Monday, August 05, 2013

CC: Kava Cafe [NYC]

Subject: Kava Cafe
Locations: Lower and Mid Manhattan, NY
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

UPDATE 3.13.14
Finding a NYC coffeehouse with a beautiful courtyard full of outside seating is a rare find. Sure, outside seating is only worth something half the year in the fair land of Manhattan, but every time I find such a cafe owning the novelty, I still find myself wanting to take full advantage of it (unless it's deluging, but otherwise I'm outside).

Stumbling upon once such coffee joint that not only sported a great courtyard but also slings Annapolis' Ceremony Coffee, I found some lower Manhattan gold in Kava Cafe. Located off Washington St, I trotted in from the bright morning sun inside to the mood-lit cafe that gave off a vibe of a swanky rendezvous fit for 007. The cafe doesn't have a ton of room for sitting inside (it's Manhattan) but as I mentioned, if the weather is with you there happens to be plenty of seating on their back patio.

As for my coffee that day, I had an espresso of Destroyer and a drip of a Brazil Daterra. The Destroyer, pulled short with a brown crema, sang of vanilla, lemon, whole milk, cola, a little soy sauce and a touch of kale encapsulating a well-balanced, scrumptious spro. The Brazil also proved spectacular, with notes of nuts, birch, pear, a little almond butter and a smidgen of beef stock in a medium body.

If you are in need of some great coffee and an airy respite in the Meatpacking District, head on over to Kava Cafe.

UPDATE 3.13.14

Made it out to the midtown cafe on 42nd Street recently. Same great coffee in a much more spacious and gorgeous spot, with the same vibe and a full bar.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mugged: Colombia [Handsome, via Moustache]

Subject: Handsome Coffee Roasters
via Moustache Coffee Club
Coffees Mugged: La Plata, Huila Colombia
Rating [see key]: 5+

I remember back in the day about ten years ago when LA was a byword in the coffee world, with little as far as places offering great coffee. Now, the fortunate opposite is true with so many great shops and roasters swelling in numbers every day.

One newer coffee entity out of the fair land of So Cal is the Moustache Coffee Club, a coffee curator service that sends its customers coffee in 6 or 12 ounce quantities at various chosen frequencies. Recently, I had the fortune of trying out a great Moustached shipment from the LA coffee powerhouse Handsome Coffee Roasters, specifically their offering from La Plata, Huila, Colombia. Taking it to task, I sampled it via pourover, Espro Press and siphon.

The pourover doled a delicious array of raisin, unsweetened cocoa, rosemary, whipping cream, birch root, some gala apple and a pinch of habenero. A great tasting coffee with a medium body and a dry finish.

The Espro Press delivered an even richer infusion bordering on syrupy-sweet, with notes of raisin, dark chocolate, mead, lily florals, caramel, oatmeal w/ brown sugar and a little wheat, all within medium body.

The siphon I decided to brew a little lighter to see what it would do to the profile and I was tickled with the result. Tasty qualities of cornflakes, caramel, honey, oatmeal w/brown sugar and a little wheat emerged amidst a lighter-bodied coffee that would be a perfect addition to any breakfast table.

All together, if all of the Moustache Coffee Club's offerings are this delicious, I would give a hearty huzzah to any bloke looking for such a wonderful service. If you need beans, give Moustache, or Handsome for that matter, your money.

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

Sunday, July 28, 2013

CC: Axum Coffee

Subject: Axum Coffee
Location: Winter Garden, FL
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 4+ [see key]

When it comes to theme parks, there seems that there's no rival to Disney World. Even for the folks who have never been, there are few people (especially in the States) who cannot describe the wonders of the kingdom. I personally have been fortunate enough to have visited at least five times in my life, with three of them occurring after the time I became particular about my coffee. And while this might seem like an odd (or obvious) thing to say, it is important to note that despite places in the park (like Epcot) having great cuisine, it's still incredibly hard to get a good cup of coffee in or around the parks.

Thus, if you were foolish enough not to come packing or you just like driving, you will end up venturing out to seek out good coffee in the surrounding areas. One place of promise that came up in my research was Axum Coffee in Winter Garden, about 25 minutes north of Disney and 25 minutes west of downtown Orlando. One early morning apart from the entourage, I made my way over with hopes of finding delicious results.

Pulling into the lovely downtown of Winter Garden, I quickly found Axum Coffee's inviting storefront, with its open windows and vastness of outside seating in the adjoining alley (though it was far to nice to deserve the name 'alley'). Inside the decor was warm and inviting, with splashes of bright colors and chic furniture, all pulling together the open space nicely.

Of course the main reason I was drawn to this place was it's coffee, having numerous offerings from Batdorf and Bronson out of Atlanta. Since a dreamy experience at B&B's Decatur cafe Dancing Goats back in the day, I was stoked to try out this distant Florida outpost. I ordered the Dancing Goats espresso and a pourover of an Ethiopian Harrar. The espresso, pulled to a medium volume with swirled brown crema (and infused a tad too hot), demonstrated notes of dark cocoa, birch, anise, vanilla wafer and cola within a heavy body, all in all seeming to more closely emulate a traditional Italian-style espresso, leaning a bit bitter, though in totality not a bad pull. The pourover of Ethiopian seemed to also have a bit of a dark bite, as the coffee had glorious notes of blueberry, walnut, mild banana, shredded wheat and arugula but there was a powerful quality of basil as well as some bitter characteristics that seemed to overshadow the natural positives. It should be noted that the water quality of Winter Gardens is quite sulfur-y, and thus the tasting notes of the above coffees could have been influenced by said criteria (i.e. if there was no water filtration, the water definitely played a huge role).

