Last week in San Francisco, I made four separate trips to the Blue Bottle Coffee Company trying to get a pot of mud made in the Mint Plaza cafe’s $20,000 coffee maker. For various reasons the dedicated barista that operates the siphon bar wasn’t around on my first three attempts, but I finally managed to get one a mere half hour before I was due to leave for the airport. Was it worth it? It was a fine three cups’ worth, and its preparation pretty fun to watch, but I’m not sure the taste improves upon a Clover cup, or even the perfectly good dripped-to-order regular coffee there. Maybe I was simply too rushed to appreciate the “kaleidoscopic” flavor, as owner James Freeman describes it. But there is something about the deliberate grace that goes into the beverages there–each one takes several minutes to prepare, which even happens at the remote stands at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. It helps you slow down and take notice of what’s in the cup–on my first three visits anyway.
Which brings me around to the pretty good pots I’d made a few weeks ago with a bag of beans purchased at Wrigleyville’s tiny Asado Coffee Company. I hardly ever have the patience morning to morning to brew my joe as carefully as I should. My lazy failure to maximize the beans’ potential might make Asado owner Kevin Ashtari blanch. He roasts small batches of direct-trade beans every day in the roaster right behind the counter and takes his time brewing, using the same Japanese porcelain drippers Blue Bottle does. Each takes about two and a half to three minutes to prepare. Ashtari says most customers are patient. He also limits each individual order of hot coffee to a 12-ounce cup (16 ounces iced). No 24-ounce ventis here. “It’s really hard to do giant cups and retain the same flavors and characteristics you would get in just a small brew,” he says. “The small cup makes a really rich full-bodied cup and if you keep going with it it’ll tend to get watered down after that.”
Asado Coffee Company, 1432 W. Irving Park Rd, 773-661-6530