Funnel Mill

I’m sipping on some lovely Esmeralda thanks to Mr. Tonx, who received this coffee via Andrew Barnett. So far, I’m not sure how I feel about the cup, but if it’s no bueno, then it’s my own fault. Even if it’s not that great, I’m still excited. See… I just got back from a trip to Funnel Mill. I found out about these guys via searching google for Yama TCA-3. They’re the first hit. The website had me so curious, a visit was a must….

I really should have had my camera to catch the experience, but I’m sure I’ll be back to take some more pics. Funnel Mill is weird. Bottom line. You walk in the door and there’s an asian style rock bed with a small water fountain to greet you. The bar is long and very wide. Facing it, an entire half of it on the right is dedicated to brewing and preparing coffee. There’s a Curtis brewer, but I doubt it sees much attention. Instead, there’s an array of Yama and Hario siphons. There’s an old Rancillio sitting on a metal table, underneath it is a Cirqua. There’s seating for 3 at the bar, and we belly-uped there.

When we sat down, there was already 3 Yama brewers set up and cooling. I just assumed the guy was doing a tasting of some sort. He asked what he could do to help us, and wanting to stay incognito, we simply asked for a siphon of the Tanzania Peaberry. He obliged and asked if we would like and milk or cream. We said no, and you could see he was starting to get curious… especially as Devin and I kept looking around and then looking at each other, but not saying a word (We’re really not good at keeping a low profile). The coffee was served, and then came two little dishes of peanuts. He explained that the peanuts would bring out the nuttiness of the coffee and help to accent the caramel flavors of the coffee.

After a couple brief questions, he asked if we worked in coffee and where… Opening this up lead us into much conversation and much learning. The guy is very passionate and strict about coffee. He explained to me that everyone of his baristas go through six months of training before they are allowed to brew freely on the siphons. He only likes blends for espresso and likes to keep his siphon coffee to only single estate.

We discussed more on siphon method. He believes 45 seconds is the perfect time of extraction for any siphon, no matter coffee or type. He uses the same grind all the way around. He also uses a coffee scoop and says one scoop for every 6 oz. cup. With more discussion, he offered to let us try the coffee that was on the bar when we sat down… three siphons, one coffee, three different stir methods. The first, was coffee that was stirred very lightly, to bring out the fruity notes in the coffee. The second, was a heavier stir, to bring out the caramel and chocolate. The third, was agitated with oxygen… There is an oxygen tank under the table and he inserted a tube into the coffee to basically keep it moving in a ‘end over end’ kind of motion. This was to bring out the body of the coffee. He invited us to smell the expired ground coffee sitting in the top bowl, and he said the fruity bowl would still smell like coffee, the caramely bowl would smell earthier, and the oxygen bowl would smell like earth or dirt. He was right on. His extraction time was the same, grind the same, but his various agitation methods produced the end result. When a customer orders a siphon, he actually asks if they want it heavy or fruity.

The siphons were brewed with passion and care. The coffee itself was ok. The experience was one I will remember as long as I’m in this industry. This guy doesn’t run in the typical coffeed circles. We talked briefly on SCAA and USBC type stuff… and he said he’d never compete cause he thinks the way it’s judged is wack… Which, I thought was funny to hear from someone who has never competed. I’m very glad I ran that search online and made the effort to check out this little gem.

The cup in my hand has cooled. It’s much better now. I’m adjusting because I’m finally brewing on my own Yama TCA-3D. I bought mine from JC at the Funnel Mill because the guys cares and is passionate. I also bought the butane burner… it’s the first time I’ve brewed with one and it’s gonna take some practice. I know I paid more for this setup than I would have online, but something about the guy and the way he talked about all this just made me want to support him and his business. All in all, this has been a pretty good day off.


Vacpots, Single Origins, and Observances.

I’m sitting here, smelling, what hopes to be, one of the best cups of coffee I’ve had in awhile. I’ve borrowed the Yama TCA-3 from our training lab, as I’m getting to know the brew method better. I wanted to pull this thing out of the lab, away from our Guatemala grinder, temperature probes, and endless supply of fresh coffee. I wanted to bring it home to where my customers make coffee. The home kitchen. I also made sure to grab the Solis Maestro on the way out the door too… so, I have somewhat of an advantage. I don’t have too many results to post yet, but I’ve tried some new things today, thanks to Mark Prince’s article on coffee geek.