Alas, my experience at Axum proved less grand than I had hoped, being that the coffees I sampled came out a little less optimal than I had expected. Nonetheless, it did seem like Axum had their proverbial ducks in a row (good roaster, seemingly well-trained baristas, etc.), so in this case it might have been an anomaly. Thus if you're in the neighborhood of Winter Garden, roll by Axum Coffee to try them for yourself.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bonavita Scale, Stand and Brewer

For folks immersed in the coffee industry, it's a well-accepted fact that the best way to measure out appropriate amount of coffee grounds is through weight, not volume. Long gone is the trust in the coffee scoop and all stock has been invested into accurate digital scales.

Fortunately the great folks at Seattle Coffee Gear offer a Bonavita pourover brewing solution fit for a barista. Not only does it include a gorgeous water resistant digital scale able to weigh out 12.5 lbs and be accurate to a 0.01 of a gram, but the included brewing stand and brewer also fit perfectly atop the scale for easy simultaneous use.

Below is a video they released regarding the equipment:

Being fortunate enough to get my hands on a such an apparatus thanks to Seattle Coffee Gear, I was able to try it out in the course of my coffee routine.

Regarding correct function of the scale (what good is it if it wasn't calibrated?), I did a quick check of the scale using fixed weights to ensure it was fully operational and accurate. I did find the scale to be consistently short by about 0.2 grams, but given the consistent nature of the offset, I wasn't worried about the -0.2 g (it was also interesting to note that the tolerance of +/- 0.01g seemed intact, though not fully verifiable since the scale only goes into tenths (0.1 g)).

Moving on to use of the digital scale in the realm of brewing, it proved accurate in all of my coffee measurements (ounces, grams and pounds), with the scale having just the right amount of sensitivity (aka not so sensitive that air caused fluctuations but sensitive enough that it adjusted based on small adjustments of grinds/water added). As expected, the zero/tare button proved invaluable in using the scale during brewing as it allowed real-time measurement of the coffee weight during the infusion. Also, the utilization of a built-in timer for infusions like french press was a handy feature. And although I did not dunk the scale to determine its level of water resistance (it's not a cheap scale), the scale did not seem to be worse for wear after some moisture exposure. Overall, I only have praise for the scale.

Regarding the stand and the brewer, I found them to be a solid addition to the scale. Initially my main concern was stability, as the porcelain brewer seemed a bit heavy to put atop the stand without any means of securing it to the adjustable-height O ring (I have children, so safety is huge). But in my trials, I really had no issues with instability. The O ring never budged under any weight and was very easy to adjust during any part of the brewing process. And due to the way the stand sits snugly on the scale, there's little danger of toppling due to top-heaviness, especially when a mug/vessel sits on the stand adding some extra weight (of course it should be noted that it's not space-travel-steady or Sesame-Street-safe, so like any coffee stand use caution and keep it out of reach of children).

Another aspect of the brewer that's worth pointing out is the hole size on the bottom of the brewer. If you're used to a chemex or v60, you would be wise to note that the Bonavita has a much smaller opening, which means that the coffee will naturally drain out a bit slower. I found the slower rate of escape a positive and with a few tweaks in grind size and quantity, the brewer made great coffee.

All in all, I found the Bonavita scale, stand and brewer to be a great combination for home use, not to mention for utilization in the hands of a skilled barista. If you happen to be seeking a digital scale and/or pourover stand, check out Seattle Coffee Gear.

Note: Use of equipment was provided free of charge and that the above review is completely objective.

Monday, July 15, 2013

CC: Bow Truss Coffee Company

Subject: Bow Truss Coffee Company
Location: Chicago, IL (Broadway Roastery)
Free WiFi ? : yes
Rating: 6+ [see key]

I've found nice morning walks very cathartic when I visit Chicago. Maybe it's the soothing hum of the trains amidst the wind gusts, or maybe its delayed gratification of making a bit of a targeted trek to a great coffee spot for my gloriously anticipated first cup of morning coffee.

No matter the reason, my most recent Chicago morning stroll led me to the doors of Bow Truss Coffee Company's Broadway roastery. Arriving earlier then many of the other patrons, I was greeted with a calm quiet cafe that resembled a bit of an old rustic factory and farmhouse, with rich wood furniture up front and the coffee roasting operation in the back (note: there are sadly no bathrooms).

For my coffee, I ordered an espresso of a Guatemalan (La Sofia I believe) and a V60 of their Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. The espresso, pulled short with a brownish crema, delivered orange juice, cocoa, licorice, lime zest and nutmeg, proving very bright yet deep, all tying together quite nicely. The yirg trumpeted out giant notes of fruit punch, with bits of vanilla, croissant, cocoa and rose petals; an all around juicy coffee with some nice rich sweet elements on the back end.

To say the least, I was greatly pleased with my inaugural AM visit to Bow Truss. If you happen to be in need of a coffee destination, or just a pit stop on your morning walk, make one of Bow Truss Coffee Company's locations a pin on your Chicago map.