Free to Brew
Tech to help aid the home beer- and coffee-maker
You've heard the lie: SXSW is brought to you by the artistic spirit and ingenuity in tech. But what really gets us to 10am panels and then 2am afterparties? The same heroes that fuel the artists SXSW celebrates: coffee and beer. This year, two panels place these stars center stage.
On the panel You Can't Sit With Us: Craft Beer Subculture, Caroline Wallace (co-founder/writer for the Austin-based craft-beer blog, Bitch Beer), joins fellow beer enthusiasts to discuss how the Internet and technology can make craft beer more accessible. (For more about Bitch Beer, see "Craft Beer Is Their Creed," Aug. 2, 2013.)
As a member of an all-female writing staff, Wallace is no stranger to exclusion. "'Bitch beer' is a term that usually gets used to describe near-beers or wine coolers or sugary, low-alcohol – or sometimes high-alcohol – beverages that are marketed towards women, with the idea that women aren't beer drinkers," says Wallace. "The name Bitch Beer came to us as a play on taking that term back. We're all women who love good craft beer. And if 'bitch beer' is supposed to be 'beer for girls,' then we're going to make great bitch beer."
As the Internet helps democratize publishing within the beer community, consumer-side tech comes to the aid of small breweries. Wallace points to the Crowler as an example. "It's a single-serve canning line," says Wallace. "You can can draft beer in a 32-ounce can on the spot, just like a growler, but obviously it can maintain its freshness for a lot longer because it's sealed," says Wallace. (If you want a Crowler of local beer, swing by Cuvée Coffee on Sixth.)
While the Crowler won't likely replace a home brewer's kegs or bottles anytime soon, budding home baristas are in luck. Coffee enthusiast and educator Erin Meister, who has contributed to Good Eats, The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post, knows a few inexpensive gadgets to help brew better coffee.
"One of the things most people struggle with is the absolute basic for brewing better coffee: understanding the coffee to water ratio," says Meister. Her deceptively simple high-tech solution: a gram scale. And if you're looking for a new brewer, consider this. "The coffee machine you use is only as good as the coffee grinder that you have," says Meister. "Step one, make sure you have a good coffee grinder. That means one with burrs, not one with blades." She uses a hand-crank machine that costs about $40. Other than that, make sure it has a temperature gauge. "You want to brew your coffee somewhere right around 200 degrees, between 195 and 205 is the standard," says Meister.
At SXSW, Meister joins Lawrence Marcus of FoodandWine.com to talk coffee tech at their panel Next Wave Coffee: Technology and the Way We Drink. But just as Wallace of the Craft Beer Subculture panel stresses to new craft-beer fans, budding coffee enthusiasts shouldn't feel intimidated by Meister's panel or brewing in general. "There's a reason coffee has endured this long, and it's because it's not an impossible task," says Meister. "It shouldn't be impossible, and it shouldn't be inaccessible."
Next Wave Coffee: Technology and the Way We Drink
Sunday, March 15, 11am
Driskill Hotel, Maximilian Rm.
You Can't Sit With Us: Craft Beer Subculture
Monday, March 16, 5pm
Driskill Hotel, Maximilian Rm.
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