company - education - coffee

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Espresso updates

A few new things to take a look at in the next few weeks as for our espresso lineup. We are adding a new Wabi in a few days.

A pairing of two Colombia lots: Meridiano and Matambo. We will be looking for feedback on this but the idea is an espresso that's clean, bright, fruited, with a layered clarity. We are going ot test the lighter end of our espresso roast profiles for this one. To that end our proposed name is Lucid. Expect Lucid espresso to hit the hoppers in a couple of weeks.

We are also planning on updating the Soma to get back to the Guatemala, Guatemala, and something fruited equation it had previously been. We worked on adding a Kenya to it earlier but struggled to get what we wanted out of it. We are now adding some of Miriam de Villanueva's El Bosque to the mix. That coffee paired so amazingly well with Armando Melgar's La Trinidad in Z10 that we just love how it can bridge the flavors of the other two coffees so well.

That put's the current blend ratios as such:
40% Colombia El Meridiano
40% Guatemala La Trinidad
20% Guatemala El Bosque

We have also been playing around with added materials for coffees including back labels with tidbits about some of the farms and helpful brewing advice. Keep an eye out for those!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A little information about potential pour over filters

There are three basic kinds of filter medium wide spread in use in the industry we would like to talk about: Paper, metal, and cloth.

Paper as a filter medium: Everyone always says paper wicks away oils and flavors. What you need to know is that rinsing paper filters help but many paper filters are just going to taste like paper. To really understand this, you need to stop drinking coffees with paper filters for a while and then come back to it. The contrast really makes it clear.
The other thing you need to know is that fines will build up against the walls of the filter (subject to the shape of the filter). Cumulatively, we describe the tastes from paper as thin, brighter, and crisp. Look for paper filters that are less thick and avoid brown filters.

Metal as a filter medium: Metal mediums (much like glass) depend highly on the hole sizes (and their spacing). Amounts of fine particulate are expected to pass through to the resulting cup. The effects in taste notes are simple, regardless of what form factor. This filtration that lets sediment through will have more body, more texture, less clarity, and can result in an over extracted harsh taste in the cool cup (from sediment). The fine particulate should be avoided and compensated for in methodology as much as possible.

Cloth as a filter medium: Cloth is unique and a bit unorthodox these days. It is the only filter medium in common use that has natural depth filtration. The fines will be trapped effectively and oils will pass through resulting in a heavier cup with great clarity. Cloth is hard to care for and can easily impart off flavor notes if not rinsed properly after use, cared for in between uses, and cleaned properly as needed. It also requires a seasoning brew the first time it will be used! That's a lot of work so we often recommend cloth for the diligent or advanced user.

Sidebar: Surface Filtration vs Depth Filtration + Cake Filtration
Surface filtration is where the filter medium keeps all particles, that do not pass through at the surface of the filter, on the surface. Depth filtration allows for particulate to pass through the surface layer and into the depth or layers of the medium. This means that the finest particulate is less likely to build up in a layer on the surface and is captured in that depth.

Cake filtration happens in the brew cake of a pour over (espresso pucks as well). As the grinds settle in a brew cake, the layers of grounds act themselves as a filter. This extra bit of filtration is dependent on two things: depth and agitation. Two good examples of cake filtration are the narrow top chamber of a Syphon and the shallow wide brew puck in a Clover brewer. Unlike a Syphon, the brew chamber design in a Clover has a shallow puck with very little cake filtration. (However, by whisking or strong late agitation, a brew cake will not form and have little to no effect on filtering the resulting brew of a Syphon).

This is why we push for less circular stirring agitation in Abids/Syphons/Clover, less pours around the edge of the brew cake in hand pour, and less aggressive pouring (lower steady flows are better). To achieve more clarity and layers of flavor in the resulting cup, a focus on achieving cake filtration seems essential.

We recommend paper if rinsed well for the every day user, cloth for the advanced or technical focused, metal filters for those who are looking for most ease of use. Cloth is our favorite in shop as it works extremely well for the volume we have. Some time ago while in Japan, I played around with and got a Cafeor (a metal screen filter v60) from Hario which is similar to the K-One (has larger holes spaced differently). We found that it worked reasonably well with it's screen configuration where the screen was only about 60% of the surface area but the sediment was still a problem. We adjusted our method quite a bit to compensate for the sediment and found a coarser grind, longer pre-infusion bloom, and dumping the first drops during pre-infusion helped. The sediment though proved for a often unpleasant cool cup and we much preferred the results we get in Syphon and Cloth hand pours.

Aside from the Cafeor, our trainer and an engineering friend played with the new K-One. Neither liked the results and were caught off guard by the enthusiasm others had when tasting the same cup. Regardless, we are going to play in shop with one tomorrow care of Dylan Evans who is gonna bring it in to give it a full working over. I believe our experiences with the Cafeor will hold true. We've tested everything and choose to stick with the methods we like the most regardless of how difficult or complex they get as long as we can find a way to execute consistently with them on bar.

In the end, choice of filter medium is really about a match of personal taste, patience for details, and ease of use. Try them all and work until you find what you like.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Telling you it's good vs Sharing the good

Our trainer Chris and I had a long discussion over lunch today about our business vision. With too much of the coffee community, it really is a bit hard to get a cup of coffee at many establishments without some snark. Attitude seems to go hand in hand with the service. Attitude either about the brand served or about the portions it's served in. We try hard to push back against that in what we do but because our offerings are so limited and our brand is low key, we struggle to get the right message across on some occasions. It is our fault when we don't communicate clearly.

The best way to explain this is the potential faux pas of putting milk in your drip coffee. We do a pour over brew which takes quite some time to brew and a whole lot of attention. I have been to many a shop which does just this in varying forms. If a customer asks us for milk, we politely provide it but softly encourage them to taste it first to determine if it is necessary or to what degree they would prefer it. We try to make sure they understand that defaulting to their previous dosing of milk might not get the same results. Granted, we are talking about a small group of our customers but they seem to be ones that really rattle a lot of other shops trying to present themselves as 'hard line' or 'purist'. Maybe we aren't so hard line/purist, just very focused in what we want to do.

A common occurrence I have seen or heard proudly discussed by barista at other shops is how they challenged the customer not to put milk or sugar in it or simply restricting options. A famous 'blow up' example of this type of '3rd wave behavior' is the espresso over ice situation. A less public version is when you hear a barista bragging about taunting a customer to not put milk/sugar in their coffee/espresso drink. Visiting with a few barista, one such incident came up where a barista bragged to me about wagging a finger at a customer not to put sugar in their coffee. I politely pointed out we had just been discussing the harshness of the crema in the shot only minutes before. It could be possible that the drink needed a little sugar to this person's taste preferences. As proud as we are to serve the coffees we do (as progressive barista in general), sometimes they aren't living up to the ideal we put in front of them. How you get someone to stop and think about it before doing what they always habitually do is a delicate challenge. Sometimes they may be right, there might be something off and it needs a little something to correct.

That's what it really is about. People and their preferences, finding a good match when they enter our shop. When someone comes in, we try to put them with the coffee they will really enjoy, not force our preferred coffee choices on them. We are however a business that only seeks to showcase coffees we like in methods we have vetted and chosen for the most unique expressions. This means we always run the line between denying certain customers and turning some people away to get at the ones who will appreciate the things we do.

The idea is really simple. Don't lecture good, share what is good. When someone likes a french press, we push them towards the deeper roast. When they like Kenyas, we push them towards v60s. So, it becomes interpretation of what they may want in our lineup rather than instigation. With trust and good interaction, eventually a discussion forms and there is room to expand the discussion to include coffees they may never have considered.

Customer is not always king, but my particular customer is. Defining what customers we want makes for an interesting debate. It starts with deciding what we want to serve, the message we want to convey around it, and if those things click then you really don't have to work as hard. We are lucky at our small outpost that the majority of our customer base comes in knowing what to expect. The lack of protruding signage and glaring marketing campaigns keeps us low key. People find us less organically and more by recommendation of others. Kinda backwards tot eh traditional business model. There is less desire to look for a normal cup of coffee and more exploration of brew methods and coffee offerings by those who find us. We are lucky to have the customers we do and we know it. Making enough menu and offering changes to get to the point that it had clarity has helped. We depend on word of mouth more than we do on anything else. Customers who like us telling their friends what we do helps ease the burden on us to explain exactly what it is we do. It's not easy to get into that position and it means you have to close a few doors and take a few chances but we're better off for it.

