Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Easter Bunny's Coffee Break

Yes, even the Easter Bunny loves Blue Bottle. No, we don't exist either.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

About Saturdays

Following Pilot's car "incident" and coupled with The Hug's research project, this weeks Saturday line-up was a little jumbled.

James, Manboy and Pilot tore into the Ferry Plaza market where weather conditions played heavily into the fact that all their business came from the drinks rather than the sale of beans. So much so that when James briefly departed to get milk and water, the stress of the line caused Manboy to beat several passers by with his portafilters. Manboy works too much.

Meanwhile, over in Hayes Valley, Oldman felt the crushing weight of his celebrity when so many people showed up to sample his drinks.

Boyman was relegated to the Berkeley market where he learned the true definition of a "crazy" market. Why oh why would anyone stand in line at a coffee stand to talk about the reasons why they can't drink coffee?! PurpleCup was doing the heavy lifting with drip and planning her Bunny Outfit. Oh, Berkeley.

Happy Easter!

Friday, March 25, 2005

Back in the Bay

Note: this post will be long and picture heavy so get ready

Upon returning to the Bay Area, Boyman presented his findings from afar and made offerings of several different beans from several different roasters. Nabbing the extra Mazzer from the BBC roaster, the tasting lab at Hayes Valley began in earnest.

We'll just run through these.

Doma: Ruby's Organic Espresso
Chris from Victrola pulled a shot of the Ruby's just a day after it had been roasted in Idaho. Organic espressos are of unique interest to the BBCC. James has "heard good things" about Doma, but until last week, the BBCC remained uninitiated. Pulling for 24sec and set @ 210F produced a shot with pronounced nuttiness, like dry roasted peanuts. The shot at Victrola was excellent, though the lingering memory of sweetness proved false in the later tasting.

Doma Ruby's Organic vs. Hayes Valley
The Ruby compared to the Hayes and the shot:

Doma Ruby's Shot

Doma: Vito's Blend
31 sec @210 Nutiness gives way to sweeter, almost fruity flavors. Both this and the Ruby had excellent creama. As before:

Doma Vito's vs. Hayes Valley

Shot of Doma's Vito's Blend

Zoka: Paladino

Zoka Espresso Paladino

As mentioned in a previous entry, the Paladino is one of those coffees that can be a little hard to pin down. It is also a coffee that the BBC has rarely had as a straight shot (preferring instead, the xx short A.) On our machine, pumping at 210F in about 24 seconds, the Paladino has a slightly salty flavor that developed into a sweetly smooth finish. Think fresh baked pretzels. Gone was the spiciness of previous sampling. Perhaps this is a coffee that changes dramatically as it ages. The Paladino is known to be a complex, many-beaned blend that appeared a little darker than the Hayes Valley.

Zoka Paladino vs. Hayes Valley

Zoka Paladino shot

Lighthouse Roasters
: Espresso

Lighhouse Espresso Coffee

The surprise hit upon returning to Hayes was the Lighthouse. This espresso had previously been kind of hit or miss, and even then... But everyone knows about Lighthouse and speaks very highly of it so we chalked it down to circumstances beyond our control. But these shots were so, so smooth and creamy.

Lighthouse Shot

The creama at about 31 seconds @ 210F was outstanding. The flavor, like a thick and slightly sweet stout. Now it's apparent what people get so excited about.

Lighhouse vs. Hayes
Their beans vs. Hayes. It's unclear how recently these beans were roasted. The presence of the oils on the beans would lead one to think that they were a little older but then again they just took a plane ride...

Hines: Espresso


These beans were handed to the BBCC by none other than Bronwen Serna Herself. It just might be that she even had a hand in roasting them. Afraid to offend the Queen in here hive, a phone call was placed in order to nail down the details of the pour.

"You're burning my beans!" she declared when told we were brewing at the 210F mark. See all those Seattle kids have been drinking Schomers Kool-Aid and can't fathom pouring anything set beyond the 203.5F gospel straight from the bolo tied prophet himself. But we are the revolution so we'll do what we want. Or at least what Bronwen says is ok.

Hines Shot that Bronwen won't like

And really the shots were fantastic. Having had the pleasure of cupping with these guys, the BBCC has some insight into some components of their highly complex roast. Let's say that with a little slurp, the first thing that comes to palate is berries, and then some sweet choco-smoothness. Heather, the Dk Gard'ner Guinea Pig to several of the BBCC's experiments said, "It tastes alcoholic." Don't even have to wait to get off work anymore.

Dare you to find much of a roast difference, at least by appearance.

Hines vs. Hayes
Hines of the left, Hayes on the right.

