This is going to be my last post of 2010 and I want to dedicate it to the talented baristas who make every visit to our local cafés an experience we cherish. Wether they’re hypnotically circling the bloom of a Chemex, pouring latte art that makes us smile, or pulling a shot that’ll have our eyes roll back in our head—this goes out to all those who love coffee so much, they’ve made a career out of serving the best cup they can.
After Storyville’s essential hardware is in place, then comes the Storyville software—two bags of coffee packed as delicately as a cashmere sweater. The same design detail found in the hardware packaging is present throughout the coffee as well.
The clear plastic, resealable bags are printed in metallic ink with a knockout of their logo, allowing a preview of the product inside. The typography is nicely considered and the roast date is printed right on the front of the bag—just as large as Storyville’s name—making it easy to find and stressing its importance.
Nestled underneath the coffee was a nicely wrapped DVD with the videos from the website teaching you how to brew the perfect press pot as well as the short film about “Big Coffee” and the burnt bean cover-up.
The coffee itself wasn’t as exciting for me as everything else. Not that it was bad, I know a number of people who this would make a great gift for, but I’m not usually in the market for a comforting, earthy morning blend.
The aroma is nice, full of chocolate and spice. There’s also a bit of cinnamon, a hint of clove and honey sweetened nuts that make their way out of the cup. The coffee is full bodied with a bit of a dry mouthfeel. Spiced walnuts are the most prominent flavor, while some lemon zest add a bit of brightness to the cup. As it cools, the coffee smoothes out and ends with a red wine finish.
The last thing I want to share about Storyville, which could be another post in itself, is their Storyville Live initiative. Chad Turnbull, Co-President of Storyville, calls themselves a “for profit, for good” company. What this means is that their success is not determined by profit alone, but also by how they can contribute back to society. I am a big proponent of this type of business. When I’m not writing about coffee or doing design work for clients, I’m actually a bit of a social entrepreneur myself.
Storyville Live is an intimate concert in the home of a generous host, completely organized by the company with the help of a guest list. During an event, fresh coffee is served up to fuel the live music and conversation that ensue, which allows Storyville to personally introduce new customers to their product. This intimate setting also gives them an opportunity to share their passion for another cause—to see an end to human trafficking and slavery. While this seems like a heavy topic, what better place to discuss an important global issue than over coffee with friends? What’s better, is all of the proceeds made from coffee and hardware sales go directly to the International Justice Mission, who are fighting to end such oppression.
There are many coffee companies who use their sales to promote the well being of people in coffee growing regions (which is fantastic, we should all be doing that), but I find Storyville’s unique approach to raise money for an unrelated issue, a very sincere effort to improve the world we live in. Storyville’s heart is clearly visible in everything they do. From the studio they roast their coffee in, to the way it’s presented when you receive it in your home, it’s obvious that Storyville cares deeply about what they do, which is not only great business, but a great way to live.
Storyville is a small coffee company in Seattle, Washington doing big things. Their mission is simple, “the best beans, artfully roasted, and rushed to your door while they’re still fresh.” They only offer one coffee, a regular blend called Prologue and its decaf counterpart, aptly named Epilogue. The goal at Storyville is not to offer the newest or largest selection of blends and origins, but instead provide the fresh and consistent cup of everyday coffee that their costumers enjoy. They also make an effort to educate new customers about the crimes of “Big Coffee” and their bitter, over-roasted beans.
Storyville knows that in order to best enjoy fresh coffee, you need to have a few essentials—a good grinder and a press pot. That’s where their newest, soon to be released, offering comes into play. Introducing Storyville Hardware—or as I call it, “the mind-blowing home coffee transformation kit.” It provides you with the elements needed to grant you freedom from bad coffee.
When I first discovered Storyville a few years ago, the high quality of their design made a lasting first impression. It’s obvious that design shapes every aspect of the company, even though none of the owners are formally trained in the arts. From their identity, packaging, and website—to their roasting studio, which looks more like a Maserati showroom than a roastery. There is an attention to detail you don’t often find in the coffee industry and the design and experience of opening the Hardware package is no exception. If Apple started a coffee company, it would look like Storyville.
When brewing at home, the most important thing you need after fresh roasted coffee, is a solid burr grinder. The consistency of the grind will make all the difference in the extraction, while excess powder from a poor grind can add unwanted sediment and bitterness. So Storyville built a custom grinder to provide this vital piece of equipment.
