company - education - coffee

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ethiopian coffees are back!

Some of you may have noticed a decline in our Ethiopian coffee offerings over the last couple of years. Ethiopia is in fact one of the countries in our logo, so you would think we would pay extra attention to those coffees. While Ethiopians tend to be some of our favorite coffees, there are a few reasons why we have chosen to buy very few over the last couple of years.

The first, and biggest reason is the Homogenizing of Ethiopian coffee by the Ethiopian Coffee Exchange. The ECX separated coffee into regions as opposed to farms, and prohibited all direct farm-to-buyer sales (other than coops and ECX lots). What this did was cut off access to the tracking and sale of small excellent unblended lots and commoditize the uniqueness of these small lots into large lots of average specialty quality.

The second reason we avoided buying Ethiopians was the ‘C’ market price jump of 2 years ago. This made coffee that was normally in the mid $3 range cost over $5 in some cases. Coffee that is both more expensive and of lower quality is never a good combination. These factors made us put our resources and time into Central America.  

The good news is both of these things are no longer issues. The quality and availability of farm direct Ethiopian coffee is now better than ever. We are seeing new regions like Western Ethiopia, Jimma, Kaffa, and new varieties (actually very old) like Abyssinia. Abyssinia is an old typica variety that was brought to Indonesia in the 1920’s. Expect to see a great increase in the number of offerings from Ethiopia roasted by us, and a greater range in flavor in those offerings than ever before. We have started you off with a classic Sidama that is bursting with florals, with a nice underlying meyer lemon and touch of berry. The sorting is exceptionally clean on this coffee so for once you shouldn’t have to worry about too many defects.

One interesting thing about this coffee is the fermentation. It is given a 72 hour soak for fermentation then vigorously agitated to remove the mucilage. Finally, the coffee is soaked overnight in clean water, washed, then dried on raised beds. This is the classic method in Sidama and Yirgacheffe but contrary to the way fermentation and drying is done in Central America. For example, at Hacienda Santa Rosa coffee is depulped then dry fermented for 48 hours then washed and dried on a concrete patio.

We wanted to explain some of the reasoning behind our buying decisions since washed Ethiopias are some of the most interesting coffees you can taste and we had all but phased them out. Enjoy the Deri Kochoha and look forward to even more really great Ethiopian coffees.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

barismo is moving

Many of you have seen the 'for rent' sign at our space recently and may have wondered what's going on?  Long answer is we have been growing a lot the last few years and outpaced the size our current space could handle some time ago.  We began looking a few years back into spaces for the roasting operation (which triggered finding the space dwelltime is now in). We decided to pull back given that expansion would have stretched us quite thin at that time.

When our current landlord at 169 Mass Ave came to us recently to tell us that the space a few doors down at 171 Mass Ave was opening up, we took a long hard look at what we could do there.  It seemed like a perfect fit for us but a little more time had to pass for us to figure out how to handle the shift.  A change of pace and a redesign began to seem like the perfect solution to years of cramped growth in our current space.

Recently, we fully committed to the move with a new approach and new floor plan.  The space will be divided into two sections.  A roasting section where all your coffees will be produced and bagged and a small coffee bar with seating (yes, you read it right).

The roasting and production area will have it's own cupping and training setup to work with our wholesale accounts.  Our green buyer will have dedicated office hours to pass along information on coffees and help those working with our coffees get a leg up on new estates as they come in.  We will even have some space free weekly where barista we work with can come by to sample coffees from other roasters on our setup.  The space will allow us to function as a training lab to experiment while simultaneously working on quality control projects, the best of both worlds.

The coffee bar area is going to be a unique design given how much more space we have to work with.  The main focus will be on our 'by the cup' service.  We've been at the forefront of manual brews in our area and have no intention of slowing down.  Expect a cart service for Syphons and a shift towards more cloth filter brews on bar. Our espresso bar will continue to be a simple offering list presented in a traditional format of limited sizes.  We will add a few sweets and food items to the bar once we get fully operational and will function more like a regular cafe with our espresso service.

Expect us to begin moving in later this month and complete the move in November.  We will post interruptions in bar service on the door and on twitter as soon as we know of them.  We are looking forward to the new space and hope to see you there.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Boston Local Food Festival and sustainability

We will be at the Boston Local food fest providing one more reason to get tickets and show up.  We do however need a few extra hands for the event so we are hoping to wrangle a few local barista to collaborate with us for the event.

