company - education - coffee

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Dose variance...

Dosing numbers
I was thinking of dose variance numbers and what it means when you say acceptable variance. I have always thought of +-0.5 grams as being the ideal. It isn't until you get the scale out and really measure your variance that you can really grasp consistency in your dose. It's an issue right now because of a conversation I was having with a new friend from the west coast who discussed how some of his coworkers rather than tweak the grind would make small adjustments to the dose. I was shocked.. well not really...

First of all, lower doses mean you have more variance as a percentage of the whole. This does not mean a lower dose is worse but that it is harder to pull consistently. It is, look at the numbers! Even so, any consistent variation over 0.5 grams should be unacceptable.

I'm not advocating changing coffees to fit doses. I believe there are defined sweet spots for coffees at certain doses and sometimes we are just stuck with tricky doses. Barismo!

The lower your dose, the wider the variation in your shots. Sure we are talking a tiny amout but if anyone wants to do the numbers and see what those variances translate in volume changes and you realize how difficult you are making your life as a barista. But wait, I'm not advocating higher doses... well maybe just a little when you can get away with it. The higher doses meant that you could have a slightly greater variance and get away with it. Q:What is the difference between a 1 gram variation on a 22gram dose and a .5 gram variation on a 14 gram dose? A: 1 percent.

Imagine a 1 gram variation on 14 gram dose and the change that would have on the cup. That's a %7.14 plus or minus change in the cup. For a shot that is under 2 oz, that's a lot of change.

The thing I am really thinking about is how you can't measure your doses except when learning and so you have to have that feel for consistent dosing. It's fun when training when you can call your shots gram weight and then nail it for trainee but the truth is that you can show a person and show a person and they may not get it until they pull a thousand shots. You have to develop a feel for the coffee. Then there is the problem that arises from having the feel down for one coffee then being presented with another coffee of different density... Everything is turned on it's head.

Barista don't have scales to weigh every shot nor the time to do extended tamping routines with a line waiting. They have to have a routine based on feel.

I guess all that is in it's very essence why I believe in a dosing methodology where you keep your leveling methods the same but change to different volume baskets. It is all in the feel but if you want to leave the scale on the sidelines you gotta use different baskets so you don't have to alter your ritual.

Take the time to feel the grinds and weigh your dose a few times next time you pull shots.

-Jaime "I hate ridged baskets!!!" v.
Update Dosing video

Friday, September 29, 2006

There is no standard!

Ppl just DON'T GET IT!!

Ristretto is NOT automatically better than a Normale. In fact, I HATE those two words. The dosage and resulting liquid is much much more meaningful than putting label on drinks. Who cares what you call it... just have good espresso. Each bean/blend has an optimum range of flavor that the roaster wanted to express. It's up to the Barista to choose what he/she wanted to present, from that range of flavor, to the customer. This is what makes this brewing method interesting.

Using a singular apporach is just plain wrong!

So many ppl are polluted by what are presented in the media/online forums to think that ristretto = good. Well, why is that? Because most of the bean/blends are CRAP! They are usually over-roasted to cover up the off-flavor and defects from the junk beans in it. In this case, pulling a "ristretto" helps to make it pallatable because when you up the dose and pull it short, you kill the overwhelming roast flavor (think burnt stench). And because it's a duller coffee (due to the darker roast), flavor gets amplified enough to be notice w/out being over-bearing. The result is a mellow (or dull, depends on your definition) shot that is somewhat muddy (from the roast) but viscous and enjoyable.

But if you take the same approach to a light roast premium bean (such as the SOE Yirg from Terroir), you are going to have some "Terroiry" shots (yes, there is such term being thrown around). The shot will be VERY astringent and flavors will be painfully over-whelming. The beautiful aromatics will be killed and the sweetness will not be able to show thru. Those shots usually resemble stomach bile and have cause me to vomit in the past. But when it's done right, the shot smell and taste like the fresh ground coffee. Aromatic, sweet, fruity, clean-ripe acidity, and enough roast to balance things out.

