Slow Food Nation

It's going to take me a lot of thinking to be able to comment with any sort of clarity on my experiences at Slow Food Nation.

Suffice it to say that it was a truly incredible experience - and an important one as well. Less so about coffee per se and more about something bigger that coffee is a part of.

And, beyond that, it was great to catch up with so many friends and meet so many cool people.


Caffe d'Bolla Screen Door espresso

I'm very confident about the future of great coffee in the US.

I know that sounds like something I would never say.
But it's the truth.

And it's not because of Stumptown or Intelligentsia or 4 Barrel or Ecco or any of the other folks who are pushing (and have pushed) coffee forward.

It's because of the small companies in places you'd never expect.
It's because of Black Sheep in Bishop CA.
And it's because of Caffe d'Bolla in Salt Lake City.

You'd probably never associate great espresso with Salt Lake.
So you can imagine what I thought when I received a "care package" from John from Caffe d'Bolla.

But I have to say that I'm impressed by this coffee.

It's an espresso that I can drink quite happily.

As a straight shot it has tons of molasses and some really nice stone fruit and dried fruit notes on top of a rich buttery nutty base. Good texture, good body.
To me, however, it is a little "toasty" and "roasty" (which killed the aromatics that I know should be in there).

It seems very consistent shot to shot.
I found it best in short milk drinks where the "roasty" notes were muted and the chocolate brought out in its place.

My biggest criticism is that it's a bit "flat".
I'm a big fan of coffees that have a signature flavour. This doesn't really have that. It is almost a "base" blend for use in an espresso (and thus missing that "twist" that makes is stand out).

Really easy to use - with one exception. Does not respond well to being pulled ristretto (again, in my opinion). While the molasses really comes out, so does the roast. I ended up with a sweet spot at 18grams in an LM ridged double running at around 198.0F. Pulled at 1.8oz in around 27 seconds.


new WBC rules


first look is incredibly positive.
Not only getting rid of the "must serve all 4 drinks at once" rule - but more importantly the seemingly massive swing of weighting to sensory!!!

Very cool.


Drew at Method

The wonderful collision of my various professional instantiations...

Drew Cattlin (formerly of Ritual, now at Ecco Caffe, well known USBC competitor and all around good guy) was pulling shots this morning at Method (where I work).

Some photos...



This is my goodbye to Coffeed.
Many know the reasons so I won't go into it.
It's sad. I was involved in Coffeed from the beginning. There are so many great memories for me tied up in the site and the people involved. I hope that someone creates a new place and a new voice to counter the "establishment" within coffee.

I wish the best to Alistair and hope that he ends up with the community that he wants and that Coffeed can at the same time continue to be a voice for "doing the right thing" in coffee.


the good thing about coffee...

I've said it before - the best thing about coffee is the wonderful people in the industry.

Had a fantastic experience on Sunday.
Tasted espresso and cupped coffees from a whole range of folks - with good friends Andrew, Drew and Gabe.

The coffees were amazing (you can read Gabe's account above for more information) but it really was the company and the experience that made is so special.

The experience also allowed me to crystalize something I've been trying to clearly explain for awhile. I have this belief that there are coffee roasters/buyers who are producing coffees that are more than just a "signature flavour" but are in fact a true representation of their own vision and identity and even personality. Duane from Stumptown is one such person. And Andrew Barnett from Ecco is another.

Tasting the Experimental Espresso #3 that Andrew was so kind to share made me realize that it was a near perfect expression of who he is - his values, his taste, his goals and beliefs.

That's such a cool thing.

And in general Andrew really is on top of his game right now. I tasted a gorgeous Yirgacheffe he shared with me this morning. It was roasted for espresso and was fucking godlike. Not just in the flavour and the mouthfeel and the aromatics (though damn was it good on all those). It was also one of those rare coffees that tasted fantastic at 201F, and equally fantastic (but entirely different) at 200F, and still just as fantastic (and different again) at 199F. Stunning.


Ecco Coromandel

Brazil - Cerrado Minas Gerais
Fazenda Sao Joao, Geginaldo Silvoni
Heirloom Bourbon
2007 Harvest

Another lovely brazil single origin espresso from Andrew Barnett at Ecco Caffe.