We have put a lot of thought into the concepts of local, sustainable, and why that matters in an industry that has coffees coming from all over the world.  It makes sense that people lump sustainability solely into terms of anything that happens at the farm level or cafe level in coffee.  Coffees come from all over the world so it seems like then shipping them across the country is not really that big a deal.  Truth is, it really is kind of a big deal.

Here's something for you to think about next time you are in a cafe that talks about zero waste or sustainability, where does the coffee come from?  Though coffees come from all over the world, maritime or cargo freight by sea has an extremely low cost (and carbon footprint) compared to truck and air freight.  The argument can easily be made that coffees delivered by maritime freight to the closest port to a roaster and sold locally are easily the most sustainable model in our industry.  Shipping roasted coffee cross country is one of the least common sense habits our industry has developed and adds a lot of costs to the final product.

What value could be added to ship a coffee across eight (or however many) states?  What quality can be increased by shipping coffee a thousand (or more) miles from roaster to cafe?  Short answer, none.  Anyone who tells you they can't find a good quality coffee roaster in region or their local metro is not giving enough thought or research to it.  There are so many new roasting operations starting up in every part of the country that the argument can be made we are in a renaissance for small batch micro roasters (or the beginning of one).

On a quality level, there are big arguments for local roasters like us to stay hyper local in our business model.  Bags roasted within days (if not hours) showing up on shelves in locations that we can often bike to.  Being able to train, teach, and share with those serving and buying our coffees.  You can even easily meet the green buyer or roaster daily to talk about what is special about that farm or how that roast tastes in different methods.

Nevertheless, it's a complex topic that can ponder as you drop our booth the 7th for the Boston Local Food fest. It's going to be fun.  Think 'local'.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Sustainable Pace

This turned into quite an eventful weekend for all of us at barismo as well as the entire dwelltime staff. Six pallets of coffees were delivered (Just about five TONS of green coffee) for the first time to our dwelltime location in Cambridge MA. We are now able to store many pallets of green coffee in our spacious basement. This will be an interesting logistical challenge for us as we figure out how often green coffee will need to be transported over to our roasting facility four miles down the road in East Arlington.

The dwelltime staff, including our baker, had a chance to pitch in hauling 160 pound bags of green coffee from pallet to basement. One of our bar staff was a little gung ho with hauling bags, jute sack versus bare knuckles, jute wins. This however is not a new activity for all of us lightweights down at the roastery. For almost four years now, as of (September 17!) barismo has been in the business of  hauling bags of coffee into our cool basement and then carrying them back up small batch at a time to carefully roast and send out our front door.

As if that was not enough of a work out, we have just started sending out our local deliveries all along the Mass Ave corridor in Cambridge via our very own bicycle delivery cart. We made an appearance this past Saturday at the Somerville SPOKES bicycle festival to serve up Union Square's most sustainable and most meticulously handled coffee. Some might call us crazy, we like to call it sustainable.

As a four year old company we are out of the brand-new phase and into the growing years. We just opened up our beautiful cafe and lunch spot in Cambridge to an overwhelming reception from our friends and new neighbors. At the roastery we are on the verge of  moving into a bigger, newer production/cafe/training space. Through all of these years we have successfully been able to grow in a very organic and responsible manner.

Our commitment to fostering a genuine connection to the product we handle has come full circle as one of our Direct Trade partner producers from Guatemala is visiting us in just a couple of weeks. I would encourage you to read up on story of how we connected with Gustavo Alfaro, and the leaps and bounds we have made with new micro lot projects at his farm, Hacienda Santa Rosa.

Sustainability for us is not some far away concept happening just at the farm level, it is apart of everything we do as a local business. Responsible direct sourcing, micro batch roasting, brewing and training resources, local sustainable delivery, and genuine community involvement. So, join us at one of our many community events to get involved! In specialty coffee, slow and steady is a sustainable pace.


Thursdays - Free public coffee cupping at dwelltime
barismo's green buyer, Silas Moulton, leads a very informative tasting each Thursday at 3pm at dwelltime.

Sundays through October - barismo at The Davis Flea
Serving up fresh hot coffee and cold brew each Sunday in Davis Square.

Monday, September 17th - Barismo Four Year Anniversary Celebration and Customer Appreciation Day. Free shots of Clockwork espresso at barismo all day long!