I am not saying if one style of pull is better than another. I enjoyed both, DEPENDS ON THE COFFEE. But if ppl keep having the idea that ristretto is the only way to go, the roasters will continue to cater to that style (over roasted dull beans). And we might never see the true beauty of the uber premium beans that are becoming more available in the markets. I have tasted a DARK ROAST COE bean marketed as SOE. Let me tell you, it's so dull and burnt that make me weep. And that is why SOE gets all the misunderstanding it recieves simply because the ppl (roaster and consumers) just don't get it.

Do not be satisfy with one way of doing things. The preparation should be a tool to express what is in the bean and not the other way around. And please do not ask for a ristretto shot... just ask for a GOOD shot and trust your barista.


Thursday, September 28, 2006


Does the quality we talk about in the industry for espresso lie in the execution or the inputs? Perfect execution with poor inputs or perfect inputs with poor execution are the two situations I am thinking over right now. In both cases it seems like a why bother, but yet both are very common(if not the majority beyond the double clutch shops) circumstances for shop owners to be in. Opinions welcome.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The honeymoon is over I guess...

It only seemed a matter of time before the back patting was over for Cho. I really don't have much of anything to say besides why did he compete anyway? Congrats to winning but I woulda rooted for Berlin all the way! j/k Competitions aren't fair unless you have the backing of a large company behind you. That's like all competitions and excuses don't change that. The strange thing about the competitions this last year has been the large amounts of rumbling/complaining online/offline. It would be great to muck rake, but really it's just trying to deny the truth of the competitions. They aren't fair and here in the US, they are a tool for businesses as much as a stage for barista. I make no bones about any of it nor do I really care enough to call out unfair.

Anyway, I will go to competition and take a shot at Regionals. My friends will go and try to place. We make no complaints about what the competitions are and who is favored. We will represent as best we can and that's all we can do. Winning and all the politics aren't as important so much as representing myself, standing up for what I believe, the roasters I use, and most importantly representing my friends... well. I want to get on stage and say what I have to say and then feel proud and that's all that matters.

Maybe it's time for discussion about a Barista Cup(think NordicBC) in the US that is not tied to the SCAA? No more politics, no more egos, and just about having fun and advocating for barista? It's a thought.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Cupping 2 Ethiopian coffees

It is interesting how from the same region within a region you can get two completely different coffees. Everybody is getting their yirgs right now and I decided to reveiw the 2 closest to me, Peet's Ethiopian Super Natural and Terrior's Addis Ketema Cooprative. I'll spare the over-romantic description of the Super Natural, but mention they did have this coffee last year. It was in their African blend. The Terrior website has alot more useful info and not as much fluff, so take a look yourself for their description. Ok, I'll get right into this, and keep in mind I am really trying hard to be objective.

Peet's Ethiopian Super Natural:

Appearance- Dark brown, almost Black. Quite nice looking beans, not a typical heavy ferment look.

Aroma dry- (If I must call it aroma and not odor) Artificial blueberry smell, think candy or something to that effect. Incredibly awful burnt roast smell, mixed with some traces of other ferment funk.

Taste- Not as bad as the aroma might indicate. The roast covers most taste in the coffee good and bad. It has that awful ferment artifcial blueberry taste and a heavy roasty taste like all of Peet's offerings. Pleasant acidity though.

Terrior's Addis Ketema Cooperative:

Appearance- Small hard beans, lots of silverskin, roast a bit uneven looking.

Aroma dry- Like ginger and whole wheat toast. Traces of Acidity even in the dry unground beans.

Taste- Ginger, apricot, nice strong acidity, tea aroma, although not as interesting as last years.

Summary: I will be honest, I wasn't as blown away with Terrior's yirg as I was the last 2 years. I love the ginger but the tea aroma is not as perfumey. Keep in mind this is the drip we are talking about, not the espresso. The espresso, when done right is, unbelivable. The Super Natural is nothing super. It seems to be a bit higher quality than some of the other blueberry ferment coffees I have had and the roast, while giving it a burnt taste, hides alot of the off flavors. As a customer at Peets said to me, "It tastes like burnt blueberry pie". I wouldn't give it that much credit.

Tell me your opinion,


Saturday, September 23, 2006

“…Coffee: The Chemistry behind its Magic” by Marino Petracco

Hoffman found this lovely article which I think touches on some interesting things. An article close to my own heart! Read it, it's a moral imperative!


Thursday, September 21, 2006

SACC and next months agenda...