First impressions were of smoothness and polish. This is a highly "finished" espresso.
Initial tastes are of caramel, cashew butter and an interesting cherry/tangelo flavour.
It's quite subtle and very, very balanced. It's not a big espresso by any means.
As it cools, the fruits become more dominant - but without becoming sour or overly acidic. A lovely light molasses note appears as well.

In short milk drinks, the coffee comes across well - with the fats in the milk complementing the buttery nut notes and balancing the fruits.
It is, of course, rather lost in tall milk drinks.
Best use, without a doubt, is as a straight shot.

I found it responded well to a very slight updose in a double basket - with a midpoint brew temp and a slightly short shot volume. It also tasted quite good downdosed in a synesso triple basket and pulled ristretto.

Probably not everyone's cup of tea. There are those who will find it "boring" or not quite "intense" enough. For me... it's a lovely "everyday" espresso.


Ecco Caffe ("Taste of the Harvest")

Brazil Fazenda Cahoeira de Gramma from the Carvalho Diases.
Heirloom Yellow Bourbon, natural, raised screen bed.
2007 Harvest.

Another winner from Andrew Barnett at Ecco Caffe.

A simply lovely coffee, in all ways.
As espresso it's clean, sweet, elegant and polished. Extremely light on the palate with a wonderful soft and almost "fluffy" mouthfeel. Honey, some caramelized nectarine, a light filbert note. Wonderful tropical spice and floral aromas.
This is not an espresso for people who like "strong" coffee - but rather for those who appreciate flavour and balance. It's not idiosyncratic or "different."
It's just "right."

Be careful about pulling this coffee too hot. It takes a lower brew temp than you might expect. At even a single degree too high you'll lose the fruit and the floral notes and instead will end up with a coffee that is flat with noticeable "toast" flavours. Be brave... go cold.

Seems to respond best to mid-point doses (not too up... not too down).

It's very good in short milk drinks as well - but gets lost in tall ones.
Best, IMHO, as a straight shot where it really shines.

Nice one!!


Sweet Tooth

Ritual's new espresso (Sweet Tooth) has settled in.
I've run through a couple pounds of it now.

Overall thoughts...

1 - This is a true "signature espresso" in the sense that it is a unique and personal espresso the represents the values, taste and goals of Ritual. That's something special - and something all coffee roasters should shoot for.

2 - It's not an espresso everyone is going to love.

3 - It's reasonably easy to work with - though I think home baristas with non-stabilized HX machines might struggle.

It's a very (very) well named coffee. First sips are dominated by intense sweetness (cane sugar, light, processed molasses, honey, touches of caramel) and floral notes (jasmine, rose). As the coffee cools it becomes quite tart and bright, with strong flavours of pomelo, green grape and persimmon. The sweetness continues, but the cup becomes dominated by the acidic fruit. In the end of the cup a nice pomegranate note emerges (though I do get some hints of astringency as well).
It does seem a little hollow however. It hits the center of the palate almost exclusively and there is a "hole" in the middle of the profile.
This hollowness become more noticeable when combined with milk - where the lack of the deeper darker tones results in "simplistic" profiles.
I found it best quite significantly updosed - and at a higher brew temp than I'd expected. Shot volume was good - and the shots look gorgeous in the cup.

Because of the tartness - I think home machines that have a declining brew temp could prove challenging. Shots could come out as noticeably sour in some cases. I'd suggest pulling shots quite short in this case.

Overall... a good espresso and a big step forward for Ritual.


New Harvest Competition Blend

I received a pound of the New Harvest Coffee Roaster's Competition Blend last week. Oddly enough, my cousin works there - and thought to send me some of the coffee. They're a little coffee roaster in Rhode Island.

I'm assuming that this is a sort of "one-off" espresso as it's not on their site.

Working with, and drinking, this espresso was a really interesting experience for me.
I've been spending a lot of time recently drinking coffees that strive for the sort of balance, finesse and sweet acidity that seems to be the emerging standard among a certain group of roasters. From the Hairbender through the various Ecco Caffe espressos to the Ritual Sweet Tooth to the random other coffees - there is a common thread here.
In addition, I've been drinking more and more espressos that, if not actually single origin, are at least made of very few beans.

As a result, I'd lost sight of the fact that there are other styles and approaches to espresso.

