It’s been awhile since my last coffee app post, but I’m really excited about this one. Bloom is a new app for iOS5, created by Jeremy Boles, that allows users to create custom recipes for their brew methods and coffees. Unlike other apps that I’ve reviewed that just keep time, or have set recipes that can’t be edited, Bloom is fully customizable.
The app comes pre-loaded with a solid list of standard recipes for six common brew methods—Beehouse, Chemex, Clever, French Press, Syphon and V60. While I’m personally bummed there’s no Aeropress icon, I’m sure that’s something that can be added in a future update (fingers crossed).
There are a few things I really love about this app, mainly how utilitarian it is. There is no unnecessary start-up screen to slow the load time—just a couple taps and your timer is counting down. Once the clock begins, a yellow strip highlights what step you’re on (i.e. bloom or pour). When you create custom recipes, you can add as many steps as you need and name them what you like. You can also switch between remaining time or elapsed time, which is a nice feature.
Once you’ve created a recipe you like, you can duplicate it with one tap and tweak the parameters, creating a new variation of the recipe. This is great for keeping accurate records while dialing in coffees. Once you decide what tastes best, delete the others.
My only critique at this point is the wood background (it’s too similar to the Intelligentsia app and the new Coffee Tools app), let’s mix it up a bit out there! Give me some brushed metal or a field of daisies or something. A different shade of wood even or maybe a pattern in blue and white greek bath tiles.
I’d also like better control over how the recipes are arranged. Currently they arrange themselves alphabetically according to brew method or coffee name (if you add one). However, if you have multiple recipes for the same brew method and one is for Kenya Kieni and the other for Rwanda Abangakarushwa—they will no longer be grouped together on the list because the coffee name supersedes the brew method.
If you visit the Bloom website, you can watch a demo of the app in use or purchase it for $2.99—which I think is reasonable considering the limited size of the market (this isn’t Angry Birds). I like to think of it as buying the creator a cup of coffee to thank him for all his hard work. Jeremy also informed me that he submitted an update that will soon allow users to email, text or tweet parameters to others. #awesome.
After leaving the SCAA Expo in Houston, I headed to NYC to spend a week with friends and explore more of NYC’s continually growing coffee scene. There have been so many new additions since living there three years ago, it can be hard to know where to begin once you’ve tried the more well-known staples like Gimme, Grumpy, and Ninth Street.
Thankfully, New York Times food and coffee writer, Oliver Strand has curated an excellent list as a part of the New York Time’s free iPhone app The Scoop. Of the 74 coffee shops and cafés listed (which are updated monthly), I’ve now been to 30 of them—21 during my most recent trip.
The app is extremely comprehensive and covers a range of shops, from tiny coffee bars to high-end restaurants with table side coffee service. The integrated map guides you to your destination and includes brief summaries written by Oliver himself. Of the places I tried, I only had bad drinks at a few of them and would recommend all but two.
When I visit a shop and want to get a solid perspective of what they offer, I usually order an espresso, a macchiato, and if they brew-by-the-cup—a drip coffee. If I’m approaching my caffeine limit or short on time, I may settle for just one drink. I also factor in the ambiance & design, cleanliness, customer service and general experience when deciding wether I really like a place or not. It’s rare to find a shop that captures everything so well that you call it perfect, but some get pretty damn close.
I discovered a lot of great new places on this trip that I most likely never would have found if it weren’t for The Scoop. Some became new additions to my, “must visit” list and others are just good relative to their neighborhood. One thing that surprised me the most during my recent trip was the influx of Counter Culture Coffee. Maybe they’ve always been there and I hadn’t noticed, but I would guess that 50% of the shops I visited were brewing CCC. Not that this is bad, they offer great coffee, it just seemed to be a very noticeable increase of market saturation.
Some of the highlights from this trip:
Best espresso: Single Origin Ecco Tanzania Edelweiss Estate at Kaffé 1668
Best macchiato: Stumptown Hair Bender at Variety
Best drip: Woodneck of Heart Roasters, Colombia Alfredo Rojas at RBCNYC
Best new café: Dora in the Lower Eastside
Best view: Joe at Columbia University
Best hidden gem: Bakeri in Williamsburg
Best ambiance: Bluebird in the East Village, Sweetleaf in Long Island City, Third Rail in Greenwich Village and Dora in the Lower East Side
None of these are conclusive and each visit to NYC would most likely lead to new results, but if you use them as a starting point, combined with Oliver’s list, you will be on your way to exploring some of the best the NYC coffee scene has to offer. Let me know of any great places I’ve missed. I’ll be sure to check them out on my next visit.
Download the free New York Time’s Scoop App
All photos taken with another great free iPhone app called Instagram.
There are a number of coffee apps and timers out there, but the Café Timer is about as simple as they get. With one touch of the app icon, an illustration of a French press launches and it immediately begins counting down from 4 minutes. If you remain in the app, you’ll hear a clock begin ticking when there’s 5 seconds left, leading to an ample alarm and vibration when it’s done. If you happen to leave the app, a slightly quieter pop-up will alert you. Tapping the screen flips to a few coffee brewing tips, like using fresh roasted coffee within 2 weeks of roast date, grinding right before you brew with a burr grinder and using water below boiling (however I disagree with suggesting 190°F, it should be closer to 200°F).
