Eric Faust of the Duluth Coffee Company

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

First, a disclaimer: Coffee roaster and barista Eric Faust (above, right) has a history with The Heavy Table. He’s been writing about coffee and beer for us since his debut in early 2009, a story about Cahoots Coffee Bar (“one of the few authentic Middle Eastern cafes in St. Paul”).

But in recent months, Faust’s journalistic output (measured in words) has tapered off at a rate perfectly proportionate to the rise (measured in pounds) of coffee that he roasts each month. In the four years since he created the Duluth Coffee Company logo and brand, he has moved from passionate home-roasting dabbler to micro-roasting specialty merchant to full-time proprietor of a sleek new cafe and roastery in downtown Duluth.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

If you step into the Duluth Coffee Company, you’re struck by two things. One, the space — with its neatly trimmed, red- and black-accented industrial vibe — could be equally at home in Jack London Square in Oakland, CA or in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Two, despite the crisp edges, the place is welcoming, with a bar that invites sitting, lingering, and customer-barista interaction. It’s a chilled out mood that’s amplified by the cafe’s record player, which was cranking out vintage R&B during our visit.

Faust’s training includes conducting a roasting project at the University of Minnesota Duluth, judging at the United States Barista Competition, studying at the Counter Culture training center in Atlanta, and a roasting and brewing apprenticeship at Black Sheep Coffee Cafe in South St. Paul.

THE HEAVY TABLE: Let’s start with fundamentals. What makes a good cup of coffee?

ERIC FAUST: For me, it’s all about balance. Coffee can be one of the most bitter and acidic tastes in the world, and that can be very off-putting. But when that’s controlled and it’s balanced by sweet flavors and sour notes, that’s the perfect cup of coffee.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

That balance is what makes people say, “that’s a good cup of coffee,” whether they can identify what that is, or not. For me, blending that science and art became an obsession. I just had to keep doing it and doing it, and that pushed me out of the hobby realm into the professional realm.

HT: You’ve described your cafe as “Third Wave.” What does that mean?

EF: We’re definitely Third Wave in the way that we view coffee as culinary. We view coffee as something where the terroir impacts it, as does the person at origin, and the person at roast level, and at brew level. We take all of that extremely seriously.

But Third Wave has also gone a little off the deep end, in the way that some people have taken coffee from being something that’s so universal and made it elitist.

HT: So you’re working against that trend?

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

EF: We’ve tried to really break it down here — we see the suit-wearers and the hipsters all in the same space. That’s because they appreciate good, balanced coffee. The phrase we’ve coined is “good coffee for good people.” It’s not coffee where the story is what’s good about it, because a good story doesn’t necessarily translate to good coffee.

It can be from the highlands of some small village in Kenya, but it could taste like sewage, or… tomato soup. I hate tomato soup coffee. Many Third Wave cafes are very into light roast — it’s light roast or bust. [Some roasters will] roast coffee so light that they refuse to appreciate the qualities that a roast can bring into it. There’s a time and place for that, but it’s worth noting that a dark roast coffee can be done well.

HT: How has the reception to the cafe been thus far?

EF: People say exactly what I want them to say: “This is just good coffee.” It’s not like, “This is something I’ve never tasted before.” They’ve tasted good coffee, and we bring that consistently. The response has been great. We’re almost pushing 1,000 pounds a month, which is very micro. But for a roaster that does five-pound batches, that’s good.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

HT: What’s the long-term goal for the roastery?

EF: I want to someday be running a 50-pound roaster. I want to be the roaster for this region of Minnesota. It’s important that coffee shops have the support of a good roaster that’s in proximity so they can have that education.

Coffee shop owners don’t necessarily open the shop for the coffee, but they still want to sell a good product, and I feel like the Cities is too far for all those coffee shops up the Shore and up in the Iron Range. They should come to the city of Duluth and purchase coffee from the Duluth Coffee Company. I’d like to push 4,000 to 5,000 pounds a month, and that’s for purchasing power. When we get that kind of movement of product, we can have much more of an impact at origin — we can select bags.

HT: Your specialty drinks go out with latte art on them. What’s the story behind that?

