I'm back from a really good family vacation back on the East Coast.

I'm hard at work wrapping up the GS3 review for Home-Barista.com.

I won the PF.net award for 'most over-exposed coffee personality of the year'.



A while back, a user posted a question about "exploring the extraction space" on Home-Barista.com.

"In various reviews, you speak of varying the basket size, dose, temperature, drink size, and extraction time. Exploring this space with a new coffee seems like a hugely daunting task, particularly for those of us who home-roast and therefore may have at most half a pound of a given blend, with no assurance that the next roast of the same coffee will be exactly the same. Do you have any rules that help you do it?"

At the time I gave the best response I could come up with. But since then I've continued to think about the topic. Actually... it's one of those really, really big questions. And it's something I've practiced without really thinking about it in a systematic way. The question made me realize this - and has made me think about the issue in a more structured way.

I think I'm probably ready to start talking about what this means - about what to do -- basically to try and propose a starting point for further discussion of the problem.

First of all... I've been incredibly lucky. I'm in a unique situation. I have access to a huge number of coffees - and I don't have to pay for them. I have a lot of free time. And I have the prototype La Marzocco GS3.

Most coffee professionals don't have the time to spend doing this sort of experimentation. Most coffee pros don't really have access to the range of coffees from all sorts of roasters. Home enthusiasts tend to have to pay for their coffees. Home enthusiasts really don't have access to a piece of equipment like the GS3. For that matter... very few pros have that luxury!

This is a unique moment in time for me - and I'm trying to milk it for all its worth. It isn't going to last forever.

So... what is the process for exploring the extraction space? What are the goals? What is the methodology?
What is this and how do we do it?

Right now... it's still all in some state of flux.
It's still largely trial and error, guided by some very rough guidelines, leading to some equally rough general rules and structures and patterns.

At it's most extensive, I'll start with a coffee I know nothing about. In other words, I don't know what beans are in the blend. I don't know anything about the style or philosophy of the roaster (i.e. I've never tasted their coffee before). I've not cupped the coffee. I have no input from the roaster on target extraction goals.

In this case, I'll always start with a visual evaluation of the beans. The goal is to try and narrow down a starting point. I'll look for degree of roast, I'll try to identify beans. The idea is to try and recognize commonalities with previously evaluated coffees. As an example, if I see a very light degree of roast and from visual clues see that it may contain Monsooned Malabar I will use what I have learned from working with the Vivace Dolce as a starting point.

I'll then move on to evaluating aroma of the beans. The idea again is to try and identify beans. I don't need to identify the exact beans per se - it's more that I'm again looking for experienced patterns to narrow down a starting point.

As a generic starting point I tend to go with the following parameters:
- LM ridged double basket,
- 200F brew temp,
- 9BAR brew pressure,
- 18 gram dose,
- 2oz extraction in 27 seconds.

Based on the initial visual and aroma evaluations, I will start by making some assumptions on the brew temp. If the degree of roast seems light, I'll adjust the baseline brew temp up to 202F. If the roast is dark, I'll drop that baseline down to 198F. I then tune this based on the beans. If, for example, it looks like the coffee is high-grown washed arabica I'll reduce the brew temp. If I see aged or monsooned coffees I will increase the brew temp (both from the baseline above). So a light roasted coffee with monsooned beans will move up to 203F as a starting point.

At this point, I move on to establishing a dose starting point. To do this I look at the bean composition and the "signature taste" of the roaster and the coffee. If the coffee has a lot of naturals or pulped naturals I will adjust the dose down from the baseline. If the coffee is mostly high-grown arabica I'll increase the dose. So, for example, with the Terroir Daterra Reserve I'd go with a 17.5 gram dose. But with the Stumptown Hairbender I'd go with a 19 gram dose. The "signature taste" is a harder one and requires some knowledge of the roaster. Is the person roasting this coffee a fan of low acidity espresso? Are they a "chocolate bomb" aficionado? If you know what they like out of their espresso you can do minor adjustments to your dose. So, for example, based on this I would actually drop the Terroir Daterra down to a 17 gram dose but would up the Stumptown Hairbender to a 20 gram dose.

Of course, the shortcut for all the above (as implied earlier) is to recognize a common "type" of espresso. For example, from working with the Vivace Dolce I would immediately start with a brew temp of 203F and a slightly down-dosed triple basket pulled ristretto when beginning experimentation with the Victrola Streamline. Or from working with the Stumptown Hairbender, I would start with a brew temp of 197.5F and an updosed double basket pulled short when exploring the Lighthouse Espresso.

In either case, once I have an adjusted temp and dose baseline I'll start experimenting with extraction. I always start by re-evaluating the brew temp. I'll pull a shot and evaluate it. Is it alkaloid? Is it thin? Is it sour? Astringent? Based on the taste, I will alter the temp by small degrees to find the sweet spot. On a side note... many people use visual clues for adjusting temp (looking for crema, colours, patterns, etc in the flow and in the cup). I find that this can be both distracting and often inaccurate. For me - I find it far more worthwhile to focus on the flavour.

Once I've found what I feel is the brew temp sweet spot, I'll start working on adjusting dose from that initial baseline number. I go about this by focusing on two things. First - clarity of flavour and second - roundness and balance. If the cup is "muddied" I'll reduce the dose. If the cup isn't fully developed and sweet and rich I'll up the dose.

It's important to keep in mind that there are some limitations to these guidelines. In particular, there are coffees that benefit dramatically from increased headroom in the basket - and others that are best with restricted headroom. In these cases, the actual dose is less critical than the headroom - in other words, the dose is a way to reach headroom goals. I recently tasted an experimental espresso from Andrew Barnett at Ecco Caffe that required a ton of headroom in the basket. This held true across different baskets and the resulting different doses. With too little headroom, the coffee lost all sweetness.

With a lot of coffees this will get me to the point where I'll have a cup profile I really like. But this probably represents a minority of all coffees.

There are times when I won't be able to get to where I want to be with just these factors. It's at this point that I start looking at changes to extraction volume and basket size. For example, I've found that some lighter roasted delicate coffees tend to end up poorly developed no matter what I do - especially when they are pulped naturals. But if I then swap to a triple basket and deliberately down-dose (19 grams) I "open up" the coffee and it becomes more defined and clear. Or with monsooned coffee I find that the only way I can get the desired sweetness without getting a "wet cardboard" aftertaste is by going with a triple basket, normal dose and then pulling a ristretto shot.

As a general rule, I tend to initially tune extraction volume at this point rather than going to a different basket. Much of the time, tuning this parameter will result in my identifying a desirable profile. To do this I tend to start decreasing the shot volume while keeping extraction time constant. Given that I'm also keeping dose and brew temp constant, this requires a constant fining of the grind. With the exception of certain unusual experiments, I tend to never go below 1.25oz in volume. If I reach that point and still have not found the extraction I desire I will start exploring basket sizing.

With baskets - I'll swap to a triple basket in three cases.
First - if there is a recognized espresso type that I've learned performs best in this basket and I can identify the coffee as seemingly belonging to this type.
Second - if, in experimenting with dose and brew temp I've found that the flavour of the espresso is "constricted" and the coffee seems to me to be a delicate, light bodied one.
Third - if I've gone through all the various permutations above and cannot get the flavour I desire.

The reason I tend to leave this swap to the end is that, once you've switched baskets you really need to re-evaluate all your parameters. Even brew temp might change on you. As a result, I'd rather wait until the end and then treat this as an entirely new process - starting from the beginning again.

A lot of the time I'll find a "sweet spot" that I like but then start wondering about what a coffee would taste like when pulled differently. I generally believe that all great coffees have at least two different "sweet spots" depending upon your own personal taste. As a result, finding an "ideal" extraction should never be the end of your exploration - but merely one more lesson to learn and one more pattern to add to your lexicon.

Finally... the above is, at best, an incredibly rough and inaccurate set of lessons learned. For example... the reality is that there are times when changes to dose are going to require changes in brew temp rather than vice versa. And I have not even gone into brew pressure!

That being said - right now the biggest challenge for me is that I'm doing all of this in a partial vacuum. I would be learning far faster and developing these theories both more quickly and more accurately in a collaborative environment.
I am confident that there are people who have already gone through this - I am sure that I'm repeating the mistakes and successes of others.
I am equally confident that there are others doing exactly the same thing as me in other locations.

My hope is that setting down my (rough and probably at least partially incorrect) ideas is going to result in these people sharing results with me - and this is going to create that collaboration and accelerate this process.


SF visit

So I had to go to San Francisco for work the other day.

My schedule worked out so that the best option for flying in would put me into the city a couple hours early - giving me time to visit Ritual.

I've been to Ritual a few times in the past - but mostly early on, soon after they'd opened. I figured this would be a more realistic way to check out how they're doing.

A little backstory... Ritual Coffee opened earlier this year in the Mission. Ironically, they opened a short walk from my old apartment in SF. To think that a really good coffee bar opened in my neighborhood after I left... damn. Ironic and annoying given how bad the coffee was back when I was living there. In any event, Ritual is using Stumptown coffee and is really committed to doing a great job with it. Duane has worked extensively with the folks at Ritual, and Stephen has done a ton of training with them.

In any event, I showed up right around 9am on a weekday. It was hopping. Line to the door, 5 people behind the bar. Cranking... Stepped up, said hi to Gabe and Jeremy who were working the machine and ordered an espresso.

It was a really, really good shot of Hairbender. Heavy and dense and coating without being stewed. Nice fruit, preserved aromatics... great balance. Nice chocolate, some sweetness and a lovely cinnamon/spice note.