End of September - Producer Gustavo Alfaro of Hacienda Santa Rosa/Buena Esperanza Visits Cambridge
Stay tuned for details

Sunday, October 7th - Boston Local Food Festival
barismo your favorite Local Roaster will be serving up fresh hot coffee and cold brew (we will take a break from the davis flea that sunday)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

La Fatima, Producer Carmen Duch Martinez

If you have had a chance to buy a retail bag of barismo coffee, you may have noticed that we fit quite a bit of information onto a small amount of real estate. The reasoning behind this is two fold: first of all we think that all of these small details contribute to the final product, secondly, we believe that transparency is the only path to improving any of these variables. We in effect are making ourselves accountable to you, the recipient of that cup of drip coffee, or shot of single origin espresso, or cup of cold brew. Below is a bit of information from our green buyer Silas Moulton talking about one of our Direct Trade buys this year from El Salvador, La Fatima.

La Fatima is located along the Santa Ana volcano known as Ilamatepec in one of the premier coffee growing regions of El Salvador

Carmen Duch Martinez is a third generation coffee farmer who owns and manages the beautiful coffee estate, La Fatima, located in the Santa Ana mountain range in eastern El Salvador. Working together with her brothers Rafael and Juan (whose farms have also won cup of excellence) she has produced spectacular coffee for many years and placed in the Cup of Excellence competition four times earning third in 2009.

La Fatima is located along the Santa Ana volcano, which is also known as Ilamatepec. In Nahuatl, a dialect of Aztec, Ilamatepec means “father hill” and is believed to watch over the crops grown on the hillsides. This is one of the premier coffee growing regions in El Salvador and certainly the most well known region. The weather conditions here are ideal for growing coffee with an average temperature of 21°C, 2.4 meters of annual rainfall, and a dry season with little rain which promotes even flowering and drying of the coffee.

Fatima is made up of mature bourbon trees covered by plenty of shade which is mostly ingas. There is also a small amount of Typica grown on the farm. Carmen prefers to aim for quality of growth instead of yield and avoids the use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides. The shade, older coffee trees, and infrequent use of chemical fertilizer leads to slower growth and does in fact cut yields quite a bit, but increases the concentration of the flavor as the tree puts more energy into fewer offspring.

I first cupped La Fatima at the Cuzcachapa Co-op mill in March of 2011. This large co-op dry mills and exports coffee for more than 1,400 member farms in the Santa Ana area. It was my favorite coffee I tasted that trip. After some shipping issues and a sharp drop in quality because of this, we were not able to offer this coffee last year. I went back to Cuzcachapa again this year and again it was my favorite coffee. I pushed for earlier ship dates and we are able to add this coffee to our menu unharmed.

-Silas Moulton, barismo green buyer
See more photos from La Fatima on our Flickr
Purchase La Fatima online and in person

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

2012 Costa Rica tasting at RJ Gourmet

Come check out our fresh crop Costa Rica coffees at RJ Gourmet on Thursday, July 5th from 6-8pm. This will be a good chance to taste the costas and hang out with Mike and Steve at RJ Gourmet, one of our favorite new shops! You'll see some of your old favorites like El Reposo, Los Lobos and La Loma, as well as Finca El Quizarra which we are excited to carry for the first time. Barismo's Coffee Buyer, Silas Moulton, will be on hand to talk about these coffees and answer questions.

RJ Gourmet Coffeeshop:

441 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA

Hope to see you there!

Friday, June 08, 2012

About starting dwelltime

Managing a small roasting operation that grew to be something much greater than we ever expected  has been a wonderful and challenging experience.  Full of a lot of ups and downs but coming into the end of our fourth year, there is a sense of happiness with the things we have accomplished, if not simply the great things we have lined up this year.  The amount of work is something I would personally be very unlikely to sign up for again (unless we had a bigger starting budget).  Starting out with as small a budget/staff/space as we did and to grow to where we have has been humbling.

We were at a turning point last year and many of us felt a pull to do something to change our direction.  For me, it was a desire to get back to that original idea we had when opening barismo.  Our first proposed location for barismo was down the street from where dwelltime currently is. It's a neighborhood we really wanted to be in.  At the time though, we wanted to be a big island style coffee bar offering many different roasters.  (Much like Cafe Grumpy in NYC became shortly thereafter, though they now roast their own).  When that space fell through we regrouped and moved barismo to Arlington, MA to roast.

dwell presented this opportunity for many of us behind barismo to do something we loved and graft in great food to our model in a way we could not have early on.  Signing onto this project of building restoration and then a cafe shortly afterwards was no easy feat.  We essentially changed the investor group, management, and whole attitude of barismo as a company in the process of this other venture.  Signing the lease on 364 Broadway was a real stress test.

