Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Couple of New Toys to Play With

So, Along with the two bags of coffee from the Barismo "Virtual Cupping Club", I received a brand new Hario TCA-2 vac-pot. Sweet deal!

I have to say, using this thing in Simon's "Aroma method" is quite a challenge. Stirring 4 doses (28-32g) of coffee into two cups (~12oz.) of water until full saturation without over-agitating in under 5 seconds is a task that borders on the impossible.

The boys at Barismo say that the Aeropress paddle works wonderfully for this task, unfortunately, that is something I just didn't have on hand.

A few days ago, I saw a "like new" Aeropress that had been used once go up for sale on CoffeeGeek. Being the gadget geek that I am, I opted for it.

It arrived today.
I like the nifty new packaging, however, I just can't get past Alan's refusal to remove "espresso" from the box and description. It's a unique brew method in its own right, and is NOTHING like espresso.

I do, however, think that this brew method allows manual control over so many variables, it just might be the best tool for experimentation since the espresso machine. (did I just say that?)

I know that a lot of people hate on the Aeropress for a variety of reasons. The fact of the matter is that I've had great results, and I've had terrible results from the same coffee from the same brewer.. the only difference has been user control. The skill of the barista.. in a very simple (and surgical-looking) format.

I've been waiting for metal disc filters to become available, and they have been promised from multiple vendors, however, no-one has actually come through. Maybe I'll have to start dismantling an espresso filterbasket to put this one together, though I'd prefer something with smaller holes. (photo-etched anyone?)

Ben Chen (of Barismo) sent me some polyester felt to be cut into a filter disc awhile back. I've cut it down, but not enough, apparently. The clearance between the filter cap and the chamber body is very very tight. The thin paper filters are about all it can take in terms of thickness.

I can cut it down farther so that it fits inside the chamber's diameter, but the only thing holding it in place would be the pressure from the plunger. I'm not sure that's such a great idea, though maybe I should withhold judgment until after some experimentation.

I LOVE the TCA-2. I really do. Unfortunately, it takes quite a while to set it up and to do things right. Not bad for one person, but when someone is waiting, it can feel like an eternity for the one doing the waiting. What an art it is, though, and the result is worth every second.

Aeropress takes a little less time, I think, though maybe it's just a bit more simple to use. I haven't really done any timing at this point.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Excitment.. from a picture

I'm not sure how many who read this blog have heard of/have participated in an online virtual cupping club before, but the boys at Barismo have been sending out roast samples to compare cupping notes, I suspect, partly to educate those in participation, but also to get a few outside opinions via blind tasting.

At any rate, I saw this picture today, and this means.. .. another round of tasting.

This time, via vac-pot.

Hmm... I wonder what's in that bag with my name on it.

New tastes, new experiences, and a chance to help some friends progress. Dig it.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Long Overdue.

So my reviews are insanely overdue. The contents of the bags have been gone for quite some time. The good parts ingested.. the not so tasty parts in the trash.

On to the coffees.

The Roasterie's Super Tuscan espresso blend arrived in a white, heat sealed bag with a valve, and some very nifty artwork. In the box, the coffee was accompanied by a nice logo'd demitasse and saucer. Nice touch.

I first tried the coffee with traditional parameters. ~14g, ~2oz, ~20-30 seconds. I wasn't so fond of it. Nothing popped. There was no high end, and there was no deep end. It was all in the middle, and the complexity was not sharp enough to really pick much of anything out. I confess to being a little disappointed. I was expecting this blend to change my opinions of air roasting. It seemed, at first, to confirm them.

I wrote up a detailed review, and submitted it to The Roasterie to be looked over. After a rather defensive response, as can be expected, I was then told, indirectly, that I was using the wrong brew parameters to get the most out of the blend. Something about 20 grams in a triple basket to pull a 2oz. double in about 20-22 seconds is what was suggested. I had previously tried updosing, downdosing, ristretto, lungo, anything and everything.. except the triple basket double.

It made a huge difference. The complexity toned out a little, the flavors expanded to reach into both the higher and lower ends of the spectrum. A little milk chocolate, a little citrus, it was pretty pleasant.

I will say it is a very approachable espresso. It won't make you think. It won't make the seasoned professional go "wow!". It WILL, however, provide a very pleasing shot of espresso. It will also bring your friends over to the dark side.. gently.. gracefully.. and without the relentless explosion of intensity and complexity that can drive many who experience espresso for the first time away.

