Monday, August 28, 2006

Cupping ECAFE

Chris from Cafe Grumpy calls me up and says, "we are cupping 7 of the ECAFE coffees tomorrow and I thought you might want to join in" Of course I do. These are the top Ethiopian coffees of this year. Who wouldn't want to be a part of this.

So I show up and as it turns out, I heard wrong. It wasn't 7 coffees Counter Culture Coffee had sent them, it was 27 coffees. Daniel only planned on cupping 18 of them which was, I will admit, was a slight relief.

Whirlwind of sniffing, slurping and spitting ensued. Did I have a favorite? It is hard to say. I mean these are the top coffees that Ethiopia has to offer. If I had to choose....

In the Natural category: The Sidamo, Wotona & Bultuma, Rank 4, cupping score 90.8

In the Washed category: The Sidamo, Gerbicho Lela, Rank 3, Cupping score 88.2

This was a great learning experience and a lot of fun. Many thanks to everyone at Grumpy for letting me be a part of it.

Friday, August 25, 2006 » Fair Trade

For those who don't know, these guys create shows online that comment directly on the irony of life here in our fashionable Brooklyn neighborhood. For this particular episode, they filmed here in our shop a little while back. The episode is out now for our enjoyment. They were a pleasure to work with...Much more so than other film crews that have graced our humble home, and we got a kick out of being part of it. » Fair Trade

Pressure, Stat!

A couple of days ago we noticed we were having some issues with our steam pressure. This was a bit scary and definitely frustrating. The gauge was acting erractically, dipping down below .5 at different, random points during the day, regardless of activity on the bar. There was no rhyme or reason to this behavior, and it made steaming milk a challenge. The randomness of the problem led us to immediately believe we had a pressurestat gone bad and we called up our esteemed tech guru Tomas up in Ithaca. His solution? Deal with it until he can schedule a trip to Brooklyn. Um...No. There's no way we were gonna "deal" with it through this weekend, let alone over the course of a full week. That's when Chris said "screw it, call ESI" and a lightbulb went off in my head. Surely they have subcontractors all over the country, no? We've just never needed them before because Tomas (the McGuyver of espresso machines) works for us. "Ok Chris, here's the number. Call them now."

Less than 24 hours later Adam shows up with his gear, shuts us down, replaces the pressurestat, and we boot back up. A couple of tweaks later we were back in business. Beauty eh? Here's the best part; the machine (matt riddle's from his championship performance in NC) was still under full warranty, as it was purchased off the competition floor at the USBC in April. Pressurestat? $0. Service? $0. Running again at 100%? Priceless. Thanks ESI, and thanks Adam. Hey Tomas, thanks anyway. I'll let you modify something later. If you're lucky you can do something so tricked out it will void our warranty.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


We were here. And it was good. Thanks to Nick Cho and Jay Caragay for playing host to fried and road-dusty travelers Tuesday. You guys were great. It was well worth the whirlwind day trip from NYC to DC. Can't wait to do it again...

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Dialing in the Leftist

Chris, Brett, and I took some time last night to really dial in our shots. With our boiler temperature in it's default state we started pulling 1oz shots in 30 seconds at 14 grams, gradually increasing the weight in 1 gram increments and swirling, swishing, and spitting into plastic cups. Actually Chris pulled all the shots while I took the notes, writing down everything we were experiencing in the cup. After we hit 24 grams we stopped and reflected on what we'd discovered so far, namely that the best shots we'd tasted so far weighed in at 19 grams.

We then took those magic 19 grams and did the same thing again, this time adjusting the temperature on our GB/5 (starting at 194) while maintaining a 19 gram weight. Shot after shot we tasted, swirled, and spit, until we threw in the towel at 204 degrees.