What made the project great from the beginning was that our landlords at 364 are tremendous.  They really cared about the project and getting the building back to a historical look as part of their vision.  Now that they have gotten awards for the job done in remodeling and restoration, it's a bit easier to forget the hurdles over the last year of construction.  A building that had water issues in the basement, a lack of any up to date plumbing or electrical, unique problems only faced with Cambridge regulations, and those were just the beginning of a long trying build out.  

The unexpected part came from things outside our control.  Neighbors and local groups who had opposition to everything from a sign, to the windows, to being able to play any music, to having any heating or cooling units that might make noise, any external lighting, and having any food service or trash removal was what shortly followed. It impacted every decision we made going into opening this space. Due to some of those interactions with a neighborhood group, we even compromised to shorten our weekend hours considerably under the impression the neighborhood was so quiet on weekends (a huge mistake that bit us quickly with unhappy neighbor-customers wondering why we got up so late and left so early).

I get that now.  Living in Inman Sq. the last four years but working nearly 6 days a week in Arlington, I did not pick up on what was leading those concerns.  Now, spending as much time as I do walking back and forth to Broadway, it began to clarify.  There was possibly a fear we would be the shop that had the neon signs or that we'd be that shop with loud music blaring out onto the street.  There was likely the expectation that coffee shops produce the multitude of paper cups that litter the neighborhood and bringing that to our neighborhood that had been quiet for so long -would be disruptive-.  They were right, it would have if we were that kind of convenience store  style coffee shop though nobody would know what we were until we opened.  I now understand the resistance that existed and why people stood up to voice these concerns.

The real problems were not these issues being brought up, but the way it left us so flat footed to open the shop.  Because of all the resistance we heard, we did not see the building anticipation in the neighborhood for our opening.  We were unsure if we would be accepted and feared a painfully slow opening.  We were not prepared for the support that literally poured into the shop from day one.

That first weekend, we ran out of everything.  We even pulled an old barismo customer into the kitchen to help with dishes and a barista from another shop to help make drinks.  The first two weeks, Hong and I personally worked every day open to close with most mornings being a stretch to eat or even to see our daughter.  It was stressful and tiring.  It reminded me how difficult the first years at barismo were.  We survived and pulled through the first month but my desire to execute at a higher level with customer service that feels more like a bar/restaurant left me frustrated that we could not be who we wanted to be on day one much less the first month.

Things have calmed and dwell is staffed up, training up, and I'm getting a little rest as well.  The last of the hurdles at dwell has been awaiting the seating expansion in late June which will allow the space to be complete.  Filling that empty space will enable us to present our original design full and complete to our customers.  That's a lot of work in a small amount of time.

This is probably the last barismo/dwelltime combo post I will be doing here as I have moved more to the dwell side of things as far as day to day work.  There are new things to talk about including a new addition to our roasting team at barismo, new production staff coming in, and a change of the bar presentation are all happening at 169 Mass Ave shortly.  That and the tremendous gains we've made in sourcing thanks to the work Silas has done leave the roasting operation ready to make some big moves.  A few posts about those changes will follow.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Buena Esperanza Alfaro at the WBC Brew Bar

Ltd edition cold brew bottling of Buena Esperanza Alfaro coming this Fall.
I am about to travel to Vienna to hand deliver coffee to be used at the 2012 WBC brew bar. The coffee that I am delivering is from one of our very close producers in Guatemala, his name is Gustavo Alfaro Altuve.  The relationship we formed with this producer happened very organically, and we feel it is a testament to the vision that barismo has always had for quality and authenticity in what we produce.

Sure, it is a good feeling when you find like minds to validate what you believe in, however such insularity can be a negative thing if what is being commended is not in fact authentic. It is refreshing then when time after time voices outside of your close circle are the ones giving validation. First of all it is an honor to be represented at the WBC among a small pool of select roasters from around the world and it is our pleasure to represent our exemplary producer. It is a satisfying feeling when the coffee you have sourced goes on to place 4th in its countries Cup of Excellence program, it is perhaps even more satisfying to know thoroughly the farm and mill and persons responsible for that coffee. This is the note we received from Gustavo Last week:

Dear friends:
We feel very honored to present to you a sample of our recent harvest from one of our premium lots; Buena Esperanza Alfaro one of the winners of the recent Guatemala CoE competition. With this coffee, we would like to share with you the work and commitment of four generations of my family as well as the hope for a better future from all the people that work with us at the farm.
Warm regards from Huehuetenango  
Gustavo Alfaro Altuve
General Manager
Hacienda Santa Rosa S.A.

