Coffee | How To Brew The Perfect Pour Over

Coffee¬†is my thing. I’ve always loved it, and I’ve always drank it. I understand it well, and I’ve been trained in it extensively throughout my career. The intricacies of the coffee bean are beyond that of even wine, which is precisely why its always intrigued me. It started out as a Folger’s habit picked up in high school, developing into a daily cup of Starbuck’s in¬†college. Seeking a career in the restaurant industry didn’t help my full blown addiction. Not only did I intensely enjoy the caffeine buzz, but I was also beginning to acquire deeper knowledge into the coffee culture. My palate became nuanced enough that I had shunned the ‘bucks altogether, replacing my daily cups with brews from local roasters, or perfecting my pour-over at home. While I’m not the maniac I used to be, over consuming cups of joe all day long, I’m still a morning monster until I can scratch that coffee itch.

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Where Did It Come From And Why Is It So Special?

The origin of coffee began in Ethiopia. Legend has it, a shepherd came across the plant. Feeding it to his herd, he noticed their energy levels were higher than normal and that they couldn’t sleep through the night. Sound familiar?¬†Once it hit the Arabian Peninsula it spread like a drug. The Dutch started planting the bean in Indonesia and Sumatra. Later, the French brought it to Martinique, and from there it found it’s way to Brazil and the rest of South America. Coffee houses began popping up all over and became the central place for¬†stimulated conversation, replacing beer and wine as the preferred morning beverage.

So, What Exactly Is A Coffee Plant?

The coffee plant is grown in what is commonly known as The Coffee Belt, located between latitudes 25 degrees North and 30 degrees South, basically right around the equator. The plant needs a consistent temperature between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the species. The trees can grow up to 30ft high (though the best farms trim them down to concentrate flavor), and can live up to 100 years. The coffee bean, itself, is actually the seed within the tree fruit, or cherry. Most cherries contain two seeds, however, the rare peabody only has one. Many believe peabody coffee offers more complex notes in the final product, though this has been debated.

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The Species:

Coffea Arabica produces the majority of the world’s coffee. This is a descendent of the original Ethiopian coffee plant, and produces a finer¬†cup of coffee that many deem far¬†superior.¬†Arabica¬†is a more delicate plant that can be temperamental, growing in mostly high elevation regions.

Coffea Robusta is the other species of coffee, producing a much less expressive cup with almost 50-60% more caffeine than the Arabica. The trees are heartier making them easier and cheaper to cultivate. These beans are mostly found in your run-of-the-mill instant coffees.

What Happens After The Beans Are Harvested?

There are two major processing methods coffee cherries can go through. The more traditional method is dry processing. This is more heavily used in areas with little access to water. The cherries are spread out on a large sheet, and allowed to sun dry until most of the moisture is gone. During this process, they are raked and turned to prevent rot.

For the wet processing method, the pulp and skin from the cherry is removed after harvesting. The beans are then separated and put in large tanks to ferment. Once fermentation is complete, the beans are laid out to dry until, again,  most of the moisture is gone.

Beans are typically roasted by the importer since it’s important to consume coffee not long after it has been roasted (typically around a week after). This is the process that turns green coffee beans into the aromatic brown beans we know and love. During this time, a fragrant oil is released from the coffee bean which is what we connect¬†as the flavors and aromas¬†we experience.

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The Pour-Over Brewing Method – Chemex

My preferred method of brewing coffee at home is with a Chemex. I find that the it¬†gives me¬†a little bit of a cushion for mistakes while pouring, yet still provides a stellar end product with all of the delicate notes I want. And let’s be honest, I’m not at my most attentive when I first wake up, so this is perfect for me.

What You’ll Need

**Optional

First, make sure the Chemex is clean – it won’t taste very good with day-old coffee inside. Open the filter into a cone with three layers of paper on one side. Place the filter in the Chemex with the thicker side against the spout (this will prevent the filter from ripping). Fill the kettle with water and pour it around the edges of the empty filter to rinse off any unwanted paper flavor. Once all of the water has drained through, pour it out from the spout.