So, the two of you who have followed this blog from the begining know about the Saturday Afternoon Coffee Club(silly name, fun event). It was a group of us who just started meeting up every weekend and cupping coffee. It was a pain in the butt to get together but we did it pretty religiously for a little while. Nowadays we meet up whenever three of us can get together. Easier said than done. This weekend, we are going to get back into it. At least seven people this time, a little wine, some coffee, food, and an infinite amount of coffee philosophizing to happen. I'm excited because I really need to get some time away to do some fun things in the next few weeks.

Speaking of fun, when CO gets back from the Nordic cup, a few of us will try to make a visit to NY for some coffee and serious cupping fun. Mouthwatering cuppers unite! Haha

I am taking the time off right now to tie up some loose ends and show some love to friends. I will be shipping packages to all corners of the US and even one overseas. I can't explain how irritating it is for me to attempt to ship things out until I talked to Jennifer(proud to say she was a Simon's regular) at Terroir the other day. One really nice kid covering a bit for her dad over at Acton. Anyway, It's expensive because it's on my dime and a pain to get organized, but why not do it? I am looking forward to getting feedback to really try and relate through the cup. Tasting great things is fine but sharing that cup with others means so much more to me. I think I speak for Silas & Ben when I say it's no fun alone. You just become bitter and angry when you can't relate.

Speaking of Silas, he and I will be in San Francisco mid October to let off steam, tour the city, and of course visit Andrew and Steve at Ecco. After that, I am hoping some generous and kind business owners will be nice enough to let me 'guest barista' a shift so I can really get out and about more, have an excuse to travel, and have some fun in a new environment.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Profile: Silas Moulton aka 'the Tea Cupper'

Silas formerly was a purchasor for whole foods and also does cuppings with Mark @ MEM teas. Silas currently toils away at Peet's until something better comes along. Silas met up with us shortly after the Globe article hit and has been the most enthusiatic group member. He intially sought me out because he couldn't believe there was a good barista in Boston(his own words there). Silas will begin participating on the blog a bit to touch up his writing skills for his tea blog... I'm thinking... Terroirist tea blog! -Jaime

So a month or so after I met Jaime, I got an invite to taste some coffees with him and "some friends". To be honest, I thought his coffee tasting friends might be old men with mustaches and crazy stories about cupping kenyas in the glory days, when coffee wasn't so complicated. Well, It just so happens, we are all fairly young and none of us really care for facial hair. So after getting off work, smelling like Peet's dark roast, I went to meet up with Jaime, Judson and Ben. Ben was having issues with his tricked out home machine after messing with it too much, so we headed over to Asim's to pull some coffee shots. On the way Ben explained the difference between a chow hound and a foodie and of course Jamie was practically coming to tears of joy over the thought of having tegu coffee shots. They had been hoping earlier to pull some coffee shots on Ben's machine but they couldn't get it working. By now they were anxious for the coffee they had been waiting for all day and I was still curious what the hell these coffee shots were gonna be like. So when we get to Asim's place, we come to find out his machine isn't working either. This kick-ass, awesome $8000 espresso machine just couldn't get enough pressure. So Ben and Asim start taking the thing apart and trying to figure out what was wrong. They found out the thing wasn't building enough pressure cuz there was scale build up. Ben asked Asim where his cafiza was and Asim said he didn't know what it was. So now Ben was scolding Asim and just pissed that Asim doesn't know what cafiza is. They never ended up getting it working, and Asim had other plans. So the whole walk back to the T, Ben was ranting about how Asim didn't clean his 8000 dollar machine. I thought he was crazy cuz he had been practically yelling at Asim about it. We finally just went back to Simons and pulled some shots there. Then I tasted the Terroir yirg (2005) coffee shot..... and I was hooked!!

Well it turns out Ben is a pretty cool guy and Asim should just clean his machine. Now my mouth waters at the mention of coffee shot. We taste coffee pretty often now and I am known as "The Youth Project" or "Silas the Tea Cupper". I think I would prefer Flavor Cupper though...

Silas (flavor cupper)

Espresso and absolutes?

