A Recap of DC’s Caffeinated Bike Crawl

Organizers of the DC Coffee Bike Crawl (including sponsor District Bean!) held the third such crawl this past Sunday, May 5, with stops at specialty cafes throughout the city. Having been involved in the DC coffee culture for a short while now, I was excited to meet new people in both the coffee and cycling communities. Surpassing my expectations, it was a perfect mixture of social interaction, coffee consumption and local exploration. [Read more...]

Coffee Tasting + Lecture with Qualia Coffee (Oct. 28)

There are a couple days left to lock in a Living Social deal that includes a tasting/lecture with coffee man and roaster, Joel Finkelstein, of Qualia Coffee. The event is this Sunday, October 28, at the Living Social event space at 918 F Street. A ticket price of $29 gets you a one-hour tasting/lecture and a five-ounce bag of beans for home brewing.

From Living Social:

It may be safe to say that the dark, rich liquid that America runs on isn’t oil, it’s coffee. Develop an even greater appreciation for a good cup o’ Joe with this deal at LivingSocial’s 918 F Street: Pay $29 for a one-hour coffee tasting and lecture from Joel Finkelstein, owner of Qualia Coffee. This isn’t any ordinary lecture: you’ll get to sample the many different types of single-origin beans from around the globe Qualia offers as you learn the history of coffee, how the shop’s beans are roasted, and — perhaps most importantly — how to brew that perfect cup. Whether you’re a drip, press, or home-brew type, you’ll appreciate the knowledge buzz as well as tote home a five-ounce bag of beans.

The Coffee Bike Crawl is Back! (Sept. 23)

Back for a second year, the 2012 Coffee Bike Crawl is a caffeinated tour of some of DC finest coffee shops. Come along for stops at five great cafes and a low impact ride that’s open to all. The Coffee Bike Crawl kicks off at Qualia Coffee at 10 a.m., then heads to Flying Fish Coffee & Tea, Dolcezza Gelato, Blind Dog Cafe and Big Bear Cafe. There’s no cost to join, and RSVP isn’t mandatory, but you can let others know you’re attending by visiting the event’s Facebook page.

The inspiration for the ride came from co-organizer Elizabeth O’Connell on a visit to San Francisco, when she stumbled upon a group of 30 bikers at a cafe in the Tenderloin. Elizabeth says, “The crew explained to me they were biking together from one cafe to the next, and I thought, ‘We could totally do this in DC!’” She joined with friend and barista Laura Westman (Big Bear Cafe) and formed the innagural Coffee Bike Crawl in 2011 that attracted some 40 riders.

“People have asked ‘What’s the point of the ride? Is there a cause?’ The truth is, the point of the ride is to enjoy good coffee, good company and some fresh air,” said Elizabeth. “DC has some great, friendly neighborhood cafes that people may not know exist if they don’t have the chance to step outside or their normal routine.”

Click on the map to view complete route details via Google Maps

Coffee Bike Crawl Stops

Qualia Coffee (kick off at 10 a.m.) Petworth (Web)
3917 Georgia Ave, NW

Flying Fish Coffee & Tea Mt. Pleasant (Web)
3064 Mt. Pleasant Street, NW

Dolcezza Gelato Georgetown (Web)
1560 Wisconsin Ave, NW

Blind Dog Cafe Shaw/U Street (Web)
944 Florida Ave, NW

Big Bear Cafe Bloomingdale (Web)
1700 First Street, NW

Feel free to share event details with friends and neighbors. You can download the Coffee Bike Crawl flyer, or send your buds to www.districtbean.com/coffeebike. You can also contact event organizers with questions – Elizabeth O’Connell and Laura Westman. Official partners of the Coffee Bike Crawl include The Bike House and District Bean.

Special thanks to Hope Glastris for providing “Coffee Bike Guy” artwork. 

Are you a laptop squatter?

