// Case Study Coffee / Brew It

We're Turning 5 on Sunday!

by Rachel Emery | | 0 comments

On June 14, 2010, Case Study Coffee was born. But the story actually begins before that. 

In 1999, Christine and Wes were pursuing their own work fields when specialty coffee as we know it was starting in Portland. Christine was pursuing her culinary passion of all things food and drink and Wes was involved various tech-related endeavors. They lived close to the original Stumptown at the time and quickly became regulars. Wes began experimenting with making coffee at home, tinkering with customizing machines and perfecting the art of making espresso at home. They knew they wanted to start a business together and thought that coffee would be the perfect mashup of their interests and skills. Christine could pursue her interest in the ways that origin effects flavor and how to make coffee a true culinary endeavor through signature drinks while Wes could concentrate on how they could make the most out of the beautiful coffees everyone was being exposed to at the time, and together they could share their passions with others. Thus Espresso Arts Catering was born.

After Christine's externship at Paley's Place, they didn’t have much money to invest, but on a small scale, they could design and build their own catering carts, play with coffee, and share it with a captivated audience. In September 2006, they had their first espresso catering gig. Espresso catering was a unique opportunity to expose customers to a truly fine coffee experience and a service that wasn't being offered in Portland. So many of the people they served were blown out of the water by how great the coffee was. Christine really values that experience. “It’s amazing how that ‘aha’ moment with coffee sticks with people almost more than any other culinary experience. This is exactly why I personally had wanted to get involved with the culinary field to begin with. There is nothing better than that feeling that you’ve given someone a moment they will remember forever.”

The Schnitzers booked Espresso Arts Catering for a steady gig over the course of four months while the Pacific First Center was under construction as a “thank you” gift to their tenants for putting up with renovation. It was through this experience with regular customers who were happy to see them (the steady income was nice too) that made them begin to dream of their own space and a short time later, they opened Case Study Coffee on NE Sandy Blvd. The idea for Case Study Coffee was born as a true extension of what they were already doing with Espresso Arts Catering. The goal was to meld beautiful coffee, speed and efficiency, and a personal experience: a case study in the coffeehouse experience, if you will. They had learned through catering that as much as you want to engage with each and every customer about their coffee experience, true excellence in customer service means meeting the demands of the customers who are in a hurry as well. The goal of real hospitality is to always meet the customer where they are at, and cater to all their needs, not just give them perfect coffee.

The name “Case Study Coffee” means so much to Wes and Christine on many levels. “It referenced the houses of the mid century that Wes and I grew up with as design and architecture buffs, while implying that everything we do in our business is a case study: from the science of perfect coffee, to the art of blending hospitality with high volume customer service, from the design of the shops for flow and active public space, to the involvement of the staff in making decisions and helping to build out the shops, to meeting the needs of customers from all walks of life and prior coffee experience through education (if desired) and the use of specialty drinks as an introduction to the world of specialty coffee.”

When Case Study Coffee first opened, they mainly served Stumptown with monthly Portland guest roasters: Heart, Coava, Sterling, and Water Ave. Christine had played with home roasting in the past, and getting to work with various other roasters’ coffees, she was able to hone in her personal style based on what she wanted to see in the final product. In-house roasting is about controlling the quality of product from start to finish. Christine knew that she could help close the communication gap about how the coffee was behaving between the staff and her by roasting the coffee herself. “I’m very familiar with our systems and how we use our coffee, and our baristas are very familiar with the hows and whys regarding my coffee roasting style. Besides, now I get to serve exactly the coffees I want! Being from a culinary background, it’s important to me to create the ‘recipes’ from start to finish.”

As much as they loved being in the shop serving customers themselves, Christine and Wes knew that they weren’t growing business enough to make it sustainable for their staff. “We’d found some amazing team members and we wanted to keep them with us, and the only way to do that was to grow the business to a size that we could offer continued growth potential to our staff.” So they began the process of expanding beyond one location. The property management of the downtown space took notice of what they were doing on Sandy Blvd, loved their design, and wanted them to take the space. What a great iconic space it is too! Next to the Central Library, which is one of the most beautiful buildings in Portland, as well as those amazing windows with which to enjoy the view while sipping your coffee.

