The past few months I’ve been writing for an online newspaper, Franklin Home Page. This is a story about the new Frothy Monkey in Downtown Franklin. Check it out!
I’ve long had a picture of what my dream coffee shop would look, sound, and feel like. Big, open, inviting, top of the line equipment, friendly baristas, and the best coffee around – If I could paint I’d make a picture and then upload it so you can see what’s in my head.
But, I can’t paint. So, I’ll just cut to the chase.
When Barista Parlor opened I walked in, gasped and then fell in love. This shop is the closest I’ve ever come to stepping into what I’ve created in my mind.
So, you’d imagine how flattergasted (my new word for flattered and flabbergasted) I felt when they asked me to work here!
I thought to myself, “You mean, I get to be the really nice barista standing in front of the 20 foot wooden table, ringing people up on the ipad, making them pourovers, and pulling shots on a Slayer espresso machine?!?! Nuh uh!”
But, I woke up the next day and yes, friends, it was still true.
As if I haven’t already said it without saying it, I am very proud to announce I am a member of Barista Parlor’s stellar team.
I know there’s been a ton of hype around this shop. It seems like everyone knows Andy Mumma, the proprietor. He’s been in coffee for about 15 years.
But, I wanted to give you, my lovely readers, a Barista Blog welcome to the shop that should be your new fave place in Nashville. (Ok, you can go other places too. I mean, they’re only open until 6 in the evening anyways.)
Barista Parlor focuses on the experience from start to finish. Walking in for the first time, you’ll notice the 30-foot high ceiling in this renovated auto shop. There are 4 garage doors that open on the nicest days with convenient screens that fit into them when the bugs get a little crazy.
All the tables are made out of huge planks of wood. It’s like going to five different family style dinners at once. But, if you need to get stuff done and don’t want to hear the conversation next to you there are some two-top tables off to the side as well.
They were lucky enough to get the beautiful ladies at OMG to decorate for them. Yes, there are antlers and taxidermy.
Oh yeah, and there’s this huge mural on the back wall by Bryce McCloud from Isle of Printing. It’s a pixelated picture of a ship that gets clearer when you take a photo with your iPhone.
They have sausage biscuits made with meat from Porter Road Butcher, their next-door neighbor. Chocolates line the front counter from Mast Brothers, Dick Taylor, Sweeteeth and, of course, Olive & Sinclair.
And then there’s the piece de resistance – the coffee – handcrafted by the cup. If you want it black then there’s a list of the roasters of the moment, the origin or blend offered and tasting notes on each. You want a coffee that tastes like blackberry jam and apricots? They have it. Melons and citrus? Yup. And then, once you make your choice, they brew it pour-over style with a V-60. The roasters are changing all the time, but right now they have Intelligentsia, Madcap, Coava, Counter Culture and Sightglass.
They have a Slayer espresso machine with three different rotating espressos to choose from. Do I even need to explain how beautiful this is?
My favorite part? The baristas are like a family inviting you to take part and join in their home. (Well, two of them are actually married.) They talk to you and explain things as simply as possible so you can worry about the most important part of your visit – enjoying it. I am so pumped to be a part of this.
So, forgive me if I’m totally biased, braggy or overly excited. But, please admit with me that there is actually something to talk about here.
Call it what you will – over the top, too few options, or just nice to visit once in a while – but I’ll choose to call it a game-changer.
Barista Parlor’s address is 519B Gallatin Ave.
Vision for anything is important because it gives you a standard to base your actions on. I realized recently that, though I have a purpose for my blog, I haven’t communicated it loud and clear.
I questioned some previous posts because of personal biases – or worse – what other people think of me. It’s with these questions that I realized I first and foremost needed to stand by my work, even if some people don’t completely agree with it. I then decided I needed to communicate to my readers what I’m trying to accomplish so they can read my blog through that lens.
So, here it goes:
The point of The Barista Blogs, no matter what the cool thing in coffee is, or who gets along with whom in the community, is to support quality coffee culture, especially in Nashville. I want baristas and coffee lovers to think about how and why they enjoy their coffee so they can share the experience together. I want people’s love for coffee and the community to be encouraged and grown through reading my blog.
This mission statement means a few things.
1) I’m going to be a little tighter on my topics. If it doesn’t fit into what my mission is about, then you won’t find it here.
2) If it does make it on here it means I’ve thought long and hard about it and I fully stand by what I wrote – like it or not.
But, most importantly it means –
3) We can all communicate a lot more effectively, and maybe even spur some conversations, because we all want to see the coffee community in Nashville improve and succeed.
So, please, I urge you to comment and ask more questions. If I have something to say, you bet I’ll say it. And if I don’t, well then maybe I’ll write a blog about that too.
Coffee shops exist for a mixture of reasons. Usually cafes will have the perfect cocktail of brand, service and atmosphere. But, some stores have a heavier focus on one aspect than another. For the soon to be open Well Coffeehouse the whole point is to have a welcoming environment.
Rob Touchstone is the co-founder of The Well. He’s a full time youth minster and part time bible professor at Lipscomb. He says the point of The Well is to show what the kingdom of God looks like today.
