Wednesday, March 29, 2006

   from Nick

#28:

.....

33 minutes and 02 seconds
MP3 Version podcast #28, AAC Version podcast #28

Friday, March 24, 2006

   from Nick

Podcast #27: The Angry Show

Special guests: Danielle Joray (former murky barista), a surprise phone call from a secret admirer, Dean Cycon from Dean's Beans, Orange, MA, Ryan Jensen, murky coffee.

Discussion topics:
Brazil CoE tasting from Ecco Caffe
Danielle is angry
Secret Guest must be angry at us
Dean Cycon is angry about "Fair Trade Certified"
Pirates of the Caribbean II
Chit-chat about SCAA Conference, USBC, and porn.

See y'all in Charlotte!!!

Pick your link below and right-click and select Save As (on PC) or Control-Click and select "Download Linked File" in MacOS to save it to your hard drive... OR click the "podcast" icon above for the RSS podcast feed (AAC format).

(as always) TWO DIFFERENT FILES, but the same show... your choice (the AAC version sounds better and includes "bookmarking" for iTunes and iPods: if you stop midway, you can come back to where you left off) both: 2 hours, 7 minutes and 41 seconds, 48 kbps VBR bitrate , 44.1 kHz sample rate (57 kbps VBR/44.1 kHz for MP3).
MP3 format, 52.7 MB,
AAC format, 51.4 MB

Click here to go to the Portafilter Podcast on iTunes Music Store.
MAC OS users, click HERE (for a one-click to subscribe in iTunes)

-- AAC XML feed -:- MP3 XML feed --

Questions? Comments? Hate mail? Email us at podcast@portafilter.net, and we might read your email during the next show.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

   from Peter G

35 samples, 5 cups each = lots of dishes.


What a nice weekend I had.

Each year, as part of our partnership, the Yucul Organic Cooperative from San Ramon, Nicaragua sends me a big package of coffee samples. I get one sample per farmer, which represents the lot of coffee they have tendered to the mill in Matagalpa. In total, I received 35 samples, each with a producer's name on it. I've been doing this since 2002, and over time, I've gotten to know this micro-region really well, which comprises the communities of Yucul, La Corona, and Yasika Sur.

San Ramon sits in the mountains above the city of Matagalpa, which lends its name to one of the most famous coffee regions in Nicaragua. The coffees here are grown on tiny farms, usually only a few hectares in size, and are cultivated, picked, pulped, fermented, washed, and partially dried by the farmers themselves. As such, the coffee is uniquely handcrafted by a large number of individual farmers, and most lots represent a large number of farms' produce.

So, in order to create great coffees, I have to get down to the farm level to evaluate the coffes, and blend the best ones together thoughtfully to make our "Cafe San Ramon" lot for the year. Quite a task.

Let me tell you, people, this was my favorite year so far. The overall quality of the farmers' coffees was MUCH better this year than in previous years. This is the first year that I was able to rate every single micro-lot at over 80 points. In addition, there were a few lots which absolutely stunned me. They may be the best Nicaraguan coffees I have yet tasted. To wit:

Manuel Torres' coffee was delectable, with juicy acidity and a beautiful strawberry and apricot flavor. Beautiful and mouthwatering. 93

Asuncion Arauz's coffee was brisk, with aromas of grapefruit, bergamot and jasmine, and a light, elegant body. 92

Finca Esperanza Verde's coffee was almost Kenyan in its rich savory flavor and ripe berrylike fruit. Sweet, perfectly clean, it makes my mouth water just thinking about it. 94.

I'm so lucky to be able to conduct this kind of "mini Cup of Excellence" in a single micro-region, which I know can create great coffees. It's such a thrill when you discover the great ones, and you can send the farmer the message that he or she has created something special.

It's exhausting, though, to thoughtfully cup 35 coffees in a weekend. You wind up revisiting certain coffees to make sure you got it right, and there is a lot of notetaking and recordkeeping.

And lots of dishes.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

   from Nick

Podcast #26 - Rob Stephen

Podcast Number 26: Rob Stephen Pick your link below and right-click and select Save As (on PC) or Control-Click and select "Download Linked File" in MacOS to save it to your hard drive... OR click the "podcast" icon above for the RSS podcast feed (AAC format).

Special guest: Mr. Rob Stephen, Coffee Solutions, and 2006 SCAA Conference Chair

Discussion topics:
TV talk,
No blueberries in coffee?!?
Talk with Rob about his history in coffee, Dunkin Donuts, SCAA Conference, and SCAA drama.

A (typically) long show, but chock full of goodness.

(as always) TWO DIFFERENT FILES, but the same show... your choice (the AAC version sounds better and includes "bookmarking" for iTunes and iPods: if you stop midway, you can come back to where you left off) both: 1 hour, 58 minutes and 9 seconds, 48 kbps VBR bitrate , 44.1 kHz sample rate (34 kbps VBR/44.1 kHz for MP3).
MP3 format, 29.5 MB,
AAC format, 47 MB

Click here to go to the Portafilter Podcast on iTunes Music Store.
MAC OS users, click HERE (for a one-click to subscribe in iTunes)

-- AAC XML feed -:- MP3 XML feed --

Questions? Comments? Hate mail? Email us at podcast@portafilter.net, and we might read your email during the next show.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

   from AndyS

Pressure Profilin'

I drove down to Gimme Coffee today to test out my newest piece of geeked out gear: a Programmable Pressure Profiling Pump. This is a homemade gadget designed to replace the rotary or vibe pump in an espresso machine. In theory, it will allow the barista artist to "sculpt" the water pressure profile through both the initial "preinfusion" phase and the main "extraction" phase.

I was inspired to build this thing by many people. Among them is John Bicht at Versalab, whose M3x machine reportedly has full pressure profiling capability through a computer interface. John says that changes in extraction pressure of only 0.03 bar (!) are tastable on his machine. Then there's Jim Schulman, whose experiments with pump machines and levers have led to some fascinating insights on pressure profiling. And Sean Lennon, home barista and industrial robot designer extraordinaire, has generously coached me on many key engineering details.

With technical help from Tomas (Gimme's excellent macchinesti), and moral support from Kevin and John Gant, we got the contraption hooked up to a venerable La Marzocco GS2. That's Tomas working on the machine in the photo.

So how was the coffee? Well, at first it sucked big time. But with Kevin acting as head barista, we gradually tweaked, tasted, sipped, spat and tweaked some more. We raised the preinfusion pressure, we increased the preinfusion time, we raised the extraction pressure. By the end, the coffee was coming out pretty damn nice -- and Kevin was really late for dinner!

It's a little overwhelming working with pressure profiles. There are so many combinations of things to try. But I believe that with proper attention to barista technique, grind quality, water composition, brew temperature, machine cleanliness, and now pressure profile, we are freeing ourselves from the tyranny of mechanical limitations. The aim, of course, is not to remain obsessed with the espresso machine itself, but to have unfettered control of the espresso process. Then we can finally extract our best from any given blend or roast with unprecedented artistry.

So what exactly is this Profiling Pump? Well, in its present incarnation it's a combination of pistons, valves, sensors and electronics that I won't attempt to explain (but that's part of it to the right of the grinder in the photo). It'll be installed on the GS2 at the SCAA Gimme Coffee booth in Charlotte, so please come by, say hello, and check it out. We'll be right near the BGA booth, so you won't have to go far.

At the end of the afternoon we had plenty of coffee heaped up below our grinder. Jay's famous BGA ad in Barista Magazine (which showed a grinder heaped with ground coffee) had nothing on us! We tried not to waste, honest! :-)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

   from Nick

GS3... my take

The GS3 is leaving us today... thought it was time to post my report:

First of all, the GS3 is still as great as everyone said it is. We've had a prototype to experience for almost a month, and it still amazes us every day.

I think that the factor that will make the greatest long-term impact overall is the fact that this machine presents a new paradigm in espresso machine design: bigger isn't necessarily better. The analogy that comes to mind is that in the automotive world, the obvious way to improve the speed (through a course) or perhaps even just the acceleration of a car is to increase the engine displacement, and increase horsepower. The other solution, and the one that's considered a more 'modern' approach, is that you can increase overall speed by having a better suspension (and better handling), and improve acceleration by decreasing overall weight... perhaps even using technologies like forced-induction (turbos and superchargers) to get more power out of a smaller engine. In fact, once all is said and done, you can see that the smaller+technology=faster model is superior in many ways to the bigger+more_power=faster.

