Ward Payne lived in Seattle in his former life as a graphic designer and software creative director, so he knows a thing or two about a good cup of joe. At his coffee shop Simpatico Espresso in the lobby of the Regional Enterprise Tower -- the former Alcoa Building on Sixth Avenue -- he's been brewing what many consider some of the city's best.
This past December, he upped his game considerably, with the debut of a high-tech, single-cup coffee machine known as the "Trifecta."
Made by coffee giant Bunn, the space-age appliance doesn't just brew coffee -- it turns it into performance art as it wets and agitates the ground coffee and then presses the liquid through a filter into a 12-ounce cup using patented "air infusion technology."
In this latest "Cool Pittsburgh Food in a Minute" video, Mr. Payne takes the Trifecta for a test drive using Sumatra Hirimau Tiger coffee supplied by Common Place Coffee, a "profile" roaster that recently joined East End Brewing Co. at its warehouse space in Larimer.
Agitating the suspended grounds with blasts of oxygen isn't just fun, says Mr. Payne. It also releases the coffee's flavor in a way traditional drip-brewing and French pressing cannot.
"You get the full brew profile," he says, adding that each variety calls for different water temperatures and intensity and duration of turbulence. (The "recipes" are pre-programmed for one-button brewing.)
Maybe that explains why the Trifecta has coffee drinkers reaching into a craft beer brewer's bag of adjectives for words such as "nutty and citrusy" (Brazil Serra Negra), "smooth, sweet and exquisitely balanced" (Rivas Mexico Pacamara) and "clean and sweet with a subtle berry note" (the aforementioned Sumatra).
I'm happy to report the machine really does make an exceptional cup of coffee. A girl who always takes her morning brew light and sweet, I was quite surprised I totally enjoyed my cup of Sumatra black.
Simpatico currently offers five varieties of coffee, with prices ranging from $3 to $3.25 a cup. It that seems expensive, consider this: it takes 28 grams of coffee to brew one cup in the Trifeca, or almost twice the amount required in a regular drip coffee.
Plus, there's just two of the $5,000 Trifecta machines in Western Pennsylvania (the other is at Coffee Buddha at 964 Perry Highway in Ross). So it really is something special.
Simpatico Espresso, 425 Sixth Ave., Downtown, in the lobby of the Regional Enterprise Tower, is open from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
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