Think you know your coffee?
April 16, 2002 10:06 AM   Subscribe

Think you know your coffee? I got here because I was arguing over the acidity of coffee with a friend. It's good for knowledge of all things coffee - take a pictorial tour of coffee production, learn how flavors are evaluated, consider some of the political aspects of coffee, watch the techniques of latte art. Coffee, Coffee, Coffee!
posted by meep (27 comments total)
Because it is almost everywhere you go.
posted by riffola at 10:27 AM on April 16, 2002

What, no mention of Kope Luwak? Everyones favorite monkey* dung coffee!

(* Yes, I'm aware the Luwak is a tree dwelling marsupial, and not a monkey at all)
posted by malphigian at 10:35 AM on April 16, 2002

If there's one thing people never understand about coffee, it's that the lighter the roast, the more caffeine content. This is because when you roast a bean longer, the oils which contain the caffeine are roasted out (hence the oily appearance of the darker bean).

I spent a lot of years working in a lot of cafes, and I definitely learned that arguments about how to make a latte or cappucino "correctly" are totally fruitless. All places make them their own way. One man's macchiato is another man's cappucino.

My favorite drink to make was a double latte in a tall glass, because you could achieve about five distinct layers of color.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:36 AM on April 16, 2002

Nice site! Some of my other favorites destinations for java jitters are I Need Coffee (where you can find complete instructions for the coffee enema and an accelerrated detox program) and Coffee Geek. My wife once purchased for me a pound of Extreme Coffee, which boasts a 50% higher caffeine content than most brews. Woo!
posted by adampsyche at 10:42 AM on April 16, 2002

See, my confusion re: acidity was that caffeine is alkaline. But it seems the various acids in coffee overpower any alkaline effect of caffeine.

As a side note, I don't really like coffee that much. I'm a tea person.
posted by meep at 10:43 AM on April 16, 2002

Starbucks? All homogenous corporate coffee if you ask me. Far better is the Espresso Vivace in Seattle; the picture that greets you on the front page is a wall-size mural on the back wall of this immensely popular Capitol Hill establishment. The owner, David Schomer, wrote that article about latte art linked above (every espresso you get there comes with that rosetta pattern- or a heart shape if the baristas like you), as well as many others. My favorite? This article about using electronic PID controls to maintain a mere 3/10th of a degree variation during the brewing process- part of the secret to getting coffee that actually tastes just like it smells...
posted by hincandenza at 10:44 AM on April 16, 2002

The Starbucks thing was a joke. Any suggestion for a good but not very expensive coffee bar in NYC?
posted by riffola at 10:51 AM on April 16, 2002

Riffola: the coffee in La Bella Ferrara, in Little Italy, is as good as the best in Big Italy.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:07 AM on April 16, 2002

Ah, coffee lovers, rejoice! Coffee not only tastes good, it's also good for your health:

Recent scientific research carried out at the Mayo Clinic, Harvard School of Public Health, U.S. Veterans Administration and other medical centers show that coffee is not only safe but beneficial—drinking from 2 to 4 cups of coffee a day may lower the risk of colon cancer (25%), gallstones (45%), cirrhosis of the liver (80%), and Parkinson’s Disease (50% - 80%), among other diseases. It can even reduce the incidence of asthma (25%) because of the presence of the chemical theophylline in coffee.
[ According to the Coffee Science Source ]
posted by roel at 11:07 AM on April 16, 2002

As for the best places to have coffee in NYC, I cannot remember back as far at 1987 when I lived there. This seemed to be the prevailing drug of choice at the time.

Has anyone been to Amsterdam? Everywhere I went, the coffee was unbelievable. Any mom & pop store, any restaurant, anywhere I went seemed to be teeming with great coffee. I guess it is part of the European experience but it was great to experience first-hand.

Starbucks? All homogenous corporate coffee if you ask me.

No offense hincandenza but I remember drinking that stuff out of carts in 1982 & 1983 and it left an indelible print on my coffee memory. Still can't get enough.</corporatewhore>
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:14 AM on April 16, 2002

Riffola: Le Gamin has a bunch of locations in NYC and their coffee is super-rich and costs only a buck (at least their to-go cups do). And they have crepes.
posted by panopticon at 11:17 AM on April 16, 2002

(Oh no, someone messed up the CSS!)

Whilst you sip your coffee, try listening to J.S. Bach's Kaffe-Kantate, which contains these lines:
For if I may not thrice each day
My little cup of coffee drink,
I'll turn indeed to my distress
Into a dried-up goat for roasting...
Ah! How sweet the coffee's taste is,
Sweeter than a thousand kisses,
Milder than sweet muscatel.

Coffee, coffee, I must have it,
And if someone wants to treat me,
Ah, my cup with coffee fill!
I love Starbucks, I have to admit, even if they over-roast. They have comfy chairs, fairly uniform quality, strong air conditioning in the summer, and (here in New Haven, at least) a good view. And since their major independently-owned competitor here is owned by fundamentalist Baptists, I'd rather send my money to Seattle.