“My answer to that and really thinking it through was not so much church buildings with steeples, you know stained glass, but you know, it would look more like a coffee house. A place where everyone would feel welcome to come in and not feel intimidated because they’re not dressed right, look right or well behaved enough,” said Rob.
The idea of the shop is based on a Bible story where Jesus meets a woman at a well. In their culture, a good Jewish man like Jesus would never talk to a Samaritan woman who has had many husbands. When Jesus tells her He is the living water she asks to have some of it so she can experience what He means. Jesus tells her things are changing. He implies you don’t have to be a certain way to have his love, his living water.
This is what The Well is, a coffee shop and meeting place where everyone can come in and enjoy a coffee, no matter what they believe or where they are in life.
Going further though, the shop also wants to be missional in Nashville and even globally. They’ll be giving away most of their profits to organizations such as Blood Water Mission, Project 117 and Mission Lazarus.
Keeping in theme with the name they will focus on clean water initiatives in countries such as Ethiopia. They’re sending a board member to start the first sponsorship so they can actually know the people they’re helping and do more than just write a check for someone.
“We have really no business, I don’t think, acting like we’re passionate about missions if we’re not willing to do it right here as well as globally,” said Rob.
To serve local initiatives they’ll have the Wishing Well. People can come in and post needs, whether it is monetary or physical. Customers will be encouraged to fill those needs. There’s no guarantee of it happening though. Rob says it’s kind of like throwing a coin into a wishing well. He hopes this will be a staging point for people to start serving in their own community.
The main point of The Well is to make people feel welcome. They don’t want it to be “the religious coffee house.” They just want to get to know people and accept them for themselves.
They will also offer a pour over bar featuring Chemex.
There won’t be a full food menu, but pastries and bagels will be sold.
When? The store plans to open sometime in June. There isn’t a set grand opening date yet, so keep your eyes open for more info.
Where: The heart of Green Hills, in a renovated Burger King, think old barn wood everywhere, across from Trader Joes, kind of
There are plenty of methods to choose from when making your morning (or night time) coffee. It really comes down to how much work you want to put into it and then as your palate grows the mouth feel you like.
Electric Brewers are going to be easiest to use if you want a lot of coffee first thing in the morning. Jamie recommends one. There’s only one because it’s the only home coffee brewer that actually gets hot enough to brew coffee, meaning it brings the water above 200 degrees. Most electric brewers don’t. You want your water to be between 198 and 202 degrees. In order to get it there you need to boil your water, because by the time your boiling water hits the cold coffee it’s going to end up dropping and over the length of the four minute brew time it’s going to drop even more.
This Jamie approved electric brewer is called The Technivorm and it costs $300.
But he reminds everyone that even with a good electric brewer you still need a good grinder.
For manual methods you need to allow your four minutes of brew time. So, if you’re not willing to give that up in the morning this isn’t for you. Certain methods require more prep time so get to know what’s what and decide what’s best for your coffee routine.
Jamie says the Chemex is certainly the most beautiful method available.
“There’s a certain amount of class to the chemex.”
If you buy the correct size a Chemex can brew up to 12 cups of coffee. It takes more time than any other brew methods and more skill, but if you learn from the right person you’re good to go.
“As far as its aesthetic and the craft that goes into it, I think it’s one of the better methods to serve guests with.”
So, if you’re having a dinner party, consider having one on hand.
The easiest method to reproduce is the Clever. You can make up to 16 ounces with this method and the steps are limited.
And then there’s the method everyone already knows about, The French Press.
When I asked Jamie about this method he asked me if he could clear the air and I obliged.
“I do appreciate the convenience of the French press, but when you’re brewing with a French press, the only way to do it correctly is to finish pressing the coffee to the bottom of the pot at 4 minutes and to immediately empty the French press into a serving vessel,” said Jamie.
When you don’t do this the hot water continues to over extract the coffee. It continues to get sludgier and dirtier as well as bitterer and less palatable.
“I know a lot of people say they like that and I cannot tell them that they don’t like that, but I would urge them to try a properly extracted French press, one that isn’t burnt and bitter, and to decide whether or not that is better for themselves.”
Jamie’s next step is to point out how caffeine and tannins work. He says after four minutes your beans start to release the majority of its caffeine content. Caffeine is very bitter. But, if you’re properly brewing your coffee you won’t get that extra caffeine push because you won’t be brewing after four minutes. But, that’s also why you can always tell when a cup of coffee is extracted improperly, because the bitterness tells it all.
Tannins are also released at the end of the brewing cycle, which are bitter and actually harsh on your stomach. Jamie points out properly brewed coffee shouldn’t be harsh on anyone’s stomach. Nor should properly brewed coffee be unpleasant to drink.
“So, brewing it right is really better for your body as well as your palette.”
After all that, it’s clear that there’s a proper way to brew and drink a French press, it’s just not what most people are used to.
“Just do the world a favor and empty your French press and enjoy it that way.”
And while your’e doing that make sure to also get a few, inexpensive items for your manual methods: a filter, timer and spoon.
Filters vary from each brew method. Each will typically say on its packaging and will be for sale near the methods itself.
