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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Coffee Culture

Cup of Joe, brew, brain juice, java, morning jolt, high octane. A cup of coffee by any other name would smell as strong. It fuels the Earth and gives us the energy to make it through our days. According to the Washington Post, the world drinks around 2 billion cups of coffee every day. Call it an addiction or a passion; there is no denying the coffee culture has filtered its way to the River City.

From unique and creative coffee shops in and around the city to local roasters caffeinating the community one bean at a time, Evansville has become another target of the coffee craze that is quickly brewing around the globe. The city is home to old and grounded favorites, but also boasts new and bold shops. Whether you’re looking for a favorite java spot or wanting to find the perfect way to get your caffeine buzz at home, we’ve gathered the bitter truth by whatever beans necessary. We’ve got a latte problems, but coffee ain’t one.

▲ Wired has a growing list of secret menu items like Dante’s Inferno, pictured above, under the brand White Swan Coffee Lab, a reference to White Swan Laundry that once operated out of Wired’s location. Coincidentally, operator and manager David Rudibaugh’s family friends owned the laundry and donated a bag to Wired. Below, David Rudibaugh worked in the marketing department at Mead Johnson Nutrition for more than 10 years before becoming the operator and manager of Wired Coffee House last year.

Get Wired

Downtown coffeehouse offers brew with a side of music

“Eclectic” just scratches the surface when describing the rich blend of aesthetic pleasures percolating at Wired Coffee House.

The coffeehouse, owned by Youth Incorporated of Southern Indiana founder and executive director Andy Fuller, was created to be a safe space for people who weren’t accepted in the local culture.

The business reflects the style of actor-singer-musician-entrepreneur David Rudibaugh, an Evansville native who, with his wife Kendra, operates and manages the shop. Their journey to Wired all started through a concert series they began in their Haynie’s Corner home more than five years ago.

In July 2015, they hosted a show too big for their house, so they rented Wired, which was mainly available as an event space. Rudibaugh discovered Fuller’s son Jesse was managing Wired but was soon moving to South Africa for mission work. Rudibaugh decided to step in.

“One thing led to another with the house concerts and show bookings,” he says.

The concert series also led him to his coffee roaster, the renowned Louisville-based Sunergos, who agreed to roast and sell coffee wholesale for the shows.

Rudibaugh now concocts his own brand, White Swan Coffee, using Sunergos beans. The name is a nod to Evansville history. In 1893, the first recorded business where Wired now stands was the White Swan Laundry, which remained a fixture until the 1980s.

Today, Wired customers can order anything from specialty coffee to secret menu items like Dante’s Inferno — a latte with cayenne-infused chocolate and organic cinnamon.

“If I go somewhere to get a drink, I want something different and special I can’t get at home,” says Rudibaugh. “I can make a pour-over all day that rivals anybody’s pour-over in town, so why would I go somewhere and get one unless it’s a really rare, exquisite coffee?”

For more information about Wired Coffee House, call 812-329-4733 or visit wiredwiredwired.com.

River City Coffee Company
Crafting an experience tailored to each customer, Clint and Heather Vaught opened their coffee shop inside their store River City Mercantile to fulfill a dream of bringing handcrafted coffee to the heart of Downtown Evansville. With a simple menu focused on the quality of each beverage, Heather enjoys lattes, inventing flavors, and perfecting presentation while Clint sticks to traditional brews and pour-overs. The couple sources their beans from Quills Coffee, a roaster based in Louisville, Kentucky. The Vaughts continue to expand their brewed knowledge by attending classes offered by Quills and visiting other coffee cafes. 223 Main St., 812-550-1695, rivercityevv.com/coffee

Donut Bank Bakery
If there’s one thing Evansville residents love, it is Donut Bank Bakery. Since 1967, the Kempf family has offered up tasty donuts, bagels, and other treats. But it was the family’s matriarch Shirley who perfected the Donut Bank signature coffee blends more than 20 years ago after working six years to get it just right. Today, Donut Bank’s nine locations offer the house blends on a regular basis as well as specialty drinks. With all the offerings, it’s easy to see why Donut Bank has consistently found a place on Evansville Living’s Best of the City list as one of the favorite spots for a cup of Joe. Nine locations, 812-426-0011, donutbank.com

Barber Bistro Coffee
Coffee shops and cafes have a knack for finding homes in unique locations. For Noah Hayden, opening a craft coffee shop in the lobby of Roger’s Academy of Hair Design didn’t seem odd. After all, Roger’s Academy was started by Hayden’s grandfather Roger Hayden. Barber Bistro practices third wave coffee, a movement to produce high-quality coffee as an artisan drink. “From our coffee to all of our furniture, pretty much everything in here is made by hand,” says Hayden. He and his baristas craft espressos, drip coffee, and signature drinks by this method, hoping to pave the way for a new type of coffee scene in Evansville.105 N. Green River Road, 812-401-1100, facebook.com/barberbistrocoffee

In the Lab

Honey + Moon Coffee Co. experiments with fresh techniques

▲ Honey + Moon Coffee Co. owner Zac Parsons demonstrates the process of pouring up the perfect nitro cold brew.

