Monday, July 31, 2006

Coffee and Blend Reviews (the database)

This is a list of coffees and blends I have tried, and my reviews of them. If the roaster is of any importance, they will be mentioned in the title. Updated as often as coffees are reviewed.

Espresso Blends
Classic Espresso blend - Rocket Coffee Roasters

Rocket Reserve Espresso blend - Rocket Coffee Roasters

Darkstar Espresso blend - Rocket Coffee Roasters

Espresso Torro - West Coast Roasting

Decaf Espresso Torro - West Coast Roasting

Cottonwood espresso blend - The Brown Coffee Company

Super Tuscan Espresso - The Roasterie

Single Origins
Papua New Guinea - Sigri (self-roasted)

Panama - Kotowa Duncan SHB Organic (Rocket Coffee Roasters)

El Salvador - Mont De Leon (Rocket Coffee Roasters)

El Salvador - CoE #4 - Santa Sofia (Rocket Coffee Roasters)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Coffee Quality, and consumer awareness

Is it just me, or are more people in the southern states beginning to become more aware of good coffee vs. bad coffee?

More and more I have seen people come to a shop I am/was working at in search of something new, something different, something.. better.

Every single time I've made someone an espresso-based beverage for someone new to the shop, they have commented on how good it is. It's so sad, that people for so long have been forced to live with bad coffee, because the local business just don't respect their clientel enough to serve them the absolute best product they can. How is this allowed to happen? Where is the BBB of the Specialty Coffee industry?

Many like myself have become fed up and frustrated with the apathy around us. Some of us have taken on new responsibilities, sort of as ambassadors for our trade, to show oblivious coffee-drinkers "the light". It's amazing to me how people can think my home-roasted coffee is SOOO good. It's not that I'm bad, but I'm no professional roaster.

Coffee this good should be the STANDARD, not the exception. There is no mention of our niche of the culinary field on the Food Network. There is no sight of our niche in the culinary field on rows of magazine on the shelves of bookstores. Our we so ignored by the general public, or is the general public just unaware of what they are missing?

There are various publications that concern coffee, and the closest thing we have on bookstore shelves is Imbibe. How are people supposed to be able to LEARN about great coffee if no-one is serving it, and the publications are not within their scope?

There is word of Rocket Coffee opening a cafe. GOOD! At least there will be ONE good place to get coffee in the Phoenix area.

I've started my consulting and training business to help improve coffee on a more global scale. The problem being that people have to have a desire for improvement before betterment can begin. This desire can be the direct result of a loss of business as customers look eslsewhere in search of better coffee. This desire can also come from a business's RESPECT for their customers, and RESPECT for their (should-be)craft.

I do believe Aaron of AAH! Coffee is putting together a national review database for coffee houses. I've had this idea, but have done nothing about it. Several others have had the same idea. This needs to be done, and soon. People are beginning to have an increased awareness of what good and bad coffee REALLY is, and they should have a reliable way of locating it.

Other quality-minded coffee professionals, continue to carry the torch. Douse it in gasoline so that it burns brighter than ever before. "resistance is futile"

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Papua New Guinea - Sigri

Roasted to Full City in around 15 minutes (I'm not into the Agtron scale yet).

This coffee is pretty smooth, but a bit brighter than I would expect at its roast level.

Starting out, the flavor is very well balanced, with a little chocolate, hint of raisin, and a little spice, melded together so none of them really stand out unless looking for them.

The mouthfeel is about a medium body that thins out a little as the cup cools.

Also, the spiciness sets a backdrop for what I perceive as lemon which begins to take center stage as the temperature begins to drop. The chocolate is still present, though less obvious. The citrus notes are more aggressive than others, though the initial flavor is still present, softly filling the darker notes.

As the cup approaches room temperature, there is a fairly dominant caramel flavor that helps to smooth the mouthfeel out into nearly a creamy texture. Wonderful.

Overall, a great cup. Beautiful in a French Press.

A bit too bright, imo, as a Single Origin espresso. The citrus notes are too much when used as a Single Origin cappuccino, and the result almost tastes a bit sour.

Works well in drip, though much subtlety is lost in the paper filter.

I would definitely buy this again to be used in a French Press. More of a good every-day coffee in the morning than as a special coffee from an auction lot, but that's not a bad thing. It's just a different type of enjoyment.. it's a bit more "comfortable".

Friday, July 21, 2006

Back On The Bar

I am pleased to announce that I am back to working as a barista at Mangia Bevanda. -Jason Coffee is still in progress. I have not pulled the plug on it, but it is slow going. I still need some supplies, as well as a strategie for approaching existing operations about improving their quality through taking my training course(s). There is a brand new drive-through operation near-by, and I am considering approaching them first. It's a start-up, so there may be an interest.

Most places here have been mis-trained by the local roasting company known as Daybreak Coffee Roasters. The roasting does a pitiful job at hightlighting origin flavors, or being tasty at all, for that matter. As the local "big coffee company", most people here tend to see them as "high quality" and regard the company as knowing about barista skills (which, by the way, they do not).

I am trying to get my name out there so that it becomes associated with establishments with highly skilled employees who know a thing or two about what they are doing.

In time, other shops will realize the need to either catch up, or suffer the loss of business to other more quality-driven shops.

At least, that's the theory.

In the mean time, I'm starting a local coffee club to help increase consumer awareness. My side-car roasting endeavor has the same purpose. People who know me know how obsessed I am with coffee and have asked my opinion on what I think is good. It's difficult to live in a place and have nowhere to point to as a shining example of coffee nirvana yet hold the high standards that most of us in the Third Wave side of the industry do.

I have been asked if I would sell roasted coffee, and I decided that if there is a demand, I may as well do it as a side-project. It's nothing special, and it's completely under the table. Also pretty much non-profit. It's all going back into buying more green coffee to sell again. Really small scale stuff, but there isn't a single good roaster here, and I'm confident that what I can do at home is far better than anything offered here.

Unfortunately, Mangia has asked if I would supply them coffee. I am not a roaster. I am a barista who is dabbling in roasting to help increase consumer awareness of specialty coffee. I wish people would realize this and stop thinking of me as a coffee supplier, but at the same time, this means there is a demand for truly great coffee in Lubbock... and that's a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


No, I'm not a Michael Jordan fan.

The number is a count of years that I'll have been alive come Wednesday, the 19th.

Yes, my birthday is coming just around the corner, and oddly enough, I have nothing planned in regards to coffee for that day. Maybe I'll drop in to Mangia for a cup in the morning.

Happy Birthday to me.

p.s.-send gifts to 1002 Frankford Ave Apt. 431, Lubbock, TX, 79416 ;o)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Barista Guild of America, and a how-to for MDF owners

It finally arrived. I am now officially a card-carrying member of the Barista Guild of America. This means I get SCAA member pricing on SCAA sanctioned events, the support of my other 387 colleagues in our persuit of providing better coffee to the public as well as discounts at some vendors and retailers.

The reason I joined, in all honesty, was the legitimacy that being a member implies. Since I'm launching a consulting and training business, I thought it appropriate that I be a member of a Guild for the trade which I am a part of. Very excited about this. Had a peak in the "members area" of the BGA forums as was a bit disappointed. There's more activity in the "open forum" than in the actual meat and potatos of the site. At any rate, I'm absolutely thrilled to be a member.

Barista Guild member: 0388

I also thought I'd paste my write-up on how to make a Gaggia MDF stepless. I've been meaning to add this to the blog for a long while and had completely forgotten about it. I mentioned it very early on in the existence of this blog, but have yet to come through.

Well, here it is:

The Official:

"How to Modify A Gaggia MDF To Be Stepless (for next to nothing!)" guide V.1.0

by: Jason Haeger

What you'll need:

1. Safety pin, pocket knife, tiny flat-head screwdriver, or some other tool (for removing the rubber guards in the hopper)
2. A small-ish Philips head screwdriver.
3. Plenty of patience and quite a bit of coffee to "dial it in", so to speak (and I don't mean finding the sweet spot).
4. A stiff nylon brush (hey.. while it's apart, you may as well do a clean-up job on it, right?).
5. A roll of Teflon™ tape or a substitute. (I used Oatey Thread Seal Tape from Wal-mart.. $.97)

1. Remove the doser and hopper lids.

2. Using tool #1, remove the rubber grommets inside the bean hopper. Just work around the outside edge a bit and it'll work its way out. Don't be too forceful or you'll damage the grommets.

3. Remove bean hopper by extracting the two screws. (the ones that were covered by the grommets you just removed)

4. Remove the plastic cover. (two screws at the two front corners.. they're both black. Small philips head)

5. Unscrew the two nut-screws(brass) that the hopper screws were bolted into. (they should be close to hand-tight.. if not, you may need some needlenose pliers or something.. be gentle).

6. Remove the Step counter (the black plastic ring with all the numbers on it).

7. Remove the upper burr set by unscrewing it. (the brass circular thing with the gaping hole in the middle.. you just took two brass nut-screws out of it). It may take a bit of time, but it'll come out eventually. I stuck the hopper back in its grooves for leverage on this part.

8. Remove the step guides and springs. There are two. One in front, and one in back. Black metal round-tipped cylinders with springs inside. Keep them in case you ever need the steps again.

9. Using your brush, clean everything. Turn the machine upside down and shake fairly vigorously. You'll be amazed at all of the old grounds that comes out.. enough for two double shots, practically.

10. Make sure the threads are absolutely clean of any grounds or coffee oils.

11. With the upper burr set upside down (upper bur is top-side), wrap the Teflon™ tape starting at the base (where the notches for the steps are) in a CLOCKWISE motion. You'll want a good 5 layers or so on there. Make sure it's on tight. and even.

12. Reinstall upper burr set WITHOUT the step guides. This should be kind of difficult to do. You might lay the machine on its left side (the side without the dosing lever) and put the hopper in place for leverage.

13. Put the plastic cap on (the one with the step number window), and then the bean hopper. Do a test-grind to make sure the resistance of the tape is strong enough to hold the upper burr in place during actual grinding. If it moves.. even slightly (remember, it can only get worse), remove the upper burr set, wipe it clean, and add more tape.

14. Repeat step #13 until there is no movement of the upper burr during grinding. (yes.. it'll get pretty difficult to get that upper burr back into place each time, but it's worth it.)

15. Once completed with step #14, reassemble everything (sans the step guides.. as mentioned).

16. Enjoy your newly stepless grinder. (keep an eye out for the wandering number during grinding. If that starts to happen..more tape!)

I know, it's too easy. This can't possibly work well. I'm here to tell you that I have not touched it since this modification several months ago (I want to say 6 or so.. possibly more), and the resistance for adjusting the grind is not much, and the grind setting does not change during grinding (it used to, but like a new engine, this setup needs breaking in before it works just as intended).

Grinding "between settings"? How about "using numbers as more of a reference than a setting".

Just make sure you DO use the number plate, as it will give you a reference when switching between FP, drip, and espresso. I reset my number plate to reflect true zero. I would suggest everyone to do the same.

In other news

I received 10lbs. of green Papua New Guinea - Sigri coffee. This stuff isn't bad. I have not had a chance to cup it yet. I just roasted the first batch today, and most of this lot is going to be sold to local friends and acquaintances in hopes of elevating consumer awareness on a grass-roots level. The income will help me afford MORE coffee to do the same with. Hopefully it spreads decently and the local consumer base will begin to understand that there is a real difference in quality coffee compared to what is generally available in these parts.

More News

Mangia Bevanda (local shop.. I trained the owners) is now using AAH! Coffee. While not quite on par with the big names in the roasting industry, this company puts out some great coffee for an outstanding price (commercial pricing, that is).

I can now say that I have a shop here locally that I can point people to when they ask for a recommendation (it happens alot, and it's really difficult to say "uh.. my apartment?" when asked where I go for coffee.. it makes me sound like a snob).

Good things are on the horizon.

I apologize for the delay in updates. There's more to tell, but I don't want to write a book in one post.