At the end of the day, I love coffee but I really wouldn't enjoy coffee without the people we have found as customers. The conversations, the interactions, these things make it special. I've watched customers follow us from other shops drinking large lattes and get down to 5oz cappuccino and yes, even a tight double shot from time to time. It's validating that we are doing something unique, but it's also great fun. Once you are on the same page, there is so much to talk about and so much to share.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Louisville Barista Bash 004

Friday night was an awesome event held by the Folks at Prima Coffee equipment in Louisville, KY. It was held at the Anchorage Cafe and the staff there were awesome hosts. I got the honor of being a judge for their per cup competition and having a short discussion about per cup bars with attendees. I look forward to hearing more out of Louisville's coffee scene in the near future.

There are a few things you need to know about the scene in Louisville: they are great hosts, serious about coffee, and the shop to shop camaraderie is something we could all learn from. I was certainly surprised by the amount of home roasters locally and how engaged, curious, and yes... polite that everyone was. It was refreshing that while the community may feel it has a long way to go to catch up with the noise coming out of the perceived coffee hubs, there is a good group of people there at the forefront.

I was honored by the discussions, the attention to what we are doing here in Arlington and I want to extended a big thanks to everyone there for having me down to speak. It was a lot of fun, great perspective, and I am more than a little worn out afterward!

Inserts of the core presentation on per cup bars I gave at the Louisville Barista Bash 004. These concepts are borrowed from some core Marketing concepts and the talk was an overview with Q&A rather than specific execution of a bar.

Building a per cup bar:

Goals for Per Cup (Coffee on demand)
As A Main Service
  • To Contrast bulk brewing drip programs with freshly brewed cups.
  1. The Pros:
  2. The Cons:

As A Supplementary Service

  • A coffee of the day (or method of the moment) service to provide an alternative to the standard offerings.
  1. The Pros:
  2. The Cons:

Conveying a clear message is key.
  • Menu
  • Appearance
  • Service
The dialogue that results.
  • Interaction
  • Engagement
  • Discussion (Customer to Server AND Customer to Customer)

Monday, November 29, 2010

The need to calibrate

On bars these days you find more and more usage of scales and thermometers but less and less interest in calibration. Like most things, there is a balance between dependence on something and willingness to check that what we depend on is accurate.

Here are a few things to calibrate and a few easy ways to calibrate them.

Scales: Some scales come with a gram weight which can be used for calibration. Alternatively, you can purchase a set of weights for calibration purposes. For your small scale that would be measuring amounts such as gram doses, a nickel is a good calibration tool. A nickel weighs 5g and once you have zeroed and tared your scale, you can simply place a nickel on it to see if it is accurate. A better way of calibrating a scale though is to measure the maximum capacity of the scale. If the scale maxes out at 5lb, finding something like a 5lb bag of sugar to measure the maximum of the scale. RTFM applies in all situations as many models of scales have calibration modes outlined in the manual.

It is also a good idea to make sure the scale you use for measuring small gram dose weights has a small enough resolution to be practical. Some scales have resolutions that vary as much as 5g as they are designed for weighing larger amounts, some are used for precision measurements of small amounts but need to be tared often or reset and tared between measurements.

Thermometers: Thermometers are easy to calibrate and hopefully everyone manual brewing coffee is measuring temperature. To calibrate a thermometer, simply fill a cup with mostly ice and a little bit of water allowing more than 80% of the probe to be submerged. Let the thermometer sit submerged for one minute and then observe the temperature. It should measure at 32f/0C. In conjunction, a measure of water at a rolling boil can give another data point. Placing the same probe into water at a rolling boil should give you a measuring point of 212f/100C unless you are at high elevation to which your boiling point may differ. (To verify espresso temperatures, we recommend getting a Scace and calibrating it the same way in both ice water and boiling to establish group head temperatures.)

Note: The usefulness of calibrating thermometers was most apparent for us. With our installation of two roasters (identical), we found the temperature probes (and spares) had a range of variance within 2 degrees. After identifying the offsets, we then programmed this into the displayed temperatures. When changing the temp probes, we would have to repeat the process of calibration.

Flow Meters: The traditional flow meter in an espresso machine is one of the most difficult items a professional barista can use. In many cases, we tend to abandon this because constant recalibration is needed. The reason being that in the dual boiler machines we use, the volumetric component isn't designed for precision and is placed in a position where hot water sits and scale buildup occurs. This creates many problems that makes it less than useful and often a hinderance. Recalibrating involves either a scale weight of the resulting shot (remember mL and grams are exchangeable) or a volumetric estimate with a 'shot glass.'

In the next year, a new type of flow meter will be introduced in coffee brewing that should not be confused with the volumetric controls on an espresso machine. The LuminaireCoffee volumetric controls are a generation ahead in that they function with more accuracy and are more useful in what they display. As opposed to the volumetric controls on an espresso machine, the LuminaireCoffee flow meter is in the cold water section and has less issues with buildup or hard water. It also is precision and digital which is best exemplified when using it in manual mode as it functions similar to a chronos display of time on a La Marzocco espresso machine. It simply displays total cumulative volume and time counts (and a dynamic flow in either ml/s or oz/min) as you are brewing. (In preset mode, it has cutoffs that can be set to stop the flow at either time or volume points.) Calibration of this is done at production but can also be done by measuring a specific volume of water in a specific time count with a calibrated scale. It makes brewing onto a scale to measure volume a bit superfluous (once calibration is verified). See Flow and Profiling posts for more relevant discussion.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Right or wrong, it's in the discussion

There is always a balance between art and science in coffee. We tend to approach this as much as we can by eliminating variables and making the art 'the interpretation of the equation', not a few loose variables in the equation. We feel that developing a fundamental understanding of the how and why that fits into one's own personal expression is very important because at it's heart coffee is expression and discussing perfection should be be a matter of opinion. Recently, the discussion has centered around absolute statements such as 'extraction perfection' where some prominent voices believe there is a perfect extraction metric that applies across all coffees, roast styles, water supplies, grind qualities, brew methodologies, brew physics... you get the picture.

I say this because as much as we try to measure and control what we do, the interpretation is in what we produce or more specifically the measure of 'correct' we choose to apply internally to what we produce. You can take a coffee in roast profile to the same drop point a dozen ways or more and the version of 'correct' is really up to the person choosing the profile. The roast errors are definable and obviously unwanted, but that always escapes the discussion.

Over the time I have been in coffee, I have come to the simple realization that there is no right, only what I like and hopefully I find others that agree with this and enjoy it as well. Right and wrong sounds good on paper, when preaching as if it's religion, and in online forums but in truth it's completely subjective, even when standing in the same room cupping together.

Our segment of the professional coffee community that might be reading this though is something of a social networking movement. It is not essentially built on tangible and definable quality, it is built on the conversation about quality. This presents an interesting dynamic where there is nothing cohesive about the companies or many of the individuals lumped together other than working within coffee itself.

So fundamentally, there is a need to control message by many, to be at the cutting edge, that you can see many companies (and individuals) run towards whatever is trending on twitter or being championed on coffeed. Sure, they may abandon it in two months to a year or it makes the kitchen drawer after only a use or two, but that's not the point. Whatever is new and seems cutting edge will be hot for a few minutes until people tire of it and begin looking for the new thing. That's what drives the discussion to have fresh new things to throw against the wall and offer opinions about. A prominent UK blogger/roaster is the prime example of where this creates ripples of noise. His well intentioned 'what if' posts are often to the tune of, I tried this and it was interesting, you try it too. The problem though is that people take the words as facts, as thoroughly researched and proven science which it never was intended as. Empirical notes or scientific method, we should take the latter but it's hard to comment on this unless you are willing to pick up the slack and do the work involved to either prove or disprove statements.

That really doesn't matter expect ironically, the community discussion is always swirling around this moving target of quality and arguing it with vicious statements of absolutism. This presents the simple premise, how can we talk about quality if the brew methods change so often, the coffees rotate so quickly, and the attention span is so short? When our prominent voices in the community are only willing to offer a conversation and strong opinions without offering repeatable scientific experiments to test, we are in murky waters.

A interesting case study would be how the success of the seasonal approach is actually creating a consumption culture among cafes who rotate among roasters. Yes, fresh coffee tastes great... unless it never really gets dialed in or never really hits that mark to live up to the cupping table potential. Let's assume the roaster has the chops to nail the coffee on first arrival and gets the most out of it the first time around. Let's assume there was no feeling out period of getting to know the coffee and avoiding sending out batches that weren't a good representation of the coffee. Let's then assume that all the shops selling it could all dial it in on the first few brews and would be serving it up perfectly in the first week. Then let's erase all of that and start over in two weeks or so. Sound like a reasonable quality system? I would offer it's hard enough to remember the last coffee you enjoyed as a consumer to only come back next week and be confronted with an entirely new roulette wheel of coffees and barista suffer the same overload of 'new'. This is not a criticism but an observation of the plus minus out there.

