Saturday, September 29, 2007

Ethiopian Yirgacheffe - plunger (french press)

This week I am playing around with Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, here are some tasting notes from my plunger (french press) brew.

Usually I take notes as I take sips of the coffee, but for some reason this coffee encouraged me to finish the whole plunger before taking notes. This coffee was pure endulgement. This coffee has a rare combination of amazing smell, taste and mouthfeel. All the aspects are so well balanced I couldn’t really pick my favourite one.

Well, lets start with smell first: Floral note with hints of nougat and marchpane. As I broke the crust a rush of yeasty aroma rushed out almost the one resemblant to smell of fresh bread in a bakery. I really didn’t expect anything like that, so very anxious to try it.

Taste: First few sips were very mediocre but as the cup cooled the flavours bloomed. A very distinct juicy sour cherry note, I describe it juicy as it was very lingering and each sip made me want more, guessing that’s why I wanted to enjoy the moment and dint take notes. The smell of freshly baked bread, nougat and marchpane didn’t really reflect in the cup, so I guess in a way was a mind trick. Instead I was treated to cane sugar sweetness mixed with juicy cherries, a fair trade I must say.

The mouthefeel was fantastic, like I mentioned that lingering juicy sour cherry taste held really well as the cup cooled. A very clean profile was also a highlight of this cup.

This coffee is very special indeed; with mixed deceptive smells that don’t much reflect in the cup, but never the less you get the whole balanced picture. Its great! Tomorrow I will grind the coffee a little bit courser to see if that makes a difference, if it does I will update this post.

quick update: Taking a courser grind approach didn't pay off. You best stick to your "usual" french press grind to get maximum enzymatic and sensory profiles.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Aging the coldbrew day 3

I had to rush over from the kitchen to write about this … its is just fascinating!!!

OK, The flavour changed, THERE IS NO MORE SHARP EDGE, my coldbrew has started to smooth out.

It smells like cognac but not as sharp as it doesn’t have the alcohol in it. The smooth lingering taste just goes on and on and on … its is really fantastic, I really encourage you to try this.

Seems to me that during aging it picked up this sharp edge note and started to smooth out to something very special, something I’ve never experienced. Still has a distinct chocolate note, still no acidity but that twist of smooth character is just fantastic.

And you know what the best part about this is??? … there is more in the fridge!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Aging the coldbrew

Recap of yesterdays tasting: Very sweet and smooth with distinct chocolate notes. No acidity or bitter, unpleasant notes. I saw this brew as a base for a further beverage, perhaps something with hard liquor or even a sweetened milk base drink.

Day 2 – brewed coffee has had a day to age in the fridge, from what I’ve heard in the past the coldbrew coffee actually starts to develop some character after few days of aging. So I was very anxious to see the results.

Visually the coffee hasn’t changed at all, perhaps a little darker, but to an untrained eye it looks the same. The aroma has also remained the same however the taste here is my ultimate test. I really didn’t expect the result I got, the yigacheffe has treated me to something special indeed. Overnight it developed that sharp edge that it didn’t have before, it tasted as though its been aging for a little while. I can’t help but to compare it to whisky. As you know there is a vast difference between young and aged, the young whisky is a little rough but with age smoothens out and develops a tangy rich smooth feel. This coffee is exactly that but opposite. This edge doesn’t necessarily make it better, but for my taste it adds on that character that it was missing initially. I wonder how many more days I can age it until it becomes unpleasant to drink, I will keep it for few more days.

The taste profile was resemblant to yesterday, distinct chocolate sweetness, however that edge is a real eye opener. As the coffee is high in caffeine few sips really hit you like a ton of bricks. I think this will be perfect with a shot of high grade scotch or whisky served on rocks before a big night, I shall try that some time soon … too bad its only Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Evasolo coldbrew – The verdict

Here is a little "extraction" video addition (20MB) to my previous post ...

My coffee has been slowly brewing for 10 hours in the fridge it is time to take it out and try it. Visually the brew looks ready. The cold brew developed a moist cork-like crust on the top, by pulling out the filter you break the crust allowing the air break through. A very interesting cloud develops and slowly sets to the bottom of the jar. Be sure to rinse out the moist silt before putting the filter back into place.

