company - education - coffee

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Burnt out but still going ...

Had a rough last week that kept me quiet.

I am going to get some Bolivia CoE from Andew later and evaluate it. I am very enthused to break away from my usual coffee origins and try something else. I have not had a good Bolivian in some time.
I will update some things later and am pondering doing an multimedia update of my simple dosing concept with a video. FYI: No, I will not be using two tampers and cardboard paper.


Monday, July 24, 2006

and the peak expression is...

My simple thought is: What other brewing method is there right now that holds potential on the cafe floor, every decent shop has, and yet is not fully understood or effectively used in most cafes? Try espresso. Drip is a north american obsession and how much more can you really do with it. Even Clover is essentialy not drip because of the pressure from the vacuum like suction. French press, pour overs, what could these possibly offer that we have not already explored?

To say espresso has even come close to reaching it's peak expression is arrogance or simply ignorance. Saying that ideal espresso can only be 2oz or we can only use blends is really archaic thinking. The simple fact is that we have no consensus in the industry on even the basic fundamentals of espresso making or it's potential.

Not that espresso will be coffee's greatest expression but it's the one brewing method that really leaves so much unkown potential out there.

Rant over...


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Cerrado, Cachoiera, Cruz Branca ...

Andrew over at Ecco Caffe sent me a bag of Cerrado, Carlos Diamante. Fazenda Cruz Branca (aacck, only three bags!!!) I know that these Cerrados have shown a great potential for a great many of us for SOS in the inherent sweetness of the coffees due to the controlled processing methods. I will pick Andrew's brain and report back with some info. Screen drying and some more inventive techniques are being used on these farms to produce some exceptional lots of coffee. I noticed UK blogger Hoffman is also enjoying these coffees and I feel the buzz as other roasters are beginning to take notice. It wasn't that long ago that Andrew was the only person I knew with this coffee and now you see more and more mention of it cropping up.


" on Gabriel Carvalho Dias's Fazenda Cachoiera.Gabriel processes
his coffees , employing both pulped natural and natural methods . He is a 4th
generation farmer and has had the brilliant vision to stay with his family's
bourbon stock when most Brazilian farmers were abandoning this gorgeous heirloom
for new hybrid varieties . The Fazenda Cachoiera has an ideal climate and
terroir . Coffees are grown at 1400 meters ( very high altitude for Brazilian
coffee . Gabriel is an artisan at processing and his meticulous growing
practices continue to produce numerous Illy and CoE winning lots .

Had been purchasing Gabriel's coffee from Stephen Hurst's Mercanta ( London
-also the source of James Hoffman's Canario , which is another Fazenda Cachoiera
offering - only 8 bags !) , We are both big fans . Stephen offers Gabriel's
pulped natural selections. Last year's Brazil CoE was very close to the
Fazenda Cachoiera. Spent some time with Gabriel at the farm and learned about
his screen drying ( African raised bed ) for his naturals ( pulped naturals too
). He told me that the screen dried coffees were being allocated for Japan ,
feeling that the intense cost of labor involved would prove too pricey for the
North American market. Anyways , he sent samples of 4 of his different bourbons
, screen dried pulped natural , pulped natural , natural and screen dried
natural . Our clear favorite in both cupping and SOS tastings was the screen
dried naturals ( we are working with Gabriel and Jason on this ). Word is that
the new crop is cupping out beautifully and will be much better this year. Hope
that is the case. If so , Ecco will step up with a big order."
- Andrew Barnett

The Diamante which was awarded 1st in the 2005 Brazil Cerrado Quality Competition, is patio dried where the Diaz was natural screen dried. The drier weather puts the Diamante more in line with Daterra farm in terms of climate. Where the Cachoeira has lots of fruit, the Diamante is heavy on layered cocoa flavors. And I was able to confirm, yes, Cachoeira farm does have monkeys!


Espresso is not just another brewing method...

Most espresso, the crema tastes good, the remaining liquid is quite offensive. You get creamy mouthfeel but at the bottom of the cup, it's like bile. I guess the triple ristretto all crema pull makes sense for that. Get only the good stuff and avoid the bad. The reverse being where the crema is blah but the liquid underneath is excellent. People who fancy the coffee like wine analgoy lean this way. To me, the best espresso I have had are smooth and consistent from top to bottom. The crema is tasty and the resulting liquid underneath is excellent also. Not only that, but it also is enjoyable as it begins to cool. How many espresso really qualify as this?

Part of why I am such a fan of Andrew Barnett over at Ecco Caffe (besides his zen master knowledge and humble nature) is his roasting style lends to soft flavors in espresso, top to bottom. The coffees typically have flavor consistency from crema to last drip. Even as the coffees begin to cool, it's tasty. It's been part of my learning curve of graduating from kick in the face intense flavors for my beginners palate to the more subtle flavor profiles. I now have a strong desire for sweetness and complexity over sharp peaks and intensity.

