company - education - coffee

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Happy Holidays from barismo

If you are looking for that gift idea to really cover all the bases for your coffee aficionado, the sampler pack is the best item on our list.  It gives you a freshly roasted selection of coffees to sample in 8oz amounts.  For those that are local to us in Arlington, schedule pickup in store by choosing the in store pickup option under shipping.  Keep an eye on order timing so that we can provide coffee that's freshly roasted as close to the brewing date as possible.

We also have classes, gift certificates, gear, directly sourced Teas, and T-Shirts that make good gift items as well.

barismo will close early on Christmas Eve and be closed Christmas Day, avoid getting left out when making your coffee orders or last minute retail bag purchases.  Happy Holidays!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Brewing Series

One of the signature styles of brewing with barismo is using cloth filters.  We discovered that depth filtration from cloth filters is better at brewing coffee without imparting 'paper taste' from paper filters and it doesn't have the sediment issues of metal filtration.  Cloth requires immense care and time consuming cleaning but that didn't stop us from seeing its potential.

The 'woodneck' is the throw back method, with its hooped flannel filter, nick-named for the wooden handle on the neck of the carafe.  It was the basis for the v60 design and is a free pour method involving no restriction of how it drains giving full control to the barista to craft the experience.  The cloth needs constant maintenace and care to keep it clean during both storage and normal usage.  This method produces shorter yields of rich but balanced and suprisingly nuanced cups of coffee.  

We highlighted the woodneck brews this weekend on bar at dwelltime and we had a lot of folks come out to try this body forward brew. If you missed the event don't worry we you can always come by the coffeebar at barismo for the same experience. The final brewing device that we are featuring for this series is one of technical precision and it happens to use cloth filtration as well...

When you go back and look at methods that defined us, the Syphon was that method.  While espresso was near and dear to us, our experimenting showed that you could make expressive drip coffee if you could harness the variables.  Enter the Syphon, or balance brewer. Using it in a novel way, we discovered you could get a stable brewing temp and take advantage of full immersion properties in a way that is entirely unique.  It meant being able to control everything in a very precise way. The variable controls we talked about, but were otherwise always chasing, became a reality with Syphon brewing.

The Syphon consists of a lower and upper chamber. When heating the lower chamber, steam builds forcing the water to syphon to the upper chamber. Once the temperature is stable, coffee can be brewed in the upper chamber. When brewing is complete, heat is removed thereby cooling the lower chamber which draws the coffee through the filter and back down.

For this method, we chose an aromatic and intense Panama and juicy Kenya to present. These are served as two 5oz servings per order, so bring a friends.

Dwelltime coffeebar
Tuesday, October 21th, 1pm-3pm
Coffee Shots Menu

Panama Don Pachi Gesha
serves 2 (5oz) cups

Kenya Thunguri SL28
serves 2 (5oz) cups

*Those who show their registered ticket get a 2oz taster of Thunguri for free. Register online at

Monday, October 14, 2013

Coffee Shots

Years ago before barismo was roasting coffee, we were busy conducting varied experiments in brewing. One of the early variations in espresso that we liked was nick-named 'the coffee shot'.  It wasn't quite the traditional approach. We were using some odd brew parameters where we were able to get exceptional results that simply couldn't be called espresso.

A 'coffee shot' is a single origin drip (not roasted for espresso)coffee pulled as a shot using a low temperature with a slightly higher yield in volume. The results are similar to what you'd expect from lever espresso machines but with the intensity of the particular coffee shining through.

To be served, it requires a dedicated grinder and five years ago it would have required an entire dedicated espresso machine! With new technology like the La Marzocco Strada that we have at dwelltime, we can operate individual group heads at different temperatures and different pressure profiles.  That means three different coffees at three different temperatures and three different profiles. blog fresh flash back: Coffee Shots

October 15th, 2013
Coffee Shots Menu

Panama Don Pachi Gesha

Kenya Thunguri SL28

*Those who show their registered ticket get their first shot of Thunguri for free. Register online at

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sustainable Agriculture Recap

As a part of barismo's Patio Grand Opening on Friday, we had a special presentation by Jon Orren, school teacher at Newton South High School. Jon has been involved with the Sustainable Agriculture Project at the high school for the past couple of years. The schools project is a three season educational garden that grows produce for use at the school and provides a tool for educating students about food systems, sustainability, and agriculture.