It takes a competitive edge to get noticed as a coffee maker in Evansville now with so many unique and interesting cafés open. Honey + Moon Coffee Co. understood this coming out of the gate and was one of the first shops in the area to offer nitro cold brew coffee on tap. They have two styles; a honey cold brew and a classic cold brew without honey.

“Somewhere in coffee making research, when we were about to open up the shop, we were trying to figure out, ‘What do we do to be different? We can’t just have coffee like everyone else has,’” says owner Zac Parsons. “We also were figuring out our name and we knew we wanted honey in it, so the nitro part and the honey thing came at the same time from different ways of just seeing what we could do.”

Parsons and barista Ahmed Albaqshi experimented in a basement with different coffee techniques before perfecting the nitrogen mixed cold brew coffee. The nitrogen adds a light creaminess that opens sweet receptor taste buds, which gives the coffee a natural sweetness without any cream or sugar.
“We were trying to figure out the ratio, for the honey version specifically, of how much honey, how much beans, and how much water we should use,” says Parsons. “Recently, University of Evansville had a health and fitness fair and we finally rolled out honey brew, as a straight cold brew served over ice without any sugar, milk, or nitrogen infused in it, and they loved it.”

The spirit of experimentation still is alive at Honey + Moon; for Evansville Living they successfully steamed their nitro cold brew for the first time.

For more information about Honey + Moon Coffee Co., call 812-602-3123 or visit honeymooncoffee.co.

Beans & Baristas
The hustle and the bustle of Eastland Mall can be daunting. If you’re working your way through the crowds and in need of a break, slip into Beans & Baristas for a moment to yourself as you sip on a cuppa of gourmet coffee. Opened in 2012 by Regina Smith and Phyllis Wolf, the shop offers original recipe coffee and espresso drinks, and a variety of teas. Bags of special blends offered by Smith and Wolf line the shelves as well, with three sponsored to benefit local charities Vanderburgh Humane Society and Gilda’s Club of Evansville. Inside Eastland Mall, 800 N. Green River Road, 812-475-8566, beansandbaristas.com

Lucid Coffee Bar
Before beginning Lucid, coffee was a hobby for Tony and Jo Findley. The couple have a dream to one day become roasters in their own right, but until then, they pride themselves on serving up espresso and pour-over coffees using fresh beans, filtered water, and a practiced hand. Lucid’s four baristas brew anywhere from five to nine different varieties for the Tri-State java fanatics who visit them in The Refinery in downtown Newburgh, Indiana. Lucid’s drink of choice? The pour-over, which brings out the flavor notes the best. 224 W. Jennings St., Newburgh, IN, 812-641-1437, lucidcoffeebar.com

Cool Beans

Veteran Penny Lane barista gives insight from behind the bar

Allyson Woods has worked at Penny Lane Coffeehouse brewing, mixing, and serving up favorite drinks for two years. Now the general manager, we asked the Evansville native some questions about her job as a barista:

EL: Do you have a favorite drink to make?
AW: My favorite drink is the Toasted Marshmallow Latte. It’s toasted marshmallow syrup with espresso and milk. But we’ve got a Thin Mint Latte right now that might be second. It has chocolate and frosted mint in it. Then we crumble thin mint cookies on top. It’s awesome.

EL: Is there anything about being a barista the customers may not understand?
AW: Everything we make is all handcrafted. You know, just from pulling the shots, to steaming the milk to the proper temperature, knowing the right amount of syrups to add. And even a customer telling me what they want and having the knowledge to ask, “Ok, is this what you’re looking for?” Coffee is something a lot of people may not know much about. They get it and they know what it tastes like, but they don’t know everything that’s in it and what it takes to make it.

EL: Is there a bit of science to it?
AW: Yeah, definitely! It’s pretty cool.

For more information about Penny Lane Coffeehouse, call 812-421-8741 or visit pennylanecoffeehouse.com.

Wake Up!

