Every time I travel by car, I remember why I like really good coffee…

Gas station road coffee sucks for the mostpart… Let me ask you a question:

Don’t you drink it when you are driving long distance? I think we all do.

One thing about a road trip…

The kind of delicious coffee you never find driving long distance...

It always reminds you how much you like your favorite coffee. A road trip is like a refresher course in really good coffee appreciation.

By contrast, whatever you drink at home is probably better than the coffee you drink at C-Stores along the highway as you drive long distance.

Isn’t it always true that we appreciate things by contrast? By comparing one experience against another? By measuring how the “thing” we are trying out compares against the “control” – our old standby, the one we always use or do?

Coffee is the same way.

Somewhere along the road of life, we learn to appreciate our “own” version of really good coffee. And our decision – our choice – may be triggered by a great experience of how good the coffee tasted with dessert at a really good restaurant that our Dad took us to on Mother’s day when we were 15.  And the reality is that maybe that coffee was not the best that Mother’s day, but the memory of that experience is a joyful one – a very pleasant memory of the ones we loved that day.

Or maybe we decided we loved the coffee grandma used to make because it reminds us of the smell of it brewing in her house and how much love there was in that place and how much grandmothers seem to understand children better that parents do. It reminds us of sitting by the fire, having a cup of joe with our granddaddy as he told us stories about growing up in the northwest and being friends with the Lakota and how he learned to speak their language. Maybe it reminds us how warm and good “our favorite” coffee – the way our Dad made it – made us feel during a freezing cold day of skiing at Donner Summit when we got back to the cabin and built a fire and Dad made us coffee.

It’s amazing how our olfactory system is so closely connected to memory and emotion. And – for each of us – how our version of really good coffee is such an individual experience. Someone told me one day (and I can not remember who it was about 30 years ago) that a smell is something that we never forget because the experience goes directly up the nose and gets recorded into the brain. It is both a physical and an emotional memory – with direct circuitry to the brain. It’s not a matter of interpolation or filtering through a thinking process to get into our memory.

As I took the first sip of my second cup of coffee this morning, I thought and then said out loud to myself:

“Damn that tastes good. That is a delicious cup of coffee.”

Immediately I was reminded how each cup of coffee we drank two days ago on a 900 mile road trip tasted. And it became clear to me how much better “my favorite cup in the morning” tastes than the very best cup I had traveling the other day. This is where I use the comparison (created by my mentor Dr Ed Carlson) “least worse” comes into play.

What’s Your First Memory of Really Good Coffee?

My first memory of really good coffee is standing in line at Peet’s coffee in 1967 in Berkeley California as a teenage customer. When I take a taste of good coffee, I often remember the wonderful aromas, the murmur of people talking, the sounds of high speed grinders whirring and a smiling face taking my order at the original Walnut Square Peets. What is your first memory of really good coffee?

I Am Michael Barrett and I love really good coffee.

Our thanks to this how to get good espresso in North America blog for this lovely coffee picture…

How to Make Really Good Coffee in the AeroPress

Here is a video with Chase Reeves demonstrating how to make really good coffee with the AeroPress. This is a pretty good video and it’s informative. Complements to Chase. I have heard about the Aeropress before but never used one myself. Discussion follows the video.

After seeing this video, I am definitely going to get an Aeropress and try it out.

In another post we discussed using a French Press for flavor and for creating a rich, full body cup of coffee. French Press is delicious.The drawback of the French Press method is that the coffee tends to be high in caffeine because the “brewing time” is about 4 minutes.

The Aeropress seems to have the advantage of almost a manual version of a pressure extraction, similar to espresso extraction without the boiler pressure. From looking at this video and extraction method my guess is that both the flavor will be excellent and there will be significantly less caffeine than the French Press because the water is exposed to the beans for less than a minute as demonstrated in the video. Seems like a really good solution.

So it seems – from my vantage point – that the flavor will be kind of a cross between French Press and espresso because it is both “pressed” with the plunger and “extracted” with air pressure. My guess is that if you are using freshly ground arabica beans, this will produce really good coffee.

