company - education - coffee

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Something brewing in Boston... (are you bean oriented....?)

This was one of those tastings that left everyone floored and on a high for the rest of the night on the possibilities now for coffee as espresso. A big cheers to Ben for coming onto this paradigm when we were playing with the Aeropress. We were coming at the Aeropress with blank expectations and diagnosed it without any limits or expectations of what is normal for a brew. This led us to the yirg being pulled as espresso and coming up with something quite tasty.

Following up on our results from the Terroir Yirgacheffe as espresso...

Ben pulled several good shots of the Yirgacheffe as espresso (only works under some unconventional circumstances) and this has challenged us to start brewing some of the Terroir drip offerings I get from Simon's (we brew Terroir at simon's so I have easy access to these coffees) as espresso in an attempt to challenge the boundaries of our perceptions. Notes first then more commentary.

Kenya Kiamabara (vienna roast) from Terroir Coffee (still playing it safe with a bit darker roasts will move to lighter roasts by wed to push the limits)

16 g ridgeless double basket on a Synesso 1 group and standard 5 sec preinfusion. As always, this is an overview of our note and I leave out the in between shots/sink shots.

Dose 16g temp 191F 28s 2oz

Notes: Effervescent. light Anise. Asim(the unseen cupper) noted bing Cherry right off in the aftertaste(excellent observation). Slight tartness defines the bing cherry flavor. Roast is present giving the chocolate which infers that we could go much lighter with this roast and still get good results.

Tasted it in milk and got light chocolate/caramel flavors with a cherry(think childrens medicine or candies) in the aftertaste. Sweet. Flipping out here. It's palatable and beyond that the results are so comparable to what we taste at work with the drip.

16g 190F 27s 2oz

Notes: Roast disappears but so does clarity of flavor. Borderline citrusy and a bit grainy with more brightness. Fruity. Sweet.

18g 191.5F 28s

notes: 'Kenya like' This is the most kenya like we have tasted today. It has all the hallmark flavors you find in drip. Seems the darker roast means we have to use a heavier dose to get the origin flavors. Compares excellent to drip.

16g 192.5F

Notes: Astringent, dry and yuck... This needs to be pulled under this temp to be palatable.

Conclusion: This is a big one.

The Kiamabara comes out on the savory side at a slightly higher temp of 191F. Savory with bing cherry in the aftertaste but also roasty. Lower temp of 190F gives a tomato like citrus and roast disappaears while sweetness is more present. This and the Ecco Reserve have made the best espresso we have pulled in weeks. Everyone was impressed. Hong noted the change from sweet to savory with the change in temp and found it very pleasing. This could be served in milk and would be much better than a fermented Ethiopian Sidamo.

What this all means: I hate to use a music analogy but it works: Think of a piece of music that is played at a low volume and you believe it to be excellent. Take that same piece of music and amplify it to a loud volume and you then begin to hear every imperfection. In fact, the imperfections become amplified to the point it is unlistenable.

This is the theory. The analogy is of a light roast with a lesser quality coffee.

Now imagine another piece of music played at a low volume and then amplified. Instead of showing it's imperfections, it allows you to hear parts of the symphony you could not hear before. In fact, you can hear it's greatness more clearly.

An analogy of a light roast of an exceptional high grown coffee.

The rub... We were coming in with this perception that you have to tone down acidity by roasting darker and holding yourself into a specifc temp range to get a full extraction (195F-205F). So, roasting is usually to make the beans conform to this temperature range. The old idea being you can't extract all the flavor unless the temps are in this range. Once we realized that staying in that temperature range didn't matter, it opened many avenues to us.

Some of these drips can brew at lower temps (185F to 195F or even lower?). This may(or may not) have a slight dulling effect but that may not be a bad thing with a coffee so packed with flavors. I've been thinking about it like brewing temps for green teas and black teas. Green teas typically brew at temps around 10 degrees lower than black teas. Some higher quality greens brew much lower than that. So a high quality light roasted coffee may follow the same trajectory. We may be able to brew many of these Terroir drip coffees as espresso without having them roasted any darker than they are for drip. Of course it may not work, but we will follow up and see later. This is so much bettr than tasting Harrars searching for 'blueberries' among the funk. I know it must relate somehow to the roasting style they use for drip. Maybe Ben can add more...

