been sick
sorry haven't been able to post
still sick - have not been able to sleep
worked a couple shifts, which were really enjoyable
discovered that you can still pull great shots without sleep in a production environment, but pouring good art is hard if not impossible when your hands are shaking

cupped some great coffees recently including the best Sumatran i've ever had

i'm lovin' the Mistral. lovin' the Hairbender.
can't wait to feel better


there is a thread over at Coffee Geek that has spawned a lot of reflection for me. the question was posed, what is the "definitive moment" in your coffee experience/career/quest?

looking back, i have realized that, for me, there have been a series of defining moments and memories - and i know that this list will continue to grow over time (one of the things i love best about coffee).

1 - as a boy, after a huge amount of begging and pleading, being allowed to go with my father and my uncle and their (all male) friends down to the caffe bar for "the usual" and some impassioned "discussion" (the real reason for the trip). i think it was this experience that made me feel such a strong emotional bond with coffee bars and the social community they represent and could, thus, be responsible for my career.

2 - later, as a young man, having an espresso in the airport in Pisa and realizing that it was better than any coffee i had tasted in the US and understanding that this was why i didn't drink coffee at home. and comprehending that it was not just the coffee that was so good - it was (again) the social structure around that coffee (the balance of seriousness and ordinariness). i then came back to the US and despaired. i figured that a place like San Francisco, with its culture of taste and obsession with food and Italian heritage, would be the optimal place to find good coffee and instead it was all worse than the worst coffee i'd tasted in Italy.

3 - being served a short cappuccino by David Schomer that transported me back to memories of Italy and suddenly realizing that the coffee, at the very least, could be duplicated here in the US after all. perhaps it will never be possible to duplicate the social structure and the social mechanisms that enable coffee in Italy to be what it is. but people are trying to create something that is, at the least, an adaptation that allows those who want a quality coffee experience to get that. and this once cappuccino inspired me to join those quixotic few.

4 - sitting at Toronado with Duane Sorenson, talking about coffee, and realizing that not only was i not too obsessed with coffee - not only was i not too passionate about espresso - i might actually be taking it all too lightly! and suddenly seeing that it could be possible to create the combination of quality coffee and quality experience right now in the US. and thus, i moved to Portland.


happy holidays to all

to all the friends i love, to all the friends i miss...
to all the people who love coffee, and to all the pros who live it...

may your beans be fresh, your shots be honey thick and sweet and your milk like velveteen
may your roasts be on the dot, your customers overtip and your employees out-perform

happy holidays


it's possible that the holiday rush is winding down

i'm really proud of the baristas and all the employees of stumptown. this is the hardest time of year to work retail, everyone has been working ridiculous hours and business has been record-setting. in spite of this, in spite of the high level of stress and irritability of a percentage of customers this time of year, people have kept professional and kept having fun.
it's been awesome to watch.

i worked a great (partial) shift yesterday at the Belmont location. super fun. a great crew, fun customers... i had a really good time.

we sold out of the Panama Esmerelda. there is no more. it's amazing how many people have come in during the last two days looking for it.



in the last week, there have been bits about Stumptown in all three major Portland newspapers. and this is the super busy pre-Christmas weekend -- traditionally a very busy weekend for whole bean sales. and thus... the perfect storm.

i don't have the numbers, but i think that yesterday was the busiest day in the history of the Stumptown cafes.

i worked at the downtown location and it was pretty sick. we sold a huge amount of coffee. the cool thing was that we sold very little French Roast and instead sold a ton of Cup of Excellence coffees. talk about a nice change!! in fact, i think we may have sold more of the amazing, rare and expensive Panama Esmerelda than we did French! super cool. i pulled shots for a while as well which was so much fun. i love being a barista - but working with great espresso (the Hairbender is so sweet) and a dream machine (LOVE the Mistral) and with other baristas who simply kick ass... dream come true.

without the caliber of staff we have, no way would we have survived yesterday. and that's a great feeling.

i'm going to work downtown again today, and Kyle Larson is going to be joining me for his "intro" (talk about tossed into the deep end). should be super fun.

oh... and the Dupont Avec Les Bon Voeux is on tap downtown. mmmm....


a bit of an epic... but fun none the less...

so last night was the Stumptown holiday party.
and it was as one would expect, excellent. as with previous years, there was tons (literally i think) of fabulous food (including excellent porchetta), some wonderful Barbarescos and Barolos and stylish Stumpies sporting vintage finery. in addition, there was dancing, DJs and karaoke. but unlike other such events, this time there was no vomiting or bad behavior.
and then this morning i worked downtown.

in retrospect it was really really fun. but fun in that sick "we survived together" kind of way.

you see... i had an unfortunate allergy attack yesterday before the party and pretty much forgot about what happens when one combines wine (even in "moderation") with allergy medication.
and the rest of the crew had equally good excuses for the general low level of brain activity.

but we pulled together and got through it in good spirits. thank god for caffeine and for AC/DC.

i made some good drinks - which is so rewarding for me. we played some good music, we talked to some good customers (and had to kick a junky out of the bathroom)... it was really fun.

i love working bar shifts and really miss it.

and then i had to rush out to the roastery to do an employee cupping.
needless to say, despite the 10 shots of espresso and five coffees cupped, i'm feeling rather worn out (to say the least).

thank god tomorrow is a day off for me.

oh - cupped the Cantagallo again today and it continues to amaze me. also cupped a new batch of Sumatra that is really quite good - one of the best Sumatras i've ever had.


espresso to die for

had a really fun cupping today (more on that later) but the highlight of the day was afterwards, when we pulled a couple shots of amazing single origin coffees. through some bits of freaky luck, we just happened to have about 1/4lb of the mighty El Salvador Las Nubitas sitting around at just the right age out of the roaster for espresso. for those who don't know, the Las Nubitas is an amazing Cup of Excellence coffee -- one of my favorites. and for the ultimate treat, we also found a 1/4lb of the incomparable Panama Esmerelda Especial (also, at peak age for espresso). again, for those who've been living under a rock, this was the coffee that won the Best of Panama competition and which sold for an all-time record for Latin coffees at auction ($21/lb green). it is one of the rarest and most spectacular of coffees.

so... an amazing treat indeed!

Las Nubitas... like roasted apples dipped in dark chocolate! wonderful french desert pastry tones of dark sweet fruit with a hint of sweet burnt sugar tangerine all on that wonderful rich apple-chocolate body. fabulous in the mouth, with a "fluffy" delicate mouthfeel. the sort of shot that makes you fall in love with coffee.

Esmerelda... what can i say? where do i begin? Muscat, Grand Marnier, candied tangerine fruit bomb, orchid perfume, tropical fruit brandy... intense, overwhelming, chaotic, insane... it tastes almost fake it's so huge and complex and concentrated in flavour. everything but the kitchen sink has been tossed in and rolled together to create a coffee that is sweetness and fruit amped up... and then taken past that to points heretofore unknown! i hate to admit it, but as much as i love this coffee in the cup - i think i might like it even more as an espresso. not something to drink everyday, but oh my god what an experience.

someone the other day asked me if i like working for Stumptown.
the above should answer the questions.
and if it doesn't...

we've been doing employee cuppings focussing on palate training. the idea is to start with the basics, cupping coffee for the foundation characteristics of coffee, and then building from that to eventually end up with nuances and cupping each coffee we sell.
every single employee of Stumptown is doing this. we cup in small groups four days a week.
employees are required to cup twice a month - and are paid for it.

i hear you say wow.
yup - committment to quality.

every employee cupping i've run has been great. today's had some truly wonderful moments that made me smile. i really love talking with people who work here about coffee. the passion, the knowledge and the palate... amazing. i feel so lucky to be surrounded by such talent. it's pushing me - and it's really really rewarding.


holiday weekend fun

helped out this weekend at the downtown location.
very fun! good crews, good coffee. yesterday was really busy and steady. today was slow. none the less, tons of fun.

oh... some photos of the various locations (for those who asked). these are not mine, just off the Stumptown site. i'll be shooting some once i get the flash issue sorted out.





the good the bad and the ugly

it's been an eventful few days.

on the good side... the job continues to be incredible. challenging, rewarding... amazing. Stephen and Kyle came down for a couple of days and seem to have found a place to live just two blocks away. the coffee continues to be amazing. i've been running some employee cuppings - which have been great. we've been focusing on a program of palate development and education and everyone is digging it. very cool. Stumptown continues to grow and expand. i was told that we are "the coffee mafia" of Portland the other day. business is booming. there was a great blurb about our COE coffees in the Willamette Weekly the other day. and we had a visit from Andrew Ford (Australian Mountain Top Estate) the other day which was very interesting. Finally... Phuong came down to visit which was super cool. she is taking on the role of wholesale training for Zoka -- which is awesome; for both her and for Zoka.

on the bad side... i injured my back (again) on Sunday. it's been really rough. i haven't been able to sleep well and there has been a fair amount of pain involved. getting older sucks.

and on the ugly side... we had a nice flood experience in one of the cafes. frantic and insane! the great thing was that, through great work by the cafe managers and our contractor Garth, not only was it resolved quickly and with minimal (given the circumstances) damage -- I don't think that any of our customers even knew what was going on!


big news

so the cat is out of the bag.

