Comet Coffee brings new concepts to coffee brewing

BY ANNIE THOMAS
Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 29, 2009

Joining the ranks of specialty stores in Nickels Arcade, a recently opened coffee shop is brewing something new for Ann Arbor and taking the city’s mass-produced coffee scene head on.

Chris Dzombak/Daily

Touching on his 16 years of experience as a barista, Ann Arbor native Jim Saborio, owner of two-week-old Comet Coffee, brings an individual focus to his new establishment, brewing each cup as customers order it.

“Comet Coffee is just about taking a real quality focus on coffee and not making any compromises in terms of that,” Saborio said.

Compared to traditional coffee-brewing methods, Saborio takes more of a scientific approach, using Asian traditions to hand brew each cup to perfection.

In the teal walled shop last week, Saborio said that even though he isn’t completely sure of the exact method behind the Asian brewing concept, he improvises and learns along the way.

The coffee is prepared using water at precise temperatures and filtered through porcelain cones imported from Japan. According to Saborio, the concept of brewing each cup individually allows the coffee to hold its more subtle flavors.

The process begins by grinding the beans and placing them in a wet paper filter. Inside of the porcelain cones Saborio uses hot water heated to 204 degrees, a temperature he says home coffee brewers rarely reach, and pours it slowly over the grounds.

At first only a little water is poured over the grounds, allowing the water to infuse with the coffee preventing a weak cup. A stream of the water is then poured over the grounds, stirring the coffee as it slowly drips into the cup below.

From bean to cup, the process takes about four minutes. Because of the individual brewing method, the coffee has no hold time between creation and consumption. This is where the store most radically differs from mass brewers — including Starbucks — who hold coffee for up to 24 minutes.

“Most coffee shops will take coffee and put it into some thermal carafe or something that holds it at a certain temperature without adding heat,” Saborio said. “I find that within 15 minutes a lot of the more delicate notes in the coffee will start to wither away.”

Looking at the coffee in the filter, Saborio explained that coffee aficionados can read signs about the coffee from the grounds.

“Supposedly there are things you can read in the cone; the big lumps, that’s bad,” he said. “And if the coffee isn’t spread evenly on the side, that’s bad as well. We are just trying to get a really even extraction.”

The result of this meticulous process is a coffee with the palatable flavors of the roast – ranging from apple to lemon zest to caramel.

Saborio uses specialty coffee retailer 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters based out of British Colombia to get his premium roasts. He likes the company because of its delivery speed.

Often delivered in less than four days, Saborio said the company guarantees the freshness of the beans.

The menu at the café will rotate throughout the week depending on the freshness and availability of the coffee in the inventory, he said. Comet Coffee also features a traditional espresso menu and pastries from the Pastry Peddler, a pastry shop located on Packard Street between Hill Street and South State Street.

Currently, the shop does not have tables because of zoning issues, but Saborio said he is sure he will have seating within the next couple of weeks.

While opening a business in the current economy may be a bold move, Saborio said Comet Coffee has been off to a good start.

“Apparently there were a lot of repressed coffee freaks in this town,” he said. “We have just had such a positive response to the coffee here, it’s just been great. I had no idea there were so many people in Ann Arbor interested in coffee.”