Coffee Articles

How to pronounce those difficult coffee terms

Let’s face it. We’ve all been caught in this difficult situation before. Walking in to your favorite coffee place, you immediately notice a new 4×5 or whatever sized coffee design you’re like oh hell yes! They’re offering a new single-origin!

Ngunguru. Oh no, is the G silent or is the N silent? How to I order my pour over without sounding crass… Shit, I’m up next…

“Hi! I’d like to get an iced almond latte please!”

NOOOOO! What I really wanted was the “Na-gung-guru”?

I came across a funny Sprudge article, “How to Pronounce Difficult Coffee Terms” and got a really good laugh out of it. Check it out! Here are some of the guides that were posted in the article:

By the way, this is how Ngunguru is correctly pronounced:


Tsheya eya!

The first time we ever had Tsheya was at Joule in Downtown Raleigh. Joule is a part of the Ashley Christensen empire, and is currently the most upscale Coffee shop/Bar/Restaurant hybrid in the area.  I think the only other place that serves coffee, alcohol and food all in the same place is Helios. But, more on Joule in an upcoming post. This post is about Tsheya.

Since we were on the go and just wanted a quick(er) fix, we ordered a pour over to-go. All I could taste and smell was the overwhelming aroma of peanuts. Boiled peanuts, to be exact. Ever since then, I haven’t touched Tsheya.

However, I gave it a try this week because the description says bright citrus, stone fruit and only light savory notes, which was nothing like the first time I tasted it. When I brewed it as a pour over for the first time, it was nothing like what we had at Joule. It was super bright with a mouth watering fruity aroma. The tartness was so refreshing and juicy to me, while the slight savory notes gave it a balancing factor.

So what happened at Joule? I have to say it was the paper cups! I think that maybe the paper cup was not rinsed, or it was a bad choice in the selection of paper cups to use. I’m really glad to have experienced this whole series of events because we now have made a mental note to make sure that the paper cups we use to serve our coffee will not carry any weird tastes.

We’ve been back to Joule a few times and we love that place! As mentioned earlier, we’ll have a post about Joule soon!

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US Coffee Championships 2014

We really enjoyed watching the USCC last weekend. There were lots of great competitors. The overwhelming feeling that I got from watching the USCC is that just like coffee plants need strong roots to flourish, competitors need a strong foundation in order to compete. That foundation can not be done by oneself. That foundation is a strong network, a whole complex web of interactions and relationships that is ultimately represented by an individual competitor’s 15 minute performance. Congrats to Laila Ghambari for winning the USBC. She totally deserved it. Her performance really reflected her deep passion for coffee and represented the level of teamwork and camaraderie that is needed to make amazing coffee. Watch her performance:

Laila: We desire to serve extraordinary coffee; however, individually we were limited by each other’s roles. See, as a barista, the quality of coffee that I can serve to you is going to be dependent on the quality of the green coffee and the quality of the roasted coffee. So, we knew that in order to achieve our goal, the three of us (barista, roaster and coffee producer) would have to work together. So, we did.

Laila flew to Santa Ana, El Salvador to walk the farm of Emilio Lopez-Diaz. They picked the best coffee, brought it home and her roaster perfected the roast. She also found the perfect milk from Little Cow Girl in NJ to compliment her cap, which was a grass-fed non-homogenized milk that had 3.25% milk fat. She finished with her specialty drink which contained 3 main elements, each representing the people who came together to create it: Emilio, the farmer: The Coffee beans and Coffee cherry syrup with coffee-pollinated honey from the farm Phil, the roaster: Smoke from the the wood of the coffee trees that grew the coffee Laila, herself: Espresso, which pulls everything together. Her job is to finish the story.

So ultimately this is a story about collaboration. Collaboration thats “I” and turns it into “we.” “We” is stronger. Many minds and many talents working together towards one common goal. I wanted to serve you a drink that expresses the essence of this collaboration.

Magnificent performance by Laila Ghambari. We wish her all the best for the upcoming World Barista Championships!

Shout out to Jonathan Bonchak for placing 5th in the Brewer’s Cup. Proud to have him representing NC!

An Obsession with Cups

I think my obsession with table wares and kitchen gadgets came from my mother. I remember we never had any matching wares at home because she would couldn’t resist buying up and collecting more and more. Her excuse was “oh it might break later and then we’ll need more anyways” or “we don’t have enough if guests come over” (which never really happened but every once in a blue moon). Hah!

