Tuesday, October 26, 2010

LatteArtThrowdown 17 nov kl. 19-21

We will host another LAT very soon- a Latte Art Throwdown.

Wednesday 17th November kl. 19-21

Don´t miss out. If you never tried it before, it is now you have the chance to try. And if you already tried- well then you know how much more there is to this somewhat silly competition.

So pop in to have a chat and just meet people around coffee- we do know that you will be pouring milk no matter what.

Friday, October 22, 2010

La Marzocco Strada

For the past two and a half months we've been so fortunate to do field testing of the new prototype La Marzocco espresso machine Strada MP.

There's two versions of the Strada coming out. The MP is the Manual and the EP is the Electronical programmable version. The other prototype has been installed at our good friend Tim Wendelboe's place in Oslo and he did a great write-up on his blog here: http://timwendelboe.no/2010/08/la-marzocco-strada-first-thoughts/

The big thing that everyone's been talking about with the Strada is Pressure Profiling. Not just the manual pre-infusion that you can do on other machines, but actual control over the pressure during the whole extraction. So, for instance, you can ramp the pressure slowly up to 9 bars over 8 seconds and then decrease the pressure again towards the end. Or anything you can imagine.

Many have asked us "Do we really need another variable when it comes to espresso??" and I'm sort of inclined to agree. If you are still struggling to get your shots consistent than perhaps this isn't the machine for you. But if you are looking to get the last few percentages out of that particular single mill Kenyan, then I think you'd want to consider the Strada. And boy can it make some tasty shots!

But I don't want to make this post all about pressure profiling. I actually think that even if this machine came without it, I'd still buy it!

We absolutely love the openness of the machine, especially the exposed groups. It’s a machine that really puts the barista back in touch with the espresso and makes you feel so much more engaged in the whole process.

There's a lot of nice details on this machine; like the hot water mixing valve being accessible from the front so you can adjust the temperature of the hot water very easily. And the botton for the hot water is cool just on it's own. It’s also a really cool feature that the pressure gauges on top of the group heads move up when you increase the pressure.

The large drip tray is really nice. It’s super easy to clean with a cloth and you have great working space. The drip tray can be put in two different heights, depending on how tall cups or glasses you use in your shop. I still dream of a system that's adjustable on-the-go with a small hydraulic lever, but I digress..

Each group has it's own boiler, so you can adjust them separatly to 0,1 degree Celcius accuracy. The water entering the boiler has already passed through a heat exchanger, so it's basically a the same accuracy as most older HX-type espresso machines, before the PID takes over. This way you can have one or two groups set for your espressoblend and leave one optimized for a single origin if you want.

The pressure is adjusted on the paddle on top of each group. The feel is really nice, although the adjustment is a bit tricky. Very little movement can be a big change in pressure. Sort of like adjusting the grind size on a Mazzer... But once you get the hang of it, it becomes really really fun and engages you in the brewing process more than any other espresso machine I've tried. Honestly I think for a coffee shop the EP version makes more sense, as you can then save your profiles and repeat them by the push of a button. And you can transfer them into a computer software where you can manipulate them further. We felt that on busy days, or when there is just one barista working it was impossible to do pressure profiling. You just can't be moving the paddle accurately while you are steaming milk for a cappuccino.

We've played around with different profiles, mostly for our espressoblend. In the beginning we settled on four basic profiles, that were quite different to see what the results were. I have to admit it's been very difficult to gather exact results. It seemed to vary from time to time, what we preferred. We quickly found out that different profiles requires different doses, and thus different grind adjustments to perform well. And then you need to be extremely consistent to get the profile right again and again.

What we did get was a very broad range of flavours from our blend, ranging from clear marzipan sweetness to wild berry juice. We found that too long (+10 seconds) build up of pressure in general didn't deliver very aromatic or sweet shots. We set the maximum pressure to 9 bars, where we usually set our machines to 8,5 bars. I had very varying results from ramping the pressure down towards the end. Sometimes it worked really well and other times it brought out more bitterness. Not sure what to think of it. On one hand it makes sense to have lower pressure towards the end so you extract less at that stage, but then again it also means you might have longer contact time between water and coffee at exactly that stage, so I dunno...