Evansville Living’s staff spills the beans on our preferred home brew makers

For the times you just can’t wait for your java, you need a reliable home brewing system. The Evansville Living staff did the hard work for you, gathering up four popular coffee makers for a taste test: Mr. Coffee 12-Cup Coffee Maker, Bodum French Press, Keurig, and the Aerobie Aeropress.

The coffee we chose was Peet’s Café Domingo Medium Roast, readily available at Schnucks in whole bean, ground, and K-Cup. While we tend to like coffee brewed with our municipal water (filtered), for our test we purchased purified water. We invited the staff — a combination of daily coffee drinkers and those new to the brew — for our taste test.

Mr. Coffee
The stalwart on millions of countertops, Mr. Coffee is the drip brewing system that supplanted percolators in the 1970s. Finishing on the bottom of our taste-testers’ lists, the most favorable comment on the finished brew was “basic and light.” Most who took a sip felt Mr. Coffee provided a weak and diluted cuppa that was less acidic and didn’t linger on their taste buds.

Bodum French Press
One of the oldest and easiest methods of brewing coffee is the French Press. We tested the Bodum Chambord French Press. Simply add 1/2 cup ground coffee to the French Press, pour boiling water into the press, and stir. Let it steep for four minutes exactly, and slowly press. The reaction from our office mates was as strong and bold as the coffee made from the French Press. The cup of Joe from this method offered a “more robust” drink. “AMAZING FLAVOR” was the response written by one coworker. All in all, the French Press came in a close second for our staff — the ability of the simple coffee maker to produce a smooth coffee with big flavor resulted in high marks

The Keurig, which brews single-serve coffee from K-Cup pods, is now the most popular brewing method in the U.S. Most supermarket coffee brands are available in the pods. For the coffee lovers of our office, the Keurig wasn’t great, but wasn’t bad either. It fell in the middle, evoking comments of “bold flavor, but not as bold as the French Press” and “pretty regular.” When all was said and done, the consensus was we wouldn’t kick a Keurig out of our kitchen, but we know we can do better.

Aerobie Aeropress
Invented in 2005 by Alan Adler, who invented aerodynamic toys, the Aeropress consists of two nesting cylinders that operate similar to a syringe. Coffee for one serving is steeped for 10 to 50 seconds (depending on grind and preferred strength) and then forced through a filter by pressing the plunger through the tube, into your coffee mug. Out of our five testers, three dubbed the aeropress the best on our kitchen counter. Offering a “cleaner” tasting coffee that is “full of flavor without a bitter aftertaste,” this method edged out the often-favored French Press. “It’s a good combo of the French Press and the Mr. Coffee,” says one of our coffee drinkers. “It’s the quickest way to get a cup.”

What was the conclusion we drew from our taste testing experiment? We learned the way you make your coffee is just as important as the coffee you are making. Our taste testers left the table believing there is a difference between the makers on the market and the effects the methods have on flavor, taste, and smell.

So skip the lines, pick up your favorite grounds from your local roaster, and try an at-home press. It may change your way of drinking.

Cruising to Coffee

Sometimes the best way to perk up your day is to get out of town and try something new. A quick trip out of Evansville, these nearby cafés brew enough caffeine to energize anybody’s routine.

Planters Cafe & Coffee Bar (130 N. Main St., Henderson, KY) has been a staple in Henderson, Kentucky, for more than 20 years providing its customers with a guilt-free buzz through their organic and fair-trade coffee and espresso. “All of our coffee is organic, fair-trade, and fresh-roasted,” says David Jones, owner of Planters Coffee. “We have a lot of single-origin coffees, as well as blends of coffee. A single-origin is a type that comes from one place, like Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Rwanda. A blend is made from two or more regions to pull out a specific taste in the coffee.” Pair your drink with one of their lunch options, like their famous chicken salad. Whether you are craving a pour-over or press, Black Lodge Coffee Roasters (610 Church St., New Harmony, IN) has the perfect brew for you. “We only use high-quality coffee,” says Black Lodge Coffee Roasters owner Amanda Chevalier. “I roast several times a week so it always is fresh. I peak roast so it is not roasted to a crisp.” If you want something new, try their Toddy cold brew iced coffee, or stick to the basics with one of their classic espresso beverages. While in New Harmony, Indiana, head down the street to Sara’s Harmony Way (500 Church St., New Harmony, IN) and have a light bite with your cup of coffee or latte. For days where you need something stronger, they also offer a selection of Indiana beer and wine. Smalley Coffee (2955 Newton St., Jasper, IN) quickly has made a name for itself by serving their fare out of a converted 1966 Airstream Overlander. Grab one of their signature cinnamon rolls and try it with any of their classic, handcrafted beverages.

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