The coffee tasted sweet without any bitter notes. A very interesting, yet very satisfying result! I saw this cold brew as a really good base for further drink creations. I mean the possibilities are endless, you can mix this with alcohol or milk based drinks, it will taste amazing. It is a little overwhelming drinking it cold, not that I didn’t like it but I guess I am not use to drinking coffee in a cold form. The yigacheffe has a very distinct acidic note, however the cold brew didn’t show any acidity at all, only the pleasant sweetness and interesting chocolate notes. I have added some sugar to it and it actually made it taste even better, so like I said this form of espresso is a possible base for a sweet cold drink.

It is a really interesting way of extraction and evasolo performed efficiently and really well. Yet another reason to love this simple creation.

Proceed to: Aging the coldbrew

Monday, September 24, 2007

evasolo cold brew

It feels like I’ve bragged about my evasolo an awful lot throughout my posts, but to be perfectly honest … ITS AMAZING! Anyways why not play around with some cold brews …. I have a lightly roasted bag of Ethiopian Yigacheffe at my disposal this week, so I will play around with different extractions and give you my thoughts.

This doesn’t get any simpler; instead of pouring the water over the top of ground coffee you simply load the grounds into the filter and dip it into warm water (30C - 35C). I have chosen to grind the coffee a little finer than for the plunger, as evasolo filter has a very fine mesh. As soon as you dip the coffee into the water, enjoy the fine moments of first steps of extraction with smaller grounds passing through the filter and floating slowly to the bottom. It is really amazing to watch that colour change. Don’t forget to wrap the opening with some gladwrap and wack it into the fridge.

The important thing here is not to stir the coffee that is in the filter, you want to let that coffee peacefully soak and extract over a roughly 10 hour period of time in your fridge. I have put 3 tablespoons of coffee for my brew, not sure how it will turn out, but we will see tomorrow.

A switch for the better ...

When I use to work at CIBO in Adelaide we had a saying … “Are you a “switch flicker” or are you a “button pusher”?” Let me explain …

We use to have a Marzocco Linea and as you know on the standard machine you have a “on/off Switch” and also a button on the preset pad which essentially does the same thing. About 50% of baristi use to use that button … well I’ve always been a “switch flicker” at heart … so I raise the question to you; Are you a “switch flicker” or a “button pusher”?.

La Marzocco always had issues with their buttons, some say that the switch on a Linea is too small, so they put on AFTERMARKET buttons on it that are much bigger, I’ve seen that done at Ritual Coffee in San Francisco, I don’t think that those switches are all that much better I guess it takes getting use to them.

Ever since one button FB80 came out there has been a huge debate. I personally don’t much like that design and have experienced few difficulties with this button, especially in a rush the machine sometimes wont start as the button needs a decent press-in. I know that this has been an issue at 2006 WBC and La Marzocco are well aware of this problem, so I would like to see them go back to the “manual style” switch on the FB80 … I mean there are no guesses whether its on or off … its simple and is very practical and visual!

So here it is .. the new all improved La Marzocco Linea with a new switch design. Taking the new look to the most versatile, practical machine on the market today. Looks great … but does it do the job. I had a play around with this new switch and must say it is simply FUNCTIONAL! Just like the old switch, very visual and easy to use. You can clearly see when your extraction is on and there is even a little light to remind you. This 2007 Linea still retains its original design and look fantastic!

I must credit La Marzocco for their new style switch, its easy to use and takes no time at all getting use to, I would love to see the new button/switch designs that they will produce in the future, perhaps they will treat us to something special at the Milan coffee exhibition … the wait begins :) !!!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Base Durability

There are no tricks in testing the durability, the base that best holds its resistance against everyday use will be the durability test winner. Here are some statistics that I got from matweb, from what you can see the stainless steel appears to be the strongest metal in all aspects and copper the weakest …

statics from matweb:

AISI Type 303 Stainless Steel, cold drawn
- Hardness, Rockwell B = 96
- Tensile Strength, Yield = 60.2 ksi

High Leaded Naval Brass, C48500
- Hardness, Rockwell B = 82
- Tensile Strength, Yield = 53 ksi

Aluminum 6061-T6/651 (aircraft grade)
- Hardness, Rockwell B = 60
- Tensile Strength, Yield = 40 ksi

Copper, cold drawn
- Hardness, Rockwell B = 37
- Tensile Strength, Yield = 48.4 ksi

I’ve been using the bases for over 3 weeks now, I am always very careful using my tampers, avoiding heavy knocks. I don’t tap the sides anymore, just a light tamp and a quick polish. Still some of the bases have started to develop scratches and dents.