It's definitely worth a try. Just make sure you have an 18 gram basket handy. Once it arrives, this is your time to shine as a coffee missionary by using it to recruit more people over to the dark side.. the complex and beautiful world of espresso.

Monday, July 23, 2007

CCCC and The Roasterie... some new coffees to try

Phil P. was kind enough to send me a few samples of Counter Culture's offerings. What a swell guy! He even included a CC T-shirt. Too cool!

A few days ago I received a message from Lindsay at The Roasterie asking if I'd be interested in reviewing their Super Tuscan espresso blend. How could I refuse? It arrived today, just like the CC stuff, along with a nice Brasilian espresso cup with the company's logo on it. Also cool!

Look for some notes from various coffees in days to come.

Also, look for a review of Espresso One: Cottonwood from The Brown Coffee Company in San Antonio at

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Rocket Coffee Roasters - R.I.P.


Rocket Coffee Roasters has officially closed for business.

It's a sad day for the coffee scene in Arizona.

Larry is on to other things, and I'm looking forward to hearing about what great things are coming.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Quality... It's a frame of mind.

I was watching TV today and happened to see a memorial concert on VH1 for ex-princess Diana.

I saw some interesting acts that I wasn't too familiar with, and it got me thinking.

Record companies don't often care about quality of music, sound, voice, or otherwise. Similarly, large coffee companies don't care about freshness, quality, training, or "coffee honesty".

What do the two have in common? The big ones only care about what sells. The purpose is entirely for the all-mighty Dollar, and nothing else.

There are those of us who are called to a higher purpose, but perhaps less income. Does more income really lead to a better quality of life? If the quality is entirely false, or artificial, does it make a difference? Does not an expensive luxury automobile satisfy more deeply when one has acquired it through the fruits of a job done properly, and for the right reasons?

Is it not more important to literally enjoy the fruits of one's labors than it is to simply have nice things?

That having been said, I'd take a gander and say that I enjoy my rusty '85 Celica far more than a leased Mercedes SLK payed for by funds devoid of any passion or life. The qeustion is this: What IS this word.. "Quality"?

Independent musicians do not have as much access to high end processing software or recording equipment, but the music, from the good ones, has soul. It's legit. The real thing. The earnings may or may not reflect the quality created, but the fruits are sweeter, regardless the size of the abundance. Could they sell out and make a ton of money? Absolutely. The fruits would taste like cardboard, assuming straight priorities are in place, and the success would be empty by comparison.

This shifts the idea of quality to be directly connected, and almost at one with, a singular aspect of any action performed by a living creature or organization: Motive

What is the purpose of writing music?

It's like a "choose your own adventure!" book. Your response? "If MONEY, go to page 12. If ART, go to page 23."

It's similar with coffee. Anyone can serve "espresso"(I use the term loosely). Anyone can sell brewed coffee. If the branding is effective, people will be fooled into thinking that your product is good based on the notion of a status symbol alone. Others will be wise to the truth and will avoid supporting the motive of money in preference of supporting the motive of passionate quality and the pursuit of excellence. The other option would be to support the lesser of available evils, depending on your region.

"Success" and "Failure" are entirely relative to the purpose of the mission. Money is only one facet to a breathing, living business. When you focus only on the financial end, you will end up cutting corners and making sacrifices to "hit the numbers".

Make your business drive the numbers. Don't let the numbers drive your business.

If you don't love it with a deep passion, don't even begin to consider it a feasible option. "Success", by our definition, is beyond reach, and happiness can never be attained. The business becomes a chore, work becomes a negative aspect of life, and the owner will become a slave to the numbers. The best possible result is that the business is sold to someone who is fit to breathe the breath of life back into the weakening enterprise, and perhaps it can be salvaged.

Quality isn't nice things. It isn't a status symbol, or a number following a Dollar sign. Quality is a state of mind, a frame of reference, and a way of life. Quality is honesty, integrity, and doing anything and everything for all the right reasons, and nothing more. Money is only a peripheral. if you are surviving, and you are doing things right, you are extremely successful and enjoy a very high quality of life.

May your labor's fruits, no matter the size, be sweet with nectar.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Third Place

I somehow pulled a miraculous third place finish at the SCRBC.

Details to come.

Had a great time, and really enjoyed watching everyone else's presentations.

It's a great thing for promoting specialty coffee in Texas, and I think we've made a little bit of progress. I hope to see a flourishing culture as the years progress and we have more of these competitions behind us.

