CCT Workshop

Velo will be hosting a workshop for anyone who registers for the Chattanooga Coffee Throwdown on Thursday, February 28 starting at 5 PM. This workshop will be free to competitors (you can register at the workshop) and will allow you to have your technique assessed by a CCT judge, will give you access to a refractometer, and will allow you to practice your technique.

Shoot an email to chattanoogacoffeeclub@gmail.com to set up a time slot with a judge. In the meantime, check out these resources for tips and advice on different techniques:

Espresso:

http://stumptowncoffee.com/brew-guides/espresso/

Manual Brewed Coffee:

http://www.intelligentsiacoffee.com/brewing-guides

Videos:

Hario V60 – http://vimeo.com/44579588

Clever Dripper – http://vimeo.com/40292580

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Chattanooga Coffee Throwdown

On March 17, Chattanooga’s first barista competition (to our knowledge) will take place at Thrive Café on the North Shore. The Chattanooga Coffee Throwdown will be a platform for home brewers and baristas to compete and learn from each other with the goal of developing the coffee community.

The competition will have 2 main categories: brewed coffee and espresso. Competitors can compete in either or both categories, and a preliminary round on March 10 will narrow down contestants. Those that make it to the finals round will have the option to present a specialty drink. At the end of the event, a winner will be crowned for each category, at which point prize money and coffee paraphernalia will be divvied out.

Now let me address a few things. First of all, THIS IS NOT A LATTE ART COMPETITION. The main scoring areas will be sensory evaluation (how the beverage tastes/smells) and technical evaluation (proper tamping, clean workspace, etc.) Presentation will account for a small part of the score, which means it is to your advantage to pour a nice looking beverage, but it is not the focus of this competition. 

Also, the point of this competition isn’t to determine who the best coffee shop/roaster is in Chattanooga. The point is to bring the focus onto individuals and allow them to share their knowledge and technique for preparing coffee. It would be a shame for tight fisted business competitiveness to squelch the growth of our city’s coffee culture and the professional development of its baristas.

Lastly, I want to strongly encourage you to compete. Velo will be hosting a workshop (TBA, check this blog for more info) for competitors to hone in their coffee brewing skills. The fact that you are reading this means you are interested in coffee, and most likely have at least some basic coffee brewing knowledge, even if it is just determining the correct dose for your automatic coffee maker at home. The workshop will be free to those who register, and will be totally worth your $10 registration fee, even if you don’t move past the preliminary round. The knowledge and experience you will gain from competing will greatly further your understanding and enjoyment of coffee. So sign up!

Details: the Competitor’s Orientation meeting will take place on March 3 at 2PM, the Preliminary Round will be on March 10 at 2PM, and the finals will be on St. Patrick’s day from 2PM on. Registration is $10, and both the Preliminary and Finals Round will be open to the public and free to attend. 

It’s our hope that this competition creates a ripple effect out into the Chattanooga area, causing folks to be more interested about what is going into their coffee, how it’s prepared, and where it comes from. Come be a part of it!

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For the Home Barista

For the Home Barista

If you are an amateur home barista, like myself, the perfect cup of coffee can seem elusive. Although I’ve spent many hours behind the bar of a coffee shop, I’ve found that I’ve had to develop a different set of skills to make coffee well at home. The truth is, most people who are preparing coffee at home are working on far inferior equipment than what your favorite barista is using.

So don’t be discouraged.

Coffee 101

Turbulence – in coffee, agitation of coffee grounds in water. This can be caused by pouring swiftly; by water rushing past grounds as it drips out; by manually stirring coffee, etc.

Non-uniform grind – ground coffee whose fragments differ significantly in size distribution. (Try this experiment: grind some coffee and pour some out on a sheet of paper. Are close to half of the grounds tiny particles (fines)? Is it hard to see an average particle size amongst the grounds? These are red flag indicators of a non-uniform grind.)

Fact: Non-uniform grind and turbulence are not friends. This means that unless you are working with a good grinder with sharp burrs, you should use a coffee brewing method that keeps your coffee grounds as stable as possible, such as a full immersion method. Press pots and Clever Drippers are both capable of producing decent cups with a non-uniform grind.

If you insist on using a pour-over device, use a “low and slow” pouring method. This technique calls for a slow, constant stream of hot water over the bed of coffee to maintain a low, steady level throughout the brewing process. This reduces turbulence experienced by pulse pouring. Also, brewing at a lower temperature can reduce the over-extracted bitterness that comes from too many fines. Try brewing with water anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes off the boil (for an open container, this translates to roughly 2050 to 1850 F brew water temperature.)

