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Chicago (Day 2): Pilgrimages

1 December 2013 2 comments

Wednesday, 27 November. Index.

Such was my disorientation that I woke up thinking this was Friday, and made the trip to the liquor store for the Black Friday release of this year’s Bourbon County Brand Stout in vain. Thankfully, it wasn’t far out.

Leo and I then headed to Wrigley Field to take a look, but there wasn’t really very much to see. Instead, we got back on the CTA and took the train right up to Linden. the night before we’d talked about seeing the Baha’i House of Worship – this was a recommendation from my companions in Chrissie’s car.

It was quite cold that morning, and we were right by the lake. It was also quite windy, and we spent quite a lot of our time outside in the temple grounds. I’d hear that this was one of only seven Baha’i Houses of Worship in the world, probably from one of the people who recommended the visit (my memory fails me here). The building was beautiful – much of the main structure’s exterior was covered with ornately designed panels of cast concrete. The concrete was of a specially developed variety, which involved blending Portland cement with quartz aggregate (both clear and white types) to give the structure its distinctive white color.

Baha'i Temple

After the visit to the Baha’i House of Worship, we embarked on what was (at least for me) another kind of pilgrimage, to the original branch of Intelligentsia Coffee on Broadway Avenue. This was preceded by a hearty lunch at the Chipotle nearby – my intention had been to eat my way out of the morning’s cold. The coffee story is in the next paragraph, but be warned: the paragraph is earnestly hipster. Cringe.

Many years ago, I had a cup of amazing Kenyan coffee at a Starbucks on River Valley Road – and while the name ‘Starbucks’ might be less than coffee-snob-worthy at the moment, to this day I believe that the coffee at that branch was actually better. Part of my belief is based on having gotten to know the supervisor of that branch, whom I met in later years at other places with good coffee (when I left for Carleton he was with another coffee joint in Singapore). One of the experiences I had at Valley Point was watching a video he showed me about the Chemex, after I asked about possible equipment for brewing coffee. (At the time, the Chemex wasn’t locally available, so I eventually got my faithful Aeropress.) While searching through a few videos, I remember him glancing through one that he eventually dismissed (he ‘didn’t like the pour’), but he approved of the second one. This was the Intelligentsia demo of the Chemex. I was in the army when my coffee mentor-of-sorts moved on from Starbucks to an indie coffee joint, and when I bumped into him again in the summer of 2012 at his new place (I was on the way back from a recce for FOP at East Coast Park), he mentioned how it was natural that I’d go from drinking brewed coffee at Valley Point from way back when to visiting that indie coffee joint. So, perhaps you can see how Intelligentsia on Broadway was a point of pilgrimage. Leo mentioned that I looked like I was in heaven the whole time – a heaven of languages for him, and a heaven of coffee for me.

Illumination

After coffee, it was time for me to move my stuff from the hostel to the apartment where I’ve been staying (Airbnb), so Leo and I parted ways for a while. While settling in to my new place, though, I got a message from Facebook from Yancheng, who had a heads-up about a beer event in the city – a craft beer retailer had gotten an preview sample of this year’s Bourbon County stouts (what I woke up for earlier in the day), and the bottles were going to be that day’s daily tasting. This was the impetus for my third pilgrimage of the day, to the Beer Temple on Elston Avenue. Chris, the proprietor of said establishment, releases some great videos, some of which Yancheng had sent my way before. This story has a happy ending – I did manage to sample all of this year’s releases (I love the coffee stout!), and I even got a photo with Chris:

Image

I am still waiting to obtain some of that amazing coffee stout. I will essay again in the morning.

Yirgacheffe

My sister brought me 2 kilograms of coffee from Vietnam, and while I was happy for it, it did take quite a while to get through. And so, this package of Ethiopia Yirgacheffe was properly waited for:

Into the jar,

Then into the grinder…

And out again:

Then it’s time to bring out the AeroPress:

 

And finally:

And before I partake, I look into the black.

Categories: Vagaries Tags:

Coffee Report

24 January 2011 2 comments

I obtained a burr grinder some time around Christmas eve and an Aeropress a few days before that. I didn’t start using them until about a week after that, when I purchased a 250g pack of Starbucks Kenya. I wouldn’t have wanted anything else for my first package of whole-bean coffee.

It lasted me about a week, which is about right. The fragrance was amazing, as expected, and with the Aeropress it was hard to go wrong with the brewing either. Perhaps the only time it disappointed was when I carried some beans along with me in a less-than-airtight container for a few hours to another location. The beans don’t keep well at all outside of an airtight container.

I spent a long time searching for my second package of whole-bean coffee. I was looking for UCC ones, but I haven’t found them as yet. In many supermarkets I’ve visited, they only stock ground coffee. In the others, the whole bean ones are either all from Boncafe, or ridiculously expensive (i.e. more expensive than Starbucks, in which case I trust Starbucks more).

I held off buying a new pack until I got back from Hong Kong, but I eventually ended up with a 250g pack of Boncafe beans (the ‘Espresso’ variety; it lasted until a few minutes ago, about 8 days from opening, but it’s been kept in an airtight bottle). My main problem with it was the extraction. I think I generally took too long with it when I did use it, until today, when I let it infuse for only about 45 seconds before pressing. I also ground it slightly finer today, because I was working with less than 2 shots’ worth of grounds (the last of my beans). The result was cleaner than what I’ve been getting, but definitely not watery for the slightly reduced infusion time. Today’s was definitely the best result.

I probably took slightly too long with the Kenya as well, but I suspect I didn’t have a problem with extraction because I started with a slightly coarser grind. I ground the Boncafe ones finer, though, because the Aeropress can cope with it, at least when I’m only making 2 shots’ worth. I think I might stick with the coarser grind when I am brewing Starbucks Kenya, though, because I just think it’s a waste making espresso from espresso-ground with those.

Categories: Events, Reflection Tags: