company - education - coffee

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Big things coming or the same old in NE

I saw Scott Raos is back in the Mass area. Looks interesting.

A little place in Lowell Ma called Cafe Aielo is open serving Zoka. Things are changing. It makes me wonder why there is so little action going on here in the metro area.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Intelligentsia, quotes, and junk...

Tony shed's light on going's on with Intelly...

Interesting stuff really. If you read the NY times article on Geoff Watts of Intelly, you might have seen the quote by Peter G of Counter Culture. -"Intelligentsia was known as this stupid and naïve company that overpaid farmers and carried too much debt,"

Geoff thoroughly explained his position on coffeed. I only mention because I actually had customers come in and talk about the article and in particular asked me about that comment. I really was confused. My favorite customer comment was 'Catfight in the coffee industry.' It's weird how stuff like that gets printed. I should know. I have been attatched to three things from the globe article a few months back.

1. 'I could talk about starbucks for hours' - It was actually the first question asked me 'What do you think about Starbucks?' I started off by saying I could talk about starbucks for hours but that would not be productive/pointless... something along that lines.

2. The list of 50 things to improve your espresso production. Need I say more. Ugh. I can't take it down as people still come in asking where it is.

3. The GHH apostle quote. Please don't get me into this one in detail. I got into a discussion about a stupid analogy made on CG with the pundit describing a roaster as your religion/temple. Yeah, you get off on tangents when you spend two hours talking to someone about coffee not realizing you will be in the article.

Still, I have to say a huge thanks to the globe writer. He put in his time and really tried to wrap himself up in the article. Something most food critics/columnists do not. I have seen him since in shop and truly appreciate him.

Of course we could take the attitude of one 'revered' internet pundit on to quote "What a bunch of crap. It's all B.S. That second sentence is the worst."

Joking aside, publicity is a weird thing. I usually don't think much about it since I am not a shop owner, not tied to a roaster, and basically only work for a shop with no finacial benefit from the publicity.

Then there is the blog... In all honesty my blog is for people I've met in email, people I've visited or have visited me, met at trade shows, competitions, and such. I never thought of it as a way to reach out to customers or potential customers. Still, I do have people come in and unexpectedly comment about my blog. It's not my intention.

Food for thought


Thursday, June 15, 2006


Yeah. Hrm. The freebie Machine from Krups, who were sponsors at the USBC, arrived today. Not much to say. I appreciate the gift but don't know what to do with it yet.


Have you experienced?

Sometimes I wonder, how many ppl truely tasted great espresso. How could any of these coffeegeeks/home-baristas make great shots at home if they never experience an "optimized" pull?

Each coffee (blend or single origin) has couple optimized zone, and need to be extracted in a case-by-case manner. What I found with many home users is that they tend to be locked into a single approach. Many do not understand why some coffee tasted fantastic while other are utterly crap even if they follow their routine. They either dismissed the "difficult" coffee or proceed to blame it on the machine.

I am very fortunate to have a great group of open-minded friends who are not afraid of experiementing and challenge the convetion. For all the home users out there... please never be satisfied with what you have and seek out those who can push you further. There are still much to be discovered...

- Ben

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Espresso curve...

Prerequisite reading...

Single Origins Shots and the Blended Espresso.

I really hope this debate is almost dead and buried for a lot of people. I think Tacy was on to it(as usual).

I feel all too often that roasts are not for ideal flavors but yet for a certain temperature. It's as if you assume that you will be at 201F and then roast everything to fit that temperature.

It doesn't.

Whether you choose 194F or 201F, it should be matching the temperature to the beans characters not conforming the bean to the preconceived temperatures. What if the floral notes pop at 192F and it's a gorgeous sweet SOS? It seems very simple to say if you step back and tear away your preconceived notions of espresso. Roasting light for the sake of light or dark for the sake of dark is irrelevant and pointless. Roast to the specific characters of that bean.

Actually, I digress, that's hard and a bit costly... in fact down right impractical for commercial espresso and difficult for home users. Imagine a commercial espresso with a nonstandard temperature below the range of a HX. What then? Serve inferior espresso or force your accounts to upgrade? Impractical nonsense. Yet, it points me to the fact that Ben, in his upgrade of the HX realized the HX is antiquated machinery in espresso. You can't nail these specific temps for these delicate espresso and especially not lower temps.

