We’re Back! And Euless gets a craft coffee shop…

So it’s been a little while since the Coffee Hunters posted here.  And some of you have noticed that!  Well, a thousand apologies.  We started with a bang and then life kind of got in the way.   We meant well, and we’ve definitely still been pursuing great coffee.  We just didn’t always turn that into a post here.

But enough of that.  We’re back and we’re starting with a new coffee shop in Euless.  That’s right.  The Mid-Cities finally has a craft coffee shop!

When you head out to visit a new coffee shop you’ve heard good things about you know what you’ll find when you arrive.  An older brick building with a ton of history.  Quaint downtown setting.  A hipster feel with matching artwork and cool little table and chairs.

And gas pumps.

Wait… what!?  Gas pumps?  A recent Eater Dallas article popped up in my feed and said there was a new coffee shop in Euless that is one of the 19 best in the DFW Metroplex.  Since Euless is quite near home base, and Euless and Bedford are devoid of a real coffee shop (no, the green mermaid place doesn’t count) I was anxious to give Society Coffee a shot.

Fed the address into my phone and it led me right to a … a convenience store.  Society Coffee is located in an Exxon gas station on Main Street, a few blocks north of 183.  This was not a promising start.  Yes, you can buy a frozen burrito and thaw it in the industrial strength microwave at a gas station, or grab a Gatorade and a quart of 10w-30 to go, but a latte?  A real latte, not one made from one of those ridiculous auto machines that makes pretend foam like they have at QT?  

Oh, the life of a coffee hunter.  What have I got into for you, dear readers?

I stepped inside to find a three head Rancilio espresso machine gleaming and ready.  The signs promised beans from Avoca (a very good start).  There was cool neon and a bearded barista.  When I asked him what was the best thing he made he said “A latte, that’s what we do best.”  That too is a good start.  If a barista wants you to drink something heavily flavored with syrup this or whipped cream that then it may be that he isn’t making very good or very real coffee.File Jul 01, 12 31 41 PM.jpeg

A moment later I was on my way with a latte, complete with latte art on the top.  I was on my way because this is a working convenience store and there are no tables or chairs where you can sit, talk, and sip coffee. File Jul 01, 12 32 23 PM.jpeg There are some very small tables outside but I decided I would just hit the road.

So what’s the verdict?  First, the latte.  I forgot to note what beans Society was using but the latte had a nice fruity taste to it.  Lots of people are used to coffee being heavily roasted and dark, giving a correspondingly dark (if not bitter) flavor.  But if you use a light roast, particularly from Ethiopia, you can get a marvelous subtle fruit flavor that shades much more toward tea than it does road tar.  To keep that going and not let it get lost in a latte is a feat.  It was easily one of the most interesting lattes I’ve had.   Not the usual, to say the least.File Jul 01, 12 33 00 PM.jpeg

That probably holds as the verdict for all of Society Coffee.  A serious coffee shop in a convenience store?   Not the usual!  I’m glad they are trying it but I must admit some reservations.  No tables is a big drawback.  Hanging out and visiting is a part of the coffee experience for many people today.  Yes, there are tables outside but they are teeny-tiny, seat only two, and you’d have the joy of being only a few feet away from cars driving in and out and being gassed up.  Not sure I want a side order of unleaded fumes with my cappuccino!

But I’d urge readers to give them a try.  It’s a game effort and the equipment and coffee beans being used make it worth that try.  Maybe the ambiance isn’t the best but do you want atmosphere or good coffee?

The next time I’m in the need for a coffee fix and I’m in the middle of Euless and Bedford thinking Starbucks is my only option, I may head over to Society Coffee.  Especially if the gas gauge on the car is on E!

Society Coffee

600 N Main St, Euless, TX 76039

OPEN 7DAYS/WEEK

HOURS: 6:00am TO 8pm

Coffee class at Davis Street Espresso!

Here at DFW Coffee Hunters we are all about testing and trying new coffee shops as we continue to work down The List. But we also want to plug you, the reader, into various happenings in the coffee world around Dallas-Fort Worth.

So with that thought in mind the Coffee Hunters enrolled in Oak Cliff Coffee Roaster’s Summer School class “Brew Anywhere.” Taught as part of Davis Street Espresso, one of our favorite coffee shops, you might think going to summer school would be a bummer.  However, this class was excellent, informative and fun. Taught by one of OCCR’s baristas, MiMo, we learned more about coffee and brewing technique in 90 minutes then seemed possible!20150711_111241

MiMo helped us to understand the interplay between the four building blocks of extraction: temperature, grind, dose (the ratio of coffee to water), and time. We also talked about secondary factors in extraction, like how even the grounds are in the brewing chamber or device, saturation, and turbulence (stirring).  All of this is designed to give a good extraction. That is measured in four ways – acidity, sweetness, mouthfeel, and finish. What are we looking for?  MiMo reminded us that good brewing will not produce coffee that is sour or bitter.