So, I’ve been kind of doing the same thing my whole life, but definitely not on the same scale as her. We have a couple of vintage tea cup and saucer sets as well as coffee mugs and various dish ware by Fire King. I read that in Japan, there is a coffee shop with all sorts of vintage pieces. Not only do they make a cup of coffee exclusively for you, they also make sure they pick the perfect cup to put it in!

So whats the deal with really expensive designer cups? (J: Feel free to read that in Jerry Seinfeld’s voice. I know I did.) I think that professional baristas, as well as home baristas are buying them up because they are a marriage of form and function. They are like pieces of art that you get to enjoy more intimately because well…let’s be honest. You’re basically making out with it.

J: What? You don’t make out with your coffee? Don’t look at me like that. No, I don’t use any tongue. I’m not a weirdo. Coffee is hot. You could burn yourself!

You wouldn’t serve foie gras on a paper plate. It ruins the experience. Shell out a few extra bucks on some decent cups for your coffee. Or don’t. At work, I drink my coffee in a giant Ninja Turtles mug. Why? Two words. Turtle Power.

Here’s a few of the more popular options:


Designer Cups

Illy Artist Collection 

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Straight from the illy eShop: “illy Art Collections are a series of limited edition cups designed by contemporary artists that transform the enjoyment of espresso into an inspirational, multi-sensory experience.  More than 70 international artists have contributed, each creating mini masterpieces of beauty to behold.” (Illy eShop) These cups range anywhere from $40 to $225. A work of art in a vessel that is also a work of art!


Terra Keramik

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Used in barista competitions worldwide, these cups are considered to be the crème de la crème of coffee cups. Each are carefully handcrafted and individually signed by master potter and sculptor, Felix Volger. The design is spunky, with nice bright eclectic colors, finished off by a showy, platinum handle and rim. I don’t think this is for everyone though. I think it looks a little outdated and too flashy for my taste. However, baristas swear by its perfect size, thickness and mouth feel as well as heat retention all working together to create the best all-around coffee experience. $40-$45 each


Budget and Space Conscious

World Market – Stacking Mugs and Espresso Cups


Comes in different colors and designs, these cups are a great place to start if you have a limited budget as well as limited space. I have a set of the espresso cups and they have held up really well.  The quality is not superb, but they look nice and modern. Overall, you can’t beat the price at $12.99 for a set of 6!


Affordable Quality

Sur La Table – Café Collection Espresso Cup and Saucer


I bought these in the 2 oz. demitasse and 5 oz. cappuccino. They really caught my eye because of the simple, modern design and solid build weight. I love having heavier porcelain wear. These also retain temperature really well and for the price, its a great place to start a coffee wares collection. $5.95 to $14.95 each


Williams-Sonoma – Brasserie Porcelain Cups and Saucer, Set of 4

Very similar to the Sur La Table one, but this one has a lower-profile saucer. It comes in a convenient set of 4 and is available at almost any mall, but I do prefer the design of the Sur La Table’s. It also comes in 2 other styles, one with a blue and one with red band, all for $59.95. Not bad.





Bodum Glass Double Wall

Bodum has a large assortment of double-walled glassware thats just been really popular over the years. I’ve read that they provide amazing heat retention while still being comfortable to the touch on the outer glass wall. I like that since its clear glass, you can see the different layers of coffee, crema, milk, etc. $15-$25 each


Setting the Standard

Intelligentsia Black Cat Project

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These beauties were created after 3 years of collaboration with NotNeutral, an LA based design firm. 3 years! Not only is the design fabulously modern, it is also meticulously designed to meet the strict needs and standards of barista champions around the world. $12-$20 each


notNeutral Lino Collection


notNeutral’s description:

notNeutral, in collaboration with world-class baristas, brings you the premier vessels for enjoying everything coffee.

Meticulously designed and tested, the MENO cups achieve a seamless marriage of form and function. The contour of the interior provides optimal fluid dynamics for the perfect pour, while the wide mouth accommodates the drinker’s nose to take in the aroma. The base is thick to retain heat, while the rim has an elegant mouth feel. The graceful profile of MENO is comfortable to grip and rests easily in the palms of the hands.

What a beauty! Prices vary.


Coffee is an experience. So much goes into making a single cup, whether its espresso or pour over. The grind, the pour, etc. Why would you spend so much time creating something, and then serve it in something that diminishes the quality of the experience? That would be like putting on a production of Romeo and Juliet with the Montagues in dinosaur costumes while the Capulets wear space suits. Wait…that would be awesome. And hilarious. It would be more like going to see your new favorite movie (Captain America: The Winter  Soldier) in a theatre filled with crying children, sticky floors, and the pungent aroma of fresh hobo urine emanating from the seat next to you. Yeah. That. I get chills just thinking of that.