Over a year ago Jon approached us at barismo to see if he could get his hands on 'chaff', a by-product of coffee from the roasting process. He had done some research and found some interesting uses and benefits, particularly the ability of chaff to greatly improve soil composition and replenish nutrients. We started collecting our chaff and Jon began stopping by every few weeks to pick up a trash bin full of the stuff.

What is this stuff? Chaff is a thin dry skin that falls off the raw coffee bean during the roasting process. The un-roasted bean (also called "green coffee" because it has a greenish-blue color in the raw state) has a dense cellular structure. When heat is applied to the bean during the roasting process the cellular structure expands, loses moisture, and starts to develop sugars and complex compounds. The expansion of the bean causes the thin outermost layer to flake off of the bean inside of the drum. Fans pull air out of the hot rotating drum during the roasting process and the lightweight flakes of chaff are collected via cyclone into a large drum.

Using Chaff to Enrich Soil. When used correctly, Chaff can significantly replenish the soils nutrients, it does so in a way that even coffee grounds cannot (grounds can be very acidic and must be mixed correctly to maintain a proper Ph level). Having a way to replenish soil is especially important for a garden that is being used through three seasons. Jon's experience is that the the soil was richer with more organic life present and the crops came back with very healthy yields. In order to access all of the benefits that chaff has to offer, one must be aware of how to use the chaff correctly.

Working with Chaff. When chaff is wet it will clump together into a heavy dense mass that adheres to itself very easily. Wet chaff masses are very slow to breakdown and if they are left in that state they will prevent water from penetrating above or below causing bacteria or mold in some areas and dry soil in others. Jon brought in an example of a wet dried chaff clump that resembles a hard piece of paper mache. After some experimentation with mixing chaff with soil or mulch, they found that a 1-to-5 ratio (chaff to mixer) worked best. This mixture keeps the chaff from adhering to itself and turning into hard clumps, this allows the chaff to break down and begin to properly release the valuable nutrients back into the soil.

Putting your garden to bed. At the end of the growing season, when the soil is at its most depleted state, there is a technique that can be used to replenish the soil using chaff. A thick layer of dry chaff is evenly distributed on the surface of your garden bed and covered up with burlap. The dry chaff Must be covered with something like strips of jute (the burlap sacks that coffee comes packaged in) to keep it from being blown away in the wind. From the end of the fall through the winter the thick layer of chaff has enough time to decompose and you avoid the problematic clumps in your soil. In the spring your soil is fertile and ready to go for the next season!

At Newton South High School Jon has had so much success with the yields of produce that he has had to find creative ways to make use of the food they have grown. They have enough produce to provide faculty with a small CSA program, however there is still an abundance. Jon has been pickling much of the produce so it has a longer lifespan. Jon brought us a variety of pickles and kimchi to try out at the event. We also got some freshly picked produce to take home. Some of the more unique items were the West Indian Gherkin Cucumber (an egg shaped cucumber with peculiar spikes, from the Monticello seed bank), and a small grape sized cucumber called a Mexican Minature Watermelon.

We had a great turn out for the event thanks to everyone who showed up to hear Jon, and thank you Jon for sharing! We will list any links that Jon sends us for resources about using chaff in your home garden.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Cambridge cold brew by the bottle

Our sister shop dwelltime 364 Broadway in Cambridge is doing cold brew by the bottle.  Drop by and take one home.  These growler sized bottles are placed front right in a wine fridge and bottled multiple times a week during the summer.
The Boston Globe recently did it's annual iced coffee article and gave the cold brew a review:

"Even if you take milk in your coffee, sample this coffee black at first. It has a natural sweetness and a toasty caramel finish, without a bitter taste. It is smooth, satisfying, and just right — the purest cold-brew drink we find."  By Debra Samuels   JULY 30, 2013 |  GLOBE CORRESPONDENT   

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Changing up our media

Since moving the roasting operation and the coffee bar to 171 Mass ave in Arlington, we've made continual changes. With the patio coming up, we felt like the coffee bar needed something special to add a new element to the space.  To accomplish this, we have installed a new section of bar in the back to house our music station.  Taking some pallets and a nice piece of Honey Locust, we built out a small bar with a record player to give us a wider range of music.  Next time you drop by, take a peek.

Barismo patio grand opening Fri Aug 16 noon to 4pm

Join us for our patio grand opening and try fresh new Costa Rican coffees, a special offering from Toscanini's.
See you there! Register here.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Origin Week: following from seed to cup

Do not miss out on the final leg of our journey as we feature the following folks on Thursday and Friday at Dwelltime. Be sure to pick up your tickets for these events to reserve your spot!