Our conclusion? Our "default" espresso blend, the Leftist, seems to be tastiest when pulled at 19 grams and 198 degrees. This was good news. Since our boiler was set a few degrees higher than 198, we can now expect our shots to be slightly sweeter and more consistent throughout the shot. Another conclusion? Try not to start the process when it's dark outside. Even though you're spitting caffeine is water soluble. 20 shots later you're gonna absorb some no matter how much you spit.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Guest Espresso

In the interest of expanding our horizons, we here in Brooklyn have recently been authorized to spend company resources on espresso blends from other roasters. Our plan is simple. Buy five pound bags of espresso from respected roasters throughout the country and spend a day or two pulling shots and making drinks with it. Though our motivation is primarily to increase our personal experiences with different coffees, we will be offering it as an alternative to our Leftist Espresso for customers as well. It's a little strange for a company who roasts coffee to use beans roasted elsewhere, but we hope to increase our own knowledge base while simultaneously calling attention to the world of specialty coffee as a whole. There are many company's that we here in Brooklyn respect, either through word of mouth or personal experience, and we'd like to spend more time taking an in depth look at what they're up to these days. Maybe it's the novelty of this idea but it seems we may have struck out with the roaster we selected to begin this journey with. George Howell's Terroir Coffee. A well respected roaster based in Massachusetts, their customer service rep seemed a bit wary of our motivations...And rightfully so. It is a strange request to receive. Nevertheless we will push on to number two on our list and see what happens. Maybe we'll get an opportunity to work with Terroir's North Italian Roast Style Coffee a little bit later down the road.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Building the Army

Mike and I met Daryn Berlin of Counter Culture Coffee yesterday. I'm not sure if it's just the Southern hospitality but, this is one nice guy. We sat around and chatted, over a press of Counter Culture's Harrar, about the Northeast coming up in the world of specialty coffee. Adding Counter Culture to the growing list of high quality coffees available here in NYC certainly helps. So, we would like to welcome Daryn and Counter Culture to New York and the fight for good coffee.

Another troop we met that day was Daniel. He defected from Seattle to join the East Coast Army and we are happy to have him.

Welcome gentlemen.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Gimme's new roaster

New roastery eases growing pains

Gimme Coffee has found a way to give more coffee and cope with growing pains at their State Street location in Ithaca, with the purchase of an industrial property in Ulysses to be used as the company's new roastery.

The local espresso bar chain has two different parts to their business. The first is through its four locations in Ithaca, one in Trumansburg and one in Brooklyn (editors note: There are 5 locations total. Three in Ithaca, one in T-burg, and us in Brooklyn). The second is with their brand of wholesale coffee, which they roast right on State Street and sell to restaurants and other businesses on the East Coast, their farthest client being in Bermuda.

Gimme receives about two to four shipments of coffee in bulk every week in order to keep up with the demand from their cafe customers and wholesale clients. Because the espresso bar's State Street location is meant as a commercial property, there is no loading dock, so the employees have to unload the 150 lb burlap sacks of coffee by hand. Storage for the raw beans and the roaster take up a lot space in the cafe.

“We just don't have the space to do what's required,” Kevin Cuddeback, owner of Gimme Coffee, said about the constraints at the State Street location.

What is required would be space enough to store the raw and roasted coffee beans, room for the roaster, a loading dock and a space for order fulfillment.

About 18 months ago, the folks at Gimme began their quest for more room to expand their roasting capabilities.

Last month, they settled a real estate deal acquiring a facility in Ulysses on Krum Corner Road west of Route 96 to serve as their new roastery. Cuddeback said that the machine to be used at the new site will have twice the coffee bean capacity as the machine currently being used.

Moving the roasting operations offsite will not only help Gimme expand their wholesale business, but also free up more room at the State Street location for additional seating.

The freed space will be used for educational and training purposes. Gimme likes to help out others who are starting their own coffee bars. Besides selling the merchants coffee, Gimme will also sell machinery used to brew the coffee, then train them on their own equipment so that “they can do the best they can do with the coffee,” Cuddeback said.

Gimme Coffee joins a countless number of coffee merchants with their own brands in the world market. According to a new study by the National Coffee Association, overall coffee consumption reached 82 percent among American adults and those who drink coffee once a week rose to 68 percent.

