company - education - coffee

Friday, November 28, 2008

Up and coming in Arlington

Tommorrow afternoon, the 29th, from 2-4pm we will have an open house. Granted we are in shop 5 days a week, this one has a sampling of several coffees and espresso for the public to try.

Assuming the weather permits, the upcoming events are:

Espresso Dec. 6th 2-4pm
We will demo our two current blends, a SoE, and talk about methods for getting better results at home. The new espresso blend with the big story will be on sale during this event.

Hand Pour Dec. 13th 2-4pm
Pour over kettles, cloth filters, paper, the how's and why in methodology. Bags of the Pastoral will be on sale during this event.

Third Thursdays @ Capitol Sq. Open House Dec 18th 6-8pm
Cupping, brewing, and casual coffee banter. What more could you want?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Cloth Filter

Thanksgiving is almost over. I have to get back on the till and get some roasts done. It's gong to be a busy week next week.

That reminds me, we have some new gear in shop and I am putting it together as a pack. I would throw in the Pour Over Kettles as one big pack but our stock is low so first come first served until next shipment.

In the pack are a Cone Pour Over, a Cloth Stitched Pour Over Filter, and a pack of paper filters.

The Cloth filter is a touchy subject. A lot of people have gotten bad impressions on these simply because you need to care for them. If you dry them and re-wet constantly, you will stress the fabric. Trick is as Hario recommends, to rinse with hot water thoroughly and then store still wet in a zip lock bag in your refrigerator.

I find that this is a bit more work but it's worth it. While many people hate paper, they often go straight to gold filters. The problems with paper besides the taste is the way it restricts fines while absorbing oils. The gold filters just let sediment through which is a big problem. The cloth filter though has depth filtration. Fines are captured evenly in the layers of the fabric and you get a cleaner and smoother cup profile.

This particular Cloth Filter is stitched with measurements which makes it unique. You can use these as a guide for your pouring volumes as the coffee blooms. The cone shape adds depth to the brew cake making this style more ideal for a fan of pour overs.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

No Flash, Thank You Very Much

I am not a self promoter. I will not have a big photo poster of myself up on the wall in a cafe. I will never be associated with marketing blitzes or advertising eyed at reshaping the message. I will not try to trade mark quality terms or have slick websites geared at shaping the view of quality so it fits comfortably into our business model.

This is something I have heard recently from several clients. A surprise in our approach. We don't make it about us. We do our best to make it about the coffee, the preparation, and the resulting cup at every step.

I think it shows up best with our labels. The simplicity of which took a long time to achieve. A lot of back and forth about style points and functionality resulted in something I am very happy with. A sparse but very transparent label. Short on the slick stuff yet heavy on content and still clean.

Before I pat myself on the back for being all spartan, there is a direction to this post.

I want to say thanks for all the support we have received in the last two months. Nay, thanks for the time and energy so many have put behind me over the last few years. The faith, the support, and the respect. I don't have time to name all the people who have actively gone out of their way to promote me and barismo, but thank you. When someone goes out of their way to contact a media org, write a positive review, or simply tell a friend how serious we are, that means everything to us.

I want to thank the guy who has been pulling shots of Kiandu for putting in the word in with the Grommet. That was over the top but there have been so many like that willing to go to bat for us and I do appreciate it. It's a big part of why I want to stay in this community and continue to be active in this area.

So much of our success has been built on the support of the community and I don't overlook that. We are driven by quality, determination, and an obsessive search for that great experience but without the people to share it with, there is nothing.

Thank you for your support and have a good Holiday!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Skelton Hand Mills

Having run out of these, we just restocked the Hand Mills and they are available online as well as at the shop once we get back from Thanksgiving revelry.

For cafes looking to carry these, let us know. We have had good interest from cafes about these and we think it's about time we got more home users off using the bulk grinder and instead fresh grinding coffee at home.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The utility blend

I never believed as a barista that you could really have a great espresso that was good as a shot and in copious amounts of milk. To expect this feeling to change when I started roasting would be a bit presumptuous.

At one point or another, I have worked with many different espresso blends. There were those that made good shots, others made acceptable shots and good short milk drinks, still others only seemed geared at cutting through a 16oz latte.

It has been my feeling that espresso should be purposeful not utilitarian. Roast for purpose. If we are roasting our estate coffees and refining them each for specific brew methods, why wouldn't the same apply for espresso?

To that end, the L St. is a straight shot. It never occurred to me to work with it in milk. The current version is coming out really nice as a straight shot but all the complexity and sweetness is lost in a lot of milk. It just isn't tested in milk and I wouldn't take offense if someone didn't like it in milk.

