Sunday, February 24, 2008

   from AndyS

Hey Kidz, make your Mazzer dose like an Anfim and achieve World Peace!

People rave about how KLEEN the Anfim doses. They talk about how much less waste they have at the end of a shift, and how the cleanliness enhances their barista experience. Some baristas feel we are closer to achieving World Peace because of the Anfim doser!

Well, if you have a little spare time you can make your Mazzer dose "almost like an Anfim."

Take an index card, or a manila file folder. Cut out a rectangular piece measuring about 1.5" x 5" (4cm x 13cm for you metric types). Roll it into a cylinder, and test fit it into the outlet hole of your Mazzer doser so that it's as tight a fit as possible. Actually, since the outlet hole is a little bigger on the inside than it is at the bottom, it helps to remove the upper star mechanism and fit the tube from the top (removing the guts of the mechanism is a good thing to do anyway, for cleaning purposes).

When you get the fit nice and snug, tape the cylinder to size with a piece of masking tape and then wedge it in there with about 1/2" sticking out the bottom of the doser, sort of like a little snout.

If you get this little tube to fit correctly, it'll stay put through a whole shift and help eliminate that famous Mazzer "leftward heave." This could save a lot of coffee in the course of a day. Of course, nothing is free: it does take a $.01 index card, a piece of masking tape, and 15 minutes.

By the way, in Italy the baristi call this little snout a "shnozz," although the correct term in technical Italian is "shnozzola."

If you're adventurous enough to try that one, there are a couple more things you could do to make your grinder more "Anfim-like."

The next two modifications are designed to "declump" your espresso grounds; declumped grounds extract more evenly, helping to eliminate channeling and related problems.

Go the the hardware store and buy a piece of 0.020" (0.5mm) diameter music wire. Cut a piece about 2.5" (65mm) long. Carefully wedge it between your doser's clear plastic window and the back wall so that it crosses the port coming from the grinding chamber. This will help to break up clumps and make your grounds fluffier. In this picture, you can see I've already removed the damn automatic doser microswitch, which no self-respecting 3W barista has a use for anyway.

The last tweak is strictly for the terminally insane, aka "me." You can make a shnozzola as described above, and equip it with music wire whiskers that automatically sift the grounds as you dose! My mom taught me always to sift the flour when baking a cake, and she knew what she was talking about, believe me.

Using the same 0.020" music wire, tape two or three u-shaped whiskers to the top of the shnozz (I used three, but two might have worked better). Then insert the shnozz as high as possible so that the doser vanes nearly brush the whiskers as you work the doser lever. Clumps will be busted apart as you dose. I swear, it's almost as good as a remote starter on a zero degree day!

Let me know if any of these things work for you. The idea is to make righteously good pours fun and easy!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

   from Nick


Like it or not, in as dynamic a community as the barista community here in the USA, it takes a lot to grab people's attention and get them excited about anything.

This is my love letter to the Latte Art Throwdown.

(As far as I know), the first such Throwdown was during the SCAA Conference weekend in Long Beach, CA last year at the Intelligentsia LA Roasting Works. Put in your $5, one pull, one pour. A team of 2 or 3 judges score the thing, and winner takes all. We must have had at least 30 people (and over a hundred watching) in that first Throwdown, and it was historic. Winner: Kyle Glanville.

The energy and excitement was unmatched. The spontaneity, the international diversity, the passion, and the beer, made for an experience that nobody present will ever forget.

Since then, in the interest of "keeping it fresh," the rules have changed here and there. A party at the Counter Culture Atlanta training center during the Atlanta Coffeefest 2007 inspired a Heather Perry emcee'd redux of the original Throwdown. Winner: "Danger" Dan Griffin.

Seattle Coffeefest birthed two Throwdowns, but in the "BYOV" (Bring Your Own Vessel") version, inspired by a challenge on WBC Champ James Hoffmann's blog. One at Zoka's new roasting facility, the other at Stumptown's Seattle training room. Extra points for a creative vessel, and points for heckling. Winner: Matt Higgins wins with a pig's foot (yes, really)

This past weekend in DC, a new iteration of the Latte Art Throwdown: pour two macchiatos (out of one pitcher), choose the one you like better, and present it for judging. The two judges (in this case, USBC judge Marcus Boni and oft CoE judge and Q-Grader Trish Skeie) confer, and compare it to the best macchiato-art cup, set aside for comparison. The better pour is kept for the next challenger... the losing pour is ceremoniously dumped into the trash.

Mine was dumped. Winner: Amber Sather

The coffee world has never seen anything like it. The Latte Art Throwdowns are the unquestionably most electrifying hour in the entire coffee industry. The screaming. The whooping and hollering. The spontaneity. The spills. The oohs and ahhs. The high-fives and chest-bumping. The bewildered onlookers, usually other coffee professionals, who couldn't fathom anything remotely like that in their particular segment of the industry. The skill. The amazing pours. The shitty pours. The "famous faces." The lesser-known faces. Every part of it... ELECTRIFYING.

How long the thing lasts, remains to be seen. There's something special about each one that makes repeating the same format feel like you're trying to recapture something that's you can't capture, and there are only so many versions of the Throwdown that will keep everyone's attention engaged, in this internet-speed culture that we live in.

Enjoy it while it lasts, y'all. These are special times... don't take it for granted!

In the mean time, baristas around the world... set aside a $5 dollar bill in your wallet. Fold it up right now (fold it once and fold it again) and put it in a special place. That's your Throwdown bill. It's like emergency money, but for Throwdowns only. If you have to lend someone that $5, make sure you tell them, "You'd better pay me back, cuz that's my Throwdown money!"

(photos property of their owners on flickr)