More info at

Image pool at

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Proverb of the day

Those who are never satisfied will satisfy the most.

What does it mean?

If you don't know, then I'm not sure I can help you, but I'll explain.

Those who are never satisfied with the quality of their products will consistently put out the best products. It's the constant struggle to improve. It's the reaching for a higher plane.

Once someone has decided that their work is good enough is exactly when it stops being good enough.

Confused? You shouldn't be.

There are a handful of people in our industry who fit this category, and it seems that they all know each other.

I wonder if other industries operate in a similar way.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Super Secret Signature Drink

Is coming along nicely.

So far, Plan A is confirmed. This is good, because I never really had much of a Plan B or Plan C.

4oz. total volume. Good times.

Still working on tweaking a few details, but so far, so good.

I just thought I'd share the good news.

.... What? You expected details?

Not until after the comp. Sucka!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Some cappuccino art from yesterday.

Tall Rosetta. A little off balance, but with a big heart.

More proportional and symmetrical. Pretty happy with this one.

Another angle to show froth volume.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

New Item on the Cart

Brand new, though borrowed.

This is so I can get some practice in for the SCRBC. No, I don't have a LM to use, but I'm doing what I can. Practice coffee on the way. Watch out, South Central competitors... I've got your number.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Just some art

6oz. cappuccino. Tulip shaped cup. Milk texture could've been better, but I was pretty happy with the rosetta... especially considering the cup shape. (flat bottom, small diameter rim, etc..)
The serving tray I'll be using for the SCRBC. The three flower pics are actually slots for 4x6 photos. Those slots will be put to good use.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Look! Look! The standard for transparency is farther still

Guess whose blog I snagged this little gem from?
Origins listed in percentiles as contents of the blend. Amazing. I can't wait to see this sort of thing here in the States. It's bound to happen eventually. Right? ...Bueller?

Next step: visible lot numbers along with everything else... and then Agtron numbers. Roast profiles are a bit much. Roast level is almost too much to ask. Is it possible?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Rocket Reserve Espresso blend

Larry was kind enough to send me a pound of his newest espresso blend.

Rocket Reserve:

When it arrived, it had not even been publicly released. This stuff retails for a whopping $21/lb. If you knew the list of coffees in it, you would understand why. One of these coffees is exclusively available from Rocket Coffee Roasters.

Here's a look at the roast color and consistency:

It was recommended to start this experimentation at roughly 16 grams and 201F for a double.

So I did just that. 16 grams, but the temp was a little on the high side.
The resulting shot:

The flavor was of leather, cigar tobacco leaf, and a winey tinge. The flavors are not "clean", per se, but they are very clear, very refined, and very easy to identify. The culmination is much like what a possible men's cologne could smell like.

With a heavier dose, I've noticed that the leather becomes dominant, and the winey tinge is a little sharp. Not unpleasantly so, but it's something I noticed.

At a lower temperature, the leather and tobacco take center stage, and the acidity is dulled a little. Strange, I realize, but that's what my tastes told me. At a higher temperature, it becomes a little unpleasant. The flavors lack balance, and the sophistication gives way to an exaggeration of the darker flavor characteristics, and not much else.

I've discovered that with this blend, it's actually best to pull it a little longer than normal. Don't cut it at the first sign of blonding, or you'll be missing some of the clarity.

I found my preferred brew paramters to be closer to 14 grams, a fine grind to pull in ~26-28 seconds, with a lighter tamp (say, 25lbs.. according to the elbow-gauge). The tobacco flavor becomes enhanced with a particular sweetness. The leather is tamed to the status of a compliment rather than a contending flavor. The wineyness is balanced by the sweetness and tobacco flavors quite nicely. The resulting shot was smoother with a much rounder flavor profile and medium body. The temperature was about 201, if I remember correctly, so don't change that part.

As an Americano, the extraction parameter effects become more apparent. I'm not entirely sure why that is.
Often times, I'll find that an Americano can actually expose otherwise hidden flavors in a complex blend. The flavors in this particular case are exactly the same. This is credence to the earlier description that the flavors are clear and distinct.
For a killer Americano, nail the shot with the specs mentioned.

In milk, the leather and tobacco come right through, but so does a dark fruit flavor. This fruit isn't berry.. it's more like plum, but even less tart, if that makes sense. The flavor is present in the straight espresso, but not so much. I believe this is due to the milk dulling the acidity that is a critical part of the winey tinge mentioned earlier.