Here's the real problem I am getting at because I am not really trying to cast stones at big companies or seasonality. We can't say what I just said in those last few paragraphs. In naming the companies or having an open discussion about them with enough inference, I would be assailed by more than a dozen kids who worked for some of the companies talking about how wrong it was and defending the company they work for... until they work for another company.

It borders on group-think where dissent is quashed in an attempt to keep the norm and adhere to the louder voices of the community. If we can't critique and have the serious debates in this industry, then there is no point in having discussion. A little over three years ago, on this blog, we were championing things like getting rid of black box blends, being transparent about ingredients, using progressive packing and storing, and dozens of other crazy ideas at the time that a lot of us were thinking about but few if any had implemented. We took a lot of flack and critique from some prominent voices (who are now quietly on the other side) and were labeled unfairly for our stands. Then some of those ideas caught on with a few big companies and weren't really crazy anymore when proven in the mainstream.

Right now, there is little difference between signal and noise in the discussion. Good coffee is still entirely subjective and having debates about it is only healthy if they are open, have some cynicism and a few dissenting voices to challenge us. Otherwise, it is simply a race to adopt every new toy, be the first to review it then proclaim it amazing, not a discussion about what needs to be fixed and there is an awful lot wrong with our industry. We may be in the middle of a coffee renaissance in the US but it's also a time where idealism runs rampant and egos get big. It's still hard to find a good cup of coffee, still hard to define good, and this movement is still a small segment of a large industry figuring out who it wants to be.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Single origin espresso tasting Dec 4th @ Simon's

Our trainer will be over at Simon's (1736 Mass Ave Cambridge, MA) the 4th for a single origin espresso lineup of four coffees:
Kenya Guama Peaberry roasted by Madcap
Costa Rica Los Lobos roasted by Madcap
Kenya Guama roasted by barismo
Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Michelle roasted by barismo

All four coffees will be offered throughout the morning and into the afternoon.

Check it out!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

barismo will be closed Thanksgiving day so stock up early on coffee!

We will be open for a half day on Friday from 8-1pm.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pressure profiling, flow rate profiling, and the future of temperature profiling

We admit being hesitant to get involved with pressure profiling. Simply put, there were too many problems we had to deal with in accounts to add one more major variable.

Our opinions were refined and changed by first working with Ben and Cora at RBC during a guest stint where we got a few coffees really dialed in using pressure profiling. It was an experience that has continued to get us good feedback on how the coffees come out when the pressure is tweaked. This was further cemented by experiences at Worldbean.

If pressure profiling is the future for a certain market segment, we have to wrap our heads around this a little more and see how it develops. What it points to for us is how the technology in our industry is about to get much more tech very quickly. Keeping up with what is happening and discerning which advances are quality may take some time.

When Clover launched, we were one of the critics of the brewer. The silty metal filtration, the heat wrap issues, and the new brew method it created. We always noted however they were really cool people working there but from a coffee standpoint, we didn't like it. Our opposition to the clover though left us out in the cold in a lot of community discussions because it was what had been trending and everyone was rushing to adopt it so they likewise flamed anyone who disagreed. It took nearly a hundred units being out there before a larger voice of opposition formed and the sale to Starbucks cemented it for many. Now, there are plenty of people against it and still more looking for a new design that doesn't reinvent how we brew coffee, only aids making it.

I am wondering this aloud because as the Lb-1 launches soon, I realize it will take time to seep in exactly the implications of this technology and how it will change how we brew. Sure, we've had versions of this over the last two years and fully get where it's coming from, but there will be many naysayers and many would be early adopters to take that leap.

The fact though is, Luminairecoffee technology will open the door to flow profiling with precision temps. The ability to control and tune flow rate throughout a brew in pour over methods. The following higher capacity version will offer an ability to bulk brew. There's also a top secret project that may show up in a top secret shop opening soon in Cambridge that will be a potential vision of where espresso may go if some of this technology were converted. The current version of the Lb-1 has temperature controls that are unheard of. While the forumphiles and keyboard warriors talk about their different metrics for measuring extraction, we've been lucky to be geeking on something that has precision, repeatable volume/temperature controls making measuring results less useful that observing the inputs. We can even stop and adjust temps mid brew where the pause is only how long it takes to hit a small button sequence. At some point, temperature profiling will be a very real addition, though the requirements to implement it would require much more user interface and would slow production considerably.

So, it could be said, I've had a glimpse of the future. The real revelation is what comes next. These first generation versions of Luminairecoffee technology that will be far surpassing anything else on the market will be the first of a new control that goes beyond previous inventions. While the old engineering maxim of 'fast, cheap, and quality pick two of three' usually applies, this is the exception. Using technology that is cheaper to make and costs less to run (high energy efficiency=cheap), has a zero refresh time (so fast!), and actually produces more consistent and precise temperatures than existing PID'd small boiler technologies(quality).

So some people were commenting how it looks good on paper and how they were skeptical or how it compares it to the boilers out there. I'll file that with the list of things where people have been against something we were exploring, championing, or working with just before it became big in the larger community. Be it as early adopters of specific brew methods, championing progressive packaging, challenging transparency in blends, or the other things we have had detractors line up against, you develop a very thick skin after a while. It all seems to eventually make it main stream or at least catches on enough in small segments that we no longer hesitate to move to back what we believe in.

If US coffee is facing a renaissance of sorts then pressure profiling, flow controls, and temperature profiling are the inevitable. How we get there will either take a long time or be on the backs of small bits of genius that change our entire industry. Here's hoping we are seeing the latter.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It's all about the flow (or it should be)

When talking about v60's and most hand pour methods, the discussion always breaks down quickly with vague terminology. The chatter comes back to a simple and sometimes meaningless statement of total water volume (usually in gram weight), total brew time, and relating extraction %. That's the hot thing right now in espresso as well in drip, to look at the yield, not how you got there.

The truth is that how you got there matters a lot more. In fact, it's everything.

Looking at the end result is myopic but it's easy and makes sense because it doesn't require much investment. Developing the whole picture takes more than just looking at a few parts and will continue to escape us until we become more scientific in our methods and less what if in our blog posts. It is however what's trending so we deal with tons of discussions bogged down by vague statements.

Here is a simple premise. What if we threw out the scale and stopped measuring the results and moved to a discussion focused on flow rate, intervals, and then talk about the yields?

I know, crazy stuff.

Instead of talking about 12oz, 3-4min, and yield... we just say 4oz/min to 12oz at x dose = yield. It makes a lot more sense to really talk about flow, but only if the flow is fixed and measurable. A steady flow rate is easier to make this functional than a stop start method because the real problem with stop n start methods is the inability to accurately repeat what was done. The yields vary greatly and lack consistency. It takes an awful lot of artistic skill to eyeball measure a volume of water and pour small amounts of water at intervals with any kind of repeatability.

This is the entire case for putting a flow restrictor to a kettle to get a fixed and steady stream. It is also the same premise behind the LuminaireCoffee Lb-1. Instead of incorporating a clunky scale (which you can happily buy for around 20 bucks and add on your own) that would cost another thousand to integrate effectively, they put a precision flow meter inline. That means there is a functional and precise measurement on their display of flow (volume over time). This is incredibly useful and rather intuitive once you get used to seeing it. Having that display also makes for less guess work when trying to dial in a brew.

Take the assumption in the next three cases of a 2 cup paper v60 (more elegant in metric but be patient with the oz/min instead of ml/sec):

Case A: You could conceivably brew your preinfusion at 5oz/min over 15sec with a pause of 25 seconds, then brew for 2 minutes at 6oz/min. Total volume of about 12oz if you assume the preinfusion stayed in the brew cake. Total time would be 2:40 plus the 30 seconds (3:10) it took to drain unless the grind was coarser or finer.

Case B: Alternatively, we could conceive a brew with 5oz per minute over 15sec with a pause of 75 seconds. Then follow with one pour at a flow rate of 12oz/min over 1 min sec. With a draw down assumption of 40 seconds (drawdowns are often longer with more aggressive pouring), we'd have a total volume of 12oz in (3:10).