I spoke with Chad Turnbull, Co-President of Storyville and he told me that they collaborated with a German designer, think BMW and Porsche, to help develop their grinder. The construction is solid, and the body design is more streamlined than similar grinders on the market, while reflecting the essence of the Storyville brand. The internal components are on par with those of a Baratza Virtuoso. It includes a timed on switch, but no pulse button. The polished finish and laser-etched logos are a beautiful touch that almost make you want to cherish it more than use it.
After you grind the beans, you need a proper way to brew. There really isn’t an easier way than with a press pot. It’s one of the most basic and transparent brewing methods, that’s difficult to mess up. No paper filters to impair the taste, and nowhere for bad beans to hide. The oils that aren’t filtered out by the mesh, provide full flavor in the cup while a bit of sediment adds a pleasant texture to the body.
While you can pick up a basic press for about $20, Storyville wanted something that would look nice on the counter next to their grinder. So they partnered with Bodum to offer a custom, 12-cup Columbia press pot. The stainless steel matches the accents on the grinder, and it makes enough coffee to serve everyone at your dinner party.
The design and consideration doesn’t stop at the packaging and the products, but continues through the literature as well. The instruction guides are nicely illustrated with pleasant typography to guide you through using, cleaning and maintaining each piece of hardware. When an instruction guide is so beautiful that you actually want to read it all the way through, it says something for the power of design.
On Monday, I’ll talk more about some unique things Storyville is doing as a company, as well as review the coffee itself. Until then, check out their website to watch a video tour of their amazing roasting studio and a fun parody about ex-employees of “Big Coffee.”
If you’re a cyclist, you most likely know the name Chris King. He makes the Rolls Royce of headsets (the component that helps connect and rotate the front fork & handlebars). They are one of the most expensive headsets on the market, but they last a lifetime and their smooth performance is top notch. The design of Chris King components continue to lead the competition and their brightly anodized metal always stand out.
Now, the beauty of Chris King bike parts are available for the most indulgent, bike loving baristas everywhere. Designed in collaboration with the American Barista & Coffee School in Portland, OR—the $75 tamper is definitely pricey, but damn sexy.
When I’m not drinking coffee, I enjoy drinking stout. And when I’m not eating fruits and veggies, who doesn’t love a chocolate cupcake? What happens when you drink too much stout, pass out and dream about all those things combined? You find yourself with a batch of chocolate coffee stout cupcakes (and maybe a fruit salad).
The culinary talent of Ms. Kostyk from The Gentrified South, has made every drunken coffee lovers dream come true. The recipe uses Primavera Coffee, a great local roaster in Birmingham, Alabama—who I reviewed last year—and a Coffee Oatmeal Stout from Good People Brewery. I’m sure you could substitute the coffee with any of your favorite roasters, but why pass up an opportunity to try one of the South’s finest?
While I’m not much of a baker myself, I do have a guest visiting soon who is—so, I may have to drop a couple hints about these (good thing they read this blog).
Two months ago, I wrote about a new way to brew with the Sowden SoftBrew. I immediately fell in love with the object itself and looked forward to comparing it with my trusty press pot. An early article by the New York Times helped the SoftBrew sell out quickly through its only US distributor at the time, and it was initially back ordered until mid-January. I was fortunate enough to get ahold of one a few weeks ago and since then, Sowden has caught up with demand in time for the holidays.
Initially I was disappointed and skeptical of Mr. Sowden. After brewing a number of really weak pots, I increased the brew time to 6, 7, and 8 minutes as suggested by the manufacturer, but that just seemed way too long for a pot of coffee to brew. So, I started playing with the grind to discover the micro-filter’s sediment threshold—slightly finer than drip—and after a few days I dialed in my method. I settled on a 4-minute brew time with a grind that’s in-between a drip and a French press.
The SoftBrew has replaced the press pot as my preferred morning brew method for a few reasons. First, I just love using it. The porcelain is solid, feels nice in my hands and it won’t shatter with a slight tap on the edge of the sink. I can pull the grounds out of the pot right after brewing to prevent over-extraction and the micro-filter creates a cleaner cup, while still producing a full flavor. The porcelain also maintains heat better than a glass carafe and it’s much easier to clean.
Last week, I included the SoftBrew in the DCILY Gift Guide, but realized not everyone is familiar with it, so I made a video to show it in action. Enjoy!
This week, Aaron’s post on FrshGrnd reminded me that I never wrote about my trip to Copenhagen back in September—more specifically my trip to The Coffee Collective. This coffee bar, tucked down a pleasant residential street in the Nørrebro district, was one of my favorite stops. It’s also close to the sprawling Assistens Cemetery that’s used more like a city park than a final resting place by local residents.
