Proliferator

This blog really wants to stand at a bar and drink his espresso.

USBC 2009

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For once I am not displeased that one of my predictions was wrong: Mike Phillips has won the US Barista Championship. I previously mentioned that I was afraid that the coffee would be the deciding factor; not necessarily a bad thing in general, but definitely antithetical to a barista competition. It appears that I was completely off my rocker when I posited that. Good.

Good thing #2: Mr. Phillips regularly works the bar, and trains the baristi at the Broadway Intelligentsia (in Chicago!), which means that he’s directly impacting drink quality. I have nothing against people who aren’t line baristi in competition, but that kind of ability has a more immediate impact when it is used to serve customers.

It is¬†troubling that most of the barista talent appears to be concentrated in the Intelligentsia organization. This is good for Intelli, and good for Intelli’s customers, but indicative of a disparity in how the barista profession (which is still emerging in this country) is treated within coffee companies.

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Written by Nick

8 March, 2009 at 8:37 pm

Posted in Coffee

The USBC is Happing Now and I Should Probably Write About It

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Prediction: Scott Lucey to win. This might be an awfully silly prediction as he was scheduled this morning and I haven’t seen his performance, but I had his coffee at the GLRBC and I don’t think it’s beatable. Unless he screws up, I think he’s got it.

Which raises an interesting point. There are baristi out there that I’ve seen do really inventive things with their competition time. Jesse Crouse used pistachio butter (yum). Mike Phillips split his shots into parts for the signature drink. But what it seems to come down to is how good the coffee itself is. In the aftermath of the GLRBC presentation ceremony, the Intelli roasting crew seemed to be more disappointed that the Intelli competitors. I’m guessing is that they knew they got out-sourced by Alterra. Or Alterra got really lucky finding this coffee. The main point I’m trying to make is that this competition now seems to depend more on the sourcing and roasting that the barista. Yes, the barista has to pick the coffee, but having tasted some of the competitors’ coffee (incomplete sample, I know), Lucey’s stood out. A lot.

Written by Nick

7 March, 2009 at 2:41 pm

Posted in Coffee

Preinfusion

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This from more discussion with one Martin S., who stated that the results of experimentation with preinfusion on a Synesso Hydra were “reduced bitterness in the crema”. This got me thinking. Assuming that a puck/cake/whatever-you-want-to-call-it consists of interlocked coarse and fine particles, completely soaking both those types of particles before beginning full pressure extraction would lead to a more even extraction. Without preinfusion, the fines extract faster (because the coarse particles are not fully wetted), and reaching the same average extraction ratio would consist of overextracting the fines and underextracting the coarse particles.

If anyone is actually reading this, do you agree?

Written by Nick

14 February, 2009 at 7:48 pm

Posted in Coffee

Starbucks Poised to Launch ‘Soluble’ Coffee

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Via Brand Called ‘Breakthrough’ Unlike Instants of Old

“The instant product has been many years in the making and is designed to mimic the taste of store-bought Starbucks — the point the company is expected to make in its marketing for the brand.”

Can someone find out what they do and use it to make the coffee taste good?

Written by Nick

12 February, 2009 at 4:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

A Note on Black Cat

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I’ve been too hard on this coffee. I’ve stated a couple times that I don’t like it, but the more I drink it, the more I realize that I just don’t like the way it’s being pulled. At first I thought that I did not like the Ipanema (Brazil) that comprises 80 percent of the blend, but when the doses are lighter and the temps cooler, it’s deliciously fruity and winy. Basically, I’m looking forward to some Marty Sweeney shots of Black Cat.

What is also interesting is Intelligentsia’s practice of letting the barista determine the shot parameters. Not only do they vary dose, but part of the dialing-in process is temperature adjustment. I’ve never seen that actively done at any other shop. Props to them for this, but it does result in widely varying espressi. I confess to having a preference for who pulls my shots. This is counter to everything I’ve been told is an objective at coffee shops (consistency is key, according to most), but the hard reality is that many shops struggle to reach an acceptable level of quality with their espresso. If I had to choose between having a barista determine how my espresso is going to taste, and the barista trying just to meet a minimum standard, I’ll take the former.

Written by Nick

8 February, 2009 at 11:08 pm

Posted in Coffee

Ode to Bar G

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I used to work on that Linea.

I used to work on that Linea.

I still have reservations about the time I spent at Bar Giuliani in Champaign, and how fruitful my labor was there. However, as I was riding the 5 E Green bus to campus I realized that I no longer had a warm place to duck into in the middle of campustown. And when I took the first sip of my macchiato at Paradiso I started pining for the ability to pull shots of Redline for myself. The quality has gotten better at Paradiso, but I’ve had better Black Cat.

Written by Nick

5 February, 2009 at 12:49 pm

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So I’m in Champaign-Urbana for the day

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And I just walked past Cafe Kopi. There’s a sign in the window stating that there will be no Wi-Fi access on the weekends, a la Ritual.

Written by Nick

5 February, 2009 at 12:45 pm

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