company - education - coffee

Friday, January 30, 2009

A few things

Classes: We will be hosting a few formal classes on site outside of our normal brew demos and tastings. The first being a basic coffee class through the nonprofit Arlington Community Education Center and you can download the catalog to get more info. The other classes will be for students of CSCA and is not open to the public but is noteworthy because both classes will be held on site at our lab later in the spring.

The blog: It has moved, for those who watch the front page, and it will stay that way as we focus more on the shop. I had been mulling this for some time and decided enough already. We want to be more focused on the locals with the blog, much to the chagrin of our large professional audience.

The next week will be busy but I will update with a post when Nik does his final competition run through. The general public is invited to attend. We hope some locals will be willing to show up and be judges or fill out the audience. Bags of Poker Face are on sale online only through the weekend as we head into the days before competition.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Everything in it's place

I spent a lot of time today with a mix of good personalities in shop. Saturdays in the lab are often like this and that was a big part of why we wanted to be open to the public. A&E is confirmed(and registered) as sending Ethan down to compete in the NERBC and the other more barismo specific news is that we will have some representation in Harvard Sq. soon. That last bit is for another day though and represents a lot more hard work to do before we can pat ourselves on the back just yet.

Later in the day I was pulling our L. St. blend at competition specs trying to get my head wrapped around exactly how robust that espresso is. A lot of home users have been consistently getting shots of this shorter and at hotter temps than we have been pulling it in shop and I decided to put this to the test. I ran the gamut of temps and then I found myself actually enjoying the punch of a shorter but hotter shot. Interesting, though I will keep tuning it at our stock temps. Simon's has this as a guest but ask for Simon if you are having a shot(and ask for it ristretto!).

Current incarnations of this blend have been more friendly to milk and for what it's worth, I have been happy that it was coming out well in a cappuccino. By no means should that be the measure of a good espresso though. Poker Face comes out particularly robustly in milk but that is a different animal entirely and yet it's prowess is still in it's complexity as a straight shot. In my biased opinion, it's consistently the best shot in town regardless of the milk. I think that's how it should be, a focus on the coffees and not the dairy.

For chuckles today, I was playing around with pouring latte art in the 5.5oz cups to see if I could keep the portions right and still get the ring of crema judges tend to look for. Moderate success at best with some old Garelick milk. It's not quite as easy as you would think to pull off without any milk waste AND pull off two cups in a row. It's something that I am thinking about as we head off to competitions.

I am not personally very found of the dark ring around a cappuccino any more than I am one of those who decries the existence of the decorated cappa. My personal opinion is that the more layered the surface is, the smoother the experience is. Folding the milk into the cup in such a way that the crema is textured into the surface in expanding layers always seemed more pleasant than the intense burst of reddened foam at the ring of the cup. Maybe I am contradicting the larger coffee community who may desire a bit more contrast in the cappa but that's how I feel.

After the competition gigs are over, we will resume hosting popular events. From this point on though, we will have more formal sessions and avoid the general open house situations. We are open to the public 5 days a week so we think it's time to have more brewing focused classes. If good coffee ended with perfect green or a fabulous roast, we could all enjoy coffee easily but it doesn't come bottled like wine so we have to put in a little more effort when we get the coffee home. That's where the classes will be focused. New sessions begin after February 9th so stay tuned.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Nik is getting ready, another practice session today, for competition. We are putting together the support to get him in a good position to deal with his first venture into competition. We are doing our best to give him the worst so when he gets on stage, it will be a bit easier.

Our friends at A&E Roasters may be sending representatives and I think there are more entries we aren't aware of going this year but we will have to wait until the day of competition. barismo may be supporting one more local barista but more on that when it's firm as we have to keep it under wraps because it involves a new account. Simon's is confirmed to not have any competitors and it remains to be seen if other cafes like bloc 11 are going to respond to the influx of area barista this year(yes, I know they read and that's why I asked the question). Even 1369 will be fielding a few competitors so I wonder what the reasons not to show up are?

Competitions are something strange to behold. A stage show you only can experience by competing. On the outside, it looks much more mundane than the boiler it feels like during your fifteen minutes. It may not be for the purists who want to sit around and cup coffee all day, but I will tell you it takes mettle to get up there and I respect those who do. This year, it's good to be new as all the old faces seem to be out f the competition mix this time around. I think that's a good thing because what the competitions need is fresh new faces.

Having been in both the latte art contest and a last minute invite to the USBC a few years ago, I don't revel in competing. The pressure you can put on yourself is intense but worth every bit of stress. Of course, I wasn't saying this after the first round of the USBC, I was cursing the very existence of the thing praying not to make it to the next round. It was afterward, the lessons I learned, and the simple experience of putting myself out there to be judged that I saw a different angle of what it was to compete. You grow up a bit as a professional and that's a good thing. So many of the cafes in our area suffer one simple problem, insulation. They have no larger view than their shop vs another shop down the street set up as some kind of straw man to beat down. A simple illustration of this fact is that some longtime successful cafe owners have finally discovered that single origin and estate coffees do exist.

