Category Archives: Coffeeneuring

The Juxtaposition of Movement and Pause: Talking Bikes and Coffee With Sarah

Even though the official Coffeeneuring Challenge won’t be back until the fall, for many, coffeeneuring never stops.  And for some of us, bicycles and coffee are a way of life.

Sarah – a barista, bike rider, and member of BikeDC – completed the challenge for the third time this past October. Given the unique place that bikes and coffee occupy in her sphere, I asked Sarah if she’d be interested in a guest post. 

Sarah offers an eye-opening and insightful exploration of people’s continued interest in blending coffee and bikes, the growth of coffee outside (including the setups she uses), and the resurgence of independent coffee shops in Washington, D.C. 

I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I did, and thank you, Sarah, for guest posting today.

You’ve completed the Coffeeneuring Challenge three times now. What are your favorite parts of the challenge?

I really enjoy the challenge of trying new shops or visiting shops I don’t get to visit often, although each year I feel like I fall short of really branching out into new territory.

My favorite part of this year was doing two “coffee outside” entries.

Potomac River. Photo credit Sarah Rice
You also work as a barista (at one of my favorite locales in D.C., too!). It seems as though there has been a resurgence and growth in independent coffee shops in cities, like D.C., as well as people’s support of them.
From your point of view, what is the current state of coffee in D.C., and what is driving the recent increase in local shops?

I think coffee drinkers are getting more savvy, and their palates are becoming more developed and more adventurous. This is super exciting and creates an environment where speciality coffee shops can thrive.

Specialty coffee draws a lot from the wine industry (and craft beer!) in terms of tasting notes and other details in processing. Increasingly, consumers look for more nuance, more craft, more attention to detail.

A sense of place and a story are likewise important; folks are curious about where their coffee comes from and who grows it. As a former librarian, when customers come into our shop with a sense of curiosity and adventure, my heart swells. This open mindset is so rewarding for consumers and for coffee professionals.

There’s also the aspect of folks being more cognizant of what they consume and the ethical implications, therein. What most speciality coffee shops provide is a more direct line to the producers of coffee. Through Fair and Direct Trade, there is a real effort to create more equity and transparency from seed to cup.

Sarah Rice S on Instagram: “'Spro.”
Spro. Photo credit Sarah Rice
Someone who recently completed the challenge remarked that he found it difficult to find a traditional dark roast in his area, due to current coffee trends favoring lighter brews. Do you have any thoughts on that?

I have lots of thoughts! Like I mentioned earlier, specialty coffee owes a lot to the wine industry and a big part of that is this concept of terroir. Terroir is certainly complex, but a colleague of mine (she’s also a human geographer, which doesn’t hurt) put it beautifully by describing terroir as the way the human and physical landscape affect the taste of coffee (or wine, for that matter); which is to say, the type of soil, the climate, the many choices growers and producers make, and a myriad of other factors.

These factors will all vary from Colombia to Kenya to Ethiopia to Papua New Guinea. I say all this because roasting plays a huge role in highlighting these things. When coffee is roasted, volatile aromatics diminish the more, or the darker, a coffee is roasted; so in speciality coffee, medium (or even lighter) roast is preferred in order to preserve each coffee’s distinct characteristics.

For a darker roasted coffee, you are tasting more of the roasting process and not the coffee itself. I often liken this to eating steak well done – you are often tasting the grill and not the meat. (For vegetarian readers: it’s like cooking your portobello mushroom so you taste the grill and not the earthy goodness* of your shroom).

All that is to say, your individual preference should guide you. If you favor dark roast, think about the flavors that you enjoy. For example is it the chocolatey or nuttiness of a dark roast that you enjoy? Or maybe a fuller body? I would suggest checking out a coffee from South or Central America; even if it is a medium roast, those flavors will come out.

*Confession: I don’t really care for portobellos, but I acknowledge that many people do enjoy them.

What is your opinion about latte art, and does it make the coffee taste better?

I think when a drink looks beautiful, you tend to be more excited about drinking it. That said, ugly or lesser latte art can still taste delicious. It does take a lot of practice to be decent at it.

HUGE CAVEAT: if you are a skim milk person or a soy milk person, the latte art is highly unlikely to be be as pretty or crisp. Be gracious. There is a science behind why it’s trickier to pour good latte art with skim and soy, I promise, but I have multiple humanities degrees and my explanation will fall short.

Overall, as a barista, latte art is enormously enjoyable to do and something we regard as a kind of mark of our trade.

