We leave today!!!

Back in the day at the Bungalow

We’re about to run some errands before we embark on this epic journey. I can’t even imagine how much money in wares will be shipped, planed, and driven into Minneapolis over the next couple of days! Best of luck to everyone in getting their stuff to the twin cities…
I found this picture the other day… taken on Stephen Morrissey’s laptop. I felt this was a good way to kick this off! We’re coming…

The Eve of Something Grand.

Wares are shipped. Coffee is packed. Now, we just have to figure out where it’s all going when we get to the aiport. We’re tight on space. I’m stoked for this adventure. Devin and I managed to get today off to completely focus on packing and preparing for the trip. Tomorrow, we are running to Target to get a 4th suitcase for all our coffee. We’d prefer not to have to put any coffee in the cargo hold of the plane, but it seems inevitable at this point. We’ll cross our fingers I guess. We arrive around 9:30 tomorrow night. The plan is to inventory and try to hit the stores before the noon competitors meeting on Thursday, so we can grab and replace anything that may have broken.

Somewhere shortly after the Western, someone decided to clean out the training lab, and they tossed my water glasses and some of Kyle’s stuff. He’s set to rock, but I figured there was no point in buying new water glasses, only to ship them across the US… so, that’s my agenda.

I’m excited to just get my wares into the space and unpack. That’ll be the first big burden off my chest. From there, the rest of the weekend is gravy. We’ve got some hottness coming for the Intelli booth that I think everyone will enjoy. Most of all, I’m stoked to see and taste what everyone else is bringing to the show.

I’m really stoked for Thursday night where I’ll be putting off pre-comp jitters, enjoying coffee at Kopplin’s, and devouring a Juicy Lucy. Beer won’t come for me until after round 1. I can’t express how difficult this will be for me in a place that runs rampant with good brew. Los Angeles does not. Effe. See you all soon!

Tall

File this under rants… Promise to make this quick.

Whoever decided the word tall was a good idea for a drink size was not thinking clearly. In fact, though I respect his current campaign for quality, I will say it was probably Howard Schultz’s biggest mistake. Period. For the last 3 years, this has boggled my mind… how the word tall could ever be used to describe the size of a latte. Especially when that size is actually small.

My friends, I’m going to stop here, but please, let’s all think more clearly.

Minneapolis Warm-Up

We’re about a week away from the USBC. I’m gearing up and stoked. More than anything, I know where I was when I first competed in 2006. Now, 2 full seasons later, I’m ready to return to the USBC and apply all the things I’ve learned. Regardless of where I place in the end, I’m excited to celebrate and use all the knowledge I’ve gained in the last couple years. There’s nerves, but the bottom line (and the thing I keep reminding myself) is that when I stand in front of that crowd it will be time to not over-think. It’ll be time to do nothing, but represent my coffee the best that I can.

My coffee, by the way, is exciting. I’ll save the details for the event, but I’m really enjoying it as I get to know it. In the last month, I’ve hated espresso. It’s been rough trying to evaluate my shots on my bar shifts and to taste so many components, searching for something good. Now, as I sit and watch the aging of the roast… I am falling more and more for these coffees.

The coffee bar is going to miss Devin and I for 8 days. The staff is growing, but right now, if two baristas take off, it complicates life for a stint. We are, however, ready for a recharge. I’ve already got plans for when I get back and my schedule frees up… Assuming I don’t somehow over-come that which is the Glanville, or the Deferious, or Sather, or Bill Wil, or the one they call Baca… Of course, there’s THE Pete… and his neighbor, Alex McCracken… Yeah, this is going to be tough… When I return, I’m stoked to dive further into the study of siphon brewing… and to get back to cupping. Maybe even working with some of our staff and helping them with skills their struggling to obtain. I’m sure I’ll have a ton of things to dive into after being inspired by the ones who inspire… Like Lucey & Tiesel, Sarah Allen, M’lissa & Chris, and more!

I’m really stoked for this SCAA & USBC. There’s only one other place in this country that I’d be more excited to compete in… and it’s on the list for next year. We leave for Minneapolis on April 30, 2008. I left Minneapolis April 30, 2007. 365 days later I will be returning for the first time. It’s not only time to compete, but time to celebrate. It’s been a good year. I’ll see you all soon.

2007-2008 US Regional Barista Competition Scores

Pre-Season is over! In two weeks we’re doing it for real… Here are the final top 20 scores of the regional season!

1. Chris Baca 798
2. Heather Perry 773
3. Kyle Glanville 758
4. Billy Wilson 752
5. Nick Griffith 714.5
6. Drew Cattlin 702.5
7. Lemuel Butler 695.5
8. Ben Helfen 683.5
9. Chris Deferio 671.5
10. Amber Sather 671.5
11. Ryan Willbur 671
12. Pete Licata 670.5
13. Maki Campbell 666.5
14. Robin Seitz 664.5
15. Danielle Glasky 663
16. Katie Duris 656.5
17. Alex McCracken 655
18. Scott Lucey 647
19. Jon Lewis 637.50
20. Kevin Fuller 630

I’ve Retired From Dosing.