Kyle Larson (WRBC champ and all around great guy) is going to be joining the crew here at Stumptown. he'll be working as a barista for us. very exciting indeed!
and Stephen Vick (fabulous trainer and wearer of velvet pants) will be working with us as well! he'll be in charge of the espresso program and training. super cool!

the amazing thing is that both of them came down here and said they wanted to work for Stumptown. the reputation that Duane et al have built is amazing and continues to grow. this is going to be an exciting time for us!

Stumptown continues to hoard talent.


we got the coffee we wanted!!

the Bolivian COE auction is over. we bought the full lot of the coffee that we all felt was the best of the whole bunch. so cool!!

we also bought part of one of the other lots - a lovely coffee that everyone else ranked higher than our first choice.

i love this job.


cupping and more

a whirlwind day today...

to cut to the chase -- the high point was cupping the Bolivian COE coffees.
to be honest, i'd never had an especially good coffee from Bolivia. so... preconceptions and prejudices in hand, i cupped a whole bunch of coffees and got my world rocked.
in the end, there were four very good coffees - three of which were truly excellent.
what was particularly exciting was that these coffees all had very different styles, characters and flavour profiles. excellent - and yet different. very cool indeed!
tomorrow morning is the auction and with any luck we'll score at least one of them.

stumptown is going to do so much cool stuff in the next year.
it's hard to be relaxed and not get ahead of myself, but some of the stuff we're planning is insane!
there are things that no-one has ever thought of doing, and things that people have thought of but dismissed as unrealistic.
and we're going to do them.
people are not ready.

in other news... Portland is great, i ate at a very good Korean place today, life is good and we bought a bunch of super nice Eames dining room chairs.

on a personal note - i have a new computer so these posts should increase in frequency.
be well.


coming back up for air...

it's been a bit epic.
work, moving, visits from dear friends, a major holiday and the death of my laptop have conspired to put a crimp in my posting habits. i am sorry.

in any event...

things here are great.

i cupped the Panama La Esmerelda the other day. it's a truly incredible coffee. without a doubt worth the (not inconsiderable) amount of money one has to pay. sadly, i think that there is less than 4lbs left in captivity at the current moment. the best descriptor i can come up with for the coffee is "complicated." not complex, but rather incredibly layered and knotted - with a huge number of flavour components which emerge and recede over the lifetime of the cup. flavours of bergamot and dried citrus peel, a gorgeous sweet caramel/chocolate in the body and through the finish, hints of berry and a jasmine-spice note in the aroma and a wonderful tropical fruit and wine brightness that evolves through stonefruit and overripe pink grapefruit.
i honestly think i could cup this coffee every single morning and never come to a complete understanding of it.
a lifetime experience for me.

the Stumptown Family Thanksgiving was great.
a true family event in every way.
i think i suffered a 36 hour food hangover.

and a visit from Matt and Tricia capped it all off. with luck i'll get photos from Matt.

a great week.
life is good.


another day - another shift

today was a good day.
no... today was a great day.

i feel like i'm settling in to the job. i had a good shift, i worked with great people, i served wonderful customers... i drank great coffee. what more could you ask for.

the folks who work here are amazing.
this is going to be very good.

and you cannot imagine how great it feels to be somewhere where there are baristas working for me who seriously kick my ass when it comes to the job. incredible!

hopefully i'll see y'all soon at Stumptown.
The final Iceland photos...

Continuing with the "Pandora's Box" part of the competition. To clarify what this was (sorry to those who were confused previously)...

For the last day of the competition, each national team was given a box of ingredients chosen by a local chef and two "themes" to structure their presentation around. These were:
- serving espresso drinks to the Queens of a couple countries (one of whom was a "stealth" barista),
- a party for some recent mothers who were coffee fanatics who had not been able to drink coffee for nine months.
All ingredients from the box had to be used (and included such things as various spices and fruits and baby food - among others).

Drinks from the Finnish team for the "mothers" theme.

The Swedish team in action (looking composed and serious).

Klaus (of the victorious Danish team) in action with the shaker.

Our host - the incredible Addy Heoinsdottir of Kaffitar. Without her this event would not have occurred.

A final bonus shot of WBC Champ Tim Wendelboe, entranced by the sight of the Hairbender through a naked portafilter.


The job is starting to become more "real" to me.

The company meeting last night was incredible. The whole company broke down into small groups and we cupped five Cup of Excellence coffees head to head. It was an amazing experience. Not just to have the opportunity to cup such coffees, but to hear the passion and excitement for the product expressed by so many people.

