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Espresso for the homeless - crazy idea?
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Frost
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Posted Wed Oct 10, 2012, 8:25pm
Subject: Re: Espresso for the homeless - crazy idea?
 

Espresso is too complicated, difficult to get just right, and exotic for average tasters. I would suggest stick to getting the basics right and do the large numbers well. Pour over or drip and a classic clean cup of great coffee. A classic Colombian, Guatemala, El Salvador, or Costa Rica.  Rich full aroma to fill the dining hall. I think you have a good idea, Go for it. LA has some premium roasters that may donate coffees that are maybe getting too old to sell but still in their prime. (Like 7-10 days post roast.)
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Posted Thu Oct 11, 2012, 7:16pm
Subject: Re: Espresso for the homeless - crazy idea?
 

Frost Said:

Espresso is too complicated, difficult to get just right, and exotic for average tasters. I would suggest stick to getting the basics right and do the large numbers well. Pour over or drip and a classic clean cup of great coffee. A classic Colombian, Guatemala, El Salvador, or Costa Rica.  Rich full aroma to fill the dining hall. I think you have a good idea, Go for it. LA has some premium roasters that may donate coffees that are maybe getting too old to sell but still in their prime. (Like 7-10 days post roast.)

Posted October 10, 2012 link

Yet another great idea that I hope George doesn't pooh pooh.  In addition to serving the homeless coffee made from beans that good roasters would generally throw away, possibly George could hit up some local bakeries for muffin stumps too.

Len

 
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GVDub
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Posted Thu Oct 11, 2012, 7:39pm
Subject: Re: Espresso for the homeless - crazy idea?
 

I have had a number of local bakeries donate day old (and some of them have even tossed in some fresh) baked goods for charity events in the past, and probably will in the future.

And I certainly wouldn't dismiss the idea of local roasters getting involved. The idea, after all, is to offer the best of what we have to folks who might not otherwise get a chance to enjoy it.

I'm certainly not married to the idea of setting up banks of espresso machines for a shelter dinner (though it wouldn't hurt to have a couple of folks with catering style light-commercial-rated machines there to be able to offer it up), just to making an exceptional experience available for the clientele.

As Frank pointed out, the other side of this coin is the personal interactions. When you go through day to day life with a huge number of people treating you like dirt (or possibly worse, like you don't even exist) it can do miracles for the spirit to have somebody treat you as just another traveler on the road we all share from cradle to grave. Which is why I "pooh-pooh" encouraging faceless corporate drones to make donations of mediocre goods in exchange for a photo op or PR piece. Now if they'd send a crew down from corporate HQ to actually "interface" with the shelter/mission's clientele and serve them coffee, that would be another matter entirely, but such has not been my experience of the American corporate mindset.
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Joel_B
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Posted Thu Oct 11, 2012, 8:10pm
Subject: Re: Espresso for the homeless - crazy idea?
 

GVDub Said:

Which is why I "pooh-pooh" encouraging faceless corporate drones to make donations of mediocre goods in exchange for a photo op or PR piece. Now if they'd send a crew down from corporate HQ to actually "interface" with the shelter/mission's clientele and serve them coffee, that would be another matter entirely, but such has not been my experience of the American corporate mindset.

Posted October 11, 2012 link

George, I've kept quite on this subject but have still followed along.  But I'd only hope you'd be true to your motivations.  When it comes to "giving" I hold true to give what you're compelled to give.  Is your goal to give tthese folks a decent cup if coffee? If so what difference does it make if HQ is there or not? I suspect the recipients could care less. If its about giving them a decent cup of coffee then let them have a decent cup of coffee. Shouldn't be about you perception of a corporation or even how involved the coffee supplier is. What if the best coffee roaster was unwilling to help out? Would the coffee taste any better or worse? Nope. Don't think dd is acceptable to serve that's cool, but the CEO being there doesn't change that cup.

Fwiw, if someone bought me a cup of dd I'd gladly accept and be just as happy someone did so had it been a cup of coava.
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GVDub
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Posted Thu Oct 11, 2012, 8:50pm
Subject: Re: Espresso for the homeless - crazy idea?
 

