The Aeropress enjoys a cult following around the globe, and Turkey is no exception. We recently were on hand for the 2018 Turkish Aeropress Championship in Istanbul, which attracted baristas from as far afield as Ankara and Izmir to see who was the best at making coffee with a plastic tube. …
We love hearing from our readers, especially if they’re passing through one of the cities where our blogging team is based (Louisville, San Francisco, and Istanbul). It was in the latter we met up with Canadian barista Gavyn Stroh, sharing a pour-over at Coffee Department in Balat. Istanbul is one of the world’s great travel hubs, so it’s not uncommon to meet visiting coffee professionals. But what made our visit with Gavyn exceptional was his mode of transportation. Turkey is one of 34 countries Gavyn cycled through over the last 12 months. We’ve been following his journey since that delicious, naturally-processed El Salvador we shared, and we’ve been taken by its breath-taking panoramas, ever-increasing tan lines, and of course, the many cups of coffee along the way. Now that his journey is coming to a close, we caught up with him to learn about coffee on the open road.
Known as Smyrna in Ancient Greece, Izmir is Turkey’s third largest city, and perhaps its most progressive. The city surrounds a natural harbor, which means you’re never far from the Aegean Sea. With beautiful parks that line the coastline and a relatively modest population of 3 million, it feels relaxed and liveable to one visiting from Istanbul. Izmir is a main travel hub for many of Turkey’s best beaches, as well the stunning ruins of Ephesus. But the city has long been associated with coffee too, as it’s home to Turkey’s thriving coffee roaster manufacturing industry, with brands such as Toper and Has Garanti headquartered here.
With so many coffee roasters readily available and all around good vibes, perhaps a specialty coffee boom was inevitable. Indeed Izmir could give the capital Ankara a run for its money as Turkey’s second coffee city. Unfortunately, when I visited many of the cafés on my list were closed for the holidays, but thankfully two great coffee shops had their doors open.
Roast and Found
Izmir’s Bostanlı neighborhood on the north side of the city is home to Roast and Found, a microroastery and café. From the city center the neighborhood is a short ferry ride away (as in Istanbul, commuting by ferry is one of Izmir’s great pleasures). The café curiously has two espresso machines: including a customized Kees Van Der Weston Spirit. I enjoyed a sweet, chocolatey espresso with such a think head of crema I suspect their was some robusta in the blend. Regardless, it was a fantastic shot I would gladly drink any day. With plentiful outdoor seating, this is a great café to enjoy Izmir’s beautiful weather.
Baristocrat has three locations around Izmir, and we visited their Konak location in the heart of the city– a reasonable walk from sights like Izmir’s iconic Clock Tower and Agora. I first met Baristocrat founder Nurettin Karakundakoğlu at a Q course in Istanbul almost three years ago, when he was still working for Toper. Now he’s fulltime at his own roastery with an expanding number of cafés around the city. In addition to a gorgeous La Marzocco Linea PB with color-coordinated Mythos Grinder, the café has a great selection of back issues of Fresh Cup and Barista Magazine available, a real rarity in Turkey. Our group enjoyed a cappuccino, cortado, and cold brew, but regretted we didn’t find time to make it our to their roastery in Urla.
We spend our lives searching for our destiny, while the universe conspires to help us achieve it. At least, this is the way of the world in Paulo Coelho’s internationally bestselling book The Alchemist. Such a reminder is artfully depicted on the wall of an enchanting cafe which shares its namesake with the very book it draws decorative inspiration from. …
Coffee is one of the few fruits grown only for its seeds. But this presents coffee producers with a challenge, as the cherries must be processed– separated from the fruit, dried, and milled — before being exported. But processing is more than an obligatory step after harvesting: the methods the coffee producer uses has an enormous effect on flavor. In fact, many coffee professionals believe processing has a bigger effect on the way your coffee taste than the variety of the plant or the country of origin.
There are four main ways of processing coffee, with perhaps infinite variations within each category. Certain methods tend to be common in different regions, often driven by the local climate and available infrastructure….
Stretching from the Canadian border all the way to Fort Meyers, Florida, I-75 is the one of America’s great highways, the second longest north-south interstate. Like most Americans who’ve lived in the Midwest or Upper South, I’ve driven long sections of it, though perhaps none more monotonous than the stretch connecting Cincinnati to Detroit.
After Dayton, the trip is mostly pristine farmland, with grain silos and barns providing the only breaks in the landscape. It has all of the idyllic beauty and existential despair of an Andrew Wyeth painting. (I am– I realize– projecting my own experience of being raised in a small town– albeit on the opposite end of the country.)
Both times I drove the strip were for weddings: my wife’s second cousins in Ann Arbor. The first wedding was held on a Labor Day weekend, the second, fittingly, Memorial Day weekend a few years later. With the cruise control set at an easy 80 mph, I reminded Julie that I didn’t know any of my second cousins– let alone go to their weddings. But secretly, I was excited about the trip, because of the chance to make a brief detour to a most unlikely small town café: Flatlands Coffee in Bowling Green, Ohio.
Flatlands Coffee was founded by husband and wife Ben and Cassy Vollmar. In a hard-fought Kickstarter campaign, the Vollmars somehow convinced people who would likely never visit Bowling Green to contribute to their passion project. Graduates of Bowling Green State University, they dreamed of bringing third wave coffee culture to their beloved town. After a back-breaking 16 month buildout, the café finally opened. A rare success story when faith in the American dream has never been lower.
Located on Bowling Green’s time capsule-like Main Street, the café is bright and airy. From the eclectic lightbulbs that hang above the concrete counter to the Turkish rug that runs in front of it, there are plenty of nods to Cassy’s background in interior design. Bowling Green is a college town, and even on a holiday weekend Flatlands is filled with students and creative types. From my seat in the café it seems the baristas know most everyone who comes in. They certainly peg us as out-of-towners, and ask where we’re from– a touch of small town hospitality that one misses in the city.
Flatlands Coffee is a self-professed “extreme multiroaster” shop. In other words, their coffee lineup is constantly changing. Certainly, you’ld be hard pressed to find a North American coffee roaster they haven’t featured: Madcap, Sweet Bloom, Kuma, Methodical, Brandywine, Huckleberry, George Howell, the list goes on. It’s the sort of shop that’s the bane of wholesale directors, but a delight for every coffee nerd who wants to try as many different brands as possible. Filter brews are prepared by the cup with Kalita Waves and espresso is made on a La Marzocco Linea. Each shot is ground to order on a Mahlkönig EK43, outfitted with a patent-pending distribution funnel Ben invented.
When I visited, I enjoyed a pour-over from a nationally known roaster from my wife’s hometown in North Carolina. I couldn’t help but reflect I’ve drunk their coffee in dozens of cafés around the country, and this cup of coffee was better than most of them.
Perhaps, the Vollmars have proved what many of us already knew: specialty coffee is not the exclusive property of hip urban dwellers. People that live in small towns and rural communities like coffee too. They should all be as lucky as Bowling Green, Ohio.
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.
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….
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….
Small coffee roasters face numerous challenges, but Turkish roasters face a bigger obstacle: access to quality green coffee. Most coffee in Turkey is imported twice: first by an European or American importer, that by a roaster in Turkey. Martell Mason, an American expat based in Istanbul, is trying to change that. Arabica Trading House is one of the first specialty coffee importing companies to import coffee directly from origin into Turkey. We met up with Mason at ATH’s office in Çukurcuma to find out what inspired him to move from Oslo to Istanbul….