Leap Day Memories

Every year, the earth rotates around the sun 365.25 times. Which means that every four years, because we have these things called calendars, we have to account for those extra .25 days, and we get Leap Day.


Now, you know us, and you know that if you give us even the tiniest reason to celebrate and throw a party, then we’ll throw a party.

So this year (being a leap year) we decided to throw a party.


It was a heck of fun day – Jeff downloaded an airhorn app on his phone that he used excessively every time a customer came in; Alex acted like she normally does times about 5,000; Mike made some loud, weird noises from time to time; we used a selfie stick and took way too many photos; and all hands were on deck to make it the best Monday EVER.

 Alexandra Canada and her selfie stick.  Thanks for participating Bo and MikeyRuRu!

Alexandra Canada and her selfie stick.  Thanks for participating Bo and MikeyRuRu!

And, along the way, we had a few challenges for people – one of our pals played Pictionary with us first thing in the morning; we had a bunch of folks sit down in our tiny little café space and leapfrog each other; a couple of people whipped and nae-naed for free drinks; people jumped out into the street yelling, “HAPPY LEAP DAY!”


We gave away free drinks for an hour starting at 2:29, and loved seeing the looks on people’s faces (even some of the baristas, when we told them about it!) while they processed why we chose such a ‘random’ time.

 Free Drinks with Magnus!

Free Drinks with Magnus!

We ate these unbelievably delicious chocolate bourbon cream pies that Rian from Pig and Pepper made us.


You could say that it’s a silly thing for us to throw a party about, but we like to look at it this way:

Once every four years, you get a whole extra day. Why not make it great? Why not use it to do all of the stuff we normally say we don’t have time to do? Why not share a little kindness? Why not be a little crazy? Dance a little; share a little; shout a little; download airhorn apps a little; and most of all, celebrate each other – a lot.

That’s what we love about being a part of such a wonderful community like you all – together, we find a little reason to celebrate and have fun, and we run with it. 


We had a lot of fun this year (on Leap Day and beyond!) and we appreciate you all for joining us. 

Friends & Family Night + Grand Opening of Common Wealth Mercantile

We’re gearing up for a celebration on the 26th and 27th of May.  You may be asking yourself – what could those crazy baristas at A Cup of Common Wealth be planning? 

 December 2014 - The Baristas with their stockings (crazy as ever)

December 2014 - The Baristas with their stockings (crazy as ever)

Well, did you know that in mid-March we found out the space next to us would be available to lease? 

And, did you know that we said, hecks to the yeah, when our landlord asked us if we wanted to expand? 

And, did you know we’ve been working on getting it open and connected to the shop ever since? 

And, did you know we finally knocked that wall down and now we’ve got this nifty place called Common Wealth Mercantile – the kid bro-rista to A Cup of Common Wealth?   

 The evolution of the Pay It Forward Board; aaaaand with our expansion we found a way to celebrate the past.

The evolution of the Pay It Forward Board; aaaaand with our expansion we found a way to celebrate the past.

So, now you know – and guess what else?  We’re having a Friends and Family Night on May 26th from 6p to 9p and a Grand Opening for the Mercantile on May 27th at 11a.  We’re ridiculously pumped about this and there is even more meaning around this celebration than people probably realize.   


You see a long, long time ago, in a distant place far, far away, we opened up the blue door of A Cup of Common Wealth.  What many may not realize is that on the night before we opened, we hosted a Friends and Family Night.  We were still relatively new to Lexington, but we had a packed house!  **Disclaimer – our shop was very, very, very, very small back then – a packed house wasn’t the most difficult of things. 


 Friends and Family Night June 30, 2013

Friends and Family Night June 30, 2013

We invited anyone and everyone we knew in the area.  A few people from across the country showed up, some people in the Lexington area that had helped us with construction came by, and some people from the neighborhood stopped by.  For about three hours we made drinks, we took espresso shots together, and we chatted with old and new friends alike.


By the end of the night, after everyone had left and the last trash bag was taken out, Sal sat with three close, coffee friends.  Friends he met at Water Street a decade earlier.  They talked about their shifts shared at Water Street, their love for the coffee industry, and the future of the coffee shop.  It is a conversation he holds dearly and one very few people (up until today) had ever known happened.  Interestingly enough, one of the last things they joked about was what the plan was for the shop’s grand opening.

 The ever-expanding Pay It Forward board

The ever-expanding Pay It Forward board

It’s a funny thing what urgent matters and important tasks can do to you.  They take away your time and they demand it constantly. 

After a week or two we didn’t have a grand opening, then a month went by, then summer went by, and then we went through fall.  After about five months, we accepted that a grand opening wasn’t in the cards. 

So many ideas that fell to the wayside – live music, food, drinks, free coffee, balloons (you have to have balloons at a grand opening), banners, friends and family from all across the country, and this and that.  We don’t regret it; we accept it as part of our story, part of who we are.