While I drank it I watched the action behind the bar. These guys have got it dialed. The line was to the door the whole time and they're were just rolling. In the time I watched, I saw Gabe taste at least 4 shots to make sure all was going right. The care and attention being put into the coffee was impressive. The guy making press pot coffees was keeping everything clean - Jeremy had the milk flow perfect... it was impressive to see.

Then Jeremy gave me a cappuccino. Really lovely rosette. Nice espresso. To be honest, it was closer to a short latte than a capp (8oz cup, latte style milk) but it was a really, really good short latte.

Both drinks were as good as the good drinks I'd get at a Stumptown cafe. This made me feel really proud of the folks at Ritual. It's so cool to see.

In addition, the old Stumptown 5k Probat is now in residence there. It's not set up yet - but it was still really cool to see it there. Nice little memory. Plus... it means they really are going to start roasting. Love it.

The only negative about the whole experience (and this is something that others have commented on) is that the place is really over-run by laptop users. This makes the place seem kind of cold and kind of unwelcoming. There was even a laptop user working away at the counter. Actually... the seating was a challenge given how many people were taking up tables with their laptops and paperwork. I know this is not something that is easy to address and I feel a great deal of sympathy for the folks at Ritual - but it is a problem.

Otherwise... a great place. Seriously. I hope folks in SF realize how lucky they are to have a place like Ritual -- a place owned and run by people who really care about great coffee and creating a great coffee bar, and a place staffed by people who are passionate about their jobs and the products. Nice.


Brazil Daterra Reserve

Some back story...

Troels won the 2005 World Barista Championship using a coffee from Brazil - the Daterra Reserve - roasted by George Howell from Terrior.
The Daterra Reserve is a very high grade coffee from the Daterra estate in Brazil.
It's commonly called a Single-Origin Espresso which, while technically true, I take issue with as it's actually a blend of a couple different coffee cultivars grown on one estate.
This coffee is very popular amongst espresso freaks and is now roasted by a range of high-end roasters.

As a recent experiment, I had the chance to taste the Daterra as roasted by three different roasters. This was an incredibly cool opportunity to see the results of different roasting styles and philosophies and evaluate the end result in the cup.

First up was the Daterra from Terroir (as mentioned above). This is actually the first Daterra I ever tasted and the coffee I most associate with "Dattera". It's a Northern Italian style roast - quite light and focused on preserving the varietal and origin characteristics of the coffee. It seemed to perform best in an LM ridged double basket, standard dose and with the highest brew temp of the bunch (I liked it the most at 202.1F). At lower temps it had incredible aromatics, but I found that it simply had too much acidity for my taste. At the higher temp it retained much of the aromatic power (floral, citric with some raw honey notes). In the cup it was dominated by a heavy, almost fluffy marzipan flavour. There is some lovely sweet citrus in there, some hints of what I would describe as quince and a wonderful caramel finish. Medium bodied... not a big or heavy espresso. The finish is clean and sweet and not particularly long-lasting. One trick I discovered with this espresso is that simple alterations to the extraction parameters can have unusually dramatic results. Ristretto shots become quite heavy and almost cloying with aromatics degraded and a peanut note emerges. In general, I would describe this as a comforting and quite traditional espresso. It's not big, it's not "extreme." While it is good as a macchiatto, it really doesn't hold up well to much milk and is best suited for use as in straight espresso.

The second of the three was from Caffe Fresco. This is an unusual take on the Daterra as it is a much darker roast than the other two. Now... to be clear, this is in no ways a "dark" roast coffee. It's just that the other two are quite light... especially for espresso. I actually prefered this coffee in the LM ridged double basket as well, but very, very slightly updosed. At a lower brew temp I found the complexity of the coffee really emerged - In the end I found 198.8F to be my personal "sweet spot". This is not the aromatic bomb that the Terroir is. It's far less of an "unusual" espresso. In the cup it is dominated by a sort of "peanut butter cup" flavour. Sweet, nutty and with a goodly amount of chocolate. There is a little fruit brightness, but it's more of a dark or dried fruit flavour. Much heavier than the other two - this is quite coating. As a straight shot this is a bit unbalanced, but in short milk drinks it softens and rounds out. It makes a really wonderful cappuccino. I would describe this as a new american take on the classic espresso.

The third of the three was from Ecco Caffe. In terms of roast degree, this falls between the first two - though just barely darker than the Terroir. Given this, I'd expected the two coffees to have similar flavour profiles and similar target extractions. I was wrong. I'm dying to figure out how the same beans taken to very similar degrees of roast can be this different. I ended up deciding that I enjoyed this the most in a triple basket, downdosed significantly. At a brew temp of 201.2F it really hit a nice balance. In fact... the word I would use to describe this coffee overall is balance. Wonderful floral, spice and fruit notes in the aroma; it's one of those coffees that is just fun to smell. in the cup there is that same marzipan note - but there is also a really cool belgian candy sugar note. Tons of fruit up front - meyer lemon, pomegranate... you name it. Hints of various tropical spices and that sweet caramel and honey finish. Once again, this is a medium-bodied coffee but this time it's very long-lasting. I love it as a straight shot - but (perhaps because of all the fruit) it seems to hold up really well in short milk drinks as well. This coffee is the espresso equivelant of comfort food.

This was a really great experience for me.
To see the commonalities... but also the differences.
I love to see roasters creating coffees that reflect their own tastes - their own beliefs and philosophies.
Three really great espressos... a really great coffee.


proposed name change

Based on feedback, I'm suggesting the name be changed from Put Up or Shut Up 2006 to Keeping it Real 2006.


It's been brought to my attention that people might have the wrong idea about the whole Put Up or Shut Up 2006 idea...

I guess that it has to do with the general perception that I am, as they say "a cocky bastard." As a result, people are making the assumption that either:

a) the whole thing is intended by me to be a way to show off my skills, and/or
b) a way to make other people look bad.

I guess that, given the impression people have of me - I should have been able to predict that this would be the interpretation. I probably should have tried to either figure out a better way to manage this or should have had someone else suggest the whole idea.

Honestly... the majority of my motivation for the whole idea has to do with the non-tangible aspects of the Internet conflicting with the very physical nature of espresso. Seriously, haven't you wondered what the shots people post photos of really taste like? I think one of the reasons why most of the talk on the internet about coffee is not about taste is that you cannot capture and share that taste in this medium. Well... this is the chance. This could be the opportunity for you to actually taste one of those sick looking naked espressoporn shots. This could be the opportunity for me to either demonstrate or fail to demonstrate one of my many theories to you.

I share thoughts on espresso with people like Jimmy - but he's only tasted two shots from me and I've never had a chance to taste a shot pulled by him. Alistair and I trade theories all the time - but I don't think I've ever pulled shots for him.

Now... to be fair... there is a part of me that also wants to force people to step up and put their rep on the line.

And... to be blunt... even with the (very small) list of interested party I have to admit that I know all too well that I'm about to get my ass kicked. There are two or three folks who has said they're in who can run circles around me as a barista. But that's okay - I may be cocky but I'm not unrealistic about my own skills.

Given the feedback I've received I would like to suggest some revisions to the proposed structure. In particular, I'd like to suggest that we remove "scoring" and instead only have written tasting notes and opinions. In addition, I think that all "entrants" should also judge so that it is a peer deal (with other folks judging as well). Finally, I think that the WBC style standardized temp, portafilter, basket stuff should (if possible at a logistic level) not be used in this case.


More Brew Temp Stuff

I've been doing more experimentation on the whole Flat Brew Temp profile and espresso blend theory I described earlier.

Until I have access to all the component beans of a couple espresso blends as well as the combined final blend this will all remain a theory. But I have some results from Single Origin tasting that indicate that the theory is at least worth considering and pursuing.

I ran taste tests with two different beans, graded on the same scale and with the same methodology as the original blend tests.

The first was the Victrola Brazil Cerrado Natural Peaberry Fazenda Pantano CoE. The results, as you can see below, map to the predicted bell curve distribution. Please note that these scores are the aggregate scores of all the attributes. Also, please note that the scores are entirely arbitrary and self referential (i.e in all cases the temp where an attribute was considered best was given a score of 9 and further scores were relative purely to that score).

The second was the Stumptown Ethiopia Sidamo. Again, a bell curve distribution.

Interestingly, and again predictably, not only is the temp "sweet spot" different for these coffees but the bell curve itself is different for each. Note that the Brazil has a very steep drop off from its sweet spot and the drop off is nearly symetrical. The Sidamo, on the other hand, drops off rapidly on the high end, but has a more gradual slope on the low end.

I'm going to continue to pursue this angle and see what I can figure out (if anything). Hopefully a roaster will be willing to provide component beans for me for their blend so I can get some real results (I'd be glad to have the beans simply labeled "Bean One," "Bean Two" etc to protect confidentiality).


A Modest Proposal

There are a whole lot of people spending a lot of time talking shit on the internet about espresso. I'm not going to suggest that people stop - hell no. But rather, I'm going to suggest that people put some reality behind their big talk.

Put Up or Shut Up 2006

I'd like to propose the creation of an event to occur in conjuntion with the SCAA 2006 show in North Carolina. This event is not intended to be a competition, per se, but rather a chance for folks to back up their words.

Haven't you wondered about the smack various people spout on the internet about their espresso? Haven't you wished you could taste their shots and see if these folks really do know what they're talking about? Haven't you wanted to show off - to demonstrate that your espresso really is that great?

Well... this would be your chance.

What I'm suggesting is an event where "internet smack talkers" get a chance to pull shots and make drinks for peers and judges. The idea is roughly as follows (though I'm open to suggestions).

As with the USBC, there would be three "stations" that have identical setups. Baristas would have a set time period (I'm thinking 30 minutes) to check their equipment, dial it and their coffee in, etc. They then would have to make three drinks each for three tasters. The tasters would probably consist of a peer (another "shit talker" entered in the event), an experienced judge (USBC, WBC, whatever) and an average espresso enthusiast or barista. The three drinks would be as follows (in this order):
1 - espresso
2 - espresso per taster's request
3 - milk drink
The second drink would allow a judge to request a ristretto - or a shot that was sweet - or a shot that featured the dark chocolate in the espresso. These would be requested after the first shots had been served.
Milk drinks would be up to the barista.

There would be no presentation scores, no technical scores - instead the tasters would merely grade the quality of the drinks served and, most importantly, would provide tasting notes for each drink. These would be published on the internet (of course).

There would, as with the USBC, be time limits but these would be far more relaxed than with the USBC.

We'd see no winner, no finals but rather merely publication of the results.

Baristas could either bring their own coffee or work with coffee provided for them by the event.

I'm also thinking that it would be great if "spectators" could taste drinks as well in some way.

I'm more than willing to try and line up machines, coffee and even a space for this.

In addition - I'll gladly, as one of the biggest shit talkers on the internet, throw my hat into the ring as the first barista.

I figure we'll have no trouble lining up folks willing to taste and criticize. Let's see who is willing to put their 'net rep on the line.... Let's see who can back up those words.

Those of you who are in the shit talking category know how to reach me. If you're interested... drop me a line.


flat temp espresso blends

I'm going going to try and argue the value of a flat brew temp profile. Honestly... I don't know if it's the right answer and, in fact, doubt there is a true "right answer" that can be generalized across all coffees and all desired flavour profiles.

But the reality is that a huge number of serious baristas work on machines that are designed to deliver a brew temp profile that is as flat as possible -- and now the machines are actually getting close to truly delivering this profile. In addition, we're now starting to see machines that can do this in a controlled, repeatable and accurate fashion.

The trouble is that many (if not most) espresso blends are not formulated to take advantage of this profile and, in fact, in many cases are exposed by this brew methodology.

I had assumed, as I'm sure many people had, that if you were to evaluate an espresso blend across a range of brew temps you would see the quality of the shots at these temps distributed on a bell curve. With the arrival of the prototype GS3 I finally had the chance to validate this belief. To my shock - it turned out to be untrue with the first coffee I tested. And with the second. And the third.

Now - in fact, it is true at a very high level. If you look at the distribution on a 1-2F scale you see a rough bell curve for all these coffees. The curve shows different forms, but it is a bell curve. But if you evaluate the coffee at tighter granularity - for example at a 1/3F scale - you no longer see anything like a bell curve. What you see instead is a saw-tooth peaky distribution across the top of the bell curve and then a progressive drop-off on both sides from there.

At first I doubted my results but after repeating them - across multiple coffees - I had to accept them.

It actually took a vacation on the coast with friends, Valerie and Bronwen to figure this out. It was actually Valerie who figured it out. It's wave forms - intersecting.

Okay, from here on out we're talking true theory - and you need to take it all with a grain of salt unless or until I get a chance to test it.

Let me explain... espressos are made of of multiple beans in a blend. Each one of these beans, I think, has an optimal brew temp and from there a distribution for quality that is, in fact, a bell curve. The trouble is that these curves are all different.

The reason there is the saw-tooth distribution at the top of the bell curve for the blend is that you are seeing peak and trough intersections between the various beans - across all the various attributes (body, clarity, flavour, aroma, finish, etc). This is creating positive interaction points as well as negative one.

The above chart is purely fictional and incredibly (over)simplified. But none the less, it should illustrate the point. Obviously, the chart really should be multi-dimensional to represent all the attributes and characteristics of each coffee and should accurately represent the value of each bean rather than making each one a perfect 10.

But even in this simplifed example you can see the trouble. The fictional blend illustrated here would probably have shown no problems or issues on older machines. The lack of temp stability intra-shot (no flat line brew temp) as well as inter-shot would result in a variance in the brew temp that would hide the differing brew temp profiles.

On one of the new and up-coming very temp-controlled this will not be the case. Sure - you'll be able to produce good espresso assuming the beans are good and the blend is good. In fact, you'll be able to produce 3 or 4 different tasting good espressos from this depending on your brew temp. But you will not be taking advantage of what the machines can deliver here.

Now, imagine that you were to evaluate your coffees as single origin espressos at various degrees of roast. Imagine that you were to determine the bell curves for each coffee along with the flavour profiles and flavour attributes for these beans. Now create a blend where the coffees are combined not just for flavour components and desired final flavour but those combined with intersecting brew profiles.

In the past we've had to pre-determine a brew temp (at a very gross level) and then evaluate experimental blends and single-origin components based on that one temp. This doesn't have to be the case anymore. Now, we can open it all up and let the beans tell us what to do.

Here is another fictional and oversimplified example.

Note that this blend has only three beans rather than five as with the previous example. Odds are going to dictate that it's going to be increasingly difficult to find beans that match an existing profile (flavour and brew temp) with each additional bean you add to a blend. As a result, I think we may see a decrease in the number of beans in a blend if people pursue this route.

This does not mean a decrease in overall quality or complexity of the resulting espresso. The myth that single-origin espresso was inherently inferior to blend; inherently less balanced and even inherently less complex has been pretty conclusively discredited. Using these high-quality single-origin coffees for your espresso blends should allow for the creation of coffees that take advantage of the strengths of flat brew profile, temp stable machines.

If I were a roaster/retailer with a cafe using Synesso machines or looking to buy a next-gen machine like the upcoming improved GB5 I would seriously consider looking at creating a blend based on the realities of this brew temp profile.

And if I were a serious barista competitor -- I would be working on with a competition blend based on this idea.


Understanding Espresso

Today I hosted a gathering of coffee folks of all forms and persuasions.
They'd all come to check out the GS3.

It was really fun. People were really impressed.

We had a good time.

But... in retrospect... I screwed up.

The GS3 has been so exciting - it's so cool and so trick... it's one of those "fetish" pieces of gear. And as a result - I've kind of lost sight of what we're really doing here.

I've become so focused on the machine and its features and it's coolness that I've lost sight of what it means to be a barista. I've lost sight of the espresso.

Today I served coffee to people that wasn't as good as it could have been - not because I was having an off day but because it wasn't what I was focused on.
The espresso had become an excuse for the use of the machine.
And that is just plain wrong.

I wasn't paying attention.
I wasn't focused.
I wasn't thinking about the coffee.

It's been a slow, incremental process of losing my focus and becoming more and more distracted and less and less interested in taste.
I just stopped paying attention to the flavour - I stopped thinking about the results and treating the machine as what it is - a tool for creating great espresso. Yes - it's a truly great tool for this purpose - but I need to stay focused on that goal and on that purpose.

To those who came and visited - I apologize. I did you all a disservice. I promise I'll do my level best to never let it happen again.

I need to get back to what it's all about.
I need to get back to what's in the cup.
Because that is what this is all about. All the time. Every day.

Tomorrow is a new day.


Full details and progress notes (and tons of photos) for the GS3 Prototype eval are here.


I know that some people consider me an egomaniac.

Regardless, it's nice to get some external validation of my opinions on the GS3.

Billy and Dan from Albina Press came over to play with the machine today. It's was incredibly cool.

We all pulled a whole bunch of shots of the Hairbender, made some cappuccinos and an americano, drank way too much coffee, talked smack and even broke out the Scace again.

It sounds like we have total agreement on two differences in the cup with this machine (as compared to a Linea for example). First - it's a "denser" cup, with a very heavy and coating mouthfeel. Second - it's very, very clean - the elusive "clarity" thing again. It was great to have both of them say the same things I've been thinking when it comes to the experience of the espresso from this machine.

Billy made a couple rocking cappuccinos (though both he and Dan also struggled with the lack of articulation on the wand).

It was a serious geek fest!

Oh... and the Scace tests showed ridiculous temp stability - both Intra and Inter shot. Scary to think that this is a prototype and the PID is still going to get tuned more.

Way too fun!

Add to this Kyle's comment about a shot from the machine that "sweet jesus, it was one of the top shots of Hair Bender I have had, aside from ones pulled at the Stumptown cafes by Stumptown baristas" and I'm starting to feel more confident in my enthusiasm for this machine.


The GS3 continues to impress and delight.

And, in light of what I'm learning about this machine I have a little mea culpa to deliver. I've long said, "the espresso machine is a tool - like a hammer. It's all in the skill of the barista." While this may be true - the reality is that some methods of driving nails are far, far more effective, efficient, consistent and easy to use than others. If your usual "prosumer" espresso machine is a hammer than this baby is a belt drive, pneumatic nail gun.

I've issues an open invitation to folks to come and check the machine out on Friday AM. This will be a chance for people to look at the machine, taste espressos and espresso drinks made with it, pull shots and talk smack.

I have the feeling I'm going to be saying, "sorry - but you cannot look behind the curtain" a whole lot - but in the end I figure that I'm going to get some good results, some good opinions and give folks a chance to see something really extraordinary.

Should be fun.


Marzocco GS3

For those with a keen eye, yes... the previous post was, in fact, the long-awaited La Marzocco GS3. To be more exact, it was a prototype of the GS3.