Victrola: Streamline

Victrola Streamline espresso

Tonx gave this bag to the BBCC on the last day of Boyman's trip, so we held on to this one the longest. Tonx was also a little critical of the shot we had in the shop, claiming that he wasn't happy with a particular component.

Victrola Streamline shot
Now, you, dear reader, are probably tearing your hair out in bloody tufts all over your keyboard asking: "How did they make all that creama!"

We at the BBC are in on the secret, and rest assured, everything is ok. See, they have this little gnome grinder in the back by the roaster, and nothing makes mountains of creama like little ground up gnomes. You just gotta watch out for the errant gnome hat or beard that didn't get totally processed.

Victrola Streamline vs. Hayes Valley
Again, find the difference.

So these dirty gnome-killers roast a mean espresso and we're not just talking about their hatred for magical forest residents. Super super smooth in the cup and whatever Tonx was hating before was on vacation. Either that or they just need to get rid of that Synesso. You know, something.

Thanks all for reading. We'll have to do this again soon.

Thanks again to these friends for their help, their encouragement and their patience with all of Boyman's questions.

Bronwen, Tonx, a tamper
Bronwen, Tonx, an ergonomic tamper.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Kiosk turns two! (months that is)

Jamie's Heart Cappuchino

Following another record weekend in the Valley, this Wednesday markes our second month in business on Linden Alley.

Also, check Oldman out in the most recent edition of San Francisco Magazine!

More soon!

Dá um beijo

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Seattle Diaries Pt. 3 (Finale)

Following a day of recuperation from espresso overdose, Boyman decided that good coffee trumps all other activities, so he returned to Victrola to once again draw from their font of knowledge in order to bring more learning back to the BBCC.

That mornings menu included a flight, or cupping right, of Monsoon Malabar. Now Monsoon Malabar is one of those coffees that some people will snicker behind their hands about. For those not in the know, the Malabar is known for it's extremely low acidity and super funky flavor. Like Sumatra-plus. The beans are yellowish in color. Here's Tom from SweetMaria's recommendation. (Be sure to check out the listing for Mysore Nuggets, Extra Bold...hehe)

And previous tastings of this coffee had been tainted by a prejudice against the Malabar, but the cupping went well. The taste was akin to sucking on moldy paperbacks, but that's not really a bad thing... well not too bad anyway.

Cupping the Malabar

And Tonx even pulled a Malabar shot which Boyman naturally cringed away from. To the surprise of the BBC, the shot was strangely salty and totally smooth. The creama, of course, was incredible. This is why some roasters will use the Malabar in their espresso.

Cupping coffee necessitated beer, and beer necessitated more coffee. The days second visit to Victrola was in the company of both Tonx and Bronwen. Our shots, poured deftly by team Victrola's Bob.

Victrola Macchiato #1
B's Macchiato

Victrola Macchiato #2

Victrola Shot Boyman's shot

And of course, one is never enough so our little trio headed down to Vivace's stand on Broadway. They too have one of those Synesso's, only in the two groups style. Their baristas are fantastic and very well taken care of. Scuttlebutt has it that their store location on Denny will be torn down so that a Monorail station can be built.

Vivace on Broadway

The stand is strangely similar to our kiosk only without the sawdust.

Round #2:
Vivace Shot Boyman's Shot

Vivace Macchiato #1 B's

Vivace Macchiato #2 Tonx's

And then Round #3 @ D'arte downtown.

D'arte, downtown

One Bay Area coffeewriter has always lauded D'arte for their espresso, though he has always seemed in the minority. Still the BBCC will give people the recommendation somewhere on the list of places to hit in Seattle. And wanting to walk the walk so to speak, Boyman wandered in the store and ordered up a shot. The barista claimed this to be the darkest espresso roast, and though the flavor would agree with that assessment, it was not without interest. Normally darker roasted espresso leaves a charcoal aftertaste which demands milk and sugar. This shot however was served straight with a little chocolate on the side. Just what a caffeinated person needs.

D'arte shot

Yes, at this point it was stop or hemorrhage so the tour was over.

The BBCC sincerely thanks all the wonderful folks at Victrola for sharing their knowledge and their space. Thanks as well to Bronwen and the folks at Hines for the coffee and the cupping.
Many experiments to come, in the meantime check these out:

Tonx, of course, has his own take on the first cafe crawl.

Also, everyone should be awed by the dedication of the Gimme! coffee team to out-cool everyone else. Their project, and the photos to prove it.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Seattle Diaries Pt. 2

So what happens when you get a bunch of Baristas together on a beautiful sunny Thursday in Seattle? You go to several cafes in a row and caffeinate the hell out yourselves. And that's just what Boyman and several of the Victrola baristas did.