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Ok, now you’re set to make some coffee. Add about 1tbsp grounds for every 5oz. cup of coffee (or 40g of grounds) to the Chemex. Bring just over¬†2.5 cups (600mL) of water to a boil, and let rest a minute before pouring. If you’re using a thermometer bring the water to 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water is too cold it will produce flat, under extracted coffee. If it’s too hot, the coffee will taste burnt and the quality will be lost.

Once the water has hit the right temperature, it’s time to bloom the grounds. Starting from the center of the grounds, pour a small amount of water in a circular motion until all of the grounds are wet. Wait about 25-30 seconds for the bloom.

Blooming:¬†When coffee is roasted it takes on carbon dioxide.¬†Blooming the grounds helps release any excess carbon dioxide from the coffee to allow more space for water. You’ll notice the¬†bloom begin as soon as the hot water touches the grounds. They start to puff up and bubble.¬†

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Once the bloom has finished, begin your first pour with the same circular motion, this time beginning at the edge of the grounds touching the filter. Continue pouring the water, spiraling into the center of the grounds and back out until the water level in the Chemex has reached just about an inch from the top. Allow the water to filter through. When just about all of the water is gone (make sure there is still some water left), begin the second pour in the same way as the first. When it has completely filtered through, throw out the grounds and filter, give the pot a quick swirl, and you’re ready to drink!

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Adding Cream or Sugar

I typically add a little almond milk or coconut cream to my coffee because I like a little bit of fat. However, depending on the roast and origin of your coffee you may or may not want to add anything. I always suggest to taste the coffee black, and then determine what to add based on the coffee’s flavor and mouthfeel.

Sugar typically brings out more of the sweet fruit components – making tart strawberries ripe strawberry flavors.

Cream tends to add a richer mouthfeel, almost creating dessert-like flavors especially if combined with sugar Рstrawberries turn into a strawberries and cream dessert

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5 Best California Ros√©s For Spring

I went about writing this post to showcase Ros√© wines made with different varietals and in differing styles. I didn’t restrain my selections to California specifically, but it kind of came organically as I chose each wine. My time spent living in San Francisco really left me with a great appreciation for California wines and producers,¬†many¬†of which are still being discovered here in Chicago. There is a great movement of ‘New California’ winemaking happening right now, and I find it very exciting. They focus on balance and restraint and many practice organic and/or biodynamic farming philosophies. I didn’t want to just choose easy wines – the ones you can find at your local wine emporium or grocery store. Each wine and producer below I truly believe in and look forward to drinking. They may take some time to seek out, but trust me, they’re worth it.

 

 

Donkey Goat Grenache Gris Rose Post

Grenache Gris: Donkey & Goat Isabel’s Cuv√©e

Grenache Gris is an aromatic and full-bodied grape with grey/pink skin. It can be found in Southern France, predominantly in Southern Rhone Valley white blends, as well as Navarra and Castilla-La Mancha in Spain, and by lesser extent in California. When Grenache Gris is not blended, it is usually fermented with its skins causing the wine to be more pink than yellow. Many assume rosé wines are made strictly with red grapes, but there are a handful of white grapes with enough skin pigmentation to create that coveted rose color.

 

 

Scribe Pinot Noir Rose Post

Pinot Noir: 2015 Scribe Rosé of Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is seen as the King of ros√©. Variations of it are found across the globe. It’s easy drinking, and tends to pair with just about every Spring and Summer dish. The weight and expressiveness of these wines vary from place to place. Sancerre tends to offer leaner versions smelling of underripe watermelon, whereas California produces fuller-bodied styles with ripe cherry and strawberry flavors.

