company - education - coffee

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Guest barista at barismo

Guest barista, you heard it here, we'll be doing some guest slots here on bar over the next few months. The slow season feels like a good time to follow through with this idea.

First up will be Jake from ERC (Dec 4th). Jake is the coffee manager for ERC and Pavement (opening soon). Next up will be Jacob from ERC @ BU (Dec 8th) followed by Judson from Hi Rise Cafe (Dec 11th). Judson finished first in the Espresso competition at the Fri 13th Jam, Jacob was runner up in the latte art competition. We'll have several guest barista who are familiar with our coffee first up but the idea is to share a different perspective. We will be inviting other barista and already have confirmations. Keep in mind, most guest stints are not usually local shops to local shops so this is a bit of a novelty. We will post the schedule the week before each guest.

The idea is to have a dialogue with barista. We have a lot to offer and getting outside perspective is a good thing. The idea is to let barista work on a coffee bar where the customers are very supportive and the culture is open to creative brew methods. If the larger coffee culture is going to change, it has to change on all fronts, not just those that serve our coffees. Coffee needs to get away from this latte centric phase some shops locally are pushing hard for. We probably don't need a focus on the 4 shot 20oz latte and syrups as much as we need to get back to the basics, the coffee itself.

Sounds strange and I know many people won't get it, but that's the risk in this. In a worst case scenario, only a few barista are interested and the effect is pretty minimum. At best, we learn something and barista walk away with a little initiative to bring back some of the ideas we are using on our bar. We get to hear outside perspectives of the challenges in cafes and that helps us build a more comprehensive approach to how we further the concept of creating demand for better coffee.

The issue here is simple. We want to share a portion of what we know and build the local community even if it means helping people who do not work with us or our coffees. Our goals are larger than the old timer's territorial politics. To get better, we all have to move a step forward. If that means we have to lead, so be it, antagonize a bit, sure, why not? There is always a risk in doing something about quality rather than just talking about it.


Tea: Taiwan #18, originally uploaded by coffeedirtdog.

Volume, selection, and cheap prices are the norm around here for our leafed brews. Tea has never gotten a real stage here and there are a multitude of reasons.

The big difference between coffee and tea is the learning curve involved. Teas may be easier to brew but in coffee, anyone who pours a rosetta can and does claim expertise.

There is no equivalent in tea which can make it's presentation or service valuable to the newbie barista. Unlike coffee, there are few ways beyond taste to contrast the visual appearance related to it's quality. The depth of options available coupled with the lack of access to top quality puts teas as a second tier product in most cafes.

The best teas receive extremely high prices in other countries and the US market has a relatively weak demand for higher priced teas. Even tasting a properly brewed competition grade Oolong would be an incredibly rare experience.

We are lucky in the US when it comes to coffee. We're geographically close to some of the best coffees in the world and the costs are still affordable to taste the premium coffees. It may not always be that way so enjoy it now.

As I head off to visit tea farms, I'll be thinking about just this. I'll try to bring home a unique Tea experience to share and hopefully the taste alone will be enough to inspire more focus on teas as well as the usual coffee attention we all have.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How to: The v60 1 cup 9 ounce method

v60-1: 1 cup setup
1 cup Range server, 1 cup v60, and Kettle

You will need:
v60 1 cup
*1 cup range server
v60 filter (paper or cloth)
A gram/ounce scale
Thermometer (preferably digital)
Coffee and Grinder
Filtered hot water

v60-2: Balancing the kettleThe following method is for a 9 ounce cup to approximate traditional US style drip coffees. With a slightly adjusted grind and slower speed of pour, a smaller resulting volume in the same amount of time can be brewed for more intense origin characters.

1. Rinse filters (cloth or paper) before each use with water off the boil. This will remove some unwanted tastes and warm the v60 itself. A rinse also helps hold the paper filters into place.

2. Use a cloth underneath the kettle when pouring for balance and to avoid burns. For best results with the Hario Kettle, a slight tilt on it's side can help control the slower pour speeds.

v60-4: Divet in groundsv60-5: Prewetv60-6 : Preinfusion bloom

3. After freshly grinding freshly roasted coffee, load 19g (+ or - to taste). Indent a small impression in the center of the grounds. It makes a difference for beginners in v60 to get an even pre-wet. It is extremely important to makes sure all the grounds are fully wet during this stage as dry areas will cause bubbling and channeling later in the brew.

