506 Roasts

Life, Love, Coffee….and everything in between

Category: Food

Raleigh’s Ragin’ Coffeehouses

During our dating and early married life Cary and I spent a lot of time in coffeehouses. In fact, we still frequent coffeehouses whenever we’re looking for a good time. It’s a cheap date, most are quiet and we both enjoy it!! Having both spent a lot of time in the Raleigh, NC area we decided to share a bit about our favorite coffee shops in Raleigh.  The entire Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area has great coffeehouses, but we are only sharing our Raleigh favorites today!

Global Village Owner, Mike Ritchey

Global Village Owner, Mike Ritchey

One of the most consistently fabulous places for great coffee is Global Village Organic Coffee on Hillsborough Street.  The owner himself is a wonderful barista, always challenging himself to keep up with the best brewing methods and newest drinks for serious coffee lovers.  From a ristretto to a single cup made with a drip filtercone, you won’t be disappointed.  There is also a great deal of consistency from barista to barista at Global Village, which is often challenging to find from a coffeehouse. Global Village also offers great food and other drinks. They make a mean mango smoothie and have great sandwiches for lunch and delicious muffins and croissants for breakfast. Global Village also does an excellent job of keeping their prices as low as possible for their loyal college students. By the way, the success of Global Village drove Starbucks away from Hillsborough street, if that says anything about the dedication of Global Village to great coffee!

Café Helios

Café Helios

Next up we’ve got Café Helios on Glenwood Avenue. Café Helios has always had outstanding coffee, whether freshly brewed drip coffee or a perfectly pulled double shot. More recently, Café Helios has introduced more local, fresh foods to their menu.  They also have a wine menu and incorporate a lot of local bands into their nightly schedule for great entertainment.  Check out their facebook page for info about their great new food items and for pictures of beautiful latte art!

A staple of downtown Raleigh, and the Five Points area in particular, is the Third Place coffeehouse. It’s quiet and quaint making it great for a cheap date night. The whole Five Points area is full of goodness. Take in a movie, have dinner, and then finish the evening with coffee at the Third Place. The Third Place was also a regular choice during college to spend those late nights studying.

Cup A Joe, Hillsborough Street

Vintage Probat roaster at Cup a Joe!

If you’re looking for a very hip coffeehouse, then you’ll want to visit Cup A Joe, particularly the Hillsborough street location. Their coffee is great, but not quite as good as the coffeehouses above, however the atmosphere is fun and eclectic. The Hillsborough street location is frequented by hotrodders, artists, musicians and students alike.

If you’re familiar with any of these coffeehouses then tell us your favorite! Otherwise, we would love to hear about the great coffeehouses in your area.

From Green to Caffeine

Freshly pulled double shot!

The transformation from green coffee beans to something drinkable is quite miraculous, in many ways comparable to grapes becoming wine.  There are numerous similarities between coffee and wine, however the process of making drinkable coffee is drastically different from wine making.  Roasting the beans is analagous to the fermentation stage of wine making; this is where the magic happens.  The process itself is rather simple, though it depends on many variables, such as bean type, roast level preferred, and how the coffee is intended to be brewed.  A seemingly minor change in one of these variables can have a major impact on the end product.

Unroasted, green coffee beans

For the unfamiliar, roasting coffee is simply turning green beans into brown beans by means of some heat source.  Rather than a technical description of the process I’ll focus on a general outline of how this works.  The heat source can be anything, for instance, simply roasting beans in a skillet works, though the results are far from remarkable.  I’ve roasted beans in everything from a skillet to a convection oven to a homemade contraption made from an old pressure cooker.  With practice, the results can be quite good with some of these methods, though consistency from roast to roast can be a challenge.

One of the most important aspects of roasting coffee is knowing when to stop.  If the beans are under-roasted the coffee can have a very grassy taste, while if you over-roast you simply end up with charcoal.  You can determine roast level by visual inspection or temperature, but one of the most important methods for determining roast level is to listen to the beans.  As a result of chemical reactions, the beans make a cracking sound when they heat up.  If roasted long enough, there will be a first and a second crack.  The first crack signifies what is known as a City roast, while just before the second crack signifies a Full City roast.  French roast is carried all the way through the second crack until the beans are quite dark and oily.

Freshly roasted beans from a co-op in Burundi

You might ask Which roast level is the best?  Well, that depends (a lot) on the type of bean being roasted and how you want the coffee to taste.  Lighter roasts have the potential to bring out more of the bright, flowery tastes in a coffee while a darker roast might bring out the deep, chocolate like flavors.  Some beans are very forgiving with respect to roast level, while others will only taste good on one end of the spectrum.

Vintage La Pavoni Europiccola

Making a great cup of coffee is an art; an art which we sometimes take to the extreme. For instance, we make our coffee in this vintage La Pavoni lever espresso machine! It’s not a pretty machine, but there’s something about the manual labor involved with using this machine that makes the end result that much more enjoyable.

So there you have it; a little insight into roasting fresh coffee.

Trying to be green….whenever we aren’t being pink!

It’s true, Cary lives in a pink, pink world. Any and every pink item I can sneak in I try to, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

We try very hard to make our lives as green as possible. We buy organic, recycle, compost and now we have added hydroponic farming in an effort to be as green as possible.

Mac Farms in Walton County

There is a small family farm here in Walton County Florida called Mac Farms. Mac Farms uses the hydroponic farming system to grow all their amazing produce.  According to their website: Hydroponics literally translates from Latin to “water labor”, meaning the water is working to bring the nutrients to the plant as opposed to the soil.  In typical Cary fashion we could not just think this was a cool idea or possibly incorporate some hydroponic produce items into our diet, no sir…..we had to start our own!! I have to say this is Cary’s baby, I basically OOOOHHH and AAAAHHH at the unbelievable growth.

Here are some recent pics of the status of our tiny little farm. So far, we have grown beets, collards, romaine lettuce, basil, summer thyme and arugula.  The water contains a nutrient solution from General Hydroponics.

Float system next to wick system

Collards and beets in floating and wick-based hydroponic systems.

The hydroponic systems we’ve been growing in so far have been strictly experimental and homemade, using items we had around the house. The systems are far from perfect, but the results are quite impressive so far.  Now we need some input from you our readers! As you can see we are using styrofoam for our pots and the base which floats on the water. As styrofoam is not environmentally friendly, we need suggestions for other items to use to build a larger scale system so that our system is truly green! All and any suggestions are much appreciated; keep them coming and we will keep you updated on the status!

Float system

Collards flourishing in our floating hydroponic system.

Stay tuned for this weekend’s post about roasting coffee!