Now it's time for La Marzocco to get the machine back. First it will be going to an Out of the box event and later back to the factory so they can see what wear and tear we've put on the machine. As with any prototype there has been a few "children diseases" and we've sent the team at La Marzocco a 4 page summary of our experiences with the machine. We still don't know when the machine will be available for purchase, but contact your local La Marzocco distributor if you want to know more.

This afternoon we'll be tasting the last few shots from some different pressure profiles and then we'll just have to wait till La Marzocco are ready to roll them off the production line.

Friday, October 15, 2010

New Roaster

The new roaster is up and running.

It's a Probatone 12 - the new version.

We decided to get a new roaster mainly because the old, Probat L12, cannot roast and cool at the same time. You have to take the air flow either through the roasting drum or the cooling bin. With the new one, even though it's the same size, we can roast more in the same time.

The new roaster also has a larger burner giving us more room to play with different roast profiles. There's also the opportunity to log roast electronically on a computer. Plus the cooling time is quicker. All in all it's a bunch of small improvements that together became significant enough that we thought now was a good time to change.

A few months back Peter tested 4 different roasters from Diedricht, Giesen and two from Probat. When we decided on this new Probatone, it's not to say the others weren't great roasters and for other roasteries and different styles of roasting those machines might be a better fit. But both in terms of taste (we blind cupped the roasts from the different roasters) and in terms of possibilities with roast profiles this was the right choice for us.

We've been doing tests all week on it now and been cupping the results. Today's cupping showed great results and we already have managed to dial in to the same taste profiles that we had before. Now we can - as we always do - try to optimize the roast profiles even more and see what can be improved further. We still need to get the roast log software to work but that should also be a big help.

Oh, and we also painted the whole shop and got some maintenance done while we were closed, so come on down to a sparkling clean coffee shop!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Intelligentsia Chicago, IL

After spending 4 amazing days in Panama, we headed back up north to Chicago, where Intelligentsia Coffee has their HQ’s.

The 2010 World Champion Barista, the wonderful Michael Phillips who works at Intelligentsia, treated us with two amazing days filled with visits to the three different Intelli Coffee Shops around the city of Chicago as well as getting the big tour of the Roasting Works.

Day one started out with Peter and myself (AnneStine) biking up in beautiful sunshine to the Intelligentsia Shop on North Broadway, where the Original coffeeshop opened back in 1995. Back then the coffee shop also housed the Roastery, using a 12 kilo Probat roaster, which is the same brand and size we at the Coffee Collective currently are using.

Being the oldest bar out of the three shops, it has a very special atmosphere, where people from the neighborhood sit down with their laptops, and regulars pop in for their morning coffees.

Michael gave us a good tour of how the bar was set up, also with the change to a coffee menu that does not state the brewing method, Only presenting the selection of black brewed coffees of that day. This is to let the main focus stay on how a certain coffee is best tasting, rather then brewing method. 

Next stop was the Monadnock coffee shop downtown Chicago. This building creates a great frame for the style of this particular coffee shop, with 6 feet thick exterior brick walls and nice, clean lines through out the space.  

The look of the bar takes you back in time, thinking of old espresso bars in Italy, with marble tabletops, dark wood and tiled floors. Baristas in the bar also wore either vests and tie or suspenders, really underlining the atmosphere. 

This shop is so different from the Broadway shop, adapting to its neighborhood, made out of business buildings and a more fast- paced environment.

Third but not least, we visited the Millennium Park location. This shop has a more open, streamlined and contemporary feel to it with high ceilings and big windows, really picking up the area with Millennium Park (filled with new architecture and art installations) just around the corner. 

At Millennium Park You can either sit at the bar, getting a good chance to talk to the baristas working, or sit around the big wooden table, creating a space for people to interact more easily, an idea I personally really love. A great space indeed!

All three Locations really has its own thing going on, presenting how to make a coffee shop work in very different neighborhoods, without being over the top or a cliché. 

The Roasting Works was our location on day 2, located just outside the city center.

We started with a cupping set up by Jesse Crouse, sample roaster at Intelligentsia. We got to taste a selection of Tanzanian Sample roasts, which to me was very interesting, as I never have tasted coffees from Tanzania.

