Sunday, June 12, 2011

Ristretto | On the Rocks

by Oliver Strand
New York Times Blog
June 10, 2011, 4:15 pm

I became hooked on cold-brew coffee after working a construction job in New Orleans more than 10 years ago. It was strictly a regional thing then, everywhere in the Big Easy and nearly impossible to find elsewhere — you could find cold-brew concentrate in the supermarket, but most of the people I knew were given mayo jars full of the dark, dense liquid by an aunt or a grandmother. In the following years, I became a proselytizer for cold-brew coffee, gaining converts for a steep-and-strain method that seemed counterintuitive until you tried it.

The coffee started to catch on in New York in 2007; by last summer, it had become regular fare at almost all of the coffee shops I frequent — it seemed everybody had fallen for the clean, clear flavors of iced coffee that wasn’t traumatized by hot water. But in coffee circles, no conversation is closed. When I mentioned cold brew to Counter Culture Coffee’s Peter Giuliano, he told me that he only used the “Japanese iced method,” in which you brew hot coffee directly onto ice. With characteristic diplomacy, Giuliano told me I had it all wrong.

George Howell, of George Howell Coffee, was more direct. Brewing onto ice is “the only way to do it,” he said. “It’s fresh! There’s none of that oxidized flavor [of cold brew]. You want to know what [cold brew] is like? Open up a bottle and pour a glass of wine and let it sit around.” Cold brew is for “simplified Merlot drinkers,” Howell said. “But the Japanese iced expresses terroir beautifully.”
Got it.

The iced method isn’t complicated. Basically, you prepare brewed coffee as you normally would, only you use half hot water, half ice you put in the bottom of the vessel. The hot, fresh coffee drips directly onto ice so that it’s cool and ready to drink right away.

My simplified instructions are below. (Coffee fanatics measure liquids by weight — these days, a digital scale is standard gear — but while most use grams, I prefer ounces because the low-scoring numbers are easier to track.) If you want to go deeper, Counter Culture’s recipe is here, George Howell’s is here, and Square Mile’s James Hoffman’s thoughtful and complicated take on it is here. Everybody’s is different, and everybody’s is right. Chances are you can make it with the coffee gear you already own, or you could get a Hario kit here.

Is it vastly superior? I’m not convinced. And I’m not giving up cold-brew coffee — opening the fridge to find a jar of concentrate is as much a part of summer as a nectarine or a Carvelanche. But I appreciate that the iced method is simple and quick, tasty, easy to master. It’s another addition to the repertory.

Iced Method Coffee
1 ounce fresh-ground coffee
7 ounces ice
8 ounces water heated to 200 degrees, plus extra for rinsing filter.

Place a filter in a Chemex (or any filter brew system) and rinse filter with at least four ounces hot water. Remove filter, discard water, place Chemex on a kitchen scale and add 7 ounces of ice.
Replace filter, add coffee and slowly add 1 ounce of water heated to 200 degrees, until the grounds are saturated. Let the grounds “bloom” then deflate, which might take up to 1 minute.
Reset scale to zero and add remaining 7 ounces of water heated to 200 degrees, in a slow, steady stream. Drink immediately.

(image taken by Oliver Strand)

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Stumptown Expands With the Help of a Powerful Investor

Matthew Peyton for The New York TimesStylish baristas at the Stumptown Coffee Roasters cafe at the Ace Hotel.

Originally published in NYTimes' blog, June 2, 2011, 2:22 pm

It looks like a big year for Stumptown Coffee Roasters. The Portland, Ore., company, known for getting some of the finest coffee in the world and serving it with rock ‘n’ roll flair, plans to open two coffee bars in Brooklyn, add a bottling facility to its roaster in Red Hook for its cold-brewed coffee and, Duane Sorenson, Stumptown’s founder, says the company will try to open roasters in Chicago and San Francisco.

All of this is possible because of an investment from TSG Consumer Partners, a private equity firm that has invested in several successful brands, selling its stake in Vitaminwater for $677 million in 2006.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters is one of a small number of independent companies that set the standard for coffee roasting over the past decade. Its connection to TSG was first made public on Tuesday by Todd Carmichael in a posting on’s “Eat Like a Man” blog. In a piece titled “The End of Stumptown, America’s Hippest Coffee Brand,” Mr. Carmichael wrote: “Duane Sorenson, the founder of Stumptown, the Che Guevara of the rock-star barista movement, sold his life’s work to the highest bidder.” Mr. Carmichael is the founder of the coffee company La Colombe Torrefaction.

The post didn’t name TSG, but the next day, Ben Waterhouse of Willamette Week in Portland reported that Stumptown Coffee Corp., a new company that registered with the State of Oregon on April 28, listed Alexander S. Panos as president and secretary. Mr. Panos is TSG’s managing director.

Both Mr. Sorenson and Mr. Panos said the coffee roaster was not sold.

“I still own Stumptown,” Mr. Sorenson said in a telephone interview. “I’m still in control of Stumptown, the only thing that’s changed is that I brought in an investor, a buddy of mine, who brought in some money so that I can do the things I want to do.”

The two cafes in Brooklyn, which are expected to open this fall; the bottling facility, the company’s first outside Portland; and the two roasters would require a considerable investment.

Mr. Panos said he shared Mr. Sorenson’s vision. “If you’re Duane and you want to bring great coffee to San Francisco, how’s he going to do it?” he said. “Most of these companies don’t get past their home market. The fact that Duane came to New York is miraculous. He did it by his boot straps.”

Still, bloggers, coffee writers and denizens of social media expressed dismay that Stumptown, which has a devout following, would take on an investment partner known for scaling up – and selling – successful companies. The assurances the Mr. Sorenson was still in charge seemed to have cooled some tempers.

Mr. Panos said in a telephone interview that he was not, in fact, an officer of Stumptown Coffee Roasters and was listed as such only for filing purposes.

“Duane runs the show, no ifs, ands, or buts,” he said. “He controls the company. I’m just an investor.”

In filings in Oregon, he is named the president and secretary of Stumptown Coffee Corp., and as the authorized representative of its two subsidiaries, Stumptown Coffee and Stumptown Coffee Roasters Inc. Mr. Panos also said that he had no involvement with an entity registered in Delaware as Stumptown Coffee Corp. on April 11, even though it was originally listed under the name TSG Coffee Corp.

“We can’t disclose the structure of the investment,” Mr. Panos said. “What I can say is that Duane controls the company.”

What’s certain is that there will be more Stumptowns, and soon.

“Getting some money to grow your business is not evil,” Mr. Panos said.