I'm really lucky.

And then this morning I got my first "new hire" orientation of sorts - working as a bar-back for part of the morning at the downtown location. Super fun actually. Not easy work, but a great group of people, a great vibe... very cool.

And then finishing the day watching a new barista get trained...

It's so sweet - the employees here are not like the "baristas" at so many places. People are very serious, very professional and very committed.

I'm lovin' it!!

Norwegians in Iceland

Here come some more of the promised Nordic Barista Cup Iceland photos... starting with some shots of team norge.

The Norwegians during the "pandora's box" drink challenge phase.

Norwegian team coach (and world champ) Tim Wendelboe overseeing

Fan support

Utilizing the baby food from the "pandora's box"


and the job

Tonight I'll be introduced to the company as a whole. Very exciting and more than a bit nervous-making if you know what I mean.

I'm slowly getting up to speed.
I know it's only my second day, but it feels like time is truly creeping by.

Someone tagged the Stumptown equipment van the other day. Huge (and incredibly lame) and on both sides of the van. Employees are seriously up in arms about it.

It's going to be incredibly cool - this job is really challenging and exciting, but more than that - the company is great. I like the fact that there is a strong culture - a way of acting and doing things - and it's not always my way. Everything from the style of the employees to the way espresso is extracted is different from my personal tastes - and I like that. I like the idea that I'm going to have to rethink stuff, that I'm going to have to change and adapt. And I love the idea of challenging the established "rules" myself. I only hope they're as excited about change as I am.

mo' iceland

i've finally got an internet connection at my new house and finally have recovered much of my data from the drive crash. so... here come more photos from the Nordic Barista Cup!!!

The "Amerkins"... looking, well...

Team Norway - about to start working on their espresso blend.

The teams about to start the cupping phase of the Cup.


More to come... I promise


first day on the job

OK... let me get this out of the way first... number one, Portland is great. the people, the vibe, the coffee, the beer... fantastic. and number two, Stumptown is awesome. i made the right choice and i feel so grateful for the opportunity.

i've been cupping a lot of coffees. samples from the Brazil COE as well as production cupping from Stumptown coffees. i'm learning by the minute if not by the second.

in general there are so many talented people working here. it's amazing.

there was one of the COE coffees from Brazil that was pretty damn good. wonderful cranberry acidity, a clean but balanced body and a wonderfully sweet finish. very lovely indeed. and really nothing like what you would think of when you hear "brazilian." nice.


in Portland!!

after the epic, through the rain, insane "books on tape" drive - we're here. 15 hours later. and first thing i do is drop in on the Division Stumptown and get served a f**king brilliant macchiatto. totally lovely - what a welcome. and then i cup the El Injerto at the roastery. mmmmm...

lovin' it!!!


i am sorry that i've not posted the pics as promised but my computer suffered a fatal hard drive failure. i'm trying to sort it out and hope to post some more stuff tomorrow.



Iceland Photos (part 1)

And here comes the photo onslaught...

I'm going to try and post all my photos from the Nordic Barista Cup day by day. I'd post more of them and more frequently, but I'm trying to get through packing and all the prep for moving to Portland so I'm a bit busy. In any event, expect to see at least a couple photos every day for a while.

First... some team photos. Sadly, my photos of the Finland team were horribly overexposed, but don't worry, I have tons of action shots of them coming later. In any event, here are photos of the other teams.







Sometimes you need a sign - and sometimes you just are handed one.

If I had any doubt that the move to Stumptown was a good decision I received such a sign today.

Coffee Review just reviewed two Stumptown Cup of Excellent coffees. The lesser of the two received 92 points. A simple wow is not sufficient I think.

Ken Davids' description of Stumptown in the review is wonderful I think...

"Stumptown Coffee is a small-batch premium roasting company that wholesales its coffees as well as serves them in French press format in its three Portland cafes. Under the youthful and enthusiastic leadership of Duane Sorenson, Stumptown has become a leading buyer and supporter of Cup of Excellence coffees."

He gave the El Salvador Montecarlos Peaberry 94 points and the El Salvador Las Nubitas (a personal favorite) 92 points.

For those who don't know - Coffee Review is the formost cupping review in the industry and Ken Davids is one of the top cuppers in the world. He rarely gives any high grades to coffees (95 is, I think, the highest rating he's ever given out).