For those who don't know... the La Marzocco GS refers to a series of historic machines. Beginning with the original GS (the "paddle group" machine) and then moving on to the semi-auto GS2 - the Marzocco GS line represented a breakthrough machine at the time. These machines are still in use and many people feel that they still represent some of the best machines made.

The folks at LMI (in particular, Bill Crossland and of course John Blackwell and Kent Bakke) began working on a new GS machine a while back. This has been refered to as the "La Marzocco Home Machine" on and off. As time has passed, various details have leaked and various prototypes displayed. Earlier this year better details were finally made public and recently some new prototypes have been released. These are "late model" prototypes given that the launch date for the machine is said to be in this coming year.

After much begging and pleading - and with the help of folks like Bronwen, Terry, Kent et al - I finally got a chance to check out one of the prototypes. So now I have a prototype GS3 sitting in my kitchen. Incredible!!!

This is a single group, 110v, automatic machine. It's a reservoir machine rather than a plumbed in one. It has an internal rotary pump. It's dual boiler and it's PID controlled.

It is sick.

After four days of testing it is very clear that:

1 - this is really not a home machine in the same way that an 8 burner Viking Stove is not a home range. Yes, it can be used in your home and yes, it would be amazing in your home -- but to say it's overkill is an understatement. If money were no object... sure, I'd have both in my home!

2 - this is a true, no-compromise dream machine. It takes everything that Marzocco has learned and applies it all in one, small, box. And it throws in a few new twists as well. The tech geeks are going to get all hot and bothered over this machine --- but at the same time, the coffee freaks are going to seriously flip out when they taste the results in the cup.

It's incredible. Truly incredible.
I'm actually having a hard time accurately measuring temp stability due to standard deviation with my measurement rig. I mean - sure, I can easily conclude that we're looking at stability of equal to or less than 0.5F. Beyond that... I'm having to jump through some ridiculous hoops.
And in the cup... I'm getting espresso with all the clarity I dream of - the definition and distinct flavours of a shot from a PID'ed Mistral or Synesso or GB5. And at the same time I get incredible concentration and a super dense and syrupy mouthfeel. Shots are incredibly intense and focused.

I've pulled shots with five different coffees now. I'm starting to see some commonalities in character of shot. Reproduction of flavour is fantastic, clarity is amazing and mouthfeel is just plain sick. I'm wondering if the incredible temp stability is resulting in a higher amount of emulsified oils.

Life is GOOD.


Beautiful Coffees

I've had the opportunity recently to cup a number of truly amazing coffees (thanks Jim, Stephen and - of course - Duane).

First (and foremost) I have had the opportunity to make espresso drinks with some (old) Panama Esmerelda. Usually, with a coffee of this quality and of this scarcity, you stick to the periodic lucky shot of straight espresso. Because this was old - and because there was a bunch of it - I was able to really experiment. After some work I discovered that it makes an amazing cappuccino. I was finding that it was best with a heavy-ish dose (around 19.5 grams in a ridged LM double basket) and a higher temp than the Hairbender (around 200.5F). Pulled a little ristretto, this results in a cappuccino that tastes like a "chocolate-orange creamsicle". Mmm.... Lovin' it!

Anyway... to the new coffees.

Incredible table over the weekend. Mind-blowing in fact. Notes...

El Salvador Guachipilin - A wonderfully nutty coffee. Very round and rich, with dominant pecan pie, blackstrap molasses, tropical spice and fruity pipe tobacco notes. Buttery mouthfeel. Lovely.
Nicaragua Torrez - Very sweet and clean. Caramel, stone fruit and a lovely dark chocolate body. Balanced and yet complex. Really nice.
Nicaragua Finca Milton - An incredibly rounded and balanced coffee. Dominated by sweet apricot notes with a ton of honey-sweetness balanced out by Meyer Lemon and winter melon and purple grape. The kind of soft and sweet coffee that you can drink all day.
Honduras Mirador - Bright and crisp and clean in the cup. Dominated by pink grapefruit and lemon zest notes. Wonderful floral aromas (coffee blossom, night-blooming jasmine). Light, bright and tasty.
El Salvador Finca Kilimanjaro (flats) - Lovely... just lovely. A very, very complicated coffee with tons of upfront acidity and layers and layers of flavour behind that bright fruit. Rosewater, tangerine zest, blackberries up front that peel away to reveal raw honey and molasses, red desert wine, berry, dark chocolate... the list goes on and on. The amazing thing is that this stays balanced!
El Salvador Finca Kilimanjaro (peaberry) - An amazing experience to cup the flats and the peaberry next to eachother. The peaberry came across as an "amped up" version of the flats. Same flavour notes - but with a little better differentiation and a touch more power. Tangerine became Meyer Lemon - blackberries revealed hidden layers of other berry as well (huckleberry, raspberry). An incredible coffee and a personal favorite.
Kenya AA Tegu - Even on this table, the Tegu stands out. Incredibly rich and complex. Aromas of tomato paste and scallion greens and Rhone red wines. Flavour notes of beef broth, cassis and stonefruit and a wonderful red wine acidity. Heavy and intense and yet bright and crisp. Wonderfully balanced.
Panama Esmerelda Especiale - If the Tegu is the masculine "King" then this is the voluptuous "Queen" of the table. Seemingly possessing every floral and fruit aroma on the planet. Jasmine and bergamot, vanilla and grapefuit, tropical flowers and fruit blossoms. It's all there. Notes of sweet tangerine, Moscato d'Asti, Assam tea, sweet chocolate, honeycomb, sweet apple, melon.... the list goes on and on. Soft and round and balanced and layered beyond belief. Just incredible.

To say "Wow" seems not enough. To say "Thank You" seems ungrateful.
This is going to be a good winter season if you live in Portland and love coffee.
See you at the Annex.



So everyone is asking me why I'm all excited about the Clover.
I start getting worked up about it - I try to explain and people look at me like I'm insane.
So I'm going to try and explain.

Right now I see a huge problem in the coffee world. Actually, I see tons but we'll focus for now on this one.

Coffee is seen as a commodity.

This is incredibly significant.

Let me explain.
Right now, to most people, coffee is coffee is coffee. As long as it's dark and strong and has caffeine it's good. There are some people who are "into" coffee and for them there is a little more focus and understanding. For them, there is an appreciation of the difference between (for example) coffee brewed as drip and coffee brewed in a French Press. Or for the difference between Colombian coffee and Indonesian coffee.
But these people are a minority - a small minority. And even among these people, there isn't really a clear grasp of the idea of there being a difference between (for example) a bourbon grown in Brazil and a bourbon grown in Bolivia much less an appreciation of the difference between one year's harvest and the next or the difference the terroir of a specific micro-region can create or the differences between various processing methods.
We are not yet at the stage wine is at.

None of this is helped by the current options available for preparing brewed coffees.

Nothing could be more frustrating (IMHO) than to spend a ton of time and money and energy to source the best green beans around, roast them with care and then stick them in a big old drip brewer. And it sits... So customers are tasting a poor imitation of the coffee that has been the focus of such care and effort. This just seems profoundly disrespectful to me.

Honestly, I'd rather not serve brewed coffee than serve it from a drip brewer.

And the consumers taste this coffee - with its muted and muffled varietal and terroir differences; with its destroyed aromatics and its boosted body and its bitter alkaloid bite. Is it any shock that they don't appreciate the differences between bourbon and pacamara? Between cherries picked by hand at their peak and those mechanically bulk harvested? Between perfectly roasted and slightly scorched?
Is it any shock that they don't see the value in coffee as something other than a commodity?

And this is why I'm so excited by the whole Clover thing. It would give consumers a chance to experience the coffee brewed at a coffee bar in a manner that was not a significant degradation of quality. Is it as good as when it is cupped? Of course not. Would the results be better than if you took the same beans home and immediately, with care and experience, made a Vac Pot from them? No. But it is, IMHO, the best way to currently prepare high quality brewed coffee in a retail environment. I prefer the cup quality to what you get from a Melitta bar and it's far less messy and labour intensive than that option. I find the cup quality similar (in quality, not flavour) to press pot, and it's far less labour and time intensive and less messy than that option.

And I love the idea of offering the consumer a choice. They can have any of the coffees - brewed to order - right then. That, to me, really changes the dynamics here. It starts (finally) really moving us away from the whole "coffee is coffee; coffee is a commodity" thing. It really creates in the mind of the consumer the idea that coffees taste different from eachother.

And perhaps most of all - it treats the coffees with respect.

For me - If I were running a roaster/retailer I'd build my business around a Clover and a high-end espresso machine. This would allow me to showcase the coffees - and would (IMHO) translate into better whole bean sales and better customer retention as a result.


Clover in action

The Clover is in testing mode at Victrola.
Customers seem very pleased ("Wow! This is much better than drip!"). Machine seems to be doing just fine.

Baristas at play (Clover on the counter)

You were asking if it could handle volume, right?


Alistair, Mark Prince, Andrew Barnett, Bruno and Zander talk about the Clover 1 after cupping Bruno's coffee and tasting it from the Clover at the V2 Speakeasy.

Tony from Victrola roasted up a bunch of Bruno's fantastic coffee.
The crew above started tasting, evaluating and in general geeking out.

When you've got a CoE Brazil judge and a Brazilian producer tasting coffee from your product... You gotta know Zander was feeling some pressure.

The Clover 1 has arrived.



So the news from Seattle is all good.
I wish I'd been able to be there.
So much.

It sounds like the competition went really well.
Jen Prince is the new Northwest Champ. Various sources indicate that she kicked total ass in both rounds. Not a shock - she was one of the two big favorites to take it.
I'm glad that the machines were semi-auto Lineas. Very cool. Maybe we won't see autos any more in competition - wouldn't that be nice.

