Brewing the Perfect Morning Cup with Big Shoulders Coffee

The ideal morning routine: Wake up, take a big morning stretch, walk out to find a barista making you an americano in your kitchen and a yoga teacher waiting in your living room to get you flowing.  Oh dreams!  More likely, you are running around with one shoe on wondering where you dropped your car keys the night before.

img_20160514_110351_26924014872_o

 

Delicious aromatic coffee can help you feel like your wacky mornings are a little more relaxed.  Coffee isn’t only a eye opener in the morning but research studies show it can boost your workouts, improve mental clarity, and sneak some antioxidants into our cute “Bloggers gonna blog” coffee mug.

However, the way we go about brewing that coffee can make a huge difference in our morning jolt of java.

img_20160514_115447_27018010285_o

We studied the intricacies of brewing the perfect cup two weekends ago at the Windy City Blogger Collective private roasting session at Big Shoulders Coffee. Founder, Tim Coonan, gave us an all bean access tour of The Roastery, where Big Shoulders coffee beans are delicately processed, like a green coffee caterpillar becoming an espresso butterfly.  As an artisanal micro-roaster, the company builds fair trade relationships and creates unique crafted blends and single origin coffees with bold tastes (herbs, toffee, dark chocolate) .

20160514_104151_26984482196_o

Along with watching the coffee roasting process, we asked pointed questions to get to the real issue that many coffee guzzlers want to know.  How do we make the perfect cup of coffee?  Founder, Tim Coonan, poured out tips to ensure that each coffee brew is the best for you.

For us humdrum Autodrip consumers (that’s us!):

  1. Keep your coffee pot clean!!  Kate’s mom recommends 3 rinses with white vinegar to reduce mineral build up, followed by 2 rinses of water to get rid of the vinegar taste.
  2. Use fresh coffee.  The recommendation was that a ground bag of beans should last a week.  Get chugging coffee fans.
  3. Measure out 2 tablespoons of freshly ground Big Shoulders coffee per 6 ounces of water.
  4. Brew and enjoy!

img_20160514_110203_26412448184_o

For the coffee savvy Chemex, Kalita Wave or Clever Dripper user (Tim’s personal faves for home brewin’):

  1. Again, keep your brewing vessel clean.
  2. Choose fresh Big Shoulders coffee and use within a week.
  3. Stop grinding the life out of your coffee (aka don’t grind coffee too fine)!  Match the grind to the brewing method.  Tim recommends a burr grinder.
  4. Using a scale, focus on the ratio of 1 part coffee to 15 parts water.  We hope you are good at math on this one.  Note: phones have calculators so…no excuses.
  5. Heat filtered water to 204 degrees.
  6. Now it’s time to put on your hipster clothes and get down to the Pour Over method.  Bloom the coffee by pouring in enough water to moisten coffee grounds but not to brew.
  7. After 1 minute of blooming, begin the brew the coffee by carefully pouring remaining water and controlling brewing time (3-4 minutes total) by slowing or stopping the pour as needed.

20160514_102308_26744143450_o

Thank you Windy City Blogger Collective for the coffee connection and Tim Coonan for the tips and tour!  Big Shoulders, situated at 1105 West Chicago Ave, is sold at various Chicagoland locations, like Target and Whole Foods, or you can purchase coffee online.  Now go find that other shoe and get to work, coffee cup in hand :).

20160514_105802_26949824641_o

Top 5 #ShopSmallSaturday Places

Gotta be honest, Black Friday has never been our thing.  We appreciate experiences, like a rock climbing class or cooking night, or those one of kind items that no one has.  Tickle Me Elmo can keep his hands to himself…we have better gifts to choose from.  This Saturday, let’s support our neighborhood businesses that we love and give our fam and friends something to brag about.  Here’s 5 places we frequent in the Chicagoland area as well as some bonus best neighborhood tips to Shop Small.

For your vintage modern clothes lover: Jayne Boutique – Forest Park

One of Kate’s favorite gifts from Monica originated at Jayne Boutique, a soft fleecy reindeer neck scarf-now lost and mourned often.  Jayne Boutique satisfies your desire for quaint dresses, lined holiday leggings (tasteful of course) as well as organic body products, one of a kind home goods and shoes.

For Kid’s Gifts: Cat and Mouse Games -West Loop, Chicago

When’s the last time you sat down and played a board game?  Beware: these things can be addicting and make you spend face time with your loved ones.  Cat and Mouse Games has a wide selection of board games, toys and children’s books.  Try out Settlers of Catan if you dare.

For that crazy friend you love through thick and thin: Paper Doll – Wicker Park, Chicago

Yes, a unique gift shop with an adorable fuzzy pug that hangs out with you as you shop!  Paper Doll is the place to be.  If you’re looking for a quirky touch of obscenities on a birthday card or hand made goodies, your choices are sure to surprise and delight.

For your coffee fanatic: Bowtruss (6 Chicago locations currently)

Your java lover will freak with the gift of a coffee roasting class or coffee subscription to this ever expanding micro-roaster.

wp-1448491915226.jpg

For your hipster sister: Wolf Bait & B-Girls – Logan Square

Wolf Bait & B-Girls delivers your desires for up cycled earrings, and has the best reasons for why you should shop local!

 

If none of these meet your shop small needs, check out these best neighborhoods to shop small (in no particular order).  With dozens of local clothing stores, gift shops, food and drink options, you are sure to find your local love.

  1. Logan Square
  2. Pilsen
  3. Hyde Park

Where’s your top pick to shop small?

