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A time-honoured means of bringing people together, interest in coffee has increased greatly in the last decade or so thanks to burgeoning café cultures in global cities like Portland, San Francisco, Melbourne, London, and Oslo. This latest wave of coffee enthusiasts celebrate coffee-drinking as both a craft and an epicurean pursuit. Beyond the beans, caffeine has obvious benefits for cyclists, not least its status as a legal high under International Olympic Committee rules.
And finding what baristas refer to as the ‘God shot’ has recently become a whole lot easier thanks to Rapha’s commitment to serve the finest coffee available in its Cycle Clubs around the world. With a focus on highly-trained baristas, comfortable surroundings and complete coffee excellence, there’s no better place than a Rapha Cycle Club for a pre-ride espresso or post-ride flat white.
Like soigneurs, baristas are passionate about their craft and we caught up with the head baristas at both the London and San Francisco Cycle Clubs to find out more about the dark art of coffee making.
Paul Bonna, Head Barista, Rapha Cycle Club London
Tell us about the equipment you’re using at the London Cycle Club.
We use two kinds. For espresso-based drinks we are working with a Synesso Hydra and two Anfim grinders. The Synesso is one of the best machines in the world. We have a digital counter and scale, giving information about the strain of the coffee through the portafilter and the relationship between the dry and fluid coffee. The Synesso also guides the extraction rate, so I know 24 seconds on 30g of coffee should give me the recipe we've set it to this morning. For filter-based coffees we have a Bunn batch-brewer and two different kinds of by-the-cup brewers, Kalita and Aeropress.
Cycling and coffee seem cosmically aligned. Why do you think that is?
People who love cycling for the joy of riding, rather than simply for a workout, tend to be the people who enjoy coffee. It’s about enjoying a 'good' cup of coffee, not purely about the caffeine.
What tips have you got for people who want to make a good espresso or filter brew at home?
Buy a grinder. Then find a roaster (see below) that you like. Without good quality coffee beans it is impossible to make a good cup of coffee. Filter brewing at home is generally the most successful way to make a tasty coffee, a stovetop is good as well. Making espresso is a more expensive process.
How much does the roasting process affect the taste and quality of a coffee?
The roasting enhances the aroma potential of the bean. The goal of a good roaster is to create a flavour profile that makes one coffee distinct from another and in some cases unique.
What is 'cupping' and why do you do it?
Cupping is the main topic in coffee business; everything is decided by taste. The farmer decides his picking and processing after taste; the importer chooses his coffees after tasting those beans; the roaster buys the coffees he likes and chooses a roast profile after the tasting and at the end the barista chooses the right brewing method for the right coffees. And all this is discovered during cupping. We have a cupping every other week at the Club to decide what we’ll be serving in the following weeks. You can taste so many things in the coffee, it’s like wine tasting.
Do you think there is a relationship between coffee and cycling?
Yes, nearly everyone I know who is into coffee love bikes as well. Many cyclists love coffee because they enjoy the finer things in life. Cyclists generally like strong coffee to keep them going; many people think there is more caffeine in an espresso but filter coffee has more as it’s strained over a longer period.
Cesar Correa, Head Barista, Rapha Cycle Club San Francisco
How did you become a barista?
It started with cycling. I bought my first espresso machine at just the same time I started riding. The two kind of went hand-in-hand for me and the coffee certainly helped with the early-morning rides. From there I wanted to become a barista because I enjoyed coffee and wanted to share that experience with everyone.
Tell us about the cafe and equipment here at the San Francisco Cycle Club.
We have a Mazzer grinder and a La Marzocco GB5 machine that consistently pulls great shots. You can trust that machine.
What goes through the grinder and into the espresso machine basket?
We use Four Barrel Coffee. Four Barrel is a San Francisco roaster in the Mission District. They offer a blend that is really enjoyable to work with. It's fun to tweak the grind and change the flavor profiles. We're giving everyone in the neighborhood a look at what can be done with any given bean. Tweak it one way and make it super sweet, or tweak it the other way and you can create floral notes.
What's your favourite drink?
It’s one we came up with here. We call it the The Italiano or The Devito (it's a short Italian). It's nice – loud grinder noise interrupts conversation – because it's like with whisky, when you add a cube of ice to change the flavor. Add a little bit of water to bring a little bit more out of the espresso and to enjoy it just a little bit longer.
Tell me about the neighborhood and the people coming in to the Cycle Club café. What is the most popular drink served here?
The drink of choice is lattes. We are lucky to work with Four Barrel and their great espresso blend. There’s a real mix of people coming in just for the coffee. There are plenty of cyclists, too. They come for the coffee but also just to hang out.
What is your best tip for making great coffee?
Get a great grinder. That's pretty much it. Once you've got a great grinder, even if you have a cheaper machine, it sets the bar for great coffee.
How many coffee customers coming into the Cycle Club have no idea what the main business of the store is?
We have a lot of people who come in for coffee and then turn around and discover this world of bicycling they hadn't see at first. They'll start with, “What’s Rapha?”, then move on to, “This is really cool.” People love to linger with their drinks and browse. They’ll often discover something nice for themselves, or strike up a conversation about one of the bikes or images in the store. It's fun to introduce the neighborhood to cycling over a coffee. The two things go hand-in-hand.
Can you say a few words about the new Rapha coffee cups.
These cups help us achieve consistency in the coffee-making process. From the first sip to the last, we will have a consistent taste because the mix will be correct and the temperature remains steady. It means no bitter-at-the-end sips. Again, it's about quality control and the notNeutral cup helps give us that control.
Rapha coffee products available:
As Paul suggests, find a roaster that you like and buy good quality beans to give yourself the best cup of coffee at home. So to help you on your way, we've put together a selection of our favourite coffee roasteries around the world:
Heart Roasters, Portland
Sterling Coffee Roasters, Portland
Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Portland
La Colombe, Philadelphia (served on the Rapha Mobile Cycle Club North America)
Counter Culture Coffee, Durham
Madcap, Grand Rapids
Handsome Coffee Roasters, Los Angeles
Toby's Estate, New York
Four Barrel Coffee, San Francisco (served at Rapha Cycle Club San Francisco)
Sightglass Coffee, San Francisco
Ritual Coffee Roasters, San Francisco
Blue Bottle Coffee, San Francisco
Verve Coffee Roasters, Santa Cruz
PT's Coffee Roasting Co, Topeka
Square Mile Coffee Roasters, London (served at Rapha Cycle Club London)
Workshop Coffee Co., London
Has Bean, Staffordshire
Round Hill Roastery, Somerset
James Gourmet Coffee, Herefordshire
Dear Green, Glasgow
Market Lane Coffee, Melbourne
St. Ali, Melbourne
Seven Seeds, Melbourne
Proud Mary Coffee Roasters, Melbourne
Clement Coffee Roasters, Melbourne
Small Batch Roasters, Melbourne
Coffee Supreme, Melbourne
Five Senses Coffee, Rockingham
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