As expected from the statistics above stainless steel has less dents and scratches on it where the other metals have started to develop minor scratches and dents. The copper is very soft and has a solid knick on the edge already.

Once again stainless steel is coming up on top above other metals. So if you want a metal to last you a long time and remain its shiny finish, the choice is easy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Pitaito – Hulia, Columbia 2nd prize cup of excellence 2006

This flavoursome bag of coffee was roasted in Barcelona by Salvador Sans at El Magnifico. I was there when Salvador roasted this batch, it was taken right up to 2nd crack and cooled and packed quickly. It was roasted slowly with a lot of airflow. The coffee went through a very quick drying process, and developed a very interesting profile. I really wish that I could uncode what region

Straight out of the bag this coffee was very aromatic! As soon as I opened it, this amazingly strong butterscotch, caramel aroma captured my nose. I have possibly never had such an aromatic coffee in my life.

The smell in the cup very much reflected the smell out of the bag. You could pick out a sudden hint of coco and milk chocolate mixed with rich melted buttery aroma.

It tasted very mellow and was not very offensive with any overpowering flavours and very well balanced. A distinct milk chocolate sweetness was the main foundation. Its rich and smooth mouth feel carried all the way through, without any acidity at all.

This coffee is a pristine example of a very good cup of rich, smooth and sweet coffee. Like I said it’s not very offensive and well balanced, a perfect addition as a foundation to any espresso blend.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Tarnish looks

Here is the part 1 of my evaluation (first look) I suggest you read it before reading this post.

After few days of use I started to notice that some metals have begun to tarnish, here is my further look on tarnish levels of all the metals.

Stainless steel has no tarnish, retained its polished finish and has absolutely no smell.

Copper almost instantaneously picked up fingerprints and gradually became darker. I have also noticed that copper gives out a very strong metallic smell, not sure if this will effect coffee in any way but its possible that it might effect the taste. As you can see from the pictures the metal have noticeably tarnished.

Aluminium has held up really well, absolutely no tarnish and no smell

The brass has started to tarnish, but not as much as copper. This particular metal has actually stained from a drop of coffee, you might be able to see the little stain on the picture. I have tried to clean it but it looks like the metal has absorbed the stain pretty good. This base has a light metallic aroma but not as noticeable as the copper babe.

It will be possible to revive the original shine by cleaning brass and copper in a regular descaler solution, although reg barber recommends to avoid cleaning your tamps with water. I would imagine as soon as copper and brass are exposed to air and constant use they will tarnish again.

If you are going for a long life, polished, shiny looking base than I strongly recommend stainless steel or aluminium.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


This has been out on the market since may 2007. Was invented by Swedes, and being in Sweden at the moment I am proud of that fact, although I am not Swedish. You will see this technology more and more and I am all for it.

So here is the basic explanation of what Portaflon is: Portaflon is a company that coats steamwands and inside of the group-handle with Teflon coating. Many coffee machine manufacturers like: ECM, La Marzocco and Synesso have been insulatin their stem wands, so they don’t get hot to touch and to the advantage of milk not burning to the steamwand. The Swedes have discovered that if you make the steamwand out of Teflon the milk will not stick to it. Great idea right??? Well see for yourself VIDEO. I've actually done the very same experiment and got exactly the same results.

I am very fortunate to be working with these steamwands, the milk still burns to it however it is much easier to clean, one simple wipe will do it. For a good clean barista the portaflon steamwand is absolutely not necessary, as you have to wipe the wand after every use. I find it great as you don’t have to spend seconds stroking, one wipe and its all gone.