 We also did a cupping with a few of our own coffees; Kieni (Kenya), Gatina (Kenya) and Finca Vista Hermosa (Guatemala) on a table with some of their sample roasts, This time Doug Zell and Kyle Glanville joined in. Lets be honest guys- Sitting at a cupping with some of the biggest names in the industry… Well, it was intimidating.

Michael showed us the whole Roastery and training lab. The roastery itself stores 3 impressive roasters, varying in size up to 90 kg each. Great fun to see the same process from green beans to roasted beans, being produced in a mush bigger scale then what we are used to at the Coffee Collective. 

Walking around with Mr. Phillips, you sensed that the main focus at Intelligentsia these days are really optimizing their own staff to the fullest, by taking a step back and having a good look on what can be done to becoming even more solid. Part of this was the new Barista Training program that Michael and Stephen Morrissey are implementing in all Intelligentsia Coffee shops these days.

Made up of different levels, the barista in training are guided thru a specific course, with tests and follow-ups from the barista trainer at the end of each level. When passed, the barista move on to a different level and can be ended with a big final exam, becoming a Certified Barista.

The program is basically designed to educate and giving the barista the best tools possible to present a truly great coffee experience, in this ever-changing industry. Staying ahead of the game and always being with it.

With all the different aspects of the speciality coffee industry, it can be difficult for new baristas to even know where to start. 
To share that great cup of coffee, you as a barista need to have the knowledge understanding and of all the different aspects of the process- starting at the soil, to what ends up in the cup. A structured way of learning would absolutely be a great way of approaching all this information.

The Barista Program used at Intelligentsia is the closest thing I have seen resembling a so-called Barista Education to this extent, and I am really looking forward to follow its process.

As I am talking about becoming skilled baristas, I have to say, hands down- my impression of the baristas working at the Intelligentsia coffee shops, were excellent. Their knowledge and dedication of the craft really shined thru, all in their very own personal ways. Lovely!

Thank you, everyone at Intelligentsia, and an especially Thanks to Michael Phillips, you took more then good care of us. We hope to see you in Copenhagen sooner!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Closed from Sunday!

We'll be closed from this Sunday until Wednesday morning to install our NEW ROASTER!

Yes, we're getting a new roaster. We'll get a blog post up on it later.

Meanwhile go visit our friends at Kaffebar (Elmegade) or Harbo Bar or Cafe N (both on Blågårdsgade) who are all just 5 minutes away for your coffee needs.

And we'll (if nothing goes wrong) be open again at 7:30 on Wednesday morning.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Hacienda La Esmeralda 2010

The coffee from Hacienda La Esmeralda inspired the title for the recent coffee book "God in a Cup". For sure the coffee Hacienda La Esmeralda Special is extraodinary. Especially the intense elegant toparomas like bergamot in the coffee makes it very unique.

As great fans of this coffee Anne Stine and I had looked very much forward to visiting the Hacienda and try to get an idea of why their coffee is so fantastic.

Its not easy to find out why the coffee is that special but I will try to share some impressions I got during the visit.

This time of year is actually rainy season and the good coffees cherrys are still green not ready to be harvested yet.

On the picture is the long "Geisha" cherries. This variety is definetly part of the explanation of why the coffee from Hacienda La Esmeralda is so good, but alone it is not the explanation because it is possible to get "geisha" from other producers which does not have the same intense toparomas and some even doesn't have these toparomas at all.

Another interesting thing about the geisha is the lower yield it has. The ”geisha” tree would only produce around half the cherries of the Caturra. To me this is interesting because from my experience in general trees in Ethiopia and Kenya carry much less fruits than often seen in Central America. Would there be a relation between the sparser number of fruits on each tree and the more floral og berry-like aromas often found in Ethiopian and Kenyan coffees. From a biolgical perspective one could make the hypothesis that a lower number of fruits, everything else equal (which of course seldom is the case), would allow the tree to give more nutrients and energy to each individual cherry and in this way potentally making the aroma more complex in the direction of floral and berrynotes!?

