How to Chemex by Verve

21 12 2009

Verve‘s Truby and Baca servin it up! La Marzocco”s picture book makes a cameo in the bg.

Also featuring how to drink espressos in Santa Cruz:





Bon Appetit’s Top 10 Boutique Coffee Shops

18 12 2009

Four Barrel Coffee in SF (photo from Bon Appetit)

Link to article.

In alphabetical order:

Abraco

The Coffee Studio

Four Barrel Coffee

Kopplin’s Coffee

Lamill Coffee

Little T American Baker

Novo Coffee

Octane Coffee Bar & Lounge

Peregrine Espresso

Progress Coffee





Is Grind Particle Size the Elephant in the Room?

12 11 2009

With the proliferation of new or revitalized coffee (e.g. pourover, vac pots, Chemex, press pot, etc.) and espresso (soft preinfusion, pressure manipulation) brew methods, one can now enjoy a wide array of taste profiles on the same coffee prepared in different ways. In conjunction with innovations in green coffee supply chain, this is even more relevant. However, there appears to be a lack of standardized preparation methodologies and standardized assessments (both qualitative and quantitative) for these popular brewing methods. This has led to a wide degree of differences among common industry practices and resulting cup qualities.  One of these variables is grind particle size.

For whatever reason, coffee grind particle size has not been “as” fiercely discussed in the spotlight as many other topics e.g. PID, much less a common conclusion. Yet, appropriate grind size can be the limiting factor to a quality beverage. There are no grind size standards or protocol for various brew methods set forth by leading industry groups (though there is a brief grind size specification on SCAA’s cupping protocol). Worst of all, the grind size markings on any grinder are inconsistent (grinders among same brand or even in the same model), non-standardized, and non-transferable. Further, the markings become even less relevant as the burrs wear down over its lifespan.

There are Rotaps and other sieve shakers available for the purpose of grind particle size and distribution analysis. Unfortunately, they are inherently expensive, bulky/heavy, and prohibitive in wider adoption (they’re meant for labs).

Coffee grind sizer

Coffee grind sizer

Alas, there is the Coffee Grind Sizer. This mini Rotap first made its quiet debut a few years back but, for whatever reason, never made a splash. The beauty of this product are its relative cheap price tag and portability. Exporting refined brewing parameters from the roasting/cupping lab to retail environments can be done with exactness and ease.

To use, pop open the cap and fill it with coffee, then shake it like a rainstick (dancing to music might help). You will end up with coffee grinds separated by size in 5 compartments. Such particle size distribution by weight profile can be used to, for example, compare grinder consistency, burr wear, standardize brew parameters, etc.

More post(s) on usage and applications of the coffee grind sizer will come in the near future. In the meantime, if you have an extra $200, check out one of these and see what you can come up with.





Barista Round Table

13 10 2009

Barista Round Table

Visions Espresso‘s Coffee Enhancement Lounge will be hosting the first of many Barista Round Tables. Bringing baristas and coffee geeks alike together to discuss coffee, methods, tools, machines, etc. and to build a stronger coffee community.

Mark your calendars, the first Barista Round Table will be held on October 28. PDF flyer is here:

Barista Round Table, pdf Oct.





Stumptown Producers Panel

12 10 2009
Aleco and famers/exporters from Costa Rica, Kenya, and Colombia sitting across from baristas, shop owners, and consumers. Can the supply chain be any shorter than this?

Aleco and famers/exporters from Colombia, Kenya, and Costa Rica sitting across from baristas, shop owners, and consumers. Can the supply chain be any shorter than this?

Over the weekend, Stumptown Coffee Roasters hosted the Producers Panel, a presentation and discussion on the state of the coffee industry on the producers side. For those who have not had the opportunity to visit origin, this was a fantastic way to meet those responsible for their dedication and hard work on the other end of the supply chain. The panel took place at Seattle University, which was followed by a tasting of the coffee represented by the panelists at Stumptown’s nearby cafe & roastery. Coffees were enjoyed on the espresso machine (as single origin espressos), chemex, and pourover.

