The Marco Über Boiler

This will probably end up being quite a long post, and sorry for being a bit cryptic on here the other day.  I want to explain the history of this little project, and give credit where it is due.

This morning I got up early to fly over to Dublin, to the CatEx show there.  Apart from catching up with Stephen, and lots of other lovely coffee people, and catching a little of the Irish Barista Championship, I was really there to see the guys at Marco and the new machine they had on their stand.

Continue reading “The Marco Über Boiler”

A Clover quandry

Currently sitting on the bench at Square Mile HQ is a Clover. It was lent to us for the barista party and had stayed there for a while longer for us to play with.

SQM Clover

Clover at Square Mile HQ

The internet has been all a flutter with the news that Starbucks have acquired Coffee Equipment Company who make the Clover. It is so ubiquitous that I am not even going to link to any sort of articles about. Tempting as it is to post smugly about one of my five predictions sort of coming true something else is on my mind.

It seems that Starbucks has intentions of withdrawing the machine from the market and retaining complete control. Clover currently pledge on their website that all machines currently deployed will be supported.

I had come back from the States intent on spending some quality time with the machine and trying to get a better understanding of it before I had to give it back or buy it. I like the fact that you have control and repeatability in one cup brewing in a way that is currently unrivaled (be interesting to see how Starbucks use their ownership of the Clover patents to keep other manufacturers out of the market). However I’ve had quite a lot of coffee from it, and I wasn’t sure if I didn’t like the cups I didn’t like because of the brewer or the way it was being used. Hence wanting to get to grips with it in a bigger way.

Still – I need to think more on whether I want it. I don’t think the fact that Starbucks own it now devalues it for me. The people who have them now (approx 300 machines I think) are the only people outside of Starbucks with access to this technology. I was always against selling the brewer above the coffee, but if the brewer can do what people feel it can then it is an undoubtedly a great tool.

However the worries about support (machinery is machinery after all) are still pressing, and seeing a big company devalue a device and lower expectations and pricing of by the cup brewing is also a concern. That said – I think I would be very surprised if Clover rolled out with the 1s model as is. With that whole team/company on board I expect to see a machine based on the 1s designed much more specifically for Starbucks. (do you smell another prediction?)

I suppose that I will I could just ignore all the news/media/hype/hate and decide if it brews coffee like I’d like to present coffee. Though I suspect that the ongoing disconnection from Clover/CoEqCo will remain the largest obstacle.

HOST 2007, Milan

So – it is an odd year (numerically speaking), which means that the HOST show is on in the RHO Fiera in Milan. It is huge. It is obscenely huge. It is unnecessarily and obscenely huge and to be honest everyone could have had stands half the size and it would still have been massive.

Anette and I had travelled over very early on the Friday morning with David, and we spent a little time in the show in the afternoon. Winning the WBC is easily forgotten in the UK but when you come to a coffee show it is a little different. It was great to see loads of people and lots of others came up for a chat which was cool.

Anette and I tried to have a little look around the show but didn’t get too far. Too many people to talk to, and in truth not that much new or innovative to see. La Marzocco’s booth was quite impressive as it was their 80th anniversary and they had a fair few vintage machines up on their stand which were beautiful.

La Marzocco 2 group Lever

One group La Marzocco Lever

I suppose the doserless Robur is interesting, but I can’t really pass any sort of judgement as I didn’t see one in use in the show and I am unlikely to get my hands on one anytime soon. (Hint hint!*)

Amongst the people I was very happy to see were the guys over from Ritual working on the Espresso Warehouse stand – Chris Baca and Eileen. It was really nice to hang out with them at the show and at dinner at the La Marzocco drinks party. I think their experience with Italian espresso was very interesting, and a bit like my own but I will leave them to talk about them online if they wish. It was also good to meet and chat to Kiril from EspressoRun who was also over there working for Espresso Warehouse/Clover. (Had a really nice Clover of Ritual’s Yirg, just at the right time when I was sick of espresso and a bit depressed about coffee in general – perked me right up).

I am always stunned when I visit at the coffees that are served – the quantity of robusta for one, and the acceptance of the consumer is utterly alien to me.

I worked a little on the La Spaziale booth on the Saturday before flying home, which was quite cool. I think the important thing about working within another espresso culture is that it drives home that whilst you may really prefer the style of espresso you brew it is by no means more correct than another cultural style. It is a little headbreaking to realise that while we may really like the style of espresso that we brew it is no more correct than anywhere else – I guess as long as the customer is happy….

I think the best shot of the show came from Fritz, despite his age he’s still got skills (I do so hope he reads that!)

