May 2, 2011

Coming soon:
Review of these cute little Kantan Drippers (single use disposable drippers that brew around 300ml maximum)

Thoughts on experiences with VST La Marzocco 18g Baskets.

Found my Mojo

May 2, 2011

I picked up a R2 Mini Refractometer over the SCAA conference as well as upgrading my MojoToGo app on my iPhone to full Coffee mode from Coffee Lite mode. Already have found out some interesting things about my home setup, with more info to come!

Mypressi Review

March 28, 2011

As mentioned previously, recently I was generously sent a Mypressi Twist on loan for a couple weeks so that I could test out the ability of my new Baratza Virtuoso Preciso to work as a home espresso grinder. The test was certainly a challenge as I was often limited on extended time to try and dial in the shots properly due to Work, Class and other commitments. However, I got a few good sessions of testing in, enough to form an opinion about the set up and how it could be made more ideal.

I’ll start out with the great things about the Preciso and Mypressi. I love the Preciso’s micro-adjustments, at every test the ability to make small adjustments was what made its use as a home espresso grinder plausible. The porta-holder insert that comes with the Preciso worked surprisingly well to keep the counter clear from excess grounds in dosing as well as allowing for easy clean up whenever I was done making coffee.

A really simple, but great addition from the last Mypressi is the shot counter on the lid of the water reservoir. One of my complaints on the last version was that it was difficult to keep track of how many shots you had pulled, but this simple no nonsense upgrade allows the user to track how many shots have been pulled on the cartridge.

As much as I’m skeptical of home espresso, I will not hesitate to recommend this pairing to customers interested in purchasing a setup. Fantastic products and a relatively small investment will always be my main priority in researching products for customers, and both of these pass these requirements with room to spare.

Some brief recommendations and fussy things I had issues with. First the lack of a metal tamper included (available for purchase from the Mypressi store) had an impact on consistency shot to shot. The plastic tamper included is useful to make due, but I would recommend anyone looking into this setup to go ahead and upgrade to the metal base tamper. As well, as with any home setup, there is issue in general with consistency shot to shot. It is difficult to hit the same water temperature, dosage, yield of espresso and shot time one after another. Scales, thermometers and more scales are my recommendations for the home user so that there is a higher chance of consistency.

As I am used to brewing filter coffee with super easy cleanup (pop the filter in the trash, rinse out brewing device), it was a bit of a hassle to cleanup and get everything back to par. Partially this was because I was mostly cleaning up the grinder and Mypressi to store for a couple days, as there were very few times I had the time or ability to use it 2 or 3 mornings in a row. Home users should know that cleanup and pulling espresso well is time consuming and potentially frustrating to dial in the coffee well. Some people will love this hobby aspect, others just looking for a quick cup might want to rethink the espresso route.

Unfortunately, near the end of my testing time the grind settings on my Preciso slipped a number of settings, making it difficult to reach a true espresso grind. True to Baratza’s consistently amazing customer service they agreed to exchange grinders with me so that they could check on the problem. This is just one of many examples of what a stand out company Baratza is in handling customers and truly offering both superior products and service than any other consumer grinder company I’ve personally experienced.

All in all, based on my brief usage. I think the setup is both a great bargain and the best sub $500 home setups available. Right now Mypressi is actually running a Preciso + Mypressi bundle for $400 flat, saving you around $115, so jump on it if you have been looking or waiting for the right time!

New Things Brewing

January 27, 2011

As some of you are aware, I just moved back to Chicago and have been looking for work. I recently found a place for myself at a cafe opening tomorrow, January 28th at 1750 W Division in Wicker Park. It’s going to be an amazing shop, multi-roaster with Intelligentsia as the standard to start, the brand new Synesso (the one with digital shot timers, I forget which model it is), V60’s, Chemex and Cafe Solos for brewed coffee (Siphons coming later), a high quality tea program, plus awesome baked goods. It promises to be one of the forerunners of Chicago’s indie shops.

So come check it out and say hello. Hopefully this step will help rather than harm my decision to blog more in 2011 but we will see how it works out. Also, for those in Chicago, a grand opening party is happening on Saturday February 5th, 7-10pm for Industry and Friends.

Coffee Tasting Notes #1

January 25, 2011

Cupping on January 16, 2011:

Barismo Kenya Kianjogu
Roast Date: 1/14/2011
Harvest: 2010
Region: Nyeri
Varietal: SL28 and SL34
Processing: Fully washed and dried
Packaging: GrainPro™
Altitude: 1600-1800 meters
Barismo Tasting notes: “Fresh strawberry, guava, blackberry. Very floral aroma of rose hips and tropical fruit.”