Case C: Finally, we take a 5oz per minute preinfusion over 15sec with a pause of 30 seconds. Then an off on pour of 12oz/min 4 times for 15 seconds with 3 intervals of 20 seconds. (Doing the math to add that up is as confusing as trying to brew it consistently.) The draw down would be roughly 40 seconds making an overall time of 3:10.

With Case C: Making sure you were precise about the intervals/timing/volumes would take an Lb-1 or ninja kettle skills to be repeatable. Case B is the easiest if you don't have a good kettle, and case A is the one if you have a controlled pour or want the most repeatable (less agitation dependent/easier to get repeatable yields from our experiments). These are just examples and a tweak to grind on each could get the same yield throughout at the sacrifice of some time consistency.

In having a discussion, you see people talking about the starting weights, and the ending times/intervals, but there is no discussion about flow. Why? Because it's hard to measure and hard to control. If you had this in your equation and it was easily measurable, you have a real serious (but complex) discussion. Instead of listening to person in case C talk about a pre-wet and then 12oz pour with 'intervals', you could have a repeatable brew equation that can be tested by others with the same coffee. We can record the resistance of a filter then develop a metric for resistance in the grind and how that is changed by the different flow rates (and resulting agitation). Segmenting each interval and testing it would take time but you could actually have a real discussion about what is going on.

Do it in mL per second and the whole thing becomes quite elegant.

Sadly, espresso machines need this most but current designs have no ability to integrate this. A precision display giving an accurate volume over time which would then make measuring yield very useful. Right now, measuring the gram weight then deriving tds and extraction % of a resulting shot (without a specific incorporation of time and flow) is actually a graph of one variable against a derivative of itself. That is not as useful as it seems more than to calibrate yourself with the same coffee on the same machine with the same water at the same temp with the same grinder to repeat a previous good shot of espresso. That is not how it is being used but much like most things in coffee, we talk a lot about things we aren't always doing ourselves.

Having access to these controls has really hardened my belief that there is so much more exploration to be done and we need to be unbound by things like the gold standard. Sure it is great for a bulk brewing traditional cafe but in our segment, what if there is an amazing cup slightly out of that range? Having a precision range of temperatures and being able to switch temperature mid brew has been devilishly fun to work with but also present a contrast to how most people are still stuck at one temp and a declining or a 'sloped' brew temperature. Having precision and easily adjustable flow rates will be the next thing to really play with on the newest version of the Lb-1 (that will be in production in the spring). When other people get them, we'll compare notes and see how the conversation changes.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The state of the local coffee scene

Boston metro is what we always get tagged with. We are in East Arlington. That's right on the border with Cambridge... which is across the river from what is really Boston. Now if you live in Cambridge, you probably don't cross the river much and head into Boston unless you work there.

It doesn't really irk us, just a bit misleading as is the cafe culture in Boston/Cambridge. It's incredibly confusing, convoluted, and a bit of scramble. I can say without a doubt, the better cafes are still in Cambridge right now. After the recent opening of Voltage in Kendall and a few shudders of movement from old Cambridge establishments, things are looking better. Crema got notably better with the addition of Sal (ex Pavement mgr). Toscaninis has put up the money to buy new gear and is moving towards a better coffee program. 1369 got new gear also and doubled down with their coffee program. Simon's recently had two barista place 1st and 3rd after the White Chrome event (local comp hosted by Flat Black) and the shop seems to really have some energy after that. It seems like prepping for the competition and doing well really sparked them (congrats to Nathaniel and Jason). Hi Rise on Brattle St. in Harvard Sq. continues to put out some of the most progressive coffee in the area though the main store on Concord St. has nothing in common coffee-wise (though better sandwiches). That's the roundup of Cambridge shops for now but look for an update to that in a few months.

As for Boston, there are unconfirmed rumors of the coffee MGR of a small chain wanting to a open a barismo style roasting operation on that side of the river very soon, possibly in January (again unconfirmed). We know him and wish him good luck, but it's a lot more hard work than most people expect looking at it from the outside. You run into a lot of walls until you find your customers and if you desire to do quality, the battle is even more uphill around here. Dylan is back working at Sip but we haven't been there recently to check in. Other than that, there is not legitimate motion over there I'd like to note as the rest seems either the same or worse.

Taste in Newton is now owned by GHH/Terroir. I think it's worth a visit to see what they are doing out there. Most of our staff and myself have visited all of these spaces in the last month and you should too. I think visiting all of these cafes is good if you are curious about the Boston/Cambridge coffee scene... as long as you start at barismo... and end there too!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Brew specs for the Kenyas

In shop, they have been playing with the brewing parameters a little for our Kenyan coffees. The Kianjogu can range from the specs on the bag to a higher temp/lower dose and still have a very unique cup. This coffee has such a range and is quite tasty.

We have been playing around with the Guama as an espresso and have had some excellent results over the weekend. After some tweaking and seeing the potential in the coffee, we got a really nice roast that popped. We expect a few people to be serving it up in the next week or two. We are also testing a batch of Soma that will be a Guama edition!

Sunday, November 14, 2010


On the shelf right now are a few Kenyan coffees to look at. The Guama and our Kianjogu are both available. The Guama is a solid and interesting coffee, soon to be offered as an espresso as well.

The Kianjogu has really started to shine and it's probably my personal favorite right now. That coffee bursts with layers, complexity, and juicy sugary fruit. If you are at the shop and have the chance to get a one cup Woodneck brew, you are lucky. Few things can stick in your memory as much as a descriptive flavor experience like that.

The Finca Bu is coming out extremely well. Really floral and sweet. Another favorite to try but this one is going fast. We thought we had enough supply to last us a while but we have been moving this coffee quickly and it looks like we have another month at most to offer it.

For espresso, the Zone 10, our Guatemala/Guatemala pairing has been exceptional. It is currently our most popular espresso offering. To trump that, we are going to up the stakes on the Soma and put a dash of Kenya into it. Should really up the ante a bit.

The coffee is good, see you in shop!

Monday, November 01, 2010

barismo tasting event at Dave's Nov 13th 1-3pm

We will have a free tasting event at Dave's Fresh Pasta in Davis Sq., Somerville November 13th from 1-3pm!

An offering of our new coffees will be served up in samples. Our roaster and green buyer will be there to talk about how we get these coffees and what it takes to get the most out of them.

See you there!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

In shop menu

Current drink service at the shop is basic espresso drinks:
Cappuccino (5oz)
Latte (10oz)
and hand pour as well as Syphon coffees:
1 and 2 cup Woodneck
2 cup Syphon
and the off menu option of a v60...

We are currently only offering one espresso at a time to be consistent and really dial it in but it changes daily in most cases. The same for drip coffee though we are considering expanding the offerings soon.

Retail bags get roasted out on Mon, Tue, some Thursdays, and Fridays. We shut down most roasting on weekends to not interfere with the bar service.

That's it. A simple, tightened service with excellent execution and freshly brewed cups!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

barismo welcomes a new member!

We want to send out our congratulations to Ben Chen on the birth of his first child, a son by the name of Isaac. Ben has been a driving force in getting barismo open and running. His contributions helped Hong and myself get the shop moving in the face of so many difficulties early on. The vision that barismo is has all it's beginnings in the blog and coffee meetup Ben often hosted or participated in. If you appreciate what we do at barismo, you owe a good deal of thanks to Ben for his impact on what we are.

It's going to be a while before the little guy can hold a tamper but I'm sure there is a custom version in the works. Congratulations and best wishes to Ben and his growing family!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Soma espresso is back

Soma espresso is back in season and we are happy with the components. We have one more component on the way we will add to it as it's ready but we are happy with the silky sweet notes coming out of this coffee right now. Get a bag, have a shot, enjoy.

Our Columbia Meridiano is now available online as an espresso. The Honduras CoE winner, Finca Bu is up as well. Keep an eye on the list as it will change over the next week.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Thoughts on roasting

For the last week, I've been working on a new roasting style. A completely new approach for drip roasts that will work for certain coffees but may not work for others. It has been an intriguing challenge to push these new coffees a little farther and to make them pop.

Sometimes you need a little downtime to get back in experimenting mode. For me, it's been a good week to do that. After a cupping tonight, it looks like a confirmation that this adaptation of other roast profiles will only work for very light roasts, but it works very well for that.

what's interesting is that it came from experimenting on another roaster in a single batch. Having access to another roaster, seeing the drum speed, the physics of the roast, and then taking that back to our roaster.