The flavor is strong enough to cut through even a 16oz. latte, if that's what you like, but I found I liked it best as an Americano for reasons mentioned earlier. It works beautifully in a cappuccino, and makes a very pleasant straight espresso. The lingering aftertaste is sweet, more tobacco than leather, with some of the dried plum coming through. Take a drink of water after the espresso to heighten this effect.

Overall, this doesn't replace my favorite, even at the price-point, but that's just a subjective thing. There is no guessing what you're tasting with this one. The flavors are clear, the mouthfeel is consistent from beginning to end, and the aftertaste isn't far from the initial flavor. Once you've had it, there are no more surprises. It's a consistent flavor, and for that reason, I would consider it to be a very forgiving blend, with little sacrifice to the elegance of the coffee itself in the cup.

Definitely worth a try once it becomes available. Look for it in the coming week or two.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Sold the Gaggia

My first machine capable of real espresso has been sold. Thankfully, it was sold locally. Thankfully still, the guy who bought it has become an instant coffee buddy, so I'll get to see my old machine once in awhile.

I have a potential training session on the horizon. I've been "promised" the gig, but there's no set date, so I will not say it's for certain.

I had the chance to see and use the newer Astoria stylish machine.

I thought it looked very cool. It seems to be fairly messy with no backsplash. Rinsing the PF takes more care than usual. It also seemed to run a little hot, even with the HX boiler at under 1 bar. It also felt a little different with all of the controls down below rather than closer to eye level. Very cool looking in person, though. I can't stress that enough.

I've been playing with some more Rocket Coffee, but that's for another post. Competition is coming closer, and I'm feeling unprepared. The rules aren't even up yet. :eekomg!:

I don't have a single La Marzocco locally to even try to get with for practice. I'm just doing what I can with what I have with the words "Grab ahold of something, bite your lip, and give it hell" running through my mind. Strange, yet somehow fitting.

I am officially quitting my job at Papa John's. I've realized that if I were to follow through on interest I've received for training or consulting projects, I would have enough work to not need a "wages" job. On top of that, I'd have the time to get out and sell the services in person, which is always better. "Even fishing takes effort"

And here's a teaser for the review(s) to come within the next few days.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Life is funny

Have you ever been in a situation where you just had too much going on to remember the things you did to maintain your sanity?

It's been like that here in "the life of Jason" lately, so pardon the lack of updates.

A few things have happened. I've been devoting a lot of time to the Texas Coffee People site, including buying the domain name which, by the way, is fully functional as the primary URL for the site. So if you still haven't, drop by and check it out. It's still young, and my fellow contributors seem to be having a difficult time with regular contributions. It's been a one-man show lately.

I took a trip to Austin and visited a few shops... and instead of blogging about it here, it went straight to

I am still planning to compete in the SCRBC in June, and have been trying to promote the hell out of it in any way I can. See, and see the News tab at

Since I have not worked behind a bar in quite some time, figuring out a way to practice has been quite a challenge. I have to buy all of my own coffee. I have to buy all of my own milk. To make matters worse, I am working on a Heat Exchanger home machine. As of now, my odds of making it half way are not too good.

On an up note, I did purchase a kitchen island cart for espresso use, so I at least have a normal height to work with to at least be somewhere in the vicinity of the feel of a competition setting. I like it quite a bit, and it keeps my coffee supplies neatly organized, and right at my fingertips... sans the roaster and green coffee.

My Gaggia Coffee is now for sale. If you are interested in a good starter home espresso machine and have $100 + shipping to spare, you can find some pictures here.

It's by miracle that this blog still has any traffic at all, and it's mostly to read my how-to guide for making the Gaggia MDF stepless. Thanks to a CoffeeSnob(.au) in Australia who did a complete renovation on his MDF to make it far more than it was ever intended to be, who read my how-to, and linked it for the world to see. He later left a link to a PDF of a finer adjustment ring for the number collar for steps. It works beautifully. How many MDF's do you know of that look like this?

While I was transferring everything to my new "shrine", I found my Senseo that was taken apart into a million pieces. I decided to put it back together, and if nothing else, sell it or give it away since good coffee from it was an impossibility and it just wasn't worth my trouble.

I decided to give it another go, seeing that I had it back together and all, and I did. This time, with a slight alteration in technique. When the water reaches temperature, press the brew button, and when you hear the pump start to push some water through, turn the unit off, and then right back on. Once you see it reach temp again, press the brew button and let it go.

