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Eat & Drink

The great Toronto coffee drink challenge: The Trifecta

Posted by Rick McGinnis / April 4, 2013

Trifecta coffeeWhile the renaissance in coffee culture has focused ample attention on the products of the espresso machine, nowhere near as much attention has been paid to the simple cup of joe - the humble mug of brewed coffee that used to be the first and only thing most of us thought of when they ordered a cup of coffee. Bean quality has certainly gotten better, but what makes it into our paper cups is the same drip or percolator coffee that our grandparents would have known, poured from urns or carafes with a quick, careless gesture in diners everywhere.

Trifecta machineCONCEPT
There are cafes in the city offering specialities like siphon coffee and cold drip coffee, but Seven Grams near Avenue and Davenport is the only place in Toronto with a Bunn Trifecta machine - the most high tech solution to the question: "How do you make the best damn cup of coffee ever?"

Barista Adam takes me through the Trifecta concept, which is a highly engineered elaboration on the sort of "full immersion" coffee-making method that most people know from the French press. In essence, more flavour can be extracted from coffee grounds that are soaked and agitated before they're decanted into a cup. Under extraction will accentuate the sour notes in the coffee, while over extraction will make it more bitter. It's like cooking a steak, Adam says - you have to walk the fine line between raw and burnt.

The Trifecta sitting behind the bar at Seven Grams isn't an intimidating machine, with its simple clear brewing tube and a control panel with just a few buttons, but Adam says that it's definitely not something you'd want for home use. There are just too many parameters that you can program for - parameters such as water temperature, soaking and agitation time that are almost infinitely adjustable without some prior knowledge of how the machine works with different varietals of beans.

"It's paralyzing how many options there are," he tells me.

SCORE: 9/10

trifecta espressoEXECUTION
While setting up the Trifecta is very nearly rocket science, brewing a cup is actually fairly easy. Adam cleans the machine's tube and filter out carefully, then sets chooses the preset for Ethiopian Sidama coffee; the preset, he tells me, was programmed by an expert brought in by the cafe's owners. "The guy who programs this has a lot more knowledge than me," he says.

After carefully measuring out 18.5 grams of beans, he puts them through a grinder, producing a grind slightly finer that what you'd use for drip coffee. He shows me the super fine metal filter - a disc of metal so carefully machined that you can't see any light through it.

He puts the coffee in the filter cup, secures it to the brewing tube and hits the button. An LED display runs through the process, from the soaking to the turbulence that makes the coffee look like it's boiling in the tube. After a minute or so, the coffee begins to shoot into the cup below, pushed through the filter with some generous air pressure.

SCORE: 9/10

the turbulence cycleVALUE
The resulting cup is what you'd expect - black coffee in a white mug. The java looks a bit denser than your average cup of drip coffee, almost cloudy, and it's retained the cherry-sweet aroma of the Sidama beans.

At $4.25 per cup, Seven Grams strongly suggests that you don't add dairy or sugar if you want to really appreciate what you've paid for. What I taste might probably be the most perfect cup of black coffee I've ever had - the slight sourness and bitterness that come with any decent coffee bean are there, to be sure, but there's also a depth of flavour that actually seems to increase as I sip my way through the cup, first in the cafe, then walking south through Yorkville.

Seven Grams' Trifecta coffee might not be to everyone's taste, but for hardcore coffee lovers who enjoy the whole range of taste you can wrestle from really good beans, it's worth every penny.

SCORE: 9/10


Thanks to the New Listerine UltraClean for sponsoring our coffee-fueled adventures.