At the Charlotte SCAA convention, I was at the booth of some uber cool techies(won't name them)... Really cool convo until I said US espresso is still in it's infancy. The guy I was talking to me regarded that comment with disgust stating it was getting to it's peak. I think the equipment is finally getting there with the Synesso and GB5 type machines onto the market... but does anyone really think the coffee is there yet. CoE is still in it's infancy. Fantastic coffees have come, but for those who think the peak is here, just wait. It can only get better.

The point being is that at some point there needs to be an espresso machine that is Clover like. Dynamic adjustable brew temps for multiple espresso SOS and blends on the same machine.

Sadly, there is not a demand for such things beyond the lab. How many shops attempt to pull multiple(3+) espresso on their machines? A handfull really.

That for me is the cutting edge of SOS, not drip coffee but espresso. Nail those SOS and then go back and pair all your notes to make an amazing blend. Stop making blends that are compensating for flaws and make something truly amazing.


Monday, June 12, 2006

Coffee in food ...

Not much to say here.

Hong made Tiramisu using the remains of the Brazil CoE in a FP. (yes we drank most of the 2lbs breaking the crust the old fashioned way)It was good and I will miss it. That coffee got so floral once it was cold. Sweet honey baby.

Really good stuff. I think the inherent nutty flavors in brazils make this quite tasty. It's sweet and smells so good. Just want to make sure anyone who might read this gets a bit jealous ;p Really damn good though.


Home Espresso Machine

The thing about the home espresso machine is that... they just about all suck. With the exception of few double boiler machines, nothing is truly designed for the home environment at all.

All the single boiler machines don't have good temp stability and the "dual-use" boiler is nothing more than a hack.

All the HX(heat exchanger)/E-61 machines are a bastardization of commercial parts into smaller packages (a hack). With a flushing routine (another hack to fix a hack), you can get some temperature stability once it reaches equilibrium. But think about it... how ridiculous is that you have to spend more than a thousand dollar for a piece of equipment that you need to modify and hack to get it to work. The reason for all these hack/mod jobs is that the thing is just not designed right.

Among all the dual boiler machines, Reneka Techno is one of the closest thing to what a properly design home machine is. There is quite a bit of technology that goes into that thing... compact rotary pump, built in pre-infusion, inlet water preheater, vertical boilers, economy mode to turn off steam boilers, brew boiler feed to steam boiler to promote circulation... etc. Unfortuantely, it's too ahead of its time and recieved too little attention here. It would have been real nice to see a updated model in the states.

So looks like a GS/3 it is. I don't know how I am going to get the money, but there is just nothing out there that could do what I want.

ps. I am convinced that all these home users who claimed to have excellent shots from their home machine CONSISTENTLY are either:

1. Using a very "simple" blend that has huge temperature tolerance.

2. Never tasted a properly extracted shot by a skilled barista from a temperature stable commercial machine.

3. Don't have good tastebuds.

- Ben

Related Posts:

Rituale Home Machine Mod stage 1

Rituale Home Machine Mod stage 2

Rituale Home Machine Mod stage 3

Modding the Rituale

Modding the Rituale 2

Modding the Rituale 3

Friday, June 09, 2006

Quick notes on the Beans from Ecco Caffe

Please note beforehand that these were freebies so we may be a bit biased by Andrew's generosity....

We broke crust on these both and tasted them. three cuppers today... Sorry no pics... yet. These are raw notes here...

#1 Andrew's North Italian Roast

A honey sweetness followed by a strong but smooth cocoa(Andrew called it baker's cocoa) while the cup was still hot. Nuts are present and so is some fruit flavor. Buttery, smooth and a thick palate coating flavor. Milk chocolate as the cup cooled.

Since it was an espresso designed for commercial use, we added some milk... Think Caramel Chocolate Rolos.

Will pull shots over the weekend as it was just too gassy today.

Ben noted that Andrew's roasts always yield tones of chocolate but caramel in milk.

#2 Brazil CoE

First smell in crust... Nuts... all kinds of nuts.
Clean fruity, floral, tones of chocolate. Clover honey as it cools and apricots/dried fruits. Fragrant aftertaste with a clean effervescent feeling.

Cocoa, honey sweet, with nuts but a subtle and clean yet amazingly complex flavor. Not for those with dull palates, this has complexity that escapes our simple tongues.

