Coffee Break

Former Wine School of Philadelphia director of education Zach Morris — the “h” prevents him from being able to stop time — recently opened Green Engine Coffee in Haverford, the Main Line town sandwiched between Ardmore and Bryn Mawr. And though applying somm-style rigor to coffee was new to Morris, his voracious mind had little problem adapting to a different beverage.

Walking into Green Engine, the towering brewing beakers by the counter belie the suburban, Main Line location, recalling cutting-edge coffee counters of San Francisco or Seattle. The menu backs up this sensation, whether it be the molasses-thick, impossibly rich espresso or the nuanced yet hand-shakingly potent kyoto-style slow drip. Doing your homework, it turns out, pays dividends.

The first thing Morris put in my hand was that fabulous kyoto-style cold brew, served chilled in a snifter to accentuate the subtle complexities of the coffee. It quickly felt like we were picking up from where we left off from our last wine conversation.

After chatting, I wrote a story for Home + Table Magazine about Morris, specifically his recommendations for making cold brew coffee at home.

Here are a few more tidbits that didn’t make it into the H+T article.

On Grinding:

“Grinding the coffee to a specific consistency is by far the most crucial element on any style”, Morris says. “Firstly, never buy ground coffee. You can get a nice grinder for less than $100, which isn’t bad considering how often you’ll use it.”

“Make sure to get a burr grinder,” he continues. “And ceramic is the preferred material. It’s denser and more durable than metal, and it doesn’t heat up.” I ask him about that classic Krups-style grinder with the push top and metal blade. “The main reason not to use those is that they easily break,” he replies. “The second reason is because metal heats up. You don’t want to start brewing your coffee before you brew your coffee. Heat, along with oxygen, is the biggest destroyer of organic material, in this case the roasted beans.”

On Roasts:

“The coffee itself is also a matter of personal preference, but the trend is moving towards lighter roasts, which showcase the pretty, delicate nuances of the bean,” Morris notes, recalling his Sommelier days. More importantly is to get the freshest possible stuff. “The real key is how recently the coffee was roasted. Stay away from bags that say ‘use by’ or ‘best by’. I only buy bags that have a ‘roasted on’ date. If it’s within the last 6 weeks, and it was packaged correctly — in a thick bag that’s sealed well and has a valve on it to remove nitrogen — it should still be fresh.”

On Home Brewing in General:

“It’s like a little science experiment,” he believes. “But it’s not difficult.” The time-consuming, and perhaps frustrating aspect lies within the trial and error. No two coffees are the same, nor are any two coffee drinkers. As such personal preference for things like water temperature, grind and roast can vary greatly. “You have to learn to adjust over time, based on personal taste, the variety of coffee.”

If you’re in the Philly region, definitely check out Morris’ Green Engine Coffee, for both high quality brews (they use local favorite Rival Bros.) and, if you’re up for it, spirited conversation about coffee (and wine).