Chef News

Steve Kraus of Press Coffee Roastery Takes Us Through a Coffee "Cupping"

This is part two of our interview with Press Coffee owner Steve Kraus. Today, he's taking us through our first coffee "cupping," a process similar to a wine tasting -- except with a lot more slurping. On Monday, we chatted about coffee as an agricultural product and found out why cuppings are so important for roasters when selecting coffee beans. If you missed that part of the interview, you can read it here.

See also: Toddy Takedown: Press Coffee Roasters vs. Cartel Coffee Lab

Cupping starts with a dry smell of the ground beans. Usually, you're tasting several beans at a time, so everyone participating in the cupping will take a turn smelling the grounds, making sure to give the cup a shake to release the aromas (the same way you'd do with a glass of wine). Next, they'll brew the coffee, using the immersion method -- which basically just means pour hot water over the grounds and letting them sit for about four minutes.

Once the coffee is brewed, you "break the crust," or the layer of grounds that will have risen to the top of the cup. Breaking the crust involves getting your face up close to the cup and taking in the "bloom" of aromas that get released when the layer is punctured. After all the crusts have been broken and the ground is skimmed off the top of each cup, it's time to actually begin tasting. Except that tasting acutally means "slurping," a special way of sipping a spoonful of coffee while trying to inhale air and take in the coffee's aroma and taste. It's pretty similar to how you'd taste wine, except more difficult to do without coughing and (at least for us) a lot more awkward.

"Coffee is very similar to wine," Kraus says. "So I never say this coffee is better than that coffee. It has to do with your taste."

Press offers public cuppings, which you can get information about on their website. You can also arrange for a private cupping if you call the roastery.

You can also check out their whole roasting operation at the South Phoenix location, from raw bean to beautiful cup of latte art. Press' roaster Nanda Ibanez uses a huge roaster (its name is Brutus) to roast all of the company's beans. She tracks each roast -- and sometimes they do several dozen a day -- both by hand and by computer software.

She roasts between 12 and 20 pounds of coffee at a time and each roast takes between nine and 15 minutes, depending of course on the bean and how dark a roast Ibanez is trying to achieve. A computer program hooked up to the machine tracks the bean's profile, or the changes in temperature and time. By five minutes into a roast the beans will already be turning from green to yellow and by the end of the roasting process you can actually hear the beans popping as they split open.

After being roasted the beans will sit for about two days before being taken to the wholesaler or Press' retail stores. The company trains all of its own baristas before letting them loose in store and also offers free training to all of its wholesalers. Doing so helps ensure that the quality of their coffee is accurately reflected in the way it's prepared, Kraus explains.

"At some point I will have a flagship store, which will encompass everything," Kraus says.

That encompasses everything from roasting to coffee eduction, a tasting bar and retail sales. Kraus says he's already got his eye on a location, though he's not ready to say where yet.

"We like to think that we're one of the leaders in specialty coffee out here," Kraus says.

The biggest misconception about coffee is: That it's all the same.

The best cup of coffee you've ever had: Ethiopian Nekisse . . . Giant Blueberry and Chocolate bomb! Amazing!

Two qualities you look for in good coffee: Roast and preparation

Coffee is like wine because: Coffee has varietals (Caturras, Typicas and Bourbons), it requires moisture and sun, and grows at different elevations.

If you could work with anyone in your industry on a new project, who would you choose and what would you do: Doug Zell of Intelligentsia Coffee, Michael Phillips of Handsome Coffee, and Duane Sorenson of Stumptown Coffee on creating the "ultimate" coffee destination in Phoenix.

You'll never catch me drinking: Starbucks

I wish Phoenix had:.Greater desire for specialty coffee, however the trend is moving in the right direction and that starts with us educating the consumer one cup at a time!

One local restaurant I admire and why: Little Saigon (Glendale) -- traditional Vietnamese, mother and father still cook all the food. Most consistent in the Valley.

If you could invite any five guests to a dinner party, who would you want to be there: Since it's not my last dinner... Charles Smith (winemaker) Bobby Flay, Cat Cora, Justin Timberlake, and my wife.

What do you think will be the next big thing to hit the coffee industry: My opinion is "Toddy coffee." We've had it on tap for quite some time and it's the smoothest most caffeinated natural beverage you can drink!

Check out our past Chef and Tell interviews with: Jason Raducha and Claudio Urciuoli - Noble Bread Sasha Raj - 24 Carrots Nick LaRosa - Nook Joey Maggiore - Cuttlefish Country Velador - Super Chunk Sweets and Treats James Porter - Petite Maison Cullen Campbell - Crudo Mel Mecinas - Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North Meagan Micozzi - Scarletta Bakes Tyson Holzheimer and Joe Strelnik - Snooze, an A.M. Eatery Paul McCabe - T. Cook's at the Royal Palms Eugenia Theodosopoulos - Essence Bakery Cafe Eddie Hantas - Hummus Xpress Jay Bogsinke - St. Francis Dustin Christofolo - Quiessence Blaise and DJ Aki - The Sushi Room Sacha Levine - Rancho Pinot and FnB Andrew Nienke - Cafe Monarch Kevin Lentz - French Grocery Aurore de Beauduy - Vogue Bistro Justin Olsen - Bink's Midtown Marco, Jinette, and Edmundo Meraz - Republica Empanada Brian Peterson - Cork Brian Webb - Hey Joe! Filipino Street Food Lester Gonzalez - Cowboy Ciao Renetto-Mario Etsitty - Tertio German Sega - Roka Akor Marco Bianco - Pizzeria Bianco Brad and Kat Moore - Short Leash Hot Dogs and Sit...Stay

Follow Chow Bella on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria