Thursday, October 29, 2009

Just an update

Haven't blogged since the August competition so I just an update for the last 2 months.

I have started working Tobys Estate Roastery in Chippendale, just as a part time at the moment. Quite a lot of fun being surrounded by coffee beans all day. Looking,Inhaling and of course tasting. All Tobys coffees are roasted for espresso, but having no proper espresso machines in the Roastery we are make to use plunger and Siphon coffee with fairly dark roasted coffee, works for some but not most. But anyway, it's all good fun.

I did the NSW cup tasting Competition and came away 3rd, nothing to shout about but not bad considering I was competing with professional roasters who's been in the industry for a while. I will keep on competing next year and hopefully I will be more complete next year, fingers crossed!

I did a temporary barista position for Blue Duck Cafe in St. Leonards, was just filling it for their full time barista who was on holiday for 2 weeks. They were using Jack Hanna's coffee so I also had the pleasure to meet Jack, saw his latte art work which was quite amazing.

I think overall my palate is now more developed now compare to say the same time last year, so hopefully this will play into my advantage when tasting coffees, Just ordered a big bunch of coffees from Ministry Grounds which included 2 lots of Cup of Excellence coffee, 1 from El Salvador and another from Colombia. So when that arrives I will fire up the little roaster and start tasting some delicious coffee... more Blog then.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Problems with Barista Competitions

I have recently competed in the GBC (short of Grand Barista Championship) which was hosted by Danes coffee. Having went through the heats and did not get into the finals or even top 10, but I did go away with some thoughts on the competition both Positive and Negative.

First let's talk about the Negative, I think too little is concentrated on the final cup and too much is emphasised on the presentation, imagine you are a customer getting a coffee from your favourite coffee shop, what matters to you the most is how your coffee taste and whether you can get that consistent coffee everytime. Personally I can't give a rat about what brand of Jeans the barista is wearing or whehter he speaks like your local radio station DJ... that's why you waiter/waitress! It's their job to do a professional presentation, for the coffee maker (don't like to use the word Barista for some reason) it's our job to concentration everything into the cup, let the Coffee speak for itself and for whoever that's making it. I am a big fan of the Japanese Cooking Show "the Iron Chef", and it's great to see chefs putting all of their heart of soul into whatever dish they are making, and it's only scored on the final products. I think Coffee Competition shoud learn something from it, maybe someone should start a competition called "the Iron Coffee Geeks"...LOL..
Another problem is the Espresso machine settings which was set to a Static 92c and 9Bars of pressure, so basically I had to design my coffee to work around this setting, which I think is kind of crap. Imagine you just came across a fanstic coffee and would like to share this with the Judges, but the coffee requires a high temperature and a low pressure which means you cannot use it for competition because of this constraint. I think the competition machine should work around whichever bean the competitor is using, Competition should get machines with easily adjusted brew temperature and pressure and the competitor can submit their desired temperature/pressure before the competition, the machine can be easily set to the target values before the presentation.
OK, enough on the negatives... more for later. Now the positives on Competitions.

I think compeitions are great in getting everyone involved, both customers and people in the industry, it promotes coffees in both quantity and quality which is great for the coffee farmers. It inspires Coffee Makers to reach new heights, it inspires roasters to try harder.

So for sure competition is a good thing for everyone, just that it needs constant evolving to get to what it really stand for..... Quality of the cup!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Espresso Shots

Ever heard of the industry standard espresso shot volume and time? 25-30ml in 25-30sec.
I guess they have that standard there so even idiots can pull shots, I am not saying that standard is wrong as in most cases it can probably achieve a reasonable tasting espressos. But this standard does not factor in a lot of variables, for example if the beans are fresh it will achieve that volume in a much shorter time as there are a lot more crema than liquid and vice verse if you have stale beans, Temperature of your brewing water, brew pressure, type of beans and the roast degree. I have seen truly amazing shots that's pulled in near the 1 minute mark. So what's the irony here? As a Barista it's our duties to experiment with different types of method to achieve the best possible outcome for the particular type of beans we are using. And most importantly, taste,taste and taste....

Below are a few images from the shots I pulled using the Aroma Felice Blend, shots didn't taste too bad actually.

Initial stage of the shot, should look like honey being poured, broken but not quite broken stream. If the first few drops looks watery it may indicate a channeling in the coffee cookie,
chuck it out and redo! LOL...

Middle stage of the shot, stream becoing more steady and even and only broken near the bottom
before it hits the cup.

Towards the end of the shot, now 2 constant running stream with no broken bits, colour starting
to get lighter but still has viscosity as not mouse tailing. Most of the flavours would have been
extracted at this point.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Texture vs. Varietal Flavour for Espresso

There's a big debate going on at the moment in term of roasting degree for espresso, the new trend seem to be going light on everything to preserve the Varietal flavour of the bean. But for me I think in the search for those "extra flavours" we have some how forgotten how an espresso should be like, I treat espresso as a "Hit", in other word it's how it makes feel rather than what I can taste in it. Texture for me is a lot more important in an espresso than Varietal Flavour, things like Syrupy, Velvety, Smooth and of course a nice strong Body to finish it off. Origin flavour is important for me... but not at the cost of Texture. A lot of the younger generation roaster seem to be scared of the second Crack in coffee roasting, fearing the change in wood structure in coffee may damage the flavour, but I actually think second crack increases the complexity for lots of coffees provided you don't go past rolling 2Nd crack (Vienna Stage), a lot of that chocolate flavour happens at this stage which I like very much. Which origin I don't like for Espressos? Mostly central American, they are flavourful and acidic, but most of them just doesn't seem to have that Texture I am after and the flavour is lost in milk anyway, they make a nice Plunger/Syphon coffee but not really for espressos or at least single origin espressos.

To compare espresso to Plunger/syphon is like comparing a shot of Tequila to a nice Chardonnay, Tequila will give you that "wow" factor like a punch in the face, while the Chardonnay is delicate and flavourful. Different drinks so we should also roast them differently. I like drinking Plunger coffee but I am an espresso man as I don't like to think too hard for flavours, if a drink is delicious it's delicious, end of the question!

Monday, June 29, 2009

F**K the Fancy Labels

I am starting to get pissed off at the amount of Fancy Labels that's starting to come out relating to coffees. Fairtrade this and Organic Certified that, I heard to be Organic Certified the farmers had to pay the organization a large sum of money and wait 2-3 years before they can be certified, and how many farmers in the 3rd world country can afford this crap? Most coffee beans are Organic anyway, as those farmers won't be able to afford Chemical pesticides and Fertilizer, just because it's not "Organic Certified" doesn't mean it's not "Organic".

A lot of Coffee Company has adopted this new trend of "Fancy Labels" thinking it will aid their sales, the company I work for is a big sucker for those labels although I won't mention their names. And a lot of the times those Organisation has such a large overhead in staff salary and expenses, the amount that's left to go to the farmers are only a small percentage in that bag of cash.

I believe the only way of doing this is to deal with the Farmers direct, Pay the fair price for a good product, this way all (or most) of the money is going directly to the farmers and we end up getting a higher quality BEAN as well.

Why the bad Wraps on Robusta Beans

A lot of people seem to be scared of the word "Robusta", it's like the black sheep in the Coffee Varietal world. OK most Robusta beans drank on its own could taste a bit rubbery and the Aroma isn't the most attractive, but I tend to treat Robusta as a spice, with the correct percentage in an espresso blend it can be fantastic. Dark Chocolate, Bitey and it also add an extra dimension to the flavour profile... Flavour you cannot obtain from Arabica beans. It's like cooking, treat Robusta like Chilli or Saffron, you wouldn't eat them straight right? Although I am hearing there are some specially selected Robusta beans that's nice enough to be drank on its own, but until I have tried it myself I cannot comment on that one.

To prove what I believe, I am entering the Danes Grand Barista Championship with a blend that contains the Indian Monsoon Robusta bean, it's got all the nice Robusta properties minus some of the offensive bits and the rough edges, and it should aid the mouthfeel in my espressos and will work a treat in Milk.