Wait … it gets better, Teflon coated portafilters, once again I am very fortunate to have them at work. So easy to clean, almost makes cleaning fun! Still it is a luxury for a good barista to have it and not an excuse, not to clean the portafilters every hour. A simple rinse under hot water, light wipe and all the coffee build-up is gone. The coating feels a little oily as any Teflon does, it is an amazing invention and is very efficient. I would like to see portaflon work on Teflon filter baskets next.

The word on the street is that La Marzocco will soon employ this technology in their standard group handle production, till that day you will have to flop out a lot of money to portaflon for these handy tools.

Friday, September 14, 2007

La Marzocco MD-5 Conical Grinder

Last night I put my hands on a brand new conical La Mazrzocco MD-5 grinder. Here are my first impressions:

These grinders are made by an Italian company called Eureka, many of you will know the squire designs that they come up with, and La Marzocco have used their grinders in the past. I believe that Simonelli buy Eurika grinders also and modify them to their own style and stick labels on it. That is exactly what La Marzocco have done. The first thing that strikes you is the hopper, its made out of glass and has a much smaller hole on the top, unlike the mazzer hoppers for example. I haven’t cleaned it yet, but guessing that it would be rather challenging and the best way would possibly be to stick it into the dishwasher. The body of the grinder is gloss coasted steal and they come in black (MD-5) and red (MD-80). There is not reference for the red one yet, but just wait a month or so and it will all be official. After a long days use the body attracts coffee grounds due to build of static electricity, even right at the back of the grinder. This is something I’ve never experience with a mazzer grinder or any other grinder for that matter, it’s not a big issue and easily fixed with a damp cloth.

The grinder is pretty fast and the engine doesn’t make that much noise, the dosing leaver is very noisy and you can really hear the click! If you are constantly dosing it can irritate the customers. The doser design is very simple, similar to mazzer. It has a plastic rim on the top, so if you place your group handle on the top to flick excess grounds, it doesn’t damage the grinder or your handle. The windows on the dosing chamber are made out of glass and are easy to clean. The best part of this grinder is the dosing itself, it is nice and straight and doesn’t spray the grounds all over the place, giving you less wastage. This was a real big issue with all mazzar grinders that I used, they really need to work on the dosing!

The grinder runs relatively cool all the time and has no issues overheating. At the shop where I am testing the grinder they have two of them, and apparently one day the new MD-5 decided to stop working for 5 minutes. I am guessing it takes a rest when it reaches a certain temperature, which in a way could be a good thing. This hasn’t happened to me yet so I am not sure if it’s a technical fault.

Operation is simple, you have a ON/OFF switch as well as the manual START button. For the grinder to start you need to do 3 click, this is a good function as it gives you a chance to clean your doser before the next dose. If your doser is clean already and you don’t want to do 3 clicks you can simply press the manual START button which will also activate the grinder, however that button doesn’t stop the grinder you have to turn it off with the switch. The system takes a little while to get use to but once you get use to it I found that it is more efficient than the mazzer system.

Grind adjustment is very easy, a simple wheel mechanism, a classic standard that Eurika always used.

This grinder is extremely easy to clean, unlike the mazzer the opening to the conical blades is much smaller. Real easy to get into with a brush. You don’t need to take it apart completely, avoiding having to adjust the grind every time.

Positives: Design, straight (no waste) dosing, quite engine, easy to clean, design of the doser.

Negatives: The body attracts grinds (due to static electricity and paint finish of the grinder), the dosing click is very noisy, hard to clean hopper.

If you’ve been waiting for a really good, easy to use, easy to clean grinder, then this one is for you. These are so new that there isn’t much reference about it on the internet so I cant even get the specs and profiles but I’m sure that La Marzocco will put it on their website after the Coffee Exhibition in Milan that is taking place on 18th of October. I will get more specs and post them on my blog later on.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Barcelona Espresso Run

Visited: 4/09/07

Spanish people are very active coffee drinkers. Every bar, café, restaurant has an espresso machine. The market for coffee is amazing and from what I noticed; in the mornings its strictly espresso or cortado. As a matter of fact it seems to be the case through out the day. The palate for the espresso is very much sub par. It is a real shame to see such a big city being so behind with anything and everything modern espresso should look and taste like. Many will argue with me, at the end of the day if it tastes good, than its good espresso, RIGHT?? Well trust me, what I’ve seen and experienced in other cities was much much better than Barcelona. All criticism aside, here is how I rated the shops that I went to.

