Category Archives: Faema

Time to say goodbye to the coffee world

Well, if you didn’t already figure it out.  I have to C O N C E N T R A T E on some things that makes it so that I can’t be focused as I would prefer on the “Bean Chaser Blog.”

I appreciate friends like Jason Dominy, Jim Hoffman and crew, Mark Prince, Dan at HB, Chemically Imbalanced, Tonx, Shannon Hudgens, Kevin & Regina @ Crema Roasters,  Geoff Corey, Scott Conary, and I will even thank Nick Cho, and I can’t leave out the team at Octane and by name Tony.  The home roasting ability of George Holt.  Finally, I thank, the professional roasting of Intelligensia Roasters and Counter Culture Coffee.

There is no certian order to that list.  Some listed had a HUGE impact on my life and I will be forever thankful.  And there is some there that taught me a huge lesson on what not to do (I mean that good and bad).  I will have forgotten some, I guess.  It’s is unavoidable.  Some people I have there faces in my head and I can’t remember their names.

If I hadn’t found Mark Prince in a Google search for “French Press” this would have never been started and I hadn’t have ever messaged Tonx, I would have never found Hudge, and thus, I would have never had my first INCREDIBLE shot of espresso (single origin, mind you).  If I hadn’t found Hudge I wouldn’t have this massive two group Faema in my kitchen, which in the words of my brother-in-law “is the first and last thing you see in that house.”

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Espresso Test: This is a test

A friend of mine and I travelled yesterday up to Cary, NC to Crema Roasters to get a couple pounds of espresso.

Kevin gladly responded by saying, “You want some espresso I am working on?” Meaning it was going to be a test.

“Sure thing.  You got my attention”

  • Ethiopian Guji
  • Costa Rica La Pastora
  • Columbian Hvila
  • Brazil Pedre Grande
  • Sumatra Mandilin

Well if this is a test, please let me grade this with a “Oh, my word!

Look, I am not trying to toot my own horn, either.  But, Mark said the espresso tasted better out of my machine (Faema).  Kevin’s is a temp stable La Marzocco FB/80.  This almost has to be a temprature issue – IMHO.  I know that machine runs hot, almost 205.  I am running in the 199-201 range, according to everything Shannon and I discussed.  Ahh, alas I need a Scace of my own with a data logger.

Holiday Coffee & Espresso


Well, it really is that time of year again.  I have heard all of my life that time flies faster and faster the older you get, but it seems like yesterday I was sweating my brains out in 100 degree heat!  Now, we have had a great month of November and late October in averaging in the high 50’s.  A bit odd, even for North Carolina this time of year.

So, what to do about Christmas?  Last year, it was my first Christmas with “the unit” hooked up in the house.  It was  a sprint to get it all hooked up as a 220v electric line had to be brought in from the service box, we had to plumb it for water coming in and out and finally, I had to get a couple hundred dollars of accessories like cups and such.  Finally, when I did get things going all I had was a Kitchen Aid Proline Grinder, which was suppose to work fine with espresso and probably would for the average setup, but quite frankly I was trained on a Mazzer (Jolly & Robur) and I just couldn’t see using that PL.  So, a Mini Mazzer was acquired.

Coffee wise, I ordered five pounds from Crema Coffee Roaster and I shot through that in about three days!  That is high volume for a house!  And to be honest with you, it wasn’t that great of espresso.  No fear my friends, it wasn’t Crema’s fault.  It was squarely my fault.

This year, I am still considering ordering three pounds from Crema, as I just spent through a three pound order that was fantastic.  But, I am keeping my options open.  I may just mix things up and go “West Coast” this year.  The only issue I have is not knowing what it should taste like and then not knowing if I am dialed in right.

What are you doing for the holidays with your coffee purchases?  Spicing things up a bit?  Staying with your stalwert coffee sources?

What is going on over at Crema Coffee Roasters?

Kevin from Crema Coffee Roasters sent me some espresso and a pound of Korate for the press pot.

What in the world is going on with that espresso, Kevin?