A Holly Jolly Holiday Gift Guide

A Chi Organic Girls Holiday Gift Guide

Is it just us or did the holiday season creep up on us like those giant spiders in the new Hobbit movie?  We’ve been feeling the adrenaline of the season, hitting the streets in our snow boots and clicking away with our mouses in a fury of gift giving.  OMGS Christmas is only 4 days a way!  The biggest dilemma we’ve been facing: How to find that one of a kind perfect gift for the foodie, fit fanatic or Chicago adventurer.  Holiday gift guide to the rescue!!

Do you have an artist in your life?  How about Grizzclay by Chuck Borchers, a Deaf artist who has been experimenting with clay for several years now at Lillstreet Art Center.  These one-of-a-kind bowls can make a great centerpiece for a new home or a fancy fruit bowl to liven up a blah kitchen.

image (4)

Grizzclay by Chuck Borchers

image (5)

Grizzclay by Chuck Borchers

Something for your highly caffeinated friends?  We recommend Bowtruss Coffee Roasters, located in River North and Lakeview.  One of Chicago’s bustling micro-roasters, their bean blends offer complex flavor profiles like cherry or apple undertones.  Read more about our experience at Bowtruss here.

20131017_201831

For foodies, check out recommendations of Chicago food experts (including ours) in the Chicago Food Bloggers Holiday Gift Guide.  For example, We love Vosges Haut-Chocolat, with boutiques located in downtown, Lincoln Park and of all places, O’Hare Airport.  Pick up a custom box of regional truffles (think Mexican coco dusted in chili) or an exotic chocolate bar, like the newly released Coconut Ash and Banana Dark chocolate bar.  For your veggie and vegan peeps, try Chicago Diner with a gift card for a tasty “I can’t believe it’s vegan” shake or have your friends rep their veg style with a Chicago Diner t-shirt.  Click here for more food gift ideas.

Fit Fanatics: For a yoga lover or to help someone get off their asana (haha) and get fit, gift them one week of unlimited classes at  Zen Yoga Garage (plus first-timers automatically get one week free pass with a coupon).  Learn more about this 2013 new hotspot here.

IMG_20130922_091129

Zen Yoga Garage

And for a more one-on-one fitness focus, how about some serious calorie crushing sessions with our fave certified personal trainer, Sabri Xhaferi, NASM CPT.  Sabri offers nutritional counseling, myofascial (muscular relaxation) techniques, and one-on-one highly individualized personal training with flexible payment arrangements.  Email sabriCPT@gmail.com and find more background info here.  You can also grab some healthy tips on his Facebook page.

profile-image24565-Square

Sabri Xhaferi, CPT
Photo courtesy Ela Miszczyszyn

Oh and for fun fun fun person in your life: The Chicago donut scene has been rolling (like a rolling pin, get it?) this year.  For the fun chasing type, how about tickets to the first ever batter-y, deep-fried Donut Fest in Chicago on Jan 26th!  Tickets are on sale Monday, Dec 23rd at noon.  For more info  http://donutfest.com

donuts3

Glazed & Infused Donuts and Firecakes Donuts

Whew!  It’s time to break our the tape, scissors, and wrapping paper and get these gifts in the sleigh!

What are your recs for Chicago’s best gifts?  Where do you eat, sweat and play?

So You Think You Can Be a Barista?

Google+ Local Chicago has really been pumping out the Chicago Jams lately with their events.  Our most recent Google City Expert (YEAAAH we love this city!) special invite was a behind the scenes tour and experience at Bow Truss Coffee Roasters on Broadway.  We have been dreaming about quitting our day jobs and becoming fancy free baristas so this was a chance to test our naturally caffeinated talents.

20131017_201831

We first were schooled in the fine art of coffee roasting.  Holy espresso nibs, did you know that coffee beans are really the seeds of coffee cherries?  We basically thought there were tiny beans jus’ chilling on trees waiting to get plucked.  Once these cherries are harvested, they are shipped off to get naked as their skin and pulp is removed.  What remains is the green coffee seed (Is this the famed green coffee from Starbucks?  The world may never know…as we are too lazy to google it right now).

IMG_20131017_182547

Green coffee beans

Next, the seeds are processed and are prepped for roasting.  We watched intently as our coffee guide poured the coffee beans into the roaster and constantly monitored their color and the temp of the roaster.  Once completed, we snuck our way over to weigh and bag our very own bag of Google+ Local coffee beans, roasted especially for us.

20131017_185158

Roasted coffee beans

A few pics later, and we were broken into two groups of coffee adventurers.  Our group joined Barista Greg for a lesson on home coffee brewing.  Neither one of us ever had or made a pour over before so we were ready to coffee rumble with our Pour over devices.  Monica’s finished coffee was a standout winner in the group with notes of red apple and flowers.  Who knew coffee tasting was akin to wine tasting?  We judged on body, undertones, and weight as Greg swirled our creations in his mouth and did the fancy tasting spit to make way for a new flavor.

Downloads

Our most delightful and enlighten session was latte art.  Here is where baristas are born, not made.  We were treated to several shots of espresso as a reasonable bedtime became increasingly unrealistic.  Our barista, Brian (hope we spelled it right!), showed us how to magically pour the milk into the espresso to create hearts in our lattes.  Monica was again the front runner with her baby heart while mine looked more like a fetus or possibly Boo from Mario Kart.

Downloads1

It was evident by my shaking hands that when we open a coffee shop, Monica will be the barista where I can book the entertainment and lead the tastings for quality control.

Downloads2

Kate’s first attempt at latte art!

Downloads3

Monica’s first attempt was a success!

A big thank you to Google+ Local Chicago and Bow Truss for letting us experience the daily grind (get it? get it?) of baristas.  We happily recommend a private coffee tutorial for groups as the staff at Bow Truss was beyond knowledgeable, friendly and a trip through their roasting house would be a special treat for any coffee-phile.

20131017_201234