4. Once water is ready off boil, allow it to cool to desired temperature (88C-92C OR 190F to 198F). Darker roasts will need lower temps while lighter roasts need higher temps as general rule.

5. Pour one ounce of water slowly into the center of the ground coffee then continue with deliberate circles outward until all grounds are wet. This should take a total of 10 seconds to completely wet the grounds.

6. Start your timer with a two minute count.

7. Allow the coffee to bloom for twenty seconds (+ OR - 10 seconds) after the last drip of the pre-wet pour. Some roasts will not bloom due to age or roast style, these make for difficult pour overs but can be rewarding with attention.

v60-8: Early pourv60-10: End pour for 1 cup @ 9ozv60- Final drawdown

8. Once the timer starts, allow the coffee to bloom and soak. In this example, we allowed it to sit for twenty seconds before pouring. The initial pour after pre-infusion is important because we want the grounds to unfurl evenly into a V shape as we slowly pour into the center. An errant or too fast pour can cause side channeling and it's best to avoid this. Pouring down the sides is also not recommended as this will agitate grounds and cause bitters in the brew. A reminder, this is not a pour and fill method so water that does not pass through the coffee will simply drain off quickly. The floating dome that forms an inch around the outside of the brew has an insular effect and it is not necessary to break this during the pour. In fact, results of washing the edges on the final pour have been very unpleasant.

v60- Spent grinds9. For this method, a steady pour of nine ounces from the twenty second mark until there are thirty seconds left on a two minute count has worked best. If the grind is set correctly, the last few drips will happen at or just after the timer goes off. For a larger v60-02, we would add a minute to the total time and adjustments to grind/dose/pour.

10. The resultant grounds should be evenly distributed and symmetry isn't necessarily a bad thing! Take notes, make adjustments and record the effects of those changes. A method can always be tuned from it's starting point to personal tastes.

Get started on this with the pour over mini pro pack.

For brew guides and other methods visit our education section.

Monday, November 23, 2009

v60 is better

v60- bloom diagram
, originally uploaded by coffeedirtdog.

Compared to other manual methods, v60 is unique because you have control over flow rate. In most every brew method, we can control the temperature, dose and grind. What's difficult is to control the flow rate or water debit in most manual brews.

Pour and fill methods like Melitta and Chemex are restricted by grind and drainage orifice. V60 has the signature ridged sides which allow for ventilation and side drainage while the drain orifice is large and won't restrict flow. A Chemex cannot drain from the sides and Melitta is restricted by the orifice, v60 has neither problem.

v60-Side view of drainage

What has been problematic so far with v60 is that many people are just brewing it like a Chemex and that does not produce the same results v60 were designed to achieve. Much attention needs to be put on the bloom and a proper preinfusion with a controlled pour technique. The results can be seen in an evenly extracted v shape in the brewed grinds.

v60- Spent grinds

For better results with the v60, start with one of our brew guides (available on request with an order) and adjust to taste. We will be posting a 1 cup how to guide soon. For wholesale or commercial training requests on any of the Hario products, please contact us directly as we will be happy to assist.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Moving forward

I am really quite ready for a vacation of sorts. A week in Taiwan buying teas and then to Japan for a few days in December. Highlights of the trips are of course visiting Tea Farms, Tea Research Centers, and visiting the factory where our roasters were built. In Japan, we will visit Hario glass mfg and the rest will be vacationing.

The plan once we get back will be quite ambitious. We have new shops opening using our coffee that will need our training and support. In that same time, we will be looking to audit our existing accounts/relationships and see how we can help them progress towards better coffee service in the local area. Classes, training sessions, and an ambitious barista certification program are on the list. I approach it with the idea that if you aren't moving forward, you are falling behind.

We are working behind the scenes diligently on several projects so our hands are quite full right now. The most exciting project with local community implications will be related to competitions. More on that and several equipment projects that we can talk about soon, but not yet.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Boston's coffee community

In doing the last few rounds of the Friday deliveries, I had a few moments where I got to chuckle. At each stop, about 15 feet from the door, I heard that familiar click click click.

