San Diego Joe

a coffee blog

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Hi there!

Just a quick note. I don’t create a blog post on everything I do, but for more daily pictures and updates on life and coffee in San Diego, you can follow me on Instagram at sdjoecoffeeblog, and share your pictures with me too :). I’m also very active on Twitter with Facebook coming in a close second and Google+ coming in a close third.

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Caffeine Crawl Coming to San Diego in 2014!

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That’s right. The rumors are true my coffee loving friends. Caffeine Crawl is coming to San Diego! For those of you who do not know what Caffeine Crawl is, allow me to elaborate. Jason Burton, the Founder, took some time to do a Skype interview with me yesterday to talk about this revolution sweeping the coffee world giving everyone, not just industry pros, an inside peek into the specialty beverage world, specifically the still somewhat mysterious world of specialty coffee.

While wine and craft beer have successfully indulged their fans in events both educational and experiential, specialty coffee’s big events are still largely preaching to the choir, according to Burton, aimed at people in the ‘industry’ rather than the folks that buy coffee for consumption.

"That’s messed up. It shouldn’t be that way… I go to beer festivals and wine festivals and it’s the complete opposite. It’s mostly consumers. So, we brainstormed and I guess it would be two summers ago now on how to solve that… at the time we were doing a lot for the cocktail world and I was traveling around the country going to cocktail bars and also coffee shops…"

After working on branding in the high-end restaurant and cocktail scene, Burton began working with Roasters in the Midwest like The Roastery. He immediately saw the lack of events geared toward coffee lovers as a missed opportunity for Roasters, and in 2009, Caffeine Crawl was born.

Ordering coffee is such a rushed event, there isn’t time, really, for the Barista to talk about the coffee or what they are doing for a perfect extraction, unlike when you order a beer or a glass of wine, says Burton.

[With] cocktail bars one thing I really noticed was that you have time to interact with the bar tender—they’ll tell you a little bit about how they made the drink. The pace is slowed down. And in coffee, I don’t know if it’s more of a routine, but [we] don’t appreciate how much it should cost… and the time factor and people are in such a rush… and I think it does two things: I think it puts the Baristas in kind of a bad mood sometimes because they’re passionate about it and they don’t have a chance to articulate what they’re doing… even if someone cares… it’s eight fifteen in the morning, they’re trying to get out the door, and the other thing is the consumers are sometimes too shy to ask a question…they don’t want to ask, or ask a dumb question or bother the Barista… so that was the whole origin of doing this to break that barrier…”

Caffeine Crawl strives to slow things down a bit in order to engage the senses, educate and demonstrate in a way that is memorable and gets people thinking about the beverage in a whole new way. Don’t worry tea lovers, unlike some coffee events that forget all about you, Caffeine Crawl includes teas as many Roasters are also purveyors of specialty loose leaf teas. Burton and his team also partner with craft beer and other specialty drinks to create an overall ‘backstage’ experience for specialty beverage lovers. Don’t like coffee, tea, craft beer or wine? There’s chocolate. Burton explains why chocolate was such a natural offering to include:

"We figured instead of doing just coffee…tea always gets ignored…and there’s a huge movement with bean to bar chocolate…and American craft chocolate makers or chocolatiers…there’s so much of an overlap in their process and how they work with origin in the same way that coffee roasters [do]…"

Burton and his team at The LAB in Kansas City have grown the events year over year starting in the Midwest, but reaching as far as Vancouver, B.C. and Denver. This year, they’re going Coast to Coast; they were just in Boston, and are shooting for San Francisco in June (date TBD). 

When I asked Burton whether San Diego could expect them to do a Crawl here anytime soon, his answer was YES. I wanted to slam my coffee cup down as if in the in-zone and start doing my happy dance. I was sure it was my cyber stalking that had finally paid off, but as it turns out, I’m not the only one in San Diego who reached out to them requesting that they do one here. Oh, and eat your heart out City of Angels! America’s Finest City beat you to the punch…or rather to the Crawl. Our coffee culture may just be brewing, but what we don’t have in L.A. Time’s and New York Time’s reviews, we more than make up for in community enthusiasm. Don’t worry, we’ll send you an invite (wink).

It usually takes about 6 months to organize such a large scale event, says Burton, so San Diego can expect Caffeine Crawl in the first quarter of 2014. A lot of work goes into communication and logistics. Working with many independent, small businesses and brands has unique challenges, but the events that have come together as a result, Burton says, have been worth it.

