Undeniably the California coastal drive is a point of inspiration to many. Its a stretch of 840 picturesque miles of waves crashing against the sand with endless sea air filling up your lungs. It's a different type of freshness that infuses positivity into the body. Amidst this powerful juxtaposition of ocean and roadway, I stopped in to check on the development of Ironsmith Coffee Roasters from when we first met two short months ago.
The shop is definitely up and running with a constant stream of customers flowing in and out having taken the stroll down the mainstrip of downtnown Encinitas. Although Ironsmith's patrons are predominately locals, it draws in many from far away. Trust me, it is well worth the pilgrimage. The menu is simple, the coffee is roasted in house several days a week and the friendly vibe the shop creates has everyone conversing amiably.
Remembering how I had ogled over the Slayer Espresso machine in my last article after visiting Ironsmith, owner Matt De La Rosa decided to teach me how to properly pull espresso shots so that I can get more hands on experience with this glorious machine.
The first bit that I find imperative to share is the pronunciation of this scrumptious caffeinated tonic: Espresso. Don't let anyone tell you that it is pronounced, "expresso". It's the most common brewing method in coffee and in a sense it has been somewhat discredited with the onslaught of one cup brewing machines. Espresso is complicated with beverages subtleties. But, have no fear, you do not need to be a pro to detect these. I will note, however, that these nuanced flavors can never be fully appreciated unless the beans used are brewed correctly. Fortunately, when you visit Ironsmith, your tastebuds will be well cared for.
"Pulling espresso" is a fickle multi-step process wherein an inexperienced barista could all too easily ruin the flavor of the shot.The very first step utilizes freshly roasted and ground coffee beans that are packed into the portafilter, the handle object, with the circular piece on the end. With a mound of coffee inside the basket of the portafilter, the coffee grounds are weighed to equal 18 grams before the barista compresses the pile. This is the most crucial and challenging part of the espresso process as the grounds must be evenly pressed. It is a delicate balance between ensuring that the grounds are neither too loose nor too tightly packed with the tamper.
This step in it of itself is a true talent that requires mastery in order for a proper shot to be pulled. An initial shot of hot water is then run through the attached portafilter and the espresso machine then begins to "pull" the espresso shot.
To recap my blog about their Slayer espresso machine, the benefits of the Slayer is the ability to control how fast the water runs through the grounds and the temperature it heats to. These measurements can alter the taste of the same bean into two very different flavored espressos.
After 30 seconds, the shots were pulled and Matt showed me the proper way to aerate the espresso. By swinging a small spoon in the glass in a top to bottom circular motion, oxygen is mixed in to develop the smell and taste of the espresso. It is crucial that this is only performed for about 30 seconds as a greater length of time would cool the beverage and potentially sour the flavor.
After I had created my perfectly pulled personal potion, Matt sent me over to his favorite after-work drink spot down, Priority Public House. It's a short drive and doable walk, just one mile north of Ironsmith located on the iconic Highway 101. I walked in to a house-type space turned Encinitas Gastropub; huge open windows, clean wood and dark inviting colors.
The drink menu was phenomenal with freshly made mixology cocktails and food offerings of the highest caliber. Priority Public House showcases a "foodie" menu of high quality ingredients that are all easily recognizable. In many ways, menu items felt like a remix on the classics. It's the local after-business magnet in an area where skater and surfer types alike meet to fill up while the sun sets. Everyone is on the California coast where the favorite past-time is appreciating the breathtaking sunsets. This is where I found myself meeting with the owners wife, who recommended the BLT bites, a family recipe from her childhood that she brought back when developing the menu of Priority Public House.
The plate was set before me adorned with huge slices of tomato filled to bursting with meaty, veggie-seasoned goodness. It tasted juicy and perfectly complemented the savory bacon flavor. I can't think of a better way to finish off my day.
So ended my epic local evening in Encinitas with great people who reminded me with their welcoming nature and willingness to open up to another friendly face why I love California and of course, coffee.