 

 

Jolie Laide Trousseau Gris

Trousseau Gris: 2015 Jolie-Laide Trousseau Gris

Like Grenache Gris, this is another white grape with dark pink skin. Trousseau Gris thrives is dry, warm areas, thus it’s success in California’s Russian River Valley. It’s intensely aromatic and when fermented with it’s skins can have noticeable tannins. It is the perfect bridge between red and white wine.

 

 

Broc Valdiguie Rose Post

Valdiguié: 2016 Broc Cellars Love Rosé Blend

Valdigui√© is often referred to as Napa Gamay in California. While it’s a completely different varietal, the two have very similar qualities. The wines tend to be full of juicy berry fruits, but rarely much else. The blend in Broc Cellars ros√©¬†introduces grapes with both structure and color to balance the wine.

 

 

Bedrock Mourvedre Rose Post

Mourv√®dre: 2016 Bedrock Wine Company “Ode to Lulu” Ros√©

This is quite a powerful grape full of tannin. It plays as the structural component of Southern Rhone GSM blends. Ros√©s made from¬†Mourv√®dre¬†are fuller-bodied with beautiful aromas of dried flowers, plums and cherries. Some of the best expressions are found in Southern France’s Bandol region and Northern California.

Spring In February And A RamenFest Patio Party

 

I still can’t believe the weather this past week. I mean 70 degrees in Chicago in February!? I can’t even. Without a doubt, February is always the worst month of the year. Typically we’ve already had several months of cold weather, and are due for a few more months still. You’re over it, but still have a long way to go until spring. March will sometimes show a few warmer days, but February? HELL NO.

 

RamenFest was this past Sunday at Belly Q, which is usually a time to huddle inside slurping down hot bowls of noodles, ended up being a patio party with ice cold sochu cocktails and Half Acre Beer!

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I spent every single day outside for as long as possible. I walked from south to north and east to west, covering miles upon miles of the city. The skies have been clear, the sun bright and the wind calm, so I made sure to capture as many photos as possible before the inevitable freeze comes back.

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Even the ice rink in Millennium Park was completely melted! If there was ever a tease for an early Spring, this is definitely it, and I am NOT complaining.

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How To Create The Perfect Home Bar

 

 

The Bar Cart – an essential to home entertaining, has become an effective driver for our current drinking habits. Everyone is “building up” their home bar with the¬†three-martini lunch era in mind. It’s really becoming the home wine cellar of the 80’s and 90’s. I’ve seen friends curate back vintages of Campari and Fernet and rare bottles of bourbon to fill their shelves, and¬†I’ve even been invited to home whiskey tastings where everyone brings a bottle from their home bar.

The bar cart has been in play for quite some time, being first introduced for tea service in the late 1800’s, and then being brought into it’s current boozy existence in the 50’s. Since then it has become a fashionable staple in homes across the country.

I’ve curated bar carts both for home use as well as for restaurants, and there really isn’t much of a difference between the essential tools needed. If you want a true bar cart experience, I suggest investing in a larger bodied cart with three levels. The larger size will accommodate any cocktailing accessories as well as the glassware needed.¬†It will become a one-stop shop for drinking.

To begin, a cart with wheels is unnecessary for a home bar, unless you plan on moving it around often, and as far as the material of the cart (glass, wood etc.) that is more dependent on your personal aesthetic. What does matter is the number and size of the shelving on the cart because that can limit your cocktailing options.

As I mentioned, three levels on the cart is ideal. The first tier of the cart is for mixing drinks.

 

The second tier is for glassware. I’d suggest keeping several different styles ranging from a classic Old Fashioned glass, martini coups, brandy snifters and if you’re really feeling classy, throw¬†a few Nick & Nora glasses on there. While, I always look for carts with this second level, it is not always necessary as you can grab a glass easily from the kitchen.