In any case we had the chance to blind cup a ”Geisha” lot that the Petersons did not find good enough for the auction against their ”Diamond mountain” which consists of ”ordinary” varieties including caturra and catuaí. The Diamond Moutain is a really nice clean, sweet and balanced coffee grown at hights around 1400 msl. Which is the lower limit of where the Petersons grow their ”Geisha”. Actually the Colgá lot which we bought is situated at this height as well. Already in the dry fragrance there was no doubt which was the geisha and which was the Diamond. The diamond had a deep sweet pleasent aroma whereas the ”geisha” had a wonderfull bergamot like aroma (to me very typical for their unique ”geisha”). This of course is no proof of the hypothesis but merely showing the different chareteristics of the different varieties.

Thursday we got the chance to walk through the Colgá lot. It seemed alomst like walking through rainforest. There were a lot of indigeniuos shade trees, it was really humid and moss was growing on the trees. The soil was also rich, dark and very soft as in a good wet forest.

When we walked through the fields we were passing along the neibourghs field as well. It was striking to see how different the trees at Hacienda La Esmeralda (on the left) looked from the neibourghs trees (on the right below). The trees at La Esmeralda looked very healthy, green and fertile whereas the neibouring trees really looked like the were missing something – probably at least nutrients. The leafs were sparse and yellowish in color.

We had the pleasure of having lunch at Price and Susan Petersons residence. They served us a wonderfull and very tasty lunch and this was accompanied by some very interesting talks about coffee quality. Price shared with us how much he appreciated the work of the Gnobe Indians who came to the Hacienda in the harvest to pick. They were extremely carefull in their picking and as such were extremely skilled at only picking fully ripe cherries (the foundation of all good coffees but sometimes a struggle for the miller to achieve). Since we visited before real harvest time unfortunately we did not get to meet any of the Gnobe Indians this time.

Back at the mill the very first coffee was coming in. This was from some lower lots that also belongs to the Hacienda but has nothing to do with the Hacienda La Esmeralda Special. The cherries was picked not because they were fully ripe but because their skin was breaking up - maybe because of a overpressure of water in the pulp of the cherry.

This is the first time they go to the field to pick, what they call "the first cut" . It was not a Geisha lot they picked here but they will do the same thing with these lots later in the season. Actually they will do up to 10 cuts on each of the "geisha" lots. They will cup each of the cuts and decide if it will end up in the Special or not. Normally the first two cuts and the last one will not qualify.

After the reciving tanks the coffee cherries are transported to the depulper but on the way they had installed a cyclone. The Cyclon basically seperates out not fully ripe cherries, leafs and sticks since they all float on top. The fully ripe cherries will sink to the bottom and from there they continue to the depulper.

At the mill at Hacienda La Esmeralda they have a mechanical demucilator.
They have compared the coffee from the mechanical demucilator with the fermented and washed coffee. In their cuppings the aromas of the mechanically demucilated ”geisha” was as good as in a fermented and washed ”geisha”. Since the mechanical demucilator reduces the risks of poorly fermentation affecting taste they have choosen this method. I must admit that I am a bit suprised that it is possible to produce a coffee with such intense toparomas without the fermentation. In my mind this really is questioning some of what I thought was basic advantages of the washed method!

Another thing that stroke me was that at Hacienda La Esmeralda they have their own (small) dry mill. This gives them control over the entire quality developing process in the producing country.

It was clear that Hacienda La Esmeralda is driven by people who are both very good at their job and very curious to find out how they eventually could improve. They had their own little test field with different varities, they had ongoing test where they made comparative cuppings of how quality is effected by forinstance altitude or by the age of the tree. This ongoing research is very impressing and for sure must be part of the explanation why the coffee Hacienda La Esmeralda Special is so very special!

Its not easy to sum up what they are doing so well at Hacienda La Esmeralda, but if I should try to point out one thing to be crusial for the quality it must be the cupping of Rachel and Daniel Peterson. They seem to be very skilled cuppers who work very dedicated on developing and selecting the highest quality for Hacienda La Esmeralda Special. Actually the whole "geisha" story would never had been started if it wasn't for Daniel noticing that the coffee from some fields of the farm was tasting very different from others and afterwards breaking down lots to later discover that the very special taste came from a particular variety - the Geisha....

Photos by Anne-Stine