Coffee Taste Test – Four Preparations

I am not a coffee afficionada, because my brain only has so much space (and it’s been taken up with beer knowledge). I do love coffee, though. I like it when travelling, and have found ways to make it differ greatly on this little blue planet.

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Vietnamese –> Drip –> French Press

In Italy, the moka and the cafeterria reign supreme. In Boulder, the french press is popular. In South America, instant is the way to go. In Korea, one can use a drip coffee maker if you are common enough to want to make your coffee at home. In Vietnam, they use a special silver filter.

Which one is best? Or at least, which is best for me?

Time for a side-by-side taste test. All these coffee types were made with the same coffee (Peet’s Robust Roast, or as my Mama calls it, ‘Crack’). That excludes the instant espresso, which is Medaglia D’Oro brand from the Latino foods section. Where’s the Moka? I can’t find it. Maybe it’s in Korea somewhere.

Instant

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Boom, done! 10 seconds to fresh espresso. Just add hot water. It’s so convenient, and I know why I normally keep one of these on my desk if I happen to be working an office job. At $4 for 2oz., it’s also the most cost efficient. It’s grassy and burnt in taste, but it has a great little foam if you pour the hot water hard.

Korean-Style Drip

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This brought back memories of Busan mornings. The drawback: you have to buy filters. The good part: it makes the biggest cup. The result is a lighter, smooth coffee with a certain amount of slickness in the mouth. This process seemed to bring out a cinnamon aroma in this coffee, too.

French Press

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Hard to believe that this was once my favourite coffee maker. It’s light, and burnt on the first sip. The second sip is milder, but I just cannot get over the debris left in the coffee. I wrote, “SANDY” in my tasting notes. No longer a favourite.

Vietnamese

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This is my new obsession. Vietnamese coffee is wonderful and thick. There is nothing better than a coffee next to the busy street on a hot Hanoi afternoon. I am not yet an expert at making it, but this attempt was concentrated and thick. There is remarkably less aroma compared to the other preparations, and it’s earthy. My favourite.

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Even though I’m back freelancing and need energy to sit in front of the laptop for eight hours a day, I don’t need four cups of coffee. I poured some into cups to put outside with incense, in true Vietnamese fashion. Thank you, gods of coffee, for such abundance.

Beer in Situ: CCraft Beer (Old Quarter Brewery)

Along one of the many beery streets in Hanoi, there is a giant log hanging over an open door. The place seems fancy, but there is blaring ballad music to draw in a sucker for the 80s like me.

Address:  45A Luong Ngoc Quyen Street, Hang Buom Ward, Hoan Kiem

IMG_6711We sat at the open window facing the bustling street, which provides a lot to look at while you sip. The craft beers are made by some of the staff, and have a really high quality taste. Something unique is in there, too. It’s as if there are Belgian brewing influences, but with a Vietnamese twist to the taste. I’d describe it as Belgian-y, sweet, and a tiny bit funky. Clearly, the yeast reacts to the local conditions in a unique way.

I’ve had a lot of craft beer in my life, and these are something new! Super delicious, too.

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The beers are named like a royal family, and we tried four of them. The best I had was the Emperor Beer, which is what I would call a Vietnamese Imperial Stout. It’s double fermented and infused with coffee and a few spices. Amazingly smooth and easy to drink despite the higher ABV.

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The guys at the place are helpful, friendly, and really know their stuff. They realised that we knew something about beer and immediately struck up conversation. After that, they gave informative descriptions of their beers and the processes they use. Great for beer geeks!

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We didn’t try the food last night, but I told the guys that we’d probably be back soon. Maybe we’ll eat a little there tonight. What a great experience for our first night in Hanoi.

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Beer in Situ: BRU (Boulder, Colorado)

BRU is relatively new as a brewplace in Boulder. For me, it is, anyway. I spend lots of time away from the town of my birth, and new brewing ventures pop up all the time. I went to see this place in August with my mom.

We went for Happy Hour, and it was nice. In fact, a little too nice. The servers all wear long aprons and black, like it’s a fine dining place. The kitchen is open and there are wood-fired pizzas. The food we tried was fine, not fine (get it?). Why can’ta brewpub just be a brewpub and not try to be fancy?

