Wednesday, November 28, 2012
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
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
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
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 is located along the Santa Ana volcano known as Ilamatepec in one of the premier coffee growing regions of El SalvadorCarmen 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
RJ Gourmet Coffeeshop:
441 Cambridge St, Cambridge,
Friday, June 08, 2012
Thursday, June 07, 2012
|Ltd edition cold brew bottling of Buena Esperanza Alfaro coming this Fall.|
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:
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
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.
barismo coffeebar & roastery
Friday, May 25, 2012
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
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
11 coffee shops that put Boston on the map'. Probably an editorial decision but not the tact of the article nor accurate.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
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.
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
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
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.
Monday, January 23, 2012
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
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