I just finished covering a bit at the shop so Simon could get a emergency dentist appointment. Painful so I sympathize. I caught up a bit and heard some different things going down. A lot of people have been coming in and asking for 'ristretto' lately. Not just straight shots but in everything. A bit annoying. Simon's pulls the Ecco as ristretto and anything else they guest that tastes better as a ristretto.

I think it goes to the NY times article where Ken Nye got some plentiful coverage on ranting about the ristretto in espresso. It reminded me of something GHH said about espresso is only 2oz and that is the only espresso.

I just don't really know if I am alone on this, but I feel like there are not many cut and dry absolutes for espresso. There are variables but there are only a few things in espresso that you could say are true for all beans. Fresh roasted, tamped, clean machine, fresh blades, etc fall into the obvious but what about extractions and beans to use for espresso? I have on occassion pointlessly weighed in and started fights with people on forums who post absolutes(Jim and Jon, right Jason...) for one size fits all home user advice. When somebody says triple updosed is the only way to go or that only certain beans can make good shots, I get a little ruffled. No disrespect to anyone who has an opinion of what they like, but I feel like it is so limiting in an area we understand so little about to declare anything as absolute. We as a passionate coffee culture don't know espresso very well. That much I know is absolute. I am only beginning to understand the magnitude of the research I personally need to do in espresso to better understand it.

The thing is, how many people are just experimenting and playing with temp, volume, and dose to find the sweet spots in each coffee(not commercial blends but individual coffees pre blend or SOE)?

Maybe I am off on my own on this, but I really feel like few of us in the industry are talking about the same things when we talk about espresso. Some of us are hung up on being techies, some like the culture/community, some just like the flavors. It's all a bit muddled.


PS to you know who: Master Barista??? It sounds a bit arrogant and I know you aren't...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

All about the cup or going beyond the coffee...

After brewing the Yirgacheffe from Terroir and reading Ben's post, I felt some conflicting emotions. I realize how specific these experiences like the Yirg are. We were essentialy pulling it at a hairline temp of 194.5F. We tore through the entire bag for two really good shots. They were really really good and worth all the effort but damn... Sometimes Ben and I just think, how the hell are people able to get this? Over temp and it was astringent and sour, thin and unpleasant. Under temp and it was dull like a tiny french press. You have a +-1F variance to work with and a very specific extraction volume to get these espresso down. The beauty of the Yirg is that it is not lemony and not like the Daterra. The Yirg works really well with a 16 gram dose and lacks that acidity. All this brings me back to something else.

How can a home user nail this? I am firing off a bag of this to a friend who has a common home machine to see if he can nail it. I know he's a good barista but can he nail that shot with only 12oz of coffee? It won't answer the question but it will give perspective fom a clean palate.

Thing is, what if George is right about what he's doing? What if the machines and techies need to catch up to the coffee? George seems to be betting that the machinery will catch up to coffee as the coffee quality leads the demand for better machinery. I don't know if I agree. Things are moving at a snails pace with much resistance. I see that the future is the temp controlled machines down to microvariances under the full control of the barista... BUT... is this happening right now? How close is this for most cafes? Will the cafe's upgrade machines to serve these coffees if no one else is? Name one cafe that is serving this Yirgacheffe and Simon's doesn't count(Simon will try to serve it next week) because i's an anomaly? Pretend Simon's doesn't exist and I would like to know how anyone comes across a good shot of this Yirg except some home user with mad skills or an expensive machine? Not even a perfect but just a reasonably good shot, where? How do you create a better way to serve the Yirg at hairline temps in the 192-194F range if no shops are serving it and you never get a chance to taste it on a pro machine served by a good barista? If no shop is serving it, no one will feel the pressure to upgrade and serve it and then it's up to some super dedicated cafe to 'get it.' These days it seems forums and online websites are leading the way to drive new technology but where is the cafe in all of this?

I really disagree with Ben on one point out of all the good points he made. What if George can't get all that niceness at 198F that he gets at 194F? What if the higher temp kills the aromatics in the Yirg and then it becomes another chocolatey espresso? What if the extra roasting kills many of the delicate flavors but it's alternately easier to pull? It would be a compromise. I don't have answers here, just a lot of questions and an uneasiness with them all.