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

EF: Latte art is kind of a holy grail of baristas — for most people it looks cool, but it’s a signifier of quality microfoam. You can’t pour it unless you’ve frothed the milk right. When you’ve frothed the milk right, you’ve cooked the proteins, you’ve sweetened the milk, and you’ve homogenized the froth. [Duluth Coffee Company Barista] Matt (pictured in top photo, at left) — he picked up on it after eight gallons… It’s a short investment to make sure they’re doing it right. And now he puts out drinks and they always have a rosetta or a heart on it, and I know they’re going out right.

HT: You’ve got coffee on hand for people who want a quick cup, but you also do by-the-cup brewing, yes?

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

EF: The Third Wave is all about this brew-by-the-cup stuff. When Dogwood was running [the coffee at] Rustica, you could get any coffee and any brewing method…

HT: I remember that. I didn’t know how to deal with it; it was actually pretty overwhelming.

EF: I’m a coffee snob, and I didn’t know how to deal with it! There were so many variables. I enjoy simplicity. I want people to find the brewing method that fits their lifestyle, so I decided to change the brewing method every day of the week, so when people come in a certain day of the week, they’ll see that. I’m planning to Facebook it, too, as we go.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Monday is Chemex. Tuesday is siphon. Wednesday is pour over. Thursday is AeroPress. And Friday is the Clever Dripper. For me, I enjoy ’em all. Some people say, “This method is good for this coffee,” and I don’t know if I agree with that. Brewing method should be about what fits your lifestyle.

Every morning I drink a French press. That’s the first one down the hatch. Then I have an espresso. The Chemex is aesthetic and sexy. The Clever is bombproof … you can drop it on the ground. The Clever is great because my wife uses it at home while she’s chasing the kid around…

HT: You do some blended drinks, correct?

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

EF: Yeah, we’re making our own simple syrups here. Last week we did a Turkish latte, which was a cardamom honey latte. It took off. This week we made a butter-rum simple syrup and I did a butter-rum breve. We’ll stay within the realm of approachability but be unique. We’re trying to introduce things that push people’s boundaries.

I don’t know what Andrew Kopplin would say about this place — we have a blended coffee drink on our menu. But we make our own simple syrup, and our blended drink, it rocks. So why not?

Duluth Coffee Company
Cafe and roastery in Duluth, MN
105 E Superior St
Duluth, MN 55802
(Phone number not yet active)

OWNER: Eric Faust
Mon-Sat 6:30am-2pm

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Honey-soy Vegetables and Recipe Roundup

The perfect cup of French press coffee, mini fruit tarts, honey-soy glazed vegetables with crispy mushrooms, roasted asparagus with balsamic browned butter, and apricot-macadamia bars.

March 30 Flickr Photo Roundup

Parmesan roasted asparagus by pickycook, the Sacrifice Burger from King’s Place in Miesville by rabidscottsman, ugly peppers by andy_pucko, a French press by K-SAKI, and a Brussels sprouts and radicchio pasta salad by urbanfoodie33.

Adventures in Condensed Milk: How to Make Vietnamese Coffee and Vietnamese Yogurt

Lori Writer / Heavy Table

When the French came to Vietnam, they lugged with them their culinary traditions, among them coffee and  yogurt. Before driving the French out in 1954, the Vietnamese spent 80 years selectively integrating French techniques and ingredients into their cuisine, adopting what appealed, adapting what didn’t. In a tropical climate, condensed milk is easier to obtain and store than fresh milk.

Lori Writer / Heavy TableWhen the Vietnamese came to Minneapolis-St. Paul in the ’70s and ’80s, they brought with them a little Saigon and un petit peu de Paris.

Vietnamese Coffee (cà phê)
Dart into a Vietnamese restaurant along Eat Street in Minneapolis (Hien Deli or Phở Tàu Bay) or University Avenue in St. Paul (Saigon Restaurant & Bakery) to enjoy a Vietnamese filtered coffee (cà phê): black or sweetened (đen or sữa);  hot or iced (nóng or đá). Nothing feels more civilized and contemplative than watching the black coffee drip through the stainless steel phin filter into the sludge of condensed milk pooled at the bottom of your glass. Try as you might, you cannot hurry it, although some Vietnamese restaurants such as Quang Restaurant in Minneapolis and Trung Nam Bakery in St. Paul have tried to short-circuit it by delivering their coffee in a plastic cup, already stirred, iced, and pierced with a straw. Either way, the result will be bold, sweet, and smooth.

