Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Golden Roast is Alan's amazing roast manifest

Golden Roast can do very little wrong in my world. When I first arrived in Knoxville and did not have internet at home yet but 100% relied on access to do my job, Golden Roast filled that need. They also provided coffee, which is critical to my life. "A mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems" covers it even if my last two jobs haven't relied on my advanced degree in mathematics at all, in fact I might as well not have the degree... I digress.

Golden Roast is in many respects a standard university-area coffee house with comfy couches, WiFi, and loads of students studying, talking, or philosophizing as they are wont to do without self-consciousness. What makes The G-Roast unique is the proprietor, Alan, and by extension, the beans he roasts.

Golden Roast is a very different place early in the morning when Alan is at the helm. Not only is he a roaster whose beans are phenomenal, but he is also an amazingly attentive barista who is absolutely willing to work towards absurdity for the proper caffeine addict (yeah, he once made me a triple shot red-eye). I have never once had a badly made coffee drink delivered to me by his hand, and he is extremely welcoming to everyone who enters his door. Don't be shy about asking for a fresh scone with your cup of joe or Numi tea.

When he is not at the helm the service is generally good with the standard college student coffe-shop employee foibles. Usually the service is great, sometimes a little lax, but I've rarely been annoyed. They don't pull shots with the methodical care of a doctor the way Alan or Meg (at Old City Java, who, by the way, uses Alan's beans) do, sometimes they have a hard time multiplying ounces of coffee by cost per ounce without the cheatsheet provided by Alan, and often have a hard time adding the $0.25 credit card surcharge but... they're good people all of them. And to their credit every time an unfamiliar face walks in and asks for a machiato expecting the sugar-laden poison produced by Starbucks, whoever is behind the counter explains that while they will be happy to make a machiato it almost certainly not what the customer expects and perhaps they'd like a nice flavored latte.

Alan's beans are what makes the shop remarkable as opposed to simply very good. After purchasing a very reasonable home espresso machine (a low end professional quality), I became further obsessed with coffee than ever before. Since the machine came with a year's worth of "high end Italian" beans (ground and whole, in fairly distinctive aluminum tins), I used those beans and pulled pretty mediocre shots. I assumed it was me. I spent weeks reading every corner of Coffee Geek and Whole Latte Love trying to figure out why I couldn't pull a good shot. I adjusted the grind of my burr grinder. I experimented with tamp pressure. I assumed the problem was me, or the machine (how much pressure was I getting really?). I spent nearly an entire caffeine-addled year suffering through bitter shots with little crema. After investing in 1/2lb of Alan's espresso grind it was like my machine magically came to life. My first shot was not perfect, but it was worlds above what I had pulled before. I suddenly had beans that would allow me to start drawing shots that were not embarrassing to my most fascistic coffee snob friends. And for that I am thankful to Alan.

I am not purely an espresso junkie either. I am not prejudiced against a good brewed coffee, or french press, or cold-filtered brew. And Alan has me covered on that front too. His collection of Fair Trade beans such as Mexican Chiappas, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Sumatran Mandheling, East Timor, and Kenya AA should keep anyone who loves the black brew. There are numerous flavored coffees, which may be wonderful though I don't drink them, as well as decaf for those who don't like the shakes. The roast even has separate in-shop grinders for flavored and non coffees so they don't pollute East Timor with Creme Brulée (one of the worst things that ever happened to my coffee), which is why they'll ask you what you're buying (they're not *that* interested in your coffee tastes). And before I am snarked for ever having coffee ground more than 3ms before I drink it, having a grinder at work nearby on Campus is not an option, so I buy small amounts of exciting coffees often and suffer through oxidation over the following days.

Food at G-Roast is affordable, healthy, light, and perfect for a quick bite, including pita sandwiches, tasty soups, bagels and the standard accoutrements one would expect from such a locale. Recently I've seen a sign for yogurt and granola, and I can attest to the fact that scones or cookies are a perfect and, ahem, healthy breakfast option. In fact, more than once, a slice of cake from the case has called my name and I've been able, only barely, to demand that it get behind me (satan).

So go see Alan, have a nice coffee or tea drink, use his WiFi, sit in a comfy couch, and bask in one of the coolest spots in all of Knoxville.

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