More raw data to come soon as we taste more coffees this week. Will try lighter and lighter roasts to find the limit...

Espresso is spelled with an s not an x.

Overview of notes from espresso tasting on the Synesso 4-29-06

Pump pressure set to 8.5 bars.

I will leave out the in between shots and only post the significant notes.

Use a scale if you want to repeat our results ;)

Ecco Reserve from Ecco Caffe

Dose 16g Temp 201F 6sec preinfusion 28s extraction 1.75oz volume

Notes: Sharp Citrus and grainy taste. Pump pressure was too high so we put it from 9.5 to 8.5 bars

Dose 18g Temp 201F 5sec preinfusion 35sec extraction 1oz

Notes: Mellow. Smooth creamy and fabulous classic ristretto flavor but not bitter.

Dose 18g 201F 5sec preinfusion 25s extracion 2oz volume

Notes: Meaty and savory nut flavors. For all these pulls we have used the ridgless LM aka a 16g basket.

Dose 20g 201F 5sec preinfusion 27sec extraction 2oz volume

Notes: Switched to down dosed triple basket and got inconsistent results. Barnett uses more dose but we feel more comfortable with the results in the 16g ridgeless basket. Had trouble with channeling and getting a good shot before exhausting the beans.

Notes on the Ecco Reserve: Fabulous. Ben is in love with this espresso at the moment. Complex and it has play(it works at different but specific temps, doses, and volumes combinations). A smooth/creamy milk chocolate ristretto or a light citrus floral complex nutty profile. It lacks the harshness and intensity but has all the citrus flavors in a clean and controlled flavor. Barnett knows espresso.

Fazenda Cachoeira 2005 crop

using 16g ridgeless again from here on out.

Dose 18g 201F 1.5oz - some citrus

16g 202F 1.25oz - Roasty toasty

Notes: roast was a bit darker than last time. Espresso was very good but paled in comparison the the Ecco Resrve. Light ferment? (ben says)Is that the screen drying?

Conclusions: The Ecco Reserve contains both Daterra reserve and the Cachoeira. Ben inferred he felt the the Cachoeira might be holding it back but I think the combination is something greater than the whole. It's in the cup this time and we can argue over the minute and complex details of the tastes but the reserve was good. Barnett comes from the mold of a barista through and through. It's obvious he cups the espresso himself and pulls shots himself.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Retrospective by coffee_monkey

First of all, let me appologize for my crappy writing style. I am not a writer. I am an engineer who likes to use passives and long sentences. I also have the tendency to deviate from the main discussion for time to time... So if this bothers you... then that is just too bad!

Anyway... For my first post, I thought it will be nice for me to take a quick look back on my "history" with the whole espresso thing. It will give you a good idea of where I came from and how my current views toward coffee have formed.

I think for most ppl, coffee + internet = coffeegeek. Yup, I started out as a coffeegeek as well. Looking back to my old posts, the first one I wrote was on April 23, 2004 asking to purchase a non-pressurized portafilter.

Actually let me step back a bit... My obsession with coffee started in late 2003/early 2004. I was looking for a new hobby to do and for some odd reason, I decided coffee is cool (don't remember, don't know why). But I didn't want "normal" coffee. I wanted the good stuff. So, as any good consumer does, I went online and read.... I ended up with a Bialetti Brikka 3 cup , a Bodum "fake froather", and started to use stored roasted, store-ground Allegro that I got from Whole Foods (I think was still Freshfields back then). The mokapot makes some pretty nice strong drinks, and with milk, it tasted much better than any drip stuff. This was the time when I "found" coffeegeek.

When I first read coffeegeek, I thought all the ppl on that forum were insane. I mean, who in the right mind would call a $250 grinder "cheap" (Rocky), let alone using one that looks like a monster and costs a bundle (Mini). I decided I WILL NOT get an espresso machine because it costs too much (CG mantra = good grinder + cheap machine = sucess!), but will get a nice grinder to improve my coffee. After a long struggle, I bought a Maestro Plus and it was a very expansive grinder for me back then. I never spend so much on coffee stuff and was really disappointed at the piece of plastic toy I got for $150. Nevertheless, fresh ground stuff at home really tastes nice.