Ben and I both really think Peter L. deserves the majority of credit for the beauty of the Yirgacheffe as espresso. Don't get me wrong, I have no idea about the inputs but it looks that way from what we know. We secretly think Peter adores the clean perfume Yirgs more than anyone else at Terroir. Peter should also get a lot of credit for the fact that Terroir even does a single origin espresso program. It should be noted that none of what we are saying is in any way leveling a criticism of Peter but more or less attempting addressing all the cumulative questions we have about the direction of these fabulous coffees in a controlled forum rather than CG or coffeed. The irony is that though as Ben pointed out, he liked the previous batch of Yirg from terroir a lot... you know we are very spoiled by these coffees. Terroir's Yirgs truly beat down any other Yirgs I have tasted ever. So comparing one Terroir Yirg to another Terroir Yirg is just being spoiled rotten and not realizing how much muck is out there.

This shot of the Addis Ketema was syrupy sweet and so silky smooth. Creamy & flawlessly smooth in fact. Honey, ginger, cocoa, all the things you find in the cupping notes sparkled and were woven seamlessly into the shot. It was smooth and the aroma was so beautiful. We used a whole bag but it was worth it. On the Synesso, I bet we could bang out shot after shot but how many people have that at home?


jaime van Schyndel


I went into Simon's Friday with Silas only to find Simon had ordered a few bags of the Yirgacheffe and borrowed a grinder from 'uncle phil' no less since the other two are still being serviced. I did not expect Phil to loan Simon the grinder so it was shocking. I walk in and Simon is like 'You wanna dial this in?' and... Peter also hinted on coffeed that they may keep the Yirg as a permanent espresso offering... or at least they are considering it!
Sweet Yirg...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

NY redux...

I am feeling trashed this morning. Swung by Grumpies yesterday and had a shot. Met CO on the way to the airport and chewed his ear for an hour. I do expect detailed notes on the coffees but maybe some avid blogging by him and Mike are in order.
Tired. Little Ben who just visited Grumpies Sun, just txted me that someone tried to order a low fat espresso. ... I need to go for some Ecco Reserve at Simon's and then I will feel better.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Playing around a bit with some Yirgacheffe Addis Ketema...

Notice the difference in grind colors...
Since we are kindly waiting on a bag of Yirg SOS from Terroir that may never materialize... we decided to go play with what was left of an old bag of the drip coffee roast we had lying around. It was roasted the 28th but has been open for sveral days so it barely had a little life left in it. Of course this blog would be delighted to have a hand picked bag brought down from the roastery, that's not likely to happen....

We decided to see if we could get some respectable pulls like we used to back when the Saturday afternoon coffee club was more of an event. We took some of Terroir's Yirgacheffe and pulled it through Ben's frankensteined home machine withPID and all fired up and ready to go. Here follows some of our results... reader be warned... notes are transcribed as is without editing. Sink shots were left out.

notes: Grounds smell wonderful. The note of ginger pops immediately with a hint of some cocoas.

Shot A: 16grams 175F 1oz

A boring 'nestle' cocoa. Aroma was like honey. Dull but drinkable hot. Bitter andyuck as it began to cool. Too hot and too short maybe?

Shot B: 16grams 174F 1oz

Apricots honey aroma. Nice like that venezuela cocoa bar while hot. Too sour as it begins to cool. Grind? Too short, not too hot? Sickly sweet and acetic.

Shot C: 16grams 173F 2oz

dull and tasteless. Temp too low but volume is right.

several shots occured between this and the next that were not worth noting.

Shot D: 16grams 175F 1.25oz

ginger becomes more prevalent. A little intense but very sweet and tasty as it cooled. Perfect for americano style. No cocoa? -Mouthwatering effect- Bit on the citrus side, volume too low but temp is right.

Shot E: 16grams 175F 2oz

Ginger cocoa and dried fruit. Aromatics on the nose pop. Creamy. About as good as it gets for this coffees age.

A coffee shot from the last round of shots...
Summary: Given that this is in fact a drip roast pulled at odd temps, it was pretty nice. I think most people would go americano on this and enjoy the aroma andsugars in the cup. If you do get the idea to try this, shoot me an email and I can give you some pointers. You need a PID to play around with this kinda stuff and don't expect traditional espresso profiles. These low temp shots make great americanos but are a bit too different from a normal straight shot. We bounced around on this one a lot because it is a lot harder to nail these on a home setup than on the Synesso even with a PID!
Note taking is essential... if you can read the handwriting...

