{Steve Rhinehart}: Black Coffee is the New Black

by Katelyn Block on January 16, 2013 · 13 comments

This is a continuation of my previous post on local businesses and why they are changing the landscape of our economy, culture, and how your money is affected. Now, to talk more about Steve Rhinehart and his innovative view on coffee.


Steve and Artisan Coffee

Now, one of Steve‘s (many) gigs is that he loves coffee. He’s also a very talented graphic designer and has an eye for social media (funny how social media brings together social media people! Feel free to laugh at my joke). We were in a class together in the spring of last year, but only crossed paths at the end when he served the class his incredible, artisan coffee. To make a long story short, we reconnected over Twitter when I asked all of my followers to please raise their hand if they dig coffee. I got a lot of responses to that one.

SO, Steve being the kind person that he is, invited me over for coffee and we chatted about various topics including: Coffee, social media, local businesses, Syracuse, RIT, and various social media firms around the country. It was fun, and I learned a thing or two about this perfect drink that makes my life so insanely wonderful every day. Don’t get excited, we’re talking about coffee here.


His setup included a temperature-controlled kettle, a weigh scale and independent carafe, and a self-declared “expensive” coffee grinder. He goes the whole nine yards, and it has become clear to me that good coffee is a labor of love. The whole process took about 10-15 minutes. Steve put an emphasis on how much he loves making coffee an experience. Communicating the origins, what exactly is going on in the brewing process, and answering any questions that people may have.

Luckily, I had a lot of questions.

His coffee of choice is an organic, fair trade, artisan coffee called Counter Culture. This coffee is flavorful and fun to drink. Steve said one of his favorite things is serving coffee, and the recipient exclaiming, “Wow! I don’t even need any cream or sugar.” Nice, isn’t it?


I’ve tried various coffees in my time. Most are great with cream and sugar (I’ll admit), but many are beautiful and flavorful on their own. I’ve come to notice that the roast, origin, and blend of coffee really does make a huge difference in flavor.

For example, right now in my cupboard I have two coffees from Trader Joe’s: Organic & Fair Trade Morning Blend, and Organic & Fair Trade Bolivian Blend. According to the label, it has “notes of caramel”, which I would agree with.

Back to Steve’s coffee. The best part of this experience was that he truly did make it an experience.

In the past, I’ve spent my time making coffee in the Bialetti (espresso, as I called it, but have now learned is an incorrect label) or in my Kenmore Perk! coffee maker. Lately, I’ve let the Bialetti do it’s thing on the shelf and look pretty. The Perk! has become my partner in crime, and I have slightly lost the appreciation for the process that it takes to brew a perfect cup.


My main question was: Why is the Bialetti not actually espresso?

Answer: Espresso comes from the Latin word “Expresere” which means “to press out.” To us, it generally relates to the term “express”, meaning that the process produces coffee quickly. This happens in a machine that presses steaming hot water through fine grounds at about nine atmospheres (bars) of pressure, taking about 18 to 23 seconds. This should produce the crema (or “cap”) on top of the espresso, a result of the emulsification of colloids and lipids. This typically retains flavors and aromas of the coffee.

The Bialetti does this at about 1.3 atmospheres (or bars) of pressure, creating a less-concentrated liquid without the cap (with the exception of the MokaCrem, which is marketing specifically as producing the extremely saught-after crema).


At this point, my mind was blown when I realized I had not, in fact, been drinking fancy espresso, but a slightly more concentrated version of coffee. I don’t know about every brewing style (yet), but I’m getting there.

Keep talking, Steve.

He introduced to me a style of coffeehouse that involves sitting at a table and being served by a barista who does just what Steve did for me. Weigh and measure the beans, grind them to perfection, boil water to the right temperature, and then carefully pour the water into the carafe, explaining every step of the way what they are doing. This style also involves knowing about coffee culture, and answering any questions that guests may have. Personally, I’d love to learn more about these, and try one out. According to him, there may be one or two such cafes in Syracuse. Ding ding!


Even more importantly, Steve wholeheartedly believes in supporting local businesses, especially local coffee shops such as Cafe Kubal and Freedom of Espresso. It’s all about the experience, and I am grateful for this one. Thank you, Steve, for a wonderful coffee experience and great discussion!

