One thing Dan and I have in common is love for coffee — not only drinking and consuming it, but the craft of making it.
When we travel, we seek out coffee farms in Colombia where we can learn about the coffee-harvesting process, and we explore cities through coffee, like our cafe tour of Mexico City, cafe research in Taipei and goal to try all the specialty coffee shops in Brooklyn where you can also grab some WiFi.
One thing we do at home which is a bit of a ritual for us is brewing coffee together, or for each other, on weekends. We use this French press and this Chemex, and have recently added the sustainable organic hemp filter to our collection of coffee gear.
But we’ve never had our coffee brew graded by an expert, nor have we received instruction, as a couple, on coffee brewing. We should probably push ourselves more to go on dates that involve trying different types of classes as a couple in NYC.
Luckily, just as our at-home coffee skills were fading and in need of a refresh, we got around to trying the Coffee Brewing Class for Couples with the Academy at Coffee Project NY. This is a coffee education class combined with a coffee-making class.
What’s the Academy at Coffee Project NY?
Coffee Project NY was started by Chi Sum (“Sum”) and her partner Kaleena in Manhattan in 2015. Their aim was to elevate coffee experience for regular people in the neighborhood.
A few years later, they now have a location in Fort Greene, right near our apartment, where we often like to go with our laptops to work on our blog and photos. Coffee Project NY made it into our list of the best laptop-friendly cafes in Brooklyn!
Coffee Project NY’s Fort Greene location was designed to be a playground for baristas, as their website says, and it’s here that special acknowledgement is given to the craft of coffee, not simply consuming it.
Sum and Kaleena opened a Long Island city location in the developing neighborhood of Hunter’s Point, where their “Academy” is now based. The Academy is a state-of-the-art facility that feels like the setting of a Food Network show.
When you take a class at the Academy, you feel like a contender on a reality show, as you put old skills and new skills to work, and you can even have your coffee rated by Sum, who’s a real-life Q-grader! (This means that she is certified by the Coffee Quality Institute and was trained, passing a very difficult exam. This is a life goal for many coffee enthusiasts!)
Is it a good idea to take a coffee class as a date?
It sure is. We’re always looking for winter date ideas in NYC, as going to the movies and going out to dinner can get stale (right?).
When you think outside the box to taking classes with your girlfriend, boyfriend or partner, you can have fun and learn at the same time.
In thinking of fun classes to take in NYC, most people will immediately think, ‘cooking’ or ‘art.’ But, if coffee is a big part of your life, and it surely is for us, why not take a coffee class and learn new skills?
What we didn’t know before taking this class was that it was going to end in a competition. This was a cool way to get into the competitive spirit and do the best we could to use what we’d learned.
What is a coffee brewing for couples class like?
First, I should mention that this is a fun class to take for adults. Being in a ‘learning environment’ during the weekend definitely wakes you up. I should also mention that upon starting the class, I hadn’t had my coffee yet, and I was certainly holding out to try the first cup available!
To start, we and two other couples sat at a high-top table in the classroom and coffee and went through the V60 brewing class with Sum, who was our coffee master teacher for the morning.
V60 brewing is done with a V60 manual coffee brewing device, a thin white filter and a sleek glass pot. Other things needed are a scale, assortment of cups and spoons, metal pitchers for dumping excess coffee and rinse water and a small bin for discarding used coffee grinds.
We first ran through the coffee brewing technique. A few factors influence a single cup of brewed coffee: water temperature, coffee grind level, time during brew and ratio of water to coffee.
The object of the class was to learn the relationship between all these factors and the taste of the coffee.
How do you brew the perfect cup of coffee?
All three couples, or teams, were given a different brewing variable by our teacher, Sum. One couple experimented with the size of the coffee grind, done manually in a big coffee grinder. We were going to find out how a coarse or fine grind brought out different notes and tastes in coffee.
The other couple experimented with water temperature, and we experimented with the ratio of grams of coffee to grams of water. Did you know that there’s a lot of math going on in the brewing of coffee? We had forgotten!
After taste-testing how all of the variables made a single type of coffee taste, we were on our own to experiment and combine our favored elements to brew a cup of coffee that would be delicious, sweet and well-balanced.
Why take a coffee class at the Academy at Coffee Project NY?
There are a few reasons that taking a class at the Academy at Coffee Project NY is a unique and very impressive thing to do as a date or new class to take in NYC.
The Academy at Coffee Project NY is the only Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Premier Training Campus in the entire state of New York. It’s where Sum and Kaleena train other coffee professionals, baristas and coffee enthusiasts.
Every element of this location is thoughtfully and meaningfully designed. Their machinery and apparatuses are professional-level, with the Victoria Arduino Black Eagle being the official espresso machine of the World Barista Championship!
In addition to the classroom itself, the front of the space is a retail cafe open to the public (and let me recommend the gluten-free vegan banana muffin to you — it was great), with a coffee book library and roasting facility with glass walls, so you can see the machinery.
Our biggest coffee brewing class takeaways
This class was a great refresher for us, as two people who enjoy going to cafes all over the world, seeing how coffee is grown and harvested at coffee farms and finally, brewing coffee on our own at home.
My biggest takeaway was the specifics in the coffee brewing process that had escaped my mental list of how-to: mainly the ‘blooming’ of covering the grinds with water at 198 degrees before filling the V60 or Chemex to make the rest of the cup. This step in the process allows the grinds to give off their aroma when combined with water, before the rest of the water is added.
For Dan, this class was a good refresher on the flexibility of the coffee process, and more insight into the fact that the coffee variables mentioned above tend to differ and can be tweaked, depending on the roast, origin, style and type of coffee itself.
We learned that for each individual type of coffee, baristas have to experiment with all the variables before finding the most perfect combination. This is how your specialty cup of coffee is expertly crafted in a third-wave coffee shop or specialty cafe.
How to take the Coffee Brewing Class for Couples
If you’re looking for a cool and interesting date idea, look no further than the Coffee Brewing Class for couples. Or, if you’re not looking for a unique date idea, take a coffee-loving friend with you for a coffee brewing or barista skills class at the Academy at Coffee Project NY.
What we really liked about the coffee brewing class was the guided instruction from a certified coffee expert, access to expert equipment and skills that we could take home with us. Also, I think we both probably consumed five or six cups of coffee among all the tastings, and there’s nothing bad about that.
The class was so well-done in its modules of overview, variable testing and independent competition. We had a clear vision of what we were in for and what value we would be leaving with.
We’d like to thank the Academy at Coffee Project NY for having us for the couples coffee brewing class, and we’d like to thank Sum especially, for being a patient, informative and fun instructor.
We hope to be back, for more caffeinating classes and experiences at Coffee Project NY!