Great NYC Coffeeshops and an Explanation of Pricing From Coffee Champ Erin McCarthy

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Lauren Mowery
This is part two of a two-part interview with NYC's own Erin McCarthy, the 2013 World Brewers Cup Champion. Part one, which was posted a few weeks ago, covered his experiences, personal preferences, and thoughts on coffee's third wave. This week, the focus is on the future of coffee, and we conclude with him settling the debate of how to brew coffee served cold.

What do you think about the future of coffee?
We're seeing more automated delivery systems and a push towards automation.

Where do you think it's going in terms of automation and where do you think it's going in other ways?
There's definitely a move within specialty coffee towards using volumetric dosing [programming an exact amount of water for a shot] with espresso machines. We rejected it for a long time, because automation always went with lack of attention to the product, but we're realizing that if you do that with baristas who are trained to know what to look for, it actually does result in a more consistent product. Katie Carguilo, Counter Culture's wholesale customer support, is hoping to get volumetric dosing on Maialino's espresso machine. That would be a perfect place to try it, because they're one of the best restaurants in the city serving coffee.

In terms of home use, I always come back to where's the coffee from, how is it sourced, how does it taste? It tends to be that the more convenient stuff like pre-ground coffee will never taste as good as something you make fresh, but there will always be a need for a quick fix.

I think the technology at this point, probably needs to catch up a little bit. There are still things about hand-poured coffee that I like better.

You mentioned that Maialino has a good coffee program. What other restaurants in the city have good programs?
Coffee people have been having this conversation for a long time and have been working from a wholesaler perspective in trying to create systems that can sustain a good coffee program. A restaurant has to be willing to not serve espresso unless they have a dedicated barista. Restaurants feel they have to have espressos to have a full menu. It takes certain owners or chefs who really care about coffee to make the change. Eleven Madison would be another. The ones that come to mind are accounts of ours. There's a place called Sunshine Company in Prospect Heights that decided to go with a coffee brewer. In terms of high end places, not many come to mind. There is hope in hotels -- those with more than one coffee-service area.

When I went to the Nordic Barista Cup, there were a couple talks about customer service, and one with chef Rene Redzepi from Noma. They [the chefs] talked about how they trained their servers to make coffee to perfection just as they trained their sous chefs. It created this bond between the serving staff and the kitchen staff. They talked about how serving good coffee was part of their customer service model. All the way along they're creating this experience for people and not to have it drop off after the last course.


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1 comments
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People still think that their retail coffee price is primarily coffee? As if the cost at restaurants and fast food joints is primarily ingredients?


I thought the public had wised up by now and understood how labor costs play a major part of the equation.

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