The Chicago Tribune ran an article today on so called “laptop squatters” that caught my eye. In his piece, reporter Jonathan Bullington discussed the ever-present reality of today’s café culture in which customers have grown accustomed to online connectivity. Apparently, it’s no longer enough to provide banging lattes and friendly customer service. The people want, and expect, Wi-Fi. But what challenge does that pose to business owners who rely on actual sales to pay the bills?

At most cafés around DC you can power up a laptop at no charge. In fact, there are few restrictions on Internet use, although unwritten rules do apply. (We previously covered coffee shop etiquette here.) Whether running a small business, checking Facebook or writing for a coffee website (wuh?), if shop owners have a connection people will most certainly use it. Bullington pointed to a few chain shops that are experimenting with Wi-Fi limits:

In some high-traffic Starbucks locations in New York City, managers have resorted to blocking access to electrical outlets, the idea being that laptop users will pick up and leave when their batteries run dry. …

Panera Bread locations around Chicago and the suburbs limit customers to 30 minutes of Wi-Fi access daily during the lunch rush …

At Café Jumping Bean in Pilsen, owner Eleazar Delgado blocks Wi-Fi access during peak weekday afternoon hours and all day on weekends.

At quick glance, I could only find documentation of a Wi-Fi policy at a DC specialty coffee shop at Qualia Coffee in Petworth. On its website, Qualia says:

We rely on steady turnover of seats to keep the lights on. We welcome you for an hour or two’s coffee and writing break, but please keep in mind that our nearly-socialist attitude means we cannot support camping for six hours on a single small coffee.

That sounds fair enough to me. Qualia uses its Twitter and Facebook feeds to let customers know when Wi-Fi may be restricted. But the very real challenge of sales volume could cause other shop owners seek a balance with patrons. What say you? Would Wi-Fi restrictions cause you to go someplace else? Or is it fair for shop owners to place limits on acces? Vote and see the results below.

Think Local: Drink Local

Because we at District Bean don’t only support local shops, but also local roasters, here are three worth checking out. If you haven’t enjoyed fresh roasted coffee from any of these you should strongly consider a local coffee tour – pronto – because there are some great things happening on the DC roasting front. We’ll update this list at some point, because we know MadCap is around the corner, but in the meantime check out (and support) your local roaster.


Fresh Off the Roast


It wasn’t all that long ago that head roaster Joel Finkelstein was covering health care policy as a reporter, or building a custom roaster out of a barbecue grill. Now, you’ll find Joel on most days roasting at his specialty coffee shop, Qualia Coffee, in Petworth. A small-batch specialty roaster, Fresh Off the Roast puts a premium on in-season, ultra fresh coffee. Stop by Qualia, or order online.



M.E. Swing Co.


While many consider specialty coffee a relatively new movement, Swing’s has had an impact on the DC coffee scene since M.E. Swing and his son, Edward Swing, established the company back in 1916. Today they roast all coffee in an Alexandria, Va., roastery. Stop by for a cupping, or visit the shop across the street from the White House on G Street.


Misha’s Coffee


Located in the heart of Old Town, Alexandria, Va., Misha’s is a community shop and roastery that features six blended coffees and 18 varietals from around the world. You can also call up and have a batch roasted just for you (a District Bean contributor had custom roasted coffee from Misha’s as a wedding favor). You can explore all Misha’s coffee at the shop or order online.

The Art and Science of Great Coffee

Specialty coffee is taking over the DC airwaves Wednesday, October 5, for a segment on The Art and Science of Great Coffee. Tune in to the Kojo Nnamdi Show at 1:30 p.m. for a segment featuring Corby Kummer, senior editor of The Atlantic and author of “The Joy of Coffee: The Essential Guide to Buying, Brewing and Enjoying,” along with the District’s own Joel Finkelstein, owner of Qualia Coffee, head roaster at Fresh Off The Roast and contributor here at District Bean. Here’s the teaser:

Across every continent, people build their daily routines around coffee. Many Americans see “a cup of joe” as little more than a caffeine delivery device. But this unique tropical fruit can take on the flavors of micro-climates around the world, from the mountains of Jamaica to the high plains of Ethiopia. We dive deep into the art and science of coffee with a James Beard Award-winning writer and the brains behind a small-batch roasting company and coffee shop in Washington.