At first, I had a strong desire to add a modification to get the results, but after a lot of thought, the decision was to push forward with a few tests. After only a few sets, it was apparent I had taken a giant leap int he right direction. The problem with coffee though is that in each set, we needed to wait and watch it age over a few days. So, changing only a variable at a time, I pushed through a few sets in one week cupping as it aged and came to a solid result. Now, the test is to apply variations of this new and aggressive light roast style across several other sets of coffees.

Coffee is great. After all this time, to really find something different on our roaster where we can offer a new style is exceptional. having the refined air controls and RPM controls are both a blessing and a curse. Figuring out exactly what each does often means a bit of confusion followed by either a eureka moment or more potential variants.

So the general idea is we are going to have some nice light roasts coming to the shelf with our next few offerings. Just in time for some fairly expensive coffees too!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cold brew coffee tasting this Sun Aug 29th, 12-1pm!!!

Since we have a little Boston Globe coverage on cold brew coffee culture growing in Boston, we thought it would be a great idea to give those who have never had a chance to taste our style of cold brew a free option. Come by this weekend for a free sampling Sun around noon.

The Globe also has coverage of our cold brew recipe. For our coffees and the style we serve in shop, the real game changing difference is the throw weight. That is a fancy way of saying we use a hefty dose of coffee to water ratio. When you use a proper dose at a grind that isn't too coarse with good coffees (not french roast!) the flavors are so complex, layered, and vivid but smooth. The texture is viscous, weighty, and pleasant. We like to enjoy it in small servings over ice, undiluted.

Not all cold brew is the same though. Traditionally, toddy has been widely served but it's often french roasted coarsely ground concentrate that is strong needs to be diluted with a fair amount of water. Something to think about when samples the many variations.

On another note, check out this article the NYT has on coffee bars, we get a passing mention as one of them.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Notes for Aug 19th

There are a few new options in our lineup to check out:
Under espresso, we are keeping a tiered system where you have a flagship example of what we are about (Soma), a changing series of unique pairings (Wabi), and a newly minted series of blends we have at our local accounts.

We decided to drop the Sonata moniker and will be going to 3 bean pairings for a simple espresso series that is numbered to represent the taste profile. Basically, instead of looking for Sonata 9, look for espresso 9.

We will also have a larger range of single estate espresso (Single Origin Espresso or SOE) that will expand as we go forward. Look for the Trinidad, Llano, Nubes, and Sao Judas. In the coming weeks we will add several more to the lineup.

On the drip coffee side, we have a growing lineup of coffees, most notably the new El Bosque has been banging out great reviews. We will add Columbian offerings next week as well so keep an eye out.

The chocolate tasting is up and coming this weekend so don't miss out.

Also, for anyone interested in getting a home/office/professional espresso or grinder setup serviced, give us a call. We are slowly expanding our repair service to handle local home users as well. Doing espresso machine repairs in the Boston/Cambridge metro just made sense since so many of our local customers have good home/office setups. Call us during business hours or drop by with your machine to our Arlington location.

We also have started offering a lineup for ordering of home espresso gear for the home barista. we will have a catalog up soon that has a full lineup of professional espresso grinders/machines for the home or office for those willing to go the distance for great espresso.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

From Guatemala

Our new Guatemalan coffees are available online, check out the info sheets when you have a chance.

Finca Trinidad from the bottomWe reconnected with Armando Melgar at Finca Trinidad this year and got more of this coffee to revive our Soma project, but the Trinidad will also be available as a SOE. The Trinidad is a very sugar cane sweet coffee with nice balanced aromatics and a soft pleasant body as a shot. It's going to get a lot of mileage in our new lineup.

Upper area of Trinidad
Finca Trinidad's younger plantings at near the top of the mountain.

Our newest arrival is Miriam Leal de Villaneuva's El Bosque. This farm has 70-90 year old trees producing red and yellow heirloom bourbon. Our Project next year will separating specific lots and trying some variations of patio processing. Not like this coffee has real faults though, it's beautifully expressive and complex. This coffee has a layered and intense aromatic reminiscent of pear blossom but very heavy and sweet. If you can get past enjoying the aroma to actually sip the layered clarity of the cup, you find fresh plum mid cup that lingers into a baked apple finish.

Our photos from visiting the farm were a mixed batch due to time of day and lack of camera battery. Being in a forest (hence the name Bosque) of 15-20ft coffee and still larger shade trees late in the day makes for poor photography.

Check out our info sheet on this coffee and look for our other info sheets on future coffees as well.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

New crop coffee tasting this Sunday @ 2pm

With all the new coffees coming in, we decided to have an old fashioned tasting of our lineup.

On the list will be our new crop Costa Ricas and the two newest Guatemalan coffees, El Bosque and Finca Trinidad. Miriam Leal de Villanueva's El Bosque looks like it's going to be a star in the lineup and early profile cupping are coming out exceptionally tasty.

We will update you soon about our travels in Guatemala and the photos/logs on these coffees as soon as we put them online for availability.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Coffee and Chocolate August 22nd 2pm

We will be offering a tasting set of Coffees paired with Chocolates from Colin Glasko at Rogue Chocolates the 22nd of August. A lineup of his Hispaniola, Sambriano, Rio Caribe, and the amazing Piura will be paired with manual brews of our fresh crop Coffees in each round.

The format will consist of the following:
Chocolates crushed and presented in warmed cups to allow aromatics and fruits to open up.
Selected coffees brewed in varying methods to form a tasting flight.
This will optionally be followed by the same chocolates offered as whole bar for texture and snap.

The first tasting flight will start at 4:05pm on the dot and signups will be capped at 15. The event will last on hour and finish at 5pm.

The cost for this event will be $12.50 by reservation online only.

Please check the blog or our events section for more special tastings like this.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Syphon Special Sat, Woodneck Sunday

This coming Saturday 8-7-10 we will be brewing Syphons for a discounted rate of $3.00 each but only from 12pm-3pm. Come in and check out the methodology and science that goes into the cup for a one time only bargain.

Some manual methods

The following day, we will be doing 4 oz Woodneck cloth brews all day Sunday 8-8-10 will be the same price as an espresso. Can't beat that!

On both days, we will be focusing on our new Costa Rican coffees, shots of the El Llano as espresso, as well as Woodneck of the buttery citrus Mt. Canet lot 4 and Syphon's of the light roasted and aromatic Mt. Canet lot 5.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tea Tasting Event Sun 8-1, 12pm to 2pm

August 1st will be a lineup tasting of our teas purchased directly from small farms in Taiwan. All teas will be presented as cold brew iced teas (Mizudashi) and the event will be a free sampling format.

Come in, ask questions about the farms, and taste our entire lineup!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

v60 and free pour

One of the key tenets of a quality per cup is repeatability. A big reason we teach our method is because it is highly repeatably with the correct tools and an attention to detail.

What we have found though is that having a few extra tools helps. For the Hario Buono kettles, a flow restrictor can be very useful in getting a steady and consistent pour volume over a fixed period of time. I often find myself cringing at the aggressive pours I see from some other industry people which begs the question, why are they even using a kettle if they are going to pour it in there like that?

On the other end of the spectrum is the new Lb-1 which should come out in the fall. We have been playing in shop with it's dynamic temperature adjustments but also, having the flow controls is an exceptional benefit. Being able to dial in the exact ounces per minute to get the flow rate we want for each brew method and then directing the water where we want it is a tool many would love to have. It makes for a very repeatable brew by guaranteeing the same volume of water always flows through as long as the timing is the same.

That's something lacking from a lot of manual methodologies like consistent volumes of water, not to even get into how few people are focusing on temperature control.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


GMP BAR Fork 2, originally uploaded by caravelacoffee.

Here's a photo of some coffees en route.

This year, we are going to have the first coffees added to our lineup from Colombia. We are anxiously looking forward to their arrival.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fulu Red Oolong!

New Peak Oolong
Photo from our visit to the farm in December.

We have new crop of Shin Fong's Fulu Red Oolong in shop. Brewing it as cold brew tea really brings out the aromatics and deep candy sweetness. This is amazing as an iced tea.

We recommend a 50g per 1 liter of cold water in a Mizudashi.

First steep in the refrigerator for 18 to 24 hours.

Each additional steep should be done to taste and color up to three more steeps before flavor loss occurs.

If you brew it hot, we have detailed specs on the bags for a 180mL tea pot.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

New Costa Rican Coffees!

orange flower
Hiker's view near Beneficio Don Mayo in Costa Rica.