To invite a little Saigon into your own kitchen, all you’d need is a stop at one of the many Asian groceries in Minneapolis-St. Paul to outfit yourself with a phin filter, sweetened condensed milk, coffee, and the directions below.

According to Vietnamese coffee exporter Trung Nguyen’s website, Longevity, the preferred Vietnamese brand of sweetened condensed milk, “is made with more milk added for extra creaminess, and as a result, lightens coffee much better than Carnation or other brands available in America. Most brands sold in America now are including vegetable oils or thickeners to save money, but Longevity is 100% whole milk and sugar.”

Lori Writer / Heavy TableThe Heavy Table compared three brands of condensed milk alongside Longevity: two brands commonly available in American supermarkets, Borden’s Eagle and Nestle’s Carnation, and another brand commonly found in Asian Markets, Black & White, and found them nearly identical in ingredients (milk and sugar), calories (130 for 2 tablespoons), and nutritional content. We left a fourth brand, Parrot, behind on the shelves, as it contained soybean oil and other additives.

We were surprised to find the Longevity and Black & White brands chalkier (with Longevity being the chalkiest), while Eagle and Carnation were sweeter and more viscous (with Eagle being the sweetest and most pudding-like). On its own, we preferred Eagle. However, in Vietnamese coffee, it seemed too sweet. Longevity was our favorite in coffee.

Phin filters / brewers will run you $4-$5 at an Asian Grocery: in St. Paul at Shuang Hur or in Minneapolis at United Noodles Oriental Foods or Truong Thanh Grocery Store. The phin filter most commonly available in Minneapolis-St. Paul is made in Taiwan and has a screw-down-style screen (as opposed to the gravity-style screen traditionally found in Vietnam and used in the photos for this story), but both work essentially the same way. The phin has three components: a chamber, a screen or filter, and a cap that cleverly doubles as a saucer to prevent the chamber from pooling water and grounds on your table after the brewing is complete.

Bull Run Roasting Company’s New Cafe

Jena Modin / Heavy Table
Jena Modin / Heavy Table

In 2005 Greg Hoyt, owner of Bull Run Roasting Company in Minneapolis, made a trip to Rwanda that he says turned him on to “third wave coffee.” Rubbing shoulders with industry leaders like Peter Giuliano of Counter Culture Coffee and Geoff Watts of Intelligentsia, Hoyt says he saw “the length to which people will go to bring it [quality coffee] to consumers.” His experience in Rwanda motivated him to buy out his partner in 2006 with the hope of pushing Bull Run Roasting Company into the third wave, where people go to extreme lengths to discover the ultimate possibilities of coffee; this is in contrast to the first wave, post WWII, wherein coffee was merely consumed, and the second wave in the ’60s, when Arabica coffees began replacing lower grade Robustas.

Bull Run has been a prominent roaster in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area since it opened in 2001, but has been heretofore unknown in the cafe scene. Currently Bull Run roasts for couple hundred restaurants and country clubs including The Strip Club, Vincent, and Hell’s Kitchen, but only one coffee shop, The Beat Coffeehouse in Minneapolis. “Hundreds of people drink our coffee everyday and don’t know it is us,” says Hoyt. Lunds and Byerly’s is a Bull Run account that relabels the coffee for sale in their stores. Until now, Bull Run Roasting Company has been a wholesale roaster with little recognition for sourcing and roasting high-end coffee. With the new cafe Hoyt says: “I am trying to get something associated with our name.” He hopes state-of-the-art equipment, extensively trained baristas, and a new line of coffee will aid him in his goal to set Bull Run apart as a roaster pushing the threshold of coffee in Minneapolis. The new cafe is slated to open in early November.

Jena Modin / Heavy Table
Jena Modin / Heavy Table

Teaming up with Rustica Bakery, Bull Run will take the place of Java Jack’s and run the coffee bar in Rustica’s new location near Lake Calhoun. In April, Hoyt brought on Stephanie Ratanas, formerly of Metropolis Coffee Company, to put together a team of baristas to work on some of the most advanced brewing machines available. Ratanas says, “We want baristas who are humble, and willing to learn, and who also have an interest in the industry.”

