Friday, April 28, 2006

Rocket Time

I received a pound of coffee today from Rocket Coffee Roasters courtesy of the owner.(Thanks, Larry!)

The coffee is El Salvador-Mont de Leon roasted on April 24.. four days ago.

It was sent via USPS Priority Mail. I'm surprised it arrived so quickly. He just sent it out on Wednesday.

I have not opened the bag to taste the coffee yet, so the review will come later, at which point, I will update this entry.

The included pamphlet describes this particular coffee as such:
From the Ahuapachan region, this is truly a special coffee. An "Old world" Bourbon variety, it has big thick body and good acidity. A bright and lively cup with well-rounded honey tones.

The beans are roasted to City +.

How well my palate agrees with this description, remains to be seen.

Many thanks to Larry for giving me the hookup.

The Review:

As typical of a Central American, this coffee is quite bright with ample acidity. As not-so-typical of a Central American, there was much going on in addition to the acidity to bring it all together in a harmonious experience with enough body and depth to balance the acidity without muting it in the least.

As a single origin espresso, I taste dried apricots.. very clearly. 28 second 2oz pull was enough contact to give it ample, yet not excessive, body to carry the complex flavors and marry them into a single taste experience. There are hints of dark chocolate that are lost in the whole compilation. The crema carries the aromas well, and with the flavors, creates a very soft-palate feel. Very pleasing.

This single origin espresso does not work well in milk, however. I believe the flavors react with the sweetness and lactose in the milk rather badly. Great apart, not good at all together. I have not yet tried it as an Americano.

I have not cupped this coffee yet, but my experience with it in a French Press are quite pleasant.. similar to most central americans, but with a better balance than most I have tried. The flavors come alive when pulled as an espresso. It's like night and day, yet very enjoyable when pressed.

I'll add to this as I cup the coffee and try it as an Americano.

Stay tuned.

Update v.Americano.1:

I tell you, this coffee just keeps amazing me. As a reistretto 5oz. Americano, the body, while not heavy, is quite full and dense. Amazing. The softness on the palate is still clearly present. The dried apricot flavor, while still present, is not as intense and is paired with hints of warm honey. The balance is incredible.

Do not pass this one up! It's definitely worth trying.

Great job with the roast, Larry. As far as I can tell, it's fairly transparent. The origin shines through quite well. El Salvador - Mont de Leon makes one great cup of coffee.

Update v.cupping

Yes, I cupped this coffee WAY past the roast date, but still within the "still fresh" period.

2 slightly rounded tbsp of coffee ground between FP and drip used in a 6oz. cup.

Dry Fragrance:
Very bright
High Acidity
Dried apricot; turkey+cranberry; slight tobacco

Dried fruit
Slight smoke

Bright, smooth, and sweet.

delicate milk chocolate

Medium to full body
Very pleasant soft, comforting mouthfeel (not velvety)

Acidity becomes stronger as the cup cools. Flavors mellow out and become slightly more flat. The body thins slightly, and the cup levels out with the flavors becoming less dynamic.

Overall, a great coffee.

Keep up the good work, Larry.

Up next, PNG - Red Mountain.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Quote of the day

"We've secretly replaced the decaf with Robusta....Lets see if anyone notices....."

-Steve Watkins(Owner of Panther City Coffee)

It wasn't bad

The gig isn't bad at all.. in fact, I was kind of dissappointed at the lack of traffic. I did make a few Gen X's, though. When a customer orders the Gen X, the barista makes whatever they feel like at the spur of the moment. It's based on the barista's background, skill, and mood at the time of the order. Trust is crucial. Everyone loved what I made them, which is good.. of course, mixing syrups is almost a no-brainer, and latte art is seen as more of a novelty than the sign of quality that it is.

Just give it time.

