Sunday, October 18, 2009

NYC's Best Cup Of Coffee? Stumptown.

And lucky for me... it's just around the corner.

The Chelsea neighborhood of NYC is known for it's interesting cafés and often exploratory restaurant "experiments".... but the coffee has never been in question. While many people know about "Café Grumpy".... the fantastic coffee hang on 20th Street, the midtown faithful are now discovering what may likely be the best cup of coffee in New York... Stumptown Roasters.

First you should know, this isn't your normal shop. The folks at Stumptown (a business born and loved in Portland, Oregon) take coffee seriously. So seriously, they travel the world searching for the beans that will make the difference in your cup... and they do so with a fair trade mentality that most companies could only dream of. I'm not talking about big "corporate" trips with high level executives that book rooms at the Hilton. I'm talking about people who cap out under trees in the Kenyan bush. Those guys.

Now if fair trade and sustainability is your thing, I suggest you spend some time on the Stumptown website and learn about their endeavors... you'll be impressed. It's hard not to become a fan of their mission.

As great and important as this work is... it would likely be overlooked if it all resulted in a cup of nasty coffee. But this isn't the case.

The store itself is nestled in the front of the newish and hip "Ace Hotel" in Chelsea. The Ace Hotel is a funky, NYC boutique hotel that delivers all of the style and substance you'd expect to find in Midtown Manhattan. Crazy cool art, a refined and uber cool lobby (this is where you enjoy your coffee... as the shop itself has no seating).... and a gaggle of hipsters who have planted their stake there to profess their love for what makes NYC great.

The coffee you ask?

The experts at Stumptown don't use a brewer like our friends at Starbucks to make a cup of coffee. All "drip" style coffee is made in large french press pots, and then quickly transferred into vacuum pumps to keep the coffee hot and fresh. Spectacular. The espresso is ground fresh and made in a traditional pump machine... and cranks out quality draws. This is good stuff.

By the way... if you haven't had a cup of french press in a while... make owe it to yourself to make a cup. Having been addicted to french press coffee on and off for the last 20 years, I'm still convinced that this is truly the only way to really experience the subtly of a perfectly roasted bean. But beware, once you get hooked you'll have a hard time getting off of it. It's the crack of the coffee world. More about making french press at home below (thanks Stumptown).

The store sells a variety of it's coffees, with description cards to tell you about the origin and complexity of the roast. The people who work behind the counter know a lot about each varietal, so don't be afraid to ask.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Stumptown. It's always great when the product exceeds the hype.

Here's to one terrific cup of coffee.


18 W 29th St.
New York, NY 10001
6 am to 8 pm daily

How to prepare the perfect press pot at home

Using a press pot (aka French Press) is the easiest and best way to get truly excellent coffee at home. The keys to getting good results are: using high quality, fresh beans; grinding the coffee correctly; using clean equipment; timing the process.

You’ll need a Press Pot, coffee, a grinder, a spoon, a timer, and cups (and thermal carafe if preparing more than fits in the cups).

Step 1

Grind coffee

It is important that the coffee be ground coarse and that it be ground with a quality burr (rather than blade) grinder. By grinding the coffee coarse, you’re allowing for a slower and more even extraction which results in a fuller bodied and more nuanced cup. Blade grinders chop the coffee rather than grinding it, resulting in uneven particle size and unpredictable particle size. This results in uneven extraction, which causes coffee that has increased bitterness and which is not true to the true flavour profile of the coffee. In addition, the lack of consistency in particle size results in inconsistent and unpredictable results from pot to pot.

Step 2

Add coffee to pot

You’ll need one tablespoon of coffee for every 4oz of water. In other words, if you have a 16oz press pot, you’ll want to use 4 tablespoons of coffee. Feel free to adjust this amount based on your own personal tastes. Make sure the pot is clean and dry.

Step 3

Add water

You should bring the water just to a boil (electric kettles are great at this) and then let it cool for about 45 seconds. Then pour it aggressively into the pot so that it saturates the grounds. The key is to saturate all the grounds evenly. You should move the stream around as you pour to facilitate this. Do not fill the pot entirely. With many fresh coffees you will see significant expansion of the coffee in a sort of “foam” at the top of the liquid once you add water. This is known as “bloom” and is the result of the off-gassing of CO2 from the coffee. Adding too much water can result in a very messy countertop.

Step 4

Start timer

You’re going to want to have a timer that counts down from 4 minutes and has an alarm at 4 minutes. It’s very important that you use a timer to guarantee high quality coffee.

Step 5

Stir pot

After 1 minute, you should stir the grounds in the pot. If you need to add water to top off the pot, make sure it is again right below boiling. Stirring the pot guarantees even and optimal extraction of all the coffee. In addition, it breaks down the “bloom” and allows you to combine the correct amount of water and coffee without spilling all over the place.

Step 6

Put press/top on pot

Make sure you line up the spout and the corresponding exit in the lid.

Step 7

Press the pot

At exactly 4 minutes, you should push the press (slowly) into the pot to force all grounds to the bottom. You might have to press and then release and repeat to do this. Do not crush it with all your might – use some finesse.

Step 8

Pour the coffee

You need to do this as soon as you’ve pressed the pot. If you’re making more coffee than you can fit into a cup and want to hold some for later, pour the coffee into a thermal carafe. Do not simply leave the coffee in the press pot – it will get nasty quickly. If you want to avoid any stray grounds and sediment, you can pour the coffee through a mesh basket filter.