Jena Modin / Heavy Table
Jena Modin / Heavy Table

The new Bull Run cafe will be a brew-to-order cafe featuring four brewing methods including French press, pour over brew bar, Clover, and siphon brewers. The pour over brew bar is where pour over brewers are lined up in a tray and a barista grinds and pours water over each as they are ordered. The Clover, the most advanced brewer in the world, allows baristas to change grind, temperature, and brew time based on each coffee.

The siphon brewers are a Japanese brewing device wherein water is heated in a bottom beaker until it boils and moves up and into an upper beaker. Coffee is then added and stirred. Next, the coffee is siphoned back into the lower beaker by removing the heat — this creates a cup that is clean and sediment-free. The advantage is that the barista can control the extraction time of the brew by heating or cooling the bottom beaker. The siphon brewer is the closest rival, capability-wise, to the Clover. From the siphon the Ethiopian Amaro Gayo, one of the coffees lined up for the cafe’s opening, tastes clean with an abundance of fruit alongside floral layers of chamomile and lavender.

Bull Run will have a signature espresso blend called Dogwood that will be served alongside a seasonal single origin espresso and decaf espresso. For the opening of the cafe, the Dogwood blend will be a four-bean blend including coffees from Brazil, Kenya, Guatemala, and Panama. The current blend is clean and balanced, offering up floral and citrus notes that are bright but still balanced. Baristas will brew espresso on a brand new Synesso Hydra. According to Keith Mrotek, one of Bull Run’s baristas, “the Hydra has a different pump and boiler for each group head, allowing for them to be set at different temps.” This will allow baristas to create settings for each group head that will maximize the extraction for each espresso.

Jena Modin / Heavy Table
Jena Modin / Heavy Table

“We want this to represent a fundamental switch of who we are as a coffee company,” says Hoyt, who is dissatisfied with the current reputation of Bull Run. Hoyt plans to taste coffees by conducting cuppings in the cafe two to three times a week. “Our current wholesale coffees get 85 to 89 points [from Coffee Review]; we want all of these coffees to be 89 and higher.” Bull Run has already received a 92 from Coffee Review for their Rwanda COE (Cup of Excellence) Lot 16. Along with the cafe, Hoyt plans to launch a website where coffee will be sold and an informative blog will be maintained.

Tom Becklund, the roaster at Bull Run, currently roasts on an archaic 12-kilo Komet and a 25-kilo Probat. The majority of the roasting is done in the 25-kilo Probat, and Hoyt plans to move another roaster into their warehouse. He plans to get a smaller roaster so that Becklund can roast in smaller batches. For the cafe, Becklund will be roasting small micro lots and single origin coffees that will require expertise with the bean and complete control over the roaster.

“I want to bring my current accounts into this cafe to taste these coffees to show them what coffee can be,” says Hoyt. What Kopplin’s Coffee and Black Sheep Coffee Cafe have done in St. Paul, Bull Run hopes to do in Minneapolis. “It will be an educational place,” says Hoyt, who knows that teaching people about the third wave of coffee is no easy task.

Bull Run Roasting Company Cafe

3220 West Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55416
Greg Hoyt

How to Use a Moka Pot

Eric Faust / Heavy Table
Eric Faust / Heavy Table

Italian in origin, the moka pot is a far cry from the chocolate-flavored coffee drink that most people associate with the word “mocha.” There is no chocolate involved — the moka pot is a semi-obscure (to Americans) form of brewing capable of extracting flavor from coffee that a French press, vacuum pot, or pour over brewer cannot. Known in some parts of the world as a stove top espresso machine, the moka pot is a steam-driven brewing device that produces a bold, rich, and concentrated coffee that is reminiscent of espresso.

The moka pot has an upper chamber and a lower chamber with a basket held between them. While the water in the lower chamber is heated, steam is created and forced up and through the coffee. When the water boils, it pushes up through the basket holding the pod of coffee, extracting flavor and pouring out into the upper chamber. This is similar to the espresso-making process, where pumps are used to push water at nine bars of pressure through a packed pod of coffee.