I brought my naked portafilter for them to play with. I watched one of the owners pull a shot with it today. She thought it was pretty cool to watch. I cringed a bit when I saw her use the polishing surface to tap on the portafilter to settle the grounds. The shot pulled in the center, but that group has channeling issues with the shower screen. I'm not sure what the deal with it is yet.

I think I may head over there tomorrow to try to figure it out.

Rocket Coffee Roasters sent me some coffee that should arrive tomorrow (as I've been informed). I'm pretty excited about it, and I'll give a review when I've had a chance to cup it, press it, and pull a shot with it.

I have high expectations. ;o)

In other news:
I've been experimenting with hot chocolate/ mocha recipes for the past few days. I'm pretty sure I've got it figured out. Here's a video of some art poured in a hot chocolate taken yesterday. My art today was far better, but I didn't take pictures.

Oh well. Enjoy.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

First Day: in a few hours

I begin my first day behind the bar at this newer shop, with no formal (or otherwise) training from the owners.

I had dropped by with my g/f and my visiting friend to introduce everyone and just have a good time.

On EVERY single table is a flyer that says (per my messing around suggestion.. word for word): "What is latte art? Come find out Sunday 5-9pm" with an internet picture of a beautiful rosetta in the background. I later find out that they have had it written on the outdoor sign since the day they told me I was on.(Thursday)

Holy crap.. I haven't had much time on their machine yet, and I hadn't expected too big of a deal, but now I'm kind of nervous. Not that I'm nervous of whether or not people will like it.. I've been assured by the persons mentioned that even if it's not my best, it's more than anyone here has ever seen (probably). While this is true, I'm trying to set a standard, here. I have very high expectations for myself, and for the industry as a whole.

I feel like I'm representing not only myself, not only the shop, but the entire Third Wave to the people who will walk through the door of that shop come Sunday evening. This is where my nerves come in. I don't have an established flow on this setup yet. Not even close. The steam wands are short.. really short.. and they pivot forward until the wand is at about a 30* angle.. which makes it very difficult to properly froth the milk. I still get larger foam on this machine, but it's getting better. I'm having to get used to 32oz frothing pitchers and how the milk behaves in them after about a month of nothing but my 12oz pitcher at home.. there is a HUGE difference.

I worry about the pre-programmed shot volume. I don't want to pull lungos, but it appears that's what I get with the "double" button. I'll figure it out, I think.

I'm going to bring my timer, my 20z pitcher, and my own tamper so I'm at least comfortable with the tools I'm using. It's so strange, though. I've been praying for an opportunity like this for a long time, and now that it's here, I'm just a bundle of nerves lacking in self-confidence.

This is the first active step in the long journey of improving coffee in West Texas. I just hope this will catch on within the single shop. If that happens, then there's hope. If it doesn't, then it's all just an unfulfilled dream.

Wish me luck, people.


Possibly pictures to come.

Friday, April 21, 2006

New Gig

The Sunday gig came through, and I begin this upcoming Sunday night from 5-9pm. It's not much yet, but as business picks up, so should my hours. For those who have been following this blog, you'll know who/where I'm talking about.

Pay's not great, but it's comparable to other options locally, and it's doing something I love, so I don't mind too much. At least here I will be allowed the freedoms necessary to really improve and help to bring the Third Wave to Lubbock. I see this as the first step in a long journey in changing the entire espresso market in the region. Hefty adjenda, I realize, but I feel I am up to the task.. for now.. as long as I don't remain alone for too long.

Apparently my other coffee home has changed hands, or will change hands soon.. at least that's what my new coffee home has informed me. We'll see what happens here in the next couple of months. I have too many big ideas for a business that's not my own. I should keep that in mind, I think.

I am no longer at the Custard stand (both good and bad) for reasons I won't get into, but I'm glad to be rid of it. I wasn't enjoying the job much, when what I really wanted to do the whole time was coffee.