I will be drinking this one the next few days.

Brazils are no matter how great still Brazils. They are nutty and mild when clean. It's just, (wait for the imagery here) they never knock you down and kick you the way an amazing Kenyan does. Brazils are really subtle in comparison. that said this was a great Brazil. The floral was surprising and unexpected in this cup and I will definately go forward with more tastes later. I will be interested to see what Simon says.

A special thanks to Andrew for the coffee. I really can't express how appreciative I am of him and the respect I have for him.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Espresso rumble royale in Boston...

Just got 2lbs of Andrew's new espresso blend as freebies to check out and two pounds of his CoE Brazil 2005.

Brazil - 2005 Cup Of Excellence - Fazenda São Benedito
Farmer: Antônio José Junqueira Villela e outros

(Very Limited Release)

World coffee aficionados were stunned with the results from the 2005 Brazil Cup of Excellence auction. The 1st place winner, Fazenda Santa Ines, fetched a record-shattering price of $49.75 per pound after receiving the highest Cup of Excellence score ever! Quietly, family and friends from neighboring coffee farm Fazenda São Benedito were awarded the 2nd place spot with an international jury score of 92.65, missing the highest rating by a mere half point.

Ecco Caffè invites you to discover São Benedito’s ethereal floral tones, ripe apricot, sweet honey, rich chocolate and lingering caramel finish. This enchanting jewel of a coffee satisfies beautifully from beginning to end. We strongly encourage you to purchase ASAP, since it is an extremely limited release and guaranteed to go fast!

To say Ben, Simon, and I are excited to cup this is an understatement. Simon completely dropped this on me as usual. For once, it was a good surprise. I think Judson will be floored to hear it as he had almost given up hope on Simon ordering more Ecco espresso.

This all happened as Simon finally got around to ordering some consistent espresso from Ecco to be our dedicated guest espresso. Customers had such a warm welcome for the Ecco that we were jonesing to bring it back in. Simon will now be consistently ordering from Ecco and will also sell some retail bags of Ecco to go with our ususal lineup of Terroir coffees.

We will be overflowing with great espresso. A guess we can't call it a guest anymore and will just have to think of a new way to pitch it. If we carry Northern again with Southern from Terroir, an Ecco espresso, an SOS, and then Decaf.... oy, my head is spinning. We may have to do a tasting again as I have had a couple of customers suggest we should do it being fully unaware of our first attempt at a tasting.

A special thanks to Ben for helping set up the preinfusion on the 4g LM. Mark M(the tea guy) was confused by the pressure setup when he tried to get a taste of what was going on one night while I was off. I'll give him a heads up when he gets back from Armenia. Now I have an adjustable preinfusion on the machine. Woo hoo. The shots are smooth and creamy now while crema is much more persistent and dense. I don't even want to get into how many months and how many industry people I went through trying to get preinfusion on the machine and yet no one helped. would've settle for the flow rate screw in the group head... anything really but what ben set up is working very well actually. Thanks again Ben.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A Normal work week in coffee

The new Rwanda SOS espresso from Terroir came in today. I'll evaluate it (early impressions are grapeish flavors but my mouth was dead from working with the Southern that same morning) and Simon has a bag of Northern to play with. We were holding out for our coffee shipment for quite a while as we waited for the retail bags. While we waited I pulled shots of Guatemala La Providencia. Floral in a nice way. A few tastes revealed the floral could be associated an effervescent or menthol feeling on the palate. If balanced well it had a very pleasant mouth watering effect. It was surpirsingly better than I expected. I wasn't counting on the floral notes to jump out so much as this was a darker roast(for terroir) and it is a coffee we use for house meaning it's not supposed to be interesting. I pulled that and the India Elk hill from Terroir the last few days. The elk hill was boring in comparison to the shots of Kenya I was tasting earlier but had a nice butterscotch taste.