Even if you have been in the industry for some time (but haven’t visited origin yet), this has to be a sobering experience. In his own words, Ngatia, a coffee farmer from Karatina, Nyeri in Kenya, passionately spoke of how Stumptown and a small handful of other progressive coffee roasters are purchasing their coffees through the “second window” in Kenya’s coffee exchange. This enables him and his coop to receive up to twice as much for their above par quality coffees. Through their collaboration with Stumptown, Ngatia’s coop was able to increase their production by about 40% in the past couple years and is on track to almost double their current level in the coming year.

The farmers were very grateful for such progressive roasters to work with them via the direct trade model, and just as so for this opportunity to visit Portland and Seattle and meet those who enjoy their work. In fact, for most of them, this was their first trip outside of their respective countries.

This event has become an annual tradition at Stumptown. Hopefully, this will also be commonplace at other roasters as well.





What Can Be Better? Bikes and Coffee!

12 10 2009
Mojo Bicycle Cafe in SF

Mojo Bicycle Cafe in SF

Mojo Bicycle Cafe is a bike shop and coffee bar! Featuring a La Marzocco Linea pulling De La Paz‘ espresso. Also brewing Ritual on drip. They carry Felt, Swobo, Jamis, Rock Lobster, and Kona bikes. They pull a mean shot, especially for a place that’s not 100% specialized in coffee.

Bikes and coffee go very well together. We need more of these kind of shops people!





What’s Next?

8 10 2009

It’s been almost 3 years since Stumptown has opened their beautiful roasting facility and cafes in Seattle. No matter which roaster you work for or which coffee you prefer, it’s undeniable that Stumptown has had a profound influence over Seattle’s coffee scene. Without getting into who’s coffee is better and whatnot, it’s fair to say that everybody has been upping their game for sure. To that, more power to them all.

Stumptown Seattle's Mistral.

Stumptown Seattle's Mistral.

This brings up an interesting question – with the proliferation of 3rd wave coffee, what’s next? 4th wave? What are the parameters of this next stage of evolution?

With the way things are brewing (bada bing!), direct trade and ultra attentive sourcing will result in brewing methods that highlight such extensive work. These may include single origin espresso and single origin coffees by the cup via various methods e.g. pourover, chemex, press pot, etc. Equipment-wise, this means new coffee brewers and espresso machines that enable greater control over soft preinfusion and pressure profiling. Though there has not been an entire industry consensus on merits or standards of soft preinfusion and pressure profiling (whether on a Mechanical Paddle La Marzocco, Synesso, or Slayer), things are trickling in.

Advanced soft preinfusion (soft preinfusion with pressure manipulation) in its various forms have shown what’s possible to date. It doesn’t necessarily work on all coffees and, in the end, it’s still in the tongue of the beholder. In words, it’s hella debatable! The results have been impressive for us – espressos tend to be much more softer and rounded, without sacrificing its core delicacies e.g. brightness, acidity, etc. Hopefully, as more advanced soft preinfusion machines (Mechanical Paddle La Marzoccos and Slayer) find their way onto coffee bars, a better consensus can result.

However, advanced soft preinfusion is but only an incremental step towards total control a.k.a. true pressure profiling (that is, infinitely variable pressure from zero to your desired maximum brew pressure throughout the extraction process). Whatever the technology (or the lack thereof) that will get an espresso machine there, more power to it. After all, it’s all about what’s in the cup that truly matters. Well, it’s also about reproducibility as well. It’s rather difficult to use either advanced soft preinfusion or pressure profiling to make every espresso shot in a busy cafe. It’s just not practical!

To date, no production machine has been able to truly enable true pressure profiling. To that end, La Marzocco is working on a brand new, true pressure profile machine. A prototype was shown at this year’s SCAA on a down low basis and there’s field tests/feedback going on to get maximum input and feedback from those that will ultimately use it. All we can say is, watch out for it in 2010!








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