This is a huge compliment and an awesome accomplishment.


someone today asked me what the best thing about the Nordic Barista Cup was. i could not answer immediately. i've thought about it a lot since then, and have my answer.

this was the first international competition for the Finns. they were so great - it was incredible to watch them soaking it all in. they were so excited, so amazingly cool. and now they're going to go back to their various bars in Finland with not only the knowledge gained but this enthusiasm and a renewed passion and excitement - and it will spread within those bars.

in essence, i just got to see the germination of a sea change in the Finnish coffee world i think.

the same thing is going to happen in the US as a result of this event - but on a different scale so it will be less dramatic. the US is such a huge country and the shops represented here are such a tiny tiny minority of the coffee businesses in the US that it simply cannot have the viral effect that it could have in Finland.

i hope that, instead, we can replicate an event similar in some ways to this event in the United States - and then use that to create a sea change of our own.

i actually really hope i'll have the chance to come to Norway next year for the next Nordic Barista Cup - if only to see how the Finns do.

Photos from the Nordic Barista Cup

total photo assault will commence on my return, but here are some teasers...

The victorious Danish team in action in the "speed shot" phase of the competition.

Swedish fan support was truly amazing.

Intelligentsia Represent!

Super sweet little Probat sample roaster!!

Alternative Nordic Band or American Baristas?

Sarah and Jodi at the Geyser.

Ellie gets up close and personal with a real Icelandic cow.

Brent and Jodi.

Ellie, Amber, Stephen and WBC Champ Tim.

Tim, fascinated by the Hairbender pulled through the Naked Portafilter.


I'm more than happy to admit that I was rash and even wrong.
I just had two espresso drinks that were quite good. Different from what I'm used to, but very enjoyable none the less. A cappuccino (the proportions of milk to espresso were not as I'm used to) and an espresso ristretto (less concentrated than what I make). Both quite drinkable.

It's interesting.
I think that I'd heard so much about the incredible skills of the Nordic baristas that I had built up these expectations in my mind. I really thought that I'd come here and have nothing but mind-blowing espresso drinks. Instead, I have found that it's like it is anywhere else. Being a barista is hard and there are good barista and bad barista. The majority, however, lie somewhere in between the two extremes.
But as a result of the expectations, I assumed that a couple poorly prepared drinks meant that espresso here was bad. If it were not for the expectations, I would not have made this assumption - I would have been prepared instead for the majority of espresso drinks being mediocre at best.

So I leave here knowing that the top Nordic baristas have incredible skill.
And knowing that they represent a minority of baristas here - just as they do elsewhere.
Espresso still has a long way to go.

Iceland - ending

This is all surreal in so many ways... The country, the setting, the event, the shit that's been happening...
- the other night we went on a tour of dairies. At the last one they announced that there was a surprise competition event for the teams. They had to milk a cow and then make a cappuccino out of the milk on a home machine in the dairy.
- The end of the first day, at about 9PM, we all got in some buses and drove out into the countryside where we went to a bridge that connects the two tectonic plates (North America and Europe) and had a cocktail party outdoors in the rain in the dark with dried fish and "black death" schnapps where the Mayor of the town gave a speech in the freezing cold about the geology of the area and fish.
- When we got off the plane here, we got lost in the airport trying to find a taxi and were outside in the rain (and dark and cold) and ran into Ellie and Amber from Intelligentsia). Actually, it is a very small country, and you run into people all the time.

The skill of the baristas here is incredible. Dazzling in fact.
The compeitition has been pretty amazing. Not just the skill, but the passion and committment of the companies and the individuals.
As I noted before, I don't particularly like the espresso style - but that's personal taste I guess.

Jodi brought some Hairbender and I went into the training room yesterday during the comp and pulled shots of it. You should have seen the smile on Jodi's face when she took her first sip...

My hotel is weird - but so much better than the first place. Initially we were staying out near the airport. The hotel was seriously Soviet Block. This new place (in town) is more like some sort of Danish Modern upscale youth hostel.

I've met a ton of good people. Really nice, really smart people.I've learned a bunch - and had some great discussions. I figure I've made more friends than enemies.

We've been lost every single time we've driven anywhere. But it's always worked out through some freak accident. We keep trying to follow the tour buses everyone is on - but they keep doing weird things and ditching us (running red lights, joining a queue of 3 other identical buses and then splitting onto different exits from a roundabout). Exciting!

I demonstrated the naked portafilter yesterday. It was a hit. I think news will now make it back to La Marzocco about it (perhaps they'll also hear my opinion of the basket design). I have a photo of Tim Wendelboe with a huge shit eating grin pulling a shot of Hairbender through a naked portafilter. Lovely!!

