Sunday, September 29, 2013

CC: Downtown Credo

Subject: Downtown Credo
Location: Orlando, FL
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

While the coffee world is gradually becoming more altruistic in its dealing, to find a coffeehouse working as a "donations only" operation is a rare sight. Yet Downtown Credo is such a coffeehouse in downtown Orlando serving direct trade coffee with the goal to not only provide coffee farmers a good price for their coffee, but also to invest into local charities and causes.

Wandering over one rainy afternoon, I found Credo in a cute yellow brick building with a large black sign perched above the entrance. Stepping inside, I found a lovely space with a nice mixture of furniture, white walls and large front windows. As for my coffee, I ordered an espresso and a pourover of their Guatemala Cafe de la Esperanza. The espresso, pulled long with a light brown crema, smacked of nougat, vanilla waifer, a little beef and light pepper, proving a bit over-extracted but still a tasty infusion. The pourover alternately smacked more of honey, milk chocolate, cherry and a slight hefeweizen, proving much lighter and more rich.

All in all I thought Credo a great concept with tremendous potential. If you pass through Orlando, give Downtown Credo a moment of your time.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Can you steam without the wand?

Milk steaming/frothing is not something the average consumer does a whole lot at home. Since many coffee drinkers do not own an espresso machine with a steam wand, relatively few folks devoid of the espresso machine have forayed into the world of steaming milk at home.

Over the last few years, especially with the advent of cheaper means of making espresso (or espresso-like coffee), it seems the demand for stand-alone milk steamers and frothers have also been on the rise. But milk frothers rarely do more than create lots of foam, if they even heat the milk at all. And other means of heating milk usually consist of warming it over a flame or microwave, each having their own unique effect on the taste and texture of the milk. It seems that if you're looking for well-steamed milk with silky microfoam, nothing compares to a steam wand.

Thus if you want the ability to create steamed milk, the most surefire way to do so is to purchase an espresso machine with a steam wand or a stovetop device with a steam wand (like the Bellman Steamer featured below). Most steam wands will provide you with the tools to make great microfoamed milk at the correct temperatures. For more on this topic, CoffeeGeek has a great guide on how to make the most of what you got.

But the question has been raised, what if I just wanted to get somewhat close to the quality of a steam wand; is their a method out there that does a decent job of producing steamed-quality milk? Many folks have attempted to find a way, and if you check out your local internet forums, you will hear of a myriad of answers and/or shortcuts. Some sound a little more credible than others, ranging from nuking and then shaking in a milk carton to carefully pan heating the milk and then using an immersion blender. The main things with these "short cuts" are that you shouldn't heat the milk above 150 F and that at some point you will need to introduce air in order to get foam. 

One of the more recent steaming alternatives to my ear is Lifstyl's Electric Milk Frother. Unlike most milk frothers, this apparatus also heats the milk in addition to foaming it up. Having an opportunity to try it out at home, I checked it out to see how it fared in the producing of heated frothed milk.

The design of Lifstyl frother is convenient, with the only human-dependent step being the pouring of cold milk to the appropriate fill line (the high one is just for heating (in which you take the frother out) and the lower fill line for heating and frothing). The low fill line accommodates about 4-6 ounces of milk, so if you want a larger beverage, you'll have to do batches. Once you've filled in your milk, you press the button and after about a minute, the process finishes. During the process, the temperature reaches about 140 F at peak and the milk foam gets a bid sudsy (aka dishwasher bubbles). So while you won't be pouring latte art with milk from this frother, the quality for someone looking just to add foamy hot milk to their coffee is probably just on par.

So if you're a coffee fanatic and you need to steam milk for your beverages, you should probably get a steam wand. But if you're not so concerned with high quality and you're looking for a tremendously convenient way to heat and froth your milk, check out the Lifstyle Milk Frother.

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

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Danish Coffee - North Festival


These days, a growing number of folks know that a well-roasted batch of coffee needs nothing added to it in order to make it delicious. This fact seems to ring true amongst the people of Denmark and their ever-blossoming coffee scene, home to such entities as the Coffee Collective and Sigfreds Kaffebar.

But like all cultures, every culture seems to have at least one coffee recipe that involves a litany of other ingredients to compliment (at best) or mask (at worst) the coffee. In leading up to the North Festival Oct 2 - 7 in New York City, since I couldn’t make it over to Denmark to grab a bag of quality Danish beans or sample their cafe culture, I sought to find a coffee recipe that gave a solid (as possible) nod to the Danes and their coffee.