20150711_111442Then, after lots of discussion about coffee brewing, MiMo brewed some coffee. He used a Sowden Sofbrew, a Chemex, and an AeroPress. What was fascinating was that using the same kind of coffee three very different tasting cups of coffee were made. Frankly, I was pretty surprised at the differences. Different brew methods do make a difference!  The class concluded with some ideas about how to brew great coffee at Grandma’s (when all she has is an old Mr. Coffee), on a plane (bring a traveling French Press tumbler), in a hotel, and even when camping.

All in all it was a highly instructive class. I’m using what I learned every day as I pursue the perfect cup of coffee out of my AeroPress. As a bonus we all went home with a half pound of fresh roasted Kenyan coffee!20150711_105357

If you are interested in expanding your base of coffee knowledge and know-how think about heading over to OCC’s Summer School.   This Saturday’s class will be “From Seed to Cup” and will cover exactly what its title promises.  Go here to enroll and enjoy going to Summer School!

Cobbler’s Cafe – Elizabethtown, Kentucky

The Coffee Hunters haven’t been blogging much, and we’ve been drinking DFW coffee even less.  June has seen some serious travel outside of Texas for the Hunters.  One of us headed to Italy and Vancouver (yes, for the women’s World Cup win).  The other was seen traipsing around as a summer camp counselor in Arkansas and then was in Louisville, Kentucky for a week.

20150625_113317It was there in Kentucky we struck gold.  Or more to our liking, coffee.  Really good coffee along with wonderful food, all in a fabulous setting.

The discovery of the week was a little south of Louisville in the quaint little town of Elizabethtown (E-town to the locals).  There the amazing Cobbler’s Café can be found, and what a find it is!

Just how many coffee shops do you know of that are in a building over 100 years old?  The Café was constructed in 1878 as a doctor’s office.  It is constructed in the classic “shotgun” style of the times, measuring only twelve feet across by eighty-five feet long. The Cobbler's Cafe - coffee in a historic building  Every bit of it is full of history and the flavor of a bygone time.  For example, you can still see the original skylight that gave good light for the operating room in 1878.  The brick walls you see in the photos are the original walls, made from hand made bricks.  It is an incredible building – unique and special in so many ways.  From being a doctor’s office the building ultimately became a shoe shop, with a big sign promising shoes and boots could be re-heeled in 3 minutes.  That led to even more fascinating history, including letting the building become very run down and dilapidated. 20150625_134155

By the time the building was purchased in 2002 it was in need of significant repairs. Some said it would never be restored, but its owners, Jayme and Kristi Burden, were determined.  They overcame bureaucracy, rotten wood, and even all the crazy rules and regulations the Health Department imposes on an establishment serving food.  Somehow, in 2003 the Cobbler’s Café opened for business.

That business includes genuine cobbler (that was simply spectacular), cookies, scones, lunch time sandwiches, burgers, fries and more.  There is a full menu at the Cobbler’s Café and every bit of it looks scrumptious.  An espresso machine from Italy makes sure coffee lovers have lattes, mochas, and macchiatos – all made to perfection.  I had a pour over and found a dark Italian roast coffee to provide a mug of real coffee flavor that was just irresistible.

20150625_132624The Cobbler’s Café is the ideal place to pull off the road, get something to eat, or enjoy a cup of coffee while savoring the history and ambiance of the place.  You’ll get great coffee and food here and more – you’ll get a chance to relax a minute in a truly unique café.  If you are headed to Louisville, you will find Elizabethtown off of I-65 about thirty minutes south of Louisville.  Exit on highway 61 and head into Elizabethtown.  You can’t miss the Cobbler’s Café as it is directly across from the new courthouse.

Maybe not everyone reading a coffee blog centered in DFW will get a chance to try the Cobbler’s Café.  But we’re always looking for great coffee – here in Texas or anywhere else.  And if you’re in Kentucky, don’t miss the Cobbler’s Café!

The Coffee Hunters visit Avoca Coffee Shop in Fort Worth

I know, I know … being a coffee hunter sounds glamorous and exciting. Checking out new coffee places, having great cups of coffee, becoming world famous for your blog (wishing … wishing …) and all your coffee expeditions – what a life! Yes, there are some perks that come the way of the coffee hunter (see what I did there?) but don’t forget there are also risks. Big risks. For example, those awkward conversations with people who want to know why you would go so far for coffee when 7-11 has a pot on all day? What about tea lovers and there whole thing about tea being superior to coffee? Who has time for that?! Even worse, your coffee hunting might take you to a coffee shop that is just pretentious and the coffee is mediocre.

