Has anyone else noticed those baristas popping up here and there who look askance at you if you inquire about drip coffee? More than one coffee shop I've visited as of late has informed me they do not do drip coffee. French press, vacuum pot, and "single cup" (Clover or pour-over) coffee all seem to be becoming more common. Grant you, drip coffee has never been my go-to, but like all other constants, it's nice to know it's there. And in an arena as dependent on speed and efficiency as coffee serving, these time-consuming methods seem counter-intuitive. Dear Baristas, now that you've trained us all to expect less than a three minute wait... why are you suddenly promoting leisurely beverage brewing?
Although this post is usually dedicated to coffee house reviews, I took an opportunity last week to visit a roastery instead, and in so doing, think I may have come across a clue as to the missing drip coffee's whereabouts.
Caffe Lusso Roastery in Redmond is not an easy place to find. Unlike, say, Tully's Coffee with its giant green "T" visible from I-5, Caffe Lusso took me twenty minutes to track down after I got into the correct parking lot. Situated just behind Marymoor Park, in a collection of nondescript, poorly marked commercial buildings, the little enterprise is currently divided between "coffee" and "World Cup" sides (the flat screen TV and the coffee roaster being kind of similar in size). While I was there, the "World Cup" side was still in a stupor from the nil-nil England/Algeria game... but the "coffee" side was fascinating.
Three grinders, an entire bucket of different espresso baskets, scales, coffee filters, french presses, and assorted coffee cups are scattered around the test-oriented espresso bar. I have gone to coffee shop cuppings, at which it is typical to taste several different kinds of coffee. Caffe Lusso greeted me with three different roasts of the same coffee to sample, and a conversational deluge of facts about how drastically minute changes in a coffee's preparation can impact its taste. Seven seconds of roasting time applied to the same batch of Guatemala Trapichitos, for example, makes the difference between a bright, sweet, thin flavor and a rich, balanced cup of coffee. A few grams worth of coffee will reshape the consistency of taste. Ten degrees' temperature variation in the brewing water produces a completely different cup of coffee. Even pre-heating the mug makes a difference.
And this, ultimately, brings us to the (hyperbolic) possibility of drip coffee as an endangered species. The greatest strength of a pot of drip coffee is the same as its greatest weakness: there is relatively little control. As far as gas stations or the average household coffeemaker are concerned, this can be a tremendous benefit because the coffee, if not phenomenal, will at least be relatively consistent... insofar as you know basically what you're doing, it's kind of tough to mess up. But it's also tough to fix. Temperature control is not usually an option, and the common paper filters (at least theoretically) absorb some of those critical coffee oils. Plus, drip coffee tends to be brewed in larger batches and sit longer, both of which inevitably carry a negative impact. But for the most part, all of this is just an interesting aside: a semi-irrelevant lamentation over the occasional absence of something I don't even like.
Caffe Lusso, however, is worth some of your devoted attention. You can order online, but to give their coffee a try first, stop by Street Bean Espresso in Belltown... another destination worth some attention, as a nonprofit "that provides job training and employment for young adults working to exit street life." Their regular hours are 6 am - 7 pm, Monday-Friday every week, but watch their Facebook page for frequent special events and occasional extra hours.