The bottom level is for your booze and should have the largest overhead space on the cart. I like to have an array of spirits on the cart at all times. While you won’t need to have all premium spirits, I would suggest splurging on the bottles you prefer to drink neat or on the rocks:

  • Bourbon
  • Blended and/or Single Malt Scotch
  • Reposado or Anejo Tequila
  • Gin
  • Vodka
  • Armagnac
  • a white rum
  • amaro
  • Campari, Vermouth and various other liqueurs

These don’t always have to live on your cart, but may be in a rotation based on the season or type of gathering you’re having. The most important thing to remember with your home bar is to have fun with it!

 

 

Los Angeles – A Dining Guide

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As the clouds sit low in the sky with malice, foreboding yet another late summer rain, I find myself scrolling through all of my pictures from my trip to L.A. It was mid July and I was being flown, graciously, by one of my wine distributors to attend an intensive seminar on Austrian Riesling – a longtime favorite wine of mine. The flight was early out of Chicago, and Midway is not the place to stop and grab breakfast I soon found out. Once in LAX, I was just about starving, but knowing I had some time to kill before I could check-in to the hotel, I dodged the idea of eating airport food and decided to drag my bags to Santa Monica.

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Santa Monica is one of those special places, that if your from the Midwest, everything back home seems dull and boring. I walked up to Rose Cafe and instantly fell in love. It’s open and airy with high ceilings and crisp, clean lines. A friend of mine had just spent an evening here celebrating her nomination for Eater Young Gun, a restaurant-focused award given to somebody under 30 years old who is exceptional in their field. She had such a great time, I figured I’d at least have to pop in for lunch.¬†Oh, what a perfect post-plane meal. Chilled corn soup with chamomile, fresh melon and basil and a glass of one of my favorite rose’s from LIOCO.

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Rose Cafe

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After a San Francisco withdrawal led me to pit-stop at Blue Bottle Coffee, I was able to check into the hotel and rid myself of all my bags. I stayed at the Hotel Normandie in Koreatown. A gorgeous, historic hotel built in the 20’s with high lobby ceilings and an almost bed & breakfast feeling to the corridors. It was both comforting and eye catching. Of course it doesn’t hurt that they are connected to a great diner, Cassell’s (I’m a total sucker for a good diner).

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Hotel Normandie

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The rest of the night included dinner at Kali, a small restaurant on Melrose with a stellar wine list and food. Not that this trip needed any help to be better, but one of my dining companions just so happened to be Emmerich Knoll, the winemaker of the legendary Knoll wines of Austria. The trip immediately went from great to unbelievable. The conversation of the night drifted from light to intense and sometimes philosophical (as it tends to do with winemakers), spurred by countless bottles of wine being open by their talented Wine Director/Owner. It was definitely a dinner for the books.

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Gjusta

The rest of the trip seemed to follow suit with the first day. There was, of course, the seminar, the whole reason I was even in L.A., followed by lunch at Gjusta and a long stroll around Santa Monica picking up small treasures along the way (let’s be honest, it was pretty much all ceramics – I’m also a total sucker for well made pottery). Dinner, again, was fantastic with a menu dedicated to the season’s bounty of ripe tomatoes that we, of course, paired with more Austrian Riesling.

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While the trip was a great experience and highly educational for my professional career, it re-lit a nostalgic love for the West Coast, and a hunger to return sooner rather than later. When the clouds in Chicago are heavy and dark , I turn to the warmth and sunshine of my trip to lift me up.

Finding Wines Of Value In Spain

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About a month ago I wrote an article for Eater’s¬†Ask A Somm series. The topic I covered was¬†Which Country Is Offering The Best Value Wines. I have to say, this was a personal milestone for me, as I have always regarded Eater as one of the better restaurant news/information sources, and the¬†Ask A Somm series has featured many wine industry professionals that I hold in high regard.

