The incredible story of how a few coffee seeds from Southwestern Ethiopia found their way to Panama and subsequently changed the entire coffee industry is well known, but worth repeating. …
Almost every specialty coffee lover, whether professional or enthusiast, can remember the cup that changed everything. Coffee is just coffee, until you encounter berries, flowers, and a multitude of other sensory experiences you never expected from your morning cup. Talking with other coffee lovers, I’ve found, more often than not, that life-changing cup came from Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is the motherland of Coffea arabica. The plant is indigenous to the country and it’s still home to 99% of the plants’s genetic diversity. Ethiopia is also home to the oldest coffee culture. While in many places coffee is simply a cash crop, in Ethiopia it’s a central part of life.
Yet, in spite of this, information about Ethiopian coffee is not readily available. You might have a region, the process, a grade, and if you’re lucky, a washing station. Even less information is available about the forests of Kafa, where wild coffee trees still grow.
That was until Jeff Koehler wrote Where the Wild Coffee Grows: the Untold Story of Coffee from the Cloud Forests of Ethiopia to Your Cup. Koehler set out to write a book about the original coffee drinking culture, but he discovered a story that in many ways holds the keys to coffee’s future as well….
Amsterdam is well known for its coffee shops, which, famously, sell more than just coffee. But if the only stimulant you’re after is caffeine and maybe a pastry, we’ve got you covered. These four cafés serve some of the best coffee in Amsterdam.
For most of its history Bocca has been focused on wholesale roasting, but its Amsterdam café is something of a showroom for the company, and is without a doubt one of the most impressive places to drink coffee in Amsterdam. When we visited, the Gesha Village 2018 harvest was absolutely singing as a pour-over (which broke our hearts a little when we learned they were out of retail bags). With…
Between Brexit and the growing discontent in other member states, it’s safe to say the European Union has seen better days. But perhaps one of the better examples of European unity in Brussels is not at the EU, but at a small Scandinavian-inspired coffee shop, called Fika.
Fika, famously, is the word for the coffee and cake break that is a daily tradition in Sweden and other Nordic countries. But one need not be in Scandinavia to appreciate a daily coffee ritual, or, as it turns out, minimalist café design. The interior at Fika is simple but elegant, with all of the natural light that Instagramers long for.
The coffee at Fika when I visited was roasted by Copenhagen-based April Coffee. In my biased American opinion, sometimes there’s a thin line between Scandnavian-light and underdeveloped, but I found my cup of autodrip, a Tanzania brewed on a Marco Bru, to be sweet and fruity. Soft berry notes made for a fruit-forward cup that still paired well with my chocolate and chia seed pastry. My espresso was dense and rich, with a moderate acidy and nice sweetness.
Certainly, Belgium has a long coffee history of its own, but this small consulate of Scandinavian coffee culture is not to be missed when in the Belgian capital. And yes, you do need a piece of cake to go with that.
Fika is located at Rue de la Paix 17, 1050 Ixelles, Belgium
The sharp ringing of a morning alarm blares through the soothing darkness. Groaning in sleep-deprivation, I blindly throw one arm out to hit snooze.“15 more minutes…” I mumble out loud, falling back into a warm cocoon of deliciously lush blankets. …
There is perhaps no coffee brewing device as ubiquitous or divisive as the French press. There are over 4 million apartments listed on AirBnB, and each one of them has a French press, most likely a Bodum or some nondescript store brand with dubious plastic parts.
For a brief period, the French press enjoyed a privileged place in the pantheon of coffee brew methods. Advocates lauded it for preserving the oils, which are absorbed by a paper filter. Owning one was a shibboleth of coffee snobbery and refinement.
But the sludgy last sip has proved a bridge too far for many coffee lovers. In the battle between body and clarity, the industry has landed overwhelming on the side of the latter. Even Stumptown Coffee, which long served French press decanted into airpots instead of autodrip, installed batch brewers in all of their cafés.
But as any coffee professional who has ever said “this tasted better on the the cupping table” is forced to admit, there is something about the lipids that add a pleasing viscosity to a cup of coffee. Fats, after all, absorb aromas, so there might be something more going on with unfiltered coffee than just a pleasing texture. But perhaps more importantly, in a world where one needs a small arsenal of devices and accessories to brew an acceptable cup of coffee, there is something beautiful about the simplicity and singularity of the French press.
One device promises the best of both worlds, and for years has been the only acceptable press pot within the upper echelons of the barista community. That device, of course, is the Espro Press.
I picked up mine several years ago, oddly enough, not to brew coffee with. I developed a signature drink for a barista competition that involved a cacao nib extraction, and used an Espro Press to brew it during the routine. After my competition, it went into a box, with all of my other competition wares, where I mostly forgot about it until a recent slew of house guest made me wish I didn’t have to stand around brewing so many pour-overs in the morning. My Espro Press came to the rescue, and in the months since I have found myself repeatedly returning to this device.
The Espro Press is made of stainless steel, with an insulated body that is fantastic for preserving heat. Factor in the lid, and it’s safe to say you won’t find a more temperature-stable brewing device.
But the real innovation of the Espro Press is its patented double filtering system. Unlike most French presses, which use a coarse metal filter that allows the finer particles through, the Espropress uses a fine mesh with holes barely visible to the naked eye. When pressing the filter, the coffee is forced through the mesh filter twice, removing all but the very finest particles.
