Many coffee drinkers enjoy the brew for the rush, or often in a rush, in the morning on the way to work. Kirkland newlyweds Hannah and Aaron Reid make coffee their work and prefer to make it slowly and enjoy it leisurely.
Hannah, 20, has been a barista at since it opened in November in the retail lobby level of the Ashton Bellevue apartments in downtown Bellevue. Aaron, 24, is the assistant manager at the at the corner of Lake Street and Central Way in downtown Kirkland.
Aaron, a Woodinville native, and Hannah, a Newberg, Ore., native, met at Corban University, a private Christian university in Salem, Ore. They were married last summer after a year of not being together.
“Coffee brought us back together,” Hannah said. “(Aaron) started calling me with coffee questions and that’s how we got back together after a year apart.”
Despite working at two separate cafes, the Reids share similar styles in coffee brewing.
The first rule of thumb, Aaron and Hannah suggest, is to not be afraid to ask your friendly neighborhood barista for advice. They urge you to ask your barista about preferred styles of coffee, how to make coffee at home, where to shop for beans retail and even which brands to buy at retail stores. Café Cesura offers regular coffee making and tasting classes. Check its website for upcoming events.
The second rule of thumb for the Reids is to keep experimenting with coffee beans, grind levels and water temperature to discover a cup of coffee you like.
“The second you put yourself in a box is the second you limit what you can do,” Hannah warns.
Hannah and Aaron want to deliver the best cup of coffee to the masses.
“One of the ways the coffee business has hurt itself is by being pretentious,” Hannah said. “We strive not to be. Whenever customers come I try to present a range of options for coffee and help them find one they like. When I try to tell them what to like in coffee, that’s when you lose them. If people think you are being pretentious, they will blow you off.”
On to the more specific advice in coffee brewing. First of all, buy whole beans, never pre-ground. Hannah, who uses Portland-based Stumptown Coffee exclusively at Café Cesura, explains that it is best to wait to grind coffee until right before you make it. Grinding coffee beans sets off chemical reactions that release the flavors and aromatics. Grinding coffee prematurely means losing flavor prematurely. Check for roast dates on the bag of coffee to ensure freshness.
“I would rather start with coffee that’s not as good and grind it fresh than good coffee beans that have been (ground) who knows how long ago,” Hannah said.
Aaron recommends staying away from oily beans. He says excess oil is a sign that the beans have been sitting too long or are overroasted. With time or roasting, naturally occurring oils in coffee beans rise to the surface.
The Reids recommend burr grinders for a consistent grind. Most quality burr grinders cost upwards of $100. A cheaper alternative is a manual coffee mill.
“There really is a benefit to investing in a burr grinder,” said Alex Negranza, a barista at Milstead & Co. in Fremont since it opened in September. "These things last forever. It gives you a more consistent and uniform grind.”
If you insist on a cheaper grinder, Negranza sells manual coffee mills for around $42 at Milstead & Co.
As for coffee makers, the Reids as well as Negranza recommend simple manual contraptions over the expensive electric coffee or espresso makers. The Reids recommend the Chemex pour-over coffee maker, which is used at Café Cesura. Negraza recommends the Clever, also a pour-over coffee maker.
The Chemex retails for $43 at Milstead & Co. The Clever sells for under $20, also at Milstead & Co. Chemex bonded paper filters in the 100-pack sell for $9.
Many baristas will measure liquid in grams for consistency in measuring ratios between solid coffee beans and water.
Hannah recommends 42 grams of medium grind coffee brewed with 700 grams of water. Both Hannah and Aaron agree that four minutes is the optimum time to brew coffee in the Chemex. Hannah prefers to pour the hot water in three intervals over four minutes. Aaron prefers a steady constant pour extended over four minutes.
Negranza applies approximately a 10-to-1 ratio of water to coffee grinds in the Clever. He pours 100 grams of water through a filter with 47 grams of coffee. He lifts the filter then pours another 420 grams of water.
Hannah recommends heating water to 208 degrees Fahrenheit in a kettle with a narrow spout. If you don’t have a thermometer, in general, heat water to a boil and wait 30 seconds before pouring it over the coffee grinds. The Hario Buono Kettle, preferred by Hannah, retails for $60 at Milstead & Co.
Hannah is dedicated to each pot and cup of coffee she brews for her customers at Café Cesura. During a recent visit she patiently executed her three-interval Chemex pour-over despite the growing line of hungry customers waiting to order at the counter.
She says it’s that personal care that makes for a superior cup of coffee.
“If you are passionate about something, if you are evoking passion consumers hopefully will get it,” Hannah said.
The personal, time-consuming pour-over brewing method is not easily automated so don’t expect exponential growth from Cesura like other coffee shops in the region.
“This is it,” Hannah said. “Don’t expect 10 Café Cesuras.”