MUCH improved. No pre-heating the water before putting it in the reservoir. No pump modifications. It's not ideal, but it's definitely drinkable. I still recommend that you either buy an after market ground coffee adapter, or make your own pods, but please, for the love of good coffee, do NOT buy pre-ground packaged pods for your Senseo.

I also bought a new tamper. "What?", you say. "Jason? A second tamper?". Why yes, actually, why not? By the way, this one is flat. "You're kidding me!.. You? The advocate of the Convex tamper? But why!?" Yes, I know. A million apologies, but I can explain. I like variety. And when I saw this little beauty on e-bay, from a Texas seller, I figured I could spend the green for a new piece of equipment... if for no other reason than for some in-home serious experimentation.
...And experiment I did.

I found the "donut extraction" problem to be much more common from the flat tamper, I suspect, due to the natural tendency for the density of the center of the puck to be slightly higher than at the edges, as well as the tendency for the seal between the puck and the sidewalls of the portafilter to be slightly looser than the packed matrix of coffee granules at the center. A convex tamper has a tendency to not only decrease the distance between the top of the center of the puck and the floor of the filterbasket, but also to put some outward pressure on the coffee particles, thus, helping to fortify the integrity of the side seal.

I did find, however, that scooping a bit from the center of the puck by means of a curved finger during the final leveling off of the puck, the donut extraction is greatly reduced. In fact, I'd call it a non-factor. People have said that the WDT helps to solve the problem.. and it may... but I don't have time for that. I guess I do, but I still consider myself a professional, since I train professionals, and I feel an obligation to keep my skills and technique honed to the application of a commercial setting, even if I do not work behind the bar on a regular basis (or at all, really).

"Is it fast?" Absolutely. Especially when teamed with the Stockfleth's move. "Isn't dosing a factor?" Well, that's not really up to the leveling technique, now is it? If you're a good barista, you'll know how to compensate for any loss of coffee mass in the puck from such a technique.

"Doesn't it waste coffee?" Such a small amount, but isn't it worth it for exceptional espresso?

...I thought so too.

I have much more to write about, but I don't want to clutter up a single post with too much information, so you can look forward to another update in the near future.

Aaaaah... it's good to be back.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Progressing The Third Wave... ?

I'm sure there will be people who will read this and think, "Oh God, this has been beaten to death... give it a rest!".

In this case, it's about the title description of this particular blog, and my own questioning of whether it's appropriate.

Let's recap.

1st wave: People are drinking coffee. It's the norm, and life in these United States has never been the same since.

2nd wave: People are introduced to the phenomenon known as "Specialty Coffee". Essentially, the notion that coffee has a gourmet side. Starbucks flourishes, and the Italian word for milk becomes common terminology in regards to coffee in the average household.

3rd wave: Quality is king. People are taking this "gourmet coffee" thing seriously. Microlot artisan roasters begin popping up, the SCAA, the BGA, the Roasters Guild and everyone involved become key figures for the "new" niche industry in which the art and science of quality coffee begins. Among these trends is the triple basket, the naked portafilter, microfoam, latte art, and the infamous ristretto.

Here's the dilemma. The 3rd wave was described by the industry as the time in which we "let the coffee speak for itself.". What I see is something else. I see taking a coffee, and forming it to fit the concept of what quality coffee, at the time, is accepted to be.

I notice a new wave of progress within this "3rd wave" niche community. Updosing is the new old-school. Light roasting is making its way back to just in front of the curve. Last but not least, the growers are in the game, playing ball with the rest of us. Many would argue that this is all part of the 3rd wave.. sure. For a few, but it wasn't in the volume or growth of what I would personally call a "wave".

Tiny farms are being rewarded for their hard work through the efforts of coffee auctions such as the Cup of Excellence, and others are taking notice. The concept of "Quality as the primary means of success" has trickled down to the earliest stages of the chain.

And beyond that, single origin espresso is no longer exotic. It's almost the norm for great baristas everywhere. Light roasts enhance the work of the grower, and allow the coffee to really showcase what it is, before the flavors of the flame over-ride the dizzying array of non-coffee flavors present in the green. Green coffee flaws, while still present, are MUCH easier to avoid for people like me. You just have to know where to look, and there is an increasing number of options popping up.