The coffee today is the infamous Finca Matalapa that has been floating online ever since Kyle took the USBC. So far, it smells sweet and floral… just how I like it. This brew is gentle. Not heavy, and I like my coffee best that way.

With Kyle’s win and the new Black Cat Project underway, we’ve finally taken a much needed step at our Silverlake coffee bar. We just added a new grinder so that we can now offer a second espresso. This week, it’s our Bolivia Anjilanka. It came to us entirely too fresh… As in, it was forgotten on the day it was supposed to be roasted, but they squeezed it in the morning it was to be delivered. I, who was not working when it arrived, was apparently the only one who heard that it was being roasted that morning. So, the bags were immediately rushed to the bar to be thrown into a hopper… Zing! For those customers who wish we roasted on site… This espresso is for you!

Although the espresso was rough the first couple of days, this minor incident comes to us as a result of some great things happening in the bigger picture. Our guys at the roasting works have been working very hard, as their workload has doubled in the last week. This means more fresh coffee from Los Angeles to more of our customers on the west side of the country. Signals may have gotten switched at the coffee bar, but the bigger thing is way more exciting.

…By the way, with some cooling, this cup of coffee is getting VERY sweet.

I’ve been in Los Angeles for more than a year now. I think I’m finally able to make some proper assessments to the area. I like Los Angeles. It’s a busy, fast moving place. There’s always something to do, which leads to there always being something to distract you from things you should be doing. The first thing I’ve noticed is that no one stays in Los Angeles. You don’t raise kids here, and you most certainly don’t settle down here… The people that do are crazy and you should probably not get too involved with them. I say this because it leads me to my next point.

We don’t have regulars. Not like most cafes do. No, what we see are people who come everyday and then disappear for four months. Then they stop in twice over a weekend, and it’s three weeks before they come in again. Los Angeles is strange, and the waves of people we see says it all. In other places I’ve worked you could time your day out pretty well by who you were serving and when… Here, we have somewhat of a similar pattern, but it changes every 3 months.

Well, I’m going to go enjoy the rest of this vacpot. Delicious. Hope all of you have recovered from SCAA and all the happenings surrounding it… Now go enjoy some smack talk on Coffeed! …Just kidding…

Make Coffee Not War & Love Your Mom

Today began with a great coffee experience. It was the kind that I just want to write about and share, because it’s the kind that doesn’t happen that often. Monica and I decided to hit up the always good Square One just off of Fountain, across from the terrifying Scientology World Headquarters. The establishment was just taken over by new owners… who are from Chicago. They recently started serving our coffee and just added espresso drinks to the menu… Now, normally, restaurants have terrible coffee. This just seems to be common fact. But recently, the girls who bought the place hired Julia (who is pictured here helping the Irish Barista team back in ’06), Deaton Pigot’s girlfriend. She thought she had hung up her apron for good, but apparently she was wrong… The macchiatto I had was delicious. Though this macchiatto was made with Black Cat, it tasted so differently from the anything I’ve been tasting at our store. The milk made the entire thing from top to bottom taste like sweet caramel on the first sip and deep chocolate and toffee as it lingered on the palate. The experience was only heightened as I dove into my omelet made with diced ham and red bell peppers. Normally bell peppers only distract me from foods I love, but here they only complimented the cheese and onions surrounding the ham. On the side was a nice pile of grits with cheddar and thick chunks of smoked bacon. The last bite on my plate was a spoonful of the grits, cheese, and bacon… biting in I could just taste the juice from the bacon leaking out and coating my palate. It was divine. I don’t think the day could have started better.

I wish everyone at the coffee bar could have started their day the way I did. Instead, most were rudely awaken after a long night. Marco, our sales rep (who’s reputation for notoriously breaking every dish insight at the store still lingers on), threw a smashingly good party at his new pad. I’m really glad I stopped when I did.