It was only a short time later that the need for roasting space came up. While searching for a roasting warehouse that had the potential for a small coffee kiosk, they found the amazing space next to the Tin Shed that is now the beautiful Alberta shop. They opened it up as a full coffeehouse and found warehouse space just blocks away. “With the Alberta space, we really wanted to flesh out our “Case Study” design philosophy; Wes designed and built all the woodwork you see with the help of the Case Study staff, we ‘invented’ and laid the floors ourselves. Everything you see was built by us and the staff.”

So, what can we expect to see as Case Study Coffee continues to grow? Christine plans to continue the very personal relationship they’ve made with the producers they have met and purchased from while abroad. They will continue to host events surrounding these coffees as they roll in. “We love to serve coffees that tell a story and continue to foster education surrounding specialty coffee and the unique experiences it brings us.” Besides the 3 Portland cafes, Case Study Coffee still does Espresso Catering with the original La Marzocco GS3s they purchased at the start of their catering days and are working to expand that arm of the business.

Tags: Behind the Scenes, Brew It, Case Study Coffee Crew, Catering Chronicles, Coffee, Customer Profile, Events

Brew It: Aeropress

by Rachel Emery | | 0 comments

In 2005 at the Seattle Coffee Fest, Aerobie debuted an odd looking coffee brewing device, an interesting item for the toy company to put on the market. The invention of this plastic device was prompted by a simple question that came up around the company dinner table one night: "What do you do when you want just one cup of coffee?" This intrigued Alan Adler (inventor of the Aerobie throwing disc) and his mind immediately got to thinking on it. He found that the coffee industry leaned toward pour overs for single cup brewing methods, but these devices require such precision and patience in order attain a consistently good cup.  By combining air pressure and a short immersion time, Adler created something simple, versatile, and somewhat self cleaning: The Aeropress.

Old School and New School Come Together

The Aeropress is one of the most humble looking pieces of coffee brewing equipment, made of a few simple looking pieces of plastic. Since the invention, there have been many other companies that have made accessories to go along with the Aeropress from reusable metal filtersto Travel Caps to convert the empty plunger section into a storage compartment when on the go. 

The Travel Lid Creates a Storage Chamber

In most coffee professional's homes you'll be able to spot an Aeropress. Not only is it affordable, but it's self cleaning, easily portable, and hard to break, thus it is many people’s go to camping coffee device (or other traveling activities). There are so many different ways to brew using the Aeropress. So much so, that in 2008, the World Aeropress Championship was started to see who could come up with the best recipes each year. There were 35 nations participating at this years event, the most successful one so far. The winners recipes are posted every year for coffee professionals and home brewers everywhere to try themselves. 

There are so many variables when brewing with the Aeropress that you can play with as you find a recipe to use. Besides grind size and dose amount, the Aeropress allows more room to play with brew temperature than other devices. The first decision you have to make is if you are going to use the Standard Brew Method is, or are you going to flip the device upside-down use the Inverted Brew Method. 

The Puck

Here a few of the Cass Study Coffee Crew's favorite Aeropress recipes. Try them yourself and let us know what you think or share your own recipes with us!

Dylan's Recipe
“This recipe is based off the recipe by Martin Karabinos, the Aeropress Champion of Greece. It is a surprising recipe because it uses a much lower temperature to start out with. The brew this recipe produces is chocolatey and reminds me of the flavor of cold press coffee. It would be a good recipe to use when brewing darker roasts or coffee that has gone old as well as your normal morning cup.”

Standard Brew Method
18.5g coffee / 230g water / 95F & 195F

  • 18.5 grams of coffee ground at 6.2 on a Mahlkonig EK43 grinder

  • Add 80 grams of 95F water (above room temperature but below body temperature)

  • Gently stir for 15 seconds like you are massaging the coffee grounds

  • Insert the plunger to seal and stop drop down. Let steep for 3 minutes

  • Put kettle back on to heat to 195F

  • Remove plunger and add 150 grams of water at 195F

  • Stir once and press slowly over 30 seconds

Weighing the grounds 

Rachel’s Recipe
“I like this recipe because it is simple, straight forward, and forgiving if you forget your scale or timer when on the go. The total brew volume fills up the press almost to the top, so it can be easily guestimated. It brews a nice thick cup that you can drink straight up, or if you prefer something more delicate, split it between two cups and add a little hot water to smooth it out.”