Thus after some research, two coffee cocktails emerged, and of the two I went with the one more commonly found and that seemed similar to other coffee recipes in the geographical neighborhood. Named simply ‘Danish Coffee’, it’s definitely a perfect drink for a brisk autumn day, even without the rum.

A couple things I would note:
  1. The original recipe called for cooking the ingredients for two hours, a step that would have obliterated the coffee. So I did some experimenting and made a better way.
  2. Use a fresh, quality light/medium - medium roast coffee. I used some Mexican beans from roaster Crescent Moon Coffee and Tea that presented a beautifully rich coffee with vanilla sweetness and a full body. I would avoid darker roasts (any beans with exterior oil) as the cloves and cinnamon in the recipe do enough to darken the flavor of the drink.
  3. Cloves are potent and since I actually like to taste some of the coffee, I reduced the original recipe by a third. This was also why I sought out a dark rum that wasn't spiced.
  4. In making the coffee, I found adding sugar to be an optional step (I liked it without it). Use as needed.

Danish Coffee
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 4 cups of water
  • ½ cup dark rum
  • 56 grams of freshly ground coffee
  • Sugar (if desired)
  1. Pour the water into a pot; add the cinnamon and cloves.
  2. Simmer the mixture for 45 minutes, brewing a potent cinnamon and clove tea-like concoction.
  3. At the 45 minute mark, bring the mixture to a rolling boil and then remove from heat.
  4. Using a pourover coffee brewer (like a V60 or Bonavita) or a french press, pour the cinnamon and clove concoction into the coffee grounds, brewing as normally directed (check Brew Methods for some good methods). When finished, pour the coffee into a carafe if not already brewed into one.
  5. Making sure your rum is at least room temperature (heating it a bit will reduce the amount of heat lost to the overall drink), add it to the coffee.
  6. If desired, sweeten with sugar to taste.

Win Castello Cheese Tasting

Learn more about Nordic cuisine at the NORTH Festival 2013 in New York City. This post is a collaboration between the blogger and NORTH Festival 2013.

Monday, September 09, 2013

CC: Styer's Garden Cafe

Subject: Styer's Garden Cafe at Terrain
Location: Glen Mills, PA
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

*Update 11/09/16:
In subsequent stops over the years, their quality has not really been maintained. Sadly, they also changed coffee roasters from Counter Culture to a darker selection of roasts from La Colombe. Still gorgeously decorated though if you're coming only for the ambiance.

Garden centers and nurseries are some of my favorite non-coffee haunts. As a man extremely fond of horticulture and the smell of flowers, I am very careful to watch my wallet when April rolls around and it comes time to plan my botanical exploits for the upcoming growing season. But with the ever-evolving nature of nurseries, I am finding that it's not only the plants that I have to watch my money around.

Take the extremely trendy garden stronghold of Terrain, owned by the folks behind Urban Outfitters and Anthropologies. The place not only has a tremendous assortment of plants, pots and soil but it also boasts a chic variety of home accessories, all with a strong emphasis on design and aesthetic. While there were one or two things I saw as an odd omissions, such as a seeming lack of local items, there was one aspect that stood out like a gorgeous rain cloud to a drought-ridden farmer: their in-store cafe and restaurant. Housed within what looks like an old barn and greenhouse, the establishment is actually separated into a coffeehouse in the front with a top-notch restaurant in the back.

Not being interested in a meal that day, I sauntered up to the cafe counter to find they use Counter Culture Coffee for their drip and espresso. I ordered the Farmhouse Blend via drip and the Toscana via espresso. The farmhouse doled out notes of raisin, sesame, black tea and a little malt in a medium body; a delicious though slightly muted infusion of the Farmhouse. The espresso, pulled short with a brown crema, made for a great beverage, smacking of milk chocolate, lemon, sage and sassafras.

Needless to say, I was delighted to find not only a cafe in a nursery (a long overdue marriage) but a quality coffee joint in a really creatively utilized garden wonderland (I personally love the outdoor seating amidst the garden items and the sporadic fire pits in the colder months). Stop by Terrain if only for a decent coffee stop in an area all too bereft of them.