Anyway. Nice things are more enjoyable in nice packages. There are many nice choices out there that can fit any budget!

Coffee Scout App!

We’ve all been there. Traveling to a new place with unfamiliar streets and neighborhoods, whether it be another city or another country. You’re craving coffee like a junkie craves his next fix, but you’re clueless as to where you can find the local pusher. Been there, done that. It’s unfortunate that most people will just settle for the nearest Starbucks out of convenience (we’ve definitely been guilty of that). The Coffee Scout App, which has been released for Android phones earlier this month, is here to guide you!

Conceived by coffee-fanatic,and Google employee, Alon Havey, and partnered with Barista Magazine, Coffee Scout uses crowdsourcing to map a database of locally owned and independent coffee shops around the world. Just type in where you are, or just hit “Use My Location” and it’ll map out, as well as list all the coffee shops near you.

This isn’t Yelp. It’s not a place for reviews. It simply allows coffee shop owners to put their business out there, along with their hours of operation, coffee served, a brief description and list of amenities such as wifi, outdoor seating, parking, payment options, etc. With all this information, you can decide which one to try (but why not try them all!).

Forwarding the info from Barista Magazine:

If your shop isn’t on the map yet, you can add it here! Just like the apps, it’s fast, easy, and free!

By the way, Alon has a special request for cafés in Paris, London, and Stockholm: He’d like to see more you listed! (Maybe he has a visit in the works?) We’d love to see you join Coffee Scout and help the project grow!

Go download it now!

Bookman Bicycle Cup Holder

Sick of people questioning how hipster you are? Worry no more! Bookman has created a cup holder for your coffee that clamps on to the handlebars of your bicycle! (Fixed gear, of course. Brakes are for pussies.)

This easy to use cup holder from Bookman, a company based out of Stockholm that specializes in accessories for bicycles and the urban cyclist, is aptly named, the “Cup Holder” (So meta, right?). All you do is squeeze the two rings together, place the clamp somewhere on the handlebars, and thats it. The two ring design not only facilitates the clamping, but it also accommodates for different size cups. If your cup doesn’t fit, simply flip the cup holder over.  It won’t slip, and due to the spring steel construction, durability shouldn’t be an issue. Its assembled without screws or glue, and its ridiculously easy to disassemble if the need arises.  Comes in black, white, green, and red.

Check out Bookman’s video demonstrating the Cup Holder. Complete with a soundtrack that Ryan Gosling would drive to in a silent, brooding manner.

So if that ironic mustache and iTunes account riddled with Arcade Fire songs isn’t raising your hipster street-cred fast enough, Bookman’s new Cup Holder will help you kick it into ludicrous-speed (because warp speed is soooo mainstream)!

Pre-order yours here.

Regarding the Palette

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My great-great grandfather witnessed the bloody Chinese revolution and overthrow of the Qing dynasty. Such a victory was a huge step forward for China, but he was still skeptical and ended up basically saying, “to hell with it” and left China. Rightfully so, since the following decades were wrought with conflict, poverty and bloodshed. As a simple farmer, he didn’t really understand politics. All he wanted was the means to a peaceful way of life. He traveled south, fell in love with the rich, fertile lands of Cambodia and never looked back. There is a saying that is passed down through our family that originated from that wise farmer. “You’re never truly rich unless you know how to eat and drink well.”

So, my family is Chinese by blood, but our heritage is deeply rooted in Southeast Asia. My parents were born and raised in Cambodia, but their period of peace and relatively easy living was forcibly ended by Pol Pot and his regime of genocide. Fleeing with just the clothes on their back, they found themselves in a refugee camp in Vietnam. Shortly after, they gave birth to my brother and I.

Coffee was introduced to Vietnam in the 19th Century as a by-product of French colonialism. French coffee is characterized by a very dark roast, creating an intense smokey and bitter flavor. At the time, milk was at a premium (if you could find it) and refrigeration was a luxury, so the Vietnamese started using condensed milk. It didn’t require refrigeration and it was the perfect compliment to such a dark, bitter, and intense coffee.

Coffee in our family has always been REALLY DARK and NEVER, EVER ACIDIC. In fact, when my mom first tasted Counter Culture’s Ikawa Rwanda, she gave me the same face a toddler would give if you fed them a lemon. She was clearly over-exagerating. Its just that since she’s had the same Cafe du Monde and Starbucks dark roast style of coffee her whole life, she associated acidity to something being rancid.

