company - education - coffee

Friday, February 27, 2009

barismo Shop hours next week...

Our normal hours are 12-6pm Wed through Sun. This coming week though, Ben K. (watch him clench the clipboard all next week!) will be off Judging the United States Barista Competition in Portland. As for myself, I am headed off to Seattle for a few days then will catch up with him later in the week in Portland to watch the stage show. Nik from Taste will be flying out to participate using our espresso in the United States Barista Championship. While Nik has not had a lot of time practicing (because he is busy working a thriving bar), after his recent run in the North East Regional Barista Competition, he had to go for the experience. Coming out of Newton (which is not known as a coffee mecca) with mismatched cups, a tenacious competitive streak, an amazing espresso, and no experience beyond our training, to runner up at the NERBC has been quite the experience (which he will detail someday soon...).

Needless to say, there will be a bare bones staff at the barismo lab next week so the hours will be as follow:
Mar 4th Wed 12-6
Mar 5th Thurs 12-4
Mar 6th Fri 12-6
Mar 7th Sat 12-5
Mar 8th Sun 12-3

Remind Mr. Krankl when you see Nik at Taste to wipe his grinder down then tell him to refill the judge's water (I'd appreciate it if you made the effort, loyal readers, to burn it into his head!). Oh, and tell him good luck!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Event: Sunday Mar 1st 2-4pm 1736 Mass Ave Cambridge MA

This Sunday there will be a second showing in case you miss the first (or want to attend both) of Square Mile Espresso from the UK at Simon's on 1736 Mass Ave in Cambridge. This event will offer another of our west coast favorites on tap, Ritual Coffee Roasters. The espresso will be one of their 'Sweet Tooth' lineup and should be a nice contrast to the former WBC champ's blend.

On Saturday, you get to sample Andrew Barnett's Ecco Caffe espresso alongside the Squaremile Coffees (a very limited per cup drip offering of Finca Kilimanjaro from El Salvador will be offered but won't be cheap). Then on Sunday you get to sample the Square Mile Espresso up against Ritual Coffee's espresso. There is not much coffee to go around and it will go quickly so show up early!

My best suggestion is to come out and support both events which are both donating the proceeds to the NE Primate Sanctuary in what we are calling the 'James Hoffman likes Monkeys and so should you event!' I remember some time ago that Mr. Hoffman sponsored Chimpanzees at the London Zoo and since we were donating coffees at an auction for this cause, we thought this would be a good fit.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Event: Saturday Feb 28th 2-4pm 56 Brattle St. Cambridge MA

This Saturday we will be partnering with Hi Rise on Brattle St. to host an espresso event geared at showcasing some unique espresso from far away. Confirmed are espresso from Ecco Caffe on the West Coast and espresso from blogger turned roaster James Hoffman, the WBC champ in '07.

We recently sent some of our Linnaean St. espresso to Hoffman and he turned around and served it up at an event whose proceeds were donated to charity. In turn, we will be serving the London roasted espresso with one of our west coast favorites and donating proceeds to charity. More on that item later.

Mark the time and date on your calendar and block off a trip to Harvard Sq.

56 Brattle St
Cambridge, MA 02138

Hi-Rise is going through a lot of changes behind the counter with their new manager so it's worth a return trip for another look or a first time visit. They are featuring a brand spankin new coffee program that should be something to buzz about once it is up and running full speed. Espresso in Harvard Sq. won't be a crema-less experience anymore! See you there.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Saturday Feb 21, 2pm: Cloth pour method

This Saturday @ 2pm will be an informal session/tasting of coffees via cloth pour over method. We really enjoy this method for certain coffees as it really adds so much texture to the brew. The mouth feel, sweetness, and aroma really pop when you use the right method.

The goal is to ask why cloth instead of paper? The answer is in the cup.

169 Mass Ave
Arlington, MA 02474

Should be fun to make brewing pour over simple.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Start 'em young

Photo of Ellia Wilkinson courtesy of Ben and Elizabeth Wilkinson.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

About a label

This is not the first version of our labels and it won't be the last. Currently though, our main goal is to have a label that is simple and transparent.

The origin takes a secondary place to the farm name/blend name but is still noted. Below, you have some simple color coded info on the processing and other identifiers about the coffee such as region or coop. We have been emphatic about transparency for blends and are adamant about percentages on the bags. We are glad to see other roasters taking the same tact in the US market. We have not put certifications such as Fair Trade or Organic on the relevant bags for many reasons.

At the recent NERBC, I was confounded by a company rep pitching a Kenya that was sourced through 'the second window'. I was a bit confused because it almost sounded like he was pitching it as a recent coffee but that 'second window' hasn't appeared yet for this harvest so the Kenya had to be approaching a full year off harvest and I guarantee it wasn't vacuum sealed so add jute bagged to the equation. It reminded me vintage is relevant and we need to rethink noting which coffees are sealed at origin because past crop has a different meaning if the coffee was in jute as opposed to sealed.

Anyway, we have blocked off a small section of the bag for brewing instructions. In most cases, this is just a suggested guideline to help consumers out. You would be surprised how simply having 27 seconds on the bag can induce many customers to ask, 'How do I get the shot to 27 seconds?' That's an incredibly powerful moment where many doors open that lead to better coffee at home. Most machines don't have solid temperature controls but it helps to have a ballpark target to offset around so we included specific brew temps and also dose.

