Holiday Coffee & Espresso

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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?

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Basics for a new generation coffee business

The wife and I have been just plugging at an idea for a coffee kiosk business.  We have a plan in our head which we intend on putting on paper, but right now it is just in the air.  All we would be doing is sucking off of $B top.  We would be in a high foot traffic educational area and we would keep the menu as simple as possible.  A very, very constricted menu such as a espresso, Latte, cappuccino, with the usual soy and such variations and finally the drip/French press via only two single origins.  Nothing fancy and nothing to argue about.  It is a kiosk and the point is the student doesn’t have to drive four miles off campus between a set of classes to go to $B.  The concept further states that we “are not $B and thus we are different.”  Two flavors, which I don’t even want to offer, but we feel like there is some necessity for it, especially at first.  Hopefully, we will be able to offer at least two tables for chair seating and there is some benches all around this large enclosed rotunda area that we have our eyes upon; Thus we hope we can offer the espresso “for here” only.

Jim Hoffman has some spectacular reading going on over at his blog that, in his words, covers “quite a broad topic within coffee, that covers not only elements of brewing but sales, consumption, successes and failures and the challenges that lie ahead for anyone in the industry.”

The first topic is Trust, then Pricing, and finally Expectations.

I would have to say this is required reading, even for a customer.  I know that Miss Nikki and myself will be studying this short, but very helpful primer.

Waylon Forever

Something here I don’t much talk about is my music.  I have a 30 GB iPod that is jacked up to about only 1.8 GB left free.  I listen to everything.  Country, R&B, rock, new or old of anything.  I mostly, however, like old country.  And I do mean old.  The older I get, the older I like it.  I have been listening to a lot of the 50’s through the late 70’s country as of late.

Waylon Forever

Waylon Forever

I have been waiting patiently for Waylon’s wife, son and friends to finish work on “Forever.”  They are finished with it all and it is finally out for consumption.

I am a bit of a Waylon aficionado and I have about all of his work, right on back to the early 60’s.  This stuff is alive.  It is almost like he is still living,..six years after his young death.  You pick the song, “Ain’t living long like this” is absolutly produced by his son.  It is all Shooter Jennings, but Daddy’s voice.  “Outlaw S***”, aptly named, is the classic “Don’t you think this outlaw bit’s done got out of hand” but as a balad.  And it flatly is a homerun.  As much as I loved the original, this is truly better.  I am telling you, it is almost like the man awoke from the grave.

Waylon and I have alot in common: I am very split personality.  Very.

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 Amazon.com 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.

Illegal Immigration and Coffee…no politics, but good religion!

An Ethiopian, a Guatemalan, a South East Asian, a Panamanian and 2 lbs of espresso!

Nope, not illegal immigration, just good coffee!

I ran up to Raleigh tonight with the wife and kids and irritated Kevin @ Crema Coffee Roasters and his new assistant helper coffee fanatic Daniel!  After becoming completely overdosed on caffeine we left with about six lbs of coffee.

Review pending!  Cupping starts first thing in the morning! 🙂

Coffee that will shift Paradigms

I wrote about over a year ago and I still make references to it on this blog from time to time. Almost every single day somebody will say or write something that makes me think of it. It is currently the most searched words on my blog and the most overall viewed post in the year and a half history of this blog.

What am I talking about? Ethiopia Biloya.

Yesterday Jason Dominy and I were talking on the phone and he brought it up. It is just the darnedest thing you have had in your life. It is really undescribable.

Blueberry, chocolate, HONEY, and twenty nine other descriptors. Where we cupping coffee tainted with LSD?

Think about it for a moment: A coffee so special it was airlifted in airtight sealed bags strait from Ethiopia by FedEx! Then brought to the states and divided out amongst a few people who had literally paid the price and then for some reason a guy like George Holt to send it to me at no cost and just to see what I would say. Sharing the experience. Trying to blow peoples minds. What an incredible person George is to share something so special with complete strangers. He converted my wife from never wanting to touch “that nasty mess” to desiring it every morning and evening, as if it were “a walk with God.” Don’t get me wrong, she won’t touch even the best mediocre coffee. Oh no, George started my wife on high grade crack and we can’t have just any ol’ coffee now. We have to have the Ethiopian Yirgs, Sidamo, Idido, Kenya Kongocho, and on and on. Cup of Excellence out of the Americas will do and if you say $B my wife will laugh at you harshly to your face. She is a snob! All because of, at the most, three cups of coffee that changed her entire concept of what coffee is and more importantly is not.

That is what I love about great coffee.