As my coffee improved, so did my appetite. The next step was home roasting so within a couple of months, I had a freshroast +8 and a few pounds of greens from sweet marias. I also started to read coffeegeek religiously and the desire of getting an espresso machine grew everyday.

I finally broke down and upon much research, the cheapest "solution" I arrived at was getting an old Estro Vapore (aka Starbucks Barista) from ebay. I got mine for $80 and aside from some minor rust on the frame, the unit I got was clean and functional. I did all the research I could to get the most out of this thing (unpressurized portafilter, temp surfing, etc) and realize that I finally have to face what I was trying to avoid when I got my mokapot - a serious grinder.

So, more money was charged on the credit card and shortly after the Estro Vapore, I have a Rocky doserless. And then all hell break loose. Soon after the setup was changed to an Isomac Rituale (E61 HX) and a used Super Jolly. I also bought just about any form of coffee maker including a Hario vaccum pot, a Bodum french press, a vietnamese coffee maker, a Presto drip maker, and most recently, an Aeropress. The only (worthwhile) thing I don't have is a manual drip and a ice-drip.

So where was I... yeah, coffeegeek. So you see, coffeegeek was a big influence on me. I have gained a lot of information from it. HOWEVER, I felt that I also gained a lot of mis-information from it, and did not realize this until I stepped outside of the online-world.

You see, back then, espresso to me is all about getting that 1 ~ 1.5 oz double restretto. In my head, it should taste thick, syrupy, chcolatey, smooth and SEXY (sorry... a little inside joke...). I mean, that was what EVERYONE was talking about on coffeegeek, so it must be right, right? And I worked very hard toward that. The shots from Vivace and Zoka when I visited Seattle in Summer of 04 further re-enforced the idea what "god shots" should be like.

With the purchase of my "nice setup", I went on to try many of the famous online blends: Vivace's dolce, Zoka's paladino, Coffee Emergency's code brown, Intelly's black cat, Cafe Fresco's Ambrosia, and Terroir's Northern. Even though I struggle with making great shots as I refine my skills, I manage to produce many drinkable shots from most blends. The only oddball from the lineup was Terroir's coffee. No matter what I try, I could not make it taste good. It was very sour and thin and shared none of the traits of other blends. It really puzzled me as it was quite well recieved online. Then an opportunity came along in spring of 05. I attended the first (and only) espresso seminar at Terroir and was really shocked at the difference of Nothern pulled at the warehouse versus what I tasted at home. I learned that my brew temp was too high, my dose too much, and my tamp too hard. I also learned that espresso can taste good at a full 2oz, medium body, and with tons of acidity.

But this experience also confused me. Because to get to that cup, I have to abandon "THE WAY" of making espresso as learned from coffeegeek. That is, overfill and leveled dose is good. Bigger basket and more coffee is good. 1.5 oz, thick, drippy ristretto is good. Chocolatey, smooth, non-acidic is good. Terroir's Northen is none of that!

I played around with Terroir's Northern a little bit more, but ultimately abandoned it since it was too difficult to repeat my experience at the Acton warehouse. Plus it tasted too different than all the other espresso I had previously tried and maybe it was not to my taste. So I continued to work on my ristretto style pulls in hope to get to those "coffeegeek god shots".

Then I met Jaime. It was the definitive turning point of my espresso hobby. At our first meeting, I tasted something that blew my mind. An espresso shot that actually matches the flowery descriptions on the bag!! An espresso that actually had multi-layers of taste yet smooth from start to finish. An espresso that tasted good and it was a full double?! It was at this exact moment that I realize I have been doing it all wrong all these times because the same exact bean tasted like crap on my home machine. For the first time, I have a "real world" benchmark to work with instead of the imaginative, description words online.

Since then, it's been an exciting journey. His pro-perspective helped me to advance my knowledge in understanding, brewing, and tasting coffee; and my home-perspective helped him to see more things outside the shop. And that is what I hope to bring to the blog. A home user's candid perspective that the pros might not have see from their environment. I also look forward to test/experience many of the things written online. Because.. as there is much good information online, there are also MANY mis-information that could lead many down the wrong way.