And from all sources, it seems the Zoka party was a big success.
Tonight is the Elysian Brewing party. Damn... I'm sure wishin' I was there.

And the rumour mill is spinning big time about the Clover. It sounds like people were blown away.
Plus - I gather the V2 Speakeasy was the place to be.



It's back.

The dream comes true. Do I really need a car?


So I was accused today of slacking off.
I was told that it's been FAR too long since I posted any photos.

Hmmm... In retrospect, it has been far too long. But slacking... nah.

Anyway, here's some recent photos to whet the appetite.

Setting the grind for shots of an experimental blend from Terry at DOMA

A shot of the Stumptown Ethiopia Sidamo

Valerie's morning cappuccino (Hairbender)


Tonx's thoughts on the Clover 1.

I guess I'm not the only one who came with doubts or who left impressed.

cat.... bag....

Everyone has been hounding me for more details on Clover.

I finally got the go-ahead to provide a story.

So here it is.

Earlier this year I was contacted by one of the people I respect the most in the coffee industry - Kent Bakke. He told me that there was a company in Seattle that had developed a piece of equipment and some technology that was going to "change coffee." He told me I needed to check it out. Given who was telling me this, I said "of course."

I then found out that the equipment was a one-cup brewer.
If you know me, you can imagine my disappointment.
But... this was Kent. I'd said I would check it out.

So I drove up to Seattle and went out to the Coffee Equipment Company's HQ and lab. I brought a couple Stumptown coffees with me. I figured I could run in, smile, look at the machine, make some coffee, shake some hands and head over to see the folks at Hines.

So I met the team. Hmmm... very familiar. Bay Area startup vibe. Interesting.
And then I went to the lab. Pretty geeky-cool actually. OK.
They brewed a cup. Wow. Fast!!! Quick taste. Pretty over-extracted.
"No problem," they say. Dial it from "strong" setting to "medium" setting.
Wait... I see some cupping bowls. Cool!
I have them brew some Ethiopia Yirgacheffe MAO at the "medium-light" setting and it goes into a cupping bowl. Grab a cupping spoon. Slurp.


Okay. So it's not perfect. I'm getting a little alkaloid taste. But damn. This is better than almost any brewed coffee I've had. On par, to my taste, with most Press Pot coffee.

Some more tweaks. Now cup the Harar. Damn. Again.

I'm getting excited.
"How long does this take to brew," I ask.
"30 seconds."

At the time I made this first visit I was obsessed with the (at that time) soon-to-open Stumptown Annex. The centerpiece of the Annex was planned to be brewed by the cup coffee - your choice of all Stumptown coffees. Logistically, this presented some serious challenges.
So seeing this machine instantly resonated with me.

A couple weeks later I went back to experience the next generation of the machine. This time I was joined by Chris, Jen and Tony from Victrola; Bronwen from Hines and Kent Bakke. We all brought coffees.

The improvements were fantastic. The alkaloid hints were gone. Cup character was now at a mid-point between press pot and vac pot.
Everyone was impressed.

Time went by, the product was iterated. Improved.

And now there is Clover 1.
A machine that is designed for coffee bars that want to brew by the cup, but want to accurately reproduce cup character - and do so with high volume.
A machine that allows customers to choose any coffee available and in a minute have a freshly brewed cup handed to them - with extraction profiles adjustable to taste.
A machine that can do this over, and over, and over again. A minute per cup including time to select and grind coffee.


I know a lot of you are going "yeah - but" or even "yeah, right."
All I can say is that you need to get an invite to the V2 Speakeasy (email Tony), grab some of your favorite coffee, a coffee you are most familiar with and get yourself to V2. Tell them you want to cup this coffee prepared through the Clover 1.
And be prepared to be shocked.


How lucky we are

So I got an email from Klaus ('Chaff Bitch') today.
He was telling me how jealous he is of folks over here - how things seem to be really exciting all of a sudden.
It was ironic because earlier today I was thinking about how lucky folks in PDX are.

I'd gone up to North Portland (getting a tattoo on my broken leg, something symbolic and important to me you know). Atlas Tattoo is right down the block from The Albina Press so I decided to drop in and wish Billy well in the coming NWRBC. He wasn't there so I chatted with Kevin a bit and then Dan made me a macchiatto. And it was really amazing. A great drink.
As I drove back home I started thinking about how rare it is for people to get to taste a truly great espresso drink. And then started thinking about how here in Portland it actually isn't that hard much less that rare. There are about a half dozen coffee bars in Portland that I would be more than willing to send a friend to for a drink - without coming along to supervise. And then there are probably another half dozen within 45 from Portland.
Add to this the coffees available in Portland (ranging from the Panama Esmerelda to the Kenya AA Tegu to the El Puente to the new Sidamo to the Las Nubitas and the Los Delirios and and and....).

I just hope folks in Portland realize how lucky they really are. It's a special place - and it's a special time in coffee. Treasure it.

Meanwhile I just wrapped up an article that I think is going to be cool.
I'm back on my feet and off crutches - but my Physical Therapists are saying "no" to my being able to go to Seattle this weekend. This is a truly crushing blow. I'm hoping to convince them otherwise tomorrow. I really, really want to see the competition. I really, really want to check out the antique machine collections. I really, really want to go to the Victrola speakeasy. I really, really want to go to the parties, see my friends... waaahhhhhh.

But I just got some coffees in from DOMA. That's cool!

Finally... if you are going to be in Seattle this weekend... I just found out the cupping list for the cuppings being held at the NWRBC. All I can say is SICK!!!
Be there.


So everyone has been asking.

"What's the big secret hush-hush event?"
"What's this Clover thing all about?"

These and other questions will all be answered.

The event (we'll call it a Speakesy):

Invite only, within the trade only, VIPs only.
Just a couple blocks up the hill from the convention center.
This Friday, Saturday and Sunday (28,29,30) 1-7pm each day.
Check out the site of the new Victrola Roasting Facility (yes indeed).
Check out some cool new toys.
Hang out with nice people. Drink great coffee. Talk smack about the competitions, about the shows, about everything and everyone.
It's the place to be.
Various other stuff too cool to mention... (heh).
If you want an invite, send email to tony@victrolacoffee.net - or get the skinny from the folks at Victrola on 15th.

Clover 1:

What is Clover 1?
Why are coffee geeks' hearts aflutter when they see it?
Come and see the unveiling of this mysterious technological marvel during Coffeefest Seattle starting this Friday.
The Clover 1 is a really exciting piece of equipment which will change a lot of thinking about how and why brewed coffee is served in coffeebars. The unveiling for friends and colleagues will occur not at Victrola, but at the to-be-unveiled site of Victrola's future roasting facility.
Come, taste, play, experiment, marvel.


perhaps a required upgrade

I was up at Espresso Parts Northwest the other day talking with Terry et al.

Saw the info on their La Marzocco PID upgrade kit.

If you have a Linea or FB70 you need to call them up. This is the real deal. Full retrofit kit. Relay, probe setup and PID controller.
And the price I saw.... a total, complete steal!

Order it.
Before he sells out.

Oh... and if you have not picked up a Scace Thermofilter - you might want to snag one of them. The retrofit kit plus the Thermofilter and a Fluke and you'll have every espresso geek's dream rig.


More Cool Stuff

So I'm hearing rumours of at least two more (related?) cool things that are going to occur next weekend - during the whole CoffeeFest/NWRBC shindig.

I don't have full data on either yet - but it sounds like we're going to be seeing some cool new equipment and at least one big announcement and associated party.

Stay tuned for more news as this develops...


If any of you are in, or will be in the Seattle area at the end of the month - you owe it to yourself to go to the Northwest Regional Barista competition.

Yeah - there will be rock star baristas in action.
Yeah - there will be parties at Cyclops and Elysian Brewing and Zoka and and and.
Yeah - there will be cool people and tasty treats and chances to cheer for your favorites.
Yeah - the best barista in the Northwest will be crowned (and awarded $1k in cash!!).

But... there also are going to be a couple of amazing opportunities that you should not miss.

First - there is going to be an antique espresso museum machine. Various machines from the collections of Kent Bakke, John Blackwell, Duane Sorenson and John Sanders are going to be on display. These include most if not all of the seminal and key machines in the history of espresso machine development. Perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Second - during the competition, there will be periodic cupping events (2-3 per day). The coffees being cupped will be limited to those that are award winning. If you want to get a chance to taste coffees from the Cup of Excellence, Kenya and Ethiopian Auction Lot coffees and coffees from the Best of Panama (like the Esmerelda Especial and the Carmen Estate) then this is your chance. Again... the chance to see cupping tables like this... probably also a once in a lifetime event.

Oct 28-30.
MOHI (800 Pike, across from the Convention Center)
Seattle WA



I'm tired of this whole "4 star" silliness.
I'm tired of people wanting coffee bars to be restaurants, of whining about baristas not sucking up to customers - of the whole stupid idea.
There is a reason it's called a coffee bar.
"Barista" is a bartender.

Coffee bars should be like bars.
Baristas should be bartenders.

Is there a "4 star" movement in bars?
How many times have you heard people talk about "lovable surly" bartenders?
When I go to Toronado in SF do I get cranky about the fact that it's beat up? That there are no linen tablecloths? That it's kind of a dive? Do I refuse to tip because the bartender hasn't smiled at me and in fact has been a bit abusive.
Why? Because they are the best beer bar in the US.
Why? Because the beer they serve is incredible, the bartenders know their beer, their selection is amazing and their commitment to (or even obsession with) these great beers is incredible.
Do they serve panini? Do they offer blended drinks?
Hell no!
They are a BEER BAR.