The rest of our conversation consisted of highly classified information about social media strategy (I’m only kind of kidding. Read on). With that being said, I am pleased to announce announce that another talented lady (who is a barista herself!) and I are to begin hosting live Q&A’s and Google Hangouts about coffee. Logos, hashtags, all that fun to come. Chat tomorrow!


  • Are you a coffee lover?
  • How do you take your coffee? Espresso? Brewed? French press? Latte?
  • Have you ever thought about the “experience” side of coffee?
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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

lisa fine @ vermont vittles January 16, 2013 at 8:32 AM

It’s funny how this is becoming the new thing, when it’s actually the older method, compared to chain coffee shops and Keurig machines.

There’s an amazing place where we buy coffee – Vermont Artisan – they pretty much just sell wholesale, but you can walk in and buy coffee that was either roasted that day or the day before. That’s it. No coffee sold is older than that. They grind the beans on the spot. The smell in the shop (more like a warehouse) is amazing, as is the coffee that you purchase. I’ve never smelled or drank coffee that fresh, and they are onto something.


Katelyn Block January 20, 2013 at 3:55 PM

Isn’t it? Times are changing! That sounds wonderful. Fresh-roasted and NEVER over-roasted, which I have learned is the norm at many a chain coffee shop (not going to name names). Fresh is best, and I think more and more people are learning that once more.


NYC Fit GIrl January 16, 2013 at 10:02 AM

I love that coffee mug it’s so cute! Sadly I don’t like coffee but I am a huge tea fan!


Katelyn Block January 20, 2013 at 4:14 PM

What are your favorite teas? I’m trying to expand my tea repertoire!


Paige @ Your Trainer Paige January 16, 2013 at 10:11 AM

This is intriguing! I use heavy cream in my coffee, but I think I could do black with this. Very precise, and it sounds like they put a lot of love into it. Steve sounds like a pretty stand up guy ;)


Katelyn Block January 20, 2013 at 4:16 PM

I LOVE heavy whipping cream :) We’re doing a paleo challenge at my box and it’s so hard to NOT use cream!


Sarah MomRunningonEmpty January 16, 2013 at 10:23 AM

I adore coffee! Like wines, there are so many different flavor elements and methods and I haven’t found a way I don’t enjoy coffee and coffee flavored beverages.

For me, the smell of coffee evokes childhood memories if sipping from my day’s mug (no doubt a contributing factor to all 5 foot 3inches if me) but it also reminds me of the chaos if my everyday as well.


Kaitlin @4loveofcarrots January 16, 2013 at 11:07 AM

BLACK is the only way to drink coffee!! Unless you are having a cappuccino then almond milk/ soy is acceptable :)


andy January 16, 2013 at 12:28 PM

We love coffee. We have one of those grand an brew machines from Cuisinart. It does a pretty good job and allows us to use whole beans that are ground just before the water hits them.
At work we have som fancy Swiss machine that uses a forced water process like espresso. It’s make the best cup of coffee from Peet’s coffee beans.
I take my coffee with just a little sugar and cannot stand flavored coffees.

Great post.


Lea @ Greens and Coffee Beans January 16, 2013 at 2:07 PM

I’m a diehard coffee lover, I was seriously drooling as you were describing the process he went through to brew the coffee. Amazing! Puts my cheap plastic coffee maker to shame (college budget ftw!).
My school’s coffee shop actually serves Counter Culture coffee and it is definitely one of the tastiest brands I’ve come across.
And black is the only way to drink coffee!


Kim @ HealthyNest January 16, 2013 at 4:17 PM

I usually sweeten my coffee, but can sometimes go without if it’s made in a french press (sooo smooth!) or if it’s already a sweet, flavored coffee like your TJ’s blend. I wish I could drink it all black, though! Might have to train myself someday…


Veronica January 16, 2013 at 10:22 PM

You are doing an incredible job buddy. Regards from Hotel Charles de Gaulle. Keep together with the great do the job.


Courtney @ Journey of a Dreamer January 22, 2013 at 3:53 PM

i love coffee.
that is all.


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