Spent the early part of the day profiling some new Costa Rican coffees. To go with the El Llano, we have just received two lots of Monte Canet through Don Mayo. The two lots have varying characters so it should be a lot of fun to try both side by side. Once we have a week with them, you will see them on the shelves in store and then online early next week. The first lot of Mt. Canet is juicy and clean, nice tangerine citrus. Can't wait to get into the other lot ASAP. We will get our photos together and info on Silas' trip in Costa Rica soon and share them. We have one more special lot on the way from Costa Rica, more on that when it arrives.

Beneficio Don Mayo, Costa Rica

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Marbled drying patios

One of our more unique discoveries this year was at Finca Trinidad of (Fraijanes) Guatemala(which should clear customs soon to be available). This coffee was purchased last year to be the base of our Soma espresso. The farm owner, Armando Melgar went through the extra trouble (and costs!)to put marble tiles on the drying patios because he feels they heat better with the sun than concrete ones. Armando also insists on using push brooms to turn and move coffees instead of the traditional wooden paddles. Something that seems odd but works to not damage the parchment while coffees are on the patio.

Drying Patios
Photo from Finca Trinidad in late March of this year.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Hand Sorting Conveyor Belt

Conveyor belt hand sorting tables

Photo to chew on, a shot from Su Beneficio in Guatemala around March. Trying do a through sort on that thing kinda reminds us of the I Love Lucy.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Notes for July 4th

We've carried over a trend for labels where we make small redesigns to the style as new crops arrive. Last year, the labels were featuring country outlines where as this year we are moving to solid country outlines and changing how we display the brew information.

A first peek at the new labels comes with the El Llano microlot (soon to be followed by three more Costa Rica offerings). We will also be adding a lot of the information and photos we have collected about our farms to a large info sheet. We are a bit timid about overdoing the labels and losing the clean look though so they won't change much. The problem I find with our style of label and the transparency of it is that it gets imitated a lot nowadays. In September, we will have been open for 2 years. Not a lot of time but we have had the same wine inspired labels since the beginning. Listing blend contents and percentages for the espresso and giving as much pertinent info as we can about each single origin coffee (including the most rare item, how it was packaged in transport from origin). In part, it would be interesting to develop our own standard for seasonality relevant to the method of packaging for marketing purposes but our goals internally don't fit with that kind of approach.

The next few weeks should see the arrival of our Guatemalan offerings. Even with a bad year for output and many farms oversold, we were still able to get the two core farms we wanted to work with. Sadly two more will have to wait until next year. By the end of the month or early next month, we have two Kenyas arriving. We had some trouble arranging these coffees due to a bad year for output but we have found two very solid coffees, one of which is exclusive to us (coined by a friend as a pico- lot) and should be a star in the lineup for those who love fruit. The other problem because of the low production is that the costs are very high this year for Kenyan coffees. We struggled to find the best coffee we could that would match up to the inflated prices and we are lucky the work has paid off. More El Salvador is on the way and Ethiopian coffees are still to come.

We will reopen tomorrow, enjoy the holiday!

Monday, June 21, 2010

LB-1 notes

The luminaire bravo 1 articulated water delivery system engineering team is moving along. We have been using the 'defiant' bench prototype in shop for some time now. We are looking forward to the newest upgrades and digital displays that will come end of summer. Even more than that, we are excited to see it go into production end of the year.

To keep tabs on this hot water tap, you need to be on the mailing list

Sunday, June 20, 2010

El Salvador Las Nubes

This coffee comes to us in grainpro and has held up extremely well. Warm pecan notes yield to a sweet and buttery mouthfeel with notes of apricot. Recommended as a v60, this coffee is sweet!

Next new coffee, Costa Rica returns to our menu!

New Wabi Sabi series espresso: the Villain

The newest installment in our Wabi series is a nod to the classic espresso with a clean stylizing. We paired an El Salvador roasted for sweetness and mouth feel with a Brazil roasted for body to get something simple but endearing.

The las Nubes (El Salvador) has a very sweet pecan, buttery textural notes, with a apricot fruit underneath. The Sao Judas Tedu (Brazil) has a deep body of chocolate and hazelnut that lingers into a pleasant finish as an espresso. The pairing of the two makes for a very balanced offering. Makes for a great classic shot but also holds it's own in a short cappuccino.

The name is a nod to our slightly quirky string of Wabi Sabi names involving somewhat nefarious references. We thought a nod to the black hat/white hat concept fits right in with an espresso that is a bit out of character compared to our previous Wabis.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

A barismo coffee update

The great thing about this time of year is the expectations of new coffees coming in. For us at barismo, it is a really big moment because we are making some major commitments to expand our coffee lineup and develop deeper connections and relationships in the coffee producing countries we focus on. We will provide some interesting trip details of our travels this year as new coffees come in but it's been a transitional point with some big changes expected over the next few months.

Looking at the growth we have gone through and where we are at, it made a lot of sense for us to stop, reorganize, and then consolidate a lot of what we are doing with our coffee purchasing. A change in structure, hiring a green buyer, and then investing in travel time and finally looking at what made the most sense to increase the quality of our lineup were key points. A lot of that centers around a few key farms but I'll save that information for when those coffees actually arrive.

When Hong and I founded the company, our goal was a cafe and roasting was definitely an afterthought. It was after that original concept became less of an option that we recruited other investors and opened the roasting outfit where a coffee bar played the secondary role and things then got more interesting. Over the first year, we went through a lot of tumultuous ups and downs that came from a big struggle over the direction of the company. After some rearrangements internally, new characters arrived to add color to the mix and we found some supportive representation locally. Since then, we have grown a lot and struggled to keep up over the last half year. It's not an easy business to be in, even when you are growing but our local relationships and amazing staff have really helped us through this rough time.

Right now, the problems are more simple. Where are we going to put all this coffee that's on the way? ... and boy do we need a little vacation! The exciting part is seeing the investments made last year turn into relationships and as of right now, we are spending a lot of time thinking about how to move forward with them through next year. A bit too early for that kind of thinking but with all the great coffee we arranged, there are still other coffees we could not get but look forward to possibly making a relationship with next year.

We are trying to be aggressive but also sensible. It means we are making larger commitments to only a handful of producing countries in an attempt to get the most efficient usage of our consolidated volumes. While that means our new menu will have several excellent farms from places like Guatemala, it also means we will not carry a wide range of origins outside of the handful we are investing in.

A lot of exciting things are happening but it's also a lot of hard work right now and in front of us. We look forward to sharing the new coffees with you as they come in!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

barismo `slow bar day' at Pavement Mon Apr 18th

If you haven't heard by now, Pavement is finally opening, for real this time. It is the culmination of a long road for the core team of managers at ERC responsible for instigating so many of the recent upgrades, changes, and investments at all three of their stores.

Pavement however is a change of pace for the ERC family, a new entity entirely. They will attempt to do what is often coined as a slow coffee bar in what is a massive cafe at a well trafficked location. Now a slow coffee bar is something fairly uncommon in the Boston area. So uncommon, I can name three places off hand that do anything approaching it, and one happens to be our roasting location in Arlington. Slowing down the entire process and focusing on a unique brew method or a quality per cup experience is the key concept here. Pavement will offer v60 per cup of any coffee/roaster they offering at the moment. It's about time Boston got a cafe like that.

Join us Monday, take the T or bus and try to avoid even thinking about parking down there. All day, there will be per cup offerings we have roasted and even some of our espresso on tap.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Cold brew coffee and teas

We have been dong a lot of cold brew over the last few years and the occasional cold brew tea. Cold brewed coffee was a big hit when we opened the bar at the roasting location and we fulling expect that to continue into the future. Hi Rise on Brattle St. also does the cold brewed coffee in the summer quite successfully and we feel this will expand to other cafes in time.

What's exciting and noteworthy is how nice our recent attempts at cold brewing the teas have been. The Fulu Red Oolong has produced multiple cold steeps to give an excellent cup and one of the most fantastic iced teas I have ever tried. It has been so delicious that each and every one liter steep has been quickly split among staff and friends before it could be offered to customers. Along those lines, we are going to try a cold brew of the Cicada Honey Black Tea.

The last time I cold brewed this tea was while I was still in Taiwan after just purchasing the Cicada tea. I took some of the samples we had been given and brewed them in a water bottle for what was a beautiful and aromatic expression of the tea. Smooth, sweet, and complex.

