Monday, April 11, 2005

Blog bomb (sorry!)

"So did you go to coffee school or what?"- Whitney, student. An almost daily drinker of the drip after seeing the BBCC photo setup.

Ah, so as we said, this will be a monster post. If you are coffee nerd approved or are one of those people who just adore people's on-line slide shows then please read on. Otherwise, you've been warned.

We should start at the beginning which really reaches back a couple of weeks. See while Boyman was cavorting in the Northwest, he was reminded of a fella that works for Stumptown Roasters named Chris Tacy. Chris had been a resident of California until recently when the PDX crew made him an offer that he couldn't refuse.

Chris is also a prolific blogger and that's really where BBCC got to know the guy.

So you can imagine the giddy feelings when the man himself sent along word that he would be passing through our fair Bay City to celebrate his birthday. He promised coffee. He promised validation. We almost cried.

And there we were, halfway through a rather confusing argument with a would-be barista who was trying in vain to chide the BBCC for throwing away leftover steamed milk (which (to use the Faulknerian parenthetical) was not only laughable but frustrating as we were trying to make drinks and simultaneously defend our chum bucket to some waste-hater (who is hereby named last weeks' Golden Chum Bucket Winner!) who James finally trumped by saying, "It's like peeling a latte.") when Chris Tacy steps in to correct our mispronunciation of this years USBC's name. Chris not only cleared things up, but also saved us from having to carry on with the asinine. (Really, what are we going to do with 2 gallons of left over steamed milk? And since when is there a milk shortage!) Whew.

So, hands a trembling, we poured a macchiato for his companion Valerie and then a shot for Chris. He was very sweet and awestruck by our outdoor operation. Yes, there's weather and tourists and a Chicken truck with it's very own screaming Swiss salesman, but we pull shots and some of them even taste good.

But the Saturday at the Ferry building is no place for conversation so we excused ourselves and Chris went off to hang out in Yountville while we ate leftover chicken scraps with our fingers while driving across the bridge.

But the next morning, part-way through a rush of regulars at the kiosk, Chris and Valerie showed up again. They order their shots and then two seconds later Andrew Barnett from Ecco Caffè shows up and it’s right about then that Boyman really starts to sweat.

And while he was cursing the grinders for their fickleness, along comes the third wave of pressure in Keith Hamrick (who is starting up a new place called Northbound), our roaster buddy from Shasta. Now Chris and Andrew and their companions have that quiet pressure. Keith and his companion on the other hand looked like they needed coffee and weren't about to wait for no grinder to figure itself out.

What does a barista do when presented with so many coffee geeks all at once?

You sick them on one another.

After introductions the name dropping and cupping comparisons begun giving Boyman room enough to breathe. The shots eventually worked out. Chris tasted and when prodded, provided the politic answer, “Let me show you something.”

That something was really a something. It was a tamp style that he attributed to a particular fella in Australia(?) and what a difference. See that’s what’s so cool about the folks at Stumptown, they have this laboratory mentality and are really cool about sharing information. Information and coffee and Chris dropped off three pounds of beans for us to play around with. We’ll get to that in a minute.

To round out our little coffee summit, Eileen from Ritual Coffee (soontobe) Roasters and how surprising it was that all of San Francisco didn’t crumble to it’s foundations for all the coffee knowledge convening in one place.

(l-r) Eileen Hassi (Ritual), Boyman (BBCC), Keith Hamrick (Northbound), Andrew Barnett (Ecco Caffè), Chris Tacy (Stumptown), Valerie and Terry. The dogs name is a mystery. Chris’ injury came from fighting about the bill at French Laundry. I guess those French guys are pretty rough.

But let’s move on to the coffees!

We’ve been amassing quite a stockpile over the last week and had been waiting for the opportunity to taste, taste, taste.

The first cadidates come all the way from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. See we had tried the Doma espressos a couple of weeks ago with what we could steal from the kids at Victrola, but I guess they decided that we needed some of our own.

Using Chris’ rad new technique, and shooting for the temp and time specs that Terry from Doma emailed us, the BBCC popped out some of shots of the Doma. They have fancier machinery, but we thought we could match’em.

After employing the palate of long time BBC enthusiast Larry, to help in the tasting, we turned down the machine to 196 and shot some of Ruby’s Organic Espresso in about 24 seconds.

Doma Ruby's Organic Espresso vs. BBCC Hayes Valley
Doma's Ruby and the HVE

Doma Ruby's Organic
The shot

By the time we were pouring this coffee, it had aged some but you wouldn’t have been able to tell from the creama. Whether the creama bombs could be tied to the dosing or the degassing is uncertain. Larry had tried some of the batch we had brought down from Seattle on his own machine (Sylvia) and said that is had tasted quite different in his home, and the shot Boyman had had at Victrola had been sweet and fuity, while the shot at the kiosk was brighter and a little snappy.

Turning the machine back up to 202, and pouring out at 32sec, the Vito's Espresso made a strong showing with a robust COFFEE flavor.
Doma Vito's Espresso vs. BBCC Hayes Valley
Doma's Viot and the HVE

Doma Vito's Espresso shot
The shot

The shot was very mild with a smoooooth finish. Though we couldn't wish anything else on it, we were lamenting the fact that we hadn't gotten to it fresher.

