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Issue 1358 November 6, 2011
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Coffee art that tastes delicious!

Look Mom! I'm a Coffee Barista!

Brewing the Perfect Cup at Populace Coffee

October 23, 2011       Leave a Comment
By: Diane Szczepanski

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(Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of articles, for by Diane Szczepanski where she tries her hand at different jobs in the community!)

Call it in insatiable desire to explore new things that I've always had. Call it a Bay City "bucket list".

Or, just call it a means to do some fun things, write about them and hopefully shed some interesting light on a subject, person or business that you may have been wondering about too.

Any way you want to look at it, I hope to be taking you places and doing things that you may have had cross YOUR mind, "I wonder what it would be like to...."

Today's fun puts me in a wonderful little shop at 106 S. Linn, just off Midland St., with pounds of coffee beans in front of me and surrounded by the aroma of the likes of wonderful smelling Los Naranjos beans from Columbia.

Andrew Heppner, Owner of Populace Coffee, generally keeps 3-4 varieties of the freshest beans available in his shop.

It depends on the season and when it was harvested, as to what ends up on his coffee menu. The Los Naranjos, for instance, was just harvested at the end of August. When it is gone, Andrew will not have it back in his shop until next season.

It's a coffee drinkers paradise at Populace. The first thing that hits you is the wonderful smell of coffee beans as you walk thru the door. The second is Andrew's friendly welcome and eagerness to serve you a piping hot or iced coffee treat.

Everything is painstakingly brewed by hand, ground fresh, cup by cup and prepared with the skill and care of an artist.

It became obvious rather quickly, that learning to be a Barista was not something one could learn in an hour.

The artistic 'heart' Andrew finishes off at the top of a cup of coffee, obviously takes some practice. I gave it my best shot. Because he's a gentleman, as well as a nice guy, he encouragingly remarked, "Welllll, you made a nice line"...

(In other words, keep my day job!)

Andrew Heppner,Owner of Populace Coffee prepares beans for his coffee loving customers

First Andrew went thru a process called "dialing in", which is used to determine flow rate of freshly ground beans, how it's extracting and length of time and volume of the flow.

Factors such as humidity and temperature, all play a part in the dialing in process, which is essentially calibrating the amount of grounds he'll use, to produce the best tasting cup of coffee.

According to Andrew, "Many shops don't go thru this process every day and it really does have an affect on the taste".

There is also the ideal temperature of the steamed milk, such as in a Latte (150 degrees) and a Cappuccino (130 degrees). A good barista such as Andrew, can tell by the feel of the metal cup it's mixed in as it heats and how frothy the milk looks, when the correct temperature of the milk has been reached.

I try my hand at steaming milk, while Andrew coaches and looks on (Photo Credit-Tom Barbier)

As I spent some time in the shop, it was clear his customers appreciate the extra steps he takes to brew their individual coffees.

They raved about Andrew's skills and it was obvious all enjoyed the cappuccinos they ordered.

Making the perfect cup of coffee takes skill and patience

It became a social gathering and much more than just purchasing a cup of coffee on the run. Loyal customer and Populace Coffee fan,Tom Barbier remarked, "It's a wonderful experience you don't get just anywhere. It's really a lost art".

Populace's customers enjoy some lively conversation along with their great coffee

Andrew works his coffee magic while Tom Barbier looks on

Another delicious coffee coming up!

Populace Coffee is currently open to the public Mon, Wed, and Friday from 1:00pm-6:00pm. Other days and times are spent roasting beans and delivering prepackaged bags of coffee to retail places in our area. He also ships to locations across the United States.

Populace Coffee can be found on Facebook, Twitter and at

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Diane Szczepanski

Business-woman by day, confessed boot addict by night and 'wanna-be' writer, music lover and proud Mom of an awesome guitar playing, teen son.

More from Diane Szczepanski

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