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Dec 16, 2011 03:42 AM

How does Fairway coffee compare?


For my birthday, I received a burr girder and Chemex pot and am now looking forward to "stepping up" the quality of my at home coffee consumption. But now my question is: do I need to be buying better beans?

I usually buy my beans at Fairway and I buy them ground. I feel like buying whole and grinding fresh will be a big improvement, but I'm curious for feedback from the coffee geeks here: how does Faiway's beans compare with the Stumptowns/Counter Cultures/etc etc?


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  1. Buying green coffee beans and roasting your own is really the best, surprisingly easy and inexpensive. You really don't need to invest in a roaster - a cast-iron pan, a "Whirly-Pop" stove-top popcorn maker, or a cheap hot-air popcorn maker from a thrift shop can all roast coffee well. Try doing a Google search to find beans and instructions. I always roast my own, and I love the ritual, the aromas, the look of the beans, and above all the taste of the coffee. A burr grinder and a Chemex pot will also make a big difference. You were a lucky birthday boy.

    1. Well, grinding fresh will be a big improvement. And fresh beans make a diff too. I live UWS so virtually all my coffee comes from Fairway or Zabars. Both move A LOT of coffee so their product is relatively fresh. Stumptown may well be better... but it isn't a place I pass several times a week. I like the Ethiopian at Fairway and the Blue Mountain Blend at Zabars. That is a matter of taste of course.

      Anyway, buy half lbs of 2 different beans and determine which you like better, then next time buy the winner of the prior week and another.... etc.. repeat contest...

      2245 Broadway, New York, NY 10024

      Fairway Market
      2127 Broadway, New York, NY 10023

      1. The difference between your food store coffee and a specialized coffee roaster will depend on your personal taste, and preferences.

        If your ideal coffee is dark, and almost Starbucks like, you're probably fine drinking what you like, and that's the important thing here, drink what you like. What you'll find when you upgrade your beans, is ideally, a fresher bean, new flavors you never noticed before, more complex coffee, and very subtle differences. You will also get access to singe source beans, direct trade, so instead of a generic Ethiopean co-op blend, you will know which specific coop of farms you're buying from, how they process their beans, etc. It gives you more options, good or bad.

        Also, you will open the door to new textures of coffee you're not going to get elsewhere. A syrupy Stumptown coffee is not something you'll find in a Zabars/Fairway bean.

        That said, most of these places error on the side of a lighter roast, to the point of being almost tea like. The lighter roast means more caffeine, and more flavor in theory, but it's harder to brew at home, and may not feel like coffee to you.

        The best advice is to visit coffee shops that roast the beans you're interested in, and try them. See if you notice a difference. See if you notice a difference between high end roasters like Grumpy vs. Stumptown, etc. You can also buy bags of beans at Whole Foods from nearby roasters, and try it that way.

        I will say, brewing in a Chemex is pretty involved, and really pairs best with better beans, freshly ground .

        1 Reply
        1. re: sugartoof

          Zabar's has a great selection of fine coffees. the blend you want is a matter of taste. Personally I prefer 100% Colombian Supremo, fresh roasted for me. But my backup is Illy medium roast. Its not very oily so it works great in my Jura Capresso F7 coffee maker, which grind the beans and you can adjust the mix of water to coffee and the fineness of the grind to your liking. This machine makes the best coffee . Well the best i've had I didn't make , I had in Italy, Spain , and Madeira.

          2245 Broadway, New York, NY 10024

        2. i'm also using a chemex and a burr grinder - hand-mill by Red Rooster. while these are key components, i didn't fall in love with the chemex until i picked up the Hario kettle. boiling water in a pot for a pour over won't work. your coffee will be cold before it's done and you won't get a consistent, gentle pour. be sure to have a proper kettle before proceeding.

          i live UWS, close to Fairway, but make it a point to hit Stumptown whenever necessary. it's not far off the 3 train and usually ends with a dinner in K Town.

          the new choco cake shop on Broadway and 70th is selling Counter Culture beans and Pioneer often has a selection of beans from Porto Rico. that said, if I can't get to Stumptown, i pick up something from Whole Foods at Col. Circle.

          Whole Foods
          10 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019

          18 W 29th Street, New York, NY 10001

          2058 Broadway, New York, NY 10023

          10 Replies
          1. re: coasts

            Can you please elaborate on how Hario kettle poured water results in hotter coffee than water heated in any other vessel to the exact same temperature?

              1. re: mitchleeny

                Mitch, do you have a chemex? if so, what do you use to boil your water?

                NuMystic, you could probably use any kettle to boil water, but if you're using a regular pot the water will cool much faster. it takes nearly four minutes to brew a pot in the chemex. water in an open vessel will cool in this time. the kettle will retain heat, as it can remain lidded while pouring. you can't do that in a pot. maybe Mitch can.

                if you're going to get a kettle to use with a chemex, it's best to have a gooseneck so that you can better control your pour, especially during the bloom.

                1. re: coasts

                  Ah, okay. I didn't realize that the chemex requires constant pouring over the entire brew time. Being that I'm using a Frieling press, that cooling you're speaking of would have no bearing on my own brew.

                  I don't use a regular pot either, I've got a Kalorik kettle with digital temp control. Was just curious. :)

                  1. re: coasts

                    Let's see - I have a pour-over, 4 French presses, a Vacuum pot, 16 different moka pots, and aeropress and a Silvia.

                    When I need to boil water, I use a glass kettle with a lid. Easy enough to bring the water back up to the correct temp. after the bloom.

                    1. re: mitchleeny

                      so what is it that you're arguing? you're not saying that a pot is better than a kettle, right? so we agree? i don't even have to lay out my equipment and measure it?

                      1. re: coasts

                        Actually, I have no idea what you're talking about.

                        Whether you boil water in a pot, a kettle, a Hario, or on the surface of the sun, it can always be brought back up to temp if it has cooled down, no?

                        1. re: mitchleeny

                          It's become the preferred tool for pour over coffees because it retains heat, and allows for consistent temps, and more accurate slow pours.

                          You could in theory also boil water in a pot if you need to, but the idea is to use the superior tool. Bringing water back up to temp isn't ideal if you're trying to get a smooth extraction via a pour over method.

                          1. re: sugartoof

                            I think it has become preferred for pour over because someone has decided they prefer it to something else. And good marketing.

                            I think more important are good water at the proper temp and good, freshly roasted coffee ground just before brewing (following proper procedures for whatever brewing method is chosen).

                            1. re: mitchleeny

                              Sure, but proper brewing procedures for pour over methods make a proper extraction difficult to achieve. The tools, the filter, the kettle, all can make a difference.

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