And this is the model we should be following.
Passion. Committment. Taste. Vision. Single-minded obsession.

So... with that...
I announce the formation of the B.W.A (Baristas With Attitude).
We're bastards, we're surly - but we know coffee, we're passionate about coffee and we're going to get you the best damn coffee you've ever had.
'Cause if what you want is someone to blow smoke up your ass there are a thousand places for that - but if what you want is to share a passion for great coffee and get a great coffee drink, then a crumb scraper isn't going to mean shit to you.


Northwest Regional Barista Competition

So I've learned yet more about the comp.
It's going to kick ass.
There are so many cool things planned... I think this is going to set a new standard for these regional barista competitions.

Rumour has it that these have been filling up fast in all the regions - and the Northwest Region, as we all know, has tons of serious baristas. If you're interested in competing you need to fill out and send in your registration form ASAP. If you're interested in judging... same goes for you.

And if you have any thoughts of being in the Pacific Northwest the last week of October, well... you owe it to yourself to come check out the madness.

Oct 28-30. Seattle WA.
Be there!!!

I'm so excited.


cool tools kick ass

Slowly slowly we're starting to actually learn about espresso.

Over the last week or two, I've had the chance to work more extensively with the so-called "Scace Thermofilter Device." This is a rig to scientifically measure espresso machine brew temp. It's being used to evaluate machines for use in the WBC; it's in use by various machine vendors for calibration purposes; and most top machine techs seem to have one for doing quick adjustments to the machines they maintain. It's not cheap - but it's very good at what it does.

As a result of the time I've spent with this device I have learned a number of things. Most importantly, I've had to radically re-evaluate my perceptions on optimal brew temps.

For example - using the old school methods (pioneered by Schomer et al) for measuring brew temp I had the idea that the Hairbender was best at around 199 or 200 F. Using the Scace, I've determined that the optimal brew temp is more like 197 or 198 F. This is a big difference.

Interestingly, this has lead me to discover that, when brewed at the optimal (for my tastes) brew temp, the Hairbender is actually better at a lower brew pressure than I'd thought. At brew pressures of below 9BAR the crema persistance becomes noticably weaker - but the flavour and mouthfeel improves. I'm really liking the results at around 8.5BAR right now.

And this has lead me to discover that, when brewed at this temp and pressure, the Hairbender tastes best (to me) at 3 days out of the roaster rather than at 4 days.

Very cool.

I've also been playing around with a super-fancy borrowed pH meter rig. I'm finding some unusual things about coffee.

Oh... and we're a month away and counting from the mighty Northwest Regional Barista Championship. This is always a fun event - but this year should be even better than usual. It's being hosted by Hines and Stumptown - so you can assume that it is going to be fun, wild, crazy, intense... all the usual stuff you'd associate with those two companies. I'm starting to hear about the plans and all I have to say is BE THERE. Seriously. 27-29 October. Seattle.

finally - on a non-coffee note - it turns out that i have to have ankle surgery after all. pretty much a total drag. so i'll be laid up and on crutches again. and then back to PT. seeming a bit never-ending right about now.


SCAA Moving Forward

In light of the recent discoveries at the SCAA, I think we need to start thinking about the future of the organization more seriously.

It seems as if the current issues are being addressed by the SCAA.

But getting through this current crisis is only the beginning. For the organization to survive long-term, a plan needs to be developed and actions taken to both restructure the organization and address the concerns of the membership.

First - I would strongly suggest that the SCAA bring in an external consultant to help restructure the organization and put in place best practices governance policies, procedures and structures. The organization truly needs this right now. Not only given the recent events -but also given the severe PR and trust hit the organization and the leadership of the organization have taken and will continue to take. The damage is far more likely to be significant at this level than at any (long-term) financial problems. This damage, if not carefully managed, could actually destroy the organization. Bringing in external assistance to help with this, and announcing not only that this person has been retained, but what they've been retained to do is going to go a long way towards easing tensions and preventing further damage.

At the risk of jumping the gun on this person's advice, I would tend to also suggest some changes in the organization.

First - move to a two board structure. The actual board would have to be not only free of any real conflict of interests but free even of the perception of conflict of interest. The advisory board could have people who were industry insiders on it, who would thus have a perceived conflict of interest. The advisory board would primarily function as a funnel for lobbying efforts, but would not have any vote. The true board would provide oversight and governance.

Second - The new executive director (or CEO) should not come from within the SCAA and should not come from within coffee, but instead should be brought in from a large, stable and successful industry non-profit. I would suggest looking for someone who had managed the stabilization of a large non-profit that had been experiencing significant membership churn and which had been traditionally weak in the areas of PR and Marketing.

Third - Move the SCAA from Long Beach to somewhere more likely to encourage on-site board and member involvement.

Fourth - Need to focus on building a long-term endowment for the organization.

Fifth - Obviously, need to rework the financial oversight. Suggest the obvious (yearly audits, total financial transparency to both the board and to members).

I truly believe that this can turn out to be a long-term positive event for the organization. I think many people have had problems with the organization. In particular, there has been terrible membership churn, there is a perceived sense of stagnation in the organization and there has been a noticable lack of transparency in the operations of the organization.

With luck, this could turn out to be the catalyst needed to move the SCAA into the 21st century.


SCAA Scandal

This was posted on another site, so I guess it's public now...

"Following the resignation and departure of the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s (SCAA) Chief Operating Officer on September 12th, a serious cash shortage was revealed. An immediate investigation by SCAA’s Executive Director uncovered serious accounting irregularities and a loss of SCAA’s cash reserves.

The association has reported this situation to the appropriate authorities, including insurers and the police. A formal investigation has been initiated and is ongoing.

The SCAA President, Secretary/Treasurer and Legal Counsel were immediately advised of the situation when it was discovered. They first informed the Executive Committee and then the entire Board of Directors. Following notification, the Board took the following actions: they 1) reported the nature, scope, and seriousness of the problem to the 125+ Committee members participating in the previously scheduled annual planning meeting; 2) restricted check signing authority to the Executive Director and Secretary/Treasurer of the Board of Directors; and 3) developed an action plan through the Committee structure to resolve the current cash crisis.

The elements of the plan for moving the association out of the crisis are three-fold. First, the SCAA has created a membership endowment fund to cover the association’s short-term loss of working capital. Second, it is continuing the normal conference planning process so that the SCAA’s Charlotte conference and exhibition is just as successful as the previous 17 events. Third, it is streamlining headquarters activities to operate within the current limits of available resources from membership dues.

The combined goodwill and determined efforts of the SCAA board of directors, staff, volunteers, members and business partners will ensure the timely and effective resolution of this situation. SCAA remains committed to its membership and is dedicated to ensuring the specialty coffee industry remains viable and strong . Rick Peyser, President of the SCAA Board of Directors, said, “The SCAA will continue to be the leading source of information and services for the rapidly growing specialty coffee community. We are moving forward with Executive Director Ted Lingle to achieve the plans we have developed and are looking forward to an outstanding annual conference that will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina April 7-10, 2006.”

The SCAA board will keep all association stakeholders informed regarding the current status of the situation and the full outcome of the investigation."

Needless to say, this is shocking and terrible.
At the same time, it was somewhat inevitable given the incredibly poor governance, cultural acceptance of "petty corruption", lack of accountability and culture of secrecy that was (and is) the SCAA.

Time for a revolution.

Official notice.

A blast from the past

I figure the timing might be interesting.
The following was first posted as a part of a larger piece here back in May of this year.
So here we go...

As a warning, I am 100% confident that I’m going to manage to piss off a lot of you at some point in this. Please understand that what I’m writing here is not only just my own opinion on things but that it’s entirely not personal and not directed at any person or people.

Specialty Coffee in the US – thoughts on the community, the people and the structures.

So we need to shake things up. How?

Well… the SCAA needs to change (first and foremost). I have a ton of respect for the employees of the SCAA. Folks like Michelle Campbell are the life’s blood of this industry. But the current governance, board and committee setup is severely broken. To a large degree it seems to be geared around protecting existing power bases and reputations and egos – around supporting and abetting conflicts of interest… in other words, it is your traditional profoundly corrupt political organization. There are some people involved who are trying to change things – there are some good politicians. But they are the exception.

As a result of the corruption and political nature of the organization, you see things like the institutionalized lack of interest in communication with and education of the consumer base. You see things like the pandering to certain vendors and the undue influence of certain vendors and organizations. You see stagnation in programs and offerings. You see an organization that is not leading the industry, but rather trailing the industry (and in the cases of the quality focused coffee companies, doing so rather severely).

These are all bad. And they are all a profound failure of the mission of an organization like the SCAA.

Given this, we really need to see not just a change in personnel at a governance level but also some structural and procedural changes as well.

I had some hope with the recent elections, but even that was (honestly) a long-term and incremental change that was unlikely to solve anything in the immediate future. Now that the results have come out, it is clear that nothing is going to change in the near future. As one person said, “the trouble with the old guard is that they all vote.” So now what do we do? People have to change. It didn’t happen in the election so I guess it’s going to have to happen in a bit less orderly of a manner.

When it comes to structure and procedures, we really need far more transparency and far more accountability. There is a Kremlin-esque quality to the SCAA that is really disturbing to me. The people working in this industry tend to have no idea what the SCAA committees and boards are doing, what the goals are – and there is little or no accountability when it comes to results. This then creeps out throughout the industry and infects all other organizations. As a result, the USBC ends up being incredibly secretive, political and insular. I’m afraid we could even end up seeing the same thing happening to the BGA.