While not every consumer will have the equipment to follow the specs, we felt generic specs were a bad idea. On Poker face, the specs are pretty much what Nik uses at Taste, for Linnaean St. it's the specs Simon uses. You can probably pull those coffees a dozen ways but I always think of a consumer walking into a cafe or tasting, having a shot, then getting frustrated about not being able to repeat it at home. Believe me, I was there many a time. Having the specs helps and I have a lot of emails from home espresso enthusiasts where the discussions have gone from getting a new grinder to flushing routines and dosing technique. All of which is good discussion to have if they want to come close to the cafe experience.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Nik Krankl takes second in North East Regional Barista Competition

Nik runs Taste Coffee House in Newton and I have been working to coach him as a first time competitor in this year. It was a field of 46, 16 being from the North East of which Nik was participating in.

For those of you who don't know, Nik has spent a lot of time at the lab building up his espresso blend with us at barismo, probably as much as he spent training for the NERBC, but it's something both of us are very proud of. A combo of a Guatemala Atitlan and a Kenya Nyeri, both vacuum sealed at origin and both were given an extra sort at the dry mill. The espresso got good scores in the first round but Nik fell victim to surfing the temps in the second round and we are somewhat at a loss with working on a Synesso/GB5 then going to a heat exchanger. I think his conservative flushing routine was not getting the shots hot enough to get the coloration and intensity but it's all left to a what if discussion at this point.

Nik's cappuccino in the second round looked pretty solid and that's always a mixed bag as some judges want the espresso to really cut through and yet others want it to be balanced. So I am told anyway, but the point is he executed them well.

The Signature drink scored very high in both rounds. I think Hong and Nik's aunt should take a big piece of credit for helping build that with Nik. I won't go into it's details but if you want one, you just have to ask Nik.

I will take some time to digest the trip, post some photos and tell the ballad of 'Cotton Mouth' Krankl soon. Truth is that nobody sees the hard work behind the stage, the help people from our North East crowd which showed up and represented this year who then went into support mode when Nik made finals. Nobody sees the long car rides late at night or the frantic scramble to find dry ice last minute. A big thank you to those who came out and supported but I will take the time to detail some names and give credit where it's due in the next few days.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Congratulations to Nik

Big congratulations to Nik of Taste Coffee House for winning 2nd place in the NERBC! A great achievement for a first-time competitor!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Events: Nik's Competition Demo

Everybody knows by now that Nik from Taste Coffee House is going to the regional barista competition. Many of you have seen us those nights he has been working out his routine and a few who dropped in have been 'judges' and watched parts of his set.

Well, tomorrow night Nik will do his routine for the public since not everyone will be able to run down to Pittsburgh to support him. We welcome anyone who is interested to show up as part of the audience. We are looking for local barista to be 'sensory judges' in an attempt to give everyone the feel of the real stage show but obviously more cozy.

Nik's routine is already set so this would be entirely for fun and to give the public a chance to see what he will be going through on stage over the weekend. Wednesday, Feb 4th, at 6pm, Nik will demo his routine at barismo, 169 Mass Ave in Arlington, MA.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Events: While we are away

Chris will take a day off from barista-ing to watch the shop Saturday while we attend the NERBC. For those who haven't been by the shop or are looking for an excuse to drop by again, this is the time and the weather might not be as bad as the last few weeks. Chris didn't want to completely get off his bar routine so he asked to host a gathering for espresso and we obliged. We will have a little extra from the Poker Face competition blend and the local favorite Linnaean St. Espresso on tap that Chris will be pulling for anyone who comes in between 2-4pm on Saturday Feb. 7th.

169 Mass Ave
Arlington, MA 02474

Drop in for some espresso and chatter this coming Saturday.

The v60 style pour over

We were playing with some Chemex brews the last few days. Trying to get a bit more out of this brewer as it has become a go to method for a lot of people in the coffee scene outside of our region but initial observations tell us it isn't giving as good a cup as I would like. There are obviously varying degrees of acceptance among our group but I have not been impressed yet with a mix of techniques off that device. It seems to hide a lot of roast note and under develop without getting as nice an aroma as our other more familiar brewers. This could be because we haven't spent enough time with the method but we also had some other observations that made us think this brewer isn't necessarily our style. Given the comparable day to day methods we use for drinking our own cups: Abid full immersion brewer (which is heavier in body but mutes acidity), the v60 style cone pour overs (better aromatics), as well as the cloth pour overs (the best of both worlds when done well but it's hard to do well).

First thoughts in our group were that it has to do with the angles of the smaller Chemex we had. After a round of discussion though, it seems more simple. Ridges.

The method we really enjoy comes from techniques combined between this and this. Where a Chemex brews down through the layers, a v60 style brew has raised ridges that provide space for drainage on the sides, not just out the bottom. This means you have to be a little more detailed in how you pour because you can easily under extract by breaking the ring but it results in a better balanced cup. The tastes come out with more aroma and more nuance in the cloth method particlarly.

The hand made cone here is noteworthy because it is akin to Ben K.'s favorite pour over device, the cloth dripper. It's really simple actually, you pour in a circular motion into the center and the coffee and it extracts evenly through the cake which forms a V if done correctly. Be careful not to break the bloom and it will hold temp better and be more aromatic. Some arm chair quarterbacks have proffered that the open ventilation would somehow cool the brew but I would suggest unless you have brewed it with a temp probe and experienced the resulting cup(we have), it's better to test it than hypothesize. I will post a primer when things settle down but right now we are too busy to do it proper.

This methodical hand pour method is one where you have to really pay attention and it's a contrast to the method I keep seeing of pre-infuse and then fill which is no different really than most approaches to Melitta. I am not sure the kettle is as important to that method but it really does make a difference for that slow controlled pour you need on a v60. It represents a bit more work but the reward is in the cup. Check out this Hario promotional video for a few chuckles and a look at the dripper and v60 in action. We have a case of the nice ceramic v60's coming in to play with soon so keep an eye on the shop for an upcoming demo session.