Recently, Burton’s noticed a cross-over in the Coffee and Craft Beer worlds, so we can no doubt expect to see that organically grow together in San Diego and hopefully be a unique offerring at Caffeine Crawl San Diego in 2014.

Part of the reason we’re primed for an event of this scale, acknowledged Burton, is the enthusiasm people like me have for our growing coffee community. He wouldn’t even know San Diego had a coffee culture or community brewing under the ‘surf’, if I hadn’t reached out to him and let him know what was happening in coffee here. For me, it’s a great feeling to know I’ve been a catalyst of sorts.

Speaking of good feelings. Caffeine Crawl caught my interest not just because it is an awesome event, but also because it gives back to the communities it comes into contact with. An event with coffee that gives back to the community? Hello, that’s how this girl defines s-y-n-e-r-g-y.

Each Crawl closes with a raffle of 8-20 items via an after party, with the main prize donated by Baratza out of the Bay Area; a Burr Grinder that retails for $400 and change. All the proceeds go directly through the chosen charity; in most cases, local food banks. The only time they did a giveaway rather than a fundraiser for charity was during their last event in Boston; the weekend of the Boston Marathon and the Annual SCAA Symposium.

"It was a tough weekend for a lot of people…" Burton noted solemnly.

If you’re as excited as I am about Caffeine Crawl coming to San Diego in early 2014, shoot Jason and his team a “HELL YEAH!” via Twitter or Facebook

That’s all the coffee news that’s fit to print this hot Friday afternoon San Diego! Until next time, happy coffee-ing!

 

 

Ryan Bros Coffee in Barrio Logan across from Mercado del Barrio and just around the corner from the location of the new San Diego Public Market.

While Ryan Bros is younger than Pannikin Coffee & Tea and Cafe Moto  (just blocks away), they aren’t the new kid on the block by any stretch of the imagination. These three brothers have been serving up a smooth cup of joe for over 22 years in San Diego with the mantra, “Life is too short to be bitter.” After ordering a shot of their Espresso Gold, also known as “crema gold” for the beautiful gold crema that can be seen in each shot, I realized they really do deliver a shot that is true to their mantra. Earthy, but smooth; a blend of Central American and Indonesian beans.

Speaking of Indonesia, the brothers actually grew up there…I didn’t ask if they hung out with President Obama, but they did grow up being exposed to a connected world view, one they hope to bring to the burgeoning San Diego coffee culture. I spoke with Tom Ryan, who took some time out of roasting and running a busy business to speak with me on my impromptu visit. A warm personality with a firm hand shake, it was easy to strike up conversation. He’s excited to get involved in more events and activities around coffee in America’s Finest City and was excited to hear of a few new kids on the block and that many of them are like-minded.

I hope to be touching base with Tom from time to time. The friendliness of his demeanor permeated his staff; as seen by Baristas having fun posing for a pic. If you haven’t ventured in to visit this early pioneer of specialty coffee in San Diego, do make it by to taste what they have on ‘tamp’. The openness and warm woods of the coffee house will invite you in and the smiles you’re greeted with will make you feel happy to stay a while and spend a little more quality time sipping your favorite espresso or tea for that matter. Although my blog is coffee focused many Roasters, like Ryan Bros, offer a beautiful selection of quality loose leaf teas.

I look forward to staying in touch and stopping by Ryan Bros when I head down to the San Diego Public Market on Wednesdays or Sundays. Just another great must stop for coffee in San Diego.

Until next time, happy coffee-ing my fine coffee loving friends!

Seasonality & Home Brewing 101

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Did you know that if the coffee you buy does not mention from which country the bean was sourced, it is likely it could be upwards of a year old? Also, without a “roasted on” date, the coffee could be way past its prime drinking period of 2-3 weeks after roasting.

Coffee that is old must be dark roasted, or in many cases burned to cover up the tainted flavor associated with old beans. What you get when the bean is burned, is not the taste of the coffee, but the taste of the inside of the Roaster. It is then not a surprise to many in the Specialty Coffee industry that some people say they like the smell of coffee, but do not like the taste. The truth is, if all you’ve ever tried came to you via the grocery store, via Costco in a “gy-normo” bag, or via Starbucks, you’ve likely been drinking old burnt coffee, so you might say, you haven’t really given coffee a try.