For those of you who had a chance to make it to the first two events of Origin Week, you had the rare opportunity to literally shake the hands that planted your coffee. This is the first step in a long chain of actors who work to bring you the coffee you enjoy each day.

On Tuesday, we heard from Gustavo Alfaro owner of Hacienda Santa Rosa talking about his long term approach to raising the level of quality as a way to sustain the farm economically. Adding value he argues is the only way to stay ahead of rising wages and other changing social factors. Gustavo says he was lucky enough to come into managing the farm at a time when specialty coffee was offering him this window of opportunity, a market for higher quality coffee sold at higher prices.

On Wednesday we had a chance to hear from Luis Pedro from Bella Vista Mill. Luis operates a quality mill in Guatemala which give him the opportunity to interact with hundreds of small farmers from the local area. With his background in Agronomy and his interest in the specialty market, Luis has the ability to impart to other farmers the great opportunity that they have with the specialty coffee market when there is a focus on improving quality. Luis happens to manage one of the farms that barismo customers have really come to love, El Bosque. Luis was able to share with those who made it to the event the improvements in quality that have taken place over the last few years at El Bosque and some of the changes to come.

One of our attendees said she has been telling all of her friends that this is Coffee University week! Another attendee on Tuesday noted the linear line up of events as well. We started Origin Week with a farm owner (Gustavo), then moved on to a mill owner / farm manager (Luis), the next events feature exporters from Costa Rica and Colombia as well as an Importer. Finally on Friday we take on the big picture event: the intersection of specialty coffee and large markets with our guests from GeoCertify and the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange.

Don't miss your change to catch the rest of the highly educational and engaging Origin Week with barismo! Get your free tickets now:

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Guatemala Producers, Tuesday and Wednesday

The first guests that we will have for Origin Week are from Guatemala. Gustavo Alfaro will be at dwelltime on Tuesday, and Luis Pedro will be at Simon's Too on Wednesday. Reserve your free tickets now!

When I first met Gustavo Alfaro I remember that he was very engaging and soon we had arranged a visit to his farm Hacienda Santa Rosa Alfaro. I spent a good amount of time walking the farm and hiking up to the highest lot where the Buena Esperanza grows at 1,900 meters elevation. I learned quickly that Gustavo was interested in making long term investments into the farm to improve coffee quality, quality of life for workers, and over all presentation of Hacienda Santa Rosa Alfaro. During that visit, I was able to meet the artist Rudy Cotton who was visiting the farm to find inspiration for the mural that he is commissioned to complete in one of the main buildings at HSA for Gustavo. Rudy and Gustavo met as students at the University of Guatemala and have stayed friends over the years. This collaboration is an example of the vision that Gustavo has for his farm. Other farmers ask him why he would spend any effort putting art on his farm, Gustavo wants to inspire pride into his workers and make a good impression on those who visit his farm. You will hear from Gustavo about this mural project and about this year's HSA coffees when you attend the first Origin Week event this Tuesday, April 9th, 6-8pm at Voltage Coffee & Art. Reserve your free ticket here.

Barismo has worked with Luis Pedro for about as long as we have been roasting. I had the opportunity to Visit Bella Vista Mill in Guatemala last year and see the shear amount of hard work that goes into the many farms and lots that Luis handles. Luis Pedro has been working tirelessly for years to impart to other producers in Guatemala that there is a market that puts a premium on quality grown, picked, and processed coffees. Luis now has an opportunity to connect a bit more with you the end customer to give you first hand information about these efforts. This is also a chance for so many of the baristas who work with coffees from Bella Vista to share their appreciation and give their feed back to Luis in this Direct Trade conversation. We like to explain Direct Trade as a transparent conversation about quality, it doesn't get any more transparent than this. Mark your calendars Wednesday April 10th, 5-7pm at Simon's Too. Reserve your free ticket here.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Stay Fresh: Bicycles & Coffee

Jackie, our bike delivery person is excited about the weather finally warming up, and kudos to her for doing an awesome job through the winter! The other reason Jackie has to be excited is the new hot pink paint job on the bike, this makes it easier for everyone out there on the road to spot the barismo bike as it makes it way around town. This week the bags that have a cute sticker on them were roasted and delivered in the same day via the Barismo Bike. As always, you will find the roast date written prominently on the front of the retail bag. Where exactly did those coffees end up? Well, you can follow the freshness here on twitter to find out: @BarismoBike

