Vail Valley talks coffee perfection |

Vail Valley talks coffee perfection

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyVail Valley coffee: Loaded Joe's barista Lindsey Saltzman makes pour-over coffee by adding hot water to a cone filter filled with freshly ground coffee

VAIL, Colorado ” Iced, dripped, black, percolated, pressed.

All are ways a Vail Valley, Colorado might enjoy a cup of brewed coffee. You might sip it on a cafe patio, grab a mug while running out the door in the morning, or take a cup leisurely after dinner.

For some valley residents, the morning cup of Java and the accompanying caffeine are a must.

“I’ve been so addicted since I was about 20,” said Edwards resident Jeannie Malato. “I get a headache if I don’t have any,”

Edwards resident Elisha Wegner admitted to a similar dependency ” she starts out with a cup in the morning, takes a travel mug of it to work, which she drinks throughout the day, then she might have another cup later in the day.

“I’m addicted,” she said. “Also, I just like it. I wouldn’t try to cut down on it.”

Some say the caffeine, while a plus, isn’t the reason they drink coffee. It’s not a habit, many insisted ” they just like the taste.

“I do love the taste, but the caffeine is nice, too,” said Eagle resident Jay Henry, who said he averages about two cups a day of black coffee. “It’s not really a problem if I don’t have it. Hopefully I’m not chemically dependent on it.”

“I’m pretty particular,” said Avon resident Amber Prince. “My husband calls me a coffee snob. I’d rather just not have coffee if it’s not the way I like it. I won’t drink stuff like McDonald’s or Folgers.”

Prince said she prefers a darker blend, like Starbuck’s Espresso roast, with milk, cinnamon and sugar.

Joe Ritchie, Grouse Mountain Grill chef, admits he’s pretty picky. Having grown up in Seattle, the city of coffee, he’s particular about his daily two cups.

“People are pretty serious about coffee there,” he said.

Ritchie prefers to make his coffee in a Neapolitan, or a stovetop brew drip coffee maker, producing a rich, smooth brew.

“That thing goes everywhere with us ” camping trips, motorcycle trips ” that thing has been all over the country,” Ritchie said.

Clearly everyone has their preference, but what’s the official word on what it takes to make the perfect cup?

We picked the brains of several coffee professionals in the area and picked up some general ground rules for making the best cup possible at home.

Grind of coffee is all-important, said Vail Mountain Coffee and Tea Co. owner Chris Chantler.

Drip-brewed coffee should have a medium grind, and coffee made with a French press should have a coarser grind, he said. And make sure it’s ground at the coffee shop or with a burr grinder, which produces a more consistent grind than cheap mill grinders, he said.

“It breaks the coffee instead of grinding it, so you get dust, chips and course chunks, and you never get a consistent cup,” he said.

He compared the grinder to ski boots ” a better quality pair can make the difference between a miserable and a great ski day.

“You could get away with the right grind and a cheaper brewer,” Chantler said.

Water temperature is important, too, said Kent Beidel, owner of Loaded Joe’s in Avon. The perfect temperature should be just below boiling, a point slightly harder to reach at high altitude.

“We’re fanatical about it here,” Beidel said. “And it will vary from Eagle to Wildridge. The problem with some home brewers is that they don’t get a high enough wattage to get to the right temperature.”

So really, what is the difference between that grocery store brand and the special roast from the local coffee shop? A lot, according to the coffee specialists.

Specialty coffees such as Vail Mountain Coffee and Tea Co.’s are bought from the source and chosen for quality and character of taste, Chantler said.

“Buy it from someone who cares about coffee,” he said.

Chantler compared roasts from different parts of the world to wines. Rich-bodied African roasts could be compared to Zinfandels; crisp, clear Central American roasts are like Sauvignon Blancs; fruity Ethiopian roasts are like Pinot Noirs; and sweeter, milder Brazilian roasts are like Merlots, he said.

Fresh beans ” both ground fresh and bought fresh ” are key to a good cup of coffee.

“It’s a simple thing you can do that makes a big difference,” Beidel said “Don’t grind the beans until you use them if you can.”

Still, it’s clear the perfect cup is not simple. It comes down to a matter of preference, Chantler said.

“It’s really taking the time to sort our what you like in a cup,” he said. “We have 44 roasts because there are 44 different taste profiles. Coffee is very subjective.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

Here’s how a few locals say they like their Java:

Joe Ritchie, Grouse Mountain Grill chef

Cups: One in the morning, one in the afternoon

Style: Brewed by Neapolitan (percolator), with strong milk and a little sugar

Jonathan Franz, Avon Starbucks barista

Cups: “I’m more of an espresso person. I’m up to 12 shots per day.”

Style: On a hot day, over ice, with Splenda

Jeannie Malato, Edwards resident

Cups: About three per day

Style: Peet’s Coffee brewed at home, strong, with skim milk

Amber Prince, Avon resident

Cups: Three per day

Style: Brewed at home, Starbucks Espresso roast with lots of 2 percent milk, cinnamon and sugar. At a coffee shop, an ice latte.

Chris Chantler, director of sales and marketing for Vail Mountain Coffee and Tea Co.

Cups: Four per day

Style: Vail Mountain Coffee’s Ethiopian Yirgacheffe blend made by French press, sometimes with a little creamer.

Kent Beidel, owner of Loaded Joe’s Coffee House in Avon

Cups: One per day ” “Otherwise I get the shakes.”

Style: If the coffee’s brewed, he likes it done with a “drip cup” or one-cup plastic cone filter, but he usually prefers an Americano or espresso.

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