Intelligentsia Siphon Brewing Video

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A couple of weeks ago, just after the SCAA skill building workshop in Ann Arbor, I decided to reward my wife with a weekend in Chicago for our 16th wedding anniversary.  We had a great time in the windy city, and the number one thing on my list of stuff to do there was visit Intelligentsia!  I found a 

Intelligentsia Chicago Millenium Parklocation that was easy walking distance from our hotel.  There are only 5 Intelligentsia coffeebars in the world, 2 in California and 3 in Chicago.  I visited the Millenium Park location at 53 E. Randolph Street.  Funny enough, I got the location on and the address listed there was WRONG-O!  The listed address was across the street, which is a hair salon.  I almost pulled my hair out looking for the place, but I looked across the street and spied my prize…that and I’m bald 😉

I had heard some great things about their coffees, but I didn’t really know what to expect in the shop.  It was a bit more modest than I had envisioned, not a bad thing by any means.  It is a very simple and elegantly laid out shop with a modern and clean decor and seating for 30.  There was a bit of a line, but it wasn’t very long.  The ordering process was quite smooth and everyone moved along quite nicely.  Now, what to order!?  I wanted one of everything, but figured that I would surely die of caffeine overdose if I did.  I finally narrowed it down to two items, a single origin espresso (Panama El Machete), and a cup of siphon brewed coffee.  The single origin espresso was so packed with flavor it was like I was having my first espresso ever…and in many ways I was. It was bright and rich all at the same time with an explosion of apricot, cinnamon, and milk chocolate.  This kind of coffee is why coffee aficionados sneer at the thought of adding artificial flavors to coffee! The staff were busy, but very personable.  They readily agreed to allow me to video the making of my siphon pot brewed coffee. (Unlike McDonald’s!)  The one thing I did not see there…an auto drip coffee brewer!

My wife's latte

They had a station with 4 Hario v60 pourover brewers always on the go.  This appeared to be their common way of making brewed coffee.  My barista was very accommodating, gladly explaining the process even though I didn’t ask her to!  I had done quite a bit of siphon coffee brewing at home, but I used a stove top model.  This was a single cup brewer with a halogen lamp heat source.  Apparently, these halogen burners are quite sought after, as I could not find any for sale online…”Sold Out” was as close as I got.  Oh well, they are quite pricey anyway!  I did learn a couple of things that I didn’t know before; don’t seal the top chamber right away, use a thermometer, stir the water to lower the temperature, stir 6 times when you add the coffee and then again just before you remove it from the heat source.  Too much stirring allows for over-extraction and lower brewing temps, which will either flatten the taste or make it bitter. What I like about Intelligentsia, in addition to properly brewing and preparing their beverages, is their ethical sourcing practices.  They have pretty much developed their own certification process in which they pay in excess of fair trade prices, and they are very hands on, visting each farm about 3 times per year.  Some other programs allow for inspections just once per 5 years.  So they could meet the standards for the inspection, then totally disregard them for four years and 364 days while still carrying the certified label.  Intelligentsia deals directly with those who produce the goods, not middle men.

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