It was the sound of barista furiously clicking that Mazzer doser to distribute freshly ground espresso into the portafilter. This may sound strange but given everything we've gone through to get to this point, it's comforting. Thinking about where some of these shops and barista will be in 6 months and how far they have come in the last six months puts me in a good mood.

To come to this point is very exciting because the next year in front of us will be another challenge in training, competitions, and better coffee in the area. If we trained one barista to place in in a regional competition, we can train more. If our accounts keep growing, so will we. So to those who predicted or hoped we wouldn't be around in a year, you might be sore out of luck.

After the jam (second we've helped organize), I realized a few things. In a few months, the dynamic of who the best shops in Boston are will shift again. With that, I hope the dialogue can get off photos of 20 ounce latte art in the press and back onto coffee. It's a bit embarrassing really that Boston hasn't yet emerged from this cheap/volume phase yet with cafes claiming to be top tier. The nonsensical focus on jumbo milk art reminds me of the early New York coffee scene and the press attention it got. When the discussion is on the coffee, why we should pay more for better coffee, and how to provide an experience equal to that higher dollar amount, that's progress. Cheap 16oz cups of house light/dark is not progress for any shop trying to claim best quality in the area.

Boston has a young community built around coffee that is starting to move. Most of the progressive shops are splitting roast suppliers and there is positive momentum toward smaller/better quality cup sizes and per cup bars. I'm excited and hopeful. Things are changing, be it from the peer pressure of a big coffee event or simply new personalities influencing changes. For our part, we'll keep reinvesting in the larger community, even those that don't serve our coffees. The goal is to grow a bigger local base of shops and therefore end consumers who appreciate attention to quality in coffee.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Barista Jam Aftermath

Cup Tasting Competition Table
Results of the competitions:

Coffee Triangulation organized by Atomic (Beverly, MA):
1. Mike (Cambridge, MA)
2. Jamie W. of Barismo (Arlington, MA)
3. Melissa W. of ERC (Boston, MA)

Espresso Throwdown organized by barismo (Arlington, MA):
1. Judson M. of Hi-Rise on Brattle St. (Cambridge, MA)
2. Scott B. of Cafe Fixe (Brookline, MA)
3. Markus of ERC @ BU(Boston, MA)

Latte Art Pour organized by ERC/MEMteas:
1. Nik of Taste Cafe (Newtonville, MA)
2. Jacob of ERC @ BU (Boston, MA)
3. Ethan Miller (New Hampshire)

Espresso Competition in ProgressThe jam was a big success. It was actually too successful because the turnout was well beyond what we expected, more than double in fact, which had us running over past midnight with the final competition. My expectations did not include all the locals turning out as they did in such good form in such heavy numbers. There were only two or three notable no shows who were invited, mostly older generation coffee people. We will have more photos to share next week but all I can say is that we are looking forward to the growth and expansion of the community. There are so many more good barista in the Boston metro and their ranks are growing. I am excited because the ranks of barista serving up our own Sonata/Soma/SOE turned up interested and showing the results of training. I was also impressed by so many good barista ready to mix it up from other shops we don't work with.

Markus, Judson, and ScotThe best thing about the buzz will be the momentum an event like this creates. To inspire barista and yes, to put peer pressure on some to get back on track. Word of shops/barista doing cafe crawls after the event spread quickly. It is something I have been working to see happen for years, a community in the area focused on better coffee. I can only hope the scene will continue on regardless of our involvement and keep pushing towards a more progressive cafe culture in the Boston metro.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Upcoming mid November events

Fri 13th Barista Jam @ ERC 736 Commonwealth Ave, Boston 7pm

Sat 14th Brew Bar/Tasting @ Dave's Fresh Pasta 81 Holland St Somerville 1-3pm

Sun 15th Brew Bar/Tasting @ Formaggio's Kitchen 244 Huron Ave Cambridge 10-12pm

The Jam is going to be huge. Help make it a success by showing up!

After the jam, take some time to support local specialty shops and check out the tastings at Formaggio and Dave's. Kenya, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Oh My!