By Jeff Ray

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – I visited Avoca Coffee (pronounced AH-VOO-KA) in near southside Fort Worth on Wednesday to learn how to buy and brew coffee. Avoca is Celtic for “great mouth.” The store is located along Magnolia Street, between Fifth Street and Sixth Street. Two Fort Worth natives, friends since elementary school, got together to open the coffee shop and roaster about a year ago.

Gerold LaRue is the master roaster at Avoca. He builds the connections between the growers and his company, secures the supply and price, and gets the raw bean to his roasting floor. His job is to take the green bean (which comes to him in huge 150-pound sacks from the grower) and roast it to perfection. This is an art form really, a combination of chemisty, accounting and instinct to carefully ramp up the temperature of the bean to its final form. A gas-fired rotating metal drum heats the air in a closed cylinder. The beans are turned in the drum like in a commercial dryer. It takes about 13 minutes and 400 degrees. When the beans are just about ready the sound, the smell and the color all start to change at once. LaRue has about 15 to 20 SECONDS to pull the beans out. If he misses his window and ruins the roast, he just cost his company about $60.

The advice I got from LaRue on how to buy the coffee is rather simple.

  1. Know WHEN your coffee was roasted. You want to buy it just after it’s roasted. It’ll be ready to grind in about two or three days, as it continues to out-gas CO2.
  2. Store your beans in a glass jar (a mason jar is perfect) in your cupboard — a cool and dry place. Never put it in the freezer or fridge, the beans will absorb the odors.
  3. Only buy about two or three weeks supply at a time. After three weeks, the beans start to go stale.

Jimmy Story is the owner, usually found behind the counter. He’ll be teaching a coffee class on Sunday nights at his store this summer.

You don’t need to go out and buy any expensive equipment. The least expensive way to make your own coffee is to make a “pour-over.” This is a cone filter that you put inside a ceramic funnel, that sits on top of your coffee cup. You’ll need to have perfectly ground coffee. Get rid of that chopper (a blade grinder) and get a burr grinder. They are little more money ($30 to $40), but grind the coffee uniformly. For your pour-over, it should be the consistency of play sand.

You’ll also need to have a scale. These are about $20 and they’ll measure your just-ground coffee (always grind your beans just before you use them) and your water. And you’ll need to have a kitchen thermometer. You are not going to use boiling water, but something just slightly cooler than that, around 200 to 205 degrees.

The first step is to pour some hot water over your filter and let it flow into the cup. Throw that water out. This cleans the filter, warms your cup and allows the grinds to stick to the filter better.

The second step is to put in 17 grams of ground coffee. Pour in just enough water to cover the grinds. You’ll see two things happen. The coffee will “bloom,” swell up into a little mound and will start to bubble. You know you have fresh roasted coffee when you see bubbles of CO2 come to the surface of your pour. Let that water drain out, but don’t let the grounds dry out.

The third step is to start to pour in small circles into your cup. Pour slowly, about seven ounces or so, and let it drain out. You don’t want to break the barrier that the grounds make against the filter, so don’t pour to quick or too close to the sides. The slower you pour, the more of the oils you are going to extract. This produces the better tastes of the coffee.

Watch the video below to see the equipment and how to pour. Experiment on what kind of coffee you like. Visit Avaco and talk to LaRue about what you like and he’ll sell a few beans, so you can go home with what you want. It is exactly like wine; no one is going to tell you what the best tasting coffee is — only you can make that determination.

And, just like wine, the type of bean and where it is grown makes for different tasting coffee, just like it makes for different tasting wine. This is the third wave of the coffee business in America, the start of buying coffee directly from a grower and buying it “just roasted” like you buy fresh fruit. Coffee is a fruit after all. You are just taking the seeds of the cherry, cooking them, grinding them and extracting out the flavor of them with hot water.

And the caffeine? The coffee plant evolved that particular and unique chemical compound to help ward off bugs. That’s right — the jolt that coffee provides is you drinking a natural pesticide.

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