Reading back through this I realize I sound very angry. And that isn’t quite true. I’m frustrated. I feel like there is so much potential in this industry and so much energy and passion in the people in the industry. But I feel like the organizations and structures that are in place to support, promote and represent us are failing to help us all get where we need and are instead creating a junior high school sideshow drama that is getting close to the point where quality focused companies have no choice but to simply jump ship.

Honestly – given the caliber of people in this industry – we deserve better.


Espresso "reviews"

As many are aware, I have always had some major issues with espresso "reviews" as both a concept and as a practice.

First and foremost... too many "reviews" are conducted without truly skilled baristas involved. This, of course, is akin to "reviewing" espresso using a Ouiji Board.

Secondly... the vast majority of "reviews" seem to assume that there is one generalized brew temp, brew pressure, dose and extraction volume/time that works for all espressos.

Third... almost all "reviews" are not adaptive and iterative. I.e. the "reviewers" do not provide feedback to the "barista" to help them tune the espresso extraction parameters to get the best our of a coffee.

Fourth... there seems to be no appreciation for the importance of the machine/grinder choice, cleaning and servicing.

The above has, by now, resulted in my suggesting to any and all roasters that they not provide espressos for review. It's simply a crap shoot - and the damage that can be done to your brand and your business is significant. It's not worth the risk in my opinion.

This has recently become demonstrated to me by a couple interactions and experiences.

First - I had a moment of hope last week where I honestly thought that we might see the first serious and respectful treatment of coffee and espresso in a mass market publication. All the signs were looking good. And then I found out how the espresso "tasting" was going to be done.... depressing.

Second - one of the best coffee cuppers out there (and someone I really respect) reviewing espressos and pulling all shots with a dose of 14 grams and an extraction time of "17-23 seconds." No indication of what the brew temp was. So... you get an espresso that is "thin bodied" and "sharp". Ummm... maybe you might want to up the dose to more like 18 grams? Maybe take the extraction time to 27 seconds? Or pull the shot ristretto? Maybe your brew temp is too high? Or you get another espresso that is "lean in body" with an "astringent finish." Again... perhaps your brew temp is off. Or your extraction time and volume is wrong (for this coffee). And... what a shock, the best reviewed coffees seem to all have an optimal combination of low dose, short extraction time and high brew temp.

Now this is why I suggest roasters not provide espresso samples for review.

We need an independent espresso review and analysis and research lab.


The Mystery of the Triple Basket

I've often wondered about the popularity of the triple basket. I have generally been opposed to it on principle (though I've used it with certain coffees that seem to be optimized for this basket like the Black Cat). I've considered it to be, philosophically, a crutch of sorts. And I found that few coffee actually tasted best when extracted from this basket. So I wondered...

I had long theorized that people liked using it for three reasons.

1 - It results in a "stronger" espresso. (It seems like, for many Americans, when it comes to coffee quality equals perceived "strength." Thus a triple is more and thus better than a double.)

2 - It is ridgeless and thus easier to use. (Ridged baskets require far more accuracy and control in dosing.)

3 - It allows for a flavour profile that is more concentrated and intense. (With a triple basket you can pull a sort of "large double ristretto" if you will, that is as concentrated and dense as a ristretto but has more volume - though in actual volume it is about half way between a double ristretto and a triple ristretto).

Recently, however, I've discovered two new potential causes - one of which is probably important.

You'll note that all three reasons above are the sort of things that professional baristas might obsess over. And thus... I decided they were likely the motivations behind the popularity of the basket. For the average serious home barista, however, there are other issues at play here.

1 - The shots look "better". (With the increased popularity of the naked portafilter for home use - and with the rise of the "money shot" style of photography commonly called espresso pornography - there is a huge amount of pride at stake in how these shots look when they are extracting. Shots from a triple basket look "better" and photograph "better.")

2 - With a triple basket you can get decent shots with stale coffee. (This is the important one. Today I experimented with some 7 day old coffee from Ecco Caffe. When fresh, this was a lovely, subtle and balanced espresso. Now, in a double basket it is quite flat and undefined, with little dynamic range and limited aromatics. In the triple basket, however, I can pull a 1.75oz shot that is incredibly concentrated, dense and enjoyable - especially in milk. My guess is that I should be able to get decent shots out of this coffee this way for another day or two.)

Given that most serious home baristas do not get free coffee, do not have access to a top-notch pro roaster less than 100 feet away... there are some economic drivers here that are quite significant. I calculated the other day that, on average, I get about 4 double shots out of a 1/2 lb of coffee. Yes... this is skewed by the fact that I change blends a lot and have to work hard to dial in the grind, thus wasting a lot of coffee. But the reality is that I throw out stale coffee. I throw out shots that are drinkable but not as good as they could be.

If I had to actually pay for my coffee... this would be a very expensive habit.

Suddenly, the popularity of the triple basket makes a ton of sense to me.


why i love the esmerelda

So today I got to taste some more of the Esmerelda.
This time, brewed through the Melitta.

It is so good.
I don't even know how to explain how good it is.
Wonderful molasses notes and the inter-twined bergamot, muscato d'asti... hints of tangerine and jasmine... like a lovely old vintage Rum or an incredible Belgian Gran Cru ale.

While it may not be the "dessert island coffee" that the Las Nubitas is, there is little doubt in my mind about what coffee (out of all coffees) I'd pick for a special treat cup.

The thing about the Esmerelda is that each sip is different. Each cup is different. You taste and taste and pay more and more attention and you just can't wrap your head around it.
It's that complex.

I was talking with someone today who asked me how I thought it would compare to other Geisha coffees grown in Ethiopia.
I was glad to say that I had, in fact, cupped it along side a number of auction lot Geisha coffees. And that it was head and shoulders above the rest.

I feel honored and priveleged to experience this coffee every time I taste it. It's not the price. It's not the scarity. It's the experience of something that is truly special.



playing with beans

i've been busy trying to come up with an illustration of a theory i mentioned a while back about a possible simple but great espresso blend. and finally i've succeeded. thanks to all the folks who roasted and sourced these wonderful beans!!

Base - Brazil Fazenda Cachoiera Pulped Natural
Primary Accent - Brazil Cerrado Daterra Reserve
Secondary Accent - Rwanda Musasa
Tertiary Accent - Guatemala Finca San Vincente


All roasted Full City.

The best thing about this blend is that it was simple and flexible and yet incredibly good tasting. I was able to find four different "sweet spot" sets of parameters for brewing. It tasted fine at a range of temps and a range of doses and basket sizes.

My favorite one was at a brew temp of 200f; a pressure of 9.15BAR; with a 17.5oz dose in a stock (ridged, OEM) La Marzocco double basket; 2oz double in 27 seconds.

Thick beyond belief. Wonderful mouthfeel, tons of chocolate and caramel/honey sweetness. Wonderful notes of cherry and truffled raspberry and a huge complicated aroma. Lovely.



PDX summer continues.
Hot, dry, berries, now corn.
It's sunny most all the time and our yard is going brown.
The other day it was only 4degrees cooler here than it was in Bishop. Of course, the humidity here was what? 5 times what it was in Bishop?

I had a chance to play with yet another take on the Daterra espresso. This time from Caffe Fresco. It was interesting. The darkest roast of the four examples I've tried (two from Terroir, one from Ecco and this). Dramatically less marzipan and with far less of the aromatics and fruit that I was getting from the others. Tons of chocolate, quite buttery and with hints of fig and date. I found it best in short milk drinks where it became soft and round and ended up tasting kind of like a caffe mocha.

I also got a whole bunch of the new Artigiano espresso. I have a ton of respect for Vince and for Sammy - they've build a great business in Vancouver. I was a little nervous when I heard they were switching from Intelligentsia to roasting their own. It made sense at a business level, of course, but it seemed really risky for such a high-profile and high-volume business to do this - especially given that they didn't have experience roasting.
I had all sorts of expectations about the espresso - that it would taste like the Black Cat, that it wouldn't be good, that it would be poorly roasted... I'm glad to say that I was wrong on all counts. The espresso is very much its own thing. It doesn't taste like the Black Cat or, for that matter, like any other leading espresso blend. It has a signature taste. As you'd expect, given Artigiano's focus, it's optimal in milk drinks. It has lovely fruit with tons of aromatics, some honeyed-citrus (Meyer Lemon?), lovely dark chocolate and a very long finish. Notes of peanut and vanilla and a little oily-herbal note round it out.
It's a really nice espresso - and incredibly impressive for a first go at it. Given the drive and passion of the owners of the business it's only going to get better.

I also had a great talk recently with John Bicht from Versalab. Quite and incredible experience. He's a really interesting guy. Yes - he has very strong opinions and yes - he speaks his mind. But the guy is bringing a very different perspective to problem solving with espresso - and he's pushing the envelope perhaps more than anyone in the last 40 odd years.
I wish I had the chance to work on one of his machines for a couple of months - I think I could learn so much about the effects of brew temp profile and brew pressure profile and their interactions and the results in the cup... Actually, who am I kidding... that's a lifetime of work right there.
If I had my dream espresso lab, it would have one of those Versalab machines in it (along with a couple industry standard commercial machines of course).

Other than the above, I haven't had a ton of time for coffee stuff recently.
I've been really busy with work (business and strategy consulting).
The leg is (slowly) getting better.
I was allowed to paddle on the machine the other day. I'm horribly out of shape and now really sore but it was nice to do something physical again.