The bean (or seed of the coffee cherry) is extremely age and taint sensitive. It can be ruined by sitting in a shipping container for too long, if it gets too humid or wet, or by being stored in a warehouse with other food stuffs. It will absorb any scent it is stored alongside. Great care must be taken to get the bean, as fresh and preserved as possible to the Roaster. Once the Roaster has the bean, they check it for taste and freshness by roasting, cupping (industry speak for taste testing), and scoring it. If it meets their standards of quality, they order it and roast it up for you and I to enjoy.

However, once it is in our hands, there are ways in which we can ruin it. Some of us think that we’ll be able to preserve our coffee by sticking it in the freezer or refrigerator. This is wrong on so many levels. Freezing grabs the moisture from the bean, which hijacks the flavor, and storing it with other food stuffs will also taint the flavor.

First and foremost, coffee is NOT meant to be stored, it is meant to be drank. Seasonality can change with introduction of new crops, but if you really care about taste, you’ll want to know if the coffee you are buying is in season. Coffee isn’t a corked fine wine. Think of it as a screw-top wine, meant to be drank immediately. It will NOT become better with age.

For optimum flavor, you should always buy your coffee when it is in season as whole beans within 24 hours of roasting, store it in a light resistant, air-tight container, grinding just before brewing to preserve taste. As much as 80% of the coffee’s aroma or taste is lost in grinding, so that is why fresh ground coffee is strongly encouraged by your local Roasters. 

As mentioned earlier, it is best to drink the whole bean coffee you buy within 2-3 weeks max of the “roasted on” date. This is aimed at those of you who buy a “gy-normo” bag from Costco that lasts you several months or longer. You might as well take caffeine pills every morning because if you think that coffee tastes good, well honey, we need to take you to get a real cup of fresh, properly prepared coffee. Once you taste it at its optimum, you’ll wonder how you ever stomached the other stuff. Some of you may actually find you can drink it without drowning it in heavy cream and sugar—I know—who’d a thunk?

Other ways coffee may get ruined, despite the best efforts of Farmers and Roasters: Grinding, water quality, water temperature, and timing.

As many of us learned in Science back in the day, friction produces heat, so if friction is applied too long to the coffee beans being ground, they are actually being heated and may burn as a result prior to brewing. Burr grinding systems are designed specifically to minimize heating during grinding. They will cost you $85 or more, but with proper cleaning and care will last you a long time and most importantly will not burn that bag of expensive specialty beans you just brought home.

If your tap water is heavily chlorinated or has any other taint, it WILL affect the taste of your coffee. Just keeping a little purified water around shouldn’t be a challenge, and HELLO, we live in earthquake country. It could save your life.

In addition, it is worth buying a $4 or less temperature gauge to be sure the water is at the optimum temperature for the brew method you choose. If the water is too hot, it will burn the grounds and have a negative affect on taste.

Finally, timing. Use the stove clock, the microwave or clock on your cell phone to keep track of brew time. If French Press coffee sits for too long after being pressed, for instance, it can cause the coffee to become bitter. It is recommended to pour the freshly pressed coffee into a carafe just after pressing to minimize contact with the sediment.

All of this may seem complicated, but after the first few diligent attempts, you’ll find it becomes second nature. Besides, when you taste the fruits of your labor, there will be no going back.

Another great way to get the most of the coffee you take home from your local Roaster is to ask them best extraction practices for the brew method you are planning on using.

For instance, Daniel of Dark Horse Coffee Roasters suggests using 20% more coffee when brewing his Guatemala with a French Press. This made a huge difference in taste. So don’t be shy. Roasters and their staff love to talk coffee. Take advantage. Many will take the time to show you. After all, their livelihood depends on you getting the most out of the beans you take home.

If there is a subject, like coffee seasonality, you’d like to see discussed here, just drop me a line at sdjoecoffeeblog@gmail.com. Also, if you’d like to join the conversation about local coffee, share coffee events, pictures or ideas join the “Coffee San Diego” community on Google+.

Macchiato Mondays! Coffee & Tea Collective in North Park is serving an African/Central American blend espresso that, personally, rocks my world. Let’s just say it’s “Berry” delicious ;).

Macchiato Mondays! Coffee & Tea Collective in North Park is serving an African/Central American blend espresso that, personally, rocks my world. Let’s just say it’s “Berry” delicious ;).