Sarah Rice S on Instagram: “#coffeeoutside @counterculturecoffee nueva llusta. Bike camping in WV.”
#coffeeoutside Photo credit Sarah Rice
Coffee Outside (or Coffee Shops Without Walls, as they are known in coffeeneuring) have become rather popular in recent years. I think this method is also well liked by those who don’t have the same coffee options that a place like D.C. does.
But it’s also popular with those who like to brew their own cup and enjoy it outside. What setup/tools/coffee do you recommend for someone who wants to try coffee outside/a coffee shop without walls?

I love brewing coffee outside and many of my friends think I am bonkers for the lengths I go to, but they seem to enjoy the coffee I make them.

I have two go-to setups. If I’m super space conscious, I go with the Helix. It’s incredibly lightweight and packs down super small. The downside is that it does not retain heat while you brew, but it’s easy and so, so compact.

My other go-to is the Clever dripper. It takes up more space, packing-wise, but I’m such a big fan of this thing. I usually take the small (one cup) one, but if I really have a lot of space, I’ll take the larger one.

Another option, which I have yet to field test, but it’s pretty compact, lightweight, and user-friendly, is the Aeropress.

I have a Porlex hand grinder that I use for grinding my beans. It’s compact and easy to use.

As for coffee, I pick something versatile and tasty, and pre-weigh and dose it into baggies or something before I leave for my trip. I think I’d really lose camping buddies if I busted out my scale in the wild.

I usually start with 21 grams of coffee for about 300 grams of water. Speaking of water, this is where I draw the side eye from folks: I bring my own filtered water.

This seems extreme, but I contend that it is not. Coffee is about 98% water, so the stuff’s important. I usually grab bottled spring/mineral water or even just filtered water from home. I think it’s worth it.

I use my phone to time my bloom and pour(s), and there you have it, coffee outside!

This all might sound complicated, but I’ve got it down to an easy routine. Oh, and don’t forget proper filters. I learned that the hard way this past coffeeneuring season.

aerial view of #coffeeoutside. Photo credit Sarah Rice
aerial view of #coffeeoutside. Photo credit Sarah Rice
What are your preferred “with walls” coffee shops in D.C. and why?

Besides the coffee shop where I’m employed, I really love The Potter’s House. The folks there have really put a lot of time and intention into the coffee program and the space as a whole. It’s such a nice space, they make good coffee, and the people are lovely too.

I also really like Little Red Fox.  This is a nice reward for biking up the hills to get there and the breakfast sandwiches are super good too.

Filter is also great (and very bike-friendly). There are so many shops in DC worth checking out.

What makes coffee and bikes such a good combination?

I appreciate the juxtaposition of movement and pause. Biking is so physically engaging and the ritual of drinking coffee can be so still. Both activities can be communal or solitary.

Describe the ideal bike-friendly coffee locale. Do any shops in the D.C. area, or that you’ve visited elsewhere, come close to that?

The ideal bike-friendly coffee place has ample and visible bike parking (and If I had my druthers, indoor parking, but perhaps that’s extreme).

I love The Coffee Bar on S Street. They have such a lovely outdoor space.

Bicycle coffee crawl... Photo credit Sarah Rice
Bicycle coffee crawl… Photo credit Sarah Rice
I love your coffeeneuring photos! How do you go about setting up the perfect coffeeneuring shot?

Thanks! I’m pretty introverted and I don’t like to draw a lot of attention, so much of my photography is a result of me trying to go unnoticed. It’s a bit of a hindrance, honestly, but I do what I can to capture the overall feeling.

I love natural light. I almost always use the camera on my phone, but occasionally I’ll bust out the DSLR.

What question did I forget to ask you that I should have?
What’s my favorite drink to make?

Right now, either macchiatos (the tiny ones) or cappuccinos. With whole milk.

What’s my favorite coffee currently? Tairora, a coffee from Papua New Guinea, roasted by Counter Culture Coffee. Pair it with a molasses ginger cookie, you won’t regret it.

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2015: That’s a Wrap!

The results have been calculated, the patches distributed, and the 2015 Coffeeneuring Challenge is now officially at a close. (If you did not yet receive yours, please let me know!)

Before we close the book on another year, though, I’d like to share a few coffeeneuring facts with you in the off-chance that someone decides to develop his or her own coffeeneuring trivia game. Continue reading Coffeeneuring Challenge 2015: That’s a Wrap!

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2015: Finishers and Honorable Mentions

‘Twas the night before Coffeeneurmas, and all through the house… As we all know, coffeeneuring is a season, not a day, and what a great season it’s been. This year, 247 people rode their bikes to the finishers circle, and 8 achieved Honorable Mention.