As new crop Fulu Red Oolong arrives in a few weeks, it will be one more addition to our menu that gives a reason to look forward to warm weather.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

NERBC fallout

NERBC 2010 stage

Post NERBC there was a bit of local press coverage from the Globe that really stayed neutral and got quotes from a lot of people there. The globe also did a sidebar piece on Luminaire as well. The Hario brew bar had two of their beta Lb-1 water delivery systems running continuous duty during the 3 days of the event. It was a great field test for their new concept and got them vital feedback from area barista/roasters. We are currently using one in shop right now and there is talk of one at Hi-Rise on Brattle St. as well as Pavement Coffee Bar when it opens. The brew bar and 4th machine were hugely successful and busy during the entire competition. Turnout during all three days was steady but the 4th machine and per cup bars were jam packed consistently.

Brew bar and 4th Machine
Anne and Neil of Tamp Tamp ran the espresso machine offering up drinks using a range of the sponsors and roasters who had contributed to the event. Likewise, the Hario and Luminaire per cup bar also rotated drip offerings by featuring two roasters at any one time changing throughout the day.

Both Somerville papers got in on the coverage. Between those articles, there were a few items that seemed a bit off, like '30,000 viewers online' and quoting how we at barismo had hosted competitions for years. We have organized and hosted many events over the years but this was our first barista competition.

Competitor area

As for competitors, we had a very specific goal this year. We did not want anyone to compete from our company but Jamie Lynn decided it would be great for her after the positive experience she had last year supporting a competitor that I felt burned us later. Her goal was to get on stage and complete a routine that represented her and the shop she works at even if that meant taking hits on the score cards or doing things that don't fit in with the stage show. I am happy about how she handled the whole situation because her confidence as a barista has increased as well as the quality of her skill set. I look forward to her article in Barista magazine about the differing experiences. Her role was a specifically unique situation where she took that same attitude of training (not marketing) toward supporting the growth of the barista we sponsored by helping prep them with rule sheets and outlines. Ironic, if only because she fully intended to challenge the rules in her own routine.

In the weeks after competition, I have seen the confidence and attention put in by barista in the community and I have been really proud of the leap in training made by the barista who took the time to use the preparation aspect of competition for personal growth. I am particularly proud of both Alison and Nathaniel at Simon's who had previously had quite bad experiences at competition in the past. It took a lot of courage and dedication to get past those traumatic experiences and turn in good performances this year.

Congratulations to Danielle who took first and to all the other competitors who got up there and put themselves up for critique. We wish her good luck representing the NE even if she is a New Yorker now! It takes a lot to get on stage and handle that pressure. Congratulations to Matt from Matt's wood roasted coffee who took home the NE Regional Cup Taster's prize and is a nice guy to boot. A lot of area barista are looking forward to next year.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

NERBC 2010 Competitor list is up

The competitor schedule is online for a quick browse. Notable on the list is our own roaster Jamie Lynn Waltz and first time competitor who is up Saturday. Come cheer her on in the afternoon. Chris and Ethan are both judging others so you can cheer them on also if you see them.

Ben Wilkinson shows up on the list repping Blue State Coffee and should be a solid contender to do well. All around great guy and BGA rep for obvious reasons. Noticed Danielle Glasky (formerly ATL) is showing up for Stumptown. I don`t remember Stumptown being big into competitions in the past but Danielle is cool and we wish her well. There are several familiar names from last years NERBC which is a good sign but even better is that there are a lot of first timers.

Of the main host sponsors, there is a lot of representation locally. We at barismo clock in with 4 competitors using our espresso (not including our dear roaster). Judson from Hi Rise, Markus from ERC by BU, Nathaniel and Alison from Simon`s (Check out Simon`s spiffy new Robur next time you are in there). Jamie, Jud, and Markus are first time competitors while Nathaniel and Alison had competed before for 1369. Both Alison and Nathaniel have put in a lot of work the last few weeks and I am pretty damn proud of how far they have come regardless of the final results. New Harvest clocks in with several representatives from Blue State Coffee, Seven Stars Bakery and others. GHCC brings their own Nikolas Krankl, with Jared Mancini and company from SIP also competing.

I am glad to see turnout from the NY crowd as well, but more important is that the list of local roasters and their accounts such as Flat Black and Equal Exchange is large. Competitions are a good focal point for our coffee community that can change the local dynamic a lot. It should be a huge competition and we hope everything runs smoothly and that everyone gains something from the competitions.

During the three days of competitions, there will also be a Hario brew bar serving cups of coffee using Lb-1 prototypes and the 4th machine serving espresso drinks to the attending public, competitors, volunteers, and even judges (if they could drink more coffee after judging). The service will be free and coffees from the main three sponsors as well as several other regional roasters will be offered up at different time slots during the weekend.

See you there-

Thursday, March 11, 2010

NERBC 2010 Mass Ave Cafe Crawl: Sat Mar 20th

For the NERBC, we helped organize a cafe crawl with Peace River Coffee that will start at our shop with a v60/Syphon service and then move on to the following shops:

Diesel Cafe 257 Elm St. in Davis Sq. for Chemex Service

Simon's near Porter Sq. 1736 Mass Ave for v60 service or shots of Competitors Espresso

Hi-Rise on 56 Brattle St. Harvard Sq. for Syphon/Woodneck/Competitors espresso

*Cafe Crema on 27 Brattle St. Harvard Sq. for a special coffee service

*1369 Coffee House on Mass Ave in Central Sq. for a special coffee service

Toscanini's at 899 Main St. in Central Sq. for a special ice cream coffee service

ERC at 286 Newbury St. for Competitor's Espresso Service

NOTE: Cafes with a * are expected to participate but not enough information on actual service was available at time of publishing. I will update it as it becomes available.

Attendees will need to pick up a map at the Somerville Armory Fri or sat before participating in the cafe crawl.

There are other cafes in the area that will want to participate and there will be an expanded map posted closer to time of competition in an online form with mentions of other cafes outside of the Mass Ave Cafe Crawl.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

NERBC 2010

The dates on the NERBC are the 19th through 21st of March. If you want to sign up to volunteer or to compete, visit and register.

If you are visiting from out of town we recommend getting a hotel here:
Homewood Suites by Hilton® Cambridge-Arlington
1 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, Massachusetts, United States 02474
Tel: 1-781-643-7258 Fax: 1-781-643-7298

Ask about the special rates for the barista competitions and remember these are massive suites which are nicely furnished and did I mention, big!

Events and special offerings available for people in town will be posted next week.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Chia-Ming tea visit

Chia-Ming is a relatively famous tea producer in Taiwan known for it's Honey Cicada Black Tea. In our visit to them, we found out more about this particular tea as well purchasing another pristine Oolong from them.

The Oolong is a semi ball style Dah-Yeh (broad leaf) cultivar. For this elevation, the broad leaf cultivar is quite ideal and produces a sweet clean cup. We were visiting Chia-Ming as this tea was being packed post processing. The leaves are beautiful and unfurl with each steep to reveal nearly perfect preservation of the pick. This doesn't surprise because Chia-Ming is know for it's superior processing skills.

Jia Meng Teas drying

The other tea, Cicada Honey Black, was the byproduct of a unique method noted for it's use of tea green leafhoppers. Normally considered a pest or associated with novelty teas, this particular tea uses these little pests to produce an exemplary experience. The folks as Chia-Ming have learned to identify a specific type of bitten leaf as an ideal pick that when processed to an exacting methodology results in one of the more unique teas experiences you can have. This black tea yields strong aromas, complex sweetness, and a very distinct cup.

I admit being skeptical about this tea coming in. I had sampled it before through other sources and had what I can only describe as skunky results. Once I arrived at the farm and cupped through all of their lots, the distinctions became clear as to our preferences. We took the silver medal competition lot which was picked as the favorite in the competition by the tea research facility manager in the area. Compared to the gold medal lot, which Chia-Ming also submitted and won, it came as so distinctly special that it was better in our opinion than the more singular gold medal lot.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fulu Red Oolong

Another novel tea process from Shin-Fong, this Fulu Red Oolong (fully oxidized translated directly as red rather than black) is something out of the ordinary. The natural floral notes of Taiwanese high mountain 'terroir' come through the excellent execution of a paochong or 'balled' tea from a chin-shin varietal. What makes it particularly novelty is the full oxidation which provides a beautiful amber hued red liquor and warmth in the cup profile of gentle honey and caramel tones of this semi balled Oolong varietal.
This tea took a little getting used to. We had to find a balance point in how we brewed it. It did not take long for us to figure out that we were treating it incorrectly. Once we tuned in our brew temps, this tea really excelled as one of our favorites.

The cup color is beautiful with amber red hues. Strong aromatics of rose hips and straw flowers dominate the cup profile yielding to a clean and sweet aftertaste. The flavor is warm and invitingly pleasant but the aromas are what make this tea particularly unique.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Doppleganger espresso

We were playing with shots of the new Wabi series today, Doppleganger.