It wasn’t until less than two years ago that I’ve journeyed out of my comfort zone and started tasted a wider array of artisanal single origin coffee and coffee blends. I guess when you really love coffee, you want to embrace all different types of coffee, just as one would embrace all sides of a loved one. I loved going to local coffee shops such as Jubala and Sola, drinking amazingly crafted coffee accompanied by a book (usually Murakami) and soaking in the coffee shop culture. At one point though, I started to make crappy coffee at home because I was just so sick of getting my daily, routine stomach aches. Maybe I was depressed. I do remember the coffee that got me out of my rut, Counter Culture Ikawa Burundi. Shortly after, my stomach aches were gone.

It takes time, but don’t force it.
I’m no connoisseur, but from personal experience, I’ve learned that it takes time to embrace different tastes, especially bitterness. Jimmy and I both had times in our lives where we hated eating bitter melon! Why, I would wonder, would people want to eat something so bitter? But was we got older and our attitudes changed, we’ve discovered that bitter melon is one of our favorite foods.

A natural progression also occurs when developing a palette for craft beer. When first introduced, one may start off with a belgian white or a hefeweizen. While heavy, they aren’t harsh to the palette and are quite sweet, citrusy, and delicious. It draws the unsuspecting novice in. From there, you would probably make your way through brown ales, porters, stouts, and then onto the almighty IPA. Bright, floral notes and refreshing, almost grapefruit-like tartness keep you hooked. Once you’ve reached this point, you’re done for. You’ve descended into the depths of beer-snobbery. You’ve tested the waters, now come on in. The water’s fine.

Bitterness gives complexity. Acidity brings brightness. I don’t prefer one over the other and I’m not suggesting they they are on opposite sides of the spectrum. When searching for good coffee, I look for whatever is the most balanced.

Professional Advice
I’m a huge fan of Erin Meister from Counter Culture Coffee. In Tastebud Training: How To Become A Better Coffee Taster, Miester gives several important tips:

1. Sip Before Sugar

To many people, coffee is a seemingly overpowering flavor, with strong bitterness or smokiness that can seem harshly unapproachable at first. That’s often our first reaction to things like beer, wine, and fine liquors, too—until, that is, we develop a taste for them… Nobody ever developed their taste for beer by dumping sugar in it, and neither will you for coffee by doing the same. -Erin Meister

2. Practice Makes Perfect

3. The Nose Knows

4. Compare and Contrast

5. Quit Smoking

For the whole article, click here.

An exciting journey..
A whole world of coffee is out there, spanning regions all over the globe. Think about how many hands have touched your coffee. All of the people that have affected it and the people it has affected. Take a moment to consider the forces at work that get those beans from that farm in Rwanda to your kitchen counter. From a handful of green coffee beans to that rich, caramel-colored crema. You are the end of the line, the final stop. How those beans conclude their journey is determined by you. You are the author of the finale, the director of the swan song. Make it memorable.

Thoughts on Pour Over and Ceramic Drippers

Pour over coffee.

A slow brewing method that has gained popularity even in the face of society’s “need for speed”. In a world riddled with the coffee equivalent of fast food joints and pod-fed, automaton, one-touch wonders; pour over has built quite a following in third-wave coffee shops everywhere. The precise measurement of coffee, finding the perfect grind, the temperature of the water, the timing, “riding the bloom”; its all so technical and time consuming.

But is it all worth it? Hell yeah it is.

That collection of tedious tasks makes for one damn good cup of coffee. It unlocks fragrances and flavors you never knew existed in those beans. Citrusy undertones, hints of dark chocolate, that buttery finish.

Try getting that out of a plastic pod.

The equipment you use can be a huge factor in releasing all of those wonderful attributes. Today, we’re discussing ceramic drippers. There’s a lot of them out there. Hario, Bonmac, Bee House…hell, even the coffee chain that shall not be named has one! (I’ll give you a hint. It rhymes with Starbucks.) When we first jumped into the world of pour over, we bought The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee. We would venture to say that this book is to coffee as Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding is to bodybuilding, but this is open to debate.

The Blue Bottle Coffee Company’s dripper of choice is the Bonmac and the Bee House. They pretty much built their business on pour over, so it would seem logical to follow their lead. We purchased two Bee House units and got to work. Other than two very annoying nubs on the underside of the cone (it was a pain in the ass trying to get them to sit flat on our homemade stand), they functioned flawlessly. We also purchased a Hario V60 to take for a test drive and found that it functioned perfectly as well. They had their subtle differences, and that was reflected in the coffee it brewed.