After doing some crafty research on the internet, talking to roasters, growers and baristi; I was left with few places to visit. Café Central which is a 3 store espresso chain in Barcelona and Cafes El Magnifico which is a rostery/coffee shop. So with those 2 on my list I was in hope of further reference, but unfortunately even the roster Salvador Sans struggled to recommend a café that will serve a decent espresso shot.

Café Central (C/ Calvet 3) – this is a very interesting espresso bar, one long bar bench where people have their espresso or cortado and go. It is not the kinda place where you are welcome to hang out for hours. There are no seats outside, so you end up making way for others to order their drinks and move away. They don’t go through a whole lot of coffee; possibly 40kg a week, but turn over a lot of clients. The reason being is their dose amount. A single espresso shot will come out of a single group with a 7g filter basket (one grinder click). They use LaSpaziale machines which are running way too hot and end up burning the coffee through the extraction. The coffee is on a weaker side and they tend to run a long shot making the crema very pale. Never the less, the coffee is very much drinkable and is much better than other coffee shops around town. Having said that, most places will still use 7 grams out of a single portafilter.

There is a trick about this shop, raining Spanish barista champion Chiara Nicolini works there and she has a Compak K-3 Elite grinder, which she used when I was there the 2nd time. This grinder was tuned very much for her competition practice. She used a double group handle with a 16 gram basket and used a “proper” dosing technique. She packed just on the 16g line and pulled very decent shots. I thoroughly enjoyed my espresso, the unfortunate factor is that noone else knows how to use that grinder and they refuse to come close to it. I suggest you find out what time Chiara is working and go in for a coffee, she will treat you to something special – I promise! This blend was heavy, full of body, sweet. The coffee is roasted by Salvador at El Magnifico, not very dark taken up to the 2nd crack.

Cafes El Magnifico (C/ Argenteria 64) - the location of this coffee shop is very cental. It is located in the old town of Barcelona and is easy to find on the map. This coffee shop/rostery some what reminded me of Monmouth in London. The owner, Salvador Sans manages the shop and roasts coffee almost every day of the week. They offer lots of single origin coffees as well as few espresso blends. There have a little SACO espresso machine, nothing special and the coffee is not very good out of it, but then again his market is not in selling espresso but in selling whole roasted coffee beans. I guess that is the reason it reminds me of Monmouth and also long rich history that this shop carries. You can really feel it as soon as you step inside, its been there since 1919. You will be amazed by the coffee cup collection he has on the wall. Salvador invited us to go inside while he was roasting some single origins, he even treated us to something special, 2nd place Columbian coffee from cup of excellence competition in 2006. I took a small batch of it home, so will be trying it in a couple of days time.

This place is well worth visiting, Salvador is very happy to meet new people and show you around his rostery.

I had lots of fun in Barcelona, got to hang out with amazing people like Chiara and Salvador and even randomly bumped into Bronwen Serna (2004 US barista champ) We had lots of fun getting lost in in this big city and hunting down amazing foods, hahaha good times! Be warned though, if you are a milk drinker or tap water drinker – both are not drinkable. All coffee shops use long life pasteurised milk, which tastes revolting!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Reg Barber Tamper Bases (Metal Evaluation - First look)

For a long time now I’ve been willing to get a new C-Flat tamper base, the question for me was which metal?

Reg Barber offers a few different metals: Brass, Copper, Aluminium and Stainless Steel. This debate got really confusing, as there was absolutely no information available about different metals on any of the coffee forums.

So here I am with all the different metals at my disposal, I will give you my first thoughts and further evaluate each one of the metals for durability and inspect the factory finish and the surface of the metal after general use. It will be interesting to see how different metals will tarnish.