Fritz Storm at HOST

I am not going to try to list all the people I saw, or was very happy to chat to because I will probably forget someone because I am a little skatterbrained. I did wish I had stayed a little longer but Blighty was calling and it was back on a plane Saturday evening. I suppose overall I was a little disappointed as I expected/hoped to see more innovation revealed which didn’t really seem to be the case anywhere in the show (unless I missed – comments please!) I think, whilst many ideas are floating around, like many I am unsure where the next step in espresso quality will come from.

*I don’t actually expect this to work!

Looking towards Caffe Culture 2007

For a long time the biggest and best trade show for coffee was Hotelympia which is every 2 years, and this is probably still the case but Caffe Culture is a really interesting show, and is now in its 2nd year.

Last year the show was crazily busy for me.  Apart from an amusing and brief appearance on BBC breakfast tv on one the first day that meant people at the show kept asking if they had seen me somewhere before without being able to remember where, I strongly remember plowing through a lot of coffee (the remnants of my UKBC blend of that year) and serving the majority of it as espresso which seemed a pretty good thing at the time.

I am spending a bit of time today working on my presentations for the show.  What is interesting is that this is a tradeshow that has realised that the internet has pretty much killed the traditional tradeshow (you can see most products in almost infinite detail online, and get most prices too) and has turned to education to add value.

Aside from traditional seminars – I am doing one about barista competitions – they have gotten involved with the SCAE UK Chapter to run an impressive selection of workshops in 4 separate classrooms.   Each workshop has a different theme – Espresso, Filter Brewing/Cupping, New Start Up, Advanced skills.  I like that they are trying to get away from espresso as a central theme.  It is good to see Clover will  be there, as well as shop roasting workshops and good solid basics like how to layout a bar so it actually works (all too rare in the real world sadly).  I think Se’s presentation on how to improve your UKBC performance will be well attended as well.

I openly admit I am involved in one session – the advanced barista skills one – but if people get behind this I think it is really going to be excellent and set a very high standard for what the SCAE can offer.  All the classes and the instructors are listed on the website here.   We need to see education spread further in the UK, we need people to see the value in it – though I don’t think anyone reading this will seriously question that – and I think this event is a really good step in that direction.  And at £20 a session (if you buy 5) it is absurdly cheap (I think they’ve sold a fair few already).

The last time I did an advanced barista workshop was in Ireland (For the SCAE chapter there) I think I misjudged the audience a little bit.  I maybe went too much science not enough fun.  I hope not to make the same mistake twice!

I guess I am posting about this because I want to spread the word about an event with strong training and education (that has been my role for the last 2 and a half years)  that I see as being really positive and would dearly love to see it be the success it deserves.  That and (if I am honest) I really hope people come to my workshop!

The Danish Barista Championship 2007

This will probably be a long post.

So on Friday night Anette and I flew into Copenhagen. Its the third time I’ve been there in the past couple of years and I’ve probably already said that I really love this city. I was looking forward to a little time to explore because on previous occasions I haven’t had the chance. Was pretty late by the time we got in so had to wait til Saturday to start exploring.

Met Stephen Morrissey for pastries and coffee at Europa just as it was opening. Interesting to see they are still using the Teflon portafilters for their coffee service there.

Wandered from there straight to the competition. The venue building was lovely, though the exhibition on there seemed a little contrasting to coffee – I think it was called Female Vision. It was also a little frustrating to have to pay KR95 each day to get in. Regardless of this it was still very well attended. On the Saturday it was the semi-final for the region and oddly the six entrants had dropped to only four. With three going through it meant only one person competing wasn’t going to go through to Sunday. You had to feel a little sorry for Daniel who competed first but didn’t make it through.

(I’ll go through the other competitors in further down).

It was nice to see lots of coffee people at the event. It was great to see Klaus and Sigga Dora again, as well as Bjorg, Troels and Morten from Kontra. The Danish competition is fairly unusual. I can’t imagine barista coming in from other countries to meet up and watch the competition in the UK (yet). I met Silvia who is the Brazilian champion – she was also in Denmark to train for Tokyo – as well as Lukasz who is the Polish champion (he was there with Asia who all you Barista Magazine subscribers will know). On the Sunday Einar (the Norwegian Champion) also appeared – I think it’s great

In between the end of the heats and the announcements Klaus, Stephen and I snuck out to Estate for a mini tasting from his Clover (I took some of the Counter Culture Rwandan coffee – it was great), as well as some espressos pulled by him and Caspar (another Estate barista). Interestingly both had different styles of pulling shots and whilst the shots had obvious similarities they were also distinctly different in body, sweetness and balance – whilst both being excellent.