Joel_B Said:

George, I've kept quite on this subject but have still followed along.  But I'd only hope you'd be true to your motivations.  When it comes to "giving" I hold true to give what you're compelled to give.  Is your goal to give tthese folks a decent cup if coffee? If so what difference does it make if HQ is there or not? I suspect the recipients could care less. If its about giving them a decent cup of coffee then let them have a decent cup of coffee. Shouldn't be about you perception of a corporation or even how involved the coffee supplier is. What if the best coffee roaster was unwilling to help out? Would the coffee taste any better or worse? Nope. Don't think dd is acceptable to serve that's cool, but the CEO being there doesn't change that cup.

Fwiw, if someone bought me a cup of dd I'd gladly accept and be just as happy someone did so had it been a cup of coava.

Posted October 11, 2012 link

Joel, the personal contact and commitment to actually helping counts for a good deal. The coffee tastes better if somebody is there handing it to you who gives you a sense of belonging to a community - of being a human being who is worthy of being part of a larger world and not simply a marginalized statistic. So I hold that the CEO being there does make it a better cup, if he's there because he wants to help out, not just to get a tax deduction and a photo op. Because that means there's more in the coffee than just coffee, if that makes any kind of sense.

Back when I used to live in New York and ride the subway on a regular basis, you'd get hit up regularly by panhandlers. It was pretty easy to tell who was trying to cadge a few bucks so they could get the next bottle or vial or whatever their particular poison was and the ones who were just trying to get enough together to buy a sandwich or maybe even scrape together enough to get some shelter for a night.

One night on my way home, I got hit up by a guy who was obviously pretty bad off, asking for change so he could get some food. Being a musician, I was generally pretty broke, but I happened to have picked up a stick of imported pepperoni that day from a little deli across from the recording studio I was working in. I told the guy that I didn't have any money to spare, but I could give him some food. I pulled out the pepperoni, and man, did his eyes light right up. He said, "Pepperoni!" in an almost reverent tone, like it was his favorite food in the world and he hadn't had any for years, and very gingerly, took the pepperoni stick, asking me if I was sure. I told him, "Yeah." He thanked me, carried it over to the seat opposite me, sat down and tore into it, alternating between eating like he hadn't had any decent food in ages and pausing to savor it, occasionally looking up at me and thanking me again. It was an amazing experience. When I got to my stop and left the train, he waved the little stub of pepperoni that was left at me with a huge smile. Never saw that particular guy again, but the combination of need and obvious joy at getting something much better than he expected, something he probably wouldn't get if he'd just gone to one of the shelters or skid row missions and sat through a sermon for a bowl of lentil soup left a mark on me, and has led me to firmly believe that it's the personal giving of the unexpected that can make a difference in people's lives.
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diggi
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Posted Fri Oct 12, 2012, 2:09am
Subject: Re: Espresso for the homeless - crazy idea?
 

GVDub Said:

.... it's the personal giving of the unexpected that can make a difference in people's lives.

Posted October 11, 2012 link

Touching story. Couldn't agree more. Good luck in reaching your goal.  I hope you can.

Around here, our local food bank is seeing record numbers of patrons and is at risk of running out of food, especially fresh produce and food that is actually food, not just boxed up sugar/fat.  I know there is no room to meet the basics, let alone luxuries.  I think some of the comments that you perceive as negative are just this 'voice of reason'.  Certainly I think something like this could fly as a special event/dinner, but a long-term commitment may prove more difficult.  I wish you luck and support your efforts.  I hope you find something that works for you and those in your community.
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BoldJava
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Posted Fri Oct 12, 2012, 5:14am
Subject: Re: Espresso for the homeless - crazy idea?
 

GVDub Said:

Consider this post a test balloon.

Over the years my wife and I have done a bit of volunteering at soup kitchens, meals on wheels programs, and the like. One thing that's pretty universal is that the coffee is, well, horrid is probably a pretty generous term . . .

Posted October 6, 2012 link

A very noble and creative idea.  Thoughts:
1)  You and others have touched on the most critical part of the thread -- the hands and heart behind the coffee which gets served are the most important part of the exchange.  The coffee becomes secondary to the giving exchange. That opinion comes from having served in shelters.
2)  Espresso is tough to pull off.  Often, it is an acquired taste.
3)  A pour-over station might be easier to set up and execute on the fly.
4)  Pourover would provide an opportunity to interact with the guests of the shelters (see number 1 above).

Folks who responded meant well -- let's keep the thread on the upbeat with which it was initiated.  The idea/thought/post warmed my heart.  Good on you.  Whether you seek a high end coffee donation or provide what you can afford would be up to you and the other volunteers.  Go to it!