For a truly exsqisite cup, nothing beats the Chemex coffee maker. Also visit Sweet Maria's for the best web coffee experience. And when in Greenwich Village, be sure to visit McNulty's, the best coffee store in the US.
posted by evanizer at 11:26 AM on April 16, 2002

There's no way I can continue to read this thread without having a cup of coffee. This is a luscious link for coffee mainliners like me - thanks, meep. The texture art page is great insider info I've never seen anywhere else, and have always wondered about - how to make the pretty little foamy designs you get on your coffee in some of the better places around. I tried to download the Latte Art Instructional Video but can't. Does anyone know what I need to view an .avi file on a windows based pc? When I click on it, Windows Media Player opens but nothing happens.

riffola, There's a real hole in the wall kind of restaurant on 14th St in NYC called La Rampa, between 6th and 7th, or 7th and 8th. Ignore the dog-sized cockroaches and go in and order a cafe con leche to go. Definitely to go. You'll be in heaven. If the cockroaches don't get you.

And there's nothing wrong with tea, it just isn't coffee ;) Just as good as coffee, though, is the Pacific Chai I get at a local donut shop. It tastes like hot, liquid, pumpkin pie and I am very happily addicted to it. Just thinking about it is making me crazy.
posted by iconomy at 11:39 AM on April 16, 2002

mmmmm...Cafe con leche..

One of the few things about Dade County that I miss, I did a few temp jobs in Pequena Habana during my 2 year exile in the Sunshine State. You could go into any coffee shop there and get a little shot of Cuban joe the approximate potency of pharmacuetical-grade cocaine. Two of those little suckers and I'd be out in the middle of Flagler St. chasing cars.

good times, good times..
posted by jonmc at 11:52 AM on April 16, 2002

Evanizer: that Sweet Maria website taught me more about roasting coffee that all my so-called specialized books. What enthusiasm, knowledge and sheer love! Now I understand why roasters here make you wait 4 hours before you can pick up your coffee. Thank you very much!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:01 PM on April 16, 2002

Thanks for all the suggestions. I am gonna try each one of them out.
posted by riffola at 12:19 PM on April 16, 2002

iconomy: That file is encoded using the Indeo codec, which you can get here, although they want some signup info. After installing that Windows Media Player should work for you.

jonmc: My wife's family is Cuban and they make that stuff. In fact, I made the mistake of having a cup last night and was still awake a couple of hours past bedtime. And now she wonders why I'm grouchy this morning... Actually theres alot that goes into making that the traditional way, stirring in the sugar so it turns into this super-saturated syrup of coffee and sugar. Lately my father-in-law has gotten some kind of cappuchino machine that does it for him.
posted by mutagen at 12:41 PM on April 16, 2002

Mutagen, thank you much.
posted by iconomy at 12:45 PM on April 16, 2002

I just licked the screen over mutagen's post hoping for a contact high.
posted by dong_resin at 12:48 PM on April 16, 2002

two random coffee-related items:

i recently discovered that King Crimson bassist/stick player Tony Levin is a bit of a coffee fanatic (dig the balzac essay!).

and for all the coffee-haters, Memoir From Antproof Case by Mark Helprin is a fun book in which the protagonist believes that coffee is evil. really, really, really evil.
posted by modge at 1:12 PM on April 16, 2002

jonmc: One of the few things about Dade County that I miss

I discovered cafe cubano when I was a student at UM. A boon to overnight crammers everywhere.

The joke was that you could drink a colada, burn a $100 bill, and stab yourself in the nose with a toothpick and perfectly duplicate a one gram coke high.

There are few gas station mini marts down here that don't have a cafe machine. You can get a cortadito or cafe con leche for 55 cents that beats the crap of most $4 cappuccinos I've had.
posted by groundhog at 6:00 PM on April 16, 2002

What I'd love to know is whether there are different caffeine molecules. Dizzy's, here in Park Slope has coffee which tastes dark, but seem to have no kick. And it's not decaf. I just don't get it.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:05 PM on April 16, 2002

Again, the darker the roast, the lower the caffeine content, the lower the acidity.
posted by Kafkaesque at 6:59 PM on April 16, 2002

You are so very patient with us, Mr. Kafkaesque!

Evanizer - I have bookmarked that Sweet Maria site also, it's wonderful. What do you recommend as a first green bean to try, and what method do you use to roast? I can't wait to try this, both for the experience and the aroma. God.
posted by iconomy at 7:36 PM on April 16, 2002

Other good coffee spots in NYC:
  • Cafe Reggio, home of New York's first cappucino, near NYU
  • Guy & Gallard has a few stores in midtown
  • Big Cup in Chelsea
  • Push Cafe (3rd Ave and 23rd, next-door to Starbucks) - big plus: you can smoke there
  • Good coffee can also be had at La Bonne Soup, as well as fondue (cheese or chocolate). 2 blocks away from the MoMA, it's a good lunch spot
  • And then you can always consult Citysearch's best of coffee
posted by panopticon at 10:56 PM on April 16, 2002

NY coffee spots - on Avenue A & 9th used to be a favorite spot of mine (I lived around the corner from it when it opened) and the Pick Me Up cafe across the street from it is cute too, if is too full of dirty punk types for you.

Veselka on 2nd & 9th is really a ukrainian diner, but they have good coffee & are open 24/7.

On Spring St. of lafayette there's a cute little french bakery type thing that has good croissants for $1, & good coffee (small) for a $1... space to sit in the back. (Apparently David Bowie hangs out there - I've never seen him but I just stop by for a morning cup). There are so many more...
posted by mdn at 9:56 AM on April 17, 2002

the best place to see where coffee addiction leads... !!!

The only place where nice and friendly people are talking about $1500+ espresso makers, roasting coffee beans at home before grinding them in a soft, uniform, sexy powder.
posted by colinj at 2:10 PM on April 17, 2002

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