company - education - coffee

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

barismo: Retail hours

The shop will be open to the public 12-6pm, Wed through Sun.

You can also catch us in house from time to time outside of those hours but those are firm.

We have Syphons, pour over kettles, and Skelton mills from Hario in shop. We will have more product from Japan and Taiwan in the near future. Along with our regular offerings of retail roasted bags. Retail roasts happen twice a week.

Events are scheduled and will continue to progress, stay tuned to the site for updates. We will update with a few of our partner accounts as things progress.

Our new Kenya has arrived and the much talked about Guatemalan offerings are being profiled right now.

169 Mass Ave
Arlington MA, 02474

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Pourover demo

Today at the shop we will have a demo of different pour over methods. Cloth and paper cone pour overs as well as Abid and possibly Chemex styles if we have time.

Drop by and check it out.

Very informal today from 2-5pm.
[where: 169 Mass Ave Arlington, MA 02474]

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Syphon Primer Companion

Forward: With Syphon brewing becoming tragically hip lately, we decided to go back and do a comprehensive look at our development in this Simon Hsieh inspired methodology for the Hario TCA-2 and how it has expanded in our community.

We started getting deep into Syphon more than a year ago. It was when we had access to some of Simon Hsieh's coffee and were inspired to understand more that we became serious. We adopted his methods off his blog and began an exchange with him about coffee and brewing in general that has really shaped our current direction away from where our community was headed (see Clover) at the time. We quickly adapted as much as we could understand and began quantifying the methods. We spent time evaluating why each step was important in the brewing process and where could we go with it. We attempted a basic video that got solid feedback and that was the beginning of a series of steps focused around Syphon brewing and demos.

We did demos here in town for small groups, traveled out west for a friend's Jam, and shared the methodology with others who were interested. Which brought us back to the beginning when Simon Hsieh visited us in the US. Some hands on technique was applied and some extra movements were removed to simplify and refine our brewing method. A few autographed copies of his book for good measure and a Syphon demo event topped the visit.

Fast forward to the future and you see competing methods being posted on other sites and more discussion about this old school method but more to the point, three of the six USBC finalists use a version of our preferred method!

So as we are moving on to new subjects we decided to compile a comprehensive primer and updated video people can use based on our experience. This is especially relevant as we now have the TCA-2 for sale at the brick and mortar shop. Enjoy~

The Complete Syphon Primer

Barismo Syphon Primer Demo

barismo: Syphon Coffee Primer

by Benjamin Chen (based on Simon Hsieh method).
For brewing with a Hario TCA-2
Before you start:

1. Rinse your filter in hot water and wash with cold water until it runs clear.
If this is a new filter, run through the brewing once without coffee to get rid of the cloth smell.

2. Rinse your Syphon to make sure it's clean. Check for cracks, Dry all exterior and make sure the lower globe is secured.

3. Hook the filter to the top. Make sure it's centered.

4. Pre-boil water in kettle and prepare a cold, damp towel.

5. Place ~35g of beans in the grinder. Run a little bit through to clean up previous grinds.


1. Fill hot water to the "2" mark on the side of the lower globe. These are little number inside a cup logo near the "hario" mark. (this works both for TCA-2 and TCA-3).

2. Insert upper chamber at an angle into the lower globe. DO NOT seal the top.
Make sure there is a gap for steam to escape.

3. Start your burner and place it in the center of the globe. Set it at max to speed up the heating.

4. Grind the bean into a container/cup. Scoop from the top, 32g of coffee into another cup. I recommend using the cupping cups. They are of nice size. Try to finish this step as close to "drop" as possible, but you can grind/weight before step 1 to avoid messing up.

5. Watch the water in the lower globe start to boil. At the sign of boiling (rapid bubble formation), straighten the top and lightly seat it. Do not "push/seal" the top hard. A very gentle downward pressure is enough. Make sure the top is center and straight.

6. Place the thermometer probe on top, near the bottom of the chamber, away from the center.

Adjust the burner to as low as you can without water falling from the top globe.

7. Watch the temp on top stabilize. There should only be very tiny bubbles and no turbulence. If you have leakage from the side, shift the filter with the stirring paddle until it's sealed. If you cannot get rid of that, start over and re-adjust the filter.

9. If your stabilized temperature is less than 91C, replace the top and increase the heat until it increase to 91C. If the temperature is more than 91C, stir the water on the top w/ your paddle rigorously until it decrease to 91C. (note: 91C is your target brewing temperature. Adjust per degree or roast... see further notes at the end).

10. Get your stirring paddle, coffee, and timer ready to go.


1. When water temp stabilizes to 91C, take out the thermometer probe.

2. Hold the coffee on your left hand and stirring paddle on your right.

3. Dump the coffee into the top chamber and immediately start the timer with your pinky finger.

Start your stirring immediately.