And now the event is over.
Denmark was the winner. They were wonderful in their presentation. Smooth, polished, professional - but obviously having a lot of fun with it all. There was no sense of being forced, no standoffishness.
The final dinner and cocktails were hysterical. There was national team Karaoke. There was shit-talking, champagne drinking and there was tasty lamb.

We should do something like this in the US. Maybe a US version with the various regions having teams? Maybe something with US, Canada and Mexico? It would and should be fun.


Nordic Barista Cup

I´m sitting in Iceland after a long long day or two (to be honest, I´ve lost track of how long it has been). An epic 18 plus hours of travel landed me here at 6:30 this morning - 2 hours before the event began. Surreal, to say the least...

It´s been really cool so far actually. The format of the event is pretty amazing and very challenging - the people are very nice - and we cupped some wonderful coffees.

Oddly enough, however, I have not had a good espresso so far. I think it´s just a matter of style, however, but I´ve found none of the espressos to my taste. Universally, they seem oxidized, overly hot, thin, with little mouthfeel and quite overextracted and bitter. I guess I´m used to the emerging US style... not that I knew that there was one!

There are tons of Americans here as well - Kyle, Stephen and Sarah from Zoka, Phuong from Lava Java, Brent from Crema, the whole crazy Intelligentsia posse (Ellie, Marcus and Amber) as well as Jodi and I (representing the Stumptown).

And, of course, all the big Scandanavian stars... I honestly felt like asking for autographs (grin).

The standout coffee from the cupping was a lovely Kenya AB. Very complex, very rounded and complete, with wonderful fruit and floral notes and a lovely tangy high tone. Fabulous!

And, not shockingly, I´m learning things every second.
I´ve got tons of photos already - they´ll go up as soon as I get a chance.

Oh... so far no fermented shark, and I didn´t have to work in a cafe.
Now to survive the cow´s home.


counting down to Iceland...

it's going to be cool to see the folks i know and to meet new people.
it's going to be very cool to see the top scandanavian (i.e. world's best) baristi in action!

and then back to the States, finish packing and off to Portland.
big changes, big stuff...

i'm still a bit shocked that i'll be working at Stumptown. such an icon, such an opportunity. and good coffee each and every day!


"origin" and education

There is a great article in the most recent Fresh Cup magazine - you should really try to track it down and read it. Titled Believe What You Taste, An Interview With Stephen Hurst it goes into detail about some of the key issues in the coffee world today, and does a really fantastic job of enunciating these issues.

In particular, there is some great stuff about the misunderstanding of the concept of "origin" when used in coffee. The article goes into detail about the confusion (not just among consumers but more importantly among coffee professionals) about the concept - and in particular about the resulting idea that somehow coffee from a country is "all the same." The obvious link between this problem and cost resistence is brought up as well.

It's a fantastic read - and if you're in the business you should really try to get a copy.


everyone has been asking what this "dream job" in Portland is.

I'm going to be working for Stumptown Coffee. I'm both excited and honored.
Stumptown is one of the companies I admire the most in this industry. Their coffee is fantastic, they are a wonderful and ethical employer and the people there are super passionate, skilled and nice. And, of course, they make kick-ass espresso. I honestly consider them to be one of the three best coffee companies in the United States.

Technically, my title is something like General Manager, Retail.

I can't wait.
I'm so excited. I'm so nervous... it's all too much!!

In the meantime, I'm getting prepared not only for the move to Portland but also for my trip to Iceland for the Nordic Barista Cup. It should be incredibly cool.

I'm also trying to finish up some tasting notes for various commercial espresso blends.


so we tasted a couple coffees again today.
first - the changed Hairbender (again)... wow, it continues to impress. i played around with pulling it in various ways and in various drinks and it's not only a great espresso - it's a flexible one as well. lovely notes of fruit and chocolate, and the most incredible mouthfeel. love it!
second - the COE Nicaragua Cantagallo... i've posted some tasting notes about this in the past. suffice it to say that this is one of my favorite single-origin espressos of all time. it's incredibly balanced and complete, with a rich and creamy mouthfeel, wonderful aromatics and the most gorgeous caramel-apple sweetness! there are hints of chocolate in the body and just enough brighness to make it all work. mmm.... so lovely!
finally - i've been cupping some Hawaiian coffees from Jay's Shave Ice in Maryland. Jay's amazing, and his coffees are incredible.


I'm back - I'm gone

I'm back from Portland. It was fantastic. I had some amazing coffees, I had some wonderful espresso, I spent time with great people.

And I'm gone.
We're moving up to Portland in one month. Time to take the next step.
I'm excited, I'm nervous, I'm thrilled - I can't wait and yet I'm overwhelmed.
It's going to be amazing.