Finally, the time to announce the Finishers and Honorable Mentions for the 2015 Coffeeneuring Challenge has arrived. Thanks to everyone for their patience as I organized the submissions. Continue reading Coffeeneuring Challenge 2015: Finishers and Honorable Mentions

Coffeeneurmas Gift List

Holiday time is here, jingaling, a time where many of us rack our brains to think of gifts for those dear to us. To help, I’ve put together a little Coffeeneurmas Gift List for the coffeeneur in your life. Continue reading Coffeeneurmas Gift List

Coffeeneuring 2015: Almost There! Still Time to Submit, and Honorable Mention, Too!

It’s the Coffeeneuring Challenge’s biggest year yet, with more people participating than ever before! After weeks of compiling, most results have been entered into the official Coffeeneuring Challenge database. It’s taken the judges and the coffeeneuring administrative staff longer this year due to (insert excuses here).

Even if you missed the deadline, there is still a window to submit. And, if you were unable to complete all seven rides but did at least half of them, then how about sending in your entries for Honorable Mention? Continue reading Coffeeneuring 2015: Almost There! Still Time to Submit, and Honorable Mention, Too!

Coffeeneuring Challenge Submissions Homework and Housekeeping

Welcome to Monday and Thanksgiving week! I am a bit behind on my Coffeeneuring Challenge submissions so if you submitted something to me over the weekend, you may not yet have received any reply from me. Continue reading Coffeeneuring Challenge Submissions Homework and Housekeeping

Coffeeneuring Quotes 2015

The 2015 Coffeeneuring Challenge is winding down, and submissions are regularly hitting my email. Thanks to everyone who participated, and to those who have yet to submit, I look forward to your paperwork!

In the meantime, I thought I’d share some of what people are saying about coffeeneuring. Continue reading Coffeeneuring Quotes 2015

Coffeeneuring Challenge Final Weekend: Cross the Finish Line, Friends!

Hello readers and coffeeneurs, the sun is about to set on the 2015 Coffeeneuring Challenge with the November 14 and 15 being the last official days of the challenge. Continue reading Coffeeneuring Challenge Final Weekend: Cross the Finish Line, Friends!

Coffeeneuring Housekeeping and Prize Reveal!

Two full weekends remain to complete the seven critical trips that result in Coffeeneuring Challenge victory. That’s four days to complete four rides (or three, if you choose to substitute Veterans Day, per Rule 19). Continue reading Coffeeneuring Housekeeping and Prize Reveal!

Why Do You Coffeeneur? Maps Update!

Why do you coffeeneur? The glory? A chance to stand on the annual coffeeneuring podium?

coffeeneuring red purp

I always like reading about why people take on the challenge. Some include their reasons in their blog entries and others in their final submissions. If you have a moment, let me know what inspired you to coffeeneur this year. Continue reading Why Do You Coffeeneur? Maps Update!

Coffeeneuring Around the Blogosphere and the Destinations Map

More coffeeneuring is happening than ever before, and it’s a treat to watch and be part of it all. Coffeeneuring is fun for everyone!

If you are participating in the Coffeeneuring Challenge this year, you can enter the locations you visit in 2015 on the Communal Coffeeneuring Destinations Map, which the Northeast Regional Office of Coffeeneuring maintains.

This link provides details with how to add your stops so you should do it! Those who previously had access to the map, should still have editing rights to it. Continue reading Coffeeneuring Around the Blogosphere and the Destinations Map

Coffeeneuring Challenge Weekend One

Coffeeneuring is off to a grand start, with people near and far riding their bikes in pursuit of coffee (or related beverage). I can hardly keep up with it all. So much coffeeneuring! Continue reading Coffeeneuring Challenge Weekend One

October is for Coffeeneurs

It all starts October 3. You are ready. Continue reading October is for Coffeeneurs

Becky and Laura’s First Coffeeneuring Challenge: Seattle, Washington

Time to highlight some of the coffeeneuring activity from the other Washington. Becky and Laura, two trail runners and cyclists out of the Seattle area, worked as a team to successfully meet the Coffeeneuring Challenge last year.

Cats, llamas, looky-loo loops, and yes, coffee too. They gave each of their rides titles, like chapters in a book. Lovely! Continue reading Becky and Laura’s First Coffeeneuring Challenge: Seattle, Washington

A Coffeeneuring Diary through Finland with Jussi

Jussi’s Coffeeneuring Challenge submission is a wonderful tour through his part of the world–from old forgotten places, fat bikes, meanders through forests and by rivers, to pastries I can’t even pronounce, and even a kuksa for coffee outside.

As he writes at the post’s conclusion, “For some reason, these logs turned to journals and almost travel brochures.” It made me put Finland on my list of places to visit with my bicycle. Grab a drink, relax, and please enjoy this lovely coffeeneuring entry.  Continue reading A Coffeeneuring Diary through Finland with Jussi