The double riz jiz

I’ve been on unintentional hiatus from this blog and Jeremy has simply stopped giving a care but I had a bit of a coffee centered week that got me a bit excited. Here’s a post that has been brewing (heh, clever) for a little while. It will address the love affair, or #JIMP over ristretto coffees and my reasons against this style of coffee that has a high prevalence in Brisbane.

1) it is a cop out for the Barista

I’m guilty of this often. pulling ristretto coffee is essentially idiot proof when you factor in the technology of coffee today. there is a large margin of
error in the extraction process and leads to lowered Barista attention to detail and ability.
From personal experience:
individual variables hold very little influence when you have such a high soluble ratio. Subtle changes in temperature setting result in insignificant difference in cup. subtle changes in grind result in insignificant changes in cup. Finally (believe it or not) the extraction rate is so slow that subtle changes in shot time, or length result in minimal variation.

in summary ristretto is a safe mode that diminishes necessary Barista involvement. (if you disagree and think that there is skill involved in pulling ristretto then maybe you should reexamine your Barista skill set)

2) injustice to specialty coffee and
estate coffee

Most new coffee shops will call themselves specialty (another issue for another time) therefore need to showcase their coffees. Being a Barista has taught me many things about coffee and one of my earliest lessons was the variety of nuances that are associated with terroir and origin. these nuances demand solid roasting and precise extraction that falls in the range of espresso normale rather than ristretto. So why pull ristretto and miss out on all the complexity?

sidebar: in Australia coffee drinkers love body. but implore that there is an inherent difference in body due
to the attribute of the coffee and false body due to extraction method

3) ristretto may be cool, but won’t help you in competition

self-explanatory.

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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

Coffeetown, Australia

I’ve mentioned the uniqueness that is coffee culture and Jeremy has mentioned the potentially blow-hardness of impromptu coffee crawls but it seems that you cannot really go wrong if you immerse yourself in a coffee culture so rich, so passionate and so self-critical. Impromtuity will eventually lead to Kung-fu Panda Po-like awesomeness.

Seven Seeds

Possible “the best roaster in Australia, maybe the world” So I dragged a non-coffee drinker on this “coffee crawl” with me. It is in fact an uphill climb when that non-coffee drinker is your mom who disapproves of you having too much coffee in one day (too much is anything more than a cup a day). SNAP! We settle down and are greeted with table service (a rarity in Australian cafes). I see a clover and it being over 2 months since my last brew off the $15000 metal cube I couldn’t help myself. As I watched the barista drop the coffee in and stir (what seemed 20 seconds post-water stream) I started to regret my decision. [2 years ago I ordered a Clover and it was a bit weak sauce because I assume it was the only cup of the day and Clovers rarely if ever get dialed]. I was told that the Clover was a Tanzanian something. It came to my table and I poured some out, then a GIANT blueberry fist protruding from the coffee receptacle punched me in the face. As I continued to smell and sip this coffee I felt quite certain there was the essence of Aricha. The blueberry black-eye I received was followed up by smooth chocolate. Damn, amazing Tanzanian….. … if it was actually Tanzanian. Turns out it was an Ethiopian Guji (and due to limited coffee importers in Australia one of the very common coffees offered in this country). Tasty drink regardless of the mix-up. Can’t help but love the little thingymajiggy they serve their Clovers in. Continuing on with the limited coffees …importers….Australia train of thought, I had to push my cup a day limit and ordered a Single Origin Rwanda Musasa espresso because we pull this back in BNE. The coffee was described as coming through with apricot and that it did…with a handful of extra acidity too. Not surprisingly the liquid in the espresso cup was very liquid indeed and lacked the body (or as some of you like to call it, Jesse Ventura) that I’m used to off the Slayer. Decent ‘spro, balanced. Probably the most disappointing part of this cafe was their inability to recognize being in the presence of a coffee superstar. I tried to drop some key words to them like …Slayer…Synesso…Cup coffee…barista…”I thought I tasted Ethiopian in the cup”…etc. but no luck chuck. I’ll chalk this up to the noobness of the weekend staff and nothing against me personally. (Josh, I told you the store sign was too small!!)