Timer: Any kitchen timer with minutes on it will do. I prefer to have seconds as well so I can see when the end of my brew cycle is coming.
A Spoon: stainless steel, bamboo or plastic will work. Just make sure if you continue to use that spoon for coffee, or anything else, that it doesn’t take on scents or tastes, because then you might accidentally have onion flavored coffee, and that sounds awful, now doesn’t it?
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning all about how to make coffee at home. I feel like there’s so much more to share, and there really is, but you have to tell me what it is you want.
If you’re going to go the manual brew method route then you’re going to need a kettle. More importantly, you’re going to want a kettle that’s easy to pour from and control your steam. This means you’re going to want a gooseneck spout. Look how cute they are!
There are several brands that have great gooseneck spouts.
Hario $60 This is the one shown above. They don’t have an electric version yet, but it’s beautiful and easy to work with.
Bonavita $60 has an electric kettle with a gooseneck
Whether you want electric or traditional is up to you. I keep a traditional kettle at home because I like the look of it better, but many mornings I wish I had an electric kettle because it makes your water boil much faster.
Now, I’ve already mentioned scales, but lets talk brands. You want a digital, gram scale. These are very easy to work with. They typically switch back and forth from grams to ounces and tare out with a touch of a button.
AWS is a brand that creates jewelry scales, but they have moved to kitchen scales as well. They can weigh to the 10th of an ounce and tend to be very precise. They’re also very affordable. For the scales that hold heavier materials they cost up to $35.
So, don’t waste the money. Find yourself a great scale for $30 to $40 and you’ll just have to change the batteries every so often, unless you dump a bunch of water on it and then it might be a different story.
Your next baby step is buying a good grinder. Whatever you do with your coffee knowledge please do not buy good coffee and then have it ground in the store. The barista always dies a little inside. Instead, save your money and get yourself a really nice grinder. Your palate will thank you.
The main detail your grinder needs to have is burrs.
Now, some of you might have heard of them before but are still asking yourself, “What the heck are those things anyways?”
Burrs are steel circles that grind the beans as they move closer together. They turn in a circle and depending on how far apart they’re set from each other they will grind the coffee into a certain courseness. Jamie says using them is the only way to get a good cup of coffee.
There are two kinds of burrs, flat and conical. Flat burrs move vertically apart. The further away the burrs are from each other the more course the grind is.
Conical burrs look like a stainless steel cone sitting in the middle of a circular burr. The outside circle moves around the cone and the space between them works the same as with the flat burr.
The conical burrs are preferred because they move slower, not allowing the steel to get hot and expand, therefore throwing off your chosen grind setting. The temperature of the steel can also heat the beans and change the flavor of your coffee. Conical burr grinders are typically more expensive, but it’s up to you to decide how in depth you want to go with your at home coffee.
There are plenty of grinder options and the ones Jamie recommends range from $90 to $600.
Let’s start with the best, the specialty toy, if you will.
Top of the line – Barratza Vario W (W stands for weight) – This particular grinder weighs the coffee as its being ground so you can choose your perfect grind for your coffee but also the perfect grammage. $575
Barratza Virtuoso – If you’re willing to spend a little extra money Jamie suggests this grinder for your home. It doesn’t weigh coffee, like the Vario, but it’s on a timer. Once you get familiar with the timer you’ll find how long you need to grind your coffee for to get the right amount. It doesn’t totally get fine enough for espresso, but it will get course enough for chemex or French press. So, unless you have a really nice home espresso machine, this grinder is great for the at home coffee junkie. $250
Breville’s Smart Grinder – This one is supposed to grind everything from espresso to French press. It’s electric and, if this grinder was working in the ideal world you would pick a courseness and a dose. Though not as specific as the Vario, it still has its pluses. It functions by the amount of cups you want to make. You tell it you want to make 12 cups and it recommends how much you need. Jamie has found it doesn’t go as course as you would need for a French press, but it’s fully capable of grinding for espresso. $200
If you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg the Cappresso Infiniti is an attainable, good grinder. Jamie uses it at home. It won’t grind fine enough for espresso, but it’s a good choice for any other method. – $90
Hario Skerton is the cheapest grinder Jamie will recommend, but it comes with a different cost. You have to grind the coffee by hand. But, it’s also really cute. If you want a nice decorative piece as well as an effective grinder the Skerton is perfect. $50
Your grind setting will vary with each grinder. No matter which brand you use the main way to tell if your grinder is set correctly is if your coffee is done brewing in four minutes.
Well, how do you do that?
You control the time your coffee brews by how fine or course your coffee is. So, if your Chemex is taking five minutes then tighten your grind. If it’s finishing up around three then loosen it up.
Another thing Jamie recommends for finding the right grind is noticing where your coffee sits on your filter after you are done brewing. If the coffee is sitting high up on the filter and it took a long time to brew then your coffee is too fine and it’s having a hard time getting through your filter.
Your coffee should lie in a nice, flat bed when it’s done brewing. Adjust your grind to match this and the time frame and you’re good to go.
And please note, just because your grinder has markings on it doesn’t mean they’re the right ones for you. Play around with each setting and see which marking has the best result for your cup.
Have fun playing around!