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To me, it seems like someone moved to Boulder from elsewhere and opened a place that would be more suited to San Francisco or New York. That said, maybe they are trying something different because of the wide variety of casual beery places in the county and the state. Still, it wasn’t quite right somehow.

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The beers were tasty, if a little odd. The Red Rice in the ‘Merica lager doesn’t seem to add much complexity (it’s just a normal American Lager). The Citrum IPA tastes more like an English IPA than one from the USA, which is interesting. It think it has East Kent Goldings hops in there, making it a little earthy. The Rigley Rye is sweet for an IPA, but then rye has never been my grain. My favourite was the award-winning Loch Ale. It tasted like the wort one would make for later distillation of whisky.

Bru’s an OK beer place, but it’s not my style.

Beer in Situ: Owl and Pussycat (Gwangalli Beach)

As it turns out, there’s a burgeoning craft beer scene in our new city of Busan, South Korea. Things have really changed since the last time we lived here in 2012-2013, when the only decent beer we could get our hands on required 90 minutes into Seoul on the subway and a decent walk to Craftworks. We’ll go back there when we go up North and review it here. I’m happy to see the craft beer scene growing in Korea.

We’re missing the Great Korean Beer Festival in Seoul this weekend, which is lame. Oh well. We’ll head up there soon enough and enjoy a nostalgic walk around. The week we left in February 2013, I cut off all my hair at the Turtle Salon in Itaewon. To celebrate, we went across the street to the new (at the time) bar on the third floor. Some guys were serving their homebrew out of kegs for the first time in the bar. An IPA and a Stout. It was a watershed moment! Craft beer was actually here in Korea.

We went to one of the craft beer places at the beach on out first weekend here, and had a really nice sampler. The Owl and Pussycat on Gwangalli Beach is empty on a weekend afternoon, and we had the place to ourselves!

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There’s the beach!

Having drawn blood biting our tongues at the unbelievable prices for a glass of beer (a couple of them were $30 for a small bottle or $16 for a small pour!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), we ordered the slightly more economical sampler flight.

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For only 12,500 won!

We tried the Suri Saison, The Yuzu Pale Ale, the IPA, and the Breakfast Coffee Stout.

I didn’t write down tasting notes, because jetlag. But the Yuzu Pale Ale was the most delicious of the bunch. It is infused with Yuzu juice, which is a type of peppery, unique taste that features heavily in Japanese and Korean cuisine. When I worked at Brewdog we had a yuzu DIPA, the Konnichiwa Kitsune, from their ‘Hello, My Name Is…’ series. This beer was lighter than that, and the pale ale was bright and bubbly.

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Speaking of Brewdog, it seems they have taken the advice of yours truly and gotten into the Korean market. Big time. I’ve seen there stuff all over the place. It’s great to know I’ll be able to get some of my beloved Jackhammer over here on special occasions.

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Owl and Pussycat would be a great place to impress a date, being right on the beach. I bet the view is great at night. If they have a sale at some point, we may stop by again.

Reykjavik Weekend: Pretending We Live Here

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Some shots from our weekend in Reykjavik. It was nice to have a short break before the scout jamboree!

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Reykjavik is such a cool city. There is art everywhere, for free, on the walls and down alleyways. The Airbnb place we stayed is is a neighborhood with lots of families and was only a 25 minute walk to downtown.

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A pallet-themed art installation and bar (which was closed!) 

Sometimes Reykjavik feels like my childhood. That seems to be a theme of Iceland this summer. The mall’s food court in particular felt a bit like walking into 1996, in such a good nostalgic way.

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I’ll be writing a couple Beer in Situ posts in coming days about the craft beer places we visited in town, but here is a little preview. Skull and Micro Bar as both great, but man are prices steep in Iceland!

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We had our fair share of awesome free things to do as well. The city’s free public beach was a great stop, on the sea and with geothermal pools to dip into. The sea wasn’t even that cold!

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At the beach!

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I spent the last little bit of our time in Reykjavik at the Notte in Mood station, wandering around the supermarket on a quiet Sunday. It took me about 20 minutes to buy two sodas and a bar of chocolate. Why?

I was pretending that I live here.

Maybe someday.

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