The Coffee Trike in Dewey Sq.
In other exciting bike and coffee news, I had a chance to connect with San from The Coffee Trike . He has a nice setup brewing coffee from local roasters. His main coffee is Alchemy from George Howell and this week for Origin Week he will be guesting barismo's Peña Blanca single origin Espresso. The Peña Blanca is from Hacienda Santa Rosa Alfaro and you can meet Gustavo Alfaro owner of the farm twice this week. Tuesday at Voltage or Sunday at Clover. San is set up right in Dewey Square in downtown Boston along side the other food trucks just in front of the Red Line South Station T-stop. You will find The Coffee Trike in Boston on the Greenway Monday through Friday. Follow the coffee trike on twitter for any service and location updates: @TheCoffeeTrike

And some other bicycle news to get you ready for the spring (finally). Around Cambridge and Somerville it looks like they are putting the big community bicycle racks back in place, time to put away your winter coats and tune up your bicycle! If you do not have your own bike or you happen to be in town visiting for the SCAA conference, don't worry, you can explore the town with a Hubway Bike. If you are not familiar with how this works, it is an easy point-to-point bicycle rental. The bicycles have begun to show up in their familiar spots around the Greater Boston area (Cambridge/Somerville included). You can check out their website for more info and complete map of where the bicycle docking stations are located.

Being such a big part of the Cambridge coffee community as a local roaster we know that sustainability is important to our customers. We also know that sustainability requires dedication at every step along the entire life cycle (no pun intended) of a product, coffee is no exception. At barismo, 90% of the coffees we sell are delivered to local cafes via bicycle. The final step in a process is just as crucial as the first step and every step in between. Origin Week shows customers the first step, local roasting and local bicycle delivery is about taking that same sense of responsibility all the way through to the last step.

If your neighborhood coffee shop serves quality local milk and fresh baked goods but fails to find a quality local roaster then maybe your community needs more quality micro roasters. We love serving an authentic product to our community, that is one of the biggest reasons we are sharing Origin Week with the people who enjoy these coffees 365 days a year. If you are visiting this week we welcome you and hope you have a chance to sample what the areas local coffee scene is all about. Whatever community you are apart of take a look around you and ask yourself how can your coffee scene be more authentic. The simple answer is to try harder, find a quality local roaster that you really enjoy, and maybe it means starting your own.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Stay local

This week is where we emphasize what local can do.  The bike delivery crew and the production team are getting sympatico. Now it's time to show it since the weather is supposed to be getting nicer.

This week we will be checking in at every stop along the way delivering coffees that have been roasted the same day by bike.  We might even check in at a few shops that don't stay local or fresh to show what it's like.  It's not an easy logistical feat but we can do it because so many shops who support us are local.

This is what local can do.

To mark this, every single bag that goes out this week will have a sticker with the same pink icon on it.  That is the home of our foursquare check-in page that allows you to track the freshest local deliveries.  Take a peak and don't forget to share the road!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Origin Week: I'd like to introduce...

The SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) is organizing an event in Boston that gives us an opportunity to pull in many of the people we work with.  With a continuing desire for transparency and giving credit where it's due, we have arranged for a list of speakers and small events outside the trade show and competitions that regular people who love coffee can attend for free.

You know we are passionate, but these people are involved in much of what we do at varying levels.  Meet farm owners, mill managers, quality operations that represent small farmers and organize relationships, and others. Origin week highlights the people we work with to bring you coffee. These events give you, our local customers, a chance to interact and hear their story.

Wihout further ado, here is an introduction to all of the amazing people who will be at the Origin Week events, take a look and then go reserve your free tickets for each event over here:

April 9th and April 14th
Gustavo Alfaro is a fourth generation coffee farmer, but he is not your typical producer. After graduating from the University of Guatemala, Gustavo went on to pursue a career in biochemistry which led him from Chile to South Africa. Eventually when the time came for him to take on the operation of Hacienda Santa Rosa, Gustavo brought great new ideas to investing in the future of the farm. One of his first goals was to find a partnership with a roaster who would have a focus on quality and long term growth with HSA. Barismo was amazed with the Buena Esperanza when they first cupped it and became the very first specialty micro roaster to work with HSA. Buena Esperanza went on to place 4th in the 2012 Cup of Excellence with promise of an improved 2013 crop. Gustavo pushes for improvements for the farm at every level, from microlots and agricultural projects to quality of life for workers. 

