The perfect cup
Local coffee experts share their craft
“To make a great cup of coffee, it takes love and passion … and good coffee,” chirps barista Lucky Rodrigues from behind the espresso machine at The Naked Lounge.
As to that last ingredient, Colby Barr, coffee connoisseur and owner of the downtown joint, claims it’s essential and that his shop offers only the best of the best.
In fact, the shop’s beans are grown from the top 2 percent of the coffee farming locations in the world, said 31-year-old Barr, who is dedicated to educating himself and others on everything coffee.
Mark Rozell, manager and barista at The Naked Lounge for two years, is equally a coffee enthusiast. The 27-year-old joined Barr to share their knowledge on what it really takes to make the perfect cup of Joe.
According to the java-lovers, it all begins with the bean.
Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world, after oil, and finding the best quality coffee beans is essential for the perfect roast. Geographic region should be highly considered when purchasing a bag of beans, with the best coffee being grown in tropical mountains above 6,000 feet.
“Elevation, climate and soil content are huge factors,” Barr said.
Guatemala, Costa Rica, Kenya and Ethiopia are four of the world’s best coffee-growing regions. However, location isn’t the only indication of quality. Rozell said blends should be avoided because they are usually made by mixing high- and low-quality coffee in an attempt to save money. He recommends only buying whole beans from a single origin.
Another key to a good, fresh brew is to grind beans on a per-batch basis. Barr also says it’s best to buy often and in small amounts to avoid a stale batch of beans. Storing them is also important. Rozell cautions folks to never keep coffee beans in the refrigerator; cooling them affects their oils and has a direct impact on the flavor, he explained.
Surprisingly, water is an equally vital ingredient. Tap water contains minerals and varying pH levels that can diminish the coffee’s flavor.
“If you want a neutral place to begin with, use distilled water,” Barr recommends.When you’re ready for the brewing process, remember that the finer the grind, the less time it requires contact with the water. The “right recipe” for a great cup also lies in the proportions. Two heaping tablespoons of ground coffee per six ounces of water is about perfect, Barr said.
Specialty drinks also require the right attention.
It takes roast masters like Rozell a lot of time to blend three to five coffees together to create an exquisite espresso with a multitude of qualities and flavors.
“Milk preparation is also essential to coffee drinks,” said Rozell, whose cappuccinos are nearly a work of art. The foam in your latte should be glossy with no air bubbles. It should also be served at less than 160 degrees to preserve the rich and sweet flavor, he explained.
Coffee ettiquette may seem like a lot of work for a morning pick-me-up, but according to these local coffee experts the bar is rising and gourmet coffee is the new trend. People are even beginning to see coffee as a delicacy with many different flavors and attributes, they said.
“It’s eerie the parallel coffee has to wine,” Barr said.People even go “cupping,” which is like wine tasting for the coffee lover. Rozell views the activity as a way to educate people’s palettes. The Naked Lounge will soon hold cupping events, but the amatuer coffee lover can still determine quality at home. Barr said the final product should taste rich, not watery, and it should be smooth, not bitter. Rozell adds that the color should look rich as well.
The No. 1 focus of The Naked Lounge staff is the quality of its coffee, service being a close second. That seems to be working out fine for the busy downtown coffee shop.
“The greatest compliment is when a European customer comes in and says it’s the best coffee they’ve had in the States,” Barr said.