Employees at four locally owned coffee shops share their behind-the-bar experience and some tips for making your morning cup of coffee like the pros.
What elevates a simple cup of coffee?
“Use good water, good water above everything else. A lot of times what people get frustrated with when they can’t recreate what they’re drinking at a coffee shop is because of the water quality.” — Katie Ford, manager at Press Coffee, 2201 E Grantview Dr #102, Coralville
“There are these really cool things called vacuum pots which, when they are done right, make a really great cup of coffee. They were super popular back at the turn of the century, all the way up until the ’50s. If you’ve got freshly roasted coffee, we like to open the bag up and let it air out for a couple of days. There are gases that come off the coffee that if you brew that coffee right away it won’t taste as good as if you wait a day or two.” — Brad Danielson, owner at Cafe Saint Pio, 99 16th Ave SW, Cedar Rapids
“Use a proper grinder, not pre-ground coffee, [and] scales. Make pour-overs at home instead of pressing a button.” — Micheal Beyne, manager Dash Coffee Roasters, 287 N Linn St, Iowa City, and 120 3rd Ave SW, Cedar Rapids
“My personal advice for always having good coffee is that you look at when the coffee was roasted. From when it was roasted until two to three weeks later, where you have a fresher coffee, it kind of brings a fresh cup of coffee for yourself and the person making it. I do also think that having a good grinder is worth a lot in making your cup of coffee.” — Tyler Steuber, barista at Cafe Muse, 65 Cameron Way #108, North Liberty
What is your guilty pleasure drink?
“Holiday drinks. I love some mint in some things. Like, put some mint in a matcha latte; it feels like Christmas.” — Micheal Beyne, Dash Coffee Roasters
“Right now it’s kind of a play on the white mocha: our Cinnamon Roll Latte. It’s got some brown sugar, syrup and some cinnamon, and the white mocha base of it. Back in the day in 2003, when I first started working in a coffee shop, my go-to was a white mocha, so every so often I’ll have one of those, but typically it’s brewed coffee or an Americano.” — Katie Ford, Press Coffee
Anything one should not order?
“I had somebody ask for a shot of espresso to go. If you can’t finish a one-ounce drink by the time you hit the door there’s something wrong with you. Cold espresso to me is disgusting. There’s something wrong about putting such a small drink into a paper cup. That’s my pet peeve. Everything else is just down to preference.” — Brad Danielson, Cafe Saint Pio
“I’m here to help you find what you want to drink, and hopefully steer you away from certain drinks. I’m trying to open your eyes to what coffee is rather than [just] a caramel latte.” — Micheal Beyne, Dash Coffee Roasters
Where does your shop shine?
“You want it to be your straight-up shot of espresso, that’s what I hope is the best thing we offer. But as far as what people would say is great, what I hear all the time: We have the best chai. We have great white mochas. But what it really comes down to, and even though not a lot of people are connoisseurs, if you want to call them that, is shots of espresso. Any really good job is going to be focusing strictly on that shot, because you can’t hide it when it’s just a shot by itself, not with any flavoring or any syrups or chocolate or anything else.” — Brad Danielson, Cafe Saint Pio
“The French press. I feel like that’s what sets us apart from everybody else in the area, because everybody else does a drip or a pour over, and we do everything by French press as far as our brewed coffee goes. That way the grounds and the water have four minutes to marinate together, kind of like a routine. Otherwise everything else goes through a filter and the coffee to water time together is very minimal.” — Katie Ford, Press Coffee
“We’re able to get coffee from different places around the U.S. I think that it’s been pretty cool to be able to get good coffee and bring it to North Liberty and then kind of distribute that out to people who live there or in Iowa City, and just kind of have them taste that good coffee that we want our customers to appreciate.” — Tyler Steuber, Cafe Muse