While this app is primarily meant for those who use a French press, there are a few options to alter the steep time in the phone’s settings. This allows you to use the timer for other methods, like an AeroPress—sadly the illustration doesn’t change.
For $1.99 it’s more than what most people would expect to pay for such a simple app, especially one that doesn’t really add new functionality to your phone other than convenience. However, when you’re about to pour water on your grounds, it’s much easier to tap once than getting tangled up switching from your morning alarm, back to the timer in the iPhone’s default app (3 taps). You’ve probably spent $1.99 on less useful things, and if a French press is your daily brew method, it’s a nice looking alternative to the standard timer.
As a gift to DCILY readers, the app’s developer Benjamin Cullen-Kerney, has kindly donated a few free versions for me to give away to readers who help spread the word. Everyone who retweets this and/or posts it on Facebook, today through Sunday, will be entered to win a free Café Timer app on Monday. If you can’t wait that long and you’d rather buy Ben a virtual cup of coffee, go purchase the app now.
Café Timer App for iPhone
San Francisco’s Best Coffee, a new app for West Coast coffee lovers, gives Bay area residents and visitors a great resource for finding good coffee in the city. Blue Crow Media made their introduction into the coffee world with their first app, London’s Best Coffee, and are now bringing their digital expertise to the US.
San Francisco is my favorite city in the States, and the SF coffee scene continues to grow and improve every time I return. I previously made a Google Map of recommended stops, but I topped out at about 20 locations. The SF Best app has over 60 locations, including roasteries as well as cafés all marked on an integrated Google map. The icons are nicely designed and touching one will bring up a thumbnail photo along with the location’s name.
Each stop can be rated, giving it an opportunity to be listed among the Top 25, as well as offering users a bit of community feedback. I’m not sure if there are any safeguards to prevent dishonest voting—I’m always skeptical about how these things are tallied—but the current list isn’t far from my own personal favorites.
Once you select a cafe, there’s a nice profile of them, including address, phone number, website, and hours of operation. It also includes technical information such as beans, grinder and espresso machine used. I would also like to see whether a place offers pour over, frcnch press, etc.—as well as when they were established, and wifi capability. I also think shops in Oakland should have been included. I understand that its technically a different city, but it’s like creating a New York City app and leaving out Brooklyn.
The profile continues with a photo of the location, a brief description, and the option to get directions via the iPhone map (which seems to be having problems right now).
For $0.99 cents, it’s less than you would spend buying a friend a cup of coffee or tipping your barista for referring you to a long list of nice cafés. While I haven’t visited all them, if you stick to the Top 25, I doubt you’ll ever be disappointed.
San Francisco’s Best Coffee
New York’s Best Coffee
London’s Best Coffee
The day after I wrote about Stumptown’s printed brew guides, Intelligentsia released their own guide in the form of an iPhone app. Though very different in its delivery, the slick sophistication of the app is just as fitting to Intelligentsia’s brand, as the texture of the chipboard and the smell of ink are to Stumptown’s.
The free iPhone app, made in partnership with 79Lines, has an up-to-date listing of Intelligentsia’s coffee offerings, as well as detailed information about each. You can read about the taste notes, elevation, country origin, harvest date, etc. It goes as far as including a section for images and videos, where even more behind the scenes media can be added about the coffee varietal.
Moving beyond Intelligentsia’s product descriptions, the app also includes a series of nicely illustrated tutorials for a selection of brew methods: pourover, Chemex, cafe solo, French press, and cupping. Hopefully the list will be expanded with a future update to include others (eg. AeroPress, moka pot, syphon pot). However, the initial list covers a good selection of common methods.
Along with the tutorials, there are timers that correspond with each method. The timers aren’t just a stylized version of the phones built-in timer, but also includes alerts within the countdown to indicate next steps. For example, 45 seconds into the pourover countdown, an alert pops up to say, “bloom time is finished, start your pour.”
An additional page includes links to Intelligentsia’s twitter feeds, information about their Direct Trade system, in-season coffee, and the company itself. While this is obviously branded content, it’s also a valuable tool for anyone brewing their own coffee. Intelligentsia continues to be a leader in the coffee industry, consistently pushing for better prices for farmers, the best coffee for consumers, and doing it all with remarkable style and a well-polished sense of design.
Download the free iPhone app
Beanhunter is esentially a Yelp for coffee shops; specifically independent coffee shops (no chains!). It has a really nice interface, with photos, maps, and information incuding hours, website, and contact information. All of the cafe’s are submited by users and approved by Beanhunter before being posted. You can add your own reviews to cafes that have alreay been added as well as your own photos for a location, creating different perspectives of each spot.
Complimenting the main website is a great Beanhunter iPhone app. It searches cafe’s nearsest your location, provides contact information and reviews, allows you to seach, add new, and even mark cafes as a favorite.
I’m not sure when Beanhunter launched, but most of the cafe’s seem to be in Australia and the UK right now, however its US cafe presence is steadily growing! Up to this Sunday(Jan 31), for every cafe you submit or review posted, you will be entered to win an iRoast 2 home roaster and 6kg of green beans. So if you haven’t joined yet, now’s as good a time as ever.
posted by bwj
on 01.28.2010, under Misc.