Chris Tacy had brought us three different coffees from Stumptown and had suggested shooting them all. We started with their flagship espresso Hairbender.

You might be getting sick of this story, but months ago Manboy and Boyman had shared a moment over several shots of the Hairbender back at the roaster. But ever since we've totally failed at making the Hairbender taste like it should. Chris had spelled out their shot specs, but we didn't have the requisite double baskets. This being said, our expectaions were not oo high. We know the guys at Stumptown are very particular and though our experiments are fun and all, we relize that the kiosk is far from perfect lab conditions.

We set the PID to 202 and poured three shots in a row of the Hairbender, all at around 23 seconds. The first and the last were, what Larry coined, "minerally." At first the BBCC though Larry had been huffing some poly-urethane, but then we figured it out. Minerally, you know, like that taste you hated as a kid in mineral water. The second (just right) shot was a trip through the land of fruit and honey before rolling into some sweet pillow-y smoothness.

They also sent along a couple of single origins that we wanted to shoot.

The first was a Rwandan Karaba. Boyman had tried a couple of Rwandans in Seattle at Victrola, and there had been a surpeising sweetness to those samples. Chock it up to technical difficulties, but the BBCC had the hardest time getting this bag to do what those others had done.

Stumptown Rwanda Karaba

Stumptown Rwanda Karaba vs. BBCC Hayes Valley Espresso
The Karaba besides the HVE

Stumptown Rwanda Karaba Origin Shot
The shot

Two folks that helped with the later tastings, (Tadco and DGardner Heather) were a little weirded out by the Rwanda. They got each other going about how it smelled in the bag and in cup like BBQ. Ummm. Well that was what they said. The Rwanda will have to wait for better preparation.

The Nicaraguan Miraflor however was outstanding as a shot. We pulled it a little longer (32 sec) and dropped the temp a bit. The first shots went to the memory of the crust of fresh baked white bread while others were sweet like Brazil nuts. Very interesting.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters Nicaraguan Miraflor

Stumptown Nicaraguan Miraflor vs. BBCC Hayes Valley Espresso
Nic vs. the HVE

Stumptown Nicaraguan Miraflor Origin shot
The Shot

Onto the Gimme!
Back up to 204 and at around 26 seconds, the Leftist
Gimme! Lefist

Gimme! Leftist vs. BBCC Hayes Valley Espresso
Leftist (on the left) and the HVE

Gimme! Leftist Shot
The shot

Larry had had this one in New York when he was there, but this is the first the BBCC has had because they apparently are always sold out. (or so Larry says.) Gimme!'s discriptions are creepy right on so if you don't want your tasters tainted, then wait to read the bag until after you've had your shot. This is the darkest of the coffees we tasted, and the smell of the beans... lets say smokey doesn't quite cut it. The smells, the flavors reminded Boyman of the shot he had recenly at D'arte in Seattle. Woodsmoke and carmelized-nuts. Rich and chocolate-y and not in that for-lack-of-a-better-adjective chocolate but the actual deep, sweet and brown. New Orleans iced without the milk. BBCC did one with a robusta a while ago, and really, that's the closest we got. This is one people should try, if only for the experience of a well-done darker espresso.

The BBCC has been in contact with Kevin back in New York about the Gimme! setup and we've been trading stories about coffee machines. You know, shop talk. Gimme! has about the coolest thing in the world right now and if the BBC were any where Ithica you know we'd steal that trailer in a heartbeat. But in other acts of sweetness, their Mexican coffee known to us as the Medium Malinal was something else. BBC had played with shots of our Chiapas some time ago, but the sweetness and fruit in those shots was nothing compared to the Malinal. Think strawberries and cream, think ripe cherry milkshake, think PEZ. So good, so sweet, you could have a hard time calling this coffee.

Gimme! Medium Malinal

Gimme! Medium Malinal vs. BBCC Hayes Valley Espresso
The Malinal and the HVE

Gimme! Medium Malinal Origin Shot
The shot


Anonymous Robert Ashley said...

"See that’s what’s so cool about the folks at Stumptown, they have this laboratory mentality and are really cool about sharing information." So, why won't you pass along the info on this magical Australian tamping technique?

1:15 PM  
Blogger chris said...

It's not a tamping technique per se. More of a dosing/distribution method.

It's based on the ideas the George Sabados came up with, though mutated a bit. The idea is to overdose - but do so in a way that is both repeatable and consistent in a commercial environment. When done right it allows you to run a coarser grind and more coffee.

With some coffees this results in espresso that has a thicker and heavier mouthfeel and a very rich body and which brings out the caramel sweetness in the coffees.

It works with some coffees - and doesn't with others.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Blue Bottle said...

Specifically, we've seen a dramatic change in our own espresso. In the case of the HVE, overdosing goes a long way to accentuate the sweeter elements of the blend. The downside being that you blow through a lot of coffee. But if that's the price to pay...

6:19 PM  
Blogger gabriel said...

dudes. I used to run the first Gimme! Coffee store in Ithaca NY. I am so freaking proud to know you guys dig them. K-Dawg is a giant leprachaun with a heart to match it. ?

I dunno if I meant a compliment or an insult.

I am having a blast reading these posts.

4:54 PM  
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