Becoming an at-home champion barista


Louis Wigen-Toccalino owner of Decade Coffee and Espresso, 920 Delaware Street, pours hot water into an AeroPress to make a single cup of coffee. Coffee is steeped for between 10-50 seconds and then forced through a filter by pressing the plunger through the tube.


A cup of French press coffee is poured at Decade Coffee and Espresso, 920 Delaware St.


Michael Schaetzel's business partner and soon-to-be brother-in-law, Brandon Rose, pulls a handful of beans to show their green color prior to being roasted.


Local coffee roaster and owner of Greenstone Coffee Michael Schaetzel pours coffee beans into his industrial roaster at his facility west of Stull.


Owner Benjamin Farmer smiles as he discusses his coffee-making process on Monday, May 13, 2013, at Alchemy Coffee, 1901 Massachusetts St., Suite B.

Sometimes cozying up to a cup of coffee is the best reason to get out of bed in the morning. So there’s nothing worse than when that coffee you were looking forward to so much is bland or bad-tasting.

To help you never have another coffee disaster again, three local experts are sharing some simple tips and tricks to make that perfect cup of coffee at home and start your day off right.

Michael Schaetzel, Greenstone Coffee

Michael Schaetzel’s push to become a businessman in the caffeinated field came from his college days.

“I got tired of always having to put the cream and sugar in it for my stomach to handle it and for it to be palatable,” Schaetzel says. “I found out it didn’t have to be dark, oily beans. It didn’t have to be bitter and upset my stomach.”

The brewing basics

1) Buy whole beans to grind right before you brew every time.

2) Use a burr grinder as opposed to a blade for a more precise, consistent grind.

3) Pay attention to freshness. Greenstone bags have a one-way gas valve on the front to keep oxygen out of the coffee beans; unopened bags can stay fresh for at least six months. Once opened, however, the coffee starts to oxidize and degrade, so it’s important to get through the bag in one week.

4) Store the beans in a dry, cold area such as the refrigerator, in an air-tight container.

5) Use a scale to measure coffee. Myth buster: The same amount of light-roast beans will weigh more than dark roast because light beans are smaller and denser. So if you’re adding more dark-roast beans to achieve the same weight as light beans, it’s going to have more caffeine for that reason.

6) Don’t use completely pure water. “It helps to have particles to help bind onto the caffeine and everything in the coffee and extract that,” he says. “If it’s pure water, it will just run through without pulling everything out.”

Louis Wigen-Toccalino, Decade Coffee, 920 Delaware St.

Brand new on the coffee scene is Decade, a business that has been 10 years in the making. Owner Louis Wigen-Toccalino fell in love with coffee during his graveyard shifts as a barista at Henry's.

A few months in, he knew he wanted to open up his own place, and spent the next decade working out the details.

Coming across coffee roaster Fourbarrel in San Francisco put his plans in motion.

“It was always warm, inviting and helpful,” he says, explaining the culture of Fourbarrel. “They pay the farmers well, they know the farmers, their coffee is delicious, and they’re friendly, fantastic people all the way through.”

A Midwesterner at heart, Wigen-Toccalino abandoned his six-month stint in California to finally bring the coffee dream to life in brick and mortar form in Lawrence.

Using the AeroPress

Made by Alan Adler of Aerobie (world’s fastest flying Frisbee company), the AeroPress works similar to a French press in that it is a full-immersion process. Take finely ground coffee, add hot water to the chamber. “The coffee grounds and the water mingle so you get all the body of the coffee,” Wigen-Toccalino says.

Functioning like a syringe, he says, the coffee passes through a micro-paper filter in a matter of 30 seconds (he watches a timer), after brewing in the chamber for 1 minute and 10 seconds.

“From a flavor point of view, it’s like a hybrid between the French press and a pour over,” he says.

The AeroPress can be purchased at Decade or online, all of the components costing $30.

"If you're making one cup of coffee, it's so quick, it's so easy and really, really good," Wigen-Toccalino says.

Ben Farmer, Alchemy, 1901 Massachusetts St.

Replicate Alchemy’s most-treasured pour-over processes with direction from owner Ben Farmer:

1) Invest in an electric gooseneck kettle. Farmer recommends Bonavita’s kettle to home brewers because it takes about 10 to 15 minutes to heat up, and then will hold the temperature at the desired 202-207 degrees. In the meantime, you can take a shower and get ready and come back ready to start the pour-over.

2) Set the cone with a filter in it above the vessel. Pre-rinse filter with heated water to rinse out the paper dust, heat up the cone (as to not lose any heat during process), and to pre-heat the vessel.

3) Refill kettle and heat. It’s easy to overlook this, Farmer says, but only heating up enough water for one cup of coffee leaves too much air in the kettle and it will lose heat quicker that way.

4) Weigh out beans and grind. “Grind size will dictate how fast water goes through the coffee.”

5) Put cone set up on a scale and the coffee in the filtered cone. Set scale to zero so that you know whatever comes out of the basket is coffee. Using 13 1/3 ounces of water will yield a 12-ounce cup of coffee. 1 1/3 ounces remains trapped in the grinds.

6) Pre-infuse or “bloom” for 30 seconds by pouring just enough water over the coffee to saturate the grinds and start chemical process of extraction. The carbon dioxide will release from the coffee. “It’s like watching a muffin top grow really fast,” Farmer says.

7) Pour water gently in a spiral over the grinds without agitating the grinds. Keep a half-inch buffer layer of water in the cone to maintain pressure and heat.

The entire extraction process should take from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 minutes.


Robert Rauktis 7 years, 7 months ago

Ben Farmer-Step #1: But suppose I like to have my shower after my coffee. What do I do then?

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