My Notes:
Dry Aroma: sweet lime, almost lemon, currant or berry

Wet Aroma: Deepens from the dry aroma, currant more pronounced, slight rubber/medicinal and vegetal aroma on the break

15 minutes: Carrots, lime, acrid finish

20 minutes: lime, one dimensional

25 minutes: opened up completely, rich blackberry, pineapple, super sweet, lingering tart curd finish, very pleasant, slight vegetal taste underneath

I’ve really loved this coffee so far in the Woodneck, the cloth gives this coffee room to breath and allows for a big body and oily base to ground the huge lime and brightness that makes this coffee shine. I would buy this coffee again.

Stumptown Ethiopia Michelle
Roast Date: 1/12/2011
Michelle, Yirgacheffe
1700–1900 meters
Ethiopia Heirloom

Stumptown Tasting Notes: Perfumed with the fragrance of jasmine pearl tea and fruit blossom aromatics before debuting flavors of huckleberry and rose within a dense mouth feel.

My Notes:
Dry Aroma: Intense bitter cocoa, roasty lingering

Wet Aroma: Sweetens up, hint at honey blossom or molasses, floral and sweet, developed

15 minutes: Bitter cocoa and caramel, boring

20 minutes: Bitter, honey lingering

25 minutes: Big body, huge mouthfeel, sits heavy, sweet chocolate but dull

I think this coffee may have been damaged somehow in shipping, I purchased it from Bagel on Damen in Chicago and it’s possible something happened in transit. I wouldn’t buy this coffee again, it doesn’t deliver on the tasting notes and it’s fairly unpleasant brewed. Haven’t tried much Stumptown but from what I’ve heard, I expect much higher quality than this. The very last brew I made with this coffee was a 1 Liter chemex for a couple guys on the floor, while it did have the most berry in the cup that I’ve experienced, it still was very minimal and was dominated by grain and nuts.

January 25, 2011 Cupping:

Columbia Eduardo Lizacano, Finca Guatavita
Roast date: January 10, 2011
PRODUCER:Eduardo Lizcano
LAND SIZE:8 hectares
FARM SIZE:3 hectares
PRODUCTION:70 bags per year
PROCESSING:Wet milled, covered patio dried
COFFEE NOTES:This coffee has a complex savory aroma and predominant notes of chocolate on the palate. Milk Chocolate, Vanila and fruit with great sweetness.

My Notes:
Dry Aroma: Dry baking cocoa, a bit flat or dead from age

Wet Aroma: Sweetens up, vanilla and soft unidentified fruit

15 minutes: Big rich cocoa, mexican vanilla extract with richness and heavy full body

20 minutes: Vanilla completely, Blue Bell Homemade vanilla ice cream

25 minutes: Grain or Wheat taste, possibly from being old and light roast, Cantaloupe, Melon, or under-ripe strawberry fruit.

Very happy with this coffee thus far. Has retained a good amount of great characteristics even being 15 days past roast. I can only imagine this coffee would be much sweeter with bigger fruit right off roast. I’m going to run this through the Mypressi this afternoon and see how it works out.

As a dedicated barista that spends a large amount of time working on technique and keeping tabs on what’s happening in the industry at the moment, the concept of home espresso brewing has always seemed ridiculous. Sure, my friend who is a moderator on Home Barista has a GS3 and a Compak K10 in his house, but he’s as much of a geek as I am, a barista with a day job. Home Espresso for the normal consumer is what I’m concerned with; when the regular that comes into the shop a couple times a day for a cappuccino asks me what machine and grinder to buy so that he can save money on coffee trips, what do I recommend him? Usually I recommend a V60 or similar device and a basic burr grinder like the Capresso Infinity or Baratza Maestro, about a $125 investment that can get people into coffee at home at an infinite better start out point that the Mr Coffee Maker and a blade grinder.

Unfortunately, many people still like the idea of that “perfect” cappuccino or espresso at home that they get when they go out for coffee. In these cases I tend to gently discourage the idea, as there is quite a bit of time, money and experience required to make anything acceptable at home. Generally I’ll recommend a set up like the Rancilio Silvia paired with a Baratza Virtuoso ($200) or a Rancilio Rocky ($350). which adds up to about a $850-1000 startup investment, not to mention the cost of coffee wasted dialing in espresso every morning and waste in grinder burrs, whereas home drip has much less waste and learning curve.