Buuuut now, we get a chance to have a Grand Opening for A Cup of Common Wealth’s little bro and we wouldn’t miss it for the world!


 Crazy old sign!  We love this guy even through all of his changes.

Crazy old sign!  We love this guy even through all of his changes.

If you’re up for it, come on down to the corner of Main St and Eastern Ave and celebrate with us:

Friends and Family Night: Thursday May 26th 6p – 9p

     We’ll have some free coffee, cold coffee, and snacks.  We’ll also be giving tours explaining some of the history and what else is still to come.


Common Wealth Mercantile Grand Opening: Friday May 27th 11a – 1p

     Come on down and hang out with us – we’ll probably have a free drink or two, some loud noises, and guided tours from your friendly, neighborhood baristas.

Better Brewing At Home

You’ve done your part by buying freshly roasted coffee from the local cafe, that was painstakingly sourced from a microlot in a remote corner of Guatemala, or you’ve snagged a bag of your favorite house blend. Either way, you’ve begun to notice a difference in the way it tastes at home and how it tastes in the cafe. There’s no reason to ditch your Chemex or French Press, because it’s possible to brew cafe quality coffee at home. Here are a few tips that will get you the most out your money when brewing specialty coffee at home.


Clean Equipment

First things first, clean equipment is essential. You wouldn’t use a dirty pan to cook eggs in, that would be gross. Then why not take a couple extra seconds to clean your brewing equipment after every use? No matter if it’s a coffee pot, French Press, or Hario Dripper, just a bit of light soap and warm water will do the trick. If you’re like my parents, who haven’t cleaned the coffee pot since it was bought back in 1992, a quick rinse with some Cafiza will pull all of that coffee gunk off the glass.


Purified Water

Water is the missing ingredient for great coffee. In fact, water composes 98% of the beverage you enjoy as coffee. If you live in a part of the country where the tap water is tainted by minerals, impurities, and a whole slew of other things that can throw off those delicate flavors of Rose Hips, you might want to try using filtered water. I like to buy purified water from the store but if you have a brita filter at home that could save you in a pinch.



You mean, I have to weigh the coffee… every time!? This seems more like a science experiment! That’s right, and you won’t spend a better $23 than on a J-Scale. Finding a brewing ratio of coffee to water will not only help you dial in the strength of your brew, but it also helps you make the same great coffee over and over again. Personally, I like a 14:1 ratio for the Hario, you get strong flavors and more caffeine however in the cafe we use a 16:1 ratio which is slightly weaker but more versatile ratio for different coffees.


You might have your three and half scoops perfectly dialed in for the coffee pot which is great! However, if you’re using other brewing methods, weighing out your coffee and water takes out the guess work. Different coffees have different masses that are dependent upon the roast level (lighter roasts have more mass than darker roasts) and origin and varietal usually vary (an Ethiopian Heirloom will be denser than a Pacamara from Central America). Even a very skilled barista knows it’s best to weigh out coffee every time.

Grind size

Proper extraction is the most important part of brewing coffee. One way to make sure you’re evenly extracting the flavor and caffeine from your coffee is with a uniform grind size. Different brew methods call for different grind sizes but when you choose your brew method the grind should be one size. Think about if you’re cooking vegetables, and you cut up big pieces and then some teeny tiny pieces and then some medium pieces. What happens? They’ll cook at different rates, the same thing happens with the extraction of coffee grounds.

You’ll notice if you’ve been using a food processor/lawn mower blade type whirling grinder that the particle sizes range wildly. These don’t do the best job at keeping a consistent grind, that’s why we recommend getting a burr grinder. The burr grinders tend to crush the beans in a more uniform way than the electric blades do. If you don’t mind the extra few minutes to hand grind these Hario Slim Grinders are pretty easy to use. If you’ve got some extra capital and plan on entertaining, I’d recommend something like the Baratza Encore.


Now that we’ve actually gotten to the part where we brew the coffee, there are a couple easy things you can do to ensure your brew is extracting properly - timing is everything. The optimal brew time for extraction is around 4 minutes. If your coffee steeps for too long, it will over extract and taste bitter, burned, or astringent. If it brews with not enough time it might taste weak, thin, or sour. Most cell phones have a timer feature on them so you really don’t need to buy one. I love the KoHi app which is essentially a brewing timer (tells you when you to pour and how long to brew for) it also lets you customize your ratios, bloom time, and recipes. The $2 it costs has already paid for itself, sorry Android users, there isn’t a version out in the Google Play store yet.

You might have wondered what the heck “bloom” meant in the preceding paragraph. It’s a term we use for pre-infusion of the coffee. That’s to see we get the metaphorical feet wet before we dive right into brewing. During the roasting process gasses like CO2 become trapped inside the coffee. We’d like to let these pockets of air escape before brewing. A good rule of thumb is to double the dry weight of the coffee with water. So if you’re using 40 grams of coffee you can use 80 grams of water for a 30 second “bloom.”