Specialty Coffee Part 1: Espresso

A native Colombian, Debbie Rabinovici, has loved coffee all of her life. But, it wasn’t until she moved to New York and found herself in shops like Blue Bottle and Stumptown that she became exposed to a coffee lover’s ultimate fantasy: the so-called “third wave” of coffee, the culmination of lightly roasted, high quality beans with a fantastic aroma and taste. Debbie worked as a barista for two years until she decided that she was ready to bring her passion to her hometown of Miami. Debbie now brews Panther Coffee and Counter Culture Coffee at her Coral Gables shop Café Curuba.

And now, as a MIAbites guest contributor, Debbie shares with us her passion for specialty coffee and her commitment to always offering the best experience.

Miami is still a city very much new to the “third wave coffee” game, so as the owner of specialty coffee shop, I spend a lot of time talking to people about what makes the third-wave a little different from your usual cup o’ Joe.  What we know as coffee is actually the roasted seed of a cherry-like fruit. Pictured above is my hand holding one of these "cherries" in the Tolima region of Colombia. 

One of the most misunderstood topics of conversation is espresso, which ironically, is also the top selling item at my shop. Espresso is a very popular drink in Miami, thanks in great part to the Cuban colada, a long espresso often brewed with pre-ground Café Bustelo and several teaspoons of sugar. It is a drink very much loved in this city, but it is also the antithesis of espressos pulled at specialty coffee shops around the world such as Café Curuba. I’ve thus found that espresso in Miami is a topic that people seem to have very strong opinions about, especially in the mornings, before they’ve had their first dose of caffeine.  So I figured that in my first entry for MIAbites, I’d give a brief introduction to this mystical drink.

I’ll start by pointing out the basics: espresso is a brewing method. This means that any coffee bean can technically be brewed as an espresso just as any “espresso blend” can be brewed as a pour over.  

Furthermore, an espresso is not stronger in terms of caffeine than a 12 oz. cup of drip coffee. It actually uses less of what we call “dry weight” of the bean, or less coffee. It is, however, concentrated. This short but mighty liquid is the result of small amount of boiling water applied at high pressure to very finely ground coffee. The result, when properly pulled, is what many call the clearest manifestation of the coffee bean.

Case in point: single-origin espresso, something we started brewing at my shop last week. Unlike the typical "blends" found in coffee shops and supermarkets, single-origin refers to the harvesting of coffee beans from a single artisanal farm or co-op of farms in a single region. Full credit of this wonderful addition to our coffee menu goes to my friend Ryan Hall, a senior educator for Panther Coffee. One day he mentioned that, when brewed as an espresso, Panther’s new coffee from Kenya was “glorious.” He described sweet, fruity, and silky citrus notes with a clean finish. A description that was hard to ignore. I ordered 5 pounds of the “Kirura” from the Kiambu district in Kenya, and a few days later asked Ryan to help me “dial it in” (Slang for pulling a few shots until we find the right grind and dose to extract this particular coffee on that particular day). A few shots later, we got it right: an espresso with a luxurious mouth feel that reminded me of how it feels after you eat a piece of fine sashimi. It was clean, full-bodied, with a rich finish. We noticed tasting notes of honey, orange zest and what Ryan describes as “fat fruit” (I agree!).

Single origin espresso serves as an amazing and very special treat to taste buds, and reminds us about the extraordinarily obsessive world of specialty coffee.  Properly prepared espressos are the boldest expressions of a particular crop. Any flaw in harvesting, processing, roasting or brewing is immediately and very obviously evident. In other words, for this espresso to express its heavenly characteristics, hundreds of hands from harvesters, sorters, processors, importers, roasters, packers, and finally, the barista had to do their job properly. Any mishap, no matter how small, would have ruined the cup. So when you get a perfectly crafted espresso that exemplifies all that hard work, it’s hard not sit back, sip, and drink in the love that goes into specialty coffee.

For more about Cafe Curuba, check out the in depth MIAbites article by Javier Ramirez- Gourmand J (http://www.miabites.com/home/2014/5/19/cafe-curuba-coffee-espresso-coral-gables-counter-culture#.VD5aiiis3ww=)

Cafe Curuba

2626 Ponce De Leon Blvd, Coral Gables, FL 33134

(786) 703-9183