Opposed to all these hangups I have is the new Mypressi TWIST that is far more accessible from a cost perspective than other home setups ($150 + Grinder Price), as well as being portable enough to store in a cabinet when not in use, whereas home espresso machines will normally take up a large amount of counter space. I had the chance to test one out last summer, but only used it with professional grade grinders that are used at the shop, which is not a realistic situation for the general consumer. I attempted using it with the Hario Skerton hand mill, but after trying 3 different grinds and it gushing, being clogged, then gushing again I gave up because of my weak biceps.

Also for the sake of these same weak biceps, I recently purchased a Virtuoso Preciso primarily for brewed coffee, but I have been curious of it’s performance as a home espresso grinder as well. It’s 40 macro settings plus 11 micro settings give a whopping 440 distinct settings all the way from ‘Too fine to be useful for anything’ to ‘Chunks that aren’t very useful either’.

I recently was able to borrow one of the new Mypressi TWIST, and will be pairing the two over the next few weeks, so watch here for a big post detailing my experiences.


January 24, 2011

I received a nice shipment of used cupping glasses from the SCAA store (for $1.50 a pop, it’s not a bad deal at all), a Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel poster as well as a couple 33 Coffee‘s notebooks that I received for Christmas.

Here’s the thing, I try to cup often when I’m at the shop working to keep educated on coffee so I can better serve my customers as well as for quality control. However, I don’t cup at home hardly ever. Not only does this keep me from really experiencing coffees for all they have to offer because of possible brewing experiments I’m doing at the time, it also leaves me a bit rusty in how I communicate flavors and simple in my tasting notes.

So here’s my resolution. Every time I get a new coffee, I’m going to try my darndest to cup it at least once against one or two other coffees (of other roasters if possible). Honestly, I think you should do the same. As a shop barista, I often have the opportunity to taste a 4-10 coffees every single day side by side with different brew preparations, whereas most consumers hardly ever have the chance. Especially being unemployed in Chicago at the moment, I am realizing that I have to work exponentially harder to continue my education, while at the shop I feel like I am learning through dealing with problems and issues every single day.

This semester I’m going to try to be better about blogging and experimenting, as well as making my 33 Coffee’s handbook public domain. Hopefully this will keep me focused and accountable in my tasting, and hopefully its of some sort of service to you in deciding coffees to buy and tasting the coffees the same I have.

Heres to 2011, eh?

DISK Pour-over?

January 21, 2011

A Brief DISK Brewing Proposal:

I posted a brief review of the DISK yesterday, detailing normal brewing perimeters for brewing based of my experiences with Coava’s recipe. However, the other day I had an idea that i’m sure will turn out to be unoriginal, but as of now, I have not seen. If you remove the plunger completely, it is possible to use the DISK + Aeropress as a flat bottom pour-over, with the added perk of being able to brew larger than 200ml batches with the aeropress, as using the chamber with the plunger restricts the volume considerably. Plus the combo costs significantly less than a Chemex + Kone package.

Not only was this idea interesting to me, it also has turned out to make some ridiculously tasty brews with far less soot than the Kone. I’m not sure I completely understand how the odd brewing structure of a narrow dense bed affects extraction, but it seems that the coffee benefits from a increased dwell time that occurs within the aeropress, as opposed to most pour-overs which have a quicker drain time.

Here’s the recipe I’ve been using: 24g/400mls, ground at 25-28 on a Virtuoso Preciso, pour a 80ml bloom to completely saturate the coffee (it’s a very dense bed), dump the fines and drips of coffee that leak out into the brewing receptical, then pour the remaining water finishing around the 2 minute mark with the aeropress full to the rim, let the remaining water drip through over the next minute and a half, then you can use the plunger to quickly clear the grounds out of the aeropress chamber into the trash bin.

400ml is my preferred batch size for most of my brewing methods, but I would imagine that doing a batch size a little bit larger would work just as well. I’ve yet to try it with the aeropress paper filter, but I’m expecting more resistance than I would desire. As well I’ve been moving further and further away from paper filtration for coffee. The ‘Paper taste’ that haunts many people does not really bother me unless they are ‘natural’ brown filters, but I do appreciate the increased body and aromatics that cloth and metal filters give. (and I have a completely un-tested hypothesis that paper leads to flatness in the brew mid-palate)…

Try this out and see what you find, I’m very interested in this sort of brewing bed architecture as I have some other ideas cooking. Report back what you find and also give me a heads up if I am completely unoriginal and have just copied someone else or why this is a horrible idea and I’m an idiot for posting it. 😉

Watch out over the next week or so for a review of the Virtuoso in regards to it as a home espresso grinder. I’m going to pair it up with the updated Mypressi Twist espresso brewer (which I loved when I tested the first one). Should be a fun and frustrating week of experiments.