In the word’s of my wife: “That stuff is like Tim McGraw…”Everwhere.”

It is all over the map.  Some of the best espresso I have had lately.  Nutty, floral, chocolatey.  Just all over the map!

French Press: Beginnings and Advancment

French Press? I talk a lot about it and I even have a link up to “Coffee Kid” where Mark Prince talks about his discovery and progression of the world of specialty coffee. Mark has a lot to say about the subject and I highly recommend you read his “progression” because it seems to be almost a mirror image for everybody in the world of coffee. The names and places seems to be different, but the ones of us who have turned into true specialty coffee hounds, critics and passionate nuts seem to have relatively similar stories.

Those stories seem to quickly gravitate towards one method of coffee brewing above others: The French Press. Mr. Prince says in his disposition that “The Bodum press pot was my real introduction to quality coffee in my own country.” As it was my true introduction, as well. My mother-in-law purchased a Starbucks branded Bodum Press at her local $B and gave that to me for Christmas. As I sit here typing, it is four inches from my arm! As much as I love espresso and as well as my commercial two group Italian made Faema running off of 220v on my kitchen counter makes that espresso, I will always be forever indebted to and in love with my French Press. I have two different models and the second model is a Bodum “Young Press.” It is great for the truck as it has a neoprene and/or plastic cover that just works well for travel. I actually picked the Young Press up at my local Target (I haven’t ever seen Wal-Mart offering presses of any kind).

Finally, as my journey has continued, I find myself intrigued with tweaking my press experience. I currently grind with a KitchenAid Proline Grinder which was also at the suggestion by Mr. Prince. He swears by the grinder for anything excluding espresso grinding. It just won’t “put out” that fine quality without some severe modification (said that for you Tommy). Well, after almost two years with the grinder I too swear by the grinder. I can’t recommend it enough and at the price for a brand new one of $159.95 you can’t beat that with a stick. I paid $200 for a “reconditioned” unit.

While I have been well pleased by the performance of my KA PL grinder and my French Press I know this can get better. What I mean is I simply can’t just “leave well enough alone.” I am a natural tinkerer. One who looks at the Peterbilt and has to make it seem to “do this or do that.” Dropping this and exchanging out that! I modified my grinder to make an even better grind (again, thanks Tommy) by simply taking “plumber’s tape” and wrapping the burr carrier shaft a couple times. It really made a swell difference in the consistency of the grind.

But, finally, there has to be more done. Just as if when your grinding for espresso the grind must be “right” in order to make the right cup of espresso and finally the right latte or cappuccino. To “tight” and your going to be bitter and slow and and too loose and your going to be “sour” and fast. Well, with French Press, ANY DUMMY can make a decent to very good cup of coffee in four minutes flat! But, if you want to tweak it, you start thinking about the grind and how that effects the coffee. You start thinking about the amount of coffee in relation to the amount of water. Common sense tells you that too much coffee and the right amount of water makes bitter coffee. Too much water in the right amount of coffee makes watered down and bland coffee.

In steps Jim Hoffman to rectify this. Jim is the 2007 World Barista Champion (WBC). Jim is a fantastic teacher of how coffee should be prepared, no matter the application.

Here is my next step in my “coffee evolution.” I must get a gram scale to properly prepare whatever the method of brewing coffee. Whether we are discussing French Press, vacuum, or espresso or even old fashioned “drip” and the list goes forward. I think that is what I am going to ask for Christmas. Some fantastic tulip shaped 6 oz cappuccino cups and a good gram scale that will work with “tare” weights, as well.

In the mean time, enjoy this short video on Jim’s french press method. It is a learning experience. I mainly stick to Mr. Prince’s method: Boil your water and as soon as it is boiling pour it over the fresh (seconds old) grinds in the press. Let it steep for two minutes and stir. After two more minutes (4 minutes total) you push the shaft on the press and pour yourself a cup :). Real easy!

Videocast #2 – French Press Technique from James Hoffmann on Vimeo.

