R.I.P. Coffee Common

Today’s formal announcement of the dissolving of Coffee Common made me want to resurrect this blog to post a few thoughts on the impact CC has had on me.

As nerdy / fanboy as this sounds, it was one of my dreams to be able to participate in an event like Coffee Common, and I was fortunate enough to have been selected as a barista for CC x TED 2012 in Long Beach. Through CC I was able to meet incredible baristas / coffee people from around the globe who all have and continue to inspire me. I was able to enjoy coffees from Roasters I may not have ever experienced, and had the pleasure of introducing others to these same coffees.

But the biggest thing Coffee Common taught me was the importance of Discovery & Wonder, and this came in the form of story telling. At CC, we were encouraged to make telling the stories of our coffees a priority. In our industry, we are privileged to work with coffees that are completely traceable, and with this traceability surfaces the honest, real-life stories of the human-beings behind each coffee. These stories are amazing and the incredible interactions I had reinvigorated how important they are in engaging not only customers, but us as coffee people.

Finally there was the sense of community. People were pretty floored when we told them that we were actually from different cafes and roasteries from around the world and would ‘normally’ be considered competitors but were all united in our passion and love for providing an amazing coffee experience. We have an incredible global community in coffee that is actually very tight knit. I strive to take this into my own community and develop the coffee scene closer.

Coffee Common was and will be one of the absolute highlights of my coffee career, and I thank the Coffee Common committee, fellow baristas, sponsors and roasters who sacrificed so much to make it happen. The friends I made, the experiences and interactions I had inspired me in so many ways.  And I guess you can see the impact a concept like Coffee Common has had. While Coffee Common has formally finished, you see so many CC like events and ideas spreading around the world, which I think shows a goal accomplished by CC.

Thanks Coffee Common for everything!

Jer

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Barista thoughts

One of the things I love most is dialing in coffee. Not only does it make me feel important, I also get the opportunity to make things as difficult as possible for my coworkers.

How?

I employ a method where I use as many tools and variables as I can.

First I make sure that I get as many groupheads functioning at different temperatures as possible. Next I whip out the scale and dose a weight of coffee that is always a prime number and at a level that will make the work bench as messy as possible. Secondly I will make the pre-infusion time that is also a prime number so that it is difficult to keep track of when we really get slammed on bar. Now with the introduction of pressure profiling, things get more fun. Not only do we have to keep track of pre-infusion time, we also need to keep track of full pressure brewing and post-infuse. (#prime numbers, muahaha).

What do I accomplish?

Well over my many years of coffee experience (probably up there with Howell and sweetmarias …er…..) I have found that cloak and daggers is the trick to coffee. The more confused I make people, the more amazing and buddah-like I seem. So in order to continue to feel important, I find it essential to confuse not only customers but also my coworkers….no…wait, ESPECIALLY my coworkers.

Now dosing like 13g of coffee, preinfusing for another 17 seconds, full pressure pulling for 19 seconds and postinfusing for 23 seconds is a lot too keep track of…so I thought it’d be less confusing to introduce some new terms that are easier to “get a hold of”.

Video

Coffee Translation: Piccolo Latte

When I first came to Australia and ordered a cappuccino…out came this frothy drink with dusted chocolate on it….SAY WHAT??!

Then I ordered a macchiato, and a small little cup with a dot of milk on it (“macchiato = mark of”, DUH!).

Apparently back in Calgary, people at Phil & Seb sometimes order flat whites. WTF is that?

Hopefully this is the first installment of a series to unconfuse the confused.

Edit: So I guess it’s not evident from the video, but piccolos are like N. American macchiatos but a bit thinner in milk but other than that its the same.

Wollondi

Hello all,

It’s been a while since I’ve last posted and I can’t wait to get back into regularly updating this blog.  Mike has done a fine job creating some literary masterpieces and as a result, enjoying some writing groupies so now it’s my turn to get some of that sweet action.

Lots has happened over the last little while.  I’ve travelled alot, eaten alot and drank and prepared alot of coffee.  As many of you likely don’t know, I recently competed in the Canadian National Barista Championship in Toronto.  While I will post on this in more detail later, I wanted to share with you the coffee I competed with.

Ethiopian Wollondi.

Region: Wallega (West Ethiopia)

Processing: Natural

In my very short time in the industry I have encountered very few coffees that I have truly fallen in love with.  Most of them have been naturally processed coffees, and most are from Ethiopia.  I was very privileged to be able to use Wollondi as my competition coffee.  This is an extremely rare and unique coffee for a number of reasons.

