Sunday, April 22, 2007

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Quick Look At This Past Year

So, this year has been a year of great change for me.
This past year started out with the closing of my coffee house. That was difficult to say the least. The heartache of losing something most people only ever dream of having combined with the relief of not wondering if I won't be able to make rent... again.

I then started managing two coffee houses for a friend of mine at I.E Coffee Roasters. Cliff Young(The Roast Master General) was a great sounding board for my frustrations and a great source of encouragement. Cliff single handily revolutionized the coffee culture in Redlands and I can't wait to see what his next venture will be.

From there I started a roasting apprenticeship at the Coffee Klatch. This has been one of toughest transitions of my life. I love working bar. I'm passionate about working bar. Being a roaster leaves little to NO time for any bar work. I wasn't hired to be a barista, I was hired to become a roaster. I knew learning the skill and artistry of a coffee roaster would only take time. What I didn't anticipate was how difficult making the mental transition from barista to roaster would be for me. That was a frustrating, emotional journey that tried my character and commitment deeper then anything I've been through... so far. But, I've grown to really like roasting. I don't consider myself a barista anymore... I'm a coffee roaster.

I'm excited about this upcoming year. Heather and I are supposed to start training for the Western Regional Barista Comp as well as the USBC. Fun, considering I'm not a barista anymore;) I'm also looking forward to meeting new people in the coffee industry. Every year I meet people through coffee who are just as passionate, if not more so, then I am. A few of the people I met this year, who I will stay in touch with as long as I am in the coffee industry and probably beyond, are: Chris Deferio, Chris Baca, Scott Lucy, Justin Teisl, Joe Pallo, Tony Serrano, Mike Lanz, Ellie H-M... and so many more.

I hope all of you have a blessed year.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Seattle Baby!!

Coffee Fest Seattle

The Clover, again, was the star of another coffee convention. With six Clovers on the showroom floor, it was hard not to get a cup of Clover coffee. Zoka, Olympia Coffee Co. Portland Coffee Roasters, Batdorf and Bronson as well as the Clover booth were offering an array of coffees all served from the Clover machine. It’s an amazing machine to watch to be sure, it’s just as interesting as watching a barista pull a shot of espresso. Claims made by the company reps, are pretty broad. I was told that by adjusting the grind size, the steep time and the screen size the Clover can imitate brewing methods such as: the French Press, Vac Pot and Cone Filter. While this may be true, everyone at the show seemed to be making coffee with the same parameters. 70 micron screen size, around 40 second dwell time and a grind size fit for drip/cone filter coffee. Now, I have by NO means spent enough time with the Clover to make a great evaluation of it, but from what I tasted, I can say that it produces a cup of coffee as clean as a paper cone filter, with the body of a moka pot or a french press. As good as the coffee from the Clover was, nothing I had would make me feel as though I was tasting coffee for the first time. It’s hard to explain exactly how the Clover affects the flavor of the coffee. The best way I can describe it, is that it brings out more of the subtle nuances of flavor that are easily missed when cupping or brewing as a press pot, but it tones down the intense flavors you pick up when you cup or brew a press pot. It brings more of a balance to the flavors in the coffee. This can be good or bad. For a coffee that doesn’t cup with good balance it can be very beneficial, bringing out the delicate flavors that slip past the palate towards the end of tasting experience thereby prolonging the flavor the coffee. But, for a coffee like the Ethiopian Adado, which cups amazingly well, it became harder to pick up the intense flavors of pineapple and peach that are so prevalent on the front end of the flavor when cupped or brewed as a press. At first, I was convinced, this could be a great substitute for the usual method of cupping coffee, but after partaking from the Clover and then immediately cupping the same coffees with the traditional cupping method, I felt as though I tasted more of the true raw flavor of the coffee when done traditionally. Maybe with the right coffee and more refined palate, the Clover is the single greatest breakthrough in the coffee industry since Achille created the modern espresso machine, but for me, so far, it’s just one more great method of making coffee.