As with other brewing devices, the key variables for moka pot brewing are coffee quality, grind, water, and time. But with the moka pot, dosing — or choosing the amount of coffee to use — is an added element.

A moka pot will twist apart; the bottom half houses the funnel-shaped basket that holds the ground coffee. The amount of coffee placed in the basket will vary based upon taste. Coffee should be finely ground and placed in the basket without tamping (packing the grounds). Coffee that is too finely ground or too tightly packed will not allow for the water to move up and through the coffee into the upper chamber.

The amount of water in a moka pot will change based on size, so the amount of coffee will also change. The standard, according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America, is 14.5 grams (about 2 tbsp) for every 8 oz, so that should be the starting point for dosing as you get to know your moka pot. The amount of water a moka pot will hold is based on the placement of the air valve located on the side of the lower chamber. Water needs to be filled up to this valve, but not above it — this allows air to enter the lower chamber as the water moves up through the coffee and into the upper chamber.

When the moka pot has been filled with water and coffee, it should be reassembled and put on the stove at a medium heat. If the water is heated too quickly it will not create enough consistent steam to cause the grounds to swell and create a pod in the basket. If the water is heated too slowly the coffee will begin to stale.

The moka pot has completed the brewing cycle when the upper chamber is filled and the spouts sputter and begin blowing steam. The coffee should be stirred to blend together all of the flavors and should be immediately poured into cups. Coffee that is left in the upper chamber will burn.

The taste of coffee from a moka pot should be rich, bold, and concentrated — similar to espresso. Coffee that is too bitter can mean that there are too many grounds or that the coffee has been ground too finely. Coffee that is weak or sour can mean that the coffee is ground too coarsely or not enough grounds are being used. As you become familiar with your moka pot, the grind and the amount of coffee dosed will need to be adjusted until you find a balance.

The moka pot is a brewing method that is as temperamental and rewarding as espresso. Every brew feels and tastes different, pushing the skills and palate of the brewer.

How to Use a Pour Over Brewer

Eric Faust / Heavy Table
Eric Faust / Heavy Table

Every morning millions of people wake up, walk across their kitchen, and press the little button on the side of their electric drip coffee maker. The sound of suction and steam as the machine brews a fresh pot is an integral part of many mornings. The stains in the bottom of the carafe and and the glow of the “on” button on the side of the machine are part of the morning ritual and comfort that a pot of coffee can bring.

To many the thought of fumbling with an espresso machine or the rich hearty brew of a French press is too much in the morning. The ease of the electric drip brew machine is what makes the morning bearable.

Unfortunately the coffee that most electric drip brewers deliver is less than satisfactory. As more coffee shops have opened, people have opted for a $2 cup of coffee rather than the black swill that they make at home. This is because many electric drip brewers do not have the capabilities to brew coffee properly.

The biggest problem with the average electric drip coffee brewer is that it does not heat the water hot enough for brewing coffee. Many brewers drip water over the grounds at lower temperatures and then rely on the heating pad holding the carafe to heat it to a temperature that is suitable for drinking. Only high-end machines like Bunn and Technivorm heat water hot enough for proper extraction.

Spending over $200 on a coffee maker may be out of the question, but spending $5 is worth a try. The pour over brewer has been overlooked for as long as electric drip brewers have been available. It has been written off as ineffective because it is simple and affordable, but still it is a brewing device that is as capable of brewing a superior cup of coffee.

Like those of the French press, the key variables to consider are coffee quality, grind, water, and time. With the pour over brewer, another variable to consider is the filter. Most pour over brewers use a cone filter rather than a flat-bottom filter used in many electric drip brewers. Bleached, natural, and bamboo are among the varieties of disposable filters, but there are also reusable filters made from a metal screen. The reusable metal filter is the most effective because it allows for the most flavor to pass through and into the cup. Among the disposable filters the bleached white filters are the most neutral. The bamboo and natural filters give off a slight earthy taste that in time will detract from the flavors in the cup.

The water used for the pour over brewer should be the same as the French press, between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Taking a pot of water off of a boil for a few minutes will allow you to easily reach an ideal temperature.

