Chances are, unless you are endlessly wealthy and/or the laziest person on the planet, you sometimes brew coffee at home. Maybe you have retired your plug-in coffee maker in exchange for a French press or Chemex. You even buy your beans from a local or specialty roaster and grind them fresh every day. But something is still missing. It's kinda meh, not like it is at your favorite coffee shop.
There's hope. Coffee homebrew classes and cuppings have become regular staples at shops around Dallas. Classes give participants a chance to taste a variety of coffees and brewing methods to learn what they like and don't, as well as how to create those flavors at home. If you are remotely interested in learning how to get the most out of your coffee you should give one a try, because if you are paying for quality, you might as well be able to taste it. Here are some options for your homebrew and cupping pleasure:
Method Coffee Louie Corwin, owner of East Dallas' Method Coffee, has offered several brewing classes since opening in 2014. Classes are held twice a month and are announced about a week before on the shop's Facebook page and in the shop. Jump on reserving a $10 spot because so far they have all sold out.
Participants can expect to work in small groups to brew and taste different coffees with different equipment. "We really try to start with the basics," he says. "We talk about how different grind sizes and water temperatures affect each brew method. Rather than dictate one way to brew, we like to give people some boundaries so they can work within those boundaries to see what they like best." So far classes have revolved around three brewing methods: V60, Chemex, and French press and have given Corwin an opportunity to showcase coffees currently in stock.
"The best part of the classes is when someone has an 'aha' moment, whatever that may be for them," he says. "That could be something as simple as rinsing the filter before you brew. We want our customers to feel confident to use the equipment they have at home to make good coffee. If you are investing in a high quality coffee, your money is going to go further if you are brewing it to its potential. "
Cultivar Coffee Cultivar Coffee has also begun hosting homebrew classes at its Denton location on a bimonthly basis. There's no need to RSVP, just check with the shop for the next date and time and show up ready to taste some coffee.
Co-owner Jon Meadows knows that most customers don't have the time or knowledge base to read about countless brew methods and experiment at home to figure out which one is best. Cultivar's classes provide the foundational working knowledge needed to learn which types of coffee and brewing methods work best for you.
"Sometimes people feel stuck when it comes to brewing at home," he says. "They have this great experience at the shop, but then they take it home and it just doesn't taste the same. So we cover basic brewing theory, which basically deals with how water and coffee interact depending on time and temperature."
Davis Street Espresso Every other Friday at noon, Oak Cliff's Davis Street Espresso hosts a free coffee cupping, which is the industry standard for tasting coffees. DSE's informal take on cupping involves smelling the dry and then wet grounds, breaking the crust that forms at the top to smell gasses as they are released, and finally slurping the brewed coffee in a slightly awkward manor as a way of tasting all the notes and flavors that each particular coffee has to offer.
Themes of the cuppings vary, but they are always intentional. Depending on the week, participants might find themselves comparing coffees from four different countries, looking at four coffees within the same country, or possibly cupping a coffee from the same farm but processed (before roasting) in four different ways.
Recently, DSE and General Manager Will Riggs mixed it up a bit and looked at how brewing with a French press, Chemex or Aeropress can affect a particular coffee. "Everyone was really shocked with how different the coffee tasted with each brewing method," he says. "Then we talked about pros and cons of each and what people liked and didn't like."
DSE has several goals with their classes, Riggs says. One is to allow the customer to self educate by giving the customer a taste of multiple coffees side by side to allow for easy comparison. The second is to foster connections between the customer, barista and roaster by giving each the time and space to ask questions and get feedback from each other.
"It is a pretty unique opportunity to ask questions of people with direct knowledge about how the farm, roasting or brewing affected the coffees right in front of them," he says.
Houndstooth Coffee Houndstooth, on Henderson Avenue, has also made cuppings a priority, hosting an informal one every Monday at 1:30 p.m. at no cost. As Tweed's head roaster Jonathan Aldrich knows, cuppings allow baristas and customers to interact on a more substantive level. "A cupping is a really unique opportunity to us to engage with people on a deeper level because it is difficult to do that on a regular basis at the shop."
Themes vary from week to week, sometimes comparing coffees from the same country, other times tasting individual components of a blend and then together as intended. Houndstooth is a multi-roaster shop, and the cuppings usually follow suit. That means participants can taste and compare coffees from several roasters like Tweed and Counterculture all in one sitting. "Most people get few opportunities to taste multiple coffees at the same time. So being able to do that gives them a great reference point."
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Houndstooth is also hosting the very occasional homebrewing class, so be on the lookout for the next one to be announced in shop.
Weekend Coffee From the cups to the serving trays to the baristas, everything at Weekend Coffee is well curated, and the coffee classes are no exception. You should expect nothing less from a coffee shop nestled in a corner of the Joule Hotel. Weekend's classes are held on the third Sunday afternoon of every month and alternate between homebrew classes and cuppings featuring Victrola Coffee out of Seattle, Washington.
Manager Nicole Thornbrough sees the free classes as a way to give people the tools they need to recreate the Weekend experience at home. "For people that want to delve more into coffee, classes really open the opportunity to figure out what you like on the spectrum and then figure out how to make that happen."
Thornbrough enjoys connecting with customers during the classes and seeing them begin to grasp the expansive world that coffee has to offer. "I would encourage anyone who wants to go on a bit of a coffee journey to come try it out. We keep the classes small, and besides learning about coffee, we also have a lot of fun."