Sunday, December 6, 2009
I like coffee, but I'm not obsessed. A good brew from a good independent coffee bar usually is enough to satisfy me. Awful diner or convenience store coffee is a big turnoff.
Nothing prepared me, however, from an impromptu foray into the coffee temple that calls itself Barismo in East Arlington. Susan and I were next door in 13 Forest, checking out potential art, when I remembered that Barismo was right next door, and we had some time on our hands (unlike my usual visits to the area to Thailand Cafe, fantastic fast Thai food). Time is what we needed, because we found out that we knew NOTHING about coffee.
It's not immediately clear upon walking in what the business is. There are small bags of coffee on the shelves, along with a variety of coffee gear, none of which looks familiar. There is a whiteboard on the wall with different kinds of coffee you can get. Espresso, capuccino (I know that), then siphon and pour over. Huh? No tables and chairs either but two small batch roasting machines behind the counter, along with two friendly baristas, one of whom was happy to answer our many questions the first of which was "what should we order?" A question that was not as dumb as it sounds, because we were unfamiliar with the offerings.
And the answers. Well, I had to admit to our new friend that I hadn't understood most of what he'd just told me, regarding growing regions, roasting methods, grind, brew, temperature, equipment.
We started with an espresso. Which, we were told, would be of uncertain size, because they brew it for optimum quality, rather than for a particular cup size. OK. What we got was a thimbleful of espresso that had only what I could call a sour taste. Not bad, sour, necessarily, but not the usual bitter strength of an espresso. I thought it was a taste I could get used to, and maybe even like. Susan was turned off. But it was gone so quickly that it was hard to tell. (Well, we did share that little thimbleful).
Next, the siphon. Two cups for seven dollars. Actually two little glasses, probably 3-4 ounces each. It took our friendly barista about ten minutes to prepare the device and deliver the coffee. It was unlike any coffee I'd ever had. I'm sure there were a lot of adjectives I could have chosen. Fruity, floral, rich. It definitely changed taste as it went from hot hot to just hot, to warm. I'd tell you the kind of coffee they used, if I could remember. You can see the method below, from heating up the water to the prescribed temperature, to cooling it down with a wet towel to get the coffee to descend once the steam pressure subsides.
While we were finishing up these little glass they let us try a capuccino (pictured at the top), which was the best cappuccino I'd ever had. The foam was rich, not airy, and the taste complex. And the cappuccino art stayed intact to the bottom of the little cup. I'd have that again, for sure.
We didn't get to try the pour over method, which looks like using a hand-poured Melitta filter but the filter basket has deep ridges that allow the water to seep through the sides of the basket, not just the bottom, optimizing the flavor extraction. Next time!
So, if coffee is more than just of cup of joe, go here, at least once, just for the experience.