In other news:

I'm thinking about starting a blog for SouthWest Coffee. In this region, I feel that every shop worth mentioning is trying to get it done on their own. To my knowledge, this is the only region like that, and probably the one in most need of changing that. This blog/website would give the SW coffee community a place to collaborate and share ideas while we all work towards a common goal.

It would be similar to Arizona Coffee, but more specialized, I think, and more broad regionally.

It's just in the brainstorming stages right now, so it may never take off. BUT! If you are reading this and interested in being a part of something like that, please do let me know. If there is ample interest, I'll definitely get on it.

I'll try to take pictures of this new location this weekend.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Public Apology

If you are among the very few people who read this blog, you may have noticed that some past posts have been edited.

It was brought to my attention recently(mere hours ago) that I have allowed my negative feelings to get the best of me.

I have made fun of, cut down, and criticized people who never should have received such treatment.

This was never my intent. This is supposed to be a positive blog about improving coffee. I've turned it into a mud-slinging fest in which I wrote bad (and often unfair) things about other people.

To these people (if you are reading this, you know who you are), I sincerely apologize.

I have incredible respect for anyone who can open and run a business successfully for any amount of time.

My current employer(coffee) has done everything he can to ensure consistency in the products served to our customers. He has also given me the chance to work in a field I love so much, and for this, I am very thankful. My friends know how excited I was when I first got the job, and I still love the fact that I can say I work in the field. It's my passion.

My other current employer(treats) runs a VERY tight ship. I never said it here.. I regretfully made this my dumping ground for negative emotions instead.. but at this shop, EVERYONE works. When things are busy, it runs like a well-oiled machine, and I feel this is due primarily to the owners and their choice in employees. Consistently great in what they do, they've taken a humble single-location franchise and made it into something great with a culture all its own and consistently (more than)satisfied customers with friendly service and a consistently great product. Something I hope I can one-day match up to in my own endeavor (in the distant future).

A final apology to another (you know who you are). You're the last one who should've fallen victim to this sort of treatment. I'm sorry.

I vow from now on to keep this strictly about coffee, and not about business, and especially not about my personal negative feelings amplified by external frustrations.

I hope you all can forgive me.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Newer Shop Update

They've redone part of their interior. It looks fantastic. Much warmer and very inviting. I love it.

Today they had a "free latte until 7pm!" promotion going on (received a message via text message from the mailing list.. excellent concept, btw.. saying so), which implied to me that both owners would be there.

So, I dropped by. Both seemd pretty happy to see me(a good sign), and it was great to see both of them again. He told me I could make my own if I wanted, but I didn't want to impose. Double 12oz latte. The foam was a bit on the large side, but it still tasted sweeter than most places. The espresso was slightly bitter and lacked complexity, I suspect, due to 1) the blend 2) the roast and 3) the age. The beans aren't exactly the freshest they could be, but I guess that's expected when business slows down unexpectedly. All things considered, it was much better.

He proudly told me the grinder was turned off(it's an automatic Nuova Simonelli model.. MDS Automatic), and that he was trying to work through the grounds in the doser to grind per shot.

Good to hear.

His distribution and tamping technique was drastically improved. It made me proud to see the basics of my own technique in use on a commercial level by a shop's owner.

They also told me they were thinking about maybe hiring me for one day a week as sort of a novelty(think latte art) on Sundays if I was interested. They'd hire me on solid if they could afford to, but due to their location and warm weather, business isn't all it could be. It's improving, though.. slowly. Already they've had a few people compliment them and say how much better it is than Starbucks. Which is something.. especially considering that the new presence of Starbucks down the street from my current coffee home has hurt business majorly there. Considering the fact that it's a franchise, the quality has somewhat of a ceiling. But even still, there's a lot that can be done to help things along.

Free samples help considerably if the product is great. I might try to start sampling espresso if I ever get the chance. As most of us know, good espresso tastes amazingly wonderful. There's nothing harsh or negative about it at all, and it opens one's eyes to new possibilities. The trick is getting people to trust you enough to taste it in the first place.