The small sample of coffee that we are sharing with the coffee community at this high level event is something we are quite proud of as a micro-roaster and as a community focused business. For our local community, the cafes and enthusiastic customers who share our vision for excellent coffees, we are excited to be bringing you the Buena Esperanza lot this season. For now we would like to celebrate this milestone and share with you the story of the talented individuals who made this lot possible.

The following is an account of how barismo met Hacienda Santa Rosa:
Although Gustavo Alfaro is a fourth generation coffee farmer, he is not your typical producer. Upon graduating from the University of Guatemala, Gustavo went on to graduate school in Chile and afterwards pursued further education and a career as a biochemist in South Africa. It was only within recent years that family events brought Gustavo back to Guatemala to take over management of the farm, Hacienda Santa Rosa. When Gustavo took over the family farm he brought enthusiastic new ideas to the business. High on his list of goals was finding a buyer who would share his values on quality and crafting the best product that was possible.

Hacienda Santa Rosa Alfaro is located in the furthest north-west corner of Guatemala. The Buena Esperanza Alfaro lot is located at the highest point on the farm at about 1800 meters above sea level. This specific lot has been in Gustavo’s family for many generations, however only came under Gustavo’s management just a couple of years ago when he bought it from his uncle. The lot had been neglected for nearly a decade with coffee trees and other vegetation growing wild. He obtained the lot for a very good price, however buying it in such shape was a bit of a gamble, it was uncertain what the terroir was capable of producing or what the existing coffee would taste like, he was hoping for the best. In that spirit of hoping for the best, Gustavo renamed the lot, Buena Esperanza, or Good Hope.

The varietal analysis reported that the lot consisted of Mundo Nuevo, a hybrid varietal that is commonly grown at lower altitudes in Brazil. However it unheard of to grow Mundo Nuevo at high altitudes, or to even see it grown in Central America at all. Fortunately for Gustavo (and us), this Mundo Nuevo lot tasted excellent.

Our green buyer first met Gustavo in early 2010 while cupping the Buena Esperanza lot at AnaCafe in Guatemala. Silas liked the coffee quite a bit and was able to arrange a visit to the farm with Gustavo. During the visit, Silas and Gustavo established the beginning of a strong business relationship focused on quality, transparency, and a passion for creating excellent coffee. Not only was Gustavo happy with the reputation behind barismo, he was also very impressed by our personal approach to establishing buying relationships. Barismo was able to buy the first coffee that came from the Buena Esperanza Alfaro lot. This past January Silas spent a week at Hacienda Santa Rosa with production manager Alonzo Gomez, growing more familiar with the farm and the workers at Hacienda Santa Rosa. Soon after that visit Gustavo had a plaque placed along the path just before the entrance to the Buena Esperanza Alfaro lot that sums up his approach for the future of his farm: “Ser el cambio que se quiere ver.” which translates as, “Be the change you want to see.”

Enthusiasm and hard work has sustained the production at Hacienda Santa Rosa, it has also made the operation ready to make the most of the opportunities that come their way. At barismo we feel proud to work alongside a producer who is as passionate about improved quality as we are. We congratulate Gustavo for the recognition he received at the 2012 Guatemala CoE for his Buena Esperanze Alfaro lot, and as a partner we look forward to working on even more micro lot projects with the vision of seeing the coffees at Hacienda Santa Rosa improve year after year.

Tim Borrego
barismo coffeebar & roastery

Friday, May 25, 2012

Buena Esperanza 2012 Harvest Tasting Event

The Buena Esperanza lot from Hacienda Santa Rosa Alfaro in Huehuetenango, Guatemala was one of our most popular coffees last year.  Though it arrived much delayed, it had an instant following.  Calen from Voltage competed at the NERBC with it which was a footnote to third generation owner Gustavo Alfaro's visit to Cambridge last year.  Gustavo got to hang with us at barismo, Voltage, Simon's, and a few other neighborhood haunts in a whirlwind tour of our town.

Gustavo's coffee is milled and awaiting shipment to us, but thanks to an invite to the World Barista Championship side brew bar, we arranged a little extra to be air freighted to us ahead of normal shipping schedule.  When we committed to the WBC, we knew Gustavo would love that chance to be featured and have worked to make it happen.  Most of that air freighted lot is headed out to Vienna shortly but we are planning on having a little bit for a tasting with 'El Catador' Silas Moulton over at dwelltime this coming Tuesday at 3pm.  Silas spent several weeks living and working at Hacienda Santa Rosa during the peak of their harvest.  He did many varying experiments on the farm and learned a lot in the process.  The finale of which was a plaque installed by Gustavo to note how far the farm had come that was placed at the entrance to the Buena Esperanza lot.