Proud Mary

A long way by foot from the CBD! Only for pure geeks! In fact, right when I went in I got rid of mom and sat her down then rocked up to the espresso machine. One barista muttered to the other “he’s geeking out [referring to me]” and then I looked up and introduced myself to Nolan…Mr Proud Mary apparently. I couldn’t help but oogle his enourmous, woody…..6-group Synesso. 🙂 We chatted, I dropped some names of where I worked, he accepted me as a person, I felt validation. Then we went behind the bar and he showed me the 6 groups, the 3 steam wands (the middle one is activated by foot pedal) and showed me his coffees. I ordered the Colombia Huila (smashing my communist overlord declared coffee limit) because Nolan said it was pulling the longest and would be best as espresso. I happily obeyed what Nolan suggested (man I’m passive/easily dominated…[Ben, don’t get any ideas]). Sweet like cane sugar, some fruit in it but really huge, good balance, would give Gwylim a run for his money.  Pretty ill vibe though. I think I heard Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek on the sound system as I decided to be altruistic and change the roll of toilet paper even though I was only going #1. You’re welcome! Good to see Mr. Proud Mary all proud and merry, working behind the machine and slaving it away with his troops. Passionate and friendly dude and I’m glad I trekked out there. I would love to visit and love love to live here. I think that the sheer amount of passionate independent shindigs that Melbourne has to offer gives us coffeegeeks a coffeewood it blows my mind to know that locals still frequent Hudsons and Gloria Jeans. I reckon I’m a Melbourne-type bloke.

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Brisbane Coffee Crawl

Rewind to a few years ago and coffee in Brisbane literally blew hard and did not live up to the “aura” of Australian coffee. In fact rewind to about 6 months ago and the same was true. While Melbourne and Sydney have always had an established coffee culture, Brisbane standard of quality was way behind the leaders and was mediocre at best. Now things have changed. Upstart little boutique roasteries have started to appear, and there is also diversity in choice of coffee (a la direct-trade models) and diversity in equipment used. Now Bris is catching up and pushing it just like Perth and Adelaide.

Buzz has been hot on a few places (kinda like NSA buzz on jihadist movements) and today I had a chance to visit two of them.

One Drop in Fortitude Valley

Espresso: House Blend

Price: $2.6

Machine: La Marzocco FB 70

Grinder: ???

Tasting notes: Bright fruit, _???_

Description: This was pulled very Australian. Double ristretto, huge syrupy body. However I believe this was a bit detrimental to the overall experience because the origin was muddled and hard to identify. There was also dark streaks on the crema which probably translated to astringency in the cup. I mean it wasn’t a terrible shot and I kinda found the syrupy body quite pleasing. However it did not quite  live up to the fanfare brought on by our handy NSA phone taps.

Chic Espresso in Spring Hill

Espresso: SO Brazil something something from Five Senses

Price: $3

Machine: Synesso Something (like many a Synesso I’ve seen in Oz, it has not paddle activators but rather volumetric buttons)

Grinder: Mazzer of some sort

Tasting notes: Unroasted almond with some funk, kumquat finish

Description: The espresso was made more like what goes down in the 403. More approachable, balanced and lets you taste some origin. Now this espresso wasn’t really amazing but I think I was able to taste it for what it was (one word: mediocre). Probably want to drown this guy out in some milk but at least I got a fair representation untainted by preparation inadequacies.

Summary of the crawl: Maybe I’m a dick. I started off the post with “Brisbane has finally caught up in coffee!!! HOORAY!” and then my reviews ripped it all apart. However the real take home message is that coffee culture is changing here and probably for the better. People are challenging whats already here and looking for something different, better. Today was good, not JIMP good but good. The selection of better than average coffee pwns Calgary (and at least you can do a decent coffee crawl here).

Happy drinking and hopefully more posts to come.

Elusive, exclusive…espresso

For the better part of my life, I have had a major beat down courtesy if espresso. I will now take you for a journey that will not necessarily answer questions, nor enlighten you in anyway but hopefully bring you some amusement.

I have been a serious coffee enthusiast for almost three years now. What drew me to the realm of coffee smut I do not know but for me the velvet texture of precision steaming opened my eyes to specialty coffee obsession.
I feel that it is easier to become excited about things such as glistening textured milk and latte art than about intense, Bruce Lee powerful espresso. That makes the first step of serious coffee drinking made up of lattes, mochas and frivolous things like that. Next comes the cappucino or the macchiato. Finally is the espresso, the step that some people never get to but is the things most coffeenuts go nuts about.
Alright so we’ve finally gotten to espresso and you take your first sip and maybe you’re thinking…”what is this feeling???”
It kicked my ass first time around (and probably the next 50 times) but I kept going back for more. To be honest I don’t think I could taste anything but raw intensity until maybe some time this year, almost 2.5 years after I got “seriously” into coffee. But all those experiences of drinking espresso without knowing what the hell I was drinking got me to this place, a place where I think I can finally appreciate it. Now the aromatics, the body, the lingering finish, the origin is something I can evaluate and distinguish.

This makes me wonder: am I slow?? Is that why it took me so long to develop?? Or: I’d espresso is so elusive, and so exclusive what are these people tasting when they first try espresso??

I don’t think that true espresso appreciation occurs until you taste the complexities of the drink and also understands the complexities involved in the preparation where the barista battles all the variables out to destroy your quest for espresso perfection.
Espresso, you have stolen my youth.

Final words:
I don’t think there is such thng as a god shot. What you thought was a god shot is synonymuously known as a fluke.

Had an amazing espresso from work. Has to be my most favourite coffee we’ve had and can be described as passionfruit custard.

