Thursday, May 03, 2007

'The Art of Coffee' and The Perfect Shot

Nobody appreciates an artfully brewed cup of Joe as much as me. My morning coffee is not only a ritual but has become an art, beginning with bean selection, the coarseness of the grind, the method of brewing, right down to the temperature of the mug. Whether it’s my morning cup, or an afternoon jolt I don’t just want to guzzle my coffee, I want to relax and take pleasure in the experience. Unfortunately, though there seems to be at least one ‘gourmet’ coffee shop for every city block, it remains close to impossible to get a cup of coffee worth savoring. I can’t tell you the number of times I have spent three dollars on a cappuccino that turns out watery, bitter, or just tastes burnt (just thinking about it makes me angry.)

A longtime coffee bar skeptic, I can’t say I was overly excited when I saw the phrase ‘the art of coffee’ proudly written across window of Joe’s 13th street. My interest was sparked however, and I ran in for a quick cup. This is how my love/hate relationship began with Joe’s coffee. Nobody can argue, the coffee at Joe’s is amazing. Cappuccino, espresso, red-eye, or a good old regular brew, at Joe’s it is always strong, fresh, and the flavor complex.

So where does the hate factor in? At Joe’s there is no such thing as running in for a ‘quick cup.’ Each cup is a work of art and in order to create little masterpieces it appears that there is no doubling up on orders and there is no multitasking. They make their espresso drinks one shot at a time and because of this there is almost always a line up. Doing things thoughtfully and unhurriedly is a concept that goes against the grain in NY, and I must say that even I myself have found myself vulturously staring over the counter at the barista, asking myself, does putting so much attention into each cup truly make a better tasting drink? (Baristas everywhere I do apologize). And, the busy bartender in me has more than once occupied myself with visions of getting behind the counter and slamming out coffees drinks at record pace (again, baristas, I apologize).

I both love and hate Joe’s because it has caused me to recognize the conflicting elements of my personality, the side that wants to sit back and enjoy the experience, and the other that wants instant gratification. No matter how hard I try and suppress my hurried and hasty half it is an integral part of me and it is not going anywhere.

Fortunately for those of us grappling with our impatient side and with our more conscious, appreciative, and patient sides, Joe’s is offering a series of classes that just might enlighten us estupidos to how much goes into creating the perfect coffee experience.
Photos from The Fundamentals of Espresso Class

Amanda explains how to pull the perfect shot as Erin demonstrates the three essential steps, dosing, distributing, and tamping
Here is me dosing the portafilter with freshly ground espresso from the burr grinder Translation : filling the thingamajig with fresh coffee grounds from the kick ass grinder
Amanda explains that water is lazy and will choose the path of least resistance. If we want our espresso to taste good, we want the water to push threw all the grounds evenly. In order for this to happen we must distribute the grinds
After distribution the next step is tamping
translation: packing the grinds into the thingamajig
From here its a tamp a tap a tamp and your ready to go
Isn't she beautiful?
The grave yard of practice shots, all of them consumed by their creators

The class was very informative and I certainly walked away with a better sense of all the tiny details involved in dishing out good espresso. Thanks guys! Can't wait to learn some latte art in the upcoming milk class.


Matthew said...

Those photos are so good, I can smell the grinding beans . . .

Vivian said...

you really look like you belong in a coffee bar, making perfect cops of espresso.