My favorite aspect of The Coffee Collective is the open design of their bar. There is no barrier or counter between the customer and the barista—everything, including a prototype of the sexy new La Marzocco Strada espresso machine, is displayed for all to see. There was a never-ending line that flowed out the door during my hour visit, but more than enough seating at the large wooden tables out front.
I started out with an AeroPress of Hacienda La Esmerelda, known by some as the best coffee in the world. The flavors were not as clear and pronounced as the cup I had at Tim Wendelboe, but still unmistakably sweet and fruity. I followed up with a really sweet, but extremely bright shot of espresso and ended with a deliciously tart cup of Kenya Gatina. The quality of the coffee, along with the relaxed atmosphere of the café and its neighborhood, make this a top destination for any coffee lover traveling to Copenhagen.
Check out FreshGrnd’s post about The Coffee Collective for more great photos of the interior and surrounding neighborhood.
Dear Coffee, I Love You has spent over a year discovering and writing about the greatest things going on in the coffee world. This guide could be much larger, but I’ve narrowed it down to my favorite ten items that will make fantastic gifts for anyone who loves coffee.
1. Chemex -$40- A gift for the design connoisseur in your life. The Chemex was invented in 1939 by a Bauhaus inspired chemist from Germany and resides in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. The thick filter creates a very clean cup and the technique allows you to have maximum control over brewing variables. Shop for a Chemex
2. Sowden SoftBrew -$50- A gift for French press fans who need all the latest toys. The Sowden SoftBrew was just released this fall. Designed by George Sowden, who has worked with houseware legends Alessi and Pyrex, the SoftBrew is a “less violent” way to brew coffee while keeping the oil rich flavors in tact. The beautiful porcelain jug wraps around a stainless steel, photo-etched filter that fully immerses the grounds, while keeping out more sediment than a press pot. Shop for a SoftBrew
3. Coava Filters -$50- A gift for every eco-conscious, coffee drinking steam punk. These stainless steel filters from Coava Coffee use photo-etching technology to create a reusable, stainless steel filter for the Chemex and AeroPress. They’re made entirely in the USA, from Ohio Steel and offer the control of the Chemex and AeroPress brewing methods without filtering away all of the coffee oils and texture you get in a press pot. Shop for Coava Filters
4. Coffee with Tim Wendelboe -$70- A gift for the bibliophile who absorbs as much information as they do coffee. Written by former Barista World Champion Tim Wendelboe, this book is a beautiful addition to every coffee lover’s library. It’s full of beautiful photos and approachable information that follows coffee from crop to cup. It also discusses Tim’s professional views on issues such as Fair Trade and light roasts. Order a copy
5. God In A Cup -$17- A gift for bookworms who love a good read with their coffee. This must-read book follows the journey of some of coffee’s third wave heroes, including Geoff Watts (Intelligentsia), Duane Sorenson (Stumptown), and Peter Giuliano (Counter Culture) as they visit origins around the world and move the coffee industry forward. Order a copy
6. Hario Mini Mill -$33- A gift for the caffeinated fitness fiend. The Hario Mini Mill (and its big brother, the Skerton) allow you to get a consistent quality grind (as well as a nice workout), with no electricity. It’s half the cost of a decent electric burr grinder, but produces grounds much better than cheaper alternatives. Shop for a Mini Mill
7. Presso -$150- A gift for the espresso addicted treehugger in your life. The Presso is a beautifully designed & engineered, manual espresso machine. For the price, it’s hard to get a better shot of espresso at home. It’s made from recyclable materials and it’s always fun to use. Shop for a Presso
8. AeroPress -$30- A gift for the nomadic coffee snob on your list. This odd looking device is completely portable and brews a great cup of coffee. It’s plastic, so it won’t break, and it uses a lower water temp that’s easier to achieve while traveling. This has quickly become a must-have item for every coffee aficionado. Shop for an AeroPress
9. DCILY Coffee Prints -$30- A gift for the snarky barista or café owner you know. The Dear Coffee, I Love You prints not only support your favorite coffee blogger, but they will look great in any home, office, or café. Printed on high-quality paper with archival inks, custom colors available by request. Shop for DCILY Prints
10. GoCoffeeGo Gift Cards -$50- A gift for the coffee addict with absolutely everything. Even if you have all the latest equipment, you still need great coffee beans. GoCoffeeGo has curated some of the best coffee roasters in the US to create a selection where you can’t go wrong. With their Netflix-like tool “Auto-Ship,” you can customize your own never-ending coffee subscription. Shop for GoCoffeeGo Giftcards
An astronaut demonstrates how to use a cup he made from a piece of transparency paper. The unique shape allows him to drink his coffee in zero gravity without having to suck it from a bag. Rocket science applied to coffee, really cool!