The question itself was a little daunting – I mean every country offers wines of great value, but which country has the most, or has consistently offered value-driven wines? After a bit of research and conferring with other colleagues, I was able to settle on Spain, which is, in my opinion, the most glaringly obvious choice. While Spain is the best place to search for older vintage reds, think Lopez de Heredia, it also gives us the spritz-y summertime hit, txakolina (pronounced cha-ko-li-na). If you were into beer bongs in college, txakolina poured from a porron directly into an open mouth is the, ah-em, classier version.

There’s also vintage Cava, which is, at this moment, some of my favorite value sparkler¬†out there.

Read the article, and discover more delicious value-driven Spanish wines!

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The New Champagne

“It’s me. It’s mine. That’s all, just drink.” The simple, yet stongly indicative words of Flavian Nowack, winemaker at Champagne Nowack. He is one of several young and inspiring winemakers within, or better yet, creating¬†this generational shift in the wine world. More and more¬†I am finding wines that take me, pleasantly, by surprise with their focus, finesse and drive to show terroir – regardless of new or old world. I feel like we’re coming to a point where the designation between “new” and “old” isn’t giving us an insight into the experience of the wine. It’s more of a generalization of the history of wine in a country. Now, both viticulture and viniculture are changing – I would say for the better. It’s moving into a less is more approach.

I’ve become fascinated with the agricultural philosophy of biodynamics, and am ecstatic to see more and more wineries switch to organic, if not fully biodynamic. We’re moving away from money and quantity driven producers, and seeing a rise in men and women seeking quality, and trying to deliver place in a bottle.

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2006 Champagne Nowack, Extra Brut, Blanc de Noirs, 100% Pinot Noir
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Thomas Calder, wine exporter

This generational shift couldn’t be more obvious than in Champagne, where the land of negociants and blending has turned to growers and singularities. While, I think, most of the general public are still celebrating with flutes of Veuve Clicquot, those of us in the wine industry are gouging ourselves with wine glasses full of Cedric Bouchard’s Roses de Jeanne.¬†I’m finding a surge of producers bottling single varietals, single vineyards and single vintages, which used to be a rare practice in Champagne. What’s exciting is the variation in vintages. These producers aren’t relying on replicating a certain “house style,” instead they are simply trying to produce the best wine,¬†telling the tale of that year, in that place.

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Photo: thedishh

I had the GREAT honor to be invited to an intimate luncheon with these wine rockstars. Literally, I would liken these dudes¬†to The Stones circa 1964, that may just be me though. It hit all of us –¬†we were part of history in the making. This single moment that we all will look back on and say, damn, that’s when the world changed…ok, our world of wine geekiness. For these young guys to be making the waves they are, especially in a region like Champagne, well, it’s truly inspiring.

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Quentin Paillard of Champagne Pierre Paillard
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Cedric Bouchard of Champagne Cedric Bouchard
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Flavian Nowack of Champagne Nowack

Here was the set list for the afternoon:

Champagne Guiborat

NV Prisme.11 Grand Cru, Blanc de Blancs, 100% Chardonnay

2008 Le Mont Aigu Grand Cru, Blanc de Blancs, 100% Chardonnay

Champagne Louis Nicaise with Clement Préaux

NV Réserve Brut, 40% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Meunier

2007 Cuvée Louis par Laure, 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir

Champagne Pierre Paillard with Quentin Paillard

2010 Les Mottelettes Grand Cru, Blanc de Blancs, 100% Chardonnay

2010 Les Maillerettes Grand Cru, Blanc de Noirs, 100% Pinot Noir

Champagne Nowack with Flavian Nowack

NV La Fontinette, Extra Brut, Blanc de Meunier, 100% Pinot Meunier

NV Les Bauchets, Extra Brut, Blanc de Noirs, 100% Pinot Noir

Champagne Cédric Bouchard with Cédric Bouchard

2011 Roses de Jeanne Ursules, Blanc de Noirs, 100% Pinot Noir

2011 Roses de Jeanne La Haute-Lemblée, Blanc de Blancs, 100% Chardonnay

Drink Well, 

KC