Avoca Coffee Shop

Avoca Coffee Shop

That brings us to Avoca Coffee in Fort Worth. It’s incredible shops like Avoca that keep your intrepid Coffee Hunters daring for coffee!

We’ve been to a number of coffee places, both on and off the “official ” list. Without trying to be presumptuous we think we have a feel for the places that care about coffee, and the places that are just wannabes. Our taste buds are sharpened up and we think we might know something about lattes, cortados and great coffee.

In short, we know what we know, and what we know is that Avoca Coffee Shop in Fort Worth is absolutely one of the finest coffee shops in the Metroplex.

Avoca wins that praise with both of us going in with every high expectations. This shop has a won of ton of awards. They’ve been in business four years, so they are not some fly-by-night operation that jumped on the high end coffee bandwagon yesterday. Read their website and you’ll see they take coffee seriously. In fact, it’s the only coffee place on “the list” in Fort Worth. All of that made us itching to go because it just seemed so promising.

We were not disappointed.

20150602_090216Avoca is behind the hospital district south of I-30 just west of downtown Fort Worth. It’s not hard to find. Two big garage doors and the rich smell of coffee roasting let you know you’re in the right place. Inside it’s big, airy, roomy and comfy. Weird modern art gives it the appropriate hipster vibe (really – do you want to see a Norman Rockwell print, the Mona Lisa and a Kinkaide in your favorite coffee shop?). The people at Avoca were friendly and nice. It was 9:00 AM and the place had some folks in it but wasn’t overrun. We ordered a latte, Stu’s standard cortado and I also asked for a pour-over with their San Marcos blend. If you’re not familiar with pour-overs, that is a technique for making one cup of coffee by pouring water through a filter funnel.

Avoca Coffee Shop pour over setup

Avoca Coffee Shop pour over setup

Think of your standard Mr. Coffee coffeemaker, only without the water pump to pump the water up to the brew basket. Instead the barista carefully pours the funnel/basket full, slowly tending it to get just the right amount of brew time as the water passes through the grounds.

It is important to note, Avoca doesn’t just brew coffee and make lattes. Half the shop is given over to the roasting of coffee. It is a high priority here because a number of area shops rely on Avoca to do the roasting, and serve Avoca coffee. They offer single source coffees, carefully roasted for maximum coffee enjoyment. If you’re into roasting coffee and want to learn the ins and outs of it, Avoca is your spot. They even teach classes in roasting techniques! From the amount and variety of bagged coffee for sale it is clear this an integral part of Avoca.

But we weren’t there to roast coffee. We were there to get coffee and enjoy coffee. If the Middle Eastern proverb that says “The eye eats before the mouth” is true then Avoca got us started right. Not only were the surroundings warm and inviting, my latte was a work of art, as was Stewart’s cortado. One sip confirmed that it wasn’t all looks either.

Beautiful cortado

Beautiful cortado

Stewart rated his cortado as excellent (even though it was served without a mineral water chaser). The latte I enjoyed was easily one of the best lattes I have ever had. It was smooth and it held its foam deep into the mug, showing consistency and that the milk had been steamed just right. This was an amazing latte – smooth and delightful. The next time someone tells me they can get a latte at that place with the Girl in a Green Circle sign I will point them to Avoca so they can find out what a real latte is! The pour-over was equally enjoyable. It had a little bit of a bite that mellowed as it cooled.

All of this in an atmosphere that was utterly unhurried and relaxing. A few people came and went. Here and there a laptop or tablet popped on to get some Internet along with coffee or tea.20150602_090302

I asked about opening the garage doors but was told that the city of Fort Worth considers Avoca an “open kitchen” and as such it cannot have open doors. That is the kind of thing that sure makes you scratch your head. What is the city thinking?!

But still … it was wonderful. Avoca is everything you want in a coffee shop, starting with great coffee that is perfectly roasted and then carefully brewed with a genuine affection for coffee and craftsmanship. The word “Avoca” is an old Gaelic word that translates to “Great Mouth.” The Coffee Hunters couldn’t agree more. Go to Avoca and your mouth will say “This is great!”

Avoca showcases the possibilities and potential when a coffee shop does it right. Again, and without doubt, this is one of DFW’s premiere and best coffee shops.  And it’s shops like Avoca that make your Coffee Hunters keep taking on those risks to find you great coffee.