In reality, a non-uniform grind is not synonymous with great tasting coffee at all. Grounds that vary in particle size will brew a less-than-optimal cup every time. This is basic coffee science. But there are ways to maximize the effectiveness of your home coffee equipment. Consider doing the following:

▪   When using a blade grinder, shake the grinder for a more uniform grind. To achieve a more optimal grind, use a strainer to filter out the larger particles halfway through and toss them back in the grinder. Repeat for better results.

▪   Try incorporating a “bloom” by adding roughly 10% of your hot water and waiting 30 seconds before you begin brewing. This will allow all the grounds to begin extracting properly.

▪   If you notice dark clumps of coffee on the surface of the brew, carefully add a stir halfway through the brewing process to ensure all the grounds are extracting evenly.

Now I’m going to write something that will upset coffee professionals and grinder salesmen alike: if you don’t see yourself ever purchasing a good grinder (i.e. Hario or Porlex handgrinders , Baratza electric grinders, etc.) or spending 10+ minutes preparing your coffee, you will be more satisfied with your coffee if you get it pre-ground. BUT, you should purchase your coffee in smaller amounts so that preground coffee is not sitting more than a week and also purchase from a roaster or coffee shop because you don’t want to use a grinder in a supermarket (your coffee will taste like a campfire and the grind will likely be non-uniform). Understand that this is a compromise, and you are greatly sacrificing the freshness of your brew to maintain good extraction

Coffee takes years of careful preparation and travels thousands of miles before it is in our hands. The best way to take advantage of the incredible care that goes into harvesting, processing and roasting coffee is to grind it well. This is arguably the most important step in brewing coffee well.

-Andrew Bettis

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New Hours in May

In an effort to better serve our customers we recently extended open hours to 5 days a week from 8 to 12. We realize now that while adding minimal convenience for our customers (you can already find our coffee for sale in 2 other establishments on Main Street, and there are already 3 coffee shops), we have stretched ourselves pretty thin as far as maintaining the open hours while also trying to keep up with our coffee education efforts, customer service, roasting, etc.

 

Starting in May, we will be reassigning our open hours to 2 days a week: 10 – 6 on Fridays, and 11 – 3 on Saturdays (with classes from 10-11). Our goal with the new hours is to be available for folks to catch us either on their lunch break or when they get off work, or on the weekend. We are also refocusing our open hours to highlight coffee equipment that we offer in store that is only otherwise available online.

 

We apologize for the inconsistency of our open hours lately; it has not been our intention to come across inconsistent or unprofessional. We would still love to serve you coffee on Friday or Saturday, and stay tuned for more updates and reviews on coffee paraphernalia that we get into the shop!

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Clever Dripper

One of the newest pour over designs to surface recently is the Clever Dripper. This device is innovative in a few ways: because it is a hybrid of two brewing methods, because it requires minimal equipment, and mostly because it is inexpensive.

This is a good device for someone new to pour overs because it pretty much requires no other equipment and it is hard to mess up. You simply prewet the filter in the Clever with hot water and drain it, add your grounds to the Clever, and add your hot water. After it is finished steeping, the Clever is outfitted with a stopper that is released once the device is placed on a cup.

There are only a few drawbacks. The plastic design doesn’t retain heat very well (Clever koozie, anyone?), although the lid does help. Also, there is an issue with how fast the coffee drains through the Clever, which should be factored into the total contact time of the brew. The problem is counter-productive in the sense that if you make the grind finer to allow for a short brew time, the drawdown is even longer, and vice versa for a coarser grind.

We’ve taken steps to achieve that window of grind size and brew time that allows for a tasty brew, and included a couple steps to help the process:

1) Prewet the Clever Dripper and filter with hot water. Drain.
2) Grind and add your predetermined amount of coffee.
3) Add 10 – 15% of the water for the bloom.
4) After 30 seconds, add the rest of your water, pouring aggressively in concentric circles to agitate the grounds, then add the lid.
5) After 3:30 contact time, place the Clever on your cup, and give a couple circular stirs.
6) Replace the lid. The drawdown shouldn’t take much more than a minute (at a 19g dose).

Clever Dripper Brew Video from Velo Coffee on Vimeo.

