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Steve Rhinehart
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New backdrop frames came in. Here's hoping they save us some setup time over the PVC.

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I was having some issues with bubble leaks with my siphon. It's possible the filter mount is warped somehow, but I didn't have a good solution to fix it until today. On a hunch, I added a silicone gasket made for a Bialetti moka pot below the filter, and it instantly transformed the bubble pattern on the filter. Check out these two short clips to see the before and after, it's a great improvement for such a simple fix.

The silicone should not impart any off-flavors and is heat- and food-safe. I gave it a couple of baths in hot water just to get rid of any factory residue, just as a precaution.
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Siphon Fix
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I visited Boxkite's new location on St. Mark's Place in NYC today. They're currently in "soft launch" mode, with a real opening expected soon. This is their signature espresso flight, featuring Madcap's Holiday Fusion blend. Pleasantly bright, with a light caramel and a hint of peanut. The macchiato was a bit milky for the coffee used, but not too bad. This coffee would have been lost entirely in much more milk, though.

I highly recommend dropping by. The interior is cozy and seating puts you face to face with your barista. They plan on offering beer and small plates as well very soon, and will be open from 7 AM to 2 AM weekdays, 7 AM to 4 AM on weekends, with coffee service until midnight. They're looking to be a great addition to the East Village coffee scene, serving up Ritual and Madcap regularly, and rotating a roster of guest roasters primarily from Europe.
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I had the opportunity to swing by Blue Bottle's siphon bar at their Chelsea cafe this weekend. My roommate joined me, and as he's the kind of person to just grab something iced, this may have been a bit overwhelming to him at first, but he really warmed up to it.

It's all about the sit-down service here, with a handful of stools cozied up to the bar, the siphons and beam heaters taking center stage, and nothing too busy behind the barista, who guides you through the coffee experience.

We opted to split a flight of the two coffees they had available, a Mexican Chiapas Triunfo and an Ethiopian Sidamo. We chatted with the barista about the coffees we were being served, the history of the siphon brewer, and the coffee industry and local NYC community. Along with the coffees, we were served water (of course) and chilled cascara tea from one of Aida Batlle's famous farms.

The Chiapas was served first, featuring some of the signature nuttiness I've grown to expect from the region (and am quite tired of, at that), but also accompanied by a pleasant and slightly dry acidity, like a slightly underripe plum.

This was followed by the star of the show, the Sidamo. Delicate and tea-like, aromatic and floral, with a light and refreshing cherry acidity balanced by a bit of malty brown sugar sweetness. This was a dynamic cup, transforming markedly as it cooled, starting out a bit toasty, with the brighter sparks of flavor pushing through, then diminishing and allowing more of the graham cracker sweetness to finish up. After I had finished my coffee, I took a sip of water to find my mouth exploding with sweetness, a final reminder of the empty cup before me.

If you're near the city, I highly recommend a visit. The siphon bar is only open from 11-5, so be sure to plan accordingly. The cafe is right next to both Chelsea Market and the Highline, and is quite close to the Pier and to Intelligentsia's cafe at the High Line Hotel. A perfect area to spend your Saturday.
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I stopped by the Nespresso cafe in Soho today to check it out, and walked away with a few notable impressions. The first is that they are vastly overcharging for their beverages. A single espresso (quite close to 2 ounces in the cup though) is $4.34 after tax. For that price, a well-dressed man will drop a pod into a machine and push a button.

The cafe itself is entirely built around an experience that is quite likely very foreign to the origin of espresso. It's more like a bistro -- sit down, order something to mull over for 20 or 30 minutes -- than an espresso bar. And half of the real estate is devoted to selling you the products if course. But this is an "Emperor's New Clothes" situation, as the interior design and service say upscale, but the products speak for themselves as rather ugly hunks of plastic that spit out a brew leaving much to be desired. This is a place that celebrates marketing, not coffee.

And the espresso? Well it's preground pod stuff, you can hardly expect it to be satisfying. I was surprised that there was a pleasant, albeit indistinct aroma I'd call sweet and fruity. This was quite understated however, and fleeting. The faux crema is incredibly disappointing, with nearly no body nor creaminess. Rather, it is quite airy, not like any crema I've had on a true espresso before, which made for an interesting first sip.

But don't take my word for it, I suggest at least dropping in if you're in Lower Manhattan. I was spoilt a few minutes before at Everyman Espresso on W Broadway, so the failure on Nespresso's part to even compare made me a bit grumpy about the price.

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I've been doing a lot of community building around coffee recently, with a project I launched called Beansprout. I live in a smaller city in New York State, which has struggled to adapt to a post-industrial economy. We used to house big manufacturing facilities like Carriers and Sears, but now we're a bit more limited. We still have Lockheed Martin and Anheuser-Busch, but they're both outside the city proper, and much of the downtown area is in dire need of a breath of life.

My idea for Beansprout was to bring people together around a common interest, and foster a community locally. The hope is that it becomes self-sustaining, with in-person meetups and online resources for discussions, expression, and chatter. So far, we've had just 5 individuals show up to our weekly meetings, but the online group is slowly growing, and I have hopes that things will pick up with a bit more promotion.

Today, I was asked to brew coffee to celebrate Foursquare Day (4^2 = 16, 4/16), where my coffee was offered as a check-in special for the social media "command center" at my college. I had a great time, brewing local beans for everybody, and the the feedback was resoundingly positive. It's that kind of thing that really got me interested in building a community, because people seem to feel a bit more connected to the guy who's brewing them coffee just because. It's one thing to go pay for a cup, or even to get a sample from a cafe's table at some event, and another entirely to have a passionate individual share what they love. I think the latter is what connects people a bit more, but there's value in a community-oriented space like a cafe.

I write this because the chief side goal I have for Beansprout is to "go viral." I want others to create their own communities, and bring people together around a common interest. To support the local businesses that need them, and keep their cities or towns vibrant. My city needs more love and more time to become truly exciting again, but others may just need a little kick in the pants to remember how great it is to be social together.

How about you folks, would you be interested in building something like this? Would it work where you live?
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Steve Rhinehart hung out with 1 person. <a class='ot-hashtag' href='https://plus.google.com/s/%23hangoutsonair'>#hangoutsonair</a>Adam Britten

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Steve Rhinehart hung out. <a class='ot-hashtag' href='https://plus.google.com/s/%23hangoutsonair'>#hangoutsonair</a>

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Syracuse folks, if you're interested in coffee and want to hang out with like-minded coffee lovers, please consider joining Beansprout! I've just launched this community on Meetup.com, and I'm hoping to bring Syracusans together over a great cuppa joe for conversation and fun. Check us out at the link below, and meet up with us in person on April 6th for our first event!

cc +Carol Kelly +Kelly Lux +Anthony Rotolo +Katelyn Block +Diane Stirling +Hannah Warren +Jessica Murray +Ariel Norling
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