Inspecting the mass:

Brass and the copper are the heavyset metals, their mass is roughly the same with brass being a slightly heavier metal. Stainless steel is slightly lighter, but aluminium is considerably lighter than all the other metals.

I will use my scales later on and put in exact mass for each of the bases, but for now here is the order:

Brass (58.1mm)
Copper (58.2mm)
Stainless Steel (58.0mm)
Aluminium (57.8mm)

Visually all of the bases are impressive and here are few examples what they look like in the whole assembly with jarrah wooden and black aluminium anodised handle.

I really like the look of "black and gold" and also "black and silver" These are indeed beautiful no matter what base or handle.

Durability wests to come ... but for now continue to TARNISH LOOKS

Panama Coffee (multiple single estate) Blend

The coffee I am drinking today comes from multiple single estates in Panama from last years harvest. This is a very special batch! As many of you would know Panama coffees always rate very high and rightfully so this coffee is amazing.

14 days from its roast - I decide to pop open my small stash of lightly roasted coffee from Panama, and put it through my evasolo.

Straight out of the bag - roasted beans smell, milk chocolate and mixed floral bouquet. Time to put it through my evasolo. I really love my new toy, for those of you who don’t know what it is … well its like a fancy version of a plunger “French Press” but it has a cone metal filter that stops coffee grounds to pass through. The reason I love it is because it looks great and it JUST WORKS!! Simple to use :) Its amazing to watch your fresh coffee bloom!

OK coffee is ready to drink … after 4 minutes of brewing the crust is thick and as soon as you break it a rush of fruity and citric aroma with a slight hint of berry hit your nose. In the cup it smelt pretty much the same with a hint of tea notes, possibly jasmine. The enzymatic profile was amazing, on the tongue the coffee was very lively, but particularly hitting the back palate with light floral, almost orange peal acidity. As it cooled down the balance of amazing sweetness and acidity stood out even more, no wonder this coffee is in high demand among specialty. The finish was clean and crisp very subtle almost tea like with lingering, gentle acidic sweetness.

This coffee is reason to wake up earlier every morning!

Monday, September 10, 2007

SIC Exhibition 2007 - Milano

Ladies and Gents … as from today, it is now confirmed that I am going to be attending “The International Coffee Exhibition” in Milan. I am arriving on Thursday night 17th of October, so few days earlier. Anyone else going???? Let me know. I will be working for espressowarehouse at their stand - come and visit! I would also like to thank Gary for this opportunity!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Happy Birthday B-Java

Visited: 15/04/07
I would like to congratulate B-Java (5510 Lafayette Rd. Indianapolis) on their first birthday. BJ, the owner of the shop, recently celebrated a successful first year of her coffee shop.

I never reviewed this café because it didn’t fit into my "Purdue Run" and unfortunately B-Java is the ONLY quality espresso bar in Indianapolis, so by me visiting it, wasn’t much of a run to compare it with any other place. I was absolutely amazed by quality of espresso that BJ was producing.

BJ has been around the coffee industry for a long time, she is also a certified SCAA judge and has judged barista competitions at Chicago coffee festival. BJ has a very high quality work ethic and is passionate about what she does. You can sense real warmth inside B-Java. She has very regular and loyal customers, even Matt Riddles parents go to B-Java to get their coffee and that says a whole lot, haha despite them being good friends. There is a starbucks on the same shopping lot but it’s no competition for B-Java, if anything it attracts more customers that taste the difference.

BJ has a really nice setup inside the shop; 2 group WEGA along side a bunch of mazzer grinders. She is also running naked portafiltes. I’ve worked with few WEGA machines back in the day and must say that if you know how to use it properly you can pull really nice shots and that’s exactly what BJ does day in and day out!

The coffee is roasted in Indianapolis so it is always fresh, from what BJ told me it peaks around 7 day mark. She is using a blend called Café Vera, which is a well-balanced, full-bodied blend. From memory my espresso was very rich and smelt coco and milk chocolate. The taste was more of toasty nuts with light berry acidity right at the end. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can definitely say that it was the best espresso I have had in Indiana.

Once again I wish B-Java a Happy Birthday and lots of success in the future. When you are in Indianapolis B-Java is on your “must to go to” list.