As advertised, the fine mesh filtration creates a much cleaner cup of coffee than a conventional French press, while still allowing the oils in your cup. While testing the device, we brewed comparison to pour-overs of the same coffee, and there’s no question the Espro Press offers more body at similar extractions.
As far as ease of use goes, it’s hard to think of a more user-friendly device. For travel, I love that I can use the fill line and pre-measured doses of coffee so I can leave my scale at home.
The double filtering system of the Espro Press is extremely effective at keeping out coffee particles. Unfortunately, it’s so effective that it keeps out much of the liquid as well. When using both filters, quite a bit of the slurry is retained. When brewing filter coffee, I expect anywhere between 10-15% of the brew water to be retained by the grounds (i.e. a recipe that uses 22 grams of coffee and 350 ml. of water will likely produce a beverage around 315 ml.) But with my Espro Press brews, 350 mls (the upper limits of the 18 oz model) of coffee produced a beverage weight of 230 grams. That means around 30% of the beverage weight is being retained. If you remove the second filter and only use one, you can get a little more coffee in your cup, but you sacrifice some cleanliness in the process.
All this makes for a device that is far less efficient than other brew methods. Admittedly in my household there’s usually coffee to spare (and a decent amount is given away to friends), so coffee efficiency isn’t my primary concern. But brewers on a budget will get more cup out of their bag of coffee with a different brew method.
Even though the Espro Press is remarkably cleaner than a conventional French press, Espro Press brews still benefit from a trick we learned from James Hoffmann’s website years ago: after the coffee has been steeping for around a minute, gently stir the crust with a spoon, causing the larger particles to sink. The sediment that is left behind can be skimmed off with a spoon for maximum cleanliness.
For immersion brew methods we usually start with a 1:15 coffee to water ratio, and make adjustments on subsequent brews as necessary. A medium grind and 4-5 minute steep time works well with most coffees. (One of the benefits of the Espro Press is not needing to grind as coarsely as a conventional press pot.)
The mesh filter is incredibly fine, so keeping it clean is very important. We recommend a periodic Cafiza soak to keep it in tip-top shape.
The Espro Press offers, in many regards, the best of both worlds. Brews with this device offer all of the luscious mouthfeel one finds on the cupping table, while maintaining a cleanliness just short of paper filtration. The sturdy stainless steel construction makes it an ideal device for travel or camping, and the ease of use makes it a great option for hosting, (or tired baristas who don’t want any fuss on their day off). I, however, still can’t bring myself to drink that last, still kind of sludgy sip.
The rich volcanic soils of Antigua, Guatemala have a lot to do with its coffee’s distinct terroir, but Antigua’s picturesque Fuego volcano is active and tragedy struck this week in what experts are calling the country’s worst eruption since 1974 (pictured). Over 200 people are missing and thousands more, including many coffee farmers, have been displaced and face potentially extensive damage to their farms.
Anacafé, Guatemala’s national coffee agency, is using their headquarters as a makeshift relief center, in partnership with the Red Cross and other disaster relief organizations. According to their press release:
Those affected need non-perishables, canned food, clean water, blankets and clothes in good condition. We also need medication for eye and skin burns, saline solution to wash burns, oral saline solutions and dressings. All donations will be distributed by our staff in collaboration with CONRED (The National Coordination for Disaster Reduction).
For more information about how you can help those affected by Fuego volcano disaster, read their full press release here.
We live in the era of fake news, and in the world of coffee there’s certainly a lot of misinformation about Turkish coffee. But we’re here to set the record straight about the syrupy, sludgy cup of coffee.
Turkish Coffee is a Brew Method
Turkish coffee is a way of preparing coffee, not a coffee origin. The Republic of Turkey produces tea along its Black Sea coast, but the climate isn’t suitable for coffee. During the Ottoman Empire, Turks controlled Yemen and its coffee trade, holding a virtual monopoly on the coffee trade. But the Dutch managed to smuggle a few seeds out and coffee soon spread around the world. For the last hundred years or so most of Turkey’s coffee imports have come from Brazil….
Dave Eggers has always been connected with specialty coffee in my mind. I purchased my first Eggers’s novel from Quills Coffee and Books on Kentucky St. in Louisville’s Paristown neighborhood. (Due to a bad landlord situation the shop closed. When it reopened on nearby Baxter Avenue, the “and Books” was dropped from everything but legal documents). The book was What is the What, a novel based on the true story of a Sudanese refugee who barely escapes his village being slaughtered by rebels and eventually gets to America, where he encounters hardships of a different kind. To this day, whenever someone mentions Eggers I’m transported back to that small corner café, with Quills’s distinctive red mug and a coffee-stained book.
It turns out the association between Eggers and coffee was misguided but strangely prescient. Eggers latest book, The Monk of Mokha, chronicles the true story of Mokhtar Alkhanshali, the founder of …
Few people could have predicted the way specialty coffee has boomed in Istanbul over the last five years. It wasn’t that long ago you could count the number of specialty coffee shops in Turkey’s largest city on your fingers. Now that list is well over 60, and the lion’s share of those cafés have a La Marzocco espresso machine on bar.
The Florence-manufactured espresso machines are truly an icon of contemporary coffee culture, especially in brand-conscious Istanbul, where a La Marzocco espresso machine often symbolizes a larger commitment to quality. But the machines are not just on display in cafés anymore….