AeroPress Kit

AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker Kit


Get Your Own AeroPress

Want to know more? Check out the info and what 1100 + people are saying about the AeroPress and another short video : More cool stuff about the AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker.

Free PDF from AeroPress

Here is a free pdf download link from Aeropress:  Getting the Most from Your AEROPRESS™ Coffee and Espresso Maker  The instructions are very clean and simple.

This video and discussion are stimulating my tastebud-curiosity. Looking forward to trying this method and we’ll report back when we have tried it.

Have a great day and enjoy some really good coffee.

I Am Michael Barrett and I Love Really Good Coffee

Really Good Coffee: How to Make Good Coffee with a French Press…

Really Good Coffee:  Video Making Good Coffee Using a French Press.

Really Good Coffee is always looking for ways to make good coffee and as far as flavor goes, the French press is one of the best lo-tech ways to do that.  The video here is one from YouTube and it’s a very good video. We’ll make our own in the near future.  A discussion about french press coffee follows the video.

French press is a great way to prepare a single varietal coffee because it highlights the flavors so well. As an example if you love to drink Columbian Supremo, the French press tastes excellent when you grind it course and let it brew for 4 minutes in the press. In fact, that is my very favorite way to drink Columbian Supremo – in terms of flavor. Although, you can use any type of varietal or blend you prefer in a French Press.

Most hot water brewing methods expose the bean to the water for less than a minute.

Bodum french press

Bodum French Press

Most traditional brewing methods use heat and gravity – exposing the coffee bean to water for considerably less time than the French Press method. In a melitta style pour through and most traditional coffee machines, the coffee grounds are exposed to the water for about 30-45 seconds – maybe a minute – depending on how fine you grind the beans.

Espresso extraction uses heat and boiler pressure to force hot water through a specific volume area containing a very finely ground coffee bean that is packed firmly. Actual extraction time is usually less than 30 seconds.

How the French press brewing method is different.

When you grind the coffee beans for brewing in the French press, you grind them very coarse. This factor, combined with the longer brewing time of 4 minutes, creates a very rich, satisfying flavor.

Coarse Grind for French Press - source: www.ineedcoffee.com/03/coffeegrind

Fine Grind Coffee

Fine Grind Coffee

Looking at the grind on the left, you can see how coarse it is compared to the grind on the right.

The coarse grind actually provides more surface area for the water to come in contact with the ground beans. This allows more access – in a sense – to the flavor from the bean.

The French press brewing method (as you saw in the video) basically just allows the coffee grind to sit in the hot water for four minutes.

The net result is that since there is more surface area of the coffee grinds exposed to the water for 2-3 minutes longer than other gravity brewing methods, it results in a deeper, richer flavor.

It also results in a higher concentration of caffeine per serving because you are leaving the grinds in the water longer.

Caffeine Misconceptions

There are a lot of misconceptions about caffeine in most cases simply due to a lack of knowledge.

One of the lowest portions of caffeine per serving is from properly extracted dark roast espresso. It takes 20-30 seconds per extraction depending on the beans, barista, equipment and style.

On the other side of the caffeine continuum is French press. If you want flavor and are not caffeine sensitive, it’s awesome coffee. If you are caffeine sensitive and you can find a swiss water processed decaf that you like, this might be a good application for it.

You can reduce the caffeine concentration by the adding hot water to the finished French press coffee.

It takes some experimentation to find out exactly how you like it the best. Flavor is a very personal thing.

Be sure to write down what you are trying while you are experimenting so you can duplicate what you did when you find what you like. Copious notes will eliminate frustration.

One other bummer about French Press. The glass cylinders are easy to break. Replacements are available and in stock at stores like Sur La Table. If you really like the flavor, you’ll probably want a spare at all times in case you break the original.

Properly ground and brewed French Press produces really good coffee.

Enjoy your French Press brewing and experimentation and the FLAVOR…

I AM Michael Barrett and I Love Really Good Coffee and French Press Columbian Supremo.

Really Good Coffee in Costa Rica…

Looking for really good coffee in Costa Rica.