 
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Joel_B
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Posted Fri Oct 12, 2012, 6:29am
Subject: Re: Espresso for the homeless - crazy idea?
 

GVDub Said:

Joel, the personal contact and commitment to actually helping counts for a good deal. The coffee tastes better if somebody is there handing it to you who gives you a sense of belonging to a community - of being a human being who is worthy of being part of a larger world and not simply a marginalized statistic. So I hold that the CEO being there does make it a better cup, if he's there because he wants to help out, not just to get a tax deduction and a photo op. Because that means there's more in the coffee than just coffee, if that makes any kind of sense.

Posted October 11, 2012 link

It does make sense. I wasn't trying to discount the human element and I understand that sense of someone treating you like a human being (fwiw that feeling has nothing to do with being homeless). That's why I mentioned I'd be just as happy if someone gave me a cup of dd as I would with coava.  I just disagree with you that the human element has to come from the coffee supplier.  What Made me pipe in to begin with is originally dd not being good Enough (product wise) but Your tone seems to have changed on that.

EDIT:  Just so we're clear, I appreciate your sentiment here.  I think it's well meant idea and I wish you success in your venture and admire your motivation.  And just so my sentiment isn't lost, my take on this is if DD (or anyone really) wants to donate some coffee for tax write off/PR/guilt and you want some donated coffee..... well, seems like a win win situation.  If there's good heart behind the efforts it will show to the recipients even if there's those who don't care.
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Joel_B
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Posted Fri Oct 12, 2012, 8:19am
Subject: Re: Espresso for the homeless - crazy idea?
 

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SpromoSapiens
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Posted Mon Oct 15, 2012, 12:57pm
Subject: Re: Espresso for the homeless - crazy idea?
 

My two cents: Why not a few 32oz french presses transferred to insulated presspots? I was a barista in a high-end espresso bar in downtown Oakland that, aside from 'spro, sold only french press and did it in this manner. I know it's less impressive to pump coffee out of a presspot than to offer a true one-cup-at-a-time experience, but it's still a manual method, does not require the best grinder on earth, and can be done right there at the table (depending only on some means for heating the water). It leaves plenty of brew-time for volunteers to engage in conversation, but also keeps the line moving if that's a concern at all, plus your volunteers don't need to be coffee specialists to participate. Nor do the recipients need to have a trained palate (or feel like they should), or be lactose-tolerant or soy-friendly, etc.. If not french press, I guess I would still encourage pour-over before espresso in this context, because a 2oz shot and/or a velvetty cup of milk, no matter how exquisite the coffee or skilled or friendly the barista, could still fail to impress when the recipient really just wants a nice, bracing, big & hot cup o' joe.  

Regarding the Dunkin kerfuffle -- not to fan any flames, but just add a friendly voice on a worthy topic -- I'm inclined to support GVDub's reservations about mega-corporate involvement. No one cares to see another gleaming logo t-shirt & hat saying "this brand loves you" (if not simply "this brand wants your business"), which is often what is heard no matter how hard a volunteer tries to transcend those banners. Despite what our gifted lobbyists have achieved, a corporation is not actually a person, and anyone that appears too heavily branded is not going to appear quite as human nor convey quite the same sense of warmth and respect. That said, for folks that can scarcely count on having coffee at all, let alone a latte (or for folks whose coffee habits developed prior to the 3rd Wave), there does exist a public impression even of Starbucks as being "fancy" compared to DD or anonymous gas station dreck, and I'm sure it would be easy enough to get some free stuff from Daddy Starbucks. Most folks can tell a hollow message when they hear it, but free stuff is free stuff, and no one's turning up their nose at free stuff here. GVDub's point, however, is not just to find some free stuff and pass it on. Even if the brands were invisible and it really just came down to McCoffee or none at all, then while an unadorned human component could remain, the coffee would also be no different from the bread or the stew. A shave & a haircut may not save any lives either, but it can still make one feel decent in a really important way. We don't have to pretend that everyone needs the nuanced citrus and spice of a pressure-profiled light-roast SO ristretto precisely 6 days off roast to feel human, but we can all probably agree on the transformative power of a really nice cup of coffee, of a quality intended for careful preparation, prepared lovingly and served with pride to a coffee-drinker who could benefit from the simple experience of knowing that their opinion matters. A pourover bar (admittedly perhaps even more than a french press bar) serving top-notch stuff would really be an amazing and beautiful thing.
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