Sunday, August 30, 2009

   from Nick

Interesting podcast/show

A challenging and complex topic that's relevant to coffee professionals interested in the developmental aspect of specialty coffee: Krista Tippett, host of "Speaking of Faith" from American Public Media, interviews Binyavanga Wainaina, a writer from Kenya. "He is among a rising generation of African voices who bring a cautionary perspective to the morality and efficacy behind many Western initiatives to abolish poverty and speed development in Africa."

Check it out here

Friday, August 21, 2009

   from Nick

Gwilym Davies

Gwilym offers a great tip for baristas and coffeebar owners. Take a looksie!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

   from Nick

Is espresso dead?

Clearly not dead yet... but I've been noticing what looks suspiciously like a quiet revolt. Specialty coffee professionals seem to be more and more passionate about drip/filter coffees... and slightly less passionate about espresso year after year. Perhaps it started with the introduction of the Clover brewer.

I was told over and over from our friends in the Pacific North West, just a few years ago, that there was little-to-no interest in filter coffees in their markets. They were all about espresso drinks, and didn't care for or want filter coffees. This clearly isn't the case anymore.

The friendly folks at the industry-leading La Marzocco USA debuted some espresso innovations this year at their SCAA Atlanta Expo booth... along-side a french press grinder?

Top baristas all over seem to be spending more and more time on their siphon-brewing than anything else.

Is there something really going on, or is this just a phase?

Monday, August 03, 2009

   from Nick

More on crema, a.k.a. Hoffmann sez, "Crema is rubbish!"

James clearly has a good portion of the industry a-buzz about this topic. As James' videoblog raised the issue, many have responded with, "Well, MY crema tastes great!" or "Well, it depends on the coffee." I think that everyone's probably right.

So much of this does depend on the multitude of factors at work. I've had yummy crema. I've had salty crema. I've had bitter crema. I've had chalky crema. So to me, the question isn't "is crema rubbish?" It's, "How is YOUR crema?" To be totally frank here, I'm a bit surprised that James took such a decisive stance, rather than a more open-ended query. Granted, things are being taken a bit out-of-context in the telling and re-telling of James' provocative videoblog.

One thing that I (and I know others like my bud and blogger Mr. Schecter) would love to see people spend some more time thinking about is how crema volume factors into how we're extracting espresso.

Crema serves multiple purposes to a barista, and to the consumer/customer. Aromatic-vehicle, quality indicator, light-and-airy-layer, etc. A function that most of us take for granted is the way that the volume, and therefore the density, of the crema (both intimately related to, AND distinct from the volume & density of the liquor-portion of the beverage) establishes the critically-important perceived volume of the shot (both the final volume and the volume as the shot progresses), therefore the extraction rate, therefore the entire extraction dynamic... with "dynamic" meaning a sort of catch-all to encompass everything that's relevant to the qualities of the beverage.

AndyS and I and a few others have waxed poetic about how mass is the true constant, and that measuring by volume is somewhat a fallacy. As I've been thinking about it some more, it's clear that integrating little scales into the drip-trays of espresso machines isn't the answer either. In fact, in a our own sort of Heisenberg uncertainty principle, as you pay attention to one, you lose focus on the other, and both seem crucial.

I'm clearly not providing many conclusions, so much as I'm raising more questions. Just a few coffee-thoughts on a pleasingly hot Washington DC summer Monday afternoon!