So is Robusta Bad? It depend whether you believe what a lot of people tell you or believe your own taste bud? If it's the latter, go out and try a Blend with Robusta and see whether you prefer it over the trendy "100% Arabica" beans. Remember McCafe also uses "100% Arabica" and also "100% Rain Forest Alliance", but have you tried one? enough said...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Is a Blend really Supperior to a Single Origin?

Most people will say to make a proper espresso you must blend a variety of beans, possibly from different origins like a Brazilian for a base, Central Americans for acidity and sweetness and an Indonesian for some extra Body.

This is all True and works nicely, but is it possible for a Single Origin bean to have all those qualities and maybe even a bit more? Those same people will tell it cannot be done, but I think it's definitely possible. They probably just haven't tried enough "GOOD" Single Origin coffees to change their assumption which was probably handed down to them from another person.

Below are a few coffees which I think makes the perfect Single Origin Espressos.

Ethiopian Limmu, Floral, most Balanced and Clean Ethiopian coffee, chocolate aftertaste.

Sulawesi (Celebs) Torajah, Chocolate Heaven, Dark Chocolate bitterness is really an experience that's truly unique. Not the most flavorsome but it's got that "WOW" factor.

Oh... the Yemen Ismaili, what can I say... If you have never tried one of these YOU are MISSING out. Most Complex coffee I have ever tried, wild, chocolate. A bit intense as a Straight Espresso but when mixed with Milk it's hard to put the experience into words. Super Ugly and uneven bean due to the hand pick and process, also full of ROCKS... Beware when roasting.

If you think all Indonesian Region beans are earthy and heavy, think again! This Papua New Geunie Wahgi is balanced, good acidity, Sweet and is just great as both a straight Espresso or in Milk. One of the most balanced Asian region bean.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Grinder Craze!

Just after picking up my Mazzer Kony grinder, I did a side to side comparison with Alan's Super Jolly. We found the Kony gives a brighter and more defined shot while the shot came out of the Jolly was more balanced and smoother. Both a top notch grinder and would work to its advantage depend on different origin/blend/roast.

the 2 Grinders side to side, together with Alan's VBM Domobar Super Lever... the dream home setup... OH YEAH!

Melbourne Trip... Nice Cafes

Having just came back from the Melbourne trip, I can report the place definitely has some nice cafes, we've visited The Maling Room, ST. Ali, Liar Liar, Atomica, Veneziano (that was closed too early) and Jasper Coffee (that was S**T coffee actually). Out of all of them I think I liked The Maling room the best, perfectly controlled temperature and a nice Rosetta on top. Below are a few pictures from the trip.

Yummy Breakfast from Maling Room:

Setup inside Atomica Coffee, very HIP...

Outside Maling Room, they used the old post office building

Latte @ The Maling Room, nice work!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bought myself a Mazzer Kony Conical Grinder.. OH YEAH!

After a furious bidding war, I have finally bought myself a Mazzer Kony Conical grinder off Ebay, it's slightly used but according to the seller still in great condition, RRP for one of this baby is almost $2000 so that was a great bargain. Hopefully my shot will improve with the Kony over my other trusty grinder... the Rancilio Rocky, it's been serving me for almost 3 years and has been faultless since, but it's time to upgrade as the Rocky is slowly becoming the weakest link.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New BNZ Conical grinder at Work (Tobys Estate Fox Studio)

Today we received a new BNZ Conical grinder and retired the old Flat burr BNZ grinder. What a difference it made to the shot, super syrupy espresso and crema, shots flow stays very consistent through out the pour, and no danger of burning the coffee like the old flat burr (where we use to switch it on for 3-4 hours non stop because of the speed). Very exciting indeed.

First Post... How Exciting!

This is my first post for my new Blog which is dedicated to all things related to Coffees. Anything from Plantation to Green Beans to Coffee making techniques. Everyone is welcome to contribute and share their coffee experiences. The Coffee industry is constantly changing, and no one can say they know everything that needs to be known, so there's always things we can pick up along the way.

Below is a video of a naked Espresso pull I did on my Giotto Premium a couple of days a go, it didn't look too bad and it certainly tasted nice. I think it was a Colombian Volcan Galeras Single Origin.