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Throwback Thursdays! SDTNT Recap at Lofty Coffee Co.

By Pablo Lara, SDCN Staff Writer | Photos by Jared Armijo-Wardle

A picturesque sunset in beautiful Encinitas was the backdrop for round two of this season's Thursday Night Throwdown. Lofty Coffee Co. hosted the event in their beautiful new roasting facility located next to Rhino Art at 97 N. Coast Hwy. 101 just across the street from their original cafe. The open space and pleasant summer weather lent itself to great conversations and a night filled with enjoyment. Lofty's hospitality shined in every detail.

The support of the local community was notable and diverse with a large showing of new faces, baristas and other industry professionals. Tremendous support also came from Empire Specialty Coffee Consulting, who matched the buy-in, doubling the purse from $200 to $400 for the evening's victor.

The Brew Bar featuring Blacksmith Coffee Roasters and Bird Rock Coffee Roasters greeted the crowds as wave after wave arrived to check out the latte art competition. The new guys in Encinitas served up iced and hot Chemex pour overs with their two Guatemalas, a Los Carrillos and Los Santos. Bird Rock offered two deliciously bright coffees, a washed Yirgacheffe and a natural Panama from the Eliada Estate.

Photo provided by Empire S.C.C.

Photo provided by Empire S.C.C.

Lofty's custom brew bar designed by Empire, with its 4ft Hario Kyoto and customized Modbar, had spectators buzzing. Baristas arrived and were eager to check out the machinery for the upcoming battle. Competitors were free to choose cup size from a selection of Motta pitchers in four sizes.

As the night rolled in, the 40 participants were ready to pour. The judging seats were taken by Rigo Hernandez of Cafe Virtuoso, Sheridan Owings of InterAmerican, and Clancy Cramer of Copa Vida. The competition was initiated with tulips, by Susie of Elixir and Jacob of Bird Rock. A five layered tulip by Jacob demonstrated his ability, later winning him third place. Three screens showing the pours allowed the spectators to walk around and not miss a thing.

Hungry event-goers feasted on delectable pizzas by Fire Mountain Pizza. This local catering company, based in Oceanside, centers on fresh and local products carefully baked in their portable wood-fired oven. Their gluten free pizza was nothing short of amazing!

Culture Brewing Co. offered a tasting of their Russian Imperial Stout infused with cold brew on tap from Lofty, definitely not gluten free.

The final eight included Jake - independent, Jacob and Kelsey of Bird Rock, Alex and Marco of Elixir, Javier of Das Cortes, Austin of Augie's Coffee House in Redlands, and Lanny of Everyman Espresso in NYC. Jacob's six layer tulip, Austin's four layered tulip, Javier's detailed rosetta and Lanny's centered tulip attained them a spot in the final round.

Munching away through my pizza I ran into Nick, a coffee aficionado who frequents coffee shops all over town. He commented that its fun to see that it's not just a JOB for us baristas, and that we do this off the clock. Nick was definitely not the only artisan coffee enthusiast in the crowd enriching the community element at the Throwdowns.

The final round arrived and tasty miniature churros were passed around; thanks Lofty! Austins pour beat Jacob and Lanny's tulip/rosetta knocked Javier. Jacob and Javier battled for third place and the fine lines in Javier's tulip lost against Jacob's pour. Anticipation was palpable as The Final Countdown played, livening up the crowd. Danny presented the judges with a detailed tulip/rosetta while Austin poured a perfectly even tulip. Both pours were beautiful and the crowd anxious. Matt, our MC, counted to three and Austin's tulip won him first place! Not to mention the $400 prize.

And the winner is... Austin Graham Amento of Augie's Coffee House, Redlands, CA!

And the winner is... Austin Graham Amento of Augie's Coffee House, Redlands, CA!

We congratulate Austin and also thank him for supporting our community by driving to San Diego to attend our event (He might as well take the prize, drive down to Encenada and make it a weekend don't you think?). We also want to thank our friends from La Stazione, Das Cortez and L'Abbraccio for making the trip across the border from Tijuana. 

Every TNT enriches our community. We seek to provide a space for people to meet, establish relationships, create an incentive for baristas to perfect their latte art and provide a platform for the best. Thank you Lofty Coffee!

See you all at round three, September 18, at Cafe Virtuoso!




Treat Yourself San Diego: A Shopping Guide for Coffee Lovers

Written by Pablo Lara, SDCN Staff Writer

Photos provided by Jose Lopez.

Some people think shopping can be as uneventful as brewing a cup of coffee. I refuse to think accordingly. I love shopping and brewing coffee is as eventful to me as a Karl Lagerfeld runway. As most coffee lovers understand, brewing coffee at home can become a cherished ritual. Therefore selecting the right tools for brewing is just as important as taking the time to find that special bag of coffee. San Diego has hidden spots where shopping for home brewing equipment can translate into a delightful experience. 