Inverted Brew Method
18g coffee / 220g water / 195F 

  • 18 grams of coffee ground at 6.5 on a Mahlkonig EK43 grinder (similar grind for a drip brew if using a different grinder)
  • Heat water to boiling, wait 30-45 seconds after the boil (roughly 195F)

  • Make sure your Plunger is as far out as possible, while still being stable

  • Add 180 grams of water in about 15 seconds by pouring into the side of the device and spinning press filling the press almost to the top. This lessens your chance of dry pockets.

  • Let bloom for 30 seconds. 

  • Stir gently for 10-15 seconds, breaking the crust

  • At 1:00 mark, add more water totalling 220 grams, basically filling the press to the top.

  • At the 1:30 mark, cap it, flip it and press over the next 30 seconds.

  • Total brew time 2:00

Brews Right into Your Mug

Troy’s Recipe
“I prefer to make my Aeropress very concentrated and slowly with a coarse-ish grind. I use the inverted method and add water to cut it afterwards depending on the type of coffee and flavor profile I’m aiming for. I find this method works like an audio compressor, cutting off any crazy highs (acidity) or lows (bitterness or roastiness). It’s especially effective with naturals or any berry-heavy profile.”

Inverted Brew Method
22g coffee / 120g water / 195F

  • 22 grams of coffee ground 7.4 on Mahlkonig EK43, slightly finer than you would a French Press 

  • Heat water to 195F (1 minute off boil)

  • Preheat Aeropress and wet filter

  • Add 50 grams of water for a 30 second bloom. Stir.

  • Add 70 grams of water (totalling at 120 grams). Let rest for 40 seconds (1:10). 

  • Screw on top and spin at a slight angle for 10 seconds

  • At 1:20 mark, flip onto your cup and press for 25 seconds (1:45)

  • Cut with water to taste. Usually end up with a 1:1, but you can use a little less water to emphasize brighter acidities.

Tags: Brew It

Brew It: Our Switch to the Kalita Wave

by Rachel Emery | | 0 comments

One of the best ways to really get to know a coffee is to manually brew a single cup by itself. Pour overs are a great way to do this. We have always offered manual brew options, with the pour over made in a Hario V60 being the main method. Recently, we switched to serving the Kalita Wave as our primary manual brew option in all three of our shops. While we still like the clarity of a cup of coffee that the V60 brews, we have fallen in love with the thick body the Wave produces.

Brewing a V60

Brewing a V60

The Hario V60 gives you a nice clean cup of coffee.  When brewed properly, you get the delicate flavor profile that has made the single cup pour over a popular brew method throughout the coffee world.  With the cone shaped filter and larger filter hole, this brew method takes a lot of practice and expertise to master. The technique that takes the most skill to perfect is the continuous pour required for a great V60 brew. This requires a balanced slow pour while ensuring the desired amount of water makes it into the cone dripper in the allotted amount of time so that the desired brew ratio is achieved.  Fines (the smallest coffee grounds) can become trapped in the tip of the cone shaped filter, causing the drain-down to slow and possibly  yielding an over extracted brew. With a high quality grinder to help limit the amount of fines and a steady pouring hand, the V60 brew can result in a beautifully delicate cup.

Wave in Bloom

The Kalita Wave delivers a more full-bodied coffee alongside that delicate flavor profile that we all love so much. Its flat bottom brew bed and multiple brew holes create space for the fines to spread out and help produce a more even extraction. We find greater temperature stability with the Wave due to the decreased contact of the paper filter with the metal dripper. This creates a bit of air insulation helping to stop the brewing device from pulling as much heat from the brew as other methods can.

When brewing with the Wave, you have the option of using the continuous pour method or what is called the pulse brew method. We pulse brew by pouring 20-30 grams at a time in 10 second intervals throughout the brew time. While it takes some getting used to, the pulse brew method gives you more control over what you are doing and allows you to be more delicate while still getting a nice heavy bodied cup. It also creates a greater consistency from cup to cup that is easily duplicated. These factors make it so the Wave gives us a very consistent cup from barista to barista across all of our locations.

Kalita Waves at our Alberta Shop

We chose to switch to the Kalita Wave to ensure more consistency across all three of our shops giving each cup a well-rounded body alongside the delicate flavors that is inherent in each of our individual coffees.

Tags: Brew It