Brewing your own coffee has become as simple as inserting a plastic pod into a machine and pressing a button. In less than two minutes, you have a steaming cup of hot coffee to enjoy, no heavy lifting required.
But beyond the Keurigs and the Nespressos, there is so much more to the ever-popular morning pick-me-up. From making your own pour-over or brewing with an AeroPress, to single-origin beans and different types of roasts, one could spend years trying to learn about the intricacies of a cup of joe.
Michael Amouri wants to teach the Northern Virginia community about coffee beyond ordering a latte. That’s why his Vienna-based coffeehouse, Caffe Amouri, has offered a wide array of educational coffee classes over the past year and a half.
“It is now close to 20 years ago that I saw an article online about home-roasting coffee beans, and I went to the thrift store and bought a $2 hot-air popcorn popper,” says Amouri. “I bought some green [coffee] beans online, roasted it all and was like, ‘These are better than anything I have ever had.’”
His humble, hobbyist beginnings led him to roast tons of his own coffee—literally—and to own and operate one of the 46 Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Premier Training Campuses in the United States.
The certification requires coffeehouse locations like The Caffe Amouri Experience (the lab’s official title) across the country to work with authorized SCA trainers, provide a distinct educational setting and be certified in SCA’s curriculum for sensory techniques, green coffee beans, barista/brewing training and different types of roasting.
The Vienna location is the only Premier Training Campus in Northern Virginia, and one of two in the entire state. It’s certified to teach consumer-level classes and CSA certification classes, which give individuals the necessary skills to pursue professional careers in coffee.
Amouri, now a SCA Certified Roaster and a Licensed Arabica Q Grader, finds himself teaching local students how to roast their own coffee in the same way he began, with a timer, a handful of green coffee beans and a popcorn popper (or similar device).
“I have always liked learning and I liked teaching,” says Amouri. “I think I get great satisfaction out of seeing people succeed.”
Upcoming classes include Tasting the Roasting Curve, Home Roasting, Brewing Fundamentals and even an Intro to Coffee for novices looking to take themselves to the next level.
“My No. 1 goal is to turn [the students] into absolute coffee snobs,” says Amouri. “And to expand their ability to enjoy coffee.”
But, he says, the curriculum goes beyond that. Many self-proclaimed coffee aficionados sit in a local drive-thru or make several cups a day without realizing the reality behind what goes into their cup.
“Each of the classes has really stemmed from our original mission statement, which has never changed: quality, community, sustainability,” says Amouri. “Our education isn’t just so people can appreciate it and make a good cup at home, it’s also about having a greater understanding and appreciation for the coffee that could support a whole community in Costa Rica or El Salvador or Ethiopia.”
It’s about letting people know about the farmers that the company works with, why certain blends and brews give purpose to each cup, and how the coffee industry looks different from a small-business, small-roaster perspective, says Amouri.
But as for the everyday Starbucks stoppers, he is grateful that people are drinking more coffee now than ever, and that the coffee chains that have popped up across the DMV have made the drink become something more than frappes.
“If it wasn’t for Starbucks, none of us as independent coffeehouses probably would have been open, because they introduced the world of specialty coffee to the masses. And that’s great,” says Amouri. “Now, it’s up to us to take it to a different market.”
Celebrate National Coffee Day on Sept. 29, at Caffe Amouri by stopping by for a freshly brewed cup of coffee, or sign up for one of its upcoming classes below. // Caffe Amouri: 107 Church St. NE, Vienna
Tasting the Roast Curve
Sept. 22, 1 p.m.
Learn how one type of coffee can produce certain flavors, attributes and more by brewing it in three entirely different ways. // $70 per person
Sept. 25, 6 p.m.
Find out how Amouri started his career with his very own hot-air popcorn popper and get all of the ins and outs of roasting your own coffee beans at home. // $70 per person
Oct. 6, 3 p.m.
Maybe you’ve learned where the coffee comes from, but how can you actually brew it at home to taste great? This class will cover a wide array of brewing methods for optimum extraction (think French press, Chemex and more), and send you home with some of your favorite coffee from the class! // $75 per person
Worldwide Coffee Traditions
Oct. 20, noon
This is Amouri’s personal favorite. Learn a handful of ways that the world drinks and appreciates coffee beyond your typical Starbucks order. There are traditions from Greece, Finland, France, Australia, Vietnam and more. // $45 per person
The Caffe Amouri Tasting Experience
Oct. 23, 6:30 p.m.
If taste testing is your thing, welcome to the world of cupping. Whether you taste molasses and cinnamon, or vanilla and apricot, there is no right answer. It’s all about finding the variations of taste, processing and roasting with a variety of blends. // $45 per person
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