DISK Review

January 20, 2011

I’ve been experimenting quite a bit this past couple weeks with Coava’s KONE, no sooner did I get back home to the states to get my hands and start the process of brewing with new equipment, than they released the DISK filter for the Aeropress, and no sooner than was I about to do a write up on both of these than they released another DISK with slightly smaller holes! (Not to mention the KONE funnel coming out in the next couple weeks)

Slow down with all the innovation!

Well, regardless, I’m getting around to reviewing the product now, and I’ve been more impressed with the DISK as a consistent brewing device. The Kone has gotten me to brew a different kind of coffee (read: oily, big bodied, slight soot) by tricking me with one of my favorite brewing devices, the Chemex (read: clean, crisp, bright brews). However, I didn’t own an Aeropress before I was given the DISK + Aeropress combo for Christmas, and so naturally i’ve been drawn to brewing with it often.

Here’s my brewing specs for the DISK: 12-14g depending on the roaster, Inverted Aeropress, 200ml water poured in 10seconds, snap lid on and flip over the sink at 60 seconds (some coffee falls out into the sink that mostly contains fines and soot), set on cup, at 120-150s remove plunger and let the coffee drip through, depending on grind size it should finish up around 180-210seconds. I grind around 22 on the Virtuoso Preciso for a starting point, This gives a really balanced cup that highlights the aromatics and sweetness with very little soot. I’ve not had any good results actually using the plunger to push the brew through the filter, every time it ends up horribly sooty with a terrible astringency.

The best part about this filter (and brewer) is the easy clean up, while the KONE takes a little bit longer to clean, the DISK is no hassle at all to rinse and get rid of the coffee grounds and oils. As well, at a lower price point of $15 for one, $25 for a set of two different sized filters, it’s a more affordable luxury.

All in all, I can’t recommend Coava’s products enough. Though many don’t have the means to purchase, they are at least helpful to get one thinking about brewing in a different way, and moving the coffee industry further past the need of paper filters.

Watch here tomorrow, I’ll be posting some thoughts about a brewing experiment i’ve been working on with the DISK…

Kone Review

January 19, 2011

Coava Coffee generously sent me a Kone to review back in November, but because I was overseas as well as holidays, moving and starting another semester I am just now getting around to reviewing the product.

I’ve been doing a modified, but fairly basic, pour-over method with the Kone in the Chemex. 25-28g (higher than my normal 24g), 100ml bloom poured in the center over a 45 second period, left to rest for 15 seconds, then a slow pour right down the middle of the remaining 300ml in 90 seconds, then a drain for 30 seconds, which allows for a 3 minute overall brew time. This is all done with a grind coarser than espresso, yet finer than one would normally do for drip.

I have seen some overly sooty brews others have made (online and in person) as well that I have made, and almost always the issue is a method too close to a normal Chemex. If you take the Kone to a sink and pour water through it you will see very easily that there is a radically small amount of resistance in redirecting water through the brewing bed, and that water exits the sides, not the bottom of the filter. This means that pouring only in center actually is the best way to redirect the water through the bed, whereas in normal Chemex or V60 brewing bed architecture, the coffee is mostly flowing out of the bottom inch or so of the filter, meaning you want to incorporate the sides of the bed thoroughly as the water drains through the center bottom.

As well, because of this lack of resistance, I have found that coarse normal chemex grinds only work when you are aiming to overdose the coffee and have a weak, sooty, and underextracted brew. The finer than is common sense grind necessary is just that, necessary. For some sort of reference point, I’m currently using Macro setting 9 on my Baratza Preciso, with the micro dial set halfway to the right.

My only real complaints with the product are the flimsiness of the filter, It has already taken a bit of a beating from being used by some barista’s at the shop. While I doubt these dents substantially effect the brewing bed, it is a bit disappointing from a product that is higher in price point than around 750 regular paper chemex filters.

The Kone is another great tool to add to my arsenal, and although I do reach for it often, i’m more impressed with the DISK filter for the aeropress as far as the tastiness of cups i’ve been getting, which I will post a review of in the coming days..

p.s. I didn’t get to experience the great packaging that everyone else did because my brother was overly anxious to play with it..