Recently we spent three months in Costa Rica and looked for really good coffee whereever we went. There were two better than average coffee experiences during that three months - once at a restuarant in San Jose and another at a small cafe in Parita where they serve and sell their own label of coffee.

The people are lovely in Costa Rica – there is an elegance and a natural grace that permeates the culture and the peoples’ attitude and demeanor. It is not contrived or put-on. It is authentic. There is a beauty in their smiles and in the twinkle in their eyes when they get that YOU are for real too.

Over the years I have had excellent Costa Rican coffee. When I had my own espresso shop, Costa Rican arabica was part of the 6 bean mix the roaster and I chose to create our Morning Shot Blend. It was an integral part of the overall flavor profile in that blend and a necessary one. I have always likened the flavor of a medium roast cup of Costa Rican to a glass of dry white wine, in contrast to a dark roast French or Italian blend or a rich burgundy. All good at the right time and with the right food.

I love the aftertaste of a dry white and a cup of Costa Rican coffee when properly roasted and brewed. I prefer the rich flavor of a dark roast blend as opposed to a single varietal because it is more interesting in the pallate and offers a greater variety of flavor experiences within the same cup.

Perhaps it was that we stayed in the same location most of our time in Costa Rica that limited the opportunity to properly experience the nuances of Costa Rican coffee. Perhaps it was the indigenous brewing methods available. We were unable to find a melita style system, for example – anywhere – to make one-off cups of coffee.

Coffee in Costa Rica is a matter of national pride like ice hockey in Canada and Vodka in Russia, or soccer in Brazil. Truly the country grows beautiful quality Arabica coffee beans in a beautiful country.

The next time we visit Costa Rica, we will seek far and wee for the best preparations and presentations Costa Rican coffee we can find. With our limited exposure to variations available during our three month stay, it may not be fair to conclude that the best Costa Rican coffee we have ever had was in the United States.

Be it fair or not, for now this is our conclusion.


Really Good Coffee With Abe Leibhaber – Video

Who would guess that guest housemate Abe Leibhaber, cellist for the Sarasota Opera, would turn out to be a world traveler and fellow coffee connoisseur.

Abe shared his global coffee travel experiences with former Seattle espresso cafe owner Michael Barrett while the two chatted at the Bayshore House in Sarasota, Florida.

Of course the topic – one of their mutual favorites – coffee – Really Good Coffee.  We thought Abe’s story was interesting enough to share this video with our readers.


It’s amazing how important really good coffee is to western culture. Abe’s discussion of coffee brewing techniques in Eritrea is quite interesting.  And I’m definitely going to Pompei for espresso the first chance I get…

Really Good Coffee is Boca Grande

Really Good Coffee is Boca Grande

If you happen to be in need of a tongue teasingly delicious cup of espresso and are standing right in front of Cafe Boca, the newest and best place for coffee in Boca Grande, Florida.

Boca Grande is the sort of exclusive island resort that you would never know about unless you had reason to be there. Breathtakingly beautiful, the water is truly aqua green and cleaner than the Caribbean.

The people who vacation there have every reason to expect the only REAL coffee shop in town to be the very best for many miles around and it most certainly is.

It may even be the best coffee in the entire state of Florida, from what we have tasted so far.

Owned and managed by a unique boomer couple; Patty, The Personal Growth Diva, and Buzz, the Barista who is a former construction professional of many years and a “never say die” musician and singer, Cafe Boca is a great place to hang out in charming downtown Boca Grande.

I would not say that if it were not for the fact that it is the very best cup of espresso and the very best latte’ we have had since we came to Florida two years ago.

We were stunned and completely surprised.

Naturally, we had to investigate the coffee immediately and found it to be one we had never tasted, and now will never forget, called Counter Culture. The Counter Culture Espresso La Forza, in the style of  Southern Italy, is so delicious that Michael is going to do an entire blog post on that, but in the meantime, his comment about the dopio Buzz pulled for him was:

“This is the kind of espresso that makes me want to have a really long tongue just to get all the crema from inside the bottom of the cup.”  - Michael Barrett 

OKAY! Well, how does it get any better than that? Since our stay in Boca Grande is over, we are still thinking about that incredibly delicious espresso and latte’. I would love one right now! I did get a little video of the Cafe Boca and I hope you can get the sense of how charming the area is.

