Category Archives: Coffee: About Etc.
Photos from my Sightglass story published Dec. 2010 in SFWeekly here.
Some images previously unpublished.
The obvious: I drink a lot of coffee. The obscure: I fell in love with Sightglass during my SF-early-days. I remember that cappuccino like it was yesterday. It was a lovely afternoon and my girlfriend and I were on our way to Rainbow Foods. I scouted out Sightglass and ordered a capp from their counter. The girlfriend (as I’ve mentioned) only does the iced stuff and has to have her faux sugar all up in it. Well, third-wavers like these guys don’t roll that way. In plain speak: Sightglass doesn’t have Splenda, or agave, or Stevia, or anything that isn’t simply defined as sugar – straight up. So we bounced to another place after I got my drink. That was fine by me – but I think I said something ridiculous loud and proud such as, “WOW! This is the best cappuccino of my LIFE!” The other time I perhaps made such claim was at the Silver Lake Intelligentsia, and I remember that day equally as clearly.
So I wanted to interview these guys. And that’s what I did. I knew owners Justin and Jerad Morrison (brothers) would help me figure out the coffee scene here and I’ve never actually sat in on a roasting process with full access to ask anything and everything I wanted – while taking gorgeous photos. Wonderfully, Jerad agreed to it and more wonderfully, the SFWeekly took my story pitch (I love it when that happens!). But no, I didn’t stop there. I decided it may be fun to drag some other friends/bloggers along (with the understanding that I was writing a story).
This is when I admit that I was r e a l l y sick while this awesome day happened. I, dear God, hope I wasn’t contagious; it had been a few days from when the symptoms really kicked on (and they say you’re only contagious in the first few days, right? Ya, hope so) and there was NO WAY I was canceling on this event I put together. I was looking forward to it so very much.
Other than that major drawback, the interview/tour went off without a hitch. Jerad was so nice and accommodating. I learned a grip about how roasting works and how Sightglass (like many of the third-wave coffee guys) only roast their beans until “second crack.” That makes a huge difference. During the roasting, the beans make this popping noise; almost akin to popcorn popping, which is an indicator they’re hitting the correct temperature. This happens (as I understand it) up to three times before the beans are straight up burnt. If you pull the batch the second time you hear them “crack,” you can be assured they haven’t hit the burnt stage. This is also why you’ll never see Sightglass do any kind of a French roast. The beans never reach that roasting point.
Welcome to my first Homebrew Review: I make coffee in house, write about it and rate it.
Like the saying goes, The more you know, the more you realize you don’t. That’s true for a lot of things in life, and it certainly applies to my exploration into the depths of coffee.
Am I an expert? Compared to the average Joe? Oh hell, yes. Compared to those with which I surround myself – not even close. I know a lot of coffee people, who know, A LOT about coffee. This practice of taking notes in regards to my homebrew hopes to close some of these gaps so I’m not so full of it.
One thing that gets my head spinning, when it comes to coffee tasting/comparisons, are the number of x-factors. Seriously – how the hell am I supposed to confidently know what the beans taste like in comparison to others when I’m drinking it via a French press, pour over, or Chemex? And don’t even get me started on milk/cream… Being able to control some of these variables, is a big motivation and I think my home-tasting experiments will yield more reliable results. For the sake of consistency, my Homebrew Reviews will always be:
- made with my ceramic Melitta (aka. pour over)
- consumed as close to the grind date as possible (don’t kill me; I don’t grind my beans myself)
- tasted after a drink of water (and hopefully the first thing consumed of the day)
- tasted without cream (at first)
This first round of tasting is brought to you by, Santa Cruz Roasting. And when I say, “brought to you by,” that’s just another way of saying, “I bought the beans with my own little money at the store.” When I buy coffee beans at a grocery store, again, I try to limit my options. I try to buy beans around $10/pound and have them be, locally roasted, fair trade and organic. I know, I can be a bit hard to please; however, more often than not, I find something. And Santa Cruz’s “Beethoven’s Blend” was it.
The first words that I wrote after tasting it were: Acid, Even, A Little Oaky, You Know it’s Coffee. I give it a six of ten because, well, it was okay. I wasn’t crazy about it. The label read “Full City and French Roasts.” It was dark as ever, with a hint of burnt. I suppose that’s a quintessential trait of French roasts – many of the third-wave coffee guys won’t even roast their precious beans to the French-roast point since it can sear the delicacies away. Nonetheless, I did enjoy it after my palate adjusted to it and after a pour of half-and-half. Gotta have my creamy coffee.
I’m on to you SF coffee. There’s something unique here and it’s a little… spicy? Yes!
My girlfriend, bless her, only drinks iced coffee. I might indulge in one of those, say, on a day when it’s over 100 degrees; however, even then I likely will stick with the hot brew. But time and time again, she’ll go to order an iced coffee and that’s when it gets complicated. The menu will feature something like a spice-iced coffee, which usually is a concentrate fueled with mysterious spices, perhaps with a sweetener, then cut with half-n-half and put over ice. Delicious. Decedent. Different – I love ’em! Typically I advocate for her to get one (instead of the standard iced Americano as a substitute) just so I can try it. So far I’ve tried these yummies at Blue Bottle, farm:table, and Hooker’s Sweet Treats. Sightglass has one too.
So of course I had to take this and put my d.i.y-stamp on it! Here it is:
I make coffee at home pour-over style, otherwise known as the Melitta method. Not because I’m super partial to it, but because they’re harder to break than French presses. I’ve gone through those suckers like Kleenex. Pour over has many other benefits such as:
- it’s therapeutic to slowly drip coffee depending on the pace of pour
- the flavor tends to be a bit brighter and lighter than other home techniques (i.e. French press, Moka)
Once I rode the SF spice-coffee train, I decided to throw in a few cloves into the grounds prior to pouring over the water. You should too! It adds a whole new earthy kick. The bit of caution I’ll add is – a little goes a long way. Really, it doesn’t take much for the coffee to turn into clover water. Not to mention the myriad of other coffee-ground factors to consider (bean type, when it was ground, how it was ground).
Am I a solid-spice girl now? No way. I can mess with a pure thing only so much. The fine art of a pure cup of coffee deserves its spotlight… most of the time.