Southern Daterra seems to have reached a turning point for us. It needs to be pulled at a shorter volume(3/4oz per) and in the 24-26secs. To force the change to this shorter volume I adjusted the settings on the preprogrammed volume buttons. Now a double dispenses less water(exact volume escapes me). I noticed the shorter volume required a lot more grind attention early on to get used to it so I decided to force the issue for everyone else. The end result is a slightly compacted shot that gives a more traditional taste for the Daterra(excuse me for this comment). I was getting a dark bitter roasty aftertaste the last two weeks pulling it the same way we pulled it previously (28s 2oz double). The problem was that most shots were being served on the end of the 28-32s range and that leaves a bitter roast flavor. The adjustment of shortening the volume compacts the flavors to intensify that nut flavor and give an impression of sweetness in the mouthfeel(can you say creamy). The shorter extraction time just extracts less roast flavors. Simon commented how this extraction favors Northern flavors minus the high notes of citrus when it is pulled correctly. I wouldn't be inclined to agree.

On a side note, I think Simon has finally gotten around to hooking up somethng for a consistent guest from Ecco Caffe. Andrew gave us some workable options and everyone can look forward to more Ecco espresso at the shop consistently. I know everyone will be pleased as it got so much love from everyone who tried it.

We are working 5 grinders right now. 2 for Northern(a mazzer and san marco for direct comparison), Southern, Rwandan, and decaf.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Shots of Kenyans of course...

Given the depth of Tegu and the sweetness therein, I wonder if that experience will be repeated or even outdone anytime soon. As Ben noted, the most ibteresting experiences have come lately from Kenyans.

I sampled the Kenyan Kiambu Rioki over the last week. I was looking for the plush tomato citrus you get from the Tegu. I got something I was describing as blackberry/mulberry. The tomato cirtus was toned down and the sweetness was not as prominent as the Tegu but it was still a fantastic cup. The ever present sweetness in the aftertaste was excellent. That pleasing mouthwatering effect is something that lingers in the memory long after the flavors disappear.

It was excellent plush dark berries in the cup and surprisingly more savory than I was expecting. We typically associate the savory flavor of beef in Tegu with a too dark roast or brew temperature being too high but I got the feeling the savory flavors in this were inherent to the bean not other factors.

On a side note: Spinach like flavors are major off flavors. I got a disgusting pea soup flavor out of a few samples brewed way too hot.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Bean updates and some light cupping...

Saturday we cupped a little of Stumptowns Hairbender and Sidamo. Sidamo we tried before and I think we all were a bit reminiscent of the Yirg hama we got from Ecco caffe as opposed to our memories of the Sidamo before. I still have some and could revisit it. The hairbender needed to degas but I feel like we are in a different place than these types of blends right now. There was nothing wrong with it but it was not working the lineup we had that night. We also tried a bit of Ecco Cachoeira and it was Peanutty yummy. It gives you a better understanding of the Almondy Citrus of the Daterra paired with the smooth buttery peanut of the Cachoeira making the Ecco Reserve so flexible but complex. I must say having Silas' input as an experienced cupper was informative.

We also had a bag of Dancing Goats from batdorf and bronson but we passed on it as we wanted to play around with shots of Yirgacheffe. The Yirg was again excellent (Dried fruit and tea ) and I am actually looking forward to the other drip offerings that work on this coffee shot thing. We pulled a round of Terroir's Nicaragua SOS that rated 92 on coffee review. It was nice and easy to pull. We originally pulled it at 192F due to Terroir recommendations but I have since bumped it to 198F so I can offer multiple espresso. The higher temp seems to be fine. In fact this is a much easier espresso to pull than previous Terroir SOS. Most of the group had already tried it and it was a warmup tasting. BTW, due to two machines down, we were pulling shots at the shop with the new mazzers on the 4g LM.

I will post notes later in one big update from the last several weeks.

I've been thinking about Daterra. What I really want from a Daterra as espresso is that one experience I had when I was in Charlotte at the Daterra booth. They gave me a french press of a yellow bourbon and it was a smooth tawny almond liquor with mellow citrus. I've gotten that from Ecco before from the espresso and it really is enjoyable. When you have an excellent espresso, tasty from front of the mouth to the back, and then there is this kinda gulp when it goes down and your mouth waters and the immediate aftertaste is nice. Lingering aftertastes are usually unpleasant but short ones are often tasty. For me pleasant cirtus, the often misunderstood component of coffee is like eating a bowl of tomato soup, a tangerine, or an equally pleasant traditional food citrus. It is not that bile sourness you get from poor beans/poor extractions/or poorly processed coffees. If you taste pine flavors or cedar notes, that's a different thing from what I am usually describing but can also be present in coffee.
Something to think about.