I guess I yearn for espresso to be something so tasty that the average coffee drinker could have an espresso and go 'wow, that's tasty', not 'whoa that's intense'.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Fatigued in Porter Sq

Rwanda, Shanga. Yeah, that's what I want to talk about today. This Rwanda, I really enjoy whereas others I did not. As a drip it was light nut and dark berry but nothing that jumps out and no poetry here. Subtle but with defined body.

So Rwanda Shanga as a shot.... The thermocouple was registering at 172-4F. I freaked out a bit at first, but then it made sense, this is probably a really light roast and why not? I don't think anything shocks me anymore. Plush round, sweet, full bodied concord grapes with a hint of nut. Very signature clean grape, zero roast flavors. Problem is, it was a fine line between clean grape(yummy) and beefy savory grape(blah). The fact is you cannot take any coffee, any roast style, any machine to get the same results. Temperature specific, roast specific, coffee specific. It only works with super clean defect free coffees roasted to highlight the cleanliness and not to add roast (choco, etc) flavors.

So this got me thinking. Clarity. Clean. That is the essence of the coffee from Terroir(and quite probably why I can pull these shots). Some say over processed, some say too light, yadda yadda. That's the kicker though, if you cup super clean defect free coffee all the time, defects will jump out at you. Uncontrolled ferments, over roasting, unripe cherries, muddy cups all scream out at you like a muddled cup of unrefined flavors. When people talk about Harrars or Yemeni coffees and esprecially 'blueberries', I cringe. It's like eating a mouth full of slightly mouldy fruit and proclaiming the complex flavors therein. Well, I exagerate a bit, but you get the point. The truth is, if you didn't really know where the blueberry was coming from and couldn't associate it with rampant ferement, you would think blueberry. (Try draining your drip tray into a water jug for a week then smell it...) I mean, what if a lot of the body/flavors in your favorite coffee is coming from defects that have been roasted over to give a heavy bodied earthy/spicy flavor? How would you ever know the difference? What does this mean?

I guess what I'm saying is, at some point we need to really reevaluate what coffee is and what espresso is as cleaner and more defect free coffees enter the market(think CoE). Our traditional roasts and extraction methods may prove poor methods to create a diffinitive difference in the final cup for the consumer($5/cup for that?).


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The dose...

Dose. It come down to how the grinds exit your grinder and enter your portafilter. You move your portafilter around to make sure all empty space is filled and the coffee lands evenly in the portafilter. In essence, you slightly overfill to make sure all crevices below the lip of the basket are filled. You can Schomer it NSEW with a finger, Stockfleth it in a circle with you palm, or you can Schyndel(I can make my own up right?) it. I prefer to pinch the coffee using a scissor(index and middle finger) move on the surface of the basket and then swirl or go NSEW compensating for the deficiency of grounds in the basket. The idea is to let the lightly pinched coffee fall gently into the areas of lower density but in no way should you be pushing the coffee down. Seriously though, you could lid scrape NSEW or whatever variance works for you. The important thing is to use the right basket for your dose.

Yes, I said it, use the right basket for the gram dose weight you wish to attain. Dose volumetrically. Whatever gram dose you want, you need the right basket for that dose. That means when you run a lab or multiple coffees, you need an assortment of baskets that you can move through to find the right dose. 14g 16g 18g 22g, these are all different baskets. Try it and really think about it. If you use the right basket, all you have to do is level it with no fancy moves every time and you get the right dose. If you underdose/overdose a basket, you lose consistency. Consistency which is one of the most important things behind the bar(reduce all variables for repeatability). Break out your gram scale and see how consistent your shots are trying to over/under your dose every time.

When it really comes down to it, baskets are designed for volumetric dosing and you really can't break out the scale for every shot in a cafe setting. Have that scale handy so you can 'compare apples to apples' but when it comes down to it, you got to use the right basket. Your pucks will be beautiful and have room for proper expansion without crushing the screen or being a soupy mess.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Distribution Method

A good read:

Coffeed Discussion

A while back, I was puzzled why Jaime can "distribute" by simply leveling the portafilter w/ a scrape of the doser lid and get a beautiful pour. This was also the time I had a lot of problem of uneven pour out of the basket. It was then I found out that my grinder (in conjunction of the way I dose) causes the coffee to deposit more on one side of the basket. This results in differences in the density of the grinds (in the basket), and that the post leveling/distribution move (schomer/stochfletch/chicago chop) did not help to distribute the coffee (especially the lower-half) much at all. It was not until I start to pay real attention to de-clump and center the ground falling into the basket till I have some decent pours.

