More on Portland…

Seattle was a blast and I had a great time, and even more great coffee. Still, I feel there was so much more to my week. First, I’ve gotta say a major thank you to Matt Miletto, Kyle Larson, and all the other great people who bought me beer and such while I was in town. It truly was great to catch up with so many awesome baristas. Portland has a lot of talent and it’s only growing… soon enough, it’ll deserve it’s own regional competition.

My first night in town, I found myself at a table filled with people like Matt, Stephen Vick, Jenn Prince, and David George… All eating some of the best pizza I’ve ever tasted. Another night, I was able to grab a bottle of Le Chouffe and chill with Matt Miletto, his fiance, Rob Ward (of Bakery Bar), and one of Matt’s students. From the pub where we were, Lizz met up with us and she and I moved with some friends to The Horse Brass Pub. I love the Horse Brass. Always have, and always will. They have some awesome IPA’s, including the Pelican IPA, which I had another night when I was there with Kyle and Sarah Allen. Seriously, so many great people in an awesome city!

The coffee though is what initially glued me to Portland. It used to be Hairbender was the only quality espresso you could find in Portland… One man has changed that. Philip Search has an awesome blend that I believe I have talked about before. It’s a true quality espresso from top to bottom. It’s body and full flavor reminds me of a red wine. It’s heavy in chocolate and wonderfully smooth. It’s yet to cross the river into Portland, but is available in 4 locations in Vancouver, WA.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t strayed far from my roots. Hairbender still puts a smile on my face. Oh, and to all you Portland and Seattle kids who like to travel up and down I-5… do not over look Lava Java. It’s right off of exit 14 in Washington. Literally, you can see the shop from the freeway. They are doing some great things still. While I was home, they were featuring Ethiopia Idido Misty Valley as a single origin espresso… and it rocks. You can pick out all the traditional ethiopian flavors of sweet fruit, but it still has a heavy body.

Well, I am going to close this here. I leave you with this. Right now we’re featuring 49th Parallel’s Epic blend. It is so high quality, it leaves me with no doubts. Unfortunately, It’s being pulled on a Super Jolly cause we had an issue with one of the Roburs where the spring got jammed into the burrs… don’t ask. I wasn’t there… I only cried when I found out. But hey! If you can’t pull a good shot of espresso with a Super Jolly, then who are you to be calling yourself a barista? Especially with this kind of coffee and a Synesso. If you’re in the cities, or within a few hours of the cities! Come by!

March 21-27 Recap

The last week was supposed to be a vacation, but I’m wiped out. Mainly from the travel schedule I put myself through, but hey, I’m young. Like I’ve said before, watch out Portland, stuff is on the move… everywhere. From Duane & Co. creeping North to Kevin and Billy moving a bit south… everyone is expanding and pushing things further forward! Heck yes.

I can honestly say that in my entire trip I had only one undesirable espresso… And I consumed somewhere around 30 doubles in the week I was there. Seattle was the high point, where I consumed around 8. Seattle is dormant, there’s no doubt about that. Beyond the Stumptown crew, you don’t really hear too much about what’s happening up there. By the way, on the trip were some great friends! Bridgetta from Lava Java is a rad chick. She’s been around the LJ for a good while, but we never really worked together much because just as I was hired, she took off to Mexico for a year. Then, just as I decided to move, she comes back. Ridiculous. Then, Ashley Raugh, who also worked at Lava Java joined us as well. Ashley is also a hair master at a salon near LJ, and she is the only person I will let cut my hair. She’s that good. Ashley’s good friend, and someone who I made many-a Honey-Vanilla latte for at Crema, Kelsey, joined us as well.

We stopped in at Batdorf & Bronson on the way up. It’s always a decent mid point on the way, and I like to support the fact that they own a Clover. So, that’s what I generally choose. This time my pic was their Harar… a bit disappointingly flat, but not bad. Still quality.

Once we arrived in Seattle, our first choice for coffee was Vivace. I had a decent double and a cafe Nico. The Nico never ceases to make me smile. Anyone can drink it. For the coffee fanatic it’s candy, for the newb, it’s a mini-S-buck kinda flavor. Jeremy Summer from Hotwire met my friends and I there. Jeremy and I met first in Charlotte last year. He’s a cool cat who never ceases to amaze me with how laid back he can be.