“The appetite for specialty coffee seems to be increasing,” Cuddeback said. “The market is vast.”

Originally published August 16, 2006

The Ithaca Journal - - Ithaca, NY

Coffee as a Health Drink? - New York Times

Coffee as a Health Drink? Studies Find Some Benefits

Published: August 15, 2006

Coffee is not usually thought of as health food, but a number of recent studies suggest that it can be a highly beneficial drink. Researchers have found strong evidence that coffee reduces the risk of several serious ailments, including diabetes, heart disease
and cirrhosis of the liver.

Continue reading the story here.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Espresso Map

Genius. I love it. Well done.

espresso map

Rate My Rosetta - Latte Art Ratings

Here's a new website dedicated solely to latte art pics sent in by viewer contributions. Check it out and vote for your favorites, it's pretty cool...

Rate My Rosetta - Latte Art Ratings

More on Grumpy

As you know Chris O. and I are fans of Cafe Grumpy here on this side of the East River, and we took advantage of this beautiful summer day to make the fifteen minute walk up north to visit our friends this afternoon. The owners Chris and Caroline were there (as usual) and were gracious enough to spend some time socializing with us, serving up a couple choice items from their current supplier Counter Culture. One of these choice items was a Nicaraguan that Chris served up in a french press. I found the flavor very pleasant and mild, with hints of mollasses and floral notes reminding my vaguely of bittersweet chocolate. My initial reaction was that it would be a great compliment to my breakfast cereal, a nice medium bodied brew that would be a nice way to start the day.

Here's Caroline.

Here's Chris O.

And here's the first Synesso to grace a bar in NY.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Latte Art in Brooklyn

Chris and I were playing with the digi cam today and documented a couple of our lattes. Since we frequently work together and divide the labor into two parts, espresso and milk, I haven't had a lot of experience steaming milk in the last couple of weeks. It was good exercise for me.

Here's one by me.

Here's one by Chris.

As you can see Chris definitely creates a finer texture than I do. I think he likes to challenge himself by seeing how fine he can go and still pour nice artwork.
Of course there was also some experimentation with other designs and soy milk, but when Chris started pouring three rosettas with the soy that's when I had to cut him off. The world isn't ready for that yet and the intricacies would have been lost on the other side of the bar.

If you really wanna see, some other choice pics from the series can be viewed here.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Baci & Abbracci Restaurant

This is my new favorite Italian restaurant here in the neighborhood. Straight out of Naples, Italy (literally...Including the pizza oven). These folks dropped some serious dough on designing and creating their restaurant. The service is attentive, the food fresh, and the wine list solid. Now clearly these people invested heavily in what they are doing, particularly in comparison to some of the other restaurants on the same street. However when it comes to coffee, they seriously dropped the ball. Am I crazy? Is it nuts for me to expect these guys to serve better coffee? Though I won't say who they are serving, this relatively large coffee distribution company is well known for providing free equipment and service to it's customers in exchange for a contract. Fine. I get it. Tons of restaurants around here do the same thing. But this place? Come on. They have to know the quality could be better, and since they spent a fortune on the space itself, why not keep the ball rolling and buy their own equipment?

Baci & Abbracci Restaurant

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

If you haven't yet clicked the link to this website from the column on the right, you're missing out. These folks are all coffee heavyweights providing a service completely unique in the coffee world. Their content never ceases to amaze me... Check it out...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Grumpy Morning

Due to Mike's unprecedented flurry of posts, I have been spurred into action..