I think Alistair said the best:

"Distribution is a fix for coffee that has been dosed unevenly in the basket. Concentrate on the landing."

So forget all the focus on the different "distribution" moves and pay attention to the dosing that actually distribute the coffee. Fix the root cause, not the sympton.


Monday, July 10, 2006

Gimme doing some SOS

Having worked with Gimme! Coffee's new Single Origin Espresso for a few days, I have a few things to say. First off, it was a very generous freebie that I was not expecting and much thanks to Janet for thinking of us.

Extraction parameters- 16-18g 1-1.25oz Double 24-26sec @ 199F-201F

I found the heavier dose and higher temps to be a natural fit for this espresso. Subtle would be the way to describe it as nothing jumps out at you. It was lightly chocolate at this extraction. Very tight ristretto. The aftertaste produces something of a orange-esque flavor reminiscent of candied fruit. many noted the sweetness of the espresso and it's flavor similarity in relation to other offerings from Gimme!. It really follows the lineage of gimme's somewhat dark roast styles and is what I would usually associate with a french roast from GHH. I would love to see this coffee in a lighter roast where I could really taste more origin flavorsat a large volume such as a 1.75 oz double. This would sacrifice body but let me feel more of the uniqueness of the coffee. Something I don't think they could do given that the standard practice is the tight triple at Gimme. Being a Cup of Excellence Colombia coffee means it will probably be subtle, complex, and sweet. There was little citrus in the cup as this had been roasted out if present.

On a side note, this espresso fared well as a triple ristretto in a cappuccino and cut through the milk without losing much. I honestly feel this is part of the growth phase for Gimme and that this is definately a step in the right direction for them. Getting into SOS and CoE is definately a good thing. Fans of the triple ristretto and bottomless portafilters will be in heaven with this coffee.


Saturday, July 08, 2006

Remains of the day...

Lunch with Ben and talking some usual coffee prognostications. Most of the week I have been rocking some shots of Karindundu from Terroir(don't try this at home). It took a good bag to get it down to where I like it but I realized this coffee needs some rest before it really pops. Most of the time coffees from Terroir come fresh and ready to go but die quickly. I don't know about home users but in a commercial setting the coffees die quickly once they are opened.

Damn this was nice once I nailed it. I wish the temperatures were more rock steady because I pulled an americano that was sweet. Really really sweet. The descriptors of blackberry and bittersweet caramel were present and hjumping out at me. it was really good. Straight up tasty. I took it home with me it was so good. Before i left, I let Simon taste a bit and he was quite surprised. He was expecting citrus and he got dark berries and a layer of chocolate. goood, really good and yet not Tegu. then again, only Tegu is Tegu. What strikes me here is that is first bag that I really got it and nailed it where I enjoyed it a lot. Many of the previous tastes as drip or traditional cuppings left me wanting more. I was saying things like 'the roast kills it' or the coffee just isn't popping'. Today there was clarity and I was satisfied. Maybe it's time to have a jam with some of these 'coffee shots'.
Remains of the Kenya Americano


Friday, July 07, 2006

Gimme Coffee ... Ecco... Terroir... and then...

There is something heartening when I receive a package from a roaster. It's like a little gift sent down that I must open. This morning some more packages from Andrew arrived. Nice little gifts of retail bags and some poundage of his Northern Italian roast. We have been clearing the retail bags of Ecco very quickly. In fact, last weeks shipment cleared the same day.

Still, It's that moment when you open a new box of coffees you didn't quite expect to arrive and you are curious to see what's inside. Something unexpected but pleasantly appreciated. I am begining to think It's that constant flow of new coffees every week from different roasters that breaks the monotony of day to day work. I mean you can only polish your double and triple rosettas so many times before you get bored. (To you know who.... my latte art did not peak... my best days are not behind me... hehe) Knowing that each week can bring new espresso to try and curious new experiences. That is motivation. Only a few days ago we were so low on coffees(because of an unexpectedly busy holiday weekend), we had to have someone from Terroir drive coffees over to us.

I was down to S Daterra and Decaf. Now I've got some more Ecco. I also pulled some
shots of the Karindundu (consider it unorthodox).

As I was in my usual morning routine another package arrived from Gimme coffee via UPS. I was not prepared for the CoE Colombia that arrived inside. I remember Simon saying something about 'some SOS from Gimme' but with little or no details before he jaunted off to California. Typical Simon type stuff. So.... I moved Decaf over out of the way and ponied up some of the Colombia to evaluate it. yeah, we got way too much coffee. I may just have to sit on the coffees I pick up from Esselon Roasters when I visit Scott Rao's new project in Western Mass. I probably will offer it up and see how people like it anyway. Nothing worse than people coming in and saying what's the next guest.... better for me to have plenty to challenge them ahead of time.