1st stir:

Below is my personal technique. You can do whatever you want. Just make sure you do not create any vortex, saturate the coffee completely, and finish your move in 5 sec. The faster the better.

Longer/vortex stir will result in bitterness in the cup...

1. Holding the paddle like a pen with the flat section parallel to the "x-axis" (left-n-right).

Starting on the left most of the "circle", stick the paddle into the coffee.
Move the paddle in a "N" motion (up, down, up) toward the right. You should be able to do 4 "stokes" in about a second.

2. Repeat the motion along the "y-axis" if you felt more agitation is needed.

3.Start from the very top (+Y), "scrape" the side of the top clock-wise 180 degrees.

Repeat the motion counter clock-wise.

If you did the stirring correctly, you should have something like this:

If you do not see the pale "crema" on top, that means your grinds are not fully saturated. Don't be afraid to REALLY stir up the grinds (as long as you don't create a vortex/whirlpool).

Stirring is the hardest part of the whole thing. Takes some practice to get use to. Whatever you do, make sure everything is well mixed, no vortex is created, and do it in 5 seconds.

An Aeropress paddle works REALLY well for stirring ;-)

*Tip about stirring: a lazy rhythmic motion actually works better than fast and violent motion.

Basically you are creating "waves" that crash into each other, mixing the top and bottom layer of the coffee.

2nd Stir:

When the timer hits 30 seconds, do a second stir. Sometimes when the coffee are fresh, it will be really sticky and you will felt like you aren't stirring at all. Make sure you DO stir it well like your first stir. You should see mostly black layers of coffee when you are done.

3rd Stir:

1. At 55 sec mark, turn off the heat and remove the burner from the lower chamber. Stir immediately. When done properly, you should only have a top layer of light-colored coffee of no more than 1/4" (~6 mm) thick. (Note: After your stir, pay attention to how much coffee remained on the top. The thicker the layer is, the less of extraction it got. Work on your stirring if it's the case.)

Draw down:

1. Immediately after 3nd stir, wrap the cold, damp towel on the upper left side of the lower globe near the "neck" (right side is where the handle is). Make sure the wet towel does not touch the lower portion of the bottom globe where the flamed touched.

2. The draw-down should be around 30~50 seconds. Darker roast and higher dose will increase the draw-down time. Longer drawn-down results in continued/over-extraction and will cause bitters in the cup.

Clean up:

1. When the draw-down is complete, wrap the towel with your left hand around the neck of the vacpot (the metal ring); holding the top with your right near the top rim, gently rock the top back and forth until it comes loose. Careful it's a bit hot.

2. Holding the top with your left hand, gently tap the rim downwards with your right to loosen the grinds. Dump the spent coffee and rinse with water.

3. Release the hook and take out the filter. Wash both top and the filter as clean as you can.

4. Place the filter in a small cup of hot water. The water will turn brown immediately. Shake the filter to rinse it for about 10 sec, then rinse with cold water until it run clear. Submerse the filter with clean cold water and store it (outside if you use frequent, in the fridge for longer term storage).

5. Pour the coffee out and rinse the lower globe both inside and out. After some usage, a brown stop might appear near the very bottom. This is most likely dried coffee.
Soaking it in cafiza once in a while takes that right off.

6. Wash your paddle and clean your towel.

Parameters for various methods:

Grind setting:

1. Super Jolly = 24~26 small notches coarser than espresso grind

2. Rocky = 27~30 from true "0" (burrs touching) fineness should be similar to table salt.

Directions for TCA-2/3:

Dark Roast (> Full City):
Temp = 89~90.5C
Dose = 20~30g (28 recommended, decrease if you have a lot of trouble stirring)

Light Roast (< Full City):
Temp = 90.5~92C
Dose = 24~32g (32 recommended)

1st stir = right after drop
2nd stir = @ 30sec
3rd stir = @ 55sec

note 1: temp is measured at the bottom, away from the center of the syphon top.
note 2: keep the stir under 5 seconds. Stir to fully saturate the grinds but not creating a vortex. A zig-zag/cross pattern works well.
note 3: kill the flame right before the 3rd/final stir. The top won't drop down
on you for another couple seconds.

Method II (aroma enhancement):

Roast: City+
Dose: 32g
Temp: 91C

- Same as method 1 but SKIP the 2nd stir @ 30sec.
- Keep the stir under 3 sec if possible

Method II will have thinner extraction compared to method I but preserves aroma.
Works wonders for a certain roast style/bean but under extracts most coffee. Use w/ caution.

Definition for full city is right before 2nd crack to 10 sec into 2nd. City+ is 30~60 sec after 1st ends.

And that is it. I think that is about as detail as I can give without step-by-step photos. Feel free to email with any more questions.