Our friends, Chris and Caroline of Cafe Grumpy, were kind enough to let me do a little guest barista shift this morning. And, Samuel Crane (Victrola's first roaster) was very accommodating as I interloped behind his bar. They have a nice set up going over there. A two group Synesso Cyncra and a couple of Mazzer grinders. (which I'll get to later) Grumpy is currently featuring Counter Culture Coffee. We started the morning using the Toscano blend. We were pulling the shots as a fairly tight triple ristretto. The Toscano was well balanced, smooth, and slightly nutty. Mid morning we switched to the Aficionado blend. Why, because it's fun to play with coffee of course. The Aficionado had more of a candied orange peel flavor and slightly better body than the Toscano. Both of which I preferred. I know Nick Cho of Murky Coffee is using Counter Culture, makes me wonder which blend?

The grinder situation. Grumpy has a not oft seen Mazzer Kony. This is the smaller conical burr cousin of the Robur. This grinder is incredibly slow. Surprisingly so. Their Mazzer Major puts it to shame as far as speed goes. The Kony also gets terribly hot. I wonder how much sweetness is being lost due to the heat alone. I believe they have some Roburs on order and that will help a lot. (Roburs have their own heat problems but it will be a vast improvement) So, if you have been to Grumpy and think they have great espresso (which they do), go back in a few weeks, it will be even better. And, if you haven't been yet, why not? They can be found here.

I have been focused on doing barista exchange/guest barista shifts lately. I want to keep learning and progressing. In order to do that, I think it is important to work with different coffees, equipment, and methodologies. So, a big thanks goes out to Cafe Grumpy for this opportunity.

Pouring Latte Art - Rosetta. - Google Video

Here's another good one I found via the geniuses at google. While I unfortunately cannot identify the creator of this video I must give them props for a job well done.

Pouring Latte Art - Rosetta. - Google Video

Monday, August 07, 2006

Coffee, and Hope, Grow in Rwanda - New York Times

Coffee, and Hope, Grow in Rwanda - New York Times

Here's a little something to think about from the NY Times yesterday. It's a good article, written as it turns out, by a friend of a friend. Too bad she didn't look us up, I would have sent her here.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

YouTube - Rosetta in a Pavina glass

YouTube - Rosetta in a Pavina glass

Nicely done Jim

gimme! coffee

Kevin has posted an unprecedented number of posts in a single day breaking his long standing record and increasing his monthly averages exponentially. Yeah yeah I'm one to talk, but hey, who has the time? In this Sunday series, Kevin discusses the two subjects that have long been on the forefront of our otherwise preoccupied brains here in the gimme camp. In the red corner; standing tall at just under six feet; the undisputed espresso heavyweight champion of Ithaca NY; the one; the only; Kevin "is it mine?" Cuddeback. (cue gangsta rap/grateful dead mash up).

gimme! coffee

Saturday, August 05, 2006


I am pleased to announce my scheduled trip to Vancouver BC during the last week of August through early September. Although in retrospect planning my trip to coordinate with the upcoming Canadian Coffee & Tea Expo that kicks off three weeks after my return to the States would have been smart, I nevertheless intend to have a great time traveling with Gimme Coffee GM and long time friend Alexis. Highlights of our itinerary include visits to the esteemed Caffe Artigiano (of course) where I hope to meet up with the original Dwell Timer Nick B who paid us a visit earlier this year, as well as trips to Elysian Room, Hines, and Wicked Cafe.

Incidentally, I was happy to see Caffe Artigiano mentioned in the current issue of Fresh Cup in regards to their record setting COE Brazilian this year. There must be something special in the water up there on the 49th Parallel.

P.S. If you have any suggestions for cafes or roasters that you think we should hit, let me know. Of course with Mark Prince (of coffeegeek fame) and Reg Barber floating around up there, the list could be endless.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Barista at Large

A hearty congratulations is in order to Christopher as his first and only venture into journalism has been published. Although he never quite got his thoughts together for us (me) here on Shot Zombies, he managed to sweat his way through a feature article in the upcoming Barista Magazine. If you don't have a subscription then, well, you should. Because although you can read excerpts here, you miss out on all the other great stuff that they're publishing every month. Including some great shots from an aspiring photographer to be featured soon...hint hint...

p.s. Chris, aren't you attending the Nordic Cup this year? Can't wait for your thoughts on that...