The launch was from the Victrola space up on 15th on Capital Hill. After a wonderful double short americano, the crew packed up in several Volkswagens and tore down the hill to Hines Public Market where Boyman's evil twin, the magical, the short Bronwen Serna started popping out the shots for her colleagues.

For Boyman, Bronwen made her award-winning signature drink the "honey macchiato."

Hines Honey Macchiato
Feel free to drool.

First stop checked, it was back into the cars and off to Greenlake, or Tangletown if you're into that neighborhood identification, to visit Boyman's old stomping grounds Zoka Coffee and Tea. Zoka just opened another location over in University village, (unfortunately nicknamed U.Z.) Though the faces weren't all familiar, it was a pleasure to see manager Craig Kerrick in all his sweetness. Craig is always one of those guys who it's hard to talk to at work because he keeps running away to help customers. The opportunity presented itself however as Craig added the little spoons to each of the demi-tasses that came off the bar. He told of Zoka's plan to take over Japan and soon the world and berated the BBC for not taking part in either the USBC or the upcoming SCAA conference. Man...

Zoka Shot
This shot was peppery and nutty. Think arugula.

Their space as always was crowded with the laptop crowd, somehow ignoring the glory of the weather outside. But not matter, there is coffee to drink and baristas to drink it!

The next stop was just up the hill in that nebulous region where Fremont and Phinney Ridge meet. Lighthouse Roasters has been the one-time home to members of both the Hines' and Stumptown's roasters. It's reputation, needless to say, proceeds it. If only people could find it. Even those CapHill centric Victrola kids had to take a few wrong turns before location.

Lighthouse Roasters

But find it we did. They were a little surprised to see all these folks walk though the door at what was obviously a slower part of their day. Good for us!

Lighthouse shot

The description of the shot from Vickie Chad as "like a sweet lemon" says it best.

We sloughed off Vickie Kyle and packed the caravan off to our last stop at the very swank, very new All City Coffee space on 4th and Washington in that area between Pioneer Square and the International District. Though the multiple-stops, multiple drinks experience was quickly descending into some scene of mayhem from The Sun Also Rises, the crew persevered and sampled the ACC take on Vita's Caffe Del Sol from their super bitchin' three-group Synesso. Jerks.

All City Coffee

All City shot

The shot was excellent with a rich "coffee" flavor. Vita has so many outlets around the city and it's normally a crap shoot as to how well it will be prepared. These guys, they have it figured out.

The best part though, by far, was the space itself. It's a little unclear where people should order or go after they have their drink, but the walls are all glass and in the late afternoon sun, this would be the place to be. With our coffee, the whole tour retired to the upstairs to survey the floor and bustle of downtown Seattle life. Check the pictures on their site. Then check these:

Victrola crew on the cafe crawl Pt 1
(From l-r) Daniel's foot, Chad, Rachel, and Kelleen.

Victrola crew on the cafe crawl
(l-r) Casey, Erin, Bob, Sarah Jane, Tonx

All Vickies, all wonderful.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Seattle Diaries Pt. 1

After several weeks of strong showings at the kiosk, Boyman has decided to celebrate by sending himself to Seattle. The City just celebrated the crowning of a new National Barista Champion, (yes, such things do exist) in fine style and the BBC wanted to jump in to see what leftovers we could grab.

First stop on today's adventure wagon was Victrola Coffee up on 15th. After a short term on-line relationship with Vic roaster Tonx, (who is largely the inspiration for bringing the Clown College to the internet) the BBC had the greatest pleasure to finally meet the man in the flesh. In the flesh!

And it didn't stop there. Jen and Chad were on hand to try some of the Hayes Valley on their three group Linea that has been relegated to the back. Yes, in the back because these A+ gear-geeks have one of the first three group Synessos out in front.

But before the drool could even hit the floor, a mad dash was made for Hines Public Market (still no URL?) where last year's USBC and former co-worker Bronwen Serna was droppin' shots and breakin' hearts. Oh, Adam was there too. A rendezvous was made with Victrola owner Chris to go through a coffee cupping with Hines roaster John Sanders. You should see that guy run at a cupping. Between all the high powered slurping and dinking of spoons against glass, he's his own little music box.

b on bar Bronwen makes the shot.

hines shot And here it is. So, so good.

A rendezvous was made with Victrola owner Chris to go through a coffee cupping with Hines roaster John Sanders. You should see that guy run at a cupping. Between all the high powered slurping and dinking of spoons against glass, he's his own little music box.

We then said goodbye to the Hines folks, and headed back to Victrola for, you guessed it, MORE COFFEE!