Great fun to experiment when you have a little extra something. Sometimes you can hit on something you didn't expect.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Boston coffee scene?

Lights dim... exit stage left.

That's about what it feels like. Ben(coffeemonkee) said it best as things are a little strange these days as I am in limbo but no longer in the shop. I wanted to try and arrange a few coffees for some of my friends and associates but we'll see how that goes. Likewise, I will take a little something down to NY for my trip tommorrow. being out of the shop is exhilerating. I can spend my time writing notes, clearing my head, and just organizing a lot of loose ends.

I don't get into other shops much but I was looking at what's going on in NY right now where Grumpies has become a bit of a hang out for some of the more passionate barista in town. No such thing exists in Boston... well not shop to shop yet. When @ Simon's, we used to get a lot of what you could call disgruntled kids hanging out lamenting the state of the shops they work in. Some were passionate enough about the coffee and that it led them into our cupping group or even catching on at Simon's.

This kid lil Ben is a good example. He worked for a little while over at a shop a little farther down mass ave. Yeah, the other two from Cambridge at the USBC last year were from there. He was working for them during that time and really was hoping for something more. The plastic tamper, dulled grinder blades, and general disrespect for anything beyond what they were serving seemed to get him down. He ended up leaving them a bit burnt out and frustrated. We caught onto him when he came in and took some photos of the shop and was hanging around the counter reading an issue of barista mag. Not something you often see...! Ben dropped Steve Ford's name a little later about his next trip to San Francisco. Gold in our book. He ended up getting training a bit with the guys at Ecco and is now getting used to working bar at Simon's. Lil' Ben is a unique and passionate person who really just needs to get enough cuppings under his belt to build a barista's palate. It is being able to diagnose by taste alone that takes a long time to teach. Knowing different bitters/sours and what the causes are is often a case of just doing it and tasting the garbage and the goodies.

I was just thinking though with Ben how different it would be if he had been at a shop that was rocking the espresso and good coffees. Then he would be coming over to share and relate rather than coming over looking for a new stage.

That would be cool. To have someone to compete with and some good play at trying to be the best in town. I think that would be cool.... but having them work with me is cool too.



Saturday, September 09, 2006

Ecco Reserve and Yirg SOS...

Waiting for the Ecco Reserve right now. Maybe monday. If you go into Simon's they still have some of Andrew's N. Italian running right now. Simon will order the Terroir Yirg SOS for next week but I am uncertain as Simon is getting two of his grinders serviced leaving him short on grinders.

Just had Denez pull me a great shot of Ecco N. Italin but I still like the Reserve much better.


Friday, September 08, 2006

Coffee chemicals: Stinkers and not so stinky...

Prospective reading on

The two least favorite chemicals in coffee according to this blog: 2,4,6 trichloroanisole(TCA) and Geosmin
Two sources of your earthy musty, moudly, dirty smells/flavors in coffee. Charming, I think not. In wine, you can find mention of these flavors with cork taint, poor handliing of the grapes and other general missteps in the processing of wine. TCl and Geosmin are also noted in wine as being associated with barnyard (something so unhygenic in preparation that it took all the unsavory substances of a barnyard to create) flavors but sometimes in coffee, many pundits call these wild and intriguing.

Earthy alone is such a strange descriptor in coffee. In wine, earthy is often frowned upon by many as an imperfection. To quote an article on on Earthy: 'It is not a "goût de terroir", which in its true sense means expressive of its terroir or complete growing environment, not tasting simplistically of earth!' Yet, there are many who desire this character in coffees and in particular in espresso. Simply put, this is an old way of thinking that goes back into the use of Robusta and dark roasts for espresso because of some perception of what espresso should be....

One of my favorite espresso is the nontraditional Ecco Reserve, a blend of two brazils(Cachoeira & Daterra farms) offered by Andrew Barnett of Ecco Caffe. I would not use earthy as a descriptor in this coffee but it is a fabulous espresso on it's own. I wouldn't use that to define any of the drip coffees from Terroir either. In some ways, the more expenisve coffes coming out of CoE present this profile of clarity and cleanliness over earthy muddled flavors.