It costs five dollars to enter the island but what a wonderful place to go shop, have lunch, submerge yourself in beachy luxury, and have a divine cup of really good coffee at Cafe Boca. Ladies and couples…go for it! By the way, everyone drives their golf carts there, hangs out chatting, and walks everywhere, so do plan to take your time and ENJOY!

I am Alexandra Barrett and I love Really Good Coffee.

Really Good Coffee at Home

Really Good Coffee at Home

has become a serious issue for many of us who love really good coffee. There is nothing like the convenience of the best neighborhood drive thru coffee on the way to work or relaxing coffee houses for road warriors, and you will never hear me dispute that!

None the less, when I first get up in the morning at 5 or 6 a.m., I do not want to have to get dressed and  leave the comfort of home for a really good coffee. I am also more tuned in to how much I spend on coffee than I was in the past. Can you relate to that?

Having been on an extended search for coffee that I truly enjoy – each and every sip of – one that makes my mouth water – I have settled on whole bean because freshly ground is so much tastier and it smells deliciously divine; filling the olfactory system before you even have the first taste with your tongue!

Sexy coffee…whooo hooo! Exciting, isn’t it?

The coffee I have chosen as very reasonably priced for the deliciously robust flavor profile is:

  • French Roast
  • Whole Bean Arabica – 100%
  • Fair Trade
  • and available at Sam’s Club for (get this! hehehe) $14.98  for 2.5 lbs (price amended 3/13/12 from 12.98 and they keep telling us there is no inflation…)

How does it get any better than that?

I love this coffee! It is REALLY GOOD COFFEE.

Here is how I make and enjoy it:

First, you must boil – NOT microwave – your water. You can use gas, electric stove or an electric plug in tea pot but you must bring the water to a boil.

A tip from a real barista: Fresh filtered or pure alkaline water makes the best tasting cup of coffee. ( I prefer Kangen water for coffee and it is much better tasting!)

Next, you buy the brown paper filters , Melitta #2 or #4,  to put inside a plastic or ceramic  filter (cone) holder.  Bulk filters are a Sam’s Club item in our house.

Hamilton Beach Grinder

Then, you grind the coffee, and though I have tried several grinders. Currently, I use a Hamilton Beach HB Coffee Grinder with capacity to grind enough whole beans for about 2-3 cups depending how strong you like your coffee.

I do not grind ahead much because it defeats the purpose and it is so easy to do. I use two coffee scoops of fresh ground French Roast per cup (my husband uses three). Place the filter setup on a cup.

Then pour your boiling hot water over the coffee into the brown paper filter and plastic filter holder, and wait while it drains into your favorite cup!

Hario Coffee Dripper Melitta Style Cone

Half and half? Sugar? Black?

Whatever your personal preference, this is a remarkably good cup of coffee and you will enjoy it completely. I promise! Every cup will be delicious every single time and will drink less and enjoy more.

The Traveler’s Coffee Companion

Now this is so convenient that if you travel frequently, you can pack it up in its own bag and carry it with you! You will never have to start the day with a lousy cup o’ joe nor will  you  have to drive for an hour to have your first cup when on the road. It is not as convenient as the local Starbucks but I have missed the Starbucks exit many a time and longed for the convenience of my good old home brewed best!

Melitta Style Paper Filters

This system has me rather spoiled and it is worth the little bit of effort. I do not much care for the popular drip method coffee pots out there that sends lukewarm water rushing through over-sized coffee grinds that have been sitting on the shelves for weeks – even when they are vacuum packed! The smell of fresh ground coffee is just as important as the taste and is an essential part of how we enjoy our coffee. The American palate for coffee has become more developed thanks to the efforts of coffee roasters like Peets and Starbucks. We paid for the education with every cup, and thank you!