After some catching up, Jeremy lead us to the new Victrola. The space is wonderful. Reminds me of Crema. Very open, very bright. The 3 group Synesso is a beaut. I enjoyed the roasting works being visible throughout the entire space. There is also a large window showcasing the cupping room. The barista mentioned they are still working on a new blend for the cafe. I really enjoyed it. It had one of the nicest spicy/sweet finishes I’ve had in a while.

Post-Victrola, we busted out to the University Zoka. It was surprisingly quiet in the space. Spring break I guess. Had a double. It was ok. The fun part was seeing the old school pictures of Jenn Prince on the wall. Even better was seeing the Seattle Times article on Phoung framed on the back wall. Go boss.

We visited Trabant as well. This was a first for me. They are working on the space, but the coffee was well pulled. It was cool to walk in and see the new Intelly packaging. Oh, how I love the packaging. Smile… Anyway, the double Black Cat I had was lovely. One of the better I’ve had in a bit.

The Seattle trip wrapped up in a visit to Cupcake Royale. This place is cool. It was the first Stumptown wholesale account in Seattle. I had already cut myself off from coffee at this point, but the cupcake made me smile!
Well, I’d go on about the rest of my trip, but this is long enough… if you get a chance, head over to Billy’s blog (myspace.com/xristrettox) and catch the video clip of a documentary on the barista competitions. It’s well done. I really liked it… and make sure to note my good friend, Philip Surge… Peace. Love. Coffee.

Updates and Travels

Apple called. My computer is ready… $180 later. I’m in Portland for the (long) weekend. At least the thing will be ready when I get back.

My tattoo is awesome and makes me happy. No, there will be no pictures until it’s completely finished.

I have to say a major congratulations to Lizz Hudson at Stumptown. I absolutely had to stop by their new store. The Ace hotel is awesome, and the cafe they’ve built is even cooler. 4 Clovers, 2 Mistrals, and a lot of great coffee.

Spent Friday in Seattle. I consumed more great shots of espresso than ever before. I’ll write a full recap when I am back and have my computer to work with…

This Awed Me…

Lately, I’ve been experiencing one of the greatest strings of bad luck ever. Things from financial issues, to health problems, and all kinds of things. Well, it all topped off last night when I was installying Apple’s new OS update an iphoto update. I installed the updates and when my computer was turned back on my OS failed to initiate. My powerbook is a few years old, so I never expect perfection, but I need it be alive. Badly. I’ve got a 4:00 appointment with a geinus and we’ll see where we can go from there.

My point in posting from this computer at the Roasterie is to tell you a story. My financial issues have left me “relieving myself of some excessive possessions.” For instance, my pride and joy 2005 Taylor 512CE. Another instance would be my Mazzer Mini. I bought the thing before I “went pro,” and so I rarely use the thing except to test small batches of espresso. So, to craigslist it went! First call I get sounded promising, setup a time to meet and he failed to deliver. Another dude had been calling for awhile, waiting for dude #1 to show… and his aggressive pursuing paid off…

He asked me to drop it off at his house so I could make sure it was setup correctly. He also said he’d pay me a little extra to make sure he knew how to use it. Little did I expect what I found. I walk into his kitchen to find a seperate bar… solely there for the man’s love of espresso. On top of the bar was a completely piped in Faema. Old school style, but still rockin the E61 group head. To the left of the machine sat his Conti grinder, and then we threw the mini up there… To be his decaf grinder! We plugged the thing in and he pulled me a decaf espresso. He apologized for his shotty tamper and said he had one on the way. The tamper he had was the standard plastic one you see with cheap home machines. The espresso was good. Not great. Beans had aged a bit, but there was no bitterness to be found in the cup. It was thin and had less body that what I would like, but I was blown away.

I have to explain that I never really believed too much in the hardcore consumer market. I figured coffee is easy enough to be involved in that post people who cared had found a way to be involved. Especially in Minneapolis. I was wrong. This guy loved the grinder and I was pleased to show him a few things and just have a ball playing with his home setup. What was equally impressive was how many people I had asking me about the grinder. It’s a mazzer mini… and probably 30 people were interested. Anyway, this really impressed me and showed me how much untapped interest there is out there for the consumer market.