- A Zojirushi hot water pot is a great companion to the Syphon (and any manual coffee methods).
- The timer a thermometer probe similar to what was used in the video is great with vacpot (and any manual coffee methods).

Linnaean St. Espresso

We have been playing around with multiple names for the espresso blends lately. Our stock blend though it has changed was called (Ben K.'s idea), Rudiments. Honestly, we really want to call it elements but we aren't sure how the guys at Supreme are going to play that theme out and don't want to sound overtly similar. Rudiments is the essential basic blend barismo style. Since it is not set, we will come back to it later.

What I decided on with much harumphing from the group is that I want to name the one blend right now that is completely set something personal. We were calling the blend that was 25% CR Las Lajas miel, 10% Kenya Ichimara pb, 65% Brasil Morenihna Formosa screen dried, our 'Barista's Pick.' It's a simple blend highlighted by maple red apple notes mid palate and it just works really well. After playing with a few points on the acidity and mid tone, we settled on one line and percentages. I am changing the name to reflect a static blend called Linnaean St. Espresso even though I am sure there will be mispronunciations because the nonlocals give it a little more effort on the first 'a'.

When I first moved to Cambridge, we lived in a cramped Studio on Gray St. off Linnaean in Cambridge. It was also a block from where I cut my teeth as a barista. Taking a shop from Hazelnut coffee, nameless dark blends in jumbo cups, dull grinders, scalded milk, and ancient equipment with bad training to Estate Coffees and a decent reputation for espresso. That was a long time ago and many battles were fought that I don't care to recount but I will always have an affinity for the people I met, the relationships made, and the support they gave me.

I am now detached from the shop and doing my own thing but I don't forget the uniqueness of that area community. The willingness of the people I met to get personally invested or simply interested still impresses me even today. I grew so much so quickly with the confidence that people believed in us and the directions we were moving. In few other places could I have flourished the way I did. For that being said, the area has a lot of familiar faces and a personal attachment still.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Degree of roast

I have always had a lot of problems with discussion of roast degree. There are so many definitions floating around and many interpretations. Some of that lies in the liberal interpretations that are taken in descriptions.

I have seen fancy color coded color bars, listing actual agtron numbers on the bags, and even creating new roast degrees like 'full flavor'.

There is a problem.

If your roast has a high delta (outside bean color is in stark color contrast with grind samples) vs a very even roast, the same end level of agrton(grind sample) or drop point can mean something entirely different.

Our roasters are kinda special. The three we have are the only ones in North America like them.

Having an airflow where a normal roast that uses 5 of 10 settings, total control of drum RPM through a roast, a small enough batch size to really do some things you couldn't in larger batch sizes but large enough to be consistent, and a wicked patented hybrid drum. The drum is about ~60lbs of ~1" cast iron with some 2000 holes drilled by hand in the side and around the barrel. This allows for some really neat profiles that somewhat defy classic experience and traditional approaches.

We avoid the issues commonly associated with a perforated drum by having the large drum mass and a small ratio of perforations instead of the traditional screen. This also seems to make the roasts more stable since you are depending on the stored heat instead of ambient chamber air. Something that is more of an issue with an air roaster or any roaster that uses convection. You have such a tight control of airflow and still heat can penetrate so quickly that you can literally approach the roast in a solid drum/hot air hybrid profile and get some really unique elements out of the coffees.

Roasting is fairly consistent, keep tabs on the gas gauge, adjust for the ambient temp/humidity and go. Variance depends on humidity but there have not been any grassy or raw roasts produced, I promise. That's why I sign every roast that goes out because we cupped it first.

The point is, I can get to the exact same color or drop temp a myriad of ways. This renders a lot of the normal terminology a bit useless to a consumer. Our goal is to get the consumer into focusing on flavor decisions, not roast or origin buys so we had to come at it differently.

So I came up with a basic method we will use for now. Roast the coffees to the profile that works best. Note the 'degree of roast' by how much origin character vs roast development.

The idea is to use a number, 1 through 6, 1 being the most origin forward, 6 being the most roast development in the prescribed brewing method. Since we neither do a french roast nor a decaf, this works for now.

Style 5 would have a lot of roast development and softened origin characters, sweet deep roast notes would be dveloped. Style 2 would have little to no roast notes and intense origin characters like aroma and acidity would be enhanced.

It's a subtle thing on the bags and it doesn't really affect our overall approach that much but it was the best compromise. We are medium roasters, not dark simply for dark or light for the sake of light. We stay in that medium range and look for balance unless the coffee likes a little roast or a lot less.

By the way, the Kiandu is in the US, will be here soon. One of the first coffees to come out of Kenya vac sealed, should be fun to roast really fresh coffee.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

barismo: Upcoming events

Based on the requests by those who missed out on a visit at the open house, we will split up and do a few follow up events so everyone can have a chance to have the same experience. Repeats welcome, new faces appreciated.