The grind for the pour over brewer is not as coarse as the French press and not as fine as espresso. The cone filter needs a slightly finer grind than a flat-bottom filter. This will slow down the rate of flow and allow more time for extraction. The grind should be similar to the coarseness of sugar and have a uniform look and feel.

Eric Faust / Heavy Table
Eric Faust / Heavy Table

The coffee should be ground after the water is heated, and the amount used will vary depending on your taste. The Specialty Coffee Association of America recommends 14.5 grams of coffee for every 8 oz of water — approximately 2 tbsp of coffee for every 8 oz of water.

When the coffee has been properly ground and the water is at the ideal temperature, the water should be slowly poured over the grounds in a varied manner allowing the grounds to slowly moisten. The coffee should be stirred, and as it drips, the sides of the filter should be scrapped allowing for the water to continue to extract flavor from all of the grounds. The entire brew will take less time than a brew in a French press.

There isn’t a button that lights up or a heating pad to keep your coffee warm. It takes a little extra effort, but in the end it is a simple and affordable way to brew a superior cup of coffee that will put your electric drip brewer to rest.

How to Use a French Press

Jeremy Pieper
Jeremy Pieper / Heavy Table

The French press is one of the most basic yet intimidating methods of brewing coffee. The name alone frightens people into thinking that it is some form of elite French coffee brewing that requires extensive knowledge and an artistic touch. The reality is that the French press is one of the simplest ways to brew a high-quality cup of coffee.

The idea behind it is basic: You immerse the coffee fully in water and then press out the grounds. Before the press was invented, coffee was brewed by fully immersing the coffee beans in water and then using items like an egg, slices of cod, or some other ridiculous additive to create a reaction that would make the grounds sink to the bottom of the container.

The creation of the press allowed mankind to properly brew coffee without making it taste like egg yolks or fish. It opened up the door to nuances and flavors that are part of the natural make up of the bean.

The four key variables to consider are coffee quality, grind, water, and time. You must first select a whole bean coffee. Coffee that is pre-ground is most often ground for drip-style brewing unless it is stated otherwise. Selecting whole bean coffee will allow you to grind it to the desired coarseness for ideal extraction.

The grind for a French press is the coarsest grind of any mainstream brewing device. The grind should not feel powdery in your hand; it should feel crumbly and have a uniform look. A grind that is too fine will result in an over extracted coffee that tastes bitter and astringent. Too coarse a grind will result in an under extracted coffee that tastes weak and thin.

Jeremy Pieper
Jeremy Pieper

Water is one of the most important aspects of properly brewing in a French press. If the water has a poor taste before brewing, it will be present after brewing. Some coffee shops use filtration systems to create an ideal mineral content for brewing coffee. At home, it is important to trust your palate and experiment with your water. If your water has been softened too much, it can result in a weak and flavorless cup. If you have water with a high mineral content it might taste great, or it might detract from the taste of the coffee. A Brita water filter can be a quick and affordable fix that can greatly improve the quality of your coffee.

The water should be heated to 195-205° F. Simply taking a pot of water off of a boil for a few minutes will allow you to reach the ideal temperature for brewing your coffee.

Coffee should be ground after the water has been heated. The Specialty Coffee Association of America recommends that 8 oz of water be used with 14.5 grams of coffee; this translates into about 2 tbsp of coffee for every 8 oz.

After the water has been added to the coffee it should be stirred. The fresher the coffee, the greater the “bloom” will be. The bloom is when the coffee expands rapidly, forming a crust on the top of the press. If the coffee is old there will be little or no bloom. The coffee should be stirred at the beginning of the brewing process to ensure that all of the grounds can come in contact with the water.

The brew should take about 4 minutes. The brew can be shorter or longer depending on the desired taste. When the coffee is pressed, it should be done slowly and steadily such that the screen seals with the side of the press and all of the grounds are pressed to the bottom. The coffee should then be poured into cups. If coffee is left in the press, it will continue to extract flavor from the coffee grounds, resulting in over extraction.

If done properly, the French press will deliver a cup that is bold and beautiful, preserving the integrity of the terroir and diminishing the acidity of the cup so that the nuances of the coffee can be tasted and enjoyed.