Coffee Spots & Coffee Grinders

Another coffee shop in T.O today, and some pointers for those of you just getting into coffeeee making at home

But first things first, that (below) is my camera transferring images to my iPhone over wi-fi. Im obsessed with this Sony camera. Its proven to be such a great tool!

 Ok, anyway, about coffee...

Do you want to know what the two most important things in changing your coffee game are? 

  • Fresh Beans
  • Good grinder

We will come back to the beans at a later date, but for now, the grinder...

Here's the thing, you can spend thousands on an espresso machine - but if you have a cheap grinder, it will destroy the beans and you won't get the flavour out of them that you are supposed to. Typically experts will tell you that whatever budget you decide to use for coffee equipment 30-50% of it should go towards a good grinder. You don't need super fancy brewing equipment! ( at least not yet).

During brewing, as the water travels through your ground coffee beans - it pulls - or extracts flavour in stages. First it extracts floral notes, then fruity ones, then burnt ones. A good cup of coffee is one where the notes have been extracted evenly, and for that you need evenly ground beans. 

The flavour of the beans is also best when freshly ground. This is because grinding them ACCELERATES the process in which they become stale and flavourless. So buying pre-ground store bought coffee is a NO-NO.  As far as you know it was ground a year ago and has been sitting in a warehouse ever since. 

Some things to consider when buying a grinder;

1. Blade vs Burr

  • Burr is better. Blade is cheaper, but again not consistent. I say Burr or nothing.
  • There are flat burrs and conical ones. Some say flat ones transfer too much heat to the beans because they spin faster. Your call. 

2. Grind Size 

Different machines provide different ways to change the size of the grind - I think the most important thing is that it gives you as many options as possible. Different brewing methods require different size grinds. For example, in a french press you should use coarse grinds, in an Aeropress it should be fine, only slightly coarser than an espresso etc. Basically,  you want to be able to have as much control as possible. 

If I impart any amount of wisdom I hope it's this - making exceptional coffee at home doesn't have to be super expensive, BUT if you are going to spend money, spend it wisely - invest in a good grinder. 

Anyway here's the next spot Peter and I tried on our little coffee journey!

The Spot: Early Bird Espresso and Brew Bar

(I gave you their Facebook link, because they have the worlds most useless website. But if you insist see it Here.) 

I am seriously conflicted about this place - because while I loved the vibe, I was not super impressed by the coffee. That being said, I don't think I chose the right products to test. Let me explain....

Early Bird is on Queen st, East of Bathurst. It feels larger and airier than the picture might lead you to think. It's a relaxing environment, with just the right amount of light coming in. As you can see there were quite a few people there, on a weekend with their laptops open - its obviously a place to get work done! 

The front of the cafe has a large communal table, which is where we decided to sit. Seemed like a strange idea at first, but I actually really liked it...maybe thats because it was fun to eavesdrop on the graphic designers next to us. Apparently its a tough life. 

The decor is minimal and perfect for Queen St, with all the exposed brick and industrial lighting.  There is also a patio upstairs - which I don't have any photos of - because we didn't know it was there! Its up a flight of stairs behind the registers, they lose points for lack of signage. 

Overall I liked the laid back attitude, and the subtlety of the decor - it seems like a place for those in-the-know,  y'know? Plus they have all these crazy coffee contraptions! Like this super cool thing that looks like drug paraphernalia.. I mean it basically is. 

It’s called a siphon or vacuum and works like this;

  • Water sits in the bottom container/ Grinds in the top
  • Plate heats up the water, which creates vapour - both get pushed up the siphon tube into the top chamber where it mixes and extracts the flavour from the beans
  • The heat is turned off and gravity causes the water to fall back into the bottom chamber and leaves the grinds in the top

They served it on a little wooden tray, and i have to say by this point, after watching the elaborate process I was pretty excited. 

I was, sadly, disappointed. The siphon is considered a "delicate" form of coffee brewing so it's usually the lighter flavoured beans that get used in the process. The flavour then is soft and somewhat fruity, which isn't necessarily a bad thing - but this coffee tasted a little bit like tea to me. 

It had a distinct flavour of berries, which was pleasant - but it was weak. This might work for tea drinkers, or those who drink coffee infrequently, or those that just prefer a light flavoured drink. But for a picky coffee drinker, this just wouldn't do it. 

That being said, it was worth trying it just to see the process and experience a different kind of coffee flavour. 

Like I mentioned before, I also had an iced coffee - which I was perfectly happy with. It was strong, but had a nice flavour and I didn't need to add any sugar. I'm not sure that, it was a good way to judge the coffee at Early Bird though. 

So my verdict on this place feels somewhat incomplete - If you are in the area looking for a quiet place to relax, get some work done, or chat with a friend, I would recommend it. The mood is perfect for low key activity. 

As for the coffee - all I can say is that Early Bird uses some really state of the art technology that very few other cafes use. They use reputable award winning coffee beans for their drinks and they seem to have a loyal following. So, although this particular experience for me was only so- so, it may be better for you. 

If you do go, I would love to hear about your experience!

Xo, 

Jany