Many things have changed since I first came into contact with the specialty coffee world. I still remember the first time I walked into Lava Java, and Phuong was excited because they had gotten these new grinders, called Roburs. They were big and I didn’t really understand it, but somehow all the coffee had a much more interesting viscosity.

The next thing to really catch my eye, was the Anfim. A grinder so well functioning and designed, it eliminated the need for leveling. I have no experience with the Anfim and I’m always been skeptical. Though I am young, I am still somewhat old school. Something about not leveling has always freaked me out a bit.

When I saw Billy (and his Anfim) win the Northwest Regional with very high technical scores, it became apparent that a normal Robur wasn’t going to cut it anymore. Terry Z from espresso parts was way ahead of me. By now, I’m sure many of you have seen the grinder Devin, Nick, Kyle, and I used at the Western. It was in Milan with Terry and all the kids from Ritual. It’s beautiful. I can say that it saved me a lot of waste and time in my performance in Berkeley.

In practice I fell in love with this grinder. So much so, that I am very bitter towards all our other grinders. They’ve gotten us through many rough months of pulling many espressos. However, it feels so pointless now to dose coffee. Upon returning from the Western, we put the grinder to the real test, and threw it on bar…

It’s truly been a delight to use. Yesterday, on a very busy Sunday, Devin and I were on bar most of the afternoon. I was pulling espresso, he was working milk… and struggling very hard to keep up with me. I can honestly say this grinder sped up our pace by three-fold. Our line went from extending out our archways to within 15-20 feet of our bar.

The espresso suddenly became much more consistent. The way the coffee just builds in the basket makes for extremely consistent and very well build pucks. My trash can was transformed from a pile of grounds to a pile of small cylinders of coffee. Even our decaf was flowing better.

We switched to naked portafilters for a bit… just to see how the shots were truly extracting. Everything was nice and even. We’re still leveling, but it’s a much more simple process of pulling the coffee back and pushing it forward.

The grinder has a built in digital timer. Now, the dose is fairly consistent, but the downside is that you do get a little bit of an inconsistency fairly consistently… In other words, every 4th of 5th pull, you will get a little extra coffee… I think this is due to some of the coffee building up around the shoot and then eventually knocking loose. It’s not bad, and it’s not clumpy. It’s really just waste.

We’ve had timers on our grinders for awhile, but I’m very tired of them. I’ve noticed many of our baristas are now turning the grinder on, wiping the basket, and then dosing. The coffee that is building in the chamber clumps up, and I’ve seen channeling on many sets of shots. I see this grinder as a solution to the problem. Also, the timers we have seem to move a lot. I’d say the digital mazzer timer is slightly more accurate and consistent then the timers we have now… Both some how end up with a cycle that seems to push a bit more coffee then the rest.

To sum this all up, I love this grinder. It’s not the answer to every problem out there with espresso grinders, but it’s a large improvement. I look forward to the day I can play with an Anfim and compare the two. I guess only time will tell what will win… Do we continue to dose or continue to distribute? Maybe this years USBC will be the battle to tell?

Time To Become A Ghost.

Returning from a competition is always a good time to reevaluate goals and to try to re access what it is we are trying to do. Now, normally, this would stop at the cafe for me… What can I do to be a better barista? How can my skills improve? How can I operate better with my other baristas? This time, through some interesting occurrences, I’ve been asking myself deeper questions… I posed the question to myself, what if every one of my customers drank only espresso and brewed coffee? What if they were all perfect? Where would someone like me be?

See, I’ve begun to realize I am a radical. Sometimes of the worst kind… I’m more than often inconsiderate of what my customers want, and it’s because I want them to want what I want because I think it’s right… Follow that?  I feel like I’m the enlightened one and they need to know what I know, and the only way is if they drink what I want them to drink… Don’t worry, I’m beginning to remove my head from my ass as I type.

My logic and my reasoning keep spinning me in circles from selfish motives to earnest ones. I think, all things considered, one true motive remains… The best thing I can do is simply help my customers realize how hard it is to farm great coffee, and how the people who really do are heroes. It sounds much closer to the surface than it feels. However, as I read all these blogs and conversations floating around, I realize we are all very self-centered. We talk so much of our discoveries and accomplishments, that if feels like we forget to mention how amazing that coffee we had from Rwanda was…

Maybe part of it is the venue… Coffeed seems more and more to be the place for ego. It’s roaster vs. roaster, competitors methods vs. methods. Punk Rock vs. Punque Roque. Maybe it’s the season… We are gearing up for the final regional and the USBC, leaving much to be discussed about the individual.

None the less, I think that as time passes, I’m more and more impressed by the Kyle Larsons and Jon Lewis’ of the world. More often than not, may the coffee talk for the men, and the men forget themselves… It’s time for us to disappear. Time to become ghosts.

Nothing to do with coffee.

Some of you who were at the Western this past weekend had the opportunity to meet my friend Dustin Lancaster… Dustin’s a good friend who’s new commercial is about to hit the airwaves… He’s also a bar tender at the place next to Intelli, Cafe Stella. Anyway, here’s the commercial in all it’s cheesy goodness… may it air many times and bring him much cash!