April 10th
Luis Pedro runs Bella Vista Mill in Guatemala and is also a manager of many quality farms in Guatemala. We have worked with Luis for over four years on various coffees, notably the El Bosque, Bosque Red and Yellow Bourbon microlots from 2011. Luis has implemented continued quality improvements on the farm level at El Bosque. We recently began working with him on an extensive varietal project. Luis has a background in agronomy and a passion for quality.

April 11th
Francisco Mena and Exclusive Coffees are big supporters of the Micromill Revolution in Costa Rica. The so called revolution focuses on specialty quality coffees and lot separation, and has continued to grow with the rise of direct trade efforts by specialty roasters. Barismo has worked with Francisco and Exclusive Coffees on the Don Mayo lot La Loma, Jardin De Aromas mircrolots, and various other excellent coffees.

April 11th
Alejandro Cadena has a degree in Economics from the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá. He joined Virmax in 2001 and in 2002 he set up Virmax Colombia. Alejandro is the managing director of Virmax, but still visits with coffee growers and continues to seek out new relationships with producers to bring in exciting coffees.

April 11th
Badi Bradley is a specialty coffee importer for Caravela Coffee located in North Carolina. Barismo has worked with Badi for many years to sustainably bring in coffees from Colombia. Caravela, though mainly dealing with Colombian coffees, brings in excellent lots from Honduras, Nicaragua and other Central American countries. 
April 12th
Matthew Hodges founded GeoCertify in 2007, while working with the government of Rwanda to restructure the coffee sector from commodity to specialty grade. He is currently serving as President and CEO of GeoCertify, implementing tracability efforts of microlots through the Ethiopia Commodity Echange.  He spent 5 years as a visiting scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and currently lectures at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology. He holds degrees from Pennsylvania State University and Harvard University. - from geocertify website
April 12th
Anteneh Assafa is the new CEO of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange, succeeding founder of the ECX Eleni Gabre-Medhin PhD. Mr. Assafa holds a degree in managment from Addis Ababa University and a degree in finance from the University of Sorbonne. Mr. Assafa has 15 years experience in the banking sector most recently as the Vice-President of the Bank of Abyssinia.

Reserve your free ticket for these events at:

Signup now:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Origin Week Events

barismo coffee roaster presents
 Origin Week Full Event List 
April 9-14, 2013  Free registration for all events at
they grow it, we roast it, you love it. shake the hands that planted your coffee.
Barismo is a local coffee roaster who has dedicated years to sourcing the freshest quality coffee. We work tirelessly to foster transparent and sustainable Direct Trade relationships with the top growers, exporters, and importers in the world. This April, join us for Origin Week and seize the opportunity to shake the hands that planted your coffee.

Gustavo Alfaro of HSA at Voltage, Guatemalan Coffees
Tuesday, April 9, 2013 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM (PDT)
Voltage Coffee & Art, 295 3rd St, Cambridge, MA 02142

Luis Pedro from Bella Vista Mill / El Bosque in Guatemala
Wednesday, April 10, 2013 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM (PDT)
Simon's Too, 983 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138

Francisco Mena of Exclusive Coffees in Costa Rica
Thursday, April 11, 2013 from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM (PDT)
Dwelltime Coffeebar and Bakeshop, 364 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

Badi Bradley and Aljandro Cadena Colombian Coffees
Thursday, April 11, 2013 from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM (PDT)
Dwelltime Coffeebar and Bakeshop, 364 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

Boston TNT
Thursday, April 11, 2013 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM (PDT)
Voltage Coffee & Art, 295 3rd St, Cambridge, MA 02142

Matt Hodges of GeoCertify and Anteneh Assefa of ECX Ethiopia
Friday, April 12, 2013 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM (PDT)
Dwelltime Coffeebar and Bakeshop, 364 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

Gustavo Alfaro of HSA at Clover HSQ Guatemalan Coffees
Sunday, April 14, 2013 from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM (PDT)
Clover HSQ in Harvard Square, 7 Holyoke St, Cambridge, MA 02141

Gustavo Alfaro of Hacienda Santa Rosa
Featured guest : Gustavo Alfaro of Hacienda Santa Rosa

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Direct tradiness, an update

This year, we went early to get a lot of things done with the farms we work with.  We completed our visits to Costa Rica and El Salvador, but we'll report on those coffees later.  Right now, we just got back from Guatemala and have a few updates to report.

"Elite" Bourbon at El Bosque 2013
The one everyone is interested in is El Bosque, the farm with the heirloom Bourbon outside of Antigua, Guatemala.  Bosque started out as a wild farm, a beautiful and untouched place with great potential.  After four years of care and reworking, we are starting to see some great new changes.