This Competition Blend is a representative of another type.
Instead of going for balance and finesse - it goes for flavour and "big-ness." It's definitely a "more is more" approach. It's all over the place - with bright berry notes and dried fruit; with bakers' chocolate and leather; toast and tobacco. If it were a beer it would be one of those Stone experimental Imperial Ales.
In milk, this approach worked out very well - with drinks that were dominated by the toast and chocolate notes and a nice sweet fruit note riding along the top. Even tall milk drinks still tasted of coffee. Nice.
As a straight shot, however, this was a bit of a palate hammer. The shear profusion of flavours was a bit much for me. Beyond that, however, hidden beneath all these flavours were some not so nice notes. There was an ashy and acrid note that lurked beneath the tobacco flavours - and a hint of mushroom emerged now and then.
That being said - honestly, this was a totally serviceable espresso in many ways. I drank it happily in short milk drinks. And saying "it's no Hairbender as a straight shot" is kind of unfair.
It was very easy to work with - and really tolerant of changes to extraction parameters.
It looked absolutely gorgeous in the cup.

More than that - it was really cool to be reminded that there are a lot of ways to skin this particular cat; that there are a ton of different ideas of what espresso is and should be.
And at the end of the day - it's all what you like.


Tasting... coffee...

I've been remiss.
I've failed to paste tasting notes for, oh... let's just say a long (long) time.

I'm going to try and start being more responsible about this.

To make me more conscientious about it... I've decided that from now on whenever folks send me coffee samples (solicited or unsolicited) I'm going to post tasting notes.

So if you send me coffee - you'll get notes. And so will the rest of the world.


PS. Congrats to Kyle Glanville. Nice work. And a big shout out to my boys Chris and Drew. Way to represent SF.


4 barrel

in the Caledonia Alley (parallel to and between Valencia and Mission, between 14th and 15th).

hell yeah.


Ecco Experimental Espresso Batch #1

Andrew from Ecco Caffe kindly sent me some of the first batch from his "Experimental Espresso Program."

This was a 50/50 blend of two gorgeous Brazil CoE coffees.

The 2006 Fazenda Serra do Bone from Carlos Sergio Sanglard is one of my favorite SO espressos. This is a Catuai varietal from Matas de Minas - and took 4th in the Brazil CoE with a score of 91.93 points. As an SO shot is has incredible body and a lovely honey/caramel finish.

The 2006 Fazenda Pedra Preta from Guilherme Dias De Castro is a Yellow Bourbon from Carmo de Minas. It took 3rd in the Brazil CoE with a score of 92.24. As an SO shot this combined a lovely sweetness with intense floral/citrus high notes.

It took an enormous amount of courage (IMHO) for Andrew to create this blend. These are expensive and valuable CoE coffees and are very limited in supply.

Andrew's brewing instructions were very clear... 19grams in an LM double basket; 1.75oz double at 201.5F in 24-28 seconds.

I started by following these instructions and found that it produced a very dense shot with strong chocolate and burnt honey notes and a rich nutty, syrupy body. This was really pretty stunning in short milk drinks - but I felt that I could probably create an espresso that was more to my (personal) taste by tweaking these parameters a bit.

Initially I started by changing dose and brew temp, looking to coax out some of the high notes. With some experimentation, I found that a brew temp of a little over 200F and a dose of 17.5grams produced a shot that I found really lovely as a straight espresso. It had great sweet pink grapefruit high notes and a body of honey roasted pecan, powdered dutch cocoa and a lovely vanilla tone that reminds me of aged Flor de Cana rum. This extraction wasn't ideal with milk - but as a straight shot.... stunning.

I figured that there had to be a way to get the rich, syrup and caramel body of the first extraction with the sweet citrus and Flor de Cana notes. After a fair amount of trial and error - I discovered that going with the Synesso triple basket (with its rounded side walls); slightly down-dosed; and a brew temp of 200.5F yielded a 2.75oz shot that was - to put it bluntly - fucking glorious. Rich, dense, clean, transparent, sweet tangerine, candied nut, burnt honey, bittersweet chocolate, tropical flowers... and that lovely Flor de Cana finish. Lovely as a straight shot - with near perfect balance - and equally awesome as a cappuccino.

Life is good!