See all posts in this series via our Toronto Coffee Drinks Challenge Pinterest board

Have a suggestion for a unique coffee drink that should be part of this challenge? Send your tips to editors [at] blogto [dotcom]



Jeremy / April 4, 2013 at 11:16 am
Kinda looks like an aeropress on drugs.
Johnny Cash 2.0 / April 4, 2013 at 01:17 pm
I've heard many idiots lovingly complain about Starbucks and their "$5 cuppa coffee". In fact they are referring to a large latte. But here we actually have a cup of black coffee for the price of $4.25. I'm sure it's damn tasty, but I think it will be a hard sell, and I don't expect this to become a trend.
Brayden / April 4, 2013 at 02:37 pm
I would contest that the Starbucks Clover is just as good as the Trifecta. Having had both, I preferred Clover.
karen / April 4, 2013 at 02:47 pm
$4.25!!! RIP-OFF. if you WASTE that daily, that's $130 a month you could put towards rent or your mortgage. don't let these new TO hipster hype shops drain your bank account!
Steve / April 4, 2013 at 05:44 pm
Wow, didn't know pointing out a place that sells coffee would be so controversial to some. How dare a website independently taste test a cup of coffee, state that it was good and then say what they paid for it? That is absolutely ridiculous.

Who gives a shit what it costs? Because its expensive its "hipster hype?" Get a life. If you deem it to be too expensive then just don't buy it. It's that simple. I'm glad I found this article, I appreciate a really well made cup of coffee and will definitely be trying this.
patriot / April 4, 2013 at 09:12 pm
I'd like for them (and all coffee shops for that matter) to use spring water instead of tap water (even if it is filtered). Fluoride and other deadly chemicald in tap water that are not removed by conventional filters make the coffe very bitter. The spring water really makes a huge difference in the taste and could probably add that final 1 point to make a perfect 10 on the BlogTO score.
Just saying. replying to a comment from Steve / April 5, 2013 at 01:16 am
You are using a rhetorical technique. By asking "Who gives a sh*t what it costs?" in a disdainful way, you are creating the impression that few care about its cost. On the contrary, I think a great many people do care about the price of coffee. I suppose you are not a very economically-minded individual, or else you would have shown more concern for such a striking example of the inflation we are facing.
evan / April 5, 2013 at 01:41 am
It tastes like an aeropress on drugs too. Worth a shot.
evan / April 5, 2013 at 01:45 am
Also, Just saying., it's a premium cup of coffee. Are you angry that you can get expensive scotch at any bar? Does it bug you that they sell premium gasoline? King sized chocolate bars? It's a coffee shop in yorkville, and they offer normal brewed coffee too for the proletariat.
Just saying. replying to a comment from evan / April 5, 2013 at 07:10 am
I think you are confused. We are talking about basic coffee, or a "cup of Joe", as the article puts it. Not about high-end scotch, which is a luxury item. Also, these "king-sized chocolate bars" to which you refer are not necessarily expensive. Your list of items varies considerably in relevance.

The price of an individual cup of coffee is a benchmark in economic health indices, and in studies of inflation.

Your list of items does not "bother" me. I am simply pointing out that the price of coffee is an interesting economic variable that many people are interested in.

It seems to me that you are the "angry" one, rushing to post a comment at the expense of logic.
ttraveller replying to a comment from evan / April 5, 2013 at 07:53 am
Actually, the trifecta category of coffee drinkers are today's proletariat. Debt ridden 20/30 somethings trapped in an endless cycle of pop-up (ie. premium) consumption, mostly living with their parents, and hating their lives.
Sharon replying to a comment from Just saying. / April 5, 2013 at 02:53 pm
Totally agree. Starbucks inflated the price of coffee everywhere. Now trendy coffee shops have popped up like condos in TO and they have made "fivebucks" the norm. Do you want TO to become like London? Where you can't buy anything without giving your arm or leg? Then stop overpaying for pulled-pork tacos and coffee beans hipsters. Make your own at home or go to a place that offers value and doesn't charge $5 for a few grinded beans with some hot tap water!
barkingburro / April 13, 2013 at 10:44 am
I just want to thank everyone who used the word hipster in complaining about the high price of coffee. I agree with your assumption that typical coffee should not cost more than a couple bucks, if done poorly. The proletariat should be forced to drink crap coffee at $2.00, like everyone else! Let's see... What's the opposite of hipster? Local yokel?
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