Dominican Joe- “Drink coffee…change the world” in Austin, Texas

I find myself in Austin this weekend combining an opportunity to bring the family down to see Granny and Granddaddy and do the CapTex Triathlon tomorrow on Memorial Day.  Donna came with me after worship at Northwest (and carb loading at the Cheesecake Factory) to pick up my race packet and drop off my bike.  After browsing around the Expo we hopped back in the car and guess what time it was?  Yep, it was time for coffee!

I asked the parking attendant on the way out of the garage where the best coffee in downtown Austin was and he paused for a moment before saying, “Well there’s a Starbucks around the corner”.  Down, but not out, I wipe the tears from my eyes and type “nearby coffee” into the ol’ iPhone and sure enough, multiple bogies immediately pop up.

Within 5 minutes, we pull up to Dominican Joe.

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This coffee shop started in the mid-2000’s with a goal of providing great coffee to downtown Austin and improving the lives of families in the Dominican Republic through the purchase of Fair Trade coffee.  Located along South Congress just outside downtown proper, it sits in a small strip center with fairly decent parking.  It boasts generous indoor seating as well as outdoor on the patio.  It was fairly packed on this warm Sunday afternoon but had plenty of room to sit and enjoy the afternoon java.

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Donna ordered her drink of choice, a soy latte and I opted for my typical Cortado.  Their menu offered a Cortadito which is a sweetened version of the Cortado.  It uses a splash of condensed milk to add that touch of sweetness, but as I already had my honey with me, I needed no extra sweetness and requested a straight Cortado.

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My Cortado was outstanding but Donna said her latte was a tad on the cool side with a bit too much foam for a typical latte. The flavor of the beans was smooth and strong and was well drawn.  We did not sample any of their food items, but they offered typical pastries along with some breakfast and lunch items prepared by local popular eateries.

All in all, this downtown Austin establishment seems to be meeting its goal of serving good coffee with a mission.  If you find yourself in downtown Austin someday and need a jolt of java, you will not  be disappointed at Dominican Joe.

Brew on, fellow coffee hunters and safe travels over this holiday weekend!

The Coffee Hunters head to Ascension Coffee in Dallas!

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Being a coffee hunter means we read up on these great places and then go sample and try them. It’s like Christmas morning for coffee nerds, or at least it should be.  Remember that big present you got one Christmas from a distant relative that looked so wonderful … until you got the wrapping paper off and it was socks? Good socks. Nice socks. But socks.

That’s pretty much my reaction to Ascension Coffee. It’s got a super reputation. Everyone writes about it and talks about it. It’s in Dallas’ design district, a genuine hot spot. I thought it would be one of the highlight visits in our coffee trips.

20150505_104918But from the beginning things weren’t great. First, you can hardly get in the parking lot and then I felt like DFW Parking Space Hunter. There was nowhere to park.  I circled the building three times looking for a space and was about to valet it (yes, they have valet parking) when finally someone pulled out. Then I saw the sign on the patio that said “Sign up for patio seating.” So it’s so full you can’t park and you can’t sit on the patio?! It’s not Ascension’s fault that they are popular but this seemed a bit much. It’s 11:00 a.m. on a weekday!

Once inside it didn’t take long to realize, in Stewart’s words, this is a coffee shop “for the beautiful people.” Ascension is very trendy with a super hipster vibe going on. Candidly that makes me uncomfortable because I’m so trendy and hipster I worry that I might intimidate other fellow trendster and hipster wannabes. That is never a pretty sight.  On a more realistic note, mostly I was terrified someone from management would send a bouncer over to throw me out because I so don’t fit into anything as cool as Ascension is. Fortunately, the bouncer must have had the day off and Stewart and I managed to stay under the radar.20150505_111941

On the plus side, the waitress was very friendly and nice. She did a fine job of pretending that she didn’t notice how neither of us really fit into Ascension’s demographic. When you come in you grab a little clipboard with a menu and have a seat at a table. The waitress then takes your order and brings you whatever you want. And there’s plenty you’d want. Ascension is a full-fledged café, offering lots of delicious looking food options.

However, we aren’t food hunters. It’s coffee we’re about.  They have a full coffee bar, with just about any coffee or tea concoction you could want. I had a latte and Stewart had his usual cortado.

20150505_110335That’s when we discovered the wonderfully wrapped present before us contained socks. I can put up with bad parking and trendy atmosphere if the shop has awesome coffee (like we’d heard). Yet, while my latte was very good (but not great) Stewart’s cortado was disappointing. It was bitter and had a real edge to it. It also was not served with a mineral water spritzer like we’ve found at other shops. What’s the deal with that?