There is the formation of a group within this niche of people advocating quality, and more importantly, absolute honesty in the cup. While those really pushing this practice forward have been called "young guns", its practice is most accurately defined by one of the oldest guns in the North American Specialty Coffee Industry.

There is also the formation of a group of home espresso enthusiasts with a strong tendency to make everything technical and scientifically complex, to the point of, in my opinion, diluting the artistry and basic skill involved and associated with the craft.

The only problem I see, is that the 3rd wave has not finished its initial progression, and yet, here is a 4th wave forming in its crest.

Here in Lubbock-land, the 3rd wave is almost non-present.. and you can just forget about the idea of a 4th wave.

While I think that my part of the country could use a healthy helping of 3rd wave mentality, I'm not sure I should imply that I am helping to progress the third wave, especially since I have a tendency to side with the "young guns" in the search for green quality and absolute honesty in the cup, and constantly progressing towards what appears to be a wine-model approach to coffee in the green state... even the notion of "vintage" coffees.. the same idea, but far from the same practice.

There has not been a stopping of motion between the 2nd and 3rd waves. It seems to me that it was one big motion, just a change of direction, or a vector shift.

At what point does the 3rd wave end, and the 4th wave "begin"? Here's a thought.. when did the second wave end... Now, when did the 3rd wave begin?

It's just not that simple.

Case in point, is it time for a change of the title description? According to a "State of the Industry" report (thanks to Henry Patterson for sending me the link) , we(you know.. the "young guns") are a pretty good ways in front of the curve.

Not that the report is indicative of where the quality niche actually lies, but it's a reference to where the nation as a whole places itself at this moment in time. Apparently, Lubbock is a good 10+years behind.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

WCR's Decaf Torro espresso blend

You may remember my review of the Torro espresso blend from West Coast Roasting a good while back.

Nate White decided it was time to put the decaf up on the site, and asked if I'd like to give it a review. How could I refuse?

The bag aroma is interesting. Chocolate, yes, but also something else.. something much akin to licorice (black, naturally). It was good, but very different.

The first try was a normale double used in a 10oz. latte. It tasted of chocolate, but it was also bitter with a drying effect on the surface of the tongue just behind the tip. Interesting.

Now, I know this is a Decaf blend, so it will be lacking in flavor and complexity when compared to a non-altered bean, but I didn't want to have a shot that was just good "for a decaf". I was determined to get a good shot by any standard, if at all possible.

The obvious solution? Updose, of course.

All this on an Expobar Pulser with a stepless Gaggia MDF. So I dosed a bit more coffee into the ridgless "Synesso" double basket, and pulled. Slightly better, but not enough to say so.

A little logic tells me that the coffee is lacking much of its natural chemistry from the decaffeination process. In order to eke out the maximum flavor, we must have more flavor to begin with from which to extract. The solution?

Jon Rosenthal's infamous Triple Ristretto. Now, usually, I despise this drink. It's as dishonest as one can possibly get to the bean's natural flavor... at least, to me. But I was desperate, and in this case, it seemed to make sense.

Load up the triple basket with no overdosing. Pull the shot to about 1.5oz in about 22 seconds. The coffee sang. It was sweet, it was viscous, and it tasted VERY much of cherries. The result was a chocolate covered cherry with a very weak chocolate. It was definitely not what I was expecting when compared to the normal Torro I had tried.

There is still more experimenting to come, so stay tuned.


Alright, so I've had some time to live with this coffee. Despite my first impression, this coffee has proven to be a great end-of-the-day treat. I must confess, however, that this is reliant on the triple basket. I was never able to get a shot to satisfy myself with a double basket.

Seeing that I own a tripls basket and a naked PF, this isn't an issue at all, but it could be for some, but I digress. It would be worth trying even if you don't have a triple. For a decaf, it's really pretty dang tasty.

In milk, it mellows out quite a bit and settles into a nice coffee and chocolate flavor. Dark chocolate and milk, that is, not milk chocolate.

I have enjoyed it most as a 2oz. triple Americano with a normal dose pulled in ~22-24 seconds time. I have found it to be quite sweet this way, with teh berry flavors shining through, but not overpowering the mellow balance of the medium bodied medley of flavors.

If you are in need of a go-to decaf blend for espresso, don't pass this one up on your search.

West Coast Roasting website

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Expobar is "Go! Go! Go!" (Roger That)

Finding Teflon tubing isn't as easy as one might think.