Jen and Chad quickly set up a cupping of a couple of Rwandan coffees, (a first for Boyman!) and tony got busy with the roaster. They have such a cool set up. Seems like a whole crew of people roast, which gets everyone totally dedicated to the quality of the coffee. There was a constant buzz (hehe!) of folks moving around in the back busy at the work of coffee.

More planned for tomorrow!

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Clown College Confidential

So for all of you who haven't had the pleasure of this weeks' weather in the Bay Area, today was a trifle upsetting as we prepared for sun and got fog. No matter, the several batches of iced coffee that we prepared to sell to the sweating hordes will be put to use in Hayes Valley.

Which is another benefit to the new location. We're now like the Mongol horde moving West across the Asiatic steppes, wasting nothing and unstoppable.

That is unless you have to take several minute to discuss theories on sources of individual preferences in regards to the two versions of the Goldberg Variations. Dorks.

Ok, so everything went super swell at the market despite the lack of sun. Customers have seemed to prove the hypothesis that the HV location is now a refuge for regulars, leaving the unsuspecting tourists to fall into the slow-sand trap that is the BBC line.

Hopefully these things will work themselves out. It's March and the lines are already stifling. What's going to happen in May?

On the brighter side, the chum bucket is a milk slopping success. And to celebrate the wonders of the chum bucket, we've decided to start naming a weekly winner of the chum bucket award to draw attention to particularly bad behavior from one person or another. Though the lady who told us that she "didn't want to wait anymore for he cup of decaf because she wouldn't have to wait this long in Marin because they do it in air pots and why don't we do it in airpots" was bad; and the lady who showed up with a party of five, two of which were drinking coffee from a certain international coffee chain, to say that she had had to wait too long for her latte (5 minutes!) and this had better be good because she had had to wait so long was possibly worse, this weeks award should really go to Manboy for his negligence in regards to the dumping of the waste tank. Lets just say that after a couple of days, the milk plug that passed through the line was something that assaulted all five the the senses, like "Oh, so that's what they mean by nerve gas being so painful." All his tips will be donated to a fund to pay for Pilot's replacement eyeballs.

Good news is that Hayes Valley had a record Saturday and a close behind Sunday. Oldman pounded out the lattes and drip cups in a spectacular solo show. Sold a lot of beans too.

Sunday was busy all morning, highlighted by a visit from Lisa who quickly drank three lattes and then showed us surgical picture of the inside of a... um, how to say...sounds like Virginia?...that looked like pictures of Jupiter. The confusion sent us into a fit of laughter and an unlucky customer into dry heaves. Who knew that coffee could be so much fun.

Lastly, in a shameless attempt to drive more comments in the comments section, lets play a game. We''ll give you, dedicated readers, a fun "Mad-Lib" opportunity torn straight from real Blue Bottle dialogue:

James Freeman: "There's nothing I enjoy more on a HOT NIGHT than a ___________"

Looking forward to your guesses!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


Due to changes in technology, the BBCC can now be updated from the kiosk. Soon it will be pictures of lattes and interviews with various coffee personalities as they happen.

Speaking of which, Keith who has worked with the Shasta roaster Has Beans, (known to us via the legendary DOUBLE FRENCH) stopped by to introduce himself. It must be James, the personality magnet, that can make these cool people emmerge out of thin air.

More soon!

P.S. Happy birthday to Boyman

Saturday, March 05, 2005

The Pull-Up Bar, and Gimme! Coffee Pt. 2

We have come to a conclusion following the concern from last episode about the filterbaskets. We are now in the understanding that what was strapped into the LM at HV was indeed triple baskets, which now negates our previous testing with the swift baskets done back in December. It's ok, we're coffee professionals.

And speaking of professionals, the two fellas that run the shop behind us in Hayes Valley have been hard at work building out custom furniture pieces for the offices upstairs. But as an off the clock side project, finishing carpenter and master Candlemaker (10 pts to the person who can come up with a better sounding name for candlemaker. A woodworker is a carpenter and a candlemaker is a ____?) Tadco finally fulfilled the dreams of the kiosk boys by building them a pull-up bar.

Yes, soon everyone at the kiosk will look like Manboy with bulging biceps and ripped abs. We understand that it will be a long, hard road, but we're already on the way.

In demo of the new pull-up bar, here's Tadco belting out his initial five:

One, two, three, four, rest...five.

And then as example of the lack of fortitude on the BBCC side of things, here's Boyman totally failing.

On....ouch! I think I broke my tamper.

But in regards to activities more suited to baristas, further experiments with the Gimme yeilding interesting results. The last shots, pulled at temps displaying on our PID setup between 220-210 tasted sweet and a little nutty.

And upon arriving at the roaster on Friday, we were greeted with a bag of espresso from Monmouth Coffee in London (That's in England.)

Yowza! More on that in a bit.

Enjoy the markets!