Thinking of parties brings me back to Minneapolis. Which was great. Another post on this will follow shortly, but for now, let me say something that has been on my heart for a bit… I am incredibly proud of who I work for and with. I’m not talking about our new champ… He knows we’re stoked for him, but I’m talking about the 4 Chicago baristas who competed. Michael Phillips, Alexandra Switzer, Talya Strader, and Charles Babinski all deserve a lot of credit for their hard work. I’ve talked about Mike before. He’s a strong barista… I mean, he is the reigning Great Lake Champ… Going into this experience, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Chicago team. I met Alex last year in Long Beach, but knew nothing of Talya and Charles. All I can say now is that if they are just an example of the kind of quality of people we work with in Chicago, then I am nothing but proud to be an Intelligentsian. I hope somehow we can have more opportunities to cross paths. I especially hope that neither of them throw in the towel with this competition thing. I hope both return next year. Working with them in the booth was a real privilege.

Bottom line, and the thing I learned through this, is that I hope the gaps that keep Chicago and Los Angeles separated can begin to dissipate. We all have high goals and aspirations. Neither group is close to achieving what we are capable of. We’re all moving forward. I know this company will grow into something spectacular as long as we keep moving in the direction were going in. Doug Zell has every reason to be proud.

Well, it’s back to the bar for me… Hope you all called your moms.

Minneapolis~ Day 2

Tomorrow is going to be a whirlwind. I can feel it already. So much to do and so much to prepare for. I’m stoked about our LA Crew all making the finals. However, I am deeply saddened and find it to be very lame that Alex, Talya, and Charles from Chicago did not make it. I know they’ve worked hard and really applied themselves. My hat’s off to them.

Right now, ironing is happening, coffees have been opened, and supplies have been purchased. None of the organic milks from the co-op we visited have made me all that happy. Today, wandering Target, I remembered a milk I used to purchase from one of the regional grocery stores. It’s organic, but I believe it’s partially pasteurized or something… Either way, I remember it being the first milk that I noticed being really good compared to others. I called Kyle and he managed to pick some up while running his errands. It’s not about the milk, but I still want to create the best cappuccino I possibly can…

The show floor hasn’t really even happened for me yet. I’ve been glued to the Intelli booth or busy at the competition. I am hoping to venture out tomorrow. I’d like to see if anyone else has a Clover… so far I’ve seen Alterra, Cafe Imports, and our booth with the infamous machine. Well, I gotta run. We’re off for food!

Minneapolis (Prep Day)

The day is not done. Nor near it. I’m waiting for a few people to gather so we can head to the Nook and eat delicious burgers. The plan is to stuff myself now, and eat nothing but bananas and drink water in the morning. I compete 3rd, meaning, not a lot of fun tonight. My napkins are ironed. My cart is fairly-well loaded, and just needs some polishing. Still need to iron my clothing and table cloth. I’m definitely dehydrated. Hoping to remedy that before tomorrow. It’s been a long day.

Somehow, I was the first up at 8:00 this morning. We met quickly and moved my wares to the space. Devin and Nick followed with their stuff as well. We practiced and tasted shots. Thanks to everyone who contributed with feedback… 4 hours were spent recovering broken pieces and gathering milks and water. Near the end, Kyle said it best… “It feels like 8:30, the clock says 6:30, and at home it’s 4:30…” Our bodies are thrown. Bed time by 10 would be a dream… and I’ve got a couple hours to make that happen. It probably won’t, but a guy can dream.

On the up side, it’s great to see so many friends and fellow competitors. It’s going to be a fantastic weekend and I’m stoked to finish tomorrow, and party it up tomorrow night. My good friend, Jake, will be DJing the event. This means I will be dancing at some point… maybe alone in a corner, but it will happen.

If you are in MPS and can make it to the competition for the first hour, I recommend it. It will be banging… I know the first two competitors well and they won’t let you down… and I’ll do my best as well. See you soon…

Minneapolis (Travel Day & Early Morning)

I’m in our hotel room in Minneapolis. To say our travels were complicated would be an understatement. From my car falling apart… To missing our flight by 60 seconds. Then the plane they put us on was delayed a few hours. All in all, we landed in Minneapolis at 2:25 this morning. After inventorying and checking out all our wares, I finally hit the hay around 4:25. Woke up promptly at 8:00, as today is not a day for killing time…

Well, it’s off to replace some stuff and then off to the event and practice time!