Chicago’s own Geoff Watts gets more kudos, this time from Michaele Weissman. The best cup of coffee I’ve had, probably ever, was a double espresso poured at the Intelligentsia Cafe on Broadway. Rich, delicious, there is little that compares. I tend to purchase Intelligentsia beans exclusively these days, and am rarely disappointed.
Salon: You chose three specialty coffee entrepreneurs, Counter Culture’s Peter Giuliano, Intelligentsia’s Geoff Watts and Stumptown’s Duane Sorenson, to be your guides for the book. Why these three?
Michaele Weissman: After the story on office coffee, I wrote a piece on young coffee entrepreneurs and their impact on the specialty coffee industry for the New York Times. All the experts I interviewed named Peter, Geoff and Duane as the most talented, or among the most talented, young specialty guys in the industry, and the coffees they roasted topped all the “best coffee” lists, so I called them up.
One thing led to another, and I wound up traveling with Peter Giuliano and Geoff Watts to Nicaragua on yet another coffee story for the New York Times. Peter and Geoff’s passion for, knowledge of and eloquence about coffee blew me away.
The perfect cup requires a good bean
Philosophy aside, what makes the difference in coffee? Is it the bean? The roast? The brew?
It all matters. The genetic qualities of the bean. The agronomic skill of the farmer. The climate. The processing of the bean, which is multi-stepped and fraught. The way the bean is transported. The roasting. The grinding. The brewing. Each step either enhances the bean’s potential or degrades it.
Think about wine grapes or olives that are pressed to make oil. You can begin with the most exquisite cultivars, but these products, fine wine, fine olive oil, only reach their potential when each step leading toward consumption is consummated skillfully and in a timely fashion. Same with coffee.
Only coffee is even more vulnerable to human error, because of the assaults to nature that occur when consumers take their newly purchased specialty beans home.
and a good method for brewing:
What is the best home coffee-brewing device: percolator, French press or just basic Mr. Coffee?
Percolator — never.
Mr. Coffee — throw it out immediately. Most standard automated coffee pots don’t heat the water hot enough or consistently enough. The water needs to be around 205 degrees F. as it pours over the grounds. Otherwise the grounds will be over-extracted and bitter or under-extracted and tasteless.
French press — this plunger system makes very nice coffee but requires a certain deftness of hand and it produces slightly gritty coffee that some people like and others don’t.
I prefer old-fashioned, inexpensive drip pots that use brown paper filters, such as the Chemex where you pour nearly boiling water over freshly ground coffee.
Oh, and always use filtered water.
The most important piece of home equipment: A burr grinder. Those little blade grinders most people use basically beat the crap out of the coffee. Not good.
One of these days I’m getting a quality grinder. Some suggestions on that topic from a few years ago include:
or even for the wealthy: