Wednesday, June 28, 2006

   from Nick

Podcast 46 - Less Coffee, More Polka!!!

From Jay's Shave Ice, Timonium, Maryland, with Katie Carguilo, General Manager, murky coffee arlington.

Jay and Nick go on and on about Sanford and Son, Geoff Watts in the New York Times, Nick asks for help from the listeners, a special coffee tasting, Peter Giuliano rocks the house, Trish Skeie's live parallel parking, a little contest, and we finish up with a chat about branding.

2 hours 1 minute and 34 seconds

AAC format, 48.9 MB - MP3 format, 44.2 MB

See the sidebar to the right for more information and how to subscribe or download.

Remember, the next podcast will be a LIVE SHOW on SkypeCast. Go to and register yourself for the show! Basically, we'll post the podcast as usual, but via Skype, we can have YOU, our listeners, listen live and take part with your own microphone. Live and uncensored, as usual!!!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

   from AndyS

Cafe Grumpy

On Sunday I had the good fortune to visit Cafe Grumpy in Brooklyn, NY. It's a mile or two from Gimme Brooklyn in a mixed residential/commercial neighborhood. I'm always excited to visit cafes that have been talked up online -- it's almost guaranteed to be a good time. This is in stark contrast, of course, to walking blindly into 95% of the coffee shops out there, where you pretty much know the coffee's gonna be awful.

Grumpy ain't much to look out from the outside, but the interior space is airy and fun. I'm a sucker for sandblasted brick walls and tin ceilings, and the place didn't disappoint.

Husband and wife owners Caroline Bell and Chris Timbrell greeted me from behind a counter that sported a gleaming 2 group Synesso. Although the incandescents were turned down low, plenty of light spilled in the windows, making the brick, stainless and brightly colored walls feel friendly and inviting.

After quick introductions it became obvious that I wasn't a local stopping by for casual coffee. Chris vaguely recognized my name (from posting here and on, I guess), so this must have added a hair more pressure than usual as he pulled my first espresso.

It was a teenie weenie ristretto, using Victrola's Streamline, pulled into a beautiful blue ceramic cup. I've only tasted Streamline once before, during the Seattle SCAA show, but that was when the Glimmer Twins worked there. How much had changed? I was very curious to taste this new generation of Streamline.

I found it quite restrained, even elegant. Heavy in body, but not "in your face" with big fruit or thundering caramel. Perhaps it was like a good quality French Chardonnay as compared to one from California -- I enjoyed the subtle balance between roast notes, sweetness, and a hint of acidity.

As I sipped and we chatted, Chris prepared a cappucino, also excellent. Caroline joked about folks from other shops who dropped in anonymously to check out Grumpy's coffee. She could often tell who the "coffee spies" were: they were the only people to order macchiatos. So be forewarned, coffee spies, you've been made!

If Grumpy had a weakness, I would venture that it was in their surprisingly low-key approach. Subtle on the building exterior, elegant on the inside, offering restrained yet delicious drinks, all was in order. But nowhere was a message that said, "OUR COFFEE IS FREAKING GREAT, PEOPLE, GET YOUR BUTTS IN HERE." I hope Caroline and Chris continue to find ways to make their cafe, like Gimme, a destination stop for their coffee-loving, quality-starved Brooklyn neighbors.

More Grumpy photos are in the "Cafes" section of my Flickr site.

Friday, June 23, 2006

   from Nick


Smellderelda in the hizzay.

For those not familiar with, it's a USENET group (sort of like an email mailing-list discussion, but that has a permanent home on the internet). Like many things, Google has taken USENET newsgroups and made then all slick.

Anyway, I was lurking today and people were discussing the $100/pound+ (roasted) price of the Esmerelda Especial that just hit Intelligentsia's virtual store shelves. As usual, there were the typical responses to this, including the one that many of those in our community have been throwing around to justify (and rightly-so) the seemingly exorbitant price for this coffee and those like it: a guy with the screen name "yEnc Man" writes, "Some people (not me) pay hundreds of dollars for a 750ml bottle of wine, brandy or whiskey. Some people pay hundreds of dollars per pound for gourmet chocolate. Some people pay hundreds of dollars per ounce for extremely salty and fishy tasting fish eggs. Why should high end coffee be any different?"

What was a bit surprising and really refreshing and inspiring to see was one of the responses that came soon after:
Date: Fri, Jun 23 2006 1:10 pm

This post smacked me right between the eyes because I HAVE paid hundreds of dollars for a single bottle of wine and I HAVE paid hundreds of dollars for a bottle of single malt and I HAVE paid nearly $100 per ounce for fish eggs. Yet, when I got the email from Intelligentsia offering me the opportunity to buy half a pound of this
Esmeralda at 52 bucks, I went "Pfff" and deleted it without a second thought.
Now why would that be? In my life, coffee is just as important as wine, more important than single malt, and one helluva lot more important than fish eggs.

I dunno. I suppose that I don't believe there can be that much difference between Intel's usual offerings and this one. OTOH, some people say that about wine, too, and they are dead wrong.

Must think about his more...


Mr. Will Omniryx-whatever, I salute you. The entire cadre of high-specialty green buyers, roasters, retailers, and baristas, ALL salute you. You are our harbinger of hope. You represent why we work so hard. We talk about "changing the industry as we know it," and creating a new segment of the market: ultra-high-quality, high-priced coffees that will make men weep and make their women start creating petitions against coffee (again). But without open-minded, quality-minded (and yes, deep-pocketed) people like you, we'd be fighting the good fight for the fight alone.

So yes, Will-Omniryx, think about this more. With your next Bordeaux or beluga acquisition, consider how a beautiful (yet fleeting) Esmerelda Especial or Brazil Santa Ines might fit in your culinary-life. From the producers, through the importers, into the roaster and out to your "coffee cupboard," the circle is only complete when we have folks like you.

All hail, Will-Omniryx!

On a related thought... I was thinking today... is the "foil-valve-bag" really the "ultimate" vessel for the finest coffees that the world has known? There's gotta be something that's more appropriate to hold such treasures!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

   from AndyS

My basement

A while ago I posted a picture of my kitchen counter. I also thought you might enjoy this picture of my basement.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

   from Nick

Podcast 45 - Kopi Luwak Cupping

On location at Counter Culture Coffee, Durham, NC. Cupping Kopi Luwak coffee from with the boyz from the C.C.C.

15 minutes and 56 seconds

AAC format, 6.3 MB - MP3 format, 5.9 MB

See the sidebar to the right for more information and how to subscribe or download.
   from ThaRiddla

Even better than Garbage Pail Kids

I'll trade you my Jay Caragay rookie for your Billy Wilson limited edition.
I'm keeping mine in the wax packs.

No, I don't think it really comes with gum...but you'd have to ask Julie.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

   from Nick

Who will be the next Juan Valdez?

With the current JV, Carlos Sanchez, now retiring at the ripe young age of 71, the search is on for someone to replace The Man.

My vote is for Ted Lingle.

Or, maybe it's time for a female? Juanita Valdez? It COULD happen!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

   from AndyS

Classic Machine Aesthetics

Like many other folks, I've always admired espresso machines that had the "classic" European look. You know, those big gold-domed machines with the eagle on top.

So when the GS3 prototypes first made the rounds, I loved the function but found the appearance lacking. That's when I posted my first GS3 "appearance mod" on

For those of you who didn't see the discussion back then, the interesting result was a faux-angry response from Bill Crossland at La Marzocco. He was pissed that I had put an "Astoria eagle" on top of his beloved machine, and sent me a freshly photoshopped version that replaced the eagle with a La Marzocco lion:

That was pretty inspiring, and since I had a picture of Bill on my computer, it was only a few minutes before I was able to post a version that "honored" Bill's contribution to coffee technology:

As far as I know, this "Bill" version will eventually go into production, but those folks who want it will be forced to pay a steep premium. I know I have my order in.


Fast forwarding a little bit, the latest high tech machine is now the Clover brewer. I would like to generously offer a suggestion to Zander and company for improving the "classic" look of their rather austere-looking machine.

You may remember that the Clover prototype version used a shower head type sprayer to help disperse water over the ground coffee:

Apparently this spray head had an undesirable effect: it mixed the hot water with a great deal of room temperature air on its way to the coffee, lowering the carefully controlled water temperature. So the Clover engineers devised a single spigot version:

That was a big improvement in function, but it looks UNclassical.

In looking for aesthetic inspiration, I always find myself drawn to the wonderful fountains that are placed so conspicuously in European public squares.

And for Clover, I found my inspiration in a classic fountain sculpture that perfectly marries proven single-spigot technology with old-world artistic expression.

And so, from the bottom of my heart, I humbly and respectfully offer a new design suggestion for the high-tech "Clover Classic":

[edit, 12:03 AM]
I bow deeply, in appreciation of a finer aesthetic mind: Mark Prince has kindly sent his own "Clover Classic Mk. III" version.

I am going to put my order in, now!

Friday, June 02, 2006

   from Nick

Podcast 44 - Happy Anniversary!!!

Happy First Anniversary!
Special Guest: Jeff Givens, Southern Skies Coffee.

A bunch of topics covered after Nick and Jay resume their torrid verbal jousting.

1 hour 48 minutes and 56 seconds

AAC format, 43.9 MB - MP3 format, 38.4 MB

See the sidebar to the right for more information and how to subscribe or download.