Feeling good about coffee and espresso right now.


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Etching sucks...

Occasionaly I get bored and etch. Etching is one of those thngs a lot of shops do but I really push away from it for a few reasons. I don't like sticking things like toothpick or thermo in a drink. I realize anyone can etch but not everyone can pour an exceptional rosetta.

In some ways, I like to avoid it because I don't want to detract from the coffee. Yeah, syrups, powders, and all that detract. I probably should do an etch using only white space and crema every now and then to keep people on their toes with drinks.

There is this one lady who comes in every day for a skim latte. Same thing every day. She is one of the few who came before I started working at Simon's and is still here. One day she elaborated to me how she would drink the drink right handed just so she could face the rosetta as she drank it. She is left handed. After that I started pouring the rosetta for lefty and she flipped. She was very satisfied. It was the other day when I was interrupted mid pour by a customer question that I was left with a Monk. Yes a boring white circle in the drink. So I grabbed the thermometer and quickly etched out a butterflyfor her. Very simple if you think about it. I realized what was important was that I knew she cared. Not that I dislike etching or what machismo counter etchics we have but that she knew I would do my best to make and serve her the best drink I could. palm tree

Etching still sucks though ;-p


Saturday, July 01, 2006

Internet Punditry and the third wave concept....

Ben and I visited a new shop that opened the other day. Clean marbled floors, posh seating and the likes. I've had the espresso before. I've pulled it and I've had a barista from the roaster pull me shots of it. This was not on the level.

We walked in and ordered two doubles to a person behind the counter who looked visibly nervous by the order of an espresso. He pulled a double and then tossed it. Next shot, without adjusting the grind, he pulled another double and split it into two cups. He commenced to pull another double and split it again. In essence he pulled two singles, one over the top of the other. Both 18sec shots. It was a surreal moment. Ben later surmised it was because the shot was gushing out a bit with a wiggle that the guy must've decided to split twice it since it wouldn't pour straight down into the cup. It really didn't make sense.

Ken Nye is right. Pull every shot for straight espresso. The truth is if you don't serve enough straight espresso, you will struggle when someone does order espresso. I pull a lot of straight shots and I realized it really makes you pay attention. If I went with long pasues between espresso orders, I would lose perspective of volume and shot indicators after a while. Paying attention to milk steaming, I would not have the 2.5oz demitasse to guide my volume with precision. It was the increased service of espresso that refined my focus on the espresso.

Just another bad shop you say or just me bashing another shop you say. I went to this shop because they were featured in a local newspaper claiming to be 'third wave' and spouting all this rhetoric about being better than Starbucks and about the coffee. 30 plus syrups and white mochas/caramel machiattos left me skeptical but we went. Note: When I meet a good barista, I drop a five. I respect a good passionate Barista even if they serve rubbish coffee or work in a crappy looking shop. It's not their fault. Shop owners who underpay and try to do things on the cheap skipping quality in the cup piss me off. Baristas do not.

I've never used or adopted the third wave pitch. I don't disagree with it. it's just I have this focus of looking at coffee as a culinary movement. The culture, community, ethics, are all means to an end. Coffee as a culinary movement where disitinct flavors and boutique single origins redefine the perceptions of coffee. Sounds a bit GHH but I promise you George does not agree with my vision. I believe espresso or some other alternative brewing method are the route to this movement. I strongly differ with Peter and George in that I feel drip coffee is not the future of boutique coffees. Then so many would critique me unless they could sit in a room and share this epiphany with me. Brewing George's drip roasted coffees with clean and expemlary clarity through espresso has fired me up about the potential of coffee. I'm on to something and I know it whether others can replicate it or not.

So what does this all have to do with the third wave of coffee and that shop? Ben and I realized that there resides a handful of persons who really contribute and put themselves out there doing research and experiments for the community as a whole. Solving the problems we know and researching the problems we never even thought of. There is a large structure of people who contribute something by guiding newbies, cheerleading on blogs, and adding their own personal experiences. There is a fascinating online culture of people moving this industry very quickly towards something yet unknown.

Sounds great and fabulous. Except... there are a select few who are already profiting off the 'third wave' and 'riding the wave' without adding much. Think about who these chuckle heads are and beware.

I guess that's the rub. I don't subsciribe to the wave arguement. I acknowledge it's existence as a concept and accept others that others subscribe. I see a continuing evoloution of coffee as a culinary experience. A culinary event, no less than wine and with unbounded potential.