Hario V60

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The design is elegant, clean, practical and well executed. The V60s wide saucer ledge, coupled with a smaller inner lip allows for easy accommodations for various size cups and dripper stands. The handle and body have a good, firm feel to them, making it feel natural to grab and hold, especially while shaking and tapping the vessel.

The breakthrough in the Hario V60 is its precisely angled design, spiral-ribbed side walls and large exit hole. The spiral ribs extend the entire side walls, which allows the filter to free-float on the dripper. This allows air to escape and the grounds to fully expand. The Hario V60 is always showy with its full, round and dramatic mushroom blooms even with older roasts. So if you’re expecting to wow your guests, whip out the V60!

What makes the Hario V60 a must have in any coffee enthusiasts cupboard is that you can be so experimental with it. Got a dark roast and want a slower pour? Grind finer, lower your temperature and the hole is still big enough to accommodate. Then, take notes. How does it taste? Got a lighter roast? Raise your temperature, grind courser or pour faster. The point is, the Hario V60 opens up the doors for years of experimentation and it won’t let you down.

Well, there is one thing that can let many people down. The Hario V60 requires its own special filter paper and its not cheap!

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Bee House

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The Bee House has a gorgeous design, with its elegantly sloping integrated handle. The vessel itself features the classic wedge shape and is very similar to the Bonmac and Bonmac Pro. The ridges extend about 3/4 of way up the side walls and there are two exit holes. It is also the only ceramic dripper on the market that has ingenious viewing holes to prevent overspill if you’re not using a scale, making it very user friendly.

So what makes the Bee House different in terms of brewing? Firstly, the wedge shape allows the coffee bed to sit lower and closer to the drip holes. Andy Sprenger, two-time consecutive winner of the US Brewer’s Cup, explains:

I maintain the coffee bed quite low in the brewer (Bee House). I think this helps with heat retention and more consistent contact with water to grounds (minimizes high and dry grounds). (Source:

We believe this is precisely why the ridges only extend 3/4 of the side wall. Pour over is like the espresso drink form of coffee because it is made uniquely on the spot. The large Bee House is designed to brew about 12-20g of coffee, which is perfect for an individualize cup of coffee. Andy Sprenger maintains that although he’s brewed countless cups using the V60 and Kalita Wave, he still gets the

…most flavorful, pure and evenly extracted brews out of a Bee House. (Source:

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So, if you want a consistently good cup of coffee, the Bee House is for you. That is if you can overlook some poorly executed design elements. One being that the small, oval shaped saucer coupled with the larger inner lip makes its less versatile, or even dangerous to use with cups in your cupboard. Its been notorious for committing acts of coffee betrayal by spontaneously toppling over, sending a mass of hot, sticky, coffee lava all over my thighs. If you to decide to build a dripper stand as an alternative to stacking them on top of your cups, you may run into another issue.

Those little nubs you see on the far left and far right of the dripper left us frustrated. Even after sanding out a circular area for the dripper to slide into, we ran into the issue of instability due to those little nubs on the outer edges.

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On a better note, it does fit perfectly over the Hario Range Server and uses easily available wedge shaped filters!

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Other Drippers: gives a really good overview of the major types of ceramic drippers: Hario V60, Bonmac, Bonmac Pro, Bee House and the Kalita.

Our Verdict

What we have found is that no design is truly superior to another. Subtle differences in design create subtle differences in the coffee. Differences that may appeal to some and not to others. Different techniques call for different tools and in the end, its about what works best for you on your journey to find YOUR perfect cup of coffee.

Good Luck!

Thrillist’s Best Coffee Roasters in America (10/2013)

In October of last year, Thrillest came out with their list of America’s best roasters, voted by the most notable coffee writers and coffee nerds in the nation. I think this list still stands very well today.

Here’s the full article on

1. Counter Culture Coffee Durham, NC

2. Stumptown Portland, OR

3. Madcap Coffee Grand Rapids, MI

4. Intelligentsia Chicago, IL

tmg-slideshow_xl-1with their badass truck! Photo by Intelligentsia

5. Heart Roasters Portland, OR

For the whole list, click here.

How to REUSE your Spent Coffee Grounds

If you google “what to do with old coffee grounds”, there are quite a few articles that list the many ways of doing just that. Some are a little absurd and not very practical, while others are great and not weird. For example, using coffee grounds as an exfoliating facial mask? At the same time it’s saying you can use it as a green alternative to wood stain? See where I’m going with this?

So, I want to take the best tips and put our own spin on it. Hope there’s at least one in here that will apply to you! This article was inspired by