Impressions of Coffee Shops in Reno and Boise (Part 1)


‘You wanna check out this coffee shop?’ ‘Oh, I have already been there…’

Introduction

Went on a road trip during the spring break from March 23rd to 30th. Visited Sacramento, Reno, and Boise. Naturally, I checked out some popular coffee shops in these cities in my free time. I have always been interested in seeing other cities’ coffee culture. (It is kind of disappointing that I still have not yet been to any famous coffee shops in SF or LA such as Verve, Ritual, Philz.) Anyways, I am surprised but also quite glad to see how third wave coffee shops (Footnote 1) are thriving in these cities. Here are some short impressions of the coffee shops I have visited.

Notes:

Here is the first part of the review, focused on a specific roaster in Reno. I originally intended to put everything inside a single post, but as I wrote down my thoughts, the post becomes longer and longer. I think it is better to divide the post into two parts. The second half which includes coffee shops in Boise will be published around next week (Hopefully).

Reno, Nevada

Hub Coffee Roasters, University

941 N. Virginia St, Space B, Reno, NV 89503

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Visited Hub Coffee Roasters in Reno on March 26th in the morning. Was researching a good coffee place in Reno and got a unanimous recommendation for this place. Since I was touring the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno, I went to their shop next to the campus. I did not know that I will visit the shop again but at a different location later that day.

The shop itself is relatively small compared to coffee shops in Berkeley. I do like the general atmosphere, seems to be a nice place to chill and study. Based on the barista’s recommendation, I ordered a pour-over made from the honey processed (Footnote 2) Colombia Santa Elena. The pour-over machine is an automatic model that I have not seen before. Asking the barista, I received the answer that it is a Curtis Seraphim. This set of pour-over makers (include two brew heads, a digital screen controller, and a water heating unit) is sold at the price of $4995 on Amazon. So, I guess the $5 price for a single cup of pour-over is justified.

Let’s start by talking about things I am not so satisfied with. Like usual, I paid attention to how the barista makes the coffee. Right after grinding the beans, the barista made the comment “I accidentally ground it drip coffee size for pour-over” to another barista. I do not think she was trying to hide it since I was standing right there. Thinking she was going to grind some new beans according to the correct size, I was relatively surprised and also confused when she put the wrong-sized coffee ground into the brew basket. I suppose the grind size doesn’t really matter? (This is most likely not true; unless their grind size for drip and pour-over is pretty similar.)

Anyways, let’s talk about the coffee itself. The aroma is strong, but more on the sweet bitter side. The first sip is a bit disappointing. Though not extremely bitter, the bitterness does overpower other flavor notes. This may be the result of over-extraction due to the finer grind size. However, the experience turns better from this point. Once it has cooled down and I start drinking it with larger sips, the flavor turns out to be quite sweet. Its sweetness is the most emphasized out of all the coffee I have had. There is little to no acidity. Some of the notes I pick up include strawberry and melon. The whole cup is rich and clean. However, the after taste is sadly shrouded by the bitterness.

Hub Coffee Roasters, Riverside

727 Riverside Dr, Reno, NV 89503

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Was visiting the Truckee riverside in the afternoon that day. And what a coincidence, there is another Hub roasters shop here. This place is much larger, with shelves full of bags of beans and coffee equipment. Though this one does not have the automatic pour-over maker, there is a shelf with some V 60s on it.

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That Colombia Santa Elena I tried in the morning really intrigued me. I have never had any honey process coffee before. It tasted special. I am curious to brew it myself to see if I can make it any better, so I bought it.

“The Redemption”

After I got home and started brewing it myself, I noticed what is different about it. Not only that it is honey processed, but it is also more like a medium roast: the color is closer to brown, and it feels much easier to grind. I think that is the reason for its intense sweetness. Following the 4:6 recipe for V 60 (Footnote 3), I divided the first 40% into two pours of 75 and 75 ml, then the last 60% into two equal pours of 112.5 ml, in order to balance the sweetness and lower the strength. The aroma isn’t too special. A mix of fruit and yam. The acidity is hidden in the flavor. On the light side, the taste is refreshing with some grassy and minty notes. I think strawberry is a great description of its sweetness and sourness. When drinking in large sips, the taste combining with the aroma gives a strong strawberry mouthfeel. When it has cooled down, the sweetness is more notable. Surprisingly, there is some kind of smoothie/ice cream creaminess; not the texture but the taste. This inherent cream taste is something I have only experienced once from Verve’s Nicaragua Jaime Blandon before. There are also some nutty notes as usual Latin American origin beans would have.

Conclusion

Here concludes the first part. In general, I had pretty good experiences with both the coffee shops and the coffee. Expect the second part to be published later next week; still working on the draft.

Footnotes:

  1. Third Wave coffee: or specialty coffee. A movement to produce high-quality coffee, treating coffee as artisan food, like wine, in all stages of production including, growing, processing, roasting, and brewing.
  2. Honey process: A hybrid between natural (dry) and washed process. Coffee cherries (the fruits) are processed to remove the seed (the bean) from the skin and the pulp. In the natural process, coffee cherries are left to dry under the sun for three to six weeks, then the beans are separated from the dried fruits. In the washed process, the cherries are first de-pulped, then washed to remove the remaining parts of the fruit before they are dried. In the honey process, the cherries are first de-pulped, then left to dry with some remaining parts of the fruit. It is called the honey process due to how sticky the beans can get during processing; honey process coffee also tastes like you have brown sugar or honey added to the coffee.
  3. 4:6 method: A brewing method developed by 2016 World Brewers Cup Champion Tetsu Kasuya. More information on this method can be found on Coffee Brewing Methods Collection (Continually Updated).

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