It was a humbling and unique experience on our side that really put into perspective how much goes into making a great coffee.  The same lot we worked on was split in half, one part going to us with the other going to the Cup of Excellence placing 4th in the rankings.  A huge turn for a farm that not long ago was not selling microlots or doing any direct trade.

Join us over at dwelltime (364 Broadway, Cambridge, MA) the 29th of May at 3pm for samples of Syphon brews featuring the Buena Esperanza a week off dry mill.  Get a conversation with Silas and a unique taste experience.  This event is free but the supply is limited so first come, first served.

Gustavo Alfaro at the Cup of Excellence competition.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Iced coffee is trending hot

A while ago, we wrote an article on iced coffee that got a lot of industry discussion.  Since the first week of summer is nearly officialy upon us, it might be time to come back and have a few discussions about cold coffee over the next few weeks.

For one, cold brew has become the 'hot' and trending product in the coffee hipster scene this year.  Much like Single origin espresso years ago, per cup (see v60/Syphons/Abids etc), and others we've gone from rebutting the hoardes of industry types arguing against a particular approach seen as 'out of the main stream' to watch it trend to the front and become the thing to adopt.  On one hand being at the front means you get the benefeits of early adoption (incuding the risk associated). The flip side being the frustration when the trend waters down the name and identity of the product as it becomes widespread.  It has helped that in each of these cases, a larger industry company has adopted these methods and brought them to the mainstream but has simultaneously made it more difficult with each trend to identify our own methods.  Being more nerdy than hipster, we are always working on getting ahead of the next technique or method as long as it makes our coffees better.

We've seen this 'trending' happen over and over again to a point where there are vocal figures in our industry lumping together all forms of any particular brew method as being one monolithic approach.  It makes for better arguments when you have a straw man to knock down but overlooks the facts and complexities of the situation.  This is perhaps part of our rapidly growing industry that as prominent voices struggle to maintain a perception of leadership over the rest of our peers, the finer points are likely to be dismissed in discussion.

In Cambridge, the approach to cold brewing over the last 4 years has shifted in the better shops to involve actual brewing of the coffees cold (at ~40F) and then a fine (often cloth) filtering the coffees.  (This version is not the cold brew which is a room temperature toddy filtered with metal filters or cheese cloth)  It requires a more medium grind and a lot more care  to get the particulate out but single estate coffees can come out with more character this way.  Think of normal toddy (what everyone now generically calls cold brew) as a farm house wine with the sediment in bottle (filtered through a sieve or cheese cloth), this Cambridge version is filtered by either flannel cloth or in the case of dwelltime, a  three stage polypropylene filtration that gets the coffee pretty crisp and free of particulate.  The resulting product is completely different and absolutely unique in comparison.  dwelltime may be the only place that is nitrogen flushing the canisters the cold brew is stored in (and offering them on beer style taps) to prevent oxidation and flavor changes but we know of at least two more shops discussing the logistics to adopt the same system (in Cambridge no less).  The fact that nearly a dozen shops in the area are already brewing variations of this style or are beginning to adopt this style 'cold immersion/clean filtered' as a methodology doesn't escape us that it's caught on locally.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Globe piece on 11 shops in metro

The Boston Globe's Kathleen Pierce covered the specialty drinks of 11 shops in the metro.  An interesting insight into our community through the view of signature beverages.  It was however unfortunately titled '
11 coffee shops that put Boston on the map'.  Probably an editorial decision but not the tact of the article nor accurate.

The article is a nice plug for several spaces in the metro and could constitute a fun cafe crawl.  If we were doing a list of the coffee spots that put Boston on the map, it would be a shorter list for sure starting with Simon's and Diesel (for different reasons) but after that most of the shops we'd mention are definitely in the last three years.

