Thoughts from the last week

As hectic as everything is here, it hasn’t stopped by brain going off on one during spare moments (a couple of hours commuting is plenty of time to think about stuff.)

So here are a few of the things I have been thinking:

  • Tasting every roast of every component is slowly but surely breaking my head and teaching me a huge amount.
  • This could probably do with a post of its own, but we have a fairly consistent set up here around the grinder yet it is staggering to see how far apart grind settings can be for two different coffees. Thus when you blend these two coffees is this a compromise too far? Roasting coffees so they all perform very well at a certain brew temp (or small range of temps) makes some sense to me (though of course is not the only way to do things) but surely it must also make sense that combining coffees that shine at similar doses and grinds makes good sense? Am I just over-caffeinated? Either way the odd one out coffee isn’t in our espresso right now.

  • Sample roasting continues to terrify me
  • Like a giddy child I muscled in at the Gothot for a quick play, and very quickly discovered I wanted out. I am not a roaster and the speed and precision of sample roasting makes me a bit edgy. I am happy to be the one who just gets rid of the chaff after roasting. However I am loving cupping so much, and I am very excited about coffee right now. (that said I really should be practicing cupping a bit more for the competition!)

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    Before chaff removal

  • Blending coffees in the cooling tray is substantially more fun than it has any right to be.
  • It is also a nice moment to give the coffee just one more hand screening, and it is so hypnotic….

  • I want to be better at more brewing methods
  • My cloth brewing failures have been a little frustrating but I am determined to improve. Mark Prince has long been a big fan and I admit to just being a bit too scared of it. That said I did have a lovely cup (for many, many reasons) at Herbazu last December, brewed in a kitchen overlooking the coffee trees. Thanks to Ben for some recipe assistance – I know the brewer I have has a very, very long sock. So to speak. Anyone’s input welcomed? And if anyone can point me somewhere I can buy a nice hand pour kettle I will be eternally in their debt!

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    Cloth brewer

  • Really enjoying Roast magazine
  • This isn’t to disrespect any other coffee magazines – just been enjoying some very interesting and educational articles there recently. I don’t mind admitting that I have contributed articles to the last couple of issues, but then I don’t mind admitting that I have a very different point of view to the author of those articles on espresso and blending for espresso, and don’t agree with a lot of what he said. That is hardly a bad thing though. Still – I find myself interested in stuff I didn’t think I was interested in. I don’t want to drink aged Sumatras (I really don’t) but I do want to read about them. There is no hope for me.

  • I miss competition and I don’t
  • Copenhagen and the WBC is looming, Stephen is practicing and worrying about all the right things – though that doesn’t make the process of worrying any easier. Competition this year is going to be insane. Looking at some of the champions through to CPH makes me very glad I got out whilst the going was good! David Makin’s massive score, and Kyle Glanville’s high profile victory make them both ones to watch for sure but there are one or two champions returning (I am not going to list them all because I will forget somebody and they will be rightly upset with me!) who are going to be very exciting to watch. Can’t wait to catch up with everyone, and it is fun reading the blogs from competitors or the people assisting them. Plus Stephen’s soundtrack will pwn all you barista n00bs.

    What are you all thinking this week?

    11 Comments

    1. I’m trying to figure out why the pucks from shots made with the last three or four prototypes of my new tamper cavitate after they’re removed from the portafilter. I’m trying to figure out if this increased suction on the puck (which causes it to cavitate once the PF is unscrewed) is a sign of something good happening, or not so good, or neutral – neither good nor bad.

      I’m also doing the last bit of usability tests on the tamper, and have a barista from Amsterdam, via the US, is staying here for a few days while he does his Vancouver coffee pilgrimage, and his thoughts on the use of the tamper are quite intriguing, bringing a different European (not Scandinavian, not Italian) perspective to the art and science of espresso.

    2. On ‘tasting every component’…I’ve been running with similar thoughts on this. It started when I got the blend components from a respected roaster and noticed the Yirga whited out way earlier than anything else…the extraction parameters for good shots for each bean were miles apart…I then found this to be the case for a number of well regarded coffees. We currently run 3 beans in our blend that pull perfectly under identical conditions…it’s definitely easier to pull good tasting shots, easier to stop shot at right point, and a definite harmony and magic is attained. What we’re missing by doing this is complexity because by demanding this you restrict both beans and roasts, or certainly increase massively the effort in putting them together. I like to think there’s a perfect blend out there that the gods drink and we’ll never find.

      Does blending post extraction do something different than everything in the basket together…this would mean you could blend anything and respect above? God, I can’t believe I’m even starting to think about that.

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    4. In thinking about marketing ideas to increase customer flow, I have been thinking about the use of coupons. Are they good/beneficial? Are they bad/not such a good idea? Do they actually add incentive to get people to come in for our product, or do they only get people in because the product is now cheaper?

      I caught myself doing this last night. I had just finished cleaning my kitchen and was hungry. Not wanting to dirty it up right away I decided to go out for diner. I thought, “Ooo, I have a coupon for for 15% off the oriental buffet down the street, I’ll go there.”

      It’s alright (not horrid), but I found myself wondering why I actually went there when I like this other place SO much better.
      (I just didn’t want a 40 minute round trip for a bite to eat.) It came down to the fact that I had a coupon, not because I really enjoyed the place.

      So I’m back at the beginning, “Are coupons really a good thing? And do I want to use them in my shop?”

    5. I’m trying to figure out why when I pull shots with a naked portafilter, it will come out completely different (for the worse) moments later on a double headed one?

    6. I’m thinking drip/syphon/clover coffee is the new espresso.

    7. A. #1 Worry about the taste… Everything else will hopefully follow. That grind setting shit will make you loose your brain.

      B. #2 Sample roasting. You have to own it! Do it by yourself for 20 hours, I guarantee it won’t as terrifying.

      C. #3 There is a code in the hand pour needing to be cracked. We will crack it. In the mean time, get a kettle and practice your pouring technique.

      D. #4 That sock is HUGE!

    8. I think Stephen should put that damn degree that he always bitches about to the test… He needs to score his own soundtrack… Compared to Kyle and David, he’ll have had plenty of time before the WBC to have written and recorded the whole thing…

      Don’t let the mysteries and lessons before you get you frustrated or down… Take advantage and enjoy the journey to the answers… I can’t tell you now how much I wish I could go back and use the time we had before the store opened more wisely.

    9. I’m thinking that it’s an exciting world out there in coffee and we still have a very long way to go towards mainstream acceptance.

    10. Pullings shots of Ritaul’s Sweet Tooth espresso is the most humbling experience…

      and I bought a new bike and I love riding it in the streets of San Francisco!

    11. Looking for a Hand Pour Kettle?

      It’s not going to be easy to get but this one is absolutely killer.

      Caffe L’Ambre in Tokyo’s Ginza district has one for sale that’s about a liter (or two) in capacity with handle and fluted spout for perfect pour control (you can even trickle the water to “pre-infuse”). It’s enamel coated metal that also works with induction burners.

      I’ve never seen one like it anywhere (and I’ve looked). If I remember correctly, they’re 3800 Yen (or about 20 quid). The problem is that no one there really speaks much English so you’re gonna need some Japanese help in sourcing it.

      If you can’t find their contact info, let me know and I’ll see if I can dig it up.

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