A little sweetness can make the difference so I asked the waitress to bring out a scone. Unfortunately, it was rather dry and crumbly, another disappointment.20150505_111536

So our summary for Ascension is … socks. Nice socks. They’re above average, for sure. But they are just socks. Ascension is probably a wonderful café if you need breakfast, lunch or dinner. They can give you a Chemex pour over if you want a regular cup of coffee and I’d like to get back and try that. They roast their own beans and are obviously into great coffee. But their trendy vibe and much less than optimal cortado and scone were just not up to the standard set by some of the other shops in our area.

20150505_115347If we lived in a small town and the choices were Ascension or Mel’s Gas and Greasy Spoon (where the coffee is four days old and you can stand a spoon in it) … well, we would all be thrilled to have coffee at Ascension. But as coffee hunters we’ve had exceptional coffee and that’s what we are looking for: far better than average, better than even really good. We’re looking for “Oh my I can’t believe what I’m having here.” Our expectation is we will find crazy joy in a mug. We want coffee nerd nirvana. Sadly, Ascension just didn’t meet those expectations. There are some good things at Ascension (or the parking lot wouldn’t be packed) but for the DFW Coffee Hunters there are better choices in the Metroplex.

Where should the Coffee Hunters go next? Vote now!

vote-now-540x361We want our readers to have some input into where the hunt for DFW’s best cup of coffee goes next.  We will visit a shop next week and we’ve decided to let you decide where we go.  Get your votes in now.  The poll will close Monday night and we’ll make our visit Tuesday.  Please don’t vote several million times, hire random elves to keep hitting the button or set up some weird bot to swamp the site with your choice.  Just give us a click to let us know where you’d like to see us go next!
THE POLL IS NOW CLOSED.  Thank you for voting!

Zenzero Bakery & Cafe

Ahhh…the smell of fresh roasted coffee and homemade baked goods…that was the welcome we received upon entering the Zenzero Bakery & Café in Coppell.  The second round of the DFW Coffee Hunters search for great coffee was underway!  I hesitate to opine so early in the game, but after all is said and done, I would not be at all surprised if Zenzero (pronounced “ZEHN-zeh-roh, which is Italian for ginger) ranks near the top of my personal favorites. Why you might ask? Let’s start with the owner of this sublime establishment.  Ginger Blazek is passionate about baking.  A graduate of The Culinary School of Fort Worth with a degree in Pastry Arts, I am certain she was at the top of her class. You can see it in her attention to detail with the simplest of tasks such as icing a fresh batch of cookies or baking their own bread for the burgers they serve up in their kitchen.  Other coffee shops may offer baked goods or snacks of some kind, but this is on a completely different level. z1 The shop itself, a narrow affair squeezed into a small stretch along Denton Tap Road, offers inside and outside covered seating.  They were doing steady business on the morning of our visit but lunch the next day (yes, I went back with Donna) saw a string of hungry patrons lined up out the door awaiting their chance to order from the solid menu.  Dinner is available on Friday nights and Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays with a completely separate and enticing menu. z5 “What about the coffee?” you say.  I’m glad you asked.  As Mark Roberts mentioned, I will order a Cortado at each coffee shack we visit in order to level the playing field.  Presentation is a bonus.  But for me, it is all in the smoothness of the pull, the correct consistency and proportion of milk, and the richness of the flavor as it makes its way across my palate.  Put a fancy heart on my foam if you must, but does the drink itself have heart?  The clear answer at Zenzero is yes, it certainly does.  Served with a sidecar of Topo Chico mineral water to cleanse the palate, this Cortado was exceptional. z3z4 Parker, our barista, was both knowledgeable and skilled at his art.  Offering a slow bar as well as espresso drinks, Zenzero showcases a number of coffee beans from Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters and a guest roaster (currently, Sweet  Bloom Coffee from Lakewood, Colorado).  They use a professional La Marzocco Strada MP espresso machine.  These espresso machines are still made by hand just outside Florence, Italy.  Does that make a difference?  You bet your beans, it does. z8 B.B. King once said, “I don’t do chords”.  At Zenzero, while they don’t do flavors, they will do soy milk in addition to whole.  They believe that simplicity and clarity lead to an exceptional cup of java.  So don’t come to Zenzero if you want a “tall, skinny, two-pump vanilla, cup of waste-o-time”.  Come to Zenzero if you want a smooth, fragrant, flavorful cup of coffee…and a cinnamon roll.  Don’t forget the cinnamon roll. Brew on, fellow coffee hunters! p.s. the specific mineral water used as a cleanser is becoming of interest to me, so stay tuned for a home experiment I will be conducting in the near future!