The point I'd love to add to the article or at least express due to the title is that our coffee community has existed for a long time and has been building steam slowly against what had been a lot of resistance from shop owners/roasters.  Our coffee community and this new culture did not suddenly come into existence with the influx of a few national roasters and the posturing they've brought.  It has been viral.  An insistent pushing and prodding from the ground up by those at the front line.  It has been barista driven more than shop owner/roaster driven so far, though we are working as a roaster to support that change as much as possible.  Over the last 4 years as a company, we are proud of the influence we've had but realistic that what has happened is due in large part to our counterparts serving up the coffee.  Humbling to look back and see the  changes that have happened but also exciting to look forward.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

NERBC, things to look for

We've been lucky to work with two competitors this year who will be in the mix. Keep an eye out for Calen Robinette of Voltage coffee and Brandon Duff of RBCNYC. Both have high expectations of executing the routines they've been polishing for the NERBC stage.

Calen is doing a coffee cherry theme around fresh crop (literally weeks off the patio) Hacienda Santa Rosa's Buena Esperanza Alfaro. After meeting the owner, Gustavo Alfaro, Calen made Esperanza his coffees of choice.  The espresso is a pairing of a rare Mundo Nuevo lot and a seperately grown Tekisik lot. Both are grown at 1800m which makes the Mundo Nuevo turn out as a bit of an over achiever given common expectations for this varietal based on cuppings of lower elevation plantings. Both coffees are also stellar picks, as Edwin Martinez puts it 'unusually ripe and even cherry'. The same patio day of Mundo Nuevo for Calen was pulped and the remaining fruit was prepped as Cascara.  The freshness and extreme ripeness of the cascara made for a suprisingly pleasant tasting whereas many we've tried have been quite dissappointing (especially in comparison) Calen also plans to use some of Gustavo's coffee flower honey as well in his signature drink.

Brandon is planning on using our Soma espresso, a pairing of two Guatemalan coffees with a Kenya. The Guatemalan coffees are Las Rosas (Huehuetenango) and Miriam de Villanueva's El Bosque (right outside of Antigua) while the Kenya is our Othaya. Brandon bar tends on the side and his approach for sig drink will be that of a cocktail. Current secret version looks tight and brings a clever approach to sig drinks that will be fun and tasty.Brandon placed in the finals last year so keep an eye on him and his trajectory in the competitions.

Coffee community

One of the biggest driving forces locally has been the Boston TNT.  It was definately inspired by the Providence coffee society and the Tulip Tuesdays Providence Throwdown.  It is really not roaster focused and remains really laid back and approachable.

This is a contrast to the heavily roaster driven and branded events in other major cities. Having been to many of these, it often felt like a sales outreach by one aggressive company rather than a true community driven event.  That really kept many of us from having one here until seeing how well the ones in Providence were run.

The key was keeping sales people at bay and making the shop it was being hosted at the focus. This made for a really relaxing event where turnout peaked over a hundred for the first Boston TNT and was solid for the most recent.  The diversity of shops represented as well was most impressive to me and yet no tension or posturing.

A big piece to that has been shops like Voltage and Render which bridged what has been a very tight and active coffee community in Cambridge to the rest of the larger community.  Living on either side of the Charles means you don't visit the other side that much. The TNT changed that and merged the Boston and Cambridge communities for now.

A big thanks to those involved and please keep supporting the TNT.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Branding roast

After the On Point piece, I realized clearly we don't talk as much about roast level as other roasters do.  We talk about matching the right brew method up with the right coffee more than the roast degree.  The reasoning is that we don't want to throttle customers with our opinions or 'ideology', we want to focus on the right match.  That is in theory doing our best job to present a range of coffees we feel strongly about and making sure customers can take an experience home more times than not that they will enjoy.  It is in the end about customers finding some level of attachment to the farm brand (and therefore the producer).

Though there are fewer and fewer trying defend the losing argument that is dark roasting somehow equals quality, a light roast does not guarantee quality coffee in itself either.  That's the issue at hand, which is better, and we decide not to talk about it most of the time.

For me personally, I do not enjoy dark roasts.  I do not therefor roast into second crack on our coffees.  We may be the only local roaster whose lineup is roasted between first and second but that often escapes the discussion when others are branding themselves as light roasters and we are silent on the issue.  It is my suggestion that if you are to take the mantle that light roasts equal quality, your company should boldly abandon roasting french roasts, vienna roasts, South Italian, and all other roasts that are focused on dark.  You can't have it both ways and still be sincere.

While I may not enjoy dark roasts, there are very few good light roasters out there.  More times than I can count I've been served up grassy and underdeveloped roasts that seemed more about getting the lightest possible aesthetic color than palatable drink.  It is that same astringency and unpleasant acidity that shows up in poorly done dark roasts that is even more intense and stomach churning in poorly done light roasts.  The few good light roasters there are seem to be frustratingly inconsistent which compounds the consumer perception of what light roasts are.