Btw, is the celebrated overdose ristretto style wrong? Not really... it depends on the coffee...

Monday, April 24, 2006

This just in....

Barismo, the group.

Barismo started as a personal blog.
A lazy and unorganized attempt at some kind of introspection while exploring coffee. The title itself barismo was a joke about being too barista oriented. In essence, barista + machismo = barismo. Ex: If you couldn't pull the shot, you lacked the barismo to do it. It was an adjective we were throwing around in a silly manner to express our coffee quotient as if it were some spiritual mana that was the base of our shot pulling abilities. The irony is that it came to mean a lot more to us in time.

Now we can easily say it is our word defining our expression that the end of the quality loop is the passionate barista. This is Barismo. The educated flavor focused barista. A bit sommolier, a bit techie, and a bit sales person. It applies to tea and coffee in the same manner. We approach the cafe as no longer a hangout or study hall but a place to have a culinary experience that is focused on the flavors in the cup.

Jaime van Schyndel
Profession: Barista and manager formerly of Simon's in Cambridge, MA. Barismo editor and contributor. The coffee flavor guy. If it isn't worth arguing, I haven't talked about it!
Ben C.
Profession: Engineer. The techie and machine head. Barismo contributor. An avid home barista, part time home roaster. Obsessive compulsive cleaner who will spend the time and the dime if it tastes good enough!
Profession: Shift leader and head of the tea program at a local Peet's. The tea cupper. Barismo contributor. Part time cupper for Mark Moradian of MEM teas and former coffee/tea purchasor for Whole foods. George Howell loves his enthusiasm!
Ben Kaminsky
Profession: Lead Barista at Simon's in Cambridge, MA. Barismo Photo Contributor. The 'Ecco Apostle'. Ben is a Flickr junkie who joined us after stints at a local cafe and some sweet training in San Francisco.

Contributor Introductions


So I was looking for some new brazils to try lately. Thinking about doing a Daterra espresso tasting. House espresso has been getting dark enough for tight ristretto. Not a bad thing for us lately as we have so many people asking for shots of everything. But I was thinking of this lineup...

Ecco Caffe Daterra Reserve

Cafe Fresco Daterra Reserve

Atomic Cafe Daterra Reserve

+ one more undecided Daterra

I am thinking this would be an excellent way for people to understand roasting differences. All three of the roasters have very different philosophies and by comparing the same beans with different roasts, it might help define peoples palates. This might be a bit advanced for some people to attend but I think we have to think ambitiously and stop mucking about.

I'm thinking of serving 25 persons and closing the shop early to accomodate:
A service of singles of each espresso so no one OD's and also to speed things up.
I am guessing that service of 2 by 2 would be best. Meaning each person will receive two contrasting single espresso at once to evaluate.

Effectively 50 shots pulled by two stations is 25 shots*2min each side in an hour. That allows plenty of time for waste if we assume an hour and a half tasting. Maybe my math is wrong here.

Cannot forget water cups... very important.

A tasting like this could effectively define peoples palate as to what they like or what they are tasting.

Ideas are welcome.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

What will the Globe article bring....???

My rosetta on the front page of the globe. Nice

Heart is from 9th street. Who is overdosing/uneven tamp in this photo?
Spouted pull is mine also.

A serious photo of me drinking an espresso for quality control. I did not pose. Seriously.

The mid pour rosetta is also mine.

There is a nice slide show with audio on the Globe article worth a look. Food Editor Joe Yonan gives an audio report with photos. A really cool one of me pouring a rosetta frame by frame in the slide show.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Aerobie Aeropress in house....

Notes from a review of the Aerobie Aeropress:

There were in between brews but I will just post the overview notes and skim through it all.

Brewing with the Aerobie Aeropress @ 4oz

Coffee :Kenya Tegu

12g 45s 196F - Used same parameters as it was brewed on the Clover. Dry, astringent.