We all talk about how serious we are about coffee, but the good cafes will find a way of proving it. It might be the mix of coffees served or the flare in serving them, it might be on the competition stage, and it could be by pressing the issue and creating a new coffee bar concept in your region. More on that last teaser soon...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Boston Area Coffee Community

Taste Coffee HouseBoston has a newly burgeoning coffee scene. This much is certain to me at this point. Today was spent highly caffeinated at a couple of coffee focused events we did not instigate. It was a good turn of events to sit in on someone else pushing coffee and be served by dedicated barista.

Early morning we got some work done at the shop and then took off for Newtonville. Great shots of espresso. Place was packed and we were feeling like it was tough to find any seat. That's a good thing though when it's standing room only. This was a 'welcome back Logan' event. Yes, 'How's your day going? And, would you like to add a shot of espresso to that?' Logan... It's a good enough reason to get psyched and rock some espresso. Talked to Nik afterward and it was definitely a rocking success. Give out the best espresso in town and people will come to drink it! Big thanks to the community for coming out and supporting it.

During lunch, we tried to recover from the buzz off the shots. We ended a good solid meal in Union Square and headed over to bloc 11 for a tasting they were holding. It was unique because we had done a tasting a long time ago at bloc 11 and were curious to see what was going on.
We rolled up at a Chemex demo of a few African coffees from mega roaster Intelly. By far, the Rwanda was the best cup of Intelly I have had in a long line of varied experiences. I have to credit the two barista who put it together for taking the initiative. It's good to see something outside of the house blend coffees being put out there and even better to see some kids putting themselves out there to bring the focus to the coffee. (I should note they knew who Silas was so that adds major street cred in our book) Big props to the coffee community for putting together a good cafe crawl today! It was a good experience and a nice change to be the aficionado instead of the presenter.

Friday, January 09, 2009

A barismo refresher

Ending the third year of blogging on this site, I know a few posts have been lost but we keep plugging away. Though there are definitely highlights from the last few years I could share, I'll keep it to just the last year and only 10 of the less controversial ones.

Why is fresh coffee so confusing?
Fresh is simple.

The Utility Blend
Espresso isn't just for 16oz milk drinks.

Jute free since 07
All about packing and repacking.

Syphon Coffee Primer
Primer implies a little less detail but that's how we roll.

Linnaean St. Espresso
This is our first blend and it's roasting really nicely right now.

Reasons coffee doesn't taste like bag descriptors.
A very popular post among the bloggers out there.

To the next golden brew.
All that glitters is not gold...

Feeding frenzy at the bar.
It still amazes me that we pulled that off and yet some people still opine locally whether it would fly...

It's all about volume.
Big and small.

Oh the humanity!
The drama...

Monday, January 05, 2009

FREE espresso and competitions

The free shots are over here on the 10th. This reminds me to mention that Taste is fielding competitors for the Northeast Regional Barista Competition. It takes a lot of personal investment and time so please support them in this endeavor. Oh yeah, did I mention free espresso...

Friday, January 02, 2009

New super secret melange roast


Well, maybe just some baked coffee that sat in a hot drum.

Because of the weather, the electricity has gone out a few times recently. Mid roast and you are just out of luck. When the drum stops rotating, there is nothing you can do to save the roast, you are just thinking about avoiding smoke or even fire at that point. I guess we are lucky though, we installed a flame sensor/safety valve like on a home heating system so if the electricity goes out, the gas cuts off automatically. Same deal if it goes over temp.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


What a long year!

We have a shop! A lot of learning, travel, and new experiences.

More recently, we are being featured on the Daily Grommet. A video interview which was fun if not a bit unnerving for a guy who likes to pontificate more than be onstage! Really nice people, check out their site and support them.

2009 looks to be more of the same and a bit more. Ben Chen is getting married! We will be sending barista to competitions. New accounts, new cities, more training, even more travel, and things I can't even begin to imagine will be reported on this blog.

The blog is still up and running after 3 years with some posts lost from the beginning. It's been a wild journey putting thoughts to readers you can't always identify. For the loyal readers, a big thanks for the comments and also the silent support. To those in the business who keep lifting ideas from the blog with no credit, I have a suggestion of where you can copy and paste it.

Thanks so much for your support of our venture, your support of our cafe accounts, and for continuing to read.

The blog will go on and in the words of the immortal Bob Porterfield "If you like us, talk about us. And if you don't, just keep your mouth shut."
(First person to figure out Porterfield's claim to fame gets a pack of 12oz Kiandu/12oz Antigua. Shipping not included unless you live in the continental US!)