I found a company called Zeus ( who actually specializes in different types of tubing for different industries, including medical, so I figured I'd have no trouble with the food-safe factor.

I sent out an email with the information of what I needed, and if it were possible to only buy 2' (way more than I needed, but extra is good... just in case).

The response I received asked for the measurements of the tubing. I replied, and received a response telling me that they were sending some samples.

"Cool", I thought. Their site describes that Teflon isn't always comprised of PTFE, and that there are actually OTHER non-stick formulas that were developed for the same use in different applications. Little did I know.

Moving on.

I received a box about a week later. Inside the box was a plastic bag containing a length of tubing arranged in a coil. The label said 5'. No charge. Amazing.

That evening, I got it all together. It has been operable ever since. Eureka!

Jason now has a heat exchanger equipped with the thermal stability of the E61 grouphead. It is now possible to crank out the espressos at will, and froth while I brew. This makes preparation a whole lot faster, which means that when I suggest to my beautiful girlfriend that we head over to my place for coffee, she is more likely to agree. Fussing with two drinks on the Gaggia isn't much fun, though it is quite capable of producing some great espresso.

I had actually gotten ahold of Bill at ( in Tucson to see if they could get ahold of some Teflon tubing for me. It came back positive... just after I was informed of being sent "samples". I didn't think the sample would be enough to work with, so I said, "great! let me know how much."

So here's the dilemma. Do I pay for the tubing and shipping, or do I just pay for the tubing to make up for their cost? I have more than enough tubing to last me for at least 5 years on this thing.

Some of you might be wondering, "What's the E61 group head all about? Why is it special?" Well, it was introduced by Faema in 1961 for optimal thermal stability while producing espresso, which was apparently a big problem at the time. So, yeah.. it's used in espresso preparation.. introduced in 61, and called E61. Coincidence? Perhaps.

Anyway, this is what you see.

(the back side)

And here is a thread on with illustrations of how it works.
E61 Diagrams thread

It should be noted that the Pulser is only equipped with the head.. not the entire brew group. (no lever.. there is a solenoid and a switch.. that is all)

BTW.. the espresso rocks, but I'm sick of flushing 10 ounces of water beforehand.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Expobar Update

So, I know I said I would have pictures.

And I do, but I didn't want to post them just yet.

The Pulser has a leak. A pretty severe leak. A length of John Guest tubing kept bursting under pressure, so I'm waiting for some replacement tubing before I try to reassemble it.

It should be here sometime this week... I hope.

The espresso was good, but I'm having a hard time with the frothing on this thing.

Replacement tip, here I come!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Massive Update

I'm back. Actually, I've been back, but haven't spent the time to update.

The Barista Jam in Tucson, AZ was an absolute blast. Everyone there was so passionate about what they do. So many people asking questions from anyone they can to learn whatever they can in order to advance their craft. It was extremely refreshing.

I shared a hotel room with Larry Jones and Edwin Martinez, which was pretty interesting. In the room we had: A Rocky doserless, a Chemex, a French Press, about 8 or so different coffees, and three coffee nerds.

Edwin and I woke up every morning to the words "There's a Chemex going over there for ya". What a way to start the day.

I met a whole lot of people. I really doubt I'd even begin to be able to remember all of their names. I met the crew from Cabin Coffee, and they seemed to be the most eager passionate group there. At least, that was my perspective.

Reid Hickman was there to give a presentation on Latte Art, which was extremely well received. It was quite the popular event. Rightfully so, considering the fact that he's won the Millrock Latte Art contest... twice.

I met Gene Lemos of Vanelli's and talked to him quite a bit. It was interesting to be proverbially slapped around a bit by someone who's been in the industry for longer than I've been alive. I learned alot. He was there to give a presentation on home espresso machines which were demoed during the Home Barista shin-dig following the end of Day 1 of the Jam.

Edwin gave his Seed-to-cup presentation, which was a bit more refined and interactive than what I remember in San Antonio. It was also streamlined quite a bit to fit the time frame that was partly taken up when Edwin had everyone introduce themselves. A good idea for sure.

Bill Brodberg gave a presentation on espresso machine maintenance for the working barista. As far as The Coffee Vein is concerned, he is the ONLY espresso equipment technician in Tucson. He had some examples of what can happen if you don't use softened water, if you don't clean out your portafilters, and other little gems that should never grace the counter of a good shop. I was amazed by some of it. You hear alot about it, but how often do you see a 1/4" cake of "black" crack and knock out of a portafilter than had never been cleaned? Yeah... seriously. Gross stuff.