Other upcoming chances to sample coffees:
A Syphon demo at the shop hosted by Ben Chen.
Saturday Sept. 13th from 2-4pm

A few rounds of cupping hosted by Ben Kaminsky.
Thursday Sept. 18th from 6-8pm

A round of different style espressos presented by Chris van Schyndel.
Saturday Sept. 20th From 2-4pm

No RSVP, free to the public.
[where: 169 Mass Ave Arlington, MA 02474]

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

barismo: Coffee lineup

So... we now have some offerings available while we await the vac sealed Guats and Kenya coffees which are literally arriving over the next few weeks. We are making it available through this site until we have something a little more formal.

The list includes:
Ichimara 07 - Nyeri region: Mid tone fruit, notes of black cherry, ripe and sweet, strong red fruit aromas. This is a Syphon coffee with a slightly lower temp.
Ichimara 08 - Nyeri region: A singularly (as peaberry are) sweet sugar cane note with classic Kenya fruit notes.
Kiandu 08 - This coffee arrives shortly. Vacuum packed and sealed at origin, more notes to come.

Las Pastorales 07 - Antigua region: Molasses, anise, vanilla, smoked plum. This sweet coffee is the darkest 'medium' roast we have done. It's a strong drip profile recommended for pour overs.
Nimac Kape 08 - Atitlan Region: This coffee arrives shortly. Vacuum packed at origin, this is one of a few coffees that were the first to leave Guatemala in something other than Jute. Intense sweetness, juicy fruit and strong aromas. We will detail the specific story of this find in a later post.
Alex Cardenas 08 - Atitlan Region: This coffee arrives shortly. Vacuum packed at origin, this is one of a few coffees that were the first to leave Guatemala in something other than Jute. Cupped like darjeeling tea with distinctly intense rose aromas. We will detail the specific story of this find in a later post.

Morenihna Formosa 07 - Cerrado region: African raised bed prep. Almond, pistachio, dried cherry. A Smooth softly fruited coffee. Makes for a good shot.

Costa Rica
Las Lajas 08 - Miel honey prep. Red apple, maple notes dominate. This is a stellar coffee because it isn't a classic pine cedar Costa Rica. Sweet, round, ripe, good challenge as a shot.

Barista's Pick
65% Formosa 25% Las Lajas 10% Ichimara peaberry.
Maple forward, sugar cane finish, apple mid palate and notes of nut and cherry.
This is a lighter roast, 196F to 198F 16g, 1.5 to 2oz. If the acidity dominates, lower the temperature or raise the volume a bit. Best on 5-7 days rest.

All coffees that aren't sealed at origin have been nitrogen flushed, vacuum packed on arrival and stored in a climate controlled cool storage.

In summary, there are a few more coffees coming but we will note them as they are closer. We have the online option but we highly recommend you drop by our space if you want a bag and save on shipping(if you can). You'll have to come off the feed reader onto the site if you want to sample one of these or visit us at the shop. Public hours are currently 12pm-6pm Tues. - Sat.
169 Mass Ave
Arlington, MA 02474

Saturday, September 06, 2008

barismo: full house

Thanks to everyone who took the time to drop by and sample some coffees. There is always the uncertainty of turnout but a big thanks to those who braved the heat and humidity to have some hot coffees because they made it a smashing success. To put it bluntly, it was as busy through the 2 hours as we could want and still keep control. It was great to meet so many new people and get honest feedback on the coffees.

One of the most rewarding things after months on the roaster working on profiles is to share your coffees with someone else and see them get the descriptors right. For this, it was a great revelation even if I am seriously tired tonight.

For those too busy or otherwise committed. Many shots were pulled, a few pounds worth of two different espresso offerings. A few rounds of cupping were later followed by some Syphon brews and I can honestly say, I did hear from a few people that it was the most caffeinated they have been by choice in a while.

The newest espresso blend, still searching for a name (currently called barista's pick), was really knocking out some good shots with the help of Chris (much props to the mad barista). A Brazil component that was almond and soft cherry @ 65%. A Costa Rica Miel component that was maple and red apple @ 25%. A Kenya Peaberry that was a clean sugar cane soft taffy cherry @ 10%. The maple note really sealed it paired with the clean sugar cane of the Peaberry in the finish while the acidity was very toned but clean and pleasant. Really happy with it but need to call it something a little more expressive.

This was the first time in a long time I felt like I got some of the mojo back from the last big event. Next time, we will keep it to one theme or another like Syphon or Espresso.

A lot of requests for home user events have been made and it is on the list so keep you readers linked here.

Thanks again to all of those who stopped by.