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Friday mornings at Counter Culture Coffee in Durham, NC

Postby HB on Mon Jun 06, 2011 11:07 pm

Hard to believe that this year marks seven years I've been going to Counter Culture Coffee nearly every Friday for the informal "espresso lab" from 7:30AM to 9AM (approx.).

It began after I introduced myself to Peter Giuliano following the SCAA barista competition that he was hosting. Peter had written the article McEspresso Comes to Town back in the days I was active on CoffeeGeek and I recognized his name. He suggested I stop by for their regular cupping at 10AM; it was a nice offer, but I told him my work schedule didn't allow it. So instead he offered to arrive early to let me and other local home baristas into their espresso lab. "Damn right I'll be there!" I replied.

For the first year, I blogged about our group's activities on CoffeeGeek. I soon got out of the habit, but the launch of this forum dedicated to get-togethers convinced me to try again.

The training center is open every Friday. The espresso lab is before the public cupping at 10AM; most arrive around 8AM and depart by 9AM to allow for cleanup/setup for the cupping. Sometimes I will arrive as early as 7:30AM if there's a test planned. There's no need to RVSP; just show up. But if you have questions or are wondering about what's planned, feel free to e-mail me.

Website: Counter Culture Coffee - Durham training center
Location: 4911 South Alston Avenue, Durham, NC.

The building is not well marked. Below is the view along Alston Avenue approaching from Highway 54:

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Approaching from Highway 54

If you're approaching from the other direction (T.W. Alexander Drive), be forewarned that Counter Culture is immediately after a blind curve. Pay attention when exiting too since cars rounding the curve don't necessarily slow down.

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Training center entrance (front-right side of building), office entrance (back-left side of building)

For the last few years, Nathan Brown has been our host. He hangs out until his "real" job calls him away. Nathan is just one of the Counter Culture Coffee employees who enthusiastically supports the local HB community. Over the course of these blog entries, I'll introduce them to you.

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Nathan Brown, web and customer service guy
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Postby mitch236 on Wed Jun 08, 2011 8:04 am

So that's Nathan? I've had a few email communications about website ordering and he's always very helpful!

I wish I could justify flying up there for a Friday morning.
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Postby mute on Wed Jun 08, 2011 8:40 am

mitch236 wrote:So that's Nathan? I've had a few email communications about website ordering and he's always very helpful!

I wish I could justify flying up there for a Friday morning.


Nathan is a nice guy, he's helped me out a bunch of times too. I'm hoping they open a Philadelphia training center soon so I can go visit!
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Postby cannonfodder on Thu Jun 09, 2011 8:50 am

They have a Philly presence but no retail shop, just a sales rep. They sponsor (or use to participate in) the Philly Latte art throwdown.
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Postby HB on Wed Jun 15, 2011 2:42 pm

I neglected my blog entry for last Friday. The turnout was small, but we had an interesting discussion of privately-owned companies and the impact of outside inverters with Brett Smith, co-owner of Counter Culture Coffee. The discussion was prompted by the buzz surrounding Stumptown's private equity deal. Brett received calls from reporters doing background on the story and told them no, Counter Culture is not interested in investors at this time.
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Postby HB on Tue Jun 28, 2011 8:39 pm

At our last get-together, we compared the espro press against the French press:

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This was a blind taste test performed with two sets of identical cups:

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The notable differences between the espro press and the standard French press are the double-walled stainless steel walls (heavy, unbreakable) and the plunger itself. To reduce silt, the espro's has a double filter system explained under "how it works". Most tasters did notice the difference in body and the ground coffee remnants at the bottom of the cup visually confirmed there was less silt for the espro. However, there wasn't a clear preference in our quick test; I invite those in attendance to post their own thoughts.

Last time I briefly introduced Nathan to this thread; below is a photo of regular attendee Nick Merryman:

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He's a relatively newcomer to the Friday get-together. Unlike me in the morning, he's invariably smiling and in a good mood. :)

PS: Thanks again to Nathan for the photo documentation of the morning's test. The rest of his photos are here on Flicker with additional comments for each photo.
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Postby woodchuck on Wed Jun 29, 2011 8:52 am

Dan, thanks for posting this. I have been attending the Friday morning get togethers for several years now. They are definitely one of the highlights of my week. I have to give Counter Culture Coffee and their fantastic team a huge hurrah for offering us up a great location, super coffee and fine friends.

Cheers

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Postby HB on Tue Jul 05, 2011 10:19 am

Last Friday featured the introduction of two new offerings from Counter Culture Coffee, starting with Thiriku, which they say "offers notes of fig, coconut, and pineapple over savory undertones and a crisp finish much like a dry white wine." Below is a photo of Ian's reaction:

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Ian Stewart: photographer, business consultant, amateur astronomer, dog fanatic, etc.

We tried it as French press and cone drip. The overwhelming description of the former was that of meat broth, savory flavors; I likened it to salisbury steak, a meal I haven't had in many years. Isn't it odd how coffee can provoke the memory of long-dormant tastes? The cone preparation was more nuanced, i.e., the beefy notes faded to the background, allowing the mild fruitiness into the foreground.

The other treat was a preview of the next version of Apollo, dubbed 5.0. It's a bit fruitier than the last go-around; I like the current version on sale but really like it this upcoming version's tweak towards the fruit side. It will be interesting to see how it plays with the chocoholics.

The turnout was low this past Friday, likely due to the upcoming holiday. But you could have knocked me over with a feather after seeing these two gentlemen in attendance:

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David Morris and Mike Walsh

Spotting Dave isn't that unusual on Fridays, but Mike changed jobs and subsequently fell off radar for the last couple years. He and Dave are among the first attendees of the espresso lab in Durham. It was great to see them both and catch up on news.
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Postby woodchuck on Tue Jul 05, 2011 1:53 pm

Just to follow up on Dan's comments on the Thiriku. I found it quite interesting to taste the difference between the french press and cone preparations. I got almost a briny taste from the french press (probably contributed to the savory flavors people were tasting). That brininess disappeared in the cone prep.

Chewers

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Postby beta14ok on Wed Jul 06, 2011 11:03 am

I remember Peter G's discussion on the savory tastes he calls umami. He did a little experiment using MSG and it's affect on the savoryness. Not that we had MSG in the Thiriku on friday, but this was kinda what I was remembering for the taste going on with the Thiriku. I agree the cone filter made a nicer cup...and I was surprised by that!

My mom&dad use to often add a little MSG to food as a flavour enhancer.....just a little-bit in the skillet to fresh pop'd popcorn is awesome by the way.

-dmm
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