When someone says they don't like a light roast, I'm never shocked because a lot of things have to line up to make a good cup.  That's why we put our focus on brewing it correctly and trying to teach our customers how to take that experience home.  It is a barista focus for sure but it has helped us immensely moving forward.

In the meantime, we are going to continue refining what we've been doing and keep moving forward.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Found two bags of old coffee

While collecting items in our kitchen coffee setup to cup late night, I came across these two bags.  The design is one I worked on with Lex Nemzer and I still like it a lot.  It really brought me back.

I am now cupping this against a 'blonde roast' and some of our newer coffees late night to get ready for radio time Friday morning.   I only opened the Costa to try now, saving the other for the late. Honestly, it still had some character but not a bit of surface oil which considering how old it is I was impressed.  The flavor though was quite stale compared to fresh coffees so it was not all that unexpected.

Lesson, drink fresh coffee, store the labels for posterity. It was really fun to look back at the old label to remind me what an uphill battle it had been to push quality the way we have.  Glad to see things progressing so quickly these days.

On Point

Our own Jaime van Schyndel will be joining Tom Ashbrook for a segment on NPR's On Point tomorrow morning Feb 10th at 11:00am. The topic? Light roast coffee. Tune in to 90.0 WBUR for a live broadcast or listen anytime after the broadcast online.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A busy week

Friday the 13th was the Reanimator event at Voltage. It was a great turnout on a cold night to drink beers and watch a movie. There was no competition but a heck of a lot of camaraderie. A big thanks to Lucy and Voltage for being gracious hosts as well as our own Steve Jaunzemis (future dwelltime'r) for putting the event together. We are excited to see many more events in that space over the next year.

This past Tuesday, Ben Pratt, Tyler, Pete, and I went to the Providence Coffee Society throw down held at New Harvest Roasters. It was a great event and a lot of fun. They set it up as a latte art competition with single elimination rounds. I ended up dusting off the old steaming pitcher and getting back into the fray. Oddly enough, it was Ben vs myself in the final round and Ben edged me out ever so slightly! Since Ben won, he chose me as his partner for the next event which was a one arm latte art throw down. That meant I was the left arm and Ben was the right arm for espresso all the way through latte art. Needles to say, it was fun even though we had little success in that one.

On Thursday night was the big event at dwelltime, the first Boston TNT of what will be a monthly recurring industry event. Pete Cannon, who will move over from barismo to dwelltime has been a main organizer for this not for profit barista focused event and is owed a lot of credibility for it's success. A special thanks to Jack's Abbey for donating a coffee beer with our El Bosque Yellow. The turnout according to the sign in book topped 100! Huge success and congrats to Chuck for taking the prize money. Next month, we'll have to go take it back when Render Coffee hosts the next one.

This Saturday we had several appointments in NYC and ended up dropping by the hugely hyped Coffee Common pop up. It inspired to start thinking that our local coffee community could easily arrange something focused around the quality local roasters we have here. Talking about fresh roast, fresh ground, and fresh brew methods with quality local roasters would be a lot of fun and would be easy to organize. As a small batch regional roaster, it seems odd there are so many events with roasters and people from the opposite coast when the talent and quality coffee exists here to support such endeavors.

That was a busy week with a lot of educational experiences a nd a lot of fun in between. We are looking forward to doing a lot more in the coming months and really getting back to tastings and events the way we had int he past. Keep an eye on our twitter for updates going forward.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Re-Animator Tasting and Screening this Friday

This Friday, Voltage Coffee and Barismo are teaming up for a tasting of our Re-Animator espresso. The tasting will also feature a screening of the cult classic, and the espresso’s namesake, Re-Animator. Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader said of the movie, “it's this kind of flat-footed stuff that gives garbage a bad name.” You’re gonna LOVE IT! Clown Shoes, one of our favorite breweries, will be providing the good libations. Here are the details:

What: Re-Animator Screening & Tasting
Where: Voltage Coffee, 295 3rd Street, Cambridge, MA
When: This Friday, the 13th of January, from 7-10PM

This event is open to members of the coffee community and press only. Please RSVP at


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Limited release Jack's Abby beer with Barismo coffee available tonight.

Tonight at Redbones in Davis Square, Somerville, there will be a small batch of Smoke and Dagger from Jack's Abby on cask. This beer has been dry-hopped with our Kenya Ruthangati. Jack's Abby produces some of the most delicious craft lagers around. We're really excited to see how this beer came out. We'll see you at the Bones!