Needless to say we’re stoked to see what Kojo, Corby and Joel have in store. This is the next best thing to pouring coffee straight from you radio, so don’t miss a rare opportunity to explore insights from the culinary coffee industry on WAMU 88.5.

#Coffee101: Debunking Coffee Myths

We’re covered a few health misconceptions about coffee here on District Bean already. This time, Joel Finkelstein, the roasting guru behind Fresh Off the Roast and owner of Qualia Coffee in Petworth, debunks a few other coffee myths. It’s all part of our #Coffee101 series. Stay tuned for other installments.


By Joel Finkelstein

Myth 1: Darker Roasters Have Bolder Flavor

There is a rather pervasive myth about coffee that I hear on almost daily basis, namely that the darker the roast the stronger the brew. The truth is that there are two different and sometimes competing flavors in coffee, one inherent to the bean and the other a product of the roasting process. From a roaster’s perspective, I want to taste the coffee, not the roast. Much of what makes coffee interesting to me is in fact the complexity of the coffee, some or much of which gets lost the darker you roast, delicate flavor oils are broken down by excessive heat. Some of the boldest coffees I have ever had were light roasted.

I strongly suspect that the myth of the dark roast is driven more by market realities than consumer taste. While light roasts have a lot of flavor within the first couple of weeks of roasting, the flavor oils begin to rapidly oxidize after two weeks. By comparison, the burnt outside of dark roasted beans have a much more enduring, if less interesting, flavor that outlasts light roast coffees by months. Since most roasters can’t get their coffee beans on the shelves, much less put them in consumers hands, within a week or two of roasting, it doesn’t make much sense to sell light roasted coffees that are only really good for a couple of weeks. So, instead they sell dark roasted or artificially flavored coffees, both of which don’t reflect the beans natural depth and complexity.


Myth 2: Freezing Coffee Beans Will Prolong Their Freshness

I generally recommend against freezing or even refrigerating coffee beans. I have yet to see any evidence or explanation about how freezing coffee would delay staling of the coffee. In addition, it creates the risk of condensation on the beans as well as exposing the coffee to large changes in temperature, which can be destructive on its own.

So how should you store coffee beans? If we are talking about fresh coffee that will be used up quickly, within a week or two, then no special measures are really needed. Because freshly roasted coffee slowly releases CO2 over the first couple of weeks, it does a pretty good job of protecting itself against oxidation, the main culprit of staling. Keep it out of the sun and away from sources of heat and you should be good. If you go through your coffee slowly, say only drinking on weekends, I generally advise the use of mason jars, which are relatively cheap, air tight and easy to clean. The smaller the jar the better. I have found the half-pint jar hold just enough coffee for a medium-sized pot of coffee.


Myth 3: The Fresher Coffee Is the Better

This is not a actually an issue that arises often given the general lack of availability of freshly roasted beans in the current market, but coffee needs at least 24 hours and more usually 48 hours rest after roasting to lose the “grassiness” caused by the off-gassing of CO2. Most coffee takes somewhere between three to five days to peak in flavor, although that can vary quite a bit. Some beans, especially if dark roasted, can peak within a couple of days of roasting, while light roasted coffee may take up to a week.


Myth 4: It’s Better to Grind Coffee at the Store then to Grind It on My Cheap Blade Grinder

Once ground, freshly roasted coffee loses all of the natural protection described above and begins to change in flavor by the hour rather than the day or week. While it’s true that a better grinder will produce a better cup of coffee, the advantages of freshly ground coffee are so substantial that even a $10 blade grinder is a better alternative to buying pre-ground coffee. If you absolutely cannot grind your coffee at home, bring a mason jar with you and grind your coffee directly into it, then seal it to keep air from breaking down the coffee’s delicate flavor oils.

Find Joel online at Fresh Off the Roast, Qualia Coffee or on Twitter  @RoastMonkey

Friday News Roundup

We’re trying out a new weekly feature, which may or may not be permanently called Friday News Roundup. Here’s a look at several stories that developed over the past few days.