Shots were coming out taffy cherry with a raspberry nose. It was not a 'fruit bomb' so acidhounds will be disappointed. The fruit comes more taffy than tart, notably better as you let the coffees rest and clarify. We recommend this for a day 7-12 off of roast window. Any earlier and it can be a little unruly with the fruit.

This will hang around for a couple of weeks and then we`ll move on to some new coffees. We have a couple of new arrivals to talk about soon, more on those later.

The crema on this pairing is very persistent but also a little lighter in coloration. With the blend contents, that makes sense but should be noted. I thought it better to post it as is, having been openly critical of other roasters using color corrected photos on their bags or in marketing materials.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Tea Tasting - Friday Feb 19th, 4pm - 6pm

We will debut our teas on bar this weekend with an open house tasting. The event will be informal and we will offer up each of our new Teas during that time slot.

Keep tabs on this and mark your calendar to have a chance to taste these absurdly fresh harvest teas.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Chin-Suan Oolong

A Tea farm

Shin-Fong submitted this lot of Chin-Suan cultivar which placed with an excellence award in competition. Above and below are photos which show the care given to their Oolongs though this is not the actual section the competition lots came from. This farm is known for consistently producing quality teas for many years and the farm owners have a reputation for hard work and honesty. Their diliginet work shows in the beauty of their farm and the pristine care for their teas. While the lot is not certiifed organic, Shin-Fong grows the majority of it's teas organically with the desire to get certified in the near future. This is a labor intensive process when done the correct way they are doing it but the results show through in the cup.

New Peak Oolong

This particular Oolong is traditional in that like many high mountain Oolongs, it has a distinctive fruitiness. Apricot, peach, and other tropical notes come through from the second steeping on. The natural aromatics known to be a signature of good Taiwanese Oolongs through in it's fragrance.

The first steep comes with fragrant pear and honeyed beeswax undertones. This gives way to defined sweetness, and apricot fruitiness, and balanced body in later steepings. This tea is defined by balanced and freshness.

Shin-Fong Grandpa Tea

New Peak Assam

Shin-Fong is a small farm in Taitung that does a few very interesting teas. This particular tea is an example of that uniqueness. In our new direct trade tea series from Taiwan, we will be focusing on unique and special teas from throughout the country. Shin-fong is one of our core estates we found in our travels to be exemplary of hard work and good intentions. Many of their teas are grown organically with the intention of getting certified soon.

New Peak Tea Farm

Known as Grandpa's Assam, this fully oxidized black tea is produced from a traditional Assam cultivar. The trees themselves were planted in 1965, having been abandoned at one time, they were then reclaimed to be grown and cared for with organic practices. The level of care and meticulousness in their farming shows in the pristine look of the trees themselves. At some parts of the Assam grove, the trees have been left to continue growing freely to act as wind breaks as can be seen in the first photo. The Assam picks are rolled paochong style which is not normal for an Assam. This tea however is full oxidized as a black tea which matches well with it's Assam varietal. This combination of factors makes the tea distinct in how it is ideally brewed over multiple steeps, as the tea will need time to open and release it's flavors.

Cup character consists of round caramel aromas that lead into taste notes of candied yam with hints of spice and winter melon. This tea is big bodied with refined tannins but can easily be over extracted due to it's unique processing method. It opens easily in later steeps and is reminiscent of a traditional sweet after a meal drink in that area of Taiwan which consists of sugar and cooked down winter melon.

We have a limited supply of this tea until next pick so move quickly if it sounds interesting.

Classes and updated brew guides

Classes are online for signup. Class size will be limited so sign up before they fill.

We will also be updating our list of brew guides and expanding our education section to include video materials and illustrated guides. Keep an eye on it or bookmark it as it grows.

1 cup cloth woodneck

Monday, February 01, 2010

Some specs for the new water delivery system

Before there are knee jerk reactions and people start comparing the LB-1 to a boiler, it's not.
Here's what I know about it's specs:

- The LB-1 is 90% energy efficient because it is a system that only functions when in use.
- Temperature adjustment is instant: Can be changed via digital set point on display
- Current version has timer on display
- Plugs into household 110v outlet
- Takes a water input of a simple 1/4th inch john guest fitting.

- Directional point and shoot water dispersion from 'wand'.
- Adjustable flow rate.
- Largest flow rate seems to be around 8-9 ounces a minute. (It's designed for pour over so there doesn't seem to be a need to go any faster in testing it for pour over).

That's it, a water delivery system that plugs into a standard socket, hooks up to a standard inlet, and gives precision water temperatures and adjustable flow rate on demand. Oh, and the water comes out freshly heated, not stale and reboiled numerous times, so the coffee tastes better.

No cut up counters required to install, no electrician to wire a new plug, and no 200lb boiler. Just a table top, easy to move, and simple to install tap that is ready to go. Beautifully simple, just don't ask me how they did it. Something about PhD level engineering problems being solved and the patent is pending.

I won't try to project what the usefulness of this item is. I'll let the rest of you think about the implications of having freshly heated water from a movable and easy to use energy efficient hot water source.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The difficulties of per cup

Articulated Water Delivery System: Simply put, the manual version of this concept is the hand pour kettle. Unlike a simple hot water boiling kettle, this version is designed with flow rate control in mind and the end user has an approximate but not precise control over the temperature. AWDS implies pouring where you want it at a flow rate you are trying to control. This is an important concept to think about when considering the usefulness and value of having control over flow. For the kettle though, this is an art form that takes an exceptionally long time to master. The difficult learning curve of balancing a kettle to get optimal flow presents a problem all it's own.

We can easily find other problems with nearly every option available for hot water delivery. They are inefficient, time consuming, and often impractical. So, let's take a moment to evaluate our options.

Table top boilers dispense water but you need to transfer that water to another container or bring the brew device to the water source. These boilers range from a large water tower down to a simple Zojirushi water boiler. These are always on and run continuously, tend to be very energy inefficient and the water is often stale.

Small hot water kettles are typically electric and boil water on demand. The main problems being that they need to have time to get up to boil and cannot handle any significant volume with speed. While fine for home use, they become increasingly impractical in cafe settings where any real volume is present.

The standalone brewer would be the so called 'per cup concept' that requires either a new brew method adoption or for the user to work with an entirely revised set of brew physics. The goal is often a tweaking of variables to attempt a quicker 'per cup.' This self contained brewer uses some new fancy way of brewing to set itself aside by trying to 'reinvent the wheel.' This kind of design concept is not only often expensive, it can easily have many flaws in design that may not show up until many users are out there testing it in real world scenarios well into sales and production. The real problem being that cup quality was often secondary to speed to balance the third item, cost.

So we acknowledge the problems and the question is, what's the solution?

We have an answer to that.

An AWDS that uses technology to provide flow controls and temperature controls would meet the need. It would not be a brewer by itself. Instead, it would provide hot water at precision controlled temperatures and adjustable flow rates through an articulated 'wand'. This would theoretically be the hot water delivery system that worked with all brew methods that could benefit from precision water temperatures and adjustable flow rate controls. All existing and widely used hand pour and general pour over methods would benefit from this system.

Instead of trying to create a new standalone brew system with new brew physics, a group of engineers have spent the last two years developing a hot water delivery system that functions as an AWDS. After an initial goal of stable temperatures and fixed flow rates, they have now tuned the device to respond to temperature and flow rate changes. That is unprecedented and as yet a largely unexplored avenue of brewing coffee outside of a few lab situations.

This would be an exteremly useful item for chemex lovers and melitta fans, but the real novel application seems to be when you tie in a product invented in 2006, the v60, it gets exciting. The v60 is designed in such a way that the flow rate of the water has an effect on the cup profile of the brew and adds another point of control. When used incorrectly or carelessly, it's a detriment to the resulting taste which creates a bit of a learning curve. The benefit of this control is that tied to a water delivery system with an articulated spout, dynamic temperature control, and adjustable flow rates, you have every variable in pour over brewing under control. Using technology to assist in brewing with an already familiar method speeds up the process to the point that brewing per cup now becomes very attainable in most cafe settings. Instead of reinventing the wheel, they came up with a design that works with all wheels making them more finely tuned and faster.

Resulting grinds from woodneck

Brilliant and yet simple in it's vision. I am lucky to continue to be a beta tester and have input on this project while this concept goes into production and heads towards market. Lex and I are code naming this 'The Hippocrene Project' but you can find out more in the next few weeks on the Luminaire Bravo 1 water delivery system via: