Friday, November 16, 2012
Blue Bottle Coffee Comes to New York!
The Blue Bottle Coffee company has come to New York. This may not be news to New Yorkers, but to me it's exciting news.
Blue Bottle is named for the first coffee house in Europe, started shortly after the Turks left their coffee beans on the outskirts of Vienna in the 17th century, setting off a caffeinated revolution in the West.
Blue Bottle is a Bay area roaster that serves coffee that has been roasted no longer than 48 hours prior to serving. Anyone who has had a cup of coffee brewed from beans that are that fresh knows that the kind of flavor derived from such freshness CAN'T be achieved at your local Starbucks or any other shop where the beans are stored in grinders or (worse yet) those plastic bins without attention to the roasting date.
Because of the gas exchange due to roasting, coffee has a shelf life. As a home roaster, I know that coffee from the same batch tastes very different depending upon how long ago you roasted it. Employees in most coffee shops can't or won't tell you how recently the coffee in your cup has been roasted.
Vacuum packing and other storage methods can prolong freshness, but in the end it's best to roast just enough for use within 48 hours or so. This is perhaps why many home roasting machines have a small capacity.
Thus, Blue Bottle and others that keep track of this stand out. Care in grinding and extracting the coffee is also essential, of course.
Blue Bottle uses a pour over method for their drip grind. Coffee for each cup is ground and brewed individually. Nearly boiling water is used to wet the paper filter and warm the ceramic filter underneath, then slowly poured into the filter while it sits on a rack just above the cup. Ideally the water is poured at the same rate at which the coffee is being extracted below. This process takes several minutes.
The baristas in the basement of the Rockefeller Center are well trained and excited about coffee. I caught one at a low period of business and he offered me a couple of samples of their different coffees.
For me, the real test of a good coffee bar is its espresso. No milk to hid bitter or under roasted coffee! At the Blue Bottle shop, much care was taken. The shot was weighed on a scale (not unusual in the business). More unusual was that the barista threw out a couple of shots after trying. I think my shot came from the third attempt. This would be considered wasteful most places!
He extracted a very complex Yergacheffe for me. A single origin, organic coffee from Ethiopia. Getting good espresso from a single bean is a real treasure. Usually espresso is a carefully mixed blend of four or five very different coffees combined to give the shot complexity, warmth and good crema. This shot tasted so good I didn't want to add sugar. I've only ever done this with my brother's espresso before.
In another nod to Vienna, the espresso is served with a small glass of water. In this case, sparkling water.
The baristas at the shop were passionate about coffee but not snobbish. They had no problem making a sweet milk coffee drink for the next lady in line.
Besides the location Rockefeller Center, there are shops in Chelsea and Tribeca. The coffee is roasted in nearby Williamsburg. That is how they guarantee freshness.