Traditionally, whether for steam power or for brew water stability, bigger was better. The reason that the 3-group La Marzoccos were so popular (and more sought-after by temperature-nazis) was that the brew boiler was so big... bigger than the 4-group Lineas, which have two 2-group-sized brew boilers inside. Now, there's nothing that feels quite like a normally-aspirated big-block V-8 at full-throttle (riding shotgun in a Corvette Z06 was an experience I would have paid admission for), so for steam-power, big is still better... but I think that you COULD, with the right heating element and maybe a preheat coming into the steam boiler, keep good pressures on a small steam boiler in a commercial setting.

The GS3, to me, is the harbinger of espresso machine design to come. It might take 10 years to materialize, but to be able to (theoretically) have a commercial multi-group espresso machine that's small enough to change the entire espresso-bar design is a very exciting idea to me.

The other thing that's perhaps even MORE significant is how this machine came into being in the first place.

Time and time again, albeit only over the past few years, our community of baristas has been telling equipment manufacturers what we want. David Schomer is famous for coining the phrase, "Engineered mediocrity." In other words, the technology is there to build a machine that performs to our specifications, but the manufacturers simply didn't care enough to do anything about it. Frankly, with the economics of it all looking us in the face, it appeared that we represented too small a segment of the market to spend the money on design and manufacture of such equipment. With Synesso, that all changed. A small, boutique machine manufacturer with the right motivation was producing machines with the performance and temperature stability that we were all clamoring for.

For La Marzocco, under the leadership of Bill Crossland, to have spent so much time, energy, and funding to develop the GS3 demonstrates one major fact: the powers that be are truly paying attention. Combined with the legacy of the GS and GS2 machines, it's difficult to imagine any real improvements that can be made to the GS3 as is. Every issue that came to mind has already been addressed for the production models. It's seriously a dream come true, and the sign of great things to come.

Thanks to Bill, the folks at La Marzocco and ESI, Greg Scace, and Mark Prince for helping provide us the opportunity to be a part of the last days leading up to the production-runs of the GS3.

Now... we're waiting for someone to build us a freakin' grinder. C'mon folks! Get with da program!!!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

   from Nick

Podcast 25 - Nick's House

Podcast Number 25: Nick's House Pick your link below and right-click and select Save As (on PC) or Control-Click and select "Download Linked File" in MacOS to save it to your hard drive... OR click the "podcast" icon above for the RSS podcast feed (AAC format).

Podcasting from Nick's house on February 27, 2006.

Special guests:
Bronwen Serna, Hines Public Market Coffee,
Ellie Matuszak, Intelligentsia,
Madeline Cho,
Suzy Cho

Discussion topics:
Bronwen made Nick's dad a cappuccino (a.k.a. Bronwen's barista posture),
Aftermath of the MARBC ("Some of us are better off as number two..."),
Barista Guild of America stuff,
Being starstruck by baristas,
Ellie on Chicago TV,
We love Mr. Krups,
Recap of the Great Lakes Regional Barista Competition,
The Storminator,
Nick's wife Suzy tells all,
Coffee Corps

(as always) TWO DIFFERENT FILES, but the same show... your choice (the AAC version sounds better and includes "bookmarking" for iTunes and iPods: if you stop midway, you can come back to where you left off) both: 58 minutes and 5 seconds, 48 kbps VBR bitrate , 44.1 kHz sample rate (35 kbps VBR/44.1 kHz for MP3).
MP3 format, 15 MB,
AAC format, 23.3 MB

Click here to go to the Portafilter Podcast on iTunes Music Store.
MAC OS users, click HERE (for a one-click to subscribe in iTunes)

-- AAC XML feed -:- MP3 XML feed --

Questions? Comments? Hate mail? Email us at podcast@portafilter.net, and we might read your email during the next show.

Friday, March 03, 2006

   from Nick

Breaking news... you heard it here first...

The 2006 USBC espresso machines will be...


La Marzocco GB/5's.






EE's.


The 2005 WBC machines were 3AV GB/5's, which were the first unveiling of the GB/5's publicly.


The 2006 USBC will be the first time we (in the U.S.) get to see GB/5 semi-automatics.


Now nobody say that I didn't tell you nuttin'.