It seems in many ways clarity is the antihesis of earthy. Yet, earthy is so tied to 'body' and our perception of the generic espresso profile. This leads me to consider that flawless coffees may be lacking or of less body than muddied defect laden coffees. I wonder in essence if we should continue to grade body as often as we do in any way as an indicator of quality? The funny thing is that once you are weened off of the earthy profiles, it's a brick to the teeth to try and go back.

One of the more pleasurable finds was a chemical named β-damascenone. Noted for it's aroma of honey, roses, and exotic flowers. This is an actual component of rose aroma, teas, and evidently many different products such as red wines. The other intruiging notes are on Furals, furans, and some aldehydes which seem to lead to a lot of the ideal fruity and floral but volatile and fleeting aromas I enjoy, but that's another entirely more complicated post. So the next time someone drops a floral or perfume remark, you can say, yep, that's posible. There are more than enough chemicals in coffee for us to compare coffee to wine complexities and intricate floral aromas.

The point of this is that coffee has the same potential as wine to be a culinary experience. We just have to get the right green, the right roast, and the right extraction to make it all come together in that defining moment on the cafe floor. As I see more and more defining experiences among all the boring ones out there, I feel a change coming in the industry abut how people perceive coffee.

The flavors are all there to be had and we just discover how to get at them and repeat them. A mouthwatering task, but that's the best part... we get to taste everything.

-Jaime van Schyndel

See also “…Coffee: The Chemistry behind its Magic” by Marino Petracco

Thursday, September 07, 2006

If I ever get into syrups please shoot me...

Today was long. I worked on helping get this kid Ben up to speed. He knows an amazing amount about the coffee scene and seems to really follow it. I can only hope to really get him into cupping and really help him build a palate. I think Ben may take over some of the coffee program at Simon's. I would be thrilled if he can keep it going. I feel a bit proud leaving as to what I accomplished felt really special.

I had a sit down with Silas for a bit today. Silas is my friend who is into tea and often cups tea with a well known pro in our region. We like to say Tea Sommolier because if you could see someone so passionate about sharing tea flavors as I am about coffee, it would be Silas. Silas was wondering if we are alone sometimes or if it is just the beginning of something bigger and culinary. A movement or a change in direction for a lot of us. It's a valid question. In some ways it's scary that as our group gets larger, there are enough of us nuts out there to make a bunch.

On another topic... I will probably take my postponed trip to San Francisco in October instead of this month. Silas plans on going and maybe we should all take a much needed vacation. Forewarning to SF shops and Ecco Caffe included.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

North East Barista Jam and NY NY

There will be a north east jam, info on the flyer. I probably won't be attending as I really need to get focused. If I do go, it will be to bring a few other barista to attend. It's not that I'm not into seeing Co and the gang, but rather you have to trust I got some things in the works I need to focus on.

I will be in New York Monday Sept 11. I intend to stop by Grumpies and give them a quality check on the Ecco they are serving. It's a bit shocking to hear of other people into Anrdew's stuff but always cool to know people appreciate quality.

Hopefully, I can stop by Brooklyn and visit Chris Owens or one of the cats on bar at Gimme. I hope my schedule lays out where I can hit both and have some time but I am there on business so play time is limited.

I don't visit a lot of bars anymore. I am always looking for that expression. A statement in the coffee. It often doesn't happen. Even the best known bars I visited at the trade shows felt weak at best. I still prefer Gimme's brooklyn location over most of the shops I have visited on the east coast not because of ambiance but because I was pegged as a coffee afficianado by the barista simply sitting at the booth. In retrospect, it probably was CO. That alone told me there were some serious people there.

Simliarly, I enjoy 9th street as it was one of those early influences on me that left an impression. Being able to say, what, they can get away with doing that and still make money?!?! It was later that I came upon how simple the idea was and why it made so much sense. Focus on the coffee and you will be fine.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Coffee coming soon...

So I will join the ranks of HB shortly.... very shortly(well not really an HB but humor me). Simon has promised me some access to the shop machine so I can continue to evaluate espresso, practice, and experiment. Andrew has promised a fresh batch of Ecco Reserve with a little change. Simon's will be serving the Ecco Rserve all next week with our normal Terroir offerings, so drop in, it is a moral imperative. New barista little Ben is one to keep an eye on. He will be filling my shoes with much support. Also looking out for Terroir's new Yirg SOS. Big Ben(coffeemonkey) will do the Yirg break down at a reader's request. I'll digest and post some love for both either way...


