Parking in one of the many parking garages, I located the shop on the ground floor of a large resort facing an open courtyard and soccer field. The recessed shop offers a nice patio for all types of weather, as the balcony above provides a nice exterior roof. The inside of the shop emanates an enticing aura, with a worn wooden plank bar, spacious variety of seating and open windows.

The coffee comes from local Colorado roaster City on a Hill Coffee and Espresso and on the occasion of my visit, both the espresso and the drip were of their House Blend. Pulled long with a tannish-brown crema, the espresso smacked of vanilla, pretzel, caramel, a bit of chives and some sassafras, and while the shots were pulled a bit too long for my liking, the flavor was still pretty delicious. The drip's profile proved a bit brighter and a tad heavier, with notes of malt, spinach, pink lemonade, corn tortilla and a smidgen of cloves.

All together, Yeti's Grind stood firm on its big hairy feet as an establishment worth the stop for a decent cup of coffee and espresso. If you happen to be in Vail for vacation or a quick rest stop, make your way over to Yeti's Grind.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Espro Press

Everyone remembers their first french press. For most of us, it was something we stumbled upon, a refreshing alternative to our drip coffee. The process was so much more hands on, so much more raw; no on/off switch, no need to bring electricity into the equation (remember, this was prior to the pourover craze, back when it was largely mechanized drip). And the coffee, oh the coffee, how it was so different with its oily mouth feel and heavy body.

But alas, the honeymoon only lasted a spell and the downsides began to rear their hydra heads. Sadly, the typical french press required a bit of disassembling and detailed cleaning to keep it working well. And there's the problem with sediment: grind too fine and you'll be sifting silt through your teeth (that is if you hadn't broken your press in pushing down the filter), whereas if you grind too course you end up with a weak cup. But even if you ground the coffee within microns of perfection, sediment was just a constant you had to deal with (i.e. never drink the last half ounce).

And then along came Espro Press, a Canadian-made, stainless steel french press with a sleek look and a promise of simple cleaning and greatly decreased sediment. I had the luxury of trying out their 8 ounce model back in 2011, to which I was greatly impressed. One of the only critical things I remember thinking was "...if only it was a bit bigger."

Fortunately they read minds in Vancouver, and they rolled out their 18 ounce model this year, which I recently had the pleasure of trying out. Like the earlier models, the Espro Press has microfilters which do a pretty great job of holding back the sediment. The coffee that comes out is cleaner then a typical french press, with only minor debris materializing on the bottom of the cup. The only downside to the microfilters is that they seem to hold back about 2 ounces of coffee in the initial pour, which can be released by a series of back-and-forth pouring motions.

Aside from the stellar filtering, the Esro Press is pretty easy to clean. I find that there was little need for more then a good rinsing with some soap to keep it fresh. My only warning would be to never accidentally leave the filter submerged in old coffee grounds for two months in the midst of moving and then try to clean out the many microbial entourages; you shall not get far (this was the fate of my 8 ounce press...).

And if all that wasn't cool enough, it also looks pretty spiffy and for those of you not liking skin burns, the press exterior remains fairly cool to the touch when filled with boiling water.

Thus, I continue my applause of the Espro Press, as it is one of the few means of pressing coffee that I find alluring. You can preorder yours here if you would like to get a crack at the first mass launch.

note: product was provided free of charge and the above review is objective feedback

Saturday, May 18, 2013

CC: Fluid Coffee Bar

Subject: Fluid Coffee Bar
Location: Denver, CO
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

I've sat through many meetings in my life and a sad hallmark of the majority have been dreary locations and coffee not worth drinking. Quite often in these meetings I quietly wished that my surroundings were that of a vibrant, energetic space with easy access to great coffee.

Thankfully, my hopes were shared. In my past travels, I've found numerous coffee establishments that have constructed private meeting spaces within their borders that allow the average gaggle of folks to assemble in an electrifying space within mere feet of great coffee. In my travels around Denver, I found one such coffeehouse called the Fluid Coffee Bar. Located beneath Uptown Square Apartments, I had caught wind of the place due to its reputation of serving a good cup of Novo Coffee. The space inside is split into the normal cafe, with its vaulted ceilings and comfy seating, and the large wood tables and projector of the rentable meeting space off to the back.

Not in need of a meeting that day, I chose to ingest an espresso of Ojo de Agua and a clover of the Colombian San Sebastian. The espresso, pulled short-to-medium with a light brown crema, held notes of lime, seltzer, hibiscus, sugar, cocoa and rock salt, proving bright, zesty and sweet. The Colombian also triumphed in quality, smacking of molasses, pecan, multigrain bread, granola, fig and a little basil all within a light body.

All in all, Fluid fluidly delivered great coffee and hosts what seems like a great spot to congregate. If you happen to be in need of a meeting space in Denver or just a good cup of coffee, check out the Fluid Coffee Bar.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

CC: Empire Espresso Bar

Subject: Empire Espresso Bar
Location: Seattle, WA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

One brisk morning south of downtown Seattle, I found a great prospect for morning coffee in the Empire Espresso Bar. Situated in a sleek brick building within the Columbia City neighborhood, Empire seemed to have the all the trappings of a worthwhile destination: a good reputation and Kuma Coffee

Inside the cafe is cozy with an intimate layout allowing for maximum seating and close proximity to a team of chipper baristas. In the back, there's even a garage door that opens in nice weather to a pleasant shared courtyard. For my coffee, I ordered an Ethiopian for the espresso and a Panama via a Clever Dripper. The espresso, pulled short with a tannish/brown crema, spelled out a melody of heavy lime, seltzer, tomato, rosemary, hefeweizen and pine, proving bright and complex. The drip of the Panama doled out notes of apple, molasses, brown sugar, sunflower seeds, beef bullion and some spinach amidst a medium body; a coffee all together nutty, sweet and scrumptious.

The Empire Espresso Bar proved to be every bit worth the stop, a fact it seems the locals have not overlooked (i.e. it was packed). If you happen to be in the proximate vicinity, stop by for some great coffee.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

CC: The Pour House

Subject: The Pour House
Location: Dillon, CO
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

Most great coffee exists in cities. If you're a city dweller, that's a great thing; if you're confined to suburbia or rural lands, it can be tumultuous. Sadly, in my travels great coffee seldom appears in small towns and hamlets.

But when it does, it's a cause of excitement. While I was on the road in Colorado, I came across a place called the Pour House in Dillon. Located a bit off the main track in a small, rustically-chic shopping center, the Pour House was a perfect stop for me before I hit the road. Walking inside, the decor is much more traditional, with great local art, colorful walls and a nice airiness about the space.

The coffee comes from Colorado's Elevation Coffee Traders, a new roaster to me that I had heard little of prior. I ordered an espresso (blend unnamed) and a drip of an Ethiopian light roast. The espresso, pulled medium/long with a thick brown crema in a really hot cup, held notes of tobacco, milk chocolate, lime rind, a little cream and light bits of paper; a fair pull of a dark-noted coffee with decent sweet notes. The Ethiopian by contrast was light and fluffy, purveying blueberry, scone, peanut, sesame and butter within a light body, proving overall richly flavorful.

While my espresso was not the greatest, my overall experience was nothing "pour." If you're in town or in need of a good coffee stop off Rt 6 or I-70, make a stop at the Pour House.