Mid City Caffe Set to Close October 1

We’re sad to report that one of the District’s finer independent shops is shutting its doors for good. Mid City Caffe announced it will be closing on Saturday, October 1, which means you have about a week to stop by and pay your respects. We found out through an e-mail exchange with Mid City’s Jeffrey Lamoureux there are no plans to reopen or find a new location for the shop. The good news, Jeffery said, is that all of the current staff are likely land behind another counter or found doing other things, so keep an eye out. Jeffrey will be working with the AKA Hotel downtown, which is planning a specialty coffee concept later this fall.

Washington Post Spotlights Local Shops

The Washington Post gave us this list of Best Coffee Shops on Thursday. While I’m generally not a fan of rankings and “Best Of” voting, it’s good to see several local independents getting a little love in the mainstream press. Included in this list are Northside Social, Qualia Coffee, M.E. Swing Co., Chinatown Coffee Co., Filter Coffeehouse and Espresso, Grape and Bean and Peregrine Espresso. Congrats.

Peregrine to Hold Tasting and Discussion Saturday

You can already find Counter Culture’s Cinco de Junio in a few shops in the area, but Peregrine has been working closely with the Cinco de Junio co-op recently to support community building in the co-op’s hometown of Sabanas, Nicaragua, in coordination with the Fabretto Children’s Foundation. This Saturday at Peregrine’s Capitol Hill shop, the public is invited to taste some of the different lots coming from the co-op, and be part of a discussion on the Foundation’s work in Las Sabanas. Since August 2011, Peregrine has supported Fabretto by donating $0.25 from each cup and $1 from each bag of Cinco de Junio sold. The money supports teachers in Las Sabanas who run extracurricular elementary programs.

Saturday, September 24, 7 p.m.
Peregrine Capitol Hill

New arrivals at Qualia Coffee

Joel Finkelstein, head roaster and owner of Fresh Off the Roast and Qualia Coffee, has announced new additions to the fall lineup that can be found at Qualia as early as next week. They include beans from Colombia, Brazil, Honduras, El Salvador, Bali and Sulawesi. The beans from Bali are the same the shop currently carries, but this batch was dry-processed rather than washed, bringing out lots of pungent fruit notes in the cup. Stop by the Petworth location next week and grab a cup.

Autumn is Here!

The season has officially changed and you know what that means – folks are starting to flip their shit over Pumpkin Spice Lattes. But you don’t have to visit one of the bad guys to get your pumpkin fix. The Kitchn has posted its DIY recipe that claims to be just like Starbucks. In full disclosure, I haven’t tested it, but it sounds easy enough so long as you have access to espresso. If you try it out, be sure to send pics to jonathan@districtbean.com.

Speaking of Bad Guys …

Los Angeles-based Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf recently opened its first Manhattan shop and was featured in a Huffington Post piece on expansion plans in New York and elsewhere. According to the story, the next city being targeted is Washington, D.C. The first shop will appear inside the Washington Hilton this October, but what’s alarming is this quote from Bob Kaufman, the mega-chain’s vice president of business development. According to Kaufman, “Just going in and opening one store in the city, to see how it works, is no good. You need to build enough stores to allow customers to fit a Coffee Bean visit easily into their day, rather than working their whole day around us.” Want more bad news? The Washington Business Journal ran a recent story announcing Arabica Café’s introduction to the DMV. The 40-unit chain is mostly aroundOhio, but Sam Saa has purchased the development rights for Arabica in D.C.,Virginia andMaryland. Initial plans call for seven stores.

I’ll leave you with this …


Explore the coffee of Petworth. If you’ve got a favorite coffee place that isn’t listed here, send an e-mail to jonathan@districtbean.com. You can find a complete guide to area coffee shops – along with walking, biking and driving directions – on the District Bean Coffee Locator.

Qualia Coffee

3917 Georgia Ave, NW
(202) 248-6423
Serves in-house roasted coffee from Fresh Off the Roast
Find Qualia on Facebook, Twitter and Web