We tasted the new Stumptown Hairbender this morning. It's been reformulated and it's incredible. Intense, concentrated, with wonderful dark fruit notes (dried berries, cassis) and a dark-chocolate/burnt caramel finish. Sweet, rich, complex... fabulous. Great as a straight shot, but also fantastic in a short milk drink. I love it.


that was a really fun "guest" shift!
busy, nice people, good espresso... very fun indeed.
i played around more with the Doma Harar. i made a little "specialty drink" that combines a near-ristretto double shot of the Harar with some very stretched milk and a tiny amount of caramel in a demitasse - dusted with a small amount of bittersweet powdered chocolate. super tasty! and that's from me - the guy who doesn't like specialty drinks!
also - playing with the naked portafilter more has made me realize that there is a clear "hierarchy" of portafilter baskets. the "ridgeless" double basket is far and away the most forgiving and consistent to use. it rarely (if ever) channels, shots are easy to pull... nice. the OEM ridged basket and the triple basket are about neck and neck in terms of ease of use. the OEM single basket is just a nightmare. it's possible to pull a decent, non-channeling, shot - but the window is so so so narrow.
on a related note... the "stockfleth move" distribution technique is proving to be a serious success. testing with the naked portafilter has revealed this.

finally... i'm off to Portland (again) tomorrow.
i'm really excited - it should be a ton of fun. good coffee, good food, good beer... good people!


great origin espresso, guest shift and Portland

i tasted a truly incredible origin espresso today!

Terry up at Doma sent me an organic Harrar that is seriously fantastic.

i've always like Harar, but have thought it wasn't all that suited for general espresso usage. it's seemed like it is a little too "idiosyncratic" and not quite general purpose enough to me. the acidity, the thin body, the "one note" berry flavour... it's always resulted in a verdict of "interesting but not great."

this one changed my mind.

it had all the usual incredible blueberry tones, but was far more balanced than what i'm used to with Harar espresso. it poured a gorgeous colour with decent, though not persistent, crema that was a bit lacking in the red-tones. the aroma was dominated, of course, by blueberry, but there were also lovely hints of powdered chocolate and dried apricot. as a straight shot it was incredibly sweet, with a lovely maple-sugar/honey tone that balanced the acidic blueberry high-tones. the apricot turns lush and soft in the finish and the body is suprisingly full, with a syrup/honey coating effect. in short milk drinks this held up surprisingly well - the blueberry turning even sweeter and becoming more generic "berry" in flavour while remaining blueberry in aroma and a nice milk chocolate sweetness emerging in the finish.


on another note...
i'm going to be working a guest shift tomorrow at Spellbinder. should be fun.
i'm liking the whole "guest shift" thing. keeps me on my toes, stops my skills from getting rusty and makes me remember why i love this business.

i'm going to be back in Portland next week. i'm pretty damn excited. i should get to taste some amazing coffee, drink some great espresso, see some good people... yummy!


"guest" shift...

Had a great time subbing in at Spellbinder today!
It was really fun to see all the old crew, make drinks, talk smack... Super fun.
And the skills don't really seem to go away.

I had some Hairbender sent down from Stumptown (Portland, OR) for the occassion. Damn!!! That's one fine espresso! It was fully appreciated by a lot of the folks.

I also pulled some shots with an interesting dry processed Brazilian from Carmo Estate. Very chocolate-toned with great dried berry notes. Quite nice actually.

About half the shots were pulled using the Naked Portafilter. For what it's worth... I'm still a believer; not only as a training tool but for the quality of the shots. But... it's much easier and better to use a double basket (tip of the day).

Finally, I played around with the distribution technique used by WRBC Champ Tim Wendelboe today. It's an unusual "circular" method that is seen on video. It seems to work at least as well as the more traditional "schomer" technique and is much more efficient.

I miss being a barista....


It looks like I'll be working a "guest" slot at Spellbinder again next Tuesday morning.
It should be pretty cool as it looks like I'll have a couple special espressos to share with folks - including not only the Stumptown Hairbender, but also some of the single origin espressos!
Very fun...


Stumptown Single Origin Shootout

My last post about NASCORE (sorry, I've been in San Francisco for a wedding)...

For me, the two day single origin espresso event at Stumptown was a huge highlight of the whole NASCORE experience. Incredible coffee, great people -- and a truly eye-opening event. In my opinion, this sort of event is exactly what has been missing from these events in the past - and exactly what needs to be added in the future.

Tasting Notes (from memory)
please keep in mind- these are from memory, not from notes - so i may have juggled some in my mind.