First off, new plantings from the cherry of those 70-90 year old trees are coming to fruit soon.  That means, the production will increase but it also means the preservation of these trees.  They were referring to these in El Salvador as 'Elite' Bourbon so we are going to adopt that nomenclature in this post to distinguish it.  It's defined by the much taller tree with more space between branches, the distinct angle of the branches, and that these are the older heirloom trees we associate with El Bosque and it's resulting flavor profile.  The really old trees (70-90 years) always had issues of low yield and high rates of defects (higher attrition when sorting).  Seeing younger plantings come to fruit soon should help out with that and hopefully retain the characters we like about the coffee.

Villa Sarchi at Guatemala El Bosque
It's not just the 'Elite' Bourbon that's there, they have the local Bourbon planted at many farms Luis Pedro Zelaya works with called Bourbon 300 (Bourbon Trescientos).  That's a more disease resistant, shorter height, and higher yield Bourbon that Luis selected for planting.  Bosque also has plantings of the more common Yellow Caturra and Pacamara.

What excites us is the new Villa Sarchi planted on the farm that's coming to fruit and maybe next year we can bring some in.  The first harvest of it probably won't cup out well enough to be anything notable.  Along with that, we have some Orange Bourbon (from El Salvador) and Yellow Bourbon (from the original Yellow Bourbon trees on Bosque)  planted and a little mix of Ethiopian varieties that need more time to evaluate before planting more.  The farm manager and also the owner of the mill that handles this and many other coffees will be in town soon to present more about the mighty progression of El Bosque.

Buena Esperanza is the other main farm we work with in Guatemala up in the mountains of Huehuetenango.  This year, that farm is blowing up after placing well in the Cup of Excellence.  Gustavo has been quite busy with all the for traffic of new coffee buyers trying to bend his ear, but the Esperanza has scored well and continues to build an international following.  We see the coffee cupping well and expect things to move forward in our relationship.  Since Gustavo will be in town shortly and many of you can meet him locally, we'll hold more of the details for him to personally pass them along.

More information to follow soon.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Don't worry, it's just a seasonal thing

Every year, we have a gap where we just run out of a coffee until the next harvest arrives.  The seasonal nature of the coffee harvest means it's often a good thing to run out of it for a little while and move to other coffees that are fresher.  While it's sound from a quality perspective, it doesn't make us feel better when our favorite coffees disappear from the shelf for a while.

What's been amazing to watch over the last few years is the attachment that people have as we bring back the producers who have excelled or that we have a strong relationship with.  Last year, it was the El Bosque from Guatemala.  We organized a pick of red and yellow bourbon, which we ran through very quickly after it arrived.  There were many people looking for it on what seemed like a daily basis after it was gone.  One dedicated person in particular called us every few weeks to get an update on when that coffee would be back in season... until it arrived.  Next year will be our fourth year working with El Bosque and we get the attachment people have to that farm.

This year, the La Loma from Costa Rica seems to have converted quite a few people to become loyal fans.  The next crop of La Loma will be our third year bringing this lot in and fourth working with the folks at Don Mayo. Our customers and cafes have had time to become attached to this particular lot and the quality produced at Don Mayo.  The other day, our green buyer was covering in a pinch and helped close the coffee bar.  Within minutes of each other, two customers came in and were both seeking out Loma and seemed pretty devastated at it's absence.  The comments 'now what do I get, that was my favorite' and the more humorous advice 'tell Don Mayo they need to plant more coffee trees' were left with us.  Both left with another good coffee but truth is, we get it.  That's what makes a lot of this worth while.

The good thing is that the new coffees are just around the corner.  Miralvalle is shipping early and looks great, the Loma is fantastic and always ships on time, and of course Bosque is a bit late with picking but won't be far behind.  While these farms have become beloved in our lineup (among other well liked coffees), we are looking forward to bridging the gap and finally putting some faces and people in front of customers to go with the names of coffees they like.  Stay tuned as we are planning to arrange something special soon as a way to make the conversation more complete.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Ecosystem of Good Coffee and Good Food

Good Food and Good Coffee

It is not an uncommon experience to go out for a great meal at a restaurant only to end with a bitter shot of espresso or poor cup of drip coffee. The biggest challenge for restaurants is time. It takes time to make a pour over the way you might see it done at a place like dwelltime.  On top of that, a dedicated cafe takes a considerable amount of time to train staff to make consistently great tasting coffee. There are too many arguments made for having a coffee experience that is not in line with the food. The question we have is why not accept the challenge and make better coffee?