First post completely done on iPhone. I’m proud of this.

Baristas! Please make espresso as approachable as you can. Be knowledgable and impart that knowledge.

A Mini Calgary Cafe Crawl

Today, several of us from the cafe went on a short, downtown cafe crawl.  For the uninformed, a cafe crawl is like a pub crawl, but replace alcoholic drinks with coffee, scantily clad women with business suited men, the party bus with human legs, and clubs with cafes.

 

Sounds AWESOME, doesn’t it?

 

Anyways, Calgary’s coffee scene has really blown up over the last couple years, with many ‘3rd wave’ shops now open.  Because of the locations of some of these cafes, I hadn’t been able to get to some, meaning I was eager to go and sample what the city’s new coffee purveyors had to offer.

 

Bright and early, I found myself at  Insomnia Coffee, located in the famous Burns building right next door to the Epcor Center for the Performing Arts.  In my opinion, this is a killer space as it is easily accessible to the morning business crowd, c-train commuters, and evening pre/post Epcor show crowd.  The space is clean, classy and deliberate.  The coffee… to be honest, it left something to be desired.  Unfortunately, all their cup sizes have not yet arrived, and as such, cappuccinos and macchiatos are served in 8 oz ACFs.  The coffee is supplied by Fratello, and while I cannot comment on on their brewed coffee (which I believe is done via French Press), I’m most certain the espresso is Joel May’s 2008 competition blend.  The reason I say it left something to be desired was that the espresso had several positive elements that I think were overshadowed by several negative aspects.  I think with a little more dialing on their LaMarzocco GB5, the espresso pulled could be pretty tasty.  I was getting notes of berries, spice, caramel and dark chocolate, which made for a potentially interesting shot, even amidst some of the negatives.  Unfortunately, several complaints across the table dealt with the milk quality as well.  Hopefully we caught them on a bad day and this was just an anomaly.

IMG_4614

 

Next, we headed down to DeVille located upstairs in Art Central.  DeVille, an Intelligentsia account, also serves Saint German pastries and food, as well as a small wine and beer selection.  This cafe has stunning whites, reds and blacks coating the furniture of their contemporary, edgy cafe design.  This cafe (2009 Krups Kup of Excellence winner) serves up Black Cat ‘spro on its Synesso/Anfirm/Robur combo.  Espressos, macchiatos, and cappuccinos were ordered by us all, in addition to some snacks.  The espresso was an improvement over Insomniac’s.

IMG_4615

Where the major disappointment came was in the food ordered.  Personally, I had ordered an aged cheddar,Dijon, egg and bacon breakfast sandwich, and Mike had a blueberry / white chocolate scone.  Before I even sat down, the sandwich had finished heating and was brought to me wrapped in white food/wax paper, on a white plate. Being perfectly honest, the sandwich was only marginally better than a mcmuffin at the golden arches (and sure reminded me of one).  At $3.50, this is no bank breaker, but I expected slightly more deliberate food from a Saint German kitchen.  Mike’s scone also tasted slightly doughy and almost undercooked as well.  Again, I hope that this was just an anomaly, and we had caught DeVille on a bad day.  (Unfortunately, I had a papery dry lemon loaf at the other location months previous.)  They do serve up a mean shortbread, though, and I’ve heard that their alcoholic offerings and snacks are great value and quality.

*

Overall, this mornings crawl…left something to be desired.  I think it’s great that these new shops have popped up and have started to show the masses that coffee does not have to be mundane, tim hortons quality swill.  However, I think what some shops are doing is being really great supporters of quality coffee, yet not living up to their standards when executing.  If you are championing quality coffee with premium prices, why settle for average drink quality coming off the bar?  I think this is a dilemma that many 3rd Wave shops are dealing with, including ours.  Opening a shop with premium coffee, equipment and design does not equal a premium product!  I think today was a great reminder to all that it all comes down to the drink quality we hand out over the counter – we should only be satisfied with giving a customer a drink that we have tried our utmost best (considering the situation) to produce.  If not, we aren’t doing coffee a favor.  People may start wondering why they are paying higher prices for a product that is only marginally better than a much cheaper, widely available alternative.  I also think what may be missing in this equation is passion.  I think there is a difference between a barista-opened shop, and any other shop.  If there is a pure passion for the product, there is inherently more care…and you can just ‘feel’ it and definitely taste it in the drink.  Thoughts?

I understand there is a consideration for feasibility, and by no means does this post harbor critisizing opinions, just some personal thoughts inspired by today’s experiences.  I’d like to see more pure, barista opened cafe’s that are driven to push the envelope, not just ride the 3rd wave to economic success.  It’s great what’s happening in Calgary and one can only hope that new shops will start springing up to elevate the way coffee is seen in this city.

 

 

*we also may or may not have gone to another shop in which I may or may not comment.IMG_4618