Commonplace Coffeehouse offers to help you improve brewing skills

Do you ever wish that your home-brewed coffee could be just a tad better? Could simple instructions help you better use the new Chemex you received for the holidays?

Starting this week, Commonplace Coffeehouse will offer open-lab sessions from noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays at its Larimer warehouse for coffee drinkers who want to improve their homemade cups of joe.

Commonplace is among a handful of roasters in the Pittsburgh area. At its warehouse, baristas roast the coffee beans and then ship them off to their retail locations and other vendors.

“In the last decade, the coffee industry has really opened the avenues, increasing transparency and letting people see where the coffee they buy actually comes from,” said Phil Johnson, general manager at the warehouse.

“While this [warehouse location] was a coffee bar, we’d have a lot of people show up and ask random questions that we couldn’t really answer or give them what they wanted. In our [rushed] retail setting, you can’t really explain how it’s made,” said Nick Oddo, coffee educator. “So we decided to take a break and flip it, so people could come back and ask questions in a calm setting.”

During the sessions, baristas will explain how to improve customers’ brewing skills. People also can bring in their own machines to experiment with. Baristas will instruct drinkers on how to use their brewing instruments correctly. 

Aficionados do not need to purchase a high-end brewer to make a good cup of coffee, Mr. Oddo said.

And when buying coffee, many consumers are often overwhelmed with the wide variety available. Mr. Johnson, who lives in East Liberty, recommends that shoppers try something that caters to their tastes, whether it be fruity, sweet, nutty or chocolate-infused.

“Generally if [the coffee bag] is more expensive, it’s more traceable” Mr. Johnson said. “It takes money and infrastructure to make one specific type of coffee from one farm. With a lower-priced coffee, you can’t tell exactly who grew your coffee.”

At its warehouse, Commonplace cycles through six coffee blends from the major growing regions of the world — the Americas, Africa and the Pacific Rim. Three varieties are usually priced $14 to $15, while the others range from $21 to $23. At the open-lab sessions, baristas will use their single-origin coffee blends.

“In essence, these sessions are all about how simple it is to make a good cup of coffee at home,” Mr. Oddo said.

Commonplace Coffeehouse will offer open-lab sessions on brewing coffee from noon to 5 p.m Saturdays at 147 Julius St., Larimer. Contact Nick Oddo at 724-427-5442;

John F. Gilmore III:, 412-263-1130.


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