Saturday, January 11, 2014

Nashville Coffee Culture

Earlier this week A and I visited Nashville and were pleasantly surprised at its amazing coffee culture! I learned so much this week and we so enjoyed the coffee experience, we felt a need to share :). This will be our first joint post (A will be reviewing the methods and chose the videos)!

Cup of coffee from Crema

Being a coffee and caffeine novice, I was at first overwhelmed with all the options and overly energetic from all the caffeine. However, A is a coffee connoisseur and dove head first into the coffee scene. Under the excellent guidance of our wonderful hosts M and K, we were given a list of must-try coffee places. A is fanatical about his coffee and has at least 2 coffee breaks a day so we scheduled a tour of Nashville's finest, 2 a day for the 3 full days we were there (we went to 4 coffee houses total because we revisited 2 that we liked so much)! It didn't hurt that our visit was in the middle of the "polar vortex" and despite traveling from Pittsburgh to Nashville, temps were still at a chilling 3 degrees one night and generally 10-20 degrees during the day, so hiding in warm coffee shops was definitely a highlight when we were so cold.

First off, I would say what makes the Nashville coffee culture so special is the amount of shops that offer pour-over coffee and siphon coffee(intro here). This is something we have never seen offered in Pittsburgh, though all our higher end coffee shops seem to sell the equipment. The most popular pour-over coffee options offered in Nashville included V60, Chemex, and also the Siphon method.

I had no concept of what all this meant until I got to see it all happen! Things that make pour-over special is that each cup is made especially for you and is perfected down to a science. The barista often wets the paper filter first to wash out the paper taste. The water is always a very exact temperature ideal for the method of brewing, likely between 195-205 degrees F. The coffee is ground very exactly to the perfect size grind to optimize flavor (most coffee grinders in the shops were $200-400), and then weighed as is the water for perfect ratios. Once the coffee grind is in the filter, the initial pour over is just a small amount and allows the coffee to "bloom", let all the CO2 out, for 30-50 secs. Then the rest of water is meticulously poured with a long spouted kettle to allow the grinds to marinate the necessary time and voila! coffee! Whew, an exhausting process which per A is worth every penny per cup.

Brief intros:

  1. V60

The V60 is known for its cone-shaped dripper with spiral ridges along the inner wall which keeps the filter from sticking to the walls of the cone and encourages extraction. The paper filter is the thinnest of the pour over filters and it is known to be especially good for fruity, floral coffees.
Step by step of how to brew with a v60 here.

A's review: V60 yielded a very solid cup of coffee. It is very similar in taste to the Chemex (see below),however inferior. Still very good. The brewing method is also a bit too vanilla for my taste.

A is Enjoying V60 at Barista Parlor

2. Chemex

The Chemex involves an thick paper filter over a glass decanter. The wooden ring here is used when handling the hot glass. Because the filter sits flush against the glass walls, the "dwell" time is longer, and brewing becomes less dependent on the user. It is good for yielding a clean, sweet cup of coffee, good for bright, fruity coffees.
Step by step on Chemex brewing here.

A's review: The Chemex yielded a cleaner and richer cup of coffee than the V60. Plus, the inventor won a design award, so I appreciate its fanciness. It seems easy to do at home.

A enjoying a cup of Burundi coffee with Chemex at Roast, Inc.

3. Siphon 

Note: Siphon coffee is not a pour over method, but it's so cool!
 Using the vapor pressure of water and then a vacuum, it pulls water into the two different compartments naturally. Invented in Berlin in the 1830s, it is strangely reminiscent of a chemistry set. This coffee is said to be lighter and juicier.
Step by step of Siphon brewing here.

A's reviews: Best cup of coffee in my life. Lots of body to the coffee, yet all the subtle flavors came out. The brewing method is very elegant as is the entire set up to the siphon. An experience!

Beautiful siphon coffee at Roast, Inc.

In general, we enjoyed the coffee scene very much. Per A, the ideal home brewing method may be the Chemex for its superior flavor over the v60. That being said, he still loves his Aeropress which was sold in many of the stores but was not offered as a brewing method. The Siphon was wonderful and a treat, but at $100 or so for the apparatus and increased brewing time, not ideal for a daily routine.

Our favorite coffee shops by order:
1. Roast, Inc. /2108 8th Ave S.
Our favorite. Wonderful coffee beans (Burundi was our fave) and a separate brewing bar were the baristas took us to explain how they did things. Very enjoyable. 
2. Barista Parlor / 519 B Gallatin St.
A crowd favorite with a "stage" where the baristas are brewing in the center of the room. Very cool atmosphere and good coffee. Also delicious lattes.
3. Crema /15 Hermitage Ave.
In the summer, a lovely porch outside with a great view of downtown Nashville. Quaint inside, redone garage feel.
4. Dose / 3134 Murphy Rd.
Bright, and quiet small space. Good for studying and working. Not very memorable coffee in A's book.

There are probably 3-4 more hand pour coffee shops in Nashville we did not make it to. Inquire with a local barista for the full list. We shall have to visit again!

Salt n whiskey latte at Barista Parlor, delicious.