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Let’s talk about soda…

Frequently I get asked the question, ” Brad, how do you make the perfect cup of coffee.”  What a challenging question!!  The answer to this one is extremely complex, yet frustratingly simple, “By making the one you like best.”

Let me ask this question, ‘What is  your favorite soda, beer or wine?’

I don’t drink alcohol, but I have had my fair share of soda, so lets talk soda.  If I were to answer that question honestly it would depend on my mood.  Sometimes I enjoy the rich dark flavor of a Dr. Pepper, the spicy Ginger Ale, the sweet Cream Soda, the bite of a Barqs, or the fruitiness of a Cherry Pepsi(or Coca-Cola…we don’t need to get into that debate here).  Do you see where I am going?

Just like the complexity of a soda selection, we have the complexity of coffee selection even more so!  Not only would we be determining which coffee to brew but then the choice of how we brew it that accents each coffee differently.  Just as no two sodas are created equal, no two coffee’s are equal.  I would argue that no two coffee farms, in the same country at the same elevation on the same mountainside would be identical in flavor…that is assuming they are the same varietals!  We won’t go to much further down this road now, but I think you are starting to get the picture.

Let me answer the initial question a second time, “Practice and Patience.”  If you don’t practice and you are not patient, I suggest you trust your coffee ritual and time to the local Barista.  For myself, the perfect cup requires farmers, processors, transporters, roasters, and Baristas to play their part in the big picture of coffee.  It only takes one mistake, at any level to transform this sweet nectar into dirty water (also known as instant coffee).

If you enjoy the cup of coffee that you make in the morning, by all means keep enjoying!  I cannot promise that you will enjoy any cup that I make you more, though a majority do.  I can give you specifics on measurements, methods, and coffees, but unless you are doing the exact same steps with the same coffee, you probably wont match it…unless you practice and have loads of patience.

When I was practicing for the Polish AeroPress Championship, I would use the same base formula for making my AeroPress: 14grams of Ethiopia from Java, 2 clicks coarser than medium on my Concept, 80 C water temp (175 F), 18 seconds pour time for 205g of water, let it sit for 1:10, then flip and 30 second press at most(ending around 1:40).  No matter how many times I made the coffee, it seemed to change in flavor each time.  I discovered that if I poured to fast or to slow, poured over or under the amount of water, or pressed to slowly or too quickly it would affect the taste of the coffee.  Even the water temperature being off by a few degrees drastically changed the outcome!  The joy of the perfect cup outweighs the challenge to brew it.

Coffee, Soda, and Food all are a preference of our pallet.  You may never like coffee, no matter how I make it or until we add a little bit of milk.  I do not call myself a purist, connoisseur, or snob; I just enjoy good coffee.  I, like you, have my favorite way to enjoy coffee.  Let us begin to understand this journey together.

Coffee Diem

When people talk to me, they learn very quickly that I love coffee.  I have come to understand it as so much more than a love for coffee, because it is so much more than just coffee.  It is a way of life, to life, to live life.  For some it is a source of income, others a means to function.  Until the opportunity for me to prepare you a cup of coffee in person, I want to share that passion with you through this blog.

I plan to discuss coffee origins, brewing methods, cafe experiences and reviews, best practices, equipment recommendations, ministry in the workplace, community, and discussing coffee shop ministry.  I wont promise that you will always agree or that I will even have the best answers.  But I will bring my passion to my writing, speak from experience, and answer as many questions as I can to the best of my ability.

So here is my background:

I started my coffee journey on November 15, 2007.  We will call this time Post-Cream.  Before this time, my use of coffee in my cream and sugar was about as useful as plano glasses. On this day, I began my training with Starbucks.

I worked with Starbucks for 5 years to the day.  They gave me a foundation from which I built my coffee knowledge, management know-how, and customer service expertise.  Of the 5 years I spent with Starbucks, 4 were in management positions as a Shift Supervisor, Assistant Manager, and Store Manager.  Throughout the 5 years, God’s peace and presence manifested itself.  I am sure I will talk more in detail about some of the challenges and successes of my time there.

It was in my final year with Starbucks that I started to rediscover my passion for people and new found love for coffee.  I started to read magazines and books on all things coffee.  Any Tuesday morning you would find my family at Elemental Coffee Roasters in Oklahoma City, OK enjoying a delicious cup of freshly roasted and brewed coffee while appreciating the aroma of freshly roasted coffee.  Talk about bliss!

Our friends Aaron and Brittany realized that my beautiful life partner (love you Michelle!) and I would fit into Coffee Shop Ministry very well.

They asked.  We prayed.  God lead.

6 Months later, we arrived in Poland.  Since December 4, 2012, we have been living in Kraków, Poland working at the Sweet Surrender Coffee Shops in partnership with the Church of the Nazarene Mission Corps.  We manage the shop, work the floor, run the church, and allow God to flow through us in all the creative ways he moves.  I have competed in the 2014 Polish AeroPress Competition, Volunteered with the 2014 Polish Barista Championship, and have trained with several other competitors in Polish Coffee Competitions.

Each week I will write about a different topic.  I would love to focus these posts on or around questions you may have about anything and everything coffee:  From bean to cup, from customer to management, from farmer to barista, and business to ministry.  Until next week I leave you with this:

I was taken by the power that savoring a simple cup of coffee can have to connect people and create community.
-Howard Schultz

Nicaraguan Coffee

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