Changing Espresso Technique

I have recently changed a couple techniques in my dosing, tamping and shot making.

The DOSE: With the dosing, I have been using the Schectermatic Laboratories Schectermatic Shnozzola (tm) developed by the (in)famous Andy Schecter.  I must say, Andy, this is a very simple and very effective modification for a Mazzer grinder.  Everybody knows that the doser shoots hard left and makes a mess.  This really tames the Mazzer.  This mod has allowed me to let one chamber on the doser wheel “fill up” and then dose it to the portafilter’s triple basket.  It puts about a 40% fill in the portafilter and then I tap the portafilter to the bottom of the Mazzer’s forks, settling the grinds (hoping to avoid channeling) and then proceeding to fill the portafilter up.  Now, with the Scectermatic Scnozzola I have less (much less) than a gram of waste.  If I am watching what I am doing, it is no waste at all.  A 12 oz bag of espresso actually last me a couple days now.  Wow, Andy you have revolutionized my dosing while effectively increasing my productivity, reducing cost to a bare minimum and streamlined my supply chain while providing monolithic output.  All giving Mrs. Nikki more grocery and gas money.  Andy, you are Superman!  Thanks Andy!

The TAMP: When I took the beginners Espresso class at Counter Culture Coffee in Durham they really discouraged the timeless “tap” many baristas have been doing for years.  Among Third Wave baristas (Google that and read up) many people use the tap (video) to get rid of channeling in the puck, therefore reducing bitters or sours in parts of the espresso puck, all making a great cup of espresso.  Well, I started tapping the thing with the handle of my Espresso Craft Tamper and I am here to tell you, I am getting a better extraction!  I am getting better espresso and that is what CCCOUNTS!

The Shot Making: I NEVER used the thermometer with the milk.  I just thought it was cheesy, amongs other things, and rather Starbuxy to be using that thing.  When I walk into a coffee shop and see a thermometer in the milk pitchers I immediatly put my guard up and my expectations down!  IMMEDIATLY!  The result is I have always had a very good ear and hand finely tuned to the point that I rarely over steam or under steam my milk.  The very first time I steamed milk at the CCC training  the girl just knew she was going to have to correct me and make an example out of me so when the milk came out … “perfect” (her words) … she said … OK, you try it (to another trainee).  So, why in the heck am I stuck on a timer for getting the best espresso extraction? Today I pulled a lot of shots using the bottomless portafilter just trying to visually stop the pump when I saw the least bit of blonding going on.

The result where impressive.  I would pull a shot with the timer and then pull a shot with “my eyes!”  The difference is amazing in the taste and look in the cup.  I bet I have really been missing some good espresso. The question I now have (your input is appreciated) is how in the heck can I “see” what is going on with a standard portafilter with a double spout.  I mean, I know I can see it coming down out of the double spout but I imagine it will be harder to tell.  Oh well, I guess I will have to try that, too.

Morning Suprise from my Counter Culture Espresso

NOTE: Normally I would never do what am about to discuss, but alas, for the love of a woman…

So, I wake up this morning at the house after a couple of hard days on the road and the wife has the Faema warming up. I walk in asking why, because we have only enough CCC Aficionado espresso beans for about three grinds.

She replied, “Give it a shot, you never know.” So, I did. No grinder calibration. No test shot. No nothing. The first shot came out and looked fantastic and I made a cappuccino with that and she swore it was “right on target.”

I was stunned. So, I made a second cappuccino for myself with the second shot. It was great! I was taken away with how great it really was.

At last, the espresso was down far enough I had to take the hopper off of the Mazzer and hold my hand over the neck to grind. This was just a double shot of espresso and it was absolutly the best shot I have pulled in a long time.

No calibration shots! It is amazing to me. I guess the only explanation was as the beans aged they came right up to where the grind setting was. After all, the two days ago I dialed the grinder in on two shots and thought to myself that it could stand just a hair more fine, but I was afraid of going too far and settled for less than immaculate.

Coffee truly is amazing to me.