We have done more milk geared espresso before. Rudiments being one, which also briefly doubled as 'You're beautiful'. It's just a matter of a good match.

The reason this is worth posting is not a defense or even about an explanation. It occurs to me that all too often we approach coffee from the lowest common denominator. We, the professionals, ask ourselves how it will taste in milk with sugar instead of simply asking ourselves, does it taste good. Well, does it?

Maybe the reason people put condiments in coffee is habitual. Maybe, though, it is because so many coffees are served with the thought that it will have condiments added to it. I guess if we focus on 16oz lattes that the espresso can cut through, the cappuccinos may be a bit rough or the straight shot a bit too strong. I think as a roaster and former barista, the truth is you can only focus on one portion of the coffee drinking market segment, so choose carefully. Trying to beat Dunkin or Sbux at their own game is a bit foolish when there are so many progressive shops moving into the market that do something completely different and are making bank. Something for the pros to chew on.

Happy Thanksgiving.

It's cold. We will be closed during the holiday and reopen Saturday.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The barismo ristretto

Let me first clear something up. A ristretto means a restricted shot. That by definition means you shorten the flow for the espresso in the same time range as a normal shot. It does not mean you start pulling 20 second shots (that would be underextraction a la Sbucks method) and cutting the shot early by time, you actually have to change the grind and make adjustments to get the volume shortened in a normal extraction time. The dose is often heavier and the roast is often a bit darker but it does not imply shorter time.

We have been working on a new offering since the Cardenas arrived. It's interesting as we have been trying to come up with a more ristretto style shot. Now don't get me wrong, it still falls into our clean flavor profile but it has the deep viscosity and syrupy texture you desire without getting into the smoker's palate notes of tobacco and spice. The acidity is muted but the origin characters remain, a feat in and of itself. It even has the flecking and deep red visual cues with out the color corrected photo's help. The dominant notes of our blend right now are berries, vanilla, and brown sugar leading into cocoa. Some interesting aromas come into play but you gotta pull this tight. It is our best NY style espresso (very tight shot) attempt to date but done to a barismo taste profile (clean).

It pulls as an 18g double ristretto or a down dosed triple ristretto. Sorta Ecco style for the savy barista's out there. Tight and thick yields a soft texture and creamy profile. I had an 18g double this morning @ 201.5F just under an ounce that really was exciting.

While the L. Street pulls best around 198f 16g ~2oz right now, this new blend is the apple to that orange. Different, but both are special.

The new blend doesn't have a name yet (I guarantee it won't be something vaguely Italian sounding) but should be on the shelf at the roasterie and in a select cafe we will promote sometime next week.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Brackish water

I heard about this phenomenon at a shop in Harvard Sq. where a filter problem led to some salty spro. The other day, I got to taste this first hand.

At first, I was lost on why the espresso was coming out so off at this one shop. Acrid and bile sours. Just horrible compared to the lab results.

The problem was not immediately obvious but after a series of tests and diagnosis issues, we finally found out what had happened. The water softener leaked into the espresso machine and brackish water was making for some nasty shots. What other damage may follow from this remains to be seen but at least we are aware of what happened.

Salty. If you ever heard the bit about putting a dash of salt into a bitter cup of coffee, it doesn't do good things for espresso. All the roast note vanished and sours became quite prominent.

The problem is being resolved but that was a weird experience trying to find out what was going on. You don't forget something like that.

Friday, November 07, 2008


The devil is in the water. Assuming you can get the grinds right and your brewer gets up to temperature, the one last issue is what water you use. I can almost certainly tell when someone has hard water by the description they give on the flavors of certain coffees. Water is too soft, same deal.

In a pinch, I use Poland Spring but it is a bit too soft and flat for coffee. It brings roast notes to the front and just seems thin in most brews. I like Eternal if you must get a bottled water. It can be found at whole foods and will bring a lot of flavors to the front in a round and sweet manner. Sometimes we run across people with harder water and they seem to have no roast notes while acidity jumps out of the coffees and the brew is not extracting or developing. The trick is getting everyone to see and taste what we are tasting at the shop.

At home, we recommend Brita Pitchers or the Zero pitcher when you don't have a good clean source.

The point is, use clean filtered water. Most areas have a local water quality monitoring system and you can send in samples for free and get results. In the past, we have contacted the Cambridge Water Operations Division and gotten info on the water supply. I highly encourage anyone to take a look at what's in their water.