Cafe Ipe and Revolution Roasters in Leucadia.

Surfing Saints, Art Projects Gone Wild & A Moment of Zen 

If you’ve ever wondered what happend to the Surfing Madonna by Artist Mark Patterson, wonder no longer. It is gracing the sunny courtyard at Cafe Ipe in Leucadia.

For those of you who are regulars and avid consumers of local news, you’re probably thinking, “Duh!” Tell us something we didn’t know already.

Okay, well here goes… Get out your notepads and pencils…it’s about to get really technical for a moment. Ready? Okay. They have this amazing chewy almond cookie thingy that pairs beautifully with a simple shot of their Revolution Roasters espresso, AND it is gluten free. Easy on the taste buds and the wheat intolerant tummy. If you knew that too, well bless your heart (heavy on the sarcasm). They do have a food menu, with some delicious looking sandwich options, but as you know I’m a bit coffee-centric. If I can’t dip it in my coffee or have both in my mouth at the same time, it’s just a peripheral white noise of sorts.

For those who may have heard of this gem and still haven’t made it out for a visit, it is worth the trip my friends. I have a standing invitation to visit on a Saturday when Roaster Dan Scheibe and his wife are working their magic, doing, what Pam Kragen of the UT quoted him saying, “an art project that’s gone wild.” I have to say, Dan. I like your art. I’d say you have a real ‘palate’ for the good stuff and you can paint happy little trees all over my tongue canvas anytime. Okay, so tongue canvas doesn’t really have the appeal I was hoping for there, but you get me. Quickly, go to your happy place. Think latte art. Pretty pictures of hearts in creme…okay, better? Good.

Carrying on… Cafe Ipe is a little treasure tucked away it seems from North Coast Highway 101, until a passing train crashes your conversation disturbing the zen of its garden courtyard filled with blooming pink flowers and umbrellas that shelter you from the high afternoon sun. The train is nothing more than a comma in the conversation, however, as the warmth of the garden courtyard quickly draws you back to your company and the idea you were sharing.

It was in Cafe Ipe’s courtyard sipping coffee with friends, new and newer, that I realized, what a rewarding journey this choice to share my experiences in coffee has been so far. What incredible people I’ve come into contact with just by setting out on this path.

If you’re reading this, thank you. If you have a favorite Roaster, Coffee Cafe or Coffee House you’d like me to feature here, please write me at sdjoecoffeeblog@gmail.com.

Until next time, “Coffee Coffee,” and for those that do, “Surfy Surfy.” Just do me a favor and watch out for the “Sharky! Sharky!” ;)

Happy coffee-ing!

 

 

I have lots of things to teach you now, in case we ever meet, concerning the message that was transmitted to me under a pine tree in North Carolina on a cold winter moonlit night. It said that Nothing Ever Happened, so don’t worry. It’s all like a dream. Everything is ecstasy, inside. We just don’t know it because of our thinking-minds. But in our true blissful essence of mind is known that everything is alright forever and forever and forever. Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky way soft cloud innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect. We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere: Self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes into everything is one thing. It’s a dream already ended. There’s nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be glad about. I know this from staring at mountains months on end. They never show any expression, they are like empty space. Do you think the emptiness of space will ever crumble away? Mountains will crumble, but the emptiness of space, which is the one universal essence of mind, the vast awakenerhood, empty and awake, will never crumble away because it was never born.

—Jack Kerouac  (via sellyourcleverness)

(Source: theunquotables, via butthenthewindpickedup)

Cafe Ipe post coming soon, but today… today I bought my first bike. I’d like to say thank you to my neighbor, Matt Myers, for hooking me up with Rob and Nicole at TREK Kearny-mesa who took care of me. Rob is also a fan of Bird Rock Coffee Roasters in La Jolla. I’m looking forward to my first bike visit with friends soon. Just waiting on my car rack and it’s a go. TGIF!

Cafe Ipe post coming soon, but today… today I bought my first bike. I’d like to say thank you to my neighbor, Matt Myers, for hooking me up with Rob and Nicole at TREK Kearny-mesa who took care of me. Rob is also a fan of Bird Rock Coffee Roasters in La Jolla. I’m looking forward to my first bike visit with friends soon. Just waiting on my car rack and it’s a go. TGIF!