How do you say Soy Milk in Italian?

SOY LATTE??? I poured this soy latte this morning and had to stop and pic it just before handing it over.... It sparked a thought about soy and I needed a reminder. I thought about it and I was slightly perplexed for a few moments...

I have nothing against soy milk but I feel like it is a weird thing that so few shops really try to get a hold of good soy milk. The kind you get downtown china town here in Boston. You can get relatively fresh soy milk and much better quality than the normal commercial brands. Then I snapped back to a harsh reality...

Order for a large decaf skim cappuccino?

In some ways, I feel odd about putting a design on every drink. The decaf skim gets a rosetta on it same as a regular at Simon's... I know I should be saying what the customer wants, the customer gets, but a little evil side of me says 'why reward them for making bad drink choices?' Why pour a beatiful rosetta on a bad drink? Why encourage them to keep ordering that drink...?

Everyone asks me why I pop the lids on to go cups instead of letting the customer cover them. I do the rosetta but I don't worry if you want a to go drink about the presentation. If it's in a ceramic, I'll toss it if the design isn't all that. Paper cup is a big whatever.

Then I thought about it some. If I truly don't want to serve decaf or skim milk, why do it? Isn't that in some ways the difference between fast food and four stars? Options vs Quality. Convenience vs Quality. Speed vs Quality. Quantity vs Quality. In other words, standards. Are high standards in direct opposition to the traditional coffee shop with all it's sizes, options, syrups, and the poorly executed decaf?

I don't have an answer, only opinions that will make me sound arrogant and unyielding. I just feel like sometimes you can't have everyone as a customer. Large skim cappuccino... hit the road and take cinnamon mocha with you...!!!

You, dear reader may think I have finally gone off the deep end, but I have put it in perspective and came away more emboldened. I tried to think about it like great restaurants and taverns. If you want options, go somewhere else, if you want excellent food come in but be willing to pay. Are some elite coffee shops getting ready to go that direction? I thought, why shouldn't we all move in that direction a little. How else can we serve the wonderful CoEs at $20+ a pound. Some elite shops must exist to showcase these coffees or they will be shuffled away to internet forums and lonely home user machines. To play these coffees out on the cafe stage with great barista behind tricked out machines is a dream in the making. Service of the coffees living up to the true expression of the coffees, that's a concept with no distractions!

The cafe floor. Standards. Quality. That's what I am thinking about right now.

-Jaime van Schyndel

About herding fish and other such stuff...

I know the attention that Rich over at Aldo makes of me being a mad scientist of coffee but I am far from it. Yet... here I am hunched over my kitchen stove tonight late night working on something that plagued me for some time.

No wait, let me back up a bit... I was struggling trying to get some clear results of one simple precursor test and a fact that would be the basis for my future experiments in the coffeed study group... Is there sugar in coffee once roasted and being able to evaluate it...? I used brewed coffee, espresso, and the results were murky... I mean straight up murky as I couldn't see the color indicator of the reaction. Here I was with the coffee and I couldn't get a freaking result because I just couldn't see in the beaker... Then, I am watching this episode of Myth Busters(science oriented tv show) and fate intervenes. They are doing this show about cereal content vs the cereal box content to see which is healthier to eat. Watching them perform the same sugars experiment with ease, I had an epiphony... I don't need brewed coffee! It was so stupid simple... I burst into the kitchen prepped my kit, boiling water, and began... Burst open my bag of Terroir Yirgacheffe from my personal stash and crushed some beans with a pestle.... (I know, I know, but it's for science....)...

In five minutes I had my first defintive and indisputable results so now I can steadiy move forward as I await my next shipment of chemicals... It seems I may have just challenge a coffee myth or two.... or at least shed some light something few of us understand.... Yeah baby!

So, you are wondering what does all this mean??? It means, if you want to see this research, get on coffeed, do a paper for the study goup and then you get to read the others...

I am sitting here with blue fingers covered in reagent, pondering a dozen things I have read and what it means... making lists and planning the next stage.


Jaime van Schyndel