12g 35s 192F - Close but very dull

32g 35s 192F - Concentrated. Midtones there but no high notes. Only savory notes
of tomato but no plush berry citrus. Really dull as it cooled

Coffee : Yirgacheffe

12g 35s 198F - Thin

18g 35s 198F - Dull but close to drip. Really lacking in character.

22g 35s 198F - Best Intensity but missing high notes. Tastes tea like but no
lemon or fruit. Boring.

Yirg didn't really pop as it does when i brew it as drip.

Aeropress Impressions: Coffees strangely lacked aromas. No high notes and really
not popping the Tegu. Inoffensive but not working with a lot of coffee in there.
Strange that the aroma of the grounds was not present in the brewed cup. This does not compare to a Clover at all.

Brewing with French Press @ 12oz

Coffee : Yirgacheffe

21g 4min 198F - Too light

24g 4min 198F - Darjeeling Tea and dried fruit

Brewing with espresso and adding water to make a 4oz Americano

Coffee : Yirgacheffe

18g 28s 194F 2oz - Dry Citric

19g 28s 191F 2.25oz - Buttery. Sweet Dates. Clean. Dried fruit and Tea. Comparable
to last FP of Yirg but citrus pops as cools. Beautiful aroma.

19g 28s 189F 2.25oz - dull. Really dull.

Impressions of espresso: I need to experiment more with this as it really holds
so much promise and wastes very little coffee to get the full flavor. The Americano
technique really brings something out of these coffees. Got to get PeterL in
to cup this as he can truly give us comparison on what is added or missing by
doing this.


Using the Aeropress seems to sacrifice quality for convenience. Why not get
a French Press? I talked briefly with Peter and it seems he ran into the same
conclusions. We will cup it more later but initial results are it is a big well
made syringe that doesn't work for high grade coffees.

It is not espresso and does not compare in any way to espresso.

Boston Globe Article is out

Ineteresting stuff.
Oh boy.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Barista Machismo...

A naked triple ristretto into a bowl for latte art practice.
The art has been coming out wicked easily lately. I feel in awe sometimes at how much muscle memory plays a role and you just do it without thinking.

The nerves have gotten me lately to where I have been tweaking at work. Tired and yet nervous about all the attention lately. It's weird when someone asks for your autograph in this business. I'm not a rock star baristi, I shy from the limelight. Though, the sentiment was truly appreciated. In the last two days, I really feel we have served as many straight shots as drip coffees. At one point we had only brewed 4 airpots but had served so many espresso I couldn't get cups washed in time. I believed so much in this idealism and philosophy that now I am apt to question whether it is starting to take or it's just a fluke and one day things will go back to the way they were. I can't accept in some ways how everything is happening all at once. The real question is why should we sacrfice? Why shouldn't we force things to happen at some point and drive these idealisms to come true. [idealism]Someday, I will be able to talk with my coffee distributor middleman and he will finally get me and understand all this. [/idealism]

We gotta start an espresso drinking trend in this drip coffee town.

I'm still looking for that great coffee experience to share with others. Suprisingly, the Southern Daterra has been very nice lately. It lightened up and they got the roast level down a lot to let the tastes come through.

I need to get back to the guest espresso program and tastings and ... so much other stuff at Simon's but it's busy and I'm tired. I just need time off to refocus. How is it in a town packed full of coffee shops that us in this little no name shop can make so much noise. It's seriously strange. I want to know what else is out there and hook up. It's like Barnett said, you got to have community. There needs to be other cafes to bring the entire culture along. That's why I hook up with Atomic Cafe every now and then. That's why I occassionaly ask customers if they know of a good barista out there. I really think there needs to be a community of barista. Not an us against them shop to shop competition but a straight up sharing of knowledge and passion among like minded people. No, I will not train the Sbux staff down the street(I don't have time to complain about customers all day like those guys who work there do, I like most of my customers and feel appreciated), but I definately would hook up with other barista from local shops.

So Simon is getting a website for us to put up all our happening hip events and tastings, guest espresso, and general smack talk for everyone to read. I'm thinking 'Most linear coffee shop website on the web.'

Friday, April 14, 2006


So I went to a Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah concert which has now made me appreciate the album so much more but now I wish I could repeat the experience. Playing the songs with the bass loaded up to get the full effect of standing stage right doesn't quite cut it.