Today I also start my half-sleeve. It’s a tattoo totally devoted to coffee, from seed to cup. I’m stoked.

Coffee and Sentiment

The weather is finally warming up here in Minneapolis. Today has been a pleasant 50 degrees… and I never thought I would find myself without a jacket in such a climate. Anyway, with this new burst of “warm” weather we’ve had requests for iced and cold drinks. So, time to play with cold press coffee! For some reason, over the past few weeks, I’ve been trying new ways of brewing the stuff. So far, the most (slightly) creative, and my personal favorite was using a Bodum Teapot. For the first two hours of the twenty-four I brewed it, the coffee was left at room temperature. Then it was refrigerated for the remaining two hours. Oh, and the coffee I used was our Sumatra Blue Batak. I don’t know if was the temperature sequence or the fact that the teapot allows the coffee to not always be in contact with the grounds, but something about the method produced an incredibly sweet cup of cold press.

I also figured I’d throw up a picture of my sweet burr set. These are actually the burrs from the Robur I used in the 2006 USBC. I spent a lot of time with that grinder preparing for the competition, so I guess there’s still some sentimental connection. What can I say, I like the pic…

This week our new guest espresso has been Andrew Barnett’s Ecco Espresso Reserve. It’s mostly Brazil and incredibly sweet. I feel like it gets lost in milk though. As espresso, this blend is delicious. We’ve been dosing it at about 18 to 18.5 grams and have the group set at 201. I haven’t been over packing much at all, but I feel like I could remedy the milk issue fast if I did. Bottom line, I do really enjoy the blend.

Other coffee I received this week was a pound of cat and a pound of Intelly’s DT Bolivia. The Bolivia and I first became friends on the show floor at Coffee Fest Chicago. Tis’ a good coffee for sure. The Cat is rockin’ way better than the last batch. As much as I love my espresso pulled over-packed, I’ve finally given up and realized that Black Cat is just best when not over-packed. The macciatto pictured is made with the cat in my favorite cup. The cup means more to me than any other one I have. My little brother brought it back from Italy last spring… So, here it is.

I saw Miguel’s agenda for the next few months today. We are bringing in, easily, twenty new coffees now through June. Many will be micro-lots that come and go very quickly. Some will be around longer. Keep an eye out for what be will in.

Back To Life As Usual

This week we had a very curious man drop by the shop. His name was Chris Nichols. Chris works for Espresso Midwest. He was in Chicago last weekend working the show floor and researching stuff. There he heard about the Clover for the first time. So, he came stumbling in to check our out. I’ve never seen anyone’s jaw drop so hardcore like his did when he saw we have two. It was magical. He was wowed by everything we have. This is where is became so apparent to me how many cafes open in the midwest that based on numbers and so few based on quality and serious research as to what really can rock an espresso well. It kinda saddens me…

He came back a couple days later and brought a friend. His friend was from Italy and is a Nuovo Simonelli rep. They’d be taking their new grinder around to different cafes and coffee companies and letting them play with it. So, of course, we threw the thing on our back bar and went to town. Good times. The thing is impressively fast. It ground 21 grams in 3 seconds. Nice. It’s digitally controlled and has no doser. Nice. It also had a built in tamper that could be set to 20 and 50 lbs. Whatever. It’s not my style, but I’d been wanting to play with such a grinder for curiosities sake. Thanks guys.

We’re now cupping all the coffees we have in house every Friday at noon. So far, we’ve had a nice turnout. Andrew’s cupping setup is way cooler than when we started. I like it. I feel like cupping is something to be done with a certain level of reverence and respect. I feel it’s slightly ceremonial and has a right and a wrong way to be done. Those “cupping on the fly” kinda experiences are never my cup of tea… So, I am glad we’ve got all the bells and whistles and what it really takes to cup “properly.”

Yesterday was probably the busiest day I have worked at the cafe. It left me tired in the end, but I felt so much more productive than the average day at the shop. At one point all I had on top of my machine was a few espresso demis and macchiatto cups. Every cappuccino cup was in use and the latte cups were all occupied as well. Wonderful. Well, that’s all for now. Bien.