El Salvador Las Nubitas - complicated, dynamic, incredibly aromatic. this was an eye-opening espresso. wonderful dark chocolate notes and sweet citric notes that remind of sugared grapefruit. a personal favorite.
El Salvador Pacamara Montecarlos - a very interesting espresso. not as complex as some, with an unusual flavour note that reminded me of burnt celery (vegetal). tons of spice, and a strong citric note.
Nicaragua Los Delirios - this was the one. i asked one attendee after he'd tasted it, "so... what would you do in blending to improve this espresso." his blank look said it all. a totally complete espresso, incredibly complex and intertwined. notes of jasmine tea and a wonderful caramel finish on top of a chocolate and dried stonefruit body. just enough citrus brightness to make it sing. lovely!
Brazil Fazenda Vista Allegre Natural Dry - thick and nutty, with milk chocolate notes and a rising dried cherry tone througout. very sweet. a classic single origin brazilian. Sumatra Mandheling - heavy, syrup like body. strong notes of humus and mushroom - very woody. the least enjoyable of the coffees.
Ethiopia Harrar - intense aromatics, strong dark chocalate and a burst of berry acidity! everything i'd hoped it would be.
Ethiopia Yirgacheffe - wonderful notes of candied orange peel and a much more complete body than expected! a very interesting and very tasty espresso.
Guatemala El Inerjeto - a fruit bomb. chocolate body, interesting spice. an intense espresso. wonderful tea and spice notes. super cool.
Nicaragua Cantagallo - incredibly sweet, with wonderful caramel notes. very aromatic, with a nice nutty body and crisp acidity. caramel apple!
Panama Esmeralda Jaramillo - this reminded me of a top-notch Muscat. it had that same fortified, over-extracted, jammy marmalade flavour profile. incredibly aromatic and almost shocking to both the nose and the palate. jasmine tea. a true taste sensation. the most unusual and interesting coffee i've tasted in my life.


there is no point in trying to taste various espressos without great Barista talent. and we had that, in spades. Bronwen, Duane and Dismas in action...

while tasting the coffees was great - sharing them was truly priceless.

shots were pulled both naked and dressed (Grin).

if any more espresso had been consumed.... there would have been trouble. Ellie and Jodi showing the effects.

thanks to Stumptown and to Intelligentsia for providing the incredible and wonderful coffees.
thanks to all the talented and wonderful people and their palates for sharing these coffees.
thanks to all those who pulled shots, and all those who cleaned up.

and special big-time thanks to Duane, Jodi and the Stumptown crew for making this happen.


Northwest Regional Barista Championships

i spent a huge amount of time at the Northwest Regional Barista Championships while at NASCORE. in part, i wanted to cheer folks on. but largely i wanted to observe, to be a voyeur, and to be inspired.
and i was.

the level of professionalism... the passion... the committment...
it was incredible.
and best of all - i got to taste a bunch of the drinks. brilliant!!

Aaron DeLazzer judging. The judges were amazing. Not only did they consume a huge amount of coffee - they did so while keeping total poker faces and doing a fantastic job of evaluating the work of the baristi. And they're volunteers...

Billy Wilson of Crema preps backstage (love the polka dot cups!) and then serves his drinks.

Billy's signature drink was a "Absinthe Americano". He poured espresso into a cup, placed it on a chromed absinthe saucer, placed a half sugar cube on an absinthe "strainer" and then poured hot water that had been infused with anise over it. Nice...

Bronwen Serna didn't compete - instead spending her time judging and busing tables. Here she recovers from almost dropping the bus tray.

Cassie from Zoka doing her patter - and serving drinks. The Zoka folks were seriously prepared.

Heather Perry from Coffee Klatch was, as usual, a total polished pro. Here she serves her pumpkin specialty drink.

Jay is the man. He is the nicest, most enjoyable and most supportive person. Here, he gets ready to go on stage.

Jon Lewis from Doma was the Jesse Jackson of the barista comp. Philosophy - beat poetry - hand cranked grinders - big beat... he had it all! Here he serves his cappuccino and then his carbonated barley espresso specialty drink.

Jen from Zoka was so calm, so focused, so smooth and polished... big things are coming for her.

Eventual winner Kyle Larson from Zoka pouring his blueberry specialty drinks.

And serving the drinks to the judges. For what it's worth... I tasted this drink and it was rockin'.

Kyle serving his (awesome) cappuccinos.

The aforementioned cappuccinos.

As I mentioned above - the Zoka folks had it going on. They were organized and practiced and polished... total pros. Here's Team Zoka revving it up.

The finalists.... waiting to find out who won.
Congratulations to Kyle, Mark Pfaff and Cassie. You all are seriously inspiring!