The bloom ensures that all the grounds are extracting, leaving no dry grounds on the top. Also, the stirs cause the grounds at the bottom to become separated, which helps water move through them faster.

We’ll be offering a Clever Dripper brew class this Saturday at 10 AM if anyone is interested. The cost is $7, which gets you a half-pound of coffee. We’ll have the refractometer ready for some TDS testing if you’d like to see how well your method is extracting.

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Bonavita Automatic Coffee Brewer

We recently received the first couple Bonavita electric automatic drip brewers for resale. We are excited to be able to offer these exceptional brewers. Bonavita has created quit the buzz within the specialty coffee world with a small line of great coffee equpiment at very affordable prices. In fact, one of the main reasons we are so excited about the Bonavita brewers is the price. We are able to sell them for $130 ($150 for the thermal carafe version coming soon to Velo Coffee) which makes this machine excessible to a wide range of coffee lovers looking for convenience or for a larger brewing capacity solution.

What makes the Bonavita automatic brewer great?

The 1400 watt heating element produces and maintains optimal water temerature for the entire brew cycle. In fact, the heater is capable of heating room temperature water to 205 degrees within about 40 seconds! One of the most glaring flaws with many non-commercial automatic brewers is the inability to effectively heat water to an optimal temperature. The ones that can heat water to over 200 degrees often cannot do it within an optimal time and are often unable to maintain that optimal brew temperature throughout the entire brew cycle.

The shower head on the bonavita also outperforms many non-commercial brewers. The Bonavita is able to effectively saturate the entire bed of grounds, and it does so evenly. Most automatic brewers dispense water only into the middle of the bed of grounds leading to uneven extraction.

Timing is often a major pitfall of many automatic brewers. The Bonavita is capable of brewing 40 ounces of coffee within 5 minutes. Bitter, over extracted coffee is often the result of a slow brew cycle, and the Bonavita combats this with great design.

The Bonavita carries a two year warranty, is BPA free and looks pretty darn nice too. Bonavita’s products have attracted, not only our attention, but the attention of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. The SCAA has awarded Bonavita’s auto brewers its coveted seal of approval- a nod only a couple of brewers have received for anywhere near this price.

Needless to say, we recommend the Bonavita automatic drippers if you’re in the market for a new/better coffee maker. We even know where you can get one in Chattanooga. But don’t take our word for it. Come by the roastery and check one out for yourself.

,Andrew Gage

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Does Chattanooga Care About Coffee Education?

As a general rule, it seems whenever a new trend emerges in the food industry or any other industry, it arrives in smaller towns later. Chattanooga seems to be breaking the mold for the most part as far as smaller sized towns go, but does this translate into the coffee community?

Whenever people from out of town ask what the most popular coffee shop in town is, I immediately know the answer is Starbucks. Not that Starbucks is evil (another conversation…), but this represents Chattanooga’s inclination toward an earlier trend in coffee; one that undoubtedly did a lot for the industry as a whole, yet is a less than true-to-form representation of coffee.

In the specialty coffee industry, the trend for several years now has been toward experiencing the natural characteristics of coffee and discovering ways to maximize them and away from added flavors. With this approach, you get coffee growers, roasters, and coffee shops that are more intentional and literally more careful about coffee. This is good, because there are such vast natural variations in beans that come from different coffee regions before adding alterations from processing, roasting, and brewing philosophies. In larger cities, you can usually find a myriad of coffee shops that adopt this approach and are very deliberate about the coffee they produce (which can be perceived as affectation), and their coffee is very, very good. So is Chattanooga interested in this approach to coffee?

This trend can come across as high and lofty, and getting on board with it can seem unappealing because of all the confusing jargon and snobby baristas. But if you enjoy coffee, wouldn’t you want to enjoy it more? There are some unique opportunities being offered around town right now that can give you direct (and judgment-free) access to understanding coffee more, and some of it is even free. We offer free cuppings every other week for this purpose, and any event that the Chattanooga Coffee Club does will be very interesting and informative.

Coffee is an enigma as far as food goes because it is so steeped in tradition, yet so little is known about it. Once you mix tradition with scientific breakthroughs, you end up with several schools of thought, which can be beneficial in any industry. But right now it seems like only one inclination toward coffee has overwhelming appeal in Chattanooga. Hopefully with Chattanooga’s ideas of sustainability and intentional living it will not be a stretch to apply the same mentality towards coffee.

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