For me, the highlight of the weekend was spending time so many people who have an outstanding passion for coffee that I just can’t find in SoCal. They’re the people who make this industry, this community so great and such a birthplace of knowledge and growth with the sharing of ideas and theories without selfishness of pride or secrecy. The people I was fortunate enough to spend time with and made this event worth the trip are: the 3 Chris’, Scott, Justin, Tony, Sarah, Hiroshi, Reid, Shiloh, Mike, Terry, Brian, Jeff, Nick, Phil, Phil’s friend (sorry), the group from Esi, Visions, Clover, Espresso Parts NW, Pallo, Barista Magazine… I could go on, but I’m tired and in an airport just about board a plane to go home. These are just a few of the people who are trying to better this industry and make it something more, not just to beat the corporate giants, but to be the best at what they do. This is not just a part time job for them, this is a career that we all take very seriously and are willing to go to great lengths to see it improved. I’m proud to be in this industry and they are the reason why.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Scratch That... I'm Going To Seattle!!!!

My Mother and Sister In-Law gave me some airline miles to help pay for the majority of the travel cost and Heather Perry, my other boss, is letting me crash on the couch in her hotel room. It's working out perfect!! After two years of trying to go to this show, I'm finally going. I'm so stoked. The only thing that could make this trip better would be if my wife and daughter could come.

The barista jam went good. I only took a couple of photos, I'll get them up soon. Cafe Calabria did amazing job organizing the event, and there facility is amazing! There espresso lab had room for 5 espresso machines, 7 grinders a motorcycle and still had room to spare. We had an improve latte art competition and I came in second. This was my first jam and for sure won't be my last. I love training, so to be able to help a few people understand a little more about espresso extraction and milk steaming just makes my day. To see it click in their minds and see their eyes get a little wider with understanding... it's a great feeling. See ya'll in Seattle.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Some Day... I Will Make It To Seattle's Coffee Fest

For the past couple years I've been trying to go to Coffee Fest, in Seattle. And, for the past couple of years something has come up to prevent me from going, and this year is no different. Unless someone wants to donate money for airfair and a hotel room or airfair and room on the floor of your hotel room, I will be missing the show. No coffee from the Clover, no latte art competition, no visiting any of the coffee houses I've only heard about and worst of all no visiting with other professionals I've only talked to online in chat rooms. I'm so bummed.

Things are picking up on the roasting end at the Klatch. We are trying to create a "Christmas Blend" of sorts, using some of the amazing Ethiopians we have in stock. Sidamo Hache, Addiss Katema, Addiss Ababa and the Adado are all amazing coffees. I thought it'd be easy to take 2 or 3 amazingly good coffees, combine them, and make an amazingly good blend. But, its not. It's as if the best attributes of each coffee cancel each other out. Most all of the blends that we've tried have been very flat in flavor and really dissapointing over all. None of them have been as good as each of the varietals by themselves. Blending is truely an art form all its own.

This weekend is the SoCal Barista Jam, being hosted by Cafe Calabria, in San Diego. I'm going down Sunday to check it out. Never been to a "Jam" before, kind of exciting. My boss, Mike Perry, is teaching a cupping workshop and will using some Ethiopian Hache, which I roasted, for the class. I must say, I'm a little nervous about a bunch of people cupping coffee that I roasted.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I Love Shots.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

My First Barista Competition

I've been in a latte art competition, but never a full fledged barista competition. It's called The Ultimate Barista Challenge.
Just picture Iron Chef with baristas and coffee.
I competed in the latte art challenge, frappe challenge and cocktail/mixed drink challenge.
I won the frappe match and went on to challenge Ultimate Barista Ryan Dennhardt of Baristas Daily Grind in Kearney Nebraska. I had a wonderful blended drink called the Cherry Cordiall. It's Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia Ice Cream, Cherry Preserves, Pure Almond Exract, Cherry Syrup I made, Chocolate Syrup and 2 shots of espresso. That drink got me to the final round and got a great reaction from the judges. So... why didn't I win? I changed my drink the night before the finale =( POOP on me!!! I decided to try a Banana's Foster type drink instead. Bryers Vanilla Ice Cream, a ripe banana, brown butter, brown sugar, two shots all topped by a caramel whipped cream. Unfortunately my brown butter solidified, ice cream was basically melted and the drink just was not sweet enough. Ryan beat me with a Black Cherry frappe. POOP on me!!! The judges told me, if I had made my cherry drink, I would've won. That makes me feel better and worse at the same time. At least Matt Plantt from the Rancho Klatch won his event and beat Ryan with his cocktail drink. Good job Matt.
This will not be my last competition for sure. I can't wait to do this again.
Here's a few pics from The Ultimate Barista Challenge.