Until next time, here's some crappy art I poured a few days ago. definitely not my best.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Today's double

Here's an espresso pull from earlier today (well.. technically yesterday, I suppose).

Sweet Maria's Monkey Blend at FC/FC+ in 8 minutes 3 days off roast.

Gaggia MDF grinder, Gaggia Coffee machine, EPNW Pro-tamper.

Enjoy.(it was delicious)

Monday, April 03, 2006

Naked Extraction

Here's a video from December in Ft. Worth at Panther City Coffee.

It's my home equipment at a coffee jam they hosted for us.

This is one of those "I'll fill in where I can" moments.

It's AAH! Coffee's Tuscan Blend. Great stuff, though it is a chocolate sugar-bomb. Works beautifuly in milk.

Coffee and Tea

It's pretty obvious to most people that Tea has been sort of the little brother to Specialty Coffee in today's market. This could be due to the fact that most hardcore quality conscious shops are primarily into coffee, and then branch out into tea since it's an expected product, and as we all know.. instant coffee is a crime.. and thus, so should be the teabag. Companies everywhere, like Iintelligentsia, Stumptown, and heck.. even Peet's have branched out into the Tea side of things in addition to their normal coffee offerings.

This is where it gets interesting. Since quality tea is imported and bought as-is, rather than bought raw, and then dried, fermented, blended, etc.. (well, in some cases, it is blended on-site, but that's not too common), there is little error in the cup, as long as the leaves are from a quality source. There is little effort in proper Tea brewing when compared to coffee. No calibrating a grinder, no learning the science and philosophy of distribution, tamping, extraction, and all that goes along with it (there is far too much to list in this entry), which means less chance for the PBTC to stuff up the resulting beverage. Often times, I see french presses being used for tea more often than coffee.. which is set out in a giant air-pot to fester in its own heat for hours on end.

At least, that's how it is in the LBK. While I'm absolutely extatic to be able to go just about anywhere in town and know that I'll get a quality cup of tea, I'm absolutely flabbergasted by the notion that it is being served by a COFFEE-specific establishment that fails MISERABLY at serving a good.. nay, mediocre capuccino.

I don't mean to scream, but WHAT IS GOING ON? I understand that there is a market for tea. I understand that people buy it quite frequently. What I don't understand is how these establishments can fail to realize why people aren't buying their coffee, but they're buying the Tea.

Reality check:

If your establishment is primarily TEA, (quite easy to determine, if you ask me), then do not advertise as a Coffee-specific establishment.

On top of that, I have discovered how remarkably difficult it is to help turn these places around. It's hard enough to get a job there if you are seriously into coffee. What's more, it's even more difficult once you already have that job.

Are people intimidated by passion? Are they afraid of criticism?

Let's take a step back.

Is the purpose of the business to just merely make a buck, or is the purpose of the business to make and serve great coffee and espresso?

This isn't rocket science, let's think about this. As a famous prick once said in a well-known movie, with everything you do, ask yourself this question: "Is this good for the company?".

Sounds cheesy, but really, isn't that what it's all about for the average business owner? There are others with a more noble agenda, like introducing quality coffee to the local population, but unfortunately this is less the norm than one might hope. Even in the north American mecca of coffee.. it's a rare thing by ratios.

Yes, I rant alot about a lack of quality. Some people may be bored of it. Some people may be sick of it. Some people may read it and think I'm just a complainer, and will always need something to complain about.

Truth be told, I like to complain. I am all about pushing the existing concept of quality farther than it currently is, regardless the industry or field. In my opnion, if someone isn't 100% dedicated to the cause, they need to quit and move on to something that they can work with that kind of dedication. If nobody ever complained, businesses would never feel the pressure to improve.

I can only wish that the world would embrace my view of industry. I am, however, aware of the fact that the, "If you can't be among the best, why try at all?" mentality isn't everyone's cup of tea(no pun intended).