The following five places have been selected because of their well stocked retail, unique merchandise, great service and fun environment for that retail therapy over-caffeinated individuals deserve. 

Cafe Moto:

This San Diego roaster is a local institution. The minute you walk into their retail section you will encounter a vintage industrial tea mixer, shipyard windows and a 1930's Jabez Burns & Sons roaster. Retail experts, Marisa and Bucky,  will guide you through the three aisle, 400 sq. ft. retail space. 

At Moto you will be able to find an extensive selection of coffee brewing equipment, including Hario plastic, glass and ceramic V60 cones, metal and plastic pour-over stands, syphons and all the filters necessary for Hario equipment including the syphons.

Moto also carries Chemex brewers in three different sizes and the coveted reusable stainless steel Chemex filter. You can also invest in a Baratza grinder, maybe you will be starting out with the Encore or going all out with the Virtuoso. For the San Diego weather nothing beats a batch of home made Toddy, and here at Moto you can find the home Toddy system for $34.95. 

The standout piece for me was the elegant Yama water dripper, for cold brew priced at $235.

Yama Dripper at Cafe Moto

Yama Dripper at Cafe Moto

Walk out with your new toys and enjoy a delicious single origin Papua New Guinea cappuccino made with care by Adriana, or any of Cafe Moto's friendly Baristas.

Lofty, Encinitas Roasting Works

The recently opened roasting facility of Lofty Coffee Co. hosts a luxurious retail shelf with carefully selected brewing equipment. Espro French Presses share space with Hario Electric Kettles, V60 Arm Stands, and a gorgeous Hario Water Dripper. But the beauty queen at Lofty has to be the Buono, a beautiful Hario copper kettle with wood detail priced at $170. 

Lofty's owner, Eric, told me that he patiently awaited the arrival of the Buono kettles directly from Japan. They are a great complement to his Modbar as-well. And while you gaze through the gorgeous selection of retail, sip a cup of Lofty's dry processed Aricha, Ethiopia great through a V60. 

Cafe Virtuoso

Home of the Amaro Gayo and those velvety cortados, Cafe Virtuoso has recently expanded their retail selection after much demand from its devoted customers. This Barrio Logan roaster now carries Baratza grinders (both Virtuoso and Encore), glass V60 Drippers, Hario Beehive Decanters, Hario scales, the Aero-press, Hario's V60 Iced Coffee Maker, and a simple yet eye-catching Olive Wood Pour-Over Stand also by Hario. 

Virtuoso also offers electric kettles by Bonavita and stove tops in two sizes from Hario. And if you want to add extra sweetness to your organic Bali they carry a  great selection of organic Monin syrups too!


Fashion Valley's Williams-Sonoma might not be a roaster, but it landed a spot on this list because of its great selection of brewing equipment. Also, it is pretty convenient to pick up some bamboo filters on your way to Prada a few stores down.

This store carries Fullcircle cleaning supplies for your coffee machine, Breville “smart” coffee grinders, the hard to find re-usable Hario coffee filters, the classic Chemex and my personal favorite, the MoccaMaster by Technivorm! If you are going to invest in an automatic coffee maker this bad boy from the Netherlands will make you a Gold Cup Standard brew every morning in a classic mid-century design. 

Caffe Calabria

Another San Diego institution, Caffe Calabria provides home brewers with a great retail selection accompanied by a delicious Viennese. While walking back to their retail area you can catch a glimpse into their green coffee room, the vault  reminds us of the building's past as a Bank of America. 

Lindsey can answer all your questions and give you plenty of brewing tips with her enchanting charisma. Calabria carries both the plastic and olive wood Hario pour-stands, Chemex, Bodum french presses, Aero-press, Hario scales and glass V60 cones. 

Coffee & Tea Collective

The retail shelves at Coffee & Tea Collective may be small, however they have all the tools necessary to home brew their delicious coffee. Want to brew their chocolatey Malawi at home? Well these guys have the wood collar Chemex, AWS 2kg Scales, the Hario Kerton Grinder, V60 filters and Hario ceramic cones and glass decanters. Their branded d'Ancap cups made with Italian porcelain go great with that wood collar Chemex don't you think? Owner, Daniel, gave us a heads up on new canteens coming soon!

Balance your checkbooks and make yourself that much deserved cup of coffee. Did you decide on a Chemex? Or an Aero-press? No matter what you purchase, supporting your local roaster allows their passionate and knowledgeable staff to do what they love. As for Williams-Sonoma, well, shopping for Italian shoes and Dutch coffee makers sure sounds like an excellent time.