Larry and Gene were scheduled to give a presentation entitled "Advanced Espresso Techniques". Seeing that training is what I do, I figured I would offer to help them outline it. They almost suckered me into doing the whole thing on my own. I could have, but I didn't feel right about it. I was there as a part of the audience, in theory, and I really would not have felt right about taking it on entirely. So, they decided that I should cover distribution techniques. Of course, once I started talking, I had a hard time shutting up, but oh well. I think it went over pretty well. There were some good questions, and a lot of people walking up to me afterwards with various questions.

Mike Trevino did one hell of a job organizing this thing and keeping it on track. It never would have gone as smoothly as it did without him.

Chris(aka Psyd) was there in the background doing all of the grunt-work to make this thing carry through without a hitch. Changing out 5gallon water bottles, washing milk pitchers, setting up, tearing down, cleaning up, and so on. I asked him about it in a light-hearted manner, and he told me his purpose for doing all of that was to make sure that The Vein maintained a great reputation so that it would always be there so he could get a shot when he didn't feel like pulling one on his 2-group Astoria in his small kitchen. (I saw pictures.. it's nuts) The Vein has at least one seriously dedicated customer. I always wished for customers who I could talk coffee with. It's a rare thing.

There was a latte art contest and a signature drink contest. I didn't enter either. I was having way too much fun talking to people about coffee.

That just about wraps up the AZ Barista jam.

I was supposed to go to Tyler, TX to train a shop, but that was called off at the last minute. Joy!

I guess it's okay, though, because it gave me some time to figure out my schooling for this upcoming semester. (going back at it.. need to finish)

I also launched, but have not yet gone public with, . It is still under construction, but I think it's starting to come together... slowly.

I've gotten positive feedback from people about Texas Coffee People.( Everyone seems to want to help pull the Texas coffee community together. It's a beautiful thing, and I hope I can help make it happen.

Last, but certainly not least, the Expobar Pulser arrived equipped with a PID and Manometer. Woohoo! HX > 2.5oz. single boiler. It had a leak when it arrived, which I believe to now be fixed. I need to replace the water level safety switch, but I think I can bypass it in the mean time.

Pictures to come.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The New Project

I am proud to announce the beginning of what could be a huge change for the community of coffee fans and enthusiasts in Texas, much like what has done for the coffee community in Arizona.

It's called Texas Coffee People, named for Aaron Blanco's title for those who are genuinely passionate about coffee, and the Lone Star State.

Take a look.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The AZ Barista Jam

I leave for Phoenix, AZ tomorrow afternoon. Larry is going to get me from the airport, and we'll put around Phoenix for part of the day, at least. I'm not sure if we're driving down to Tucson that night, or the next morning.

It's exciting for me. I'll get to put a face to all these people I've been in contact with for quite some time now thanks to Arizona Coffee.

I know Mike "call me Trevino" Trevino has been putting a lot of work into organizing this thing, which is taking place at The Coffee Vein.

Here is an abbreviated schedule of events - (times subject to change - but unlikely)

Sunday 1/7

10am- "Making the perfect Mocha"

11am- "From seed to cup" presentation; by Edwin Martinez, Finca Vista Hermosa, Guatemala

12:00- Lunch Break (free time)

1pm- Pacific Foods "Latte Art Contest"

2:30pm- Latte Art Technique

3:30pm- "Importance of water quality" presentation - David Beeman, Cirqua Water Systems

5pm- Advanced Espresso Extraction

6pm - 9pm- Home Barista Espresso Fest, sponsored by Vaneli's

Monday 1/8

10am- "Espresso Machine Maintenance" - Bill Brodberg, Espresso Wrench

11am- "Comparative Cupping" - Larry Jones, Rocket Coffee Roasters

12:00- Lunch Break (free time)

1pm- Artista Signature Drink Competition

2:30pm- Advanced Brewing Methods- Edwin Martinez

3:30pm- "What's on your drink menu?" Alternative drink options- Red Rock Foods

4:30pm "Open Jam" time on espresso machines

So, there you have it. I'm hoping to get a lot of pictures from this one. I may or may not enter the sig drink contest. I don't feel I'm prepared. I just haven't had time to play with my ideas yet, but hopefully, soon.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Art of the Bean

I just discovered this film on HB.

I never knew it existed. (or maybe I did, but just don't remember)