Oh... I figured something out about holding a milk pitcher and all of a sudden my latte art has come together. This morning I poured a perfect, symetrical, centered and well defined 18-leaf rosette in a 5oz cup. Sweet.
And it was a Capp made from the Hairbender and it was fucking glorious!!

Finally, speaking of the above - Stumptown has started offering Euro-style aka Competition-style cappuccinos. Hurrah!!!


the next big thing

so the long-rumoured Stumptown 'Annex' opened today.

what is this?
imagine a high end wine merchant but selling coffee beans. imagine all the education, all the expertise of a wine merchant. imagine the tastings, the discussions, the equipment and accessories. but with coffee.

it's very very cool.
you want to cup coffees? drop in and see when folks will be cupping.
you want to buy a vacuum pot? swing by and choose from a couple (and get an explanation on how to make coffee at its best).
you want to choose from a dozen or so of the world's greatest coffees? no problem - they're all there.

it's really amazing. i've been dropping by as it's been getting close to opening and i think this has the chance to really push coffee to the next level. this gives the customers a chance to get the knowledge and insight that coffee professionals have - without having to get into the industry.

for far too long the coffee industry has treated this stuff as some sort of intellectual property and has done its best to obscure it from the customers. now the wall is falling.

drop by Belmont and SE 34th (two doors down from the Stumptown Cafe) and check it out.

it's a revolution.


way too much fun

The last week has been total coffee nirvana for me.
I'm smiling as I write this.

Last week there was a single origin tasting at Stumptown where coffees evaluated included the following:

Honduras El Puente - Gorgeous sweetness, intense bright fruit (pomegranate, grapefruit), floral aromas. A little tannic as espresso.
El Salvador Las Nubitas - Amazing. Caramel, ripe apples, a touch of Belgian chocolate... Such a wonderful coffee. Very balanced and complete. Fantastic "fluffy" mouthfeel. Love it.
Ethiopia Harar - Super concentrated and intense, with dried blueberry and dark chocolate and a hint of potpourri. Powerfully aromatic though perhaps not quite as defined as one might wish from espresso.
Rwanda Musasa - The shocker of the day - an amazing espresso. Medium bodied and very fruit forward with tons of truffle sweetness and wonderful berry notes. Strong floral aromatics and a candied finish.
Nicaragua Finca el Injerto - Very focused and intense. Dominated by chocolate and fig notes this was a tightly wound shot. Quite strong on the front of the palate.
Guatemala Finca San Vincente - Soft, smooth and very round. Medium bodied and very sweet with wonderful cherry and milk chocolate and tropical fruit notes. Bright enough to balance out all the sweetness and light on the palate. Nice.

The crew at the tasting was fantastic - with folks like Gabe from Ritual in SF and Brent from Crema here in PDX and Phuong from LavaJava and the Dog River folks as well as Sarah and Ken from Barista Magazine and all the Stumpies. There were a ton of other people there but I didn't get a chance to meet most of them and I apologize in advance to all people who I've failed to mention.
It was a seriously good time. And oh my was it great coffee.

Anyway... I liked this so much I grabbed a pound of the Las Nubitas (which is selling in the Stumptown cafes for a shockingly low price) and took it home for the weekend.
Las Nubitas shots.
Las Nubitas macchiattos.
Las Nubitas cappuccinos.
Does life get any better?

Oh yes it does...
So yesterday was cupping and analysis and prep at the new Stumptown Annex. Duane and Robert (from Mocca Java in Oslo) and I cupped some coffees (the Panama Don Pachi, the El Puente, the Las Nubitas and the wonderful Los Delerios) and then compared notes and began working on optimal "brew-by-the-cup" methodologies.
The Don Pachi is amazing... a big bold round fruity candy monster of a coffee.
The El Puente is like some sort of ur-Central. All of the acidity and cleanness - but with balance and sweetness.
The Los Delerios is Ranier Cherry Pie with Chocolate Granita in a cup.
And the Las Nubitas... godlike. Sweet and yet bright. Round and yet exciting. Floral and yet balanced.... it's got it all.

And then today...
Annex experimentation take two.
Starting off with a cupping to die for. Don Pachi, Las Nubitas, Los Delerios, El Puente, an amazing (truly) Sumatran and, of course, the mighty Esmerelda.
In this company the standouts were the Esmerelda (of course) with its bergamot, jolly rancher, watermelon, muscato d'asti, tangerine hard candy insanity and the Sumatra.
I'm not usually a huge Sumatra fan but this was different. Shockingly clean, with no hummus or mushroom notes. Powerfully piney/resinous with strong herbal notes but with incredibly clear acidity. One of the brightest and most balanced Sumatrans I've ever tasted.

And then extraction testing with all the various equipment at the Annex.
Melitta bar El Injerto... Eva Solo El Injerto... Press Pot El Injerto... Vac Pot Don Pachi (mmmm good)... Moka Pot Don Pachi (amazing)... Moka Pot Esmerelda (okay, out of control now)... and then shots of espresso from the La Pavoni.

I feel like each day is this special present for me - where I get given the best coffee in the world perfectly prepared.
I'll never forget this.



as i've mentioned before, i really miss some things from my Stumptown gig.

i miss the people.
i miss working bar shifts.

i really, really miss cupping coffee with people like Duane.

but right now, more than anything else, i'm regretting that i won't be going to the Nordic Barista Cup this year. last year's NBC was an amazing and life-changing experience for me. i met so many great people and had such a good time. i was really looking forward to this year's cup.

have fun, each and every one of you.

Call me Heretic

I've been doubting the flavour results of the Naked Portafilter recently.

I know, I know...
I can hear the screams of rage and pain from here.

Yes, I was one of the people who so zealously promoted them.
And yes... I still believe that they are incredible for training purposes.

But recently I've been finding myself less and less satisfied with the flavour of the shots. The mouthfeel is wonderful, there is no doubt about that. But I've been finding that with some coffees the resulting balance is off (sometimes dramatically).

I had a couple visitors the other day (Dom and his lovely wife) and was pulling some shots and Dom mentioned that I was not using the naked. So I swapped.
The last shot from the normal portafilter I pulled for us was wonderful. Total clarity, wonderful balance, finessed, polished - with great depth and transparency.
The shots from the naked, however, while looking great, lacked the balance. Instead of a round and polished profile, they were jagged, with exagerated high-mid notes and a noticable drop off on the bottom.


So I've spent that last couple days experimenting and I'm finding that, with some coffees, I'm getting better results from the normal (spouted) portafilter. This is particularly noticable with the Hairbender (for example), where the shots show the above described "jagged" flavour profile. In fact, I'm noticing that the more balanced the espresso is (or, perhaps, how important balance is to the style of the espresso) the less desirable the naked shots are.

The shots from the naked portafilter are very much "shock and awe" in all ways. They're stunning to look at extracting, the colours and textures in the cup are interesting, the mouthfeel is wonderful and the flavours are "all over the place" in your mouth. But there is a lack of finesse that I find displeasing with some coffees. There is a lack of subtlety that bothers me.

So, for now, I think I'm retiring my naked portafilter from production use and will use it purely for diagnosis, experimentation with techniques and training.


My review of the Fiorenzato Briccoletta is live at Home-Barista.com now.
It was really enjoyable. I learned a huge amount.

And today I had a totally amazing espresso. It was an experimental blend from Andrew Barnett at Ecco Caffe. Just unbelievable balanced. So round and finessed and polished... lovely marzipan and honey and caramel and date... truly wonderful.


cupping highlights

So I cupped a whole bunch of coffees over at Stumptown today.

I'll put it this way... it was one of those "heavy hitter" tables. There were some seriously insane coffees to check out. Duane, me and for a while Matt were the lucky ones to get to taste 'em all.

Brazil Sul de Minas Yellow Bourbon "Top Sky" - Far more reminiscent of a coffee from Peru (or even Colombia) than what you expect from Brazil. Sweet, smooth, balanced, nice acidity. A nice coffee.

Brazil Mogiana Fazenda Cachoeira Yellow Bourbon - Wow. Tons of tropical fruit and persimmon, a little medicinal note, particularily in the aroma. Very, very sweet but not flabby, has good acidity. As it cooled, held structure though it became a touch astringent. A really lovely coffee with crazy complexity of fruit cough syrup bomb action.

Panama Don Patchi Estate - Another one of these crazy Latin geisha coffees. The round butteryness of it was amazing. Super sweet - like butterscotch and old rum. Tons of fruit acidity, but with the low-end to balance. Powdered chocolate complexity - insane and gorgeous.

Panama Hacienda La Esmerelda - What can i say that's not already been said? Moscato d'Asti candy with rose water and a chocolate/berry stir stick. Bergamot, clemantine, tangerine syrup, pollen craziness. One of the world's greatest coffees. So close to being over-the-top but keeps it all together somehow.

El Salvador Finca Kilimanjaro - Now this is my kind of coffee. Far more subtle than either of the above geisha monsters - and I like this "deep waters" kind of coffee. There is a ton going on, but it's so balanced that you almost miss it. It's a nice coffee when hot, but when it cools... things get serious. Mostly SL28 - and it shows. Raspberry, chocolate sweetness with a ton of tart fruit acidity. A superstar.

Sumatra Peaberry - Resinous craziness. Nothing like what you think of when you think Sumatra. Lots of acidity, little to no earthy funky mushroom. Instead it's a chocolate cake, filled with raspberry preserve and then finished with a herbal pinon/rosemary resin oil extract. So far beyond...

Cupping with folks like Duane is so amazing. It's the thing I miss the most from my old job.