Building the perfect coffee snob

Building the perfect coffee snob
Photo by Peter Milo

In Brooklyn, turning yourself into a coffee snob is almost as easy as pressing the plunger on an Aeropress brewer.

Coffee connoisseurs who want to learn the secret behind the $3-plus cups at their neighborhood café can master the art of artisanal coffee at the Brooklyn Kitchen’s home-brewing class on Feb. 23.

“People want to treat coffee like a culinary art,” said coffee class instructor Liz Clayton. “People are becoming much more conscious of how to prepare it with care.”

Clayton will teach the tricks of manual brewing using inexpensive equipment that can be purchased at the Brooklyn Kitchen’s retail shop.

Those who like their coffee strong will likely appreciate Clayton’s lesson on the $25 Aeropress, a syringe-like device. And those who want a soot-free coffee that goes down as smooth as water will love the demo on making pour-over coffee with the cone-shaped Clever, $15.

“It depends on the beans, but generally the Aeropress makes for a much more intense coffee with concentrated flavors,” Clayton said. “But the Clever ensures that you don’t get any coffee residue at the bottom of the cup.”

In addition to the Brooklyn Kitchen’s workshop, the borough is brewing with gateway druggists and activities for potential coffee snobs. For those who want to experience the perfect cappuccino, head to Gimme Coffee on Lorimer Street in Williamsburg. The expert baristas grind espresso beans from several countries and froth milk to order for this $3.50 treat. The eight-year-old Gimme Coffee — a trailblazer in the Brooklyn scene — has become so popular in the nabe that it is opening a second location seven blocks away on Roebling Street.

“New Yorkers by nature are connoisseurs of the finer things in life, and now people realize that includes coffee,” said Jason Sadie, a Park Slope resident and Gimme Coffee regular. “That shop’s coffee has complex flavors that can be enjoyed like a great wine,” he added.

Coffee maker or drug delivery system? With the Aeropress machine, perhaps it’s both.

Gimme Coffee’s new outpost will also have a tasting station where customers can sample an international selection of beans brewed three different ways: espresso, drip and pour over. But Brooklyn is already brewing with places for coffee snobs to participate in cuppings (coffee snob slang for tastings). One of the most popular is Stumptown Coffee Roasters’ Red Hook Tasting Room on Van Brunt Street. The bar, which opened in October, offers coffee brewed in six different methods, including with the Aeropress equipment that will be taught at the Brooklyn Kitchen class.

Learning manual brew methods is a great way for coffee snobs to save money, but for those who aren’t shy about splurging, check out the $12 Ethiopian coffee at Café Grumpy in Park Slope and Greenpoint. The beans are hand-picked, sun-dried and roasted in-house — the three rationales that all coffee snobs should cite when asked why they’re paying more for coffee than most people pay for lunch.

“Specialty coffee gets more awesome every day, “ said Sarah Allen, co-founder of Barista Magazine. “Green coffee buyers are sourcing unique coffees and baristas are taking their professions seriously to crafting superb drinks.”

True coffee snobs should also make sure their beans are fair trade from small farms. The Brooklyn Roasting Company, which opened on Jay Street in DUMBO in 2009, has made it its mission to promote politically correct coffee. The wholesale company only buys and sells beans with a Boy Scout uniform’s worth of badges: Fair Trade, organic and Rainforest Alliance-certified.

“We pay a lot of concern to the conditions of the countries where the coffee is produced, said Brooklyn Roasting Company founder Jim Munson.

The Company isn’t a retail store, as it only sells large batches of its fresh-roasted beans to groceries and restaurants like Dumont on Union Avenue in Williamsburg. But there are plenty of stores where Brooklyn coffee snobs can find bags of politically and environmentally conscious coffee. Blue Bottle Coffee on Berry Street in Williamsburg is a store that all coffee obsessives should have on their mental Rolodex, as all its beans are certified organic and most come from small farms co-owned by locals. For coffee snobs, we recommend a pound of the Ethiopian Kemgin beans for $30. It beat out more than 150 other coffee beans around the nation to earn top honors in this year’s Good Food Awards, a San Francisco-based contest that true coffee snobs care about.

Between the classes, tasting sessions, bank-breaking prices and green-friendly beans, even longtime Anthora cup-carrying coffee drinkers can transform into full-fledged coffee snobs.

Gimme Coffee barista Alex Lambert is a master cappucino crafter. The Williamsburg shop, which is on Lorimer Street between Powers and Grand streets, uses several different kinds of espresso beans to make one drink.
Photo By Alex Rush

Coffee class at the Brooklyn Kitchen [100 Frost St. between Manhattan Avenue and Leonard Street in Greenpoint, (718) 389-2981], Feb. 23 at 6:30 pm. Tickets are $40. For info, visit www.thebrooklynkitchen.com; Gimme Coffee [495 Lorimer St. between Grand and Powers streets in Williamsburg (718) 388-7771] and [2107 Roebling St. at N. Sixth Street in Williamsburg, (718) 388-4595]; Stumptown Coffee Roasters’ Red Hook Tasting Room (219 Van Brunt St. at Commerce Street in Red Hook, Friday-Sunday, no phone); Café Grumpy [383 Seventh Ave. between 11th and 12th streets in Park Slope, (718) 499-4404; 193 Masserole Ave. at Norman Avenue in Greenpoint, (718) 349-7623]; Brooklyn Roasting Company, [25 Jay St. between John and Plymouth streets in DUMBO, (917) 597-3390]; Blue Bottle Coffee [160 Berry St. between N. Fifth and N. Sixth streets in Williamsburg (718) 387-4160].