So head on out to find your favorite coffee and do be so kind as to let me know what you find that works for you. Consider it research,  a project to learn more about your coffee palate.  To think I was once a Folgers girl who had graduated to Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. Now that just tastes bitter to me and I can’t bear to drink it. Oh well, to each his or her own!

Make it a ritual that you enjoy!  You deserve a cup of REALLY GOOD COFFEE!

Really Good Coffee in Seattle Was Torrefazione in 1990

In 1990, Torrefazione was synonymous with really good coffee in Seattle.

In particular, it was the old Perugia blend that was the biggie. I used to love that coffee. Smooth and sweet on the front end, a snap on the back end with a great finish and after taste.

Perugia was not only really good coffee, it was excellent.

When I first moved to Seattle in 1990, I had not yet acquired a taste for a good doppio. That development was still a couple of years out and when I opened my espresso bar, I chose to use Torrefazione Italia, Perugia blend as my house espresso blend. Although I had not learned the palate nuances in espresso at that point in time, I loved Perugia every time I drank it.

Only there was a problem…

Torrefazione Italia was the ultimate coffee snob as far as wholesale coffee went. At least that was what it seemed like from my perspective and in my personal experience as a retail operator in the espresso business.Torrefazione had become the only game in town and they knew it - in terms of quality – and the company itself had developed an attitude towards newcomers in the business.

The specialty coffee business in 1990 was a very political WHO KNOWS WHO “micro-niche” that was hugely profitable and successful. And in retrospect, Seattle itself was that way when it came to outsiders. Second and third generation money was acceptable – not broke newbie entrepreneurs with lots of drive and creativity and no contacts.

When I took over an existing shop that had been run into the ground by an incompetent operator, it was hard to get a return call from Torrefazione – much less a visit from a sales rep. So after numerous attempts to place an order and speak with a rep, I finally gave up and called SBC.

As I have matured and live in a completely different business environment than the one that existed in Seattle, I have often wondered if I would have developed a personal friendship with Umberto Bizzari – the founder and original roaster of Torrefazione Italia – given the opportunity.

I think so because of my passion for coffee and ultimately a very defined and developed palate. It occurs to me occasionally (when I ponder the past) that Umberto would have appreciated my understanding and love of coffee and would have mentored me because of it - in some capacity. He also would have grown to know how much I admired his expertise as a coffee man and roaster.

The specialty coffee world in Seattle subsequently shrank, contorted, shifted, expanded and was in an overall state of flux for a number of years while I played coffee there. Starbucks emerged as a marketing powerhouse who tipped the odds in the coffee card game.

After Umberto quit roasting for Torrefazione, the coffee was never the same. It must have been difficult for him – on some level – to watch his brand and quality deteriorate. It certainly was for me.

In the mid 80′s Umberto Bizzari and Jim Stewart (the founder of SBC – formerly Stewart Bros coffee) formed a mini Puget Sound coffee conglomerate and later made a bunch of money and spun off various labels to P and G for the retail grocery distribution business and ultimately sold the Torrefazione label to Starbucks.

In the chain of events that followed, Unberto’s son Emanuele Bizarri started his own espresso business Cafe Umbria – with the anchor store in the very same location as his father’s original Torrefazione location.

Fondly and with respect, I will always remember and savor (in my mind) the wonderful flavors of the original Perugia and Torrfazione Italia.

I AM Michael Barrett and I Love Really Good Coffee

What Is Your Favorite Place for Really Good Coffee?

It’s been two years since the post Where Do You Go For Really Good Coffee

That’s almost hard to believe – yet, alas, it has been…

Maybe you’re like me. It seems as if things have changed so much since then – that sometimes there is a sense of being disoriented – or out of phase, somehow. Yet throughout it all, amidst all the transition, the movement, changes in life, the economy and the world, there remains at least one constant - one anchor that keeps us connected to a sense of belonging, of comfort, and something familiar amidst so many things that are un-familiar.

There has been really good coffee everyday.