After the heat a bunch of us got in a few taxis and headed four lakes over to see Kontra Coffee. The shop has everything you could ever want to make coffee. The retail coffee occupies one side whilst on the other is a wall of machinery and other toys. I struggled to keep the wallet in the pocket as there were so many things I wanted.

The Probat L12 and a three barrel sample roaster left me jealous of Morten, though he is insanely busy at the moment. Popped next door for a late lunch and then headed across to a newly opened cafe called Coffee Plantation. Weirdly I bumped into a barista called Trine who I had last seen when I was in Trondheim at her leaving party at the Dromedar. They had a problem with their machine so Klaus and Casper jumped behind the bar to try and fix it.

Casper seems hopeful!

Klaus hiding behind the grinders.

We were taken out for dinner that night with all of the judges by Fritz Storm. Really enjoyed chatting to him, though I was forced to relive the spilling story yet again. I fear I have become a cautionary tale you tell competing baristas if you want them to practise hard and be good.

The rest of the evening was spent drinking and talking about things that aren’t coffee over at Bjorg’s place, which was really lovely.

Sunday started extremely well. I met Stephen at Estate, and Klaus and Sigga Dora met us there a little later. One small capp, a Clover of Las Nubes (I really liked this coffee) and two more espressos set me up nicely for the day (you never get to taste any coffee whilst watching competition so it made sense to me to get caffieinated in advance!).

I had high expectations for the competition, not only because Denmark produces an absurd amount of WBC winners but also because I had seen the heats the day before. The competition was really well attended and there was no real seating so every just crowded around the workstations. This meant I got muscled out of getting some pictures of a few of the contestants (luckily I got a few from the three in the heats). This was especially annoying when the results became clear – I have no good pictures of Lene competing.

I think there were three baristas who really stood out in different ways. Søren won the heats on the Saturday and his set-up was really beautiful. All his equipment looked great and he had some great custom made stuff – especially for the signature drink.

He was the only one of the finalists not using Estate Coffee, instead using a blend created with Kontra Coffee. His signature drink involved brewing a small amount of tea, then espresso went on top of that and then a foamed syrup of blueberries, orange juice, vanilla and coffee beans (he prepared a syrup onstage to show the process and to share the aromas with the judges, though used a preprepared syrup for the actual drink that was already in a charged whipper – you can see it in the jacket above). He brewed the tea in little metals balls, and then poured it through a custom tea strainer and then the foamed syrup dripped through that.

At the front of the sig drink tray you can see a selection of the ingredients. His latte art was also the best I saw on the day:

Lene also stood out from the others in her presentation. The setup wasn’t as lavish as Søren’s but it was very nicely put together. I had been relegated to watching her performance on the tv screens but I enjoyed listening to her talk. I didn’t catch all of her signature drink though I recall it had passion fruit, chocolate, cane sugar, ginger (I think!?) in it. Speaking to the judges afterwards it was clearly a hit on the taste front. In the end her performance put her her 50 points clear.

The other barista who really made an impression was Mikkel Otto. I had enjoyed his performance on the Saturday and I was pleased I had hyped him up to Einar who I was talking to as he came on. He was just a lot of fun to watch. He whistled and sang along to his music (which was very funny stuff, though I am told that if I spoke Danish it was even more amusing). He claimed he was using milk that he had milked from a cow called Ophelia the night before, whilst also giving up a wealth of information about the cow and her pastures, and how they keep the horns as they are part of the digestive system apparently. All was done with a sense of fun, not with a lecturing tone. His signature drink was a cube of gelatin flavoured with rhubarb and rosemary stirred into the espresso – but for his signature drink the espresso blend had been cold smoked for three hours over juniper. Awesome, very funny and a welcome contrast to most performances.

There was quite a spread of points on the day, and I was surprised that Lene was so far ahead but there is only so much you can tell from watching. I think everyone knew who would be the top two but weren’t sure which way round they would be.

Full results here.

After the event the coffee people that were hanging around got some food and then headed up to Estate. Childishly a few of us ended up behind the bar in game of latte art one-up-manship. Klaus, Stephen, Lukasz, Einar and I all had to step up and pour something. I am rubbish when it comes to this sort of thing. I really liked Klaus’ pour:

Wisely Anette, Sigga Dora, Asia and Morten looked on and remained dignified. It was great to be able to mess around in Estate for a bit though, until the real baristas moved us along so they could get on with serving proper customers. A clover of La Minita kept me going for the rest of the evening.

I really do like Copenhagen and look forward to coming back (I am sure we’ll find a legitimate reason).

Massive thank yous to Bjorg, Morten, Fritz, Sigga Dora and especially Klaus and everyone else.