Fortunately there are some great examples locally of establishments we partner with who are taking up the challenge and finding ways to offer coffee that is in line with the rest of their values: fresh product, quality, locally sourced. We hope you have a chance to try them all!

Four Burgers

704 Mass Ave., Cambridge, MA  @fourburgers

That is right, a burger joint doing good coffee. Four Burgers is a local burger restaurant that focuses on well sourced ingredients from local New England farmers, cooked fresh to order. They just launched their new breakfast hours and menu (see menu on right) this month at their Central Square location.  If you haven't been, you should check it out. They are using ceramic beehouse drippers to offer per cup servings of barismo coffee. The bar has just been raised.

Puritan & Co.

1166 Cambridge St., Cambridge, MA

This newly opened restaurant has quickly become a popular dining spot in Inman Square and for good reason. The sourcing of the food they serve is an important aspect of what they do. In addition to well prepared, well sourced food, their Wine and Coffee buyer chose to find a coffee roaster that fit in with their two-fold goals of great tasting and locally sourced. Coffee service at Puritan & Co. is in the process of switching from french press to a stylish filtered Chemex brew. Despite the challenges all restaurants face, they have invested in a creative time saving water dispersion system that will allow them to execute a programmed Chemex recipe that's freshly ground and freshly brewed. Go for great food, but don't miss the great coffee.

Casa B

253 Washington St, Somerville, MA @casabrestaurant

The beautiful space at Casa B is just the first layer of an amazing dining experience focused on small plates and excellent ingredients. After your meal, ask for the coffee, Casa B is perhaps the only restaurant locally doing, not just fresh drip coffee, but cloth filtered woodnecks. You get the rich, clean concentrated flavors of the coffees in a way that is even hard to find from a dedicated coffee shop. Each cup is prepared fresh upon ordering. This is a restaurant that has really taken coffee to the next level and the rewards are very delicious.


134 Hampshire St, Cambridge, MA

This Inman Square favorite has excellent food. They asked themselves the question, why not? Why would a restaurant who can talk about their food, not offer a coffee that they can talk about. They came to barismo for two reasons, locally roasted is fresher, and we identify coffees by the producer. Instead of generic regions or fanciful Italian sounding pseudo names, they liked that we give the name of the producer, the varietal, the elevation and processing. Servers who are adept at explaining food, easily transition to coffee expert with the information provided. Coffee service at Oleana is traditional french press prepared fresh by the cup.

Good Coffee and Good Food

All of the noise we make about well sourced, freshly roasted, locally delivered coffee, it might be excusable for an excellent coffee shop to offer lackluster baked goods or food options. But why would we? Or to complete the thought, Why Not offer great food too? 

It is not an easy undertaking to run a food program in what is mostly a coffee focused business.  One main reason is that as coffee people we may not have specific kitchen experience to know where to even begin. With a little bit of kitchen help, and dedication to making it work, it is very possible and in fact works well. Here are some coffee places we work with doing just that.


364 Broadway, Cambridge, MA @dwelltimecoffee

Almost one year ago dwelltime launched as an example of what a high volume coffeebar can do, fresh to order drip coffees, new pressure profile espresso machine, excellent teas, cold brew on tap, great service and a comfortable spacious place to relax. That in itself was a big undertaking, but once we were on our feet that was not the end of the story. Over the first few months we were quietly figuring out our food program. We launched with baked goods which we have pushed to be better and better. Next came lunch service, internally we have kitchen experience and that was invaluable, but it is never easy figuring these things out. Once we had a handle on our weekday lunch service, we tried something really different, Brunch. And guess what... people who love great coffee, love great food too.

Voltage Coffee & Art

295 Third St, Cambridge, MA @voltagecoffee

Voltage Coffee & Art added something exceptional to the Kendall neighborhood in Cambridge when it opened almost two years ago, and like dwelltime it is not content to settle with just good coffee. People are confident in the quality of coffee at Voltage and we expect that to continue, but there is more in the works.  Voltage's owner Lucy Valena has been quietly crafting a lunch program that recently launched as part of an expanding lineup soon to include beer/wine. Voltage is on the verge of installing its beer tap system and putting in a brand new wine selection. We are looking forward to expanded seating as well which will mean patio seats outdoors!  Voltage is one of those spaces where the best is yet to come but knowing the staff and owner, we get that quality, community, fresh, and local are going to be the highlights.