Remembering really good coffee moments, maybe you can relate…

Peets Coffee and Tea – Seattle

Enjoying that hot, fresh doppio at Peets in the Seattle Fremont district looking out the window from the mezannine – watching the traffic go by – silently – in the world outside, hearing the sounds of milk being steamed for lattes and the grinder – consistently, intermittently running - filling the room with the luscious smell of freshly ground beans, hearing the soothing, gentle murmering sounds of voices and coffee language from the counter at the espresso bar - the way we used to hear our parents voices talking as we fell asleep as children…

Lighthouse Roasters – Seattle

Sitting down to a fantastic, freshly drawn espresso – extracted consciously by the expert barista crew at Lighthouse Roasters on Phinny Ridge (one of my personal favorite micro-roasters in the whole country) - creating palate magic before my very eyes and then being able to verify that coffee resonance AGAIN – as with every other time before this one – and fully enjoy the essence of the bean with every living tastebud – on the front of the tongue, at the back near the throat followed by the burst of lingering, condensed after taste that permeates its way throughout all the coffee sensing tools within the human body for at least a half an hour afterwards…

Homemade French Roast

Perhaps it is the time, grabbing a deep rich cup of melita drip Fresh Roast – in the favorite procelain cup – on the way to a very important discussion, pondering the outcome and experience of the meeting to come and fully taking the time to enjoy that cup of really good coffee – from start to finish in the privacy of the car while driving to the meeting – without interference, or interuption and in spite of any time considerations.

Over the last, five years we’ve had really good coffee in West Vancouver – BC, Scranton - PA, Sarsota – FL, Dallas – TX, Atlanta – GA, Palo Alto – CA, Berkeley – CA, Los Angeles, Whistler - BC, Morley – Alberta, Hamilton – MT, Richmond – VA, Plymouth Meeting – PA, Egg Harbor Township – NJ, Goochland – VA, Portland – OR, Spokane – WA, Missoula – MT, Sedona – AZ, Siesta Key – FL, Boca Grande, Fl… and many other places.

Somehow a good cup of coffee always brings me back to a moment – a memory or feeling – of unshakeable warmth and safety and connectedness. Each of us coffee lovers relates to coffee in our own way.  Share your experiences with us and let us know about your favorite coffee places – and why you like them. We want to share this with other people who don’t know where to get a cup of really good coffee when they travel. Share your favorite spot, or your favorite baristas – or blend or style of coffee with us.

What is your favorite place for really good coffee?

Have a fabulous day…

I AM Michael Barrett and I love coffee…

Really Good Coffee – Lelu’s Coffee Lounge – Siesta Key

Really Good Coffee at Lelu’s Coffee Lounge in Siesta Key Florida…

After a good workout – some qigong and Tibetan Rites, a 3 mile walk and a swim at Siesta Key, we love to go to Lelu’s – a cyber cafe in Siesta Village – and grab an awesome cinnamon roll and a cup of French roast Java. In a former life, I sold a bakery line commercially to the foodservice industry for about 5 years. During that time I prepped, proofed and baked thousands of cinnamon rolls.Lelu’s cinnamon rolls are tender and delicious and the cream cheese icing has great flavor but is not excessively sweet, like many.And without a doubt, Lelu’s are the best we’ve had in many years…The coffee is always really good and Lelu’s has a pleasant, beachy ambiance. The decor is comfortable and welcoming and the staff is upbeat and glad you’re there. It is an ecclectic mix – a cross between Jimmy Buffet, American Graffiti and the laissez-faire lifestyle of a well established beach community. If you’re not familiar with the beach lifestyle it’s almost tribal in it’s own way.The slogan under the Lelu’s Coffee Lounge sign is:

“Caffeine and Cocktails.”and on the outside of the building the sign reads:“Sleep Later – Drink Coffee Now.”

There’s always some awesome music playing in the background with comfortable couches to lounge in if you prefer. There is free WIFI with tables inside or out on the patio/deck (in front) if you’re in the people watching mood and the sun isn’t too hot yet.Lelu’s is part of the Siesta Key Village culture and it’s great place to grab a cup of really good coffee and catch up on your email.When you come to the west coast of Florida, visit this place. You’ll like it.

I AM Michael Barrett and I love Really Good Coffee.”




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