Had a good meeting today with our distributor (the middleman between us and Terroir). Going to explre new brewing methods to offer more SO besides the Coffee of the day.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Boston Globe article on espresso coming soon....

First came Joe writing about the espresso. Then came Dina taking my photo. Today comes another Joe to record shop noises. All this for a mysterious article in the Boston Globe. I don't know how much attention this will bring but I think it's amazing to think where I was struggling at a year ago to get any notice.
Updates coming soon.

I'm still glad to be back in Boston and it's great feeling all the appreciation from the customers lately.

Charlotte and the SCAA, last day....

While in Charlotte I hit the Daterra Booth to see what was cooking. Got some
coffee. First cup in Charlotte actually. Great peopl and honestly one of the
better moments in the trip.

Of course I had to drop some props at the CoE booth. Must remind Peter he needs
to get his Guatemala CoE judge invite.

Dropped in on the Clover. I somehow missed it early on after spending a lot
of time with the guys at Espresso Craft Talking shop and about the online community
as well as why no one makes multiple sized baskets for research. Why not make
a range of baskets based on millimeter depth as opposed to 'grams' since different
density beans can have the same volume in basket but different gram weights.
I wouldn't have found the Clover booth if not for the help of Andrew

First off I had a bag of Terroir's Tegu
that Andrew suggested I offer up on the Clover.

I discovered something from this event that I had suspected for a long time.
People don't get George's Coffees. You have to understand more about them to
really get the most out of them. Sometimes, you have to brew them at heavy doses
and lower temps to get the most out of them. At work, we brew terroir offerings
at 198F with a heavy dose and a coarser than normal grind. There seemed to be
some snickering among the group as at first the coffee was not popping. The
comment was thrown out that it was very Terroiry. It was dulled by a higher
temp and a lower dosage and coming out dry. Once I communicated the way we brew
it at work, it was only a brew later that we hit it. I had one of those ode
to joy moments where the coffee finally tasted like it does when I brew it or
when we are in Acton at the warehouse.

The Tegu was popping and it was passed around. It was one of those moments I
really wished PeterL was there. Still, I really enjoyed it and we burned through
most of a bag.

The Tegu did allow me to cross paths with Tony Konecny
and Kyle Glanville. Tony got me on film but I got him first. Here's a picture
of me talking to Tony that Hong took. I have to say I found Tony to interesting
and hope we cross paths again.

Shortly thereafter I bumped into Chris Owens
of NY. I do hope he takes me up on the offer to visit our cupping club. Maybe
I can persuade Adam to come in from Beverly to attend also.

Great trip overall, even spent a whole day visiting family in TN.

It was so damn good to be back in Boston though.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

So Charlotte is boring.

The city that is. The USBC
is kinda weird. You hear all the hype and then you get in and it's not what you think. I don't know if I really want to get into that kinda thing again. I went in with such a bad mood it threw me off horribly. Broke my Mazzer in transport. Found out when I got to Charlotte you cannot change the temp on the machines or baskets. So I had a grinder I didn't like and a temperature that was making the beans harsh. Oh well, I won't dwell on it. I just had so many mental errors it was not funny. Funny thing is I was not as nervous as I was in DC.

At the USBC

In DC I was all nerves. It was cramped and you were facing everyone. Part of it was having Chris Deferio as a judge. On a side note: Grinds on the crema for definition is lame, Really lame.

Pics from the DC event where I placed Third in the Millrock Latte Art contest.

Special thanks to Ben, Asim, and Hong for getting me through this mess.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Adam and John at Atomic

Today we drove up 93 to visit Beverly, MA. John and Adam were nice enought to let us drop in and play with the GB5.

-Peter L as usual was MIA.

Atomic has a Diedrich roaster in house and I really think
Adam gets it where a lot of roasters just don't.

I'll keep it short but seriously the GB5 is awqesome. So
stable it's magnificent and easy to program. I wish there was more steam
pressure on the one at atomic but still it really felt like a true classic
LM but with lots of bells and whistles.

It's snappy too. Handsome stainless steel body but not boxy like a Linea.