Why Not?

Why would a really great restaurant offer poorly roasted, stale coffee? Or why would a "local" coffeeshop ship roasted coffee in from across the country? We don't have the answers to the various hybids of inconsistency found in the food and beverage industry. For restaurants and cafes that over look one or the other, the question is not why, but why not just get it right? The demand for quality is rising on both ends.

Luckily for customers there are places that understand that quality local food and quality local roasted coffee are part of a mutually sustaining ecosystem. Hopefully there will be more establishments who ask themselves, why not source everything fresh and local?

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Snow update

We've mostly dug out and are looking to reopen Sunday morning.  Living right around the corner means we are some of the first to be able to dig out.  Expect normal Sunday hours.  We hope you are able to dig out as well and drop by for a coffee.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The value of transparency

A bag of coffee should answer the 3 W's: Who, what, and when?

Who produced this coffee? The land owner and the mill that had a hand in creating this product should be identified (when known).  There must be as much information as is needed to begin to build a relevant understanding of the production chain in growing/picking/milling a coffee.  Who is the starting point of a long chain of questions to ask about what makes a coffee unique.

What makes this coffee special? Elevation, processing at the farm/wet mill/dry mill, regional location, and special packaging of the unroasted coffee for transport.  Things that can impart or change/preserve the flavor of a coffee add to the knowledge base a consumer builds over time of what they prefer while trying different coffees.  Do I prefer bourbon or caturra more? Am I more interested in higher elevation coffees?  The list goes on but how can you build those preferences without knowledge of them existing as a contributing factor to a coffee.

When was this coffee harvested/roasted?  Knowing the crop year is a nice item but it's often too rare an addition.  Knowing the roast date is one of the most basic and fundamental tenets of good coffee.  The nicest production with the best terroir roasted to perfection will be wasted by staling.  A clearly labeled and recent roast date is the first real indicator you will get your money's worth or have a chance at a better coffee experience.

"If coffee is truly to learn something from the wine model, it is that brand identity for farms (even in a blend) adds value for both the producers and their consumers."

Identity is a powerful thing.  Prominently displaying the producer information gives the farm a brand with a sense of the components that go into creating the flavors of that coffee.  This is so valuable that even larger roasters borrow this identity and sense of place by naming some of their large mill and co-op blends with farm style or estate-like sounding (although slightly misleading) names.  

With single estate coffees, this process of identifying the producer and micro lot name is becoming more main stream every year.  For espresso, it is clearly not the case as we are sliding backwards locally.  (A recent cafe crawl of what are supposed to be top shops in town found that almost all not serving barismo were serving a blend with unknown -to the barista- components.  Seeing great gear with talented barista precisely executing mediocre dark roasted blends was a let down.  That disappointment inspired this post.)  The long known secret with roasters is that you can mix together lesser quality components, roast it darker, and charge a better markup if the mystery inside is not revealed (as long as it says espresso on the bag).  Identifying the constantly changing mix of coffees in a blend and having cafes/consumers look up the components could cause problems by revealing the secrets of the blend.  Those secrets may not be glorious  and the previous perception of a good deal could easily turn around with a little more delving into the ingredients.  High end micro roasters working with estates are more likely to abandon the faceless blends identified with mass produced roasting outfits and more have been opting for complete transparency.  If coffee is truly to learn something from the wine model, it is that brand identity for farms (even in a blend) adds value for both the producers and their consumers.

The basic question: Is the roaster proud enough of the product to show what's in it?  Transparency is that affirmation.  Labeling with confidence speaks to knowledge of the coffee and what makes it special. That, in turn, can infer there is knowledge of how to continue to make it better.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

What local can do

Follow this bike to good coffee
You'll see our new and improved bicycle cart touring greater Cambridge loaded up with coffees for locals.  Fresh coffee delivered within hours of roasting has been a fun thing to be a part of.  It just made sense to launch this given how bike friendly Cambridge and Somerville are.  After seeing how supportive the feedback has been as shop owners and more customers take notice of the bike in town, we are glad we did it.

Track it through where we are testing out using a foursquare script to locate where the freshest retail shows up.  We are also updating our stops on twitter so that you can get yourself over there for some bags.

Relationship coffee delivered the same day it's roasted or the next morning is kind of a cool thing.  Since fresh roast is such a key component to great coffee, we consider this a bit of a quality assurance project!

We're having fun with it and hope you can support this project by picking up a bag of coffee at one of our stops.