Commonplace Coffee Company, which I wrote about in March, has taken over the Squirrel Hill space previously occupied by Arefa's Espresso. T.J. Fairchild, the founder of Commonplace Coffee, which is based in Indiana, had long been considering a Pittsburgh cafe. When he learned that Arefa's owner Andrey Arefyev was moving away, and looking for someone to take over the space, he decided the time had come. Physically, the space is mostly the same, though there's a new menu -- chalkboard, of course -- which lists a simplified set of drinks as well as the single origins available and different brewing options.
Loose-leaf tea, hot chocolate and Italian sodas, and a couple of cookies round out the food and drink options. House-made syrups are also available.
For coffee geeks, the most exciting aspect of the cafe is the chance to compare and contrast the Clover (a single-cup brewing device also used at 21st Street Coffee in the Strip District and Downtown) and the Trifecta, Bunn's new single-cup brewing device.
Mr. Fairchild is a big fan of the new device, which allows baristas to control four or five more brewing parameters than the Clover, including turbulence (how the water and coffee are agitated).
Another big advantage of the Trifecta is that it's readily available. Mr. Fairchild also sells coffee equipment to cafes and is using the Squirrel Hill cafe as a show room for machinery and a training space for cafe clients. "that's 50 percent of the reason we're open, to showcase machinery and coffee for cafes," he said.
The company behind the Clover was purchased by Starbucks several years ago, so in order to acquire one, cafes must buy previously owned models. "Within 3 to 5 business days you can have [the Trifecta] in your cafe, working," said Mr. Fairchild.
The menu includes recommended options for the Trifecta and Clover which have been "dialed in," meaning that the baristas have figured out how to set each machine's parameters to best showcase that individual coffee.
Mr. Fairchild brought in six people to staff the new cafe. He's especially pleased with the quality of the staff, all of whom are extremely experienced barista. "We've already had the opportunity twice to bring wholesale customers to train with some of the best baristas" said Mr. Fairchild.
The Commonplace Coffee staff is also seriously discussing the possibility of roasting in the Squirrel Hill store, in addition to their Indiana, PA space.
For now, Commonplace Squirrel Hill is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., but they are considering staying open later in the evening.