So, I’ve been a Starbucks-specific blog for long enough (mostly because I get a bunch of coffee for free from them). So I decided every week or so I’m going to go on an adventure to a new shop, try as much of their coffee as I can and write a review. This week, I’m reviewing Blue State Coffee.
On Commonwealth Avenue, a short distance from my apartment there’s a shop called “Blue State Coffee.” I’ve been recommended to visit it in the past by my supervisor, David, and I figured I’d check it out.
The inside of the shop starts off with a rather long, lanky hallway-like lounge filled with tables and chairs. At the far end of that, there are some steps that lead up to the main bar. What I noticed immediately when I approached the counter was these gigantic iced coffee brewers:
[Note: This picture was not taken inside of Blue State Coffee, though these are roughly the same brewers]
A young man, seeming to be in his mid-twenties was at the counter.
“What are those things back there?” I asked. I had seen these iced coffee brewers before, but never in person, and was curious as to how they worked.
“Well, they’re iced coffee brewers. These are set up so that only one drop of water is going to drip through into the coffee every second. So, the whole brewing process takes about fourteen hours for one gallon.”
I had heard of this slow-brewing method for iced coffee in the past, and had heard that it was one of the best methods to preparing iced coffee, as opposed to using Starbucks’ method, which is brewing hot coffee at double strength, and then adding ice to it.
Unfortunately, they were totally out of iced coffee by the time I had arrived, seeing as it was about seven or eight at night, and the big rush of iced coffee for spring had just started for them. Instead, I ordered a coffee brewed by aeropress.
[Note: This picture was also not taken inside Blue State Coffee. But it’s an aeropress nonetheless]
An aeropress is a rather interesting method for brewing coffee. It’s similar to a French press in that there is a press involved, but instead, it uses air to push the coffee through a filter, separating it from the grounds, and into a cup.
At the time I visited, they had two coffees available for taste: Ethiopia Harrar and Costa Rica Las Palomas, an African and a Latin American coffee, respectively.
I asked the guy running the counter which he’d recommend, and he told me to go with the Ethiopia Harrar. I was a little hesitant, since I tend to like Indonesian/Pacific and Latin American coffees more than African, but I took his suggestion nonetheless.
And with that, he set about his work of weighing out the precise amount of beans, grinding them, and adding hot water to the press, which sat upside-down with a timer going to let the coffee brew. Somewhere in there, my brother seemed to think it was a good idea to inform the man at the counter that I was a “coffee master.” Immediately, he started talking coffee to me.
“I really love the Ethiopia Harrar we have here. It’s naturally processed, so it ends up having a very thick and juicy taste to it.” He told me how he liked his shop, what it was like working there, all while keeping an eye on his timer. And then, mid conversation he caps the aeropress with a filter, turns it coffee-side down, gives it a swirl, and places it on top of a mug, pressing the coffee through, just as the timer went off. Having never used an aeropress, I was impressed with the elegance of the procedure. There’s a wonderful sort of magic to the ritual of brewing coffee, however it’s done. Each aeropress at this shop costs $3 per press, which I found to be a suitable cost for such a specialized process.
I thanked him for the coffee and sat down at the table with my mug and my coffee tasting notebook. Firstly, I was rather taken with the aeropress method of brewing. It seemed to extract the flavors of the coffee as vividly as a French press would, but without the silty-ness that a French press tends to have, and so tasted a good deal cleaner, more like what would normally come from a drip brewer, but with more flavor. Now, about the coffee: The coffee had a lighter, thinner body and rather high acidity. I noticed notes of lemon, but also some nut-like flavors. After tasting it for a while, I decided that the flavor was most like chewing sunflower seeds, if you had left the seeds on (as I used to do as a kid). The roast of the coffee was about medium, and the flavor was definitely balanced. However, I had a feeling I would have liked the Latin American coffee better, so I returned for a second aeropress.
Upon seeing me a second time, he was excited to make me a second aeropress. And after he had started the press, he also pulled out a glass flask with a cork and dark brown liquid inside and poured me a small glass. The liquid was so cold that the whole glass had fogged up. I looked at it cautiously and thought, “Coffee, or alcohol?”
Noticing my hesitation, he reassured me that it was the Ethiopian Harrar that he had cold brewing for the past forty-eight hours. Cold brewing involves using cold water to extract the flavor of coffee, but instead of taking minutes, it takes hours. A typical cold brew will take four hours, but you can go as long as a full day or two. I’ve only tried this a few times, but the result is fantastic. I took a sip.
On a sip, I was surprised that the coffee tasted a good deal like alcohol, but without the same aftertaste. The heavy fruity flavor of the coffee, when overbrewed like this, tastes like the fruit has fermented. What was a medium and balanced coffee before had become a powerhouse of rich, smooth, almost chocolaty flavor.
By the time we were done chatting about the cold brewed Ethiopian Harrar, the cup of Las Palomas had finished. I returned to my table and cracked open the notebook again. This coffee was a good deal lighter, sweeter, and less acidic than the Ethiopian Harrar. The coffee’s body had a nice, light, buttery feel to it, and sweeter notes of caramel, toffee, and vanilla jumped out at me. As I continued to taste the coffee, I noticed a drier walnut-like taste, and the combination of that with the sweetness reminded me fondly of Cracker Jacks. Honestly, it made me wish I had some honey to add to the coffee, because it would have paired excellently.
On the whole, I loved my experience at Blue State Coffee and will definitely be back sometime soon. For anyone looking to try something new, I would absolutely recommend giving it a try.