With the institution of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange, many independent mills / farmers now can only sell their coffees to exporters through cooperatives or certain representatives.  This is making certain famous regions like Yirgacheffe or Sidamo now more generic as cooperatives (albeit being ‘separated’ for more higher quality to lower quality) still lump different coffees together at the mill.  It’s limited the availability and traceability of these amazing coffees much harder.  However, Wollondi was sourced by 90 Plus coffee, an organization headed by Joseph Brodsky who spends enormous amounts of time on the ground in Ethiopia hunting these rare gems and working with farmers and millers, sharing his technologically advanced methodology.

Wollondi is from a region of West Ethiopia called Wallega.  This is another reason why this coffee is so damn cool, because this is such an unheard growing region.  The region itself is quite deforested, yet in a rare patch of beautiful forested area grows this coffee, planted neatly under these rare trees.  It’s comprised of two numbered varietals, 74110 and 7487.  Joseph told me that the coffee plants live harmoniously with the wildlife and other plants there, something that you don’t often see as in many coffee farms, the plants are grown separate from other types of growth and animals.

Tole Narian grows this coffee and him and Joseph are helping train and educate the pickers to go beyond “picking ripe cherry”.  A sugar content analysis is done on the cherries to determine the maximum sugar level.  Doing this allows the maximum level to be correlated with the appearance of the cherry at this level.  This appearance is then visually shown to the pickers so that they pick the cherry at its maximum sugar level.  Just because a cherry is bright red doesn’t mean it’s at its optimal picking time.

Drying is being advanced here too.  The drying process, especially for the naturally processed coffees, is a stage where lots can go wrong.  Uneven drying or lack of movement and airation for the cherries can result in fermenting fruit and a dirtiness or ferment note in the coffee.  Drying beds are raised here, and cherries are sparsely layered and moved around often to promote proper and even drying.  However, Joseph and Tole are going beyond this by creating “Drying Profiles”, meaning they are determining the specific rates of drying that prove to be optimal for the coffee.  In this case, Wollondi is dried quickly at first, then as the cherries become drier, the drying is slowed.  This is what gives the explosive natural tasting berry notes in addition to a high-quality acidity.

My tasting notes for this coffee:

Espresso:

Aroma: blueberry, stone fruit (peach/apricot).

Profile: blueberry, subtle baking spice, peach, cherry, hint of marzipan, dark chocolate.

Acidity:  juicy, clean acidity, sometimes tart like green apple acidity.

Extremely sweet with creamy body.

In a cappuccino, notes of:

Dark brown sugar, oat/malt, dark brown sugar-like sweetness, blueberry / dried fruit.

In the competition I likened it to eating a big bowl of oatmeal with a nice scoop of brown sugar.

It’s an incredible coffee, and has such distinct and popping flavors.  I love the sweetness and the huge amounts of fruit that this coffee has.  What’s incredible is that there is so much potential at this farm/mill/area.  Plans for lot separation, new drying profiles and upgrading the drying beds will all lead to making this coffee even cleaner and more outstanding (which is pretty hard to comprehend).

I can’t wait to try this coffee with a roasting profile for more drip style brewing methods.  What an incredible and truly special coffee.  Pictures to come.

Jeremy

Nordic Barista Cup

Nordic Barista Cup is a pretty amazing concept. What takes this concept to the next level of legendary is how beautifully executed it is.

What is the Nordic Barista Cup? Not too sure. But to me, it is what happens when a group of people passionate about coffee come together to geek out. There’s some competition stuff, some good exchange of coffee knowledge and definitely some partying but at the end of it all, there is progression in the knowledge and experimentation of coffee. This is a quick, dirty summary but I find a rarity in the industry.

This years NBC produced some mad lectures and due to the beauty of technology I was able to catch George Howell‘s lecture.

Highlight of George’s lecture (download), in my words:

– The Rise of the brewed coffee

There are inherent layers and complexities in coffee that are truly represented in brewed coffee done right. Espresso is great but drip coffee is the center stage for terroir. Overall the experience of drip coffee is 20-30 mins long which creates an overall more impacting experience.

Cold brew coffee is not something to be embraced. In fact Howell seems disappointed that people in the specialty coffee industry are pushing this method of brewing. In short, the cold water process does not develop the terroir of the coffee being used to make the drink, the essential reason why top dollar is shelled for these amazing coffees.

– Cupping process

Cupping is good. Flights of coffee is better. I agree. The flight of coffee that was served to us when we went to Market Lane in Melbourne was great. It is something that is useful in developing palate of staff and customers and is just an amazing concept in the cafe setting

– Silverskin optimisation

Amazing new concepts that I have yet to have the privilege of exploring is the amount of silverskin left on the coffee after all the processing. I’m excited to see where this takes us in terms of processing, and service of coffee

There are a bunch more topics that are discussed and for those of you who are curious to know more about coffee processing and the issues that farmers face please give this a listen.

Mad respects to NBC, George Howell and the coffee community geeking out in the right way.

*less text and more pictures next time