Archive for March, 2008

Spruce Street Espresso

Recently opened at the corner of Spruce St. and 11th in downtown Philadelphia is Spruce Street Espresso.This is a little project that we, at Counter Culture, have been working on. Owners Betty Ortiz and Luis Montanez asked our advice when they were ready to close down the Mochima coffee shop and reopen with a new identity. They bought the place after the previous coffee shop had gone out of business. We gave them a few ideas for bar layout, coffee selection, equipment specs. We hooked them up with 9th St. Espresso’s old 3 group GB-5 when they (9th st.) switched to two 2 groups. We trained the staff. They decided to change the old style spread sheet menu board to a chalk board with 6 listings, and down size to drinks no larger than 12 oz to go, and no larger than 10 oz ceramic. They decided to brew only French Press coffees. There is no “House Blend”, only rotating single origins. They found a distributor for Mexican Coca-cola. It has been a fascinating experiment to see a shop go from 20 ounce to 10 oz. The deepest fears of coffee shop owners all over North America, “If I down size, I will loose a major segment of my customers”, was never realized. On the contrary, their customer base grew larger right out of the gate.

Here is what it was like before:

After a few weeks of work, the new space looks like this:

There have already been some nice reviews from traveling coffee geeks, which is very flattering considering they had come in only days after the soft opening. So please come by if you live in Philadelphia, or if you plan on passing through. They have really put a lot of the theories that get debated in the coffee forums to the test. So far I have not seen anything fail.

They have hired Aaron Ultimo to work at the shop beginning in April. He and his wife are moving to the city then. It should be a real fine time.

Late Jam Wrap-up

I have never been to a Barista Jam before. I had twice in the past made lame attempts (more like wishful musings) at beginning to organize one for the Triangle area in North Carolina. Too much work, money, confusion, paper work. Troy Reynard of Cosmic Cup had done it twice now, so Cheers to you Troy! Great job! Gerra Harrigan of New Harvest Coffee in Providence was our fabulous co-host, and her tireless efforts was rewarded with a room at the B&B with a jacuzzi.

The Bank Street Annex is so well suited for the event. They have lots of electricity, space, a big kitchen, and a big square table cloth served as a make-shift screen for Peter Giuliano’s slide show for a talk on sustainability. There is even an old timey vault door, although for safety reasons that were not immediately apparent to me, the back wall of the vault opened up to the hallway.

First day- Easing into it

I picked up Peter G. in Center City Philadelphia and we stopped by Spruce Street Espresso, my new account which just opened, and we ran into Aaron Ultimo, also on his way to the Jam. After some delicious shots, we drove out to Easton and went into the Annex. Some equipment installation ensued, three GB-5 2-groups, and one GB-5 3 group, a hot water tower and bulk grinder, and ultimately there was also 3 Mazzer grinders, 3 Compak grinders and one Anfim with Search mod. Later on as participants showed up there was some open play time on the machines, Jon Lewis’s “I am your Espresso, Let it Flow” keynote speech/performance, and Peter’s slide show. Troy gave out plastic medals and a trophy to Rich Westerfield for winning the spro down. Over 30 of the best Baristas in the Mid Atlantic pulled shots of the New Harvest Espresso, which featured some Africans in the blend. Some were thrown off by the brightness, trying to pull short ristrettos, but the finalists and the winner pull longer shots. The judges say that the longer shots showcased the sweetness and cleaned up the aftertaste. It just goes to show you can’t apply one standard to all coffees, you have to bend when the wind blows.

The crowd gathered for coffee and conversation on the first night.

Day two- The Madhouse

Baristas started showing up in the morning and by the time it was open Jam time on the machines it was a mad house. Each of three machines downstairs had a crowd of people pulling shots, pouring art, checking out the Pacific Soy and the Hemp Milk, and just going at it like cowboys and rancher women. James Hoffmann and Anette Moldvaer had come in the night before (for Cheese Steaks) and James was upstairs teaching his extraction class. Chris Deferio later taught latte art, Jay Caragay had another class downstairs, and it was just insane. John Hornall wanted more temperature, Erin McCarthy wanted more steam preasure, I wanted time with the Anfim. The day ran long as two latte art throwdowns occured, one with whole milk and one sponsored by Pacific with their awesome texturising soy. All entry fees went to Bikes To Rwanda. Jon Lewis was victor of both, earning him two plastic trophies. Beers came later at Troy’s favorite tavern, and at the point that I headed back to the hotel, there was a group of Baristas getting ready to take the stage for the pub’s open mic night. I don’t know how that went.

The Jam was a beehive of Baristas.

Day 3- Over stuffed

Ellie Matuzak lead a class on tips for the competing Barista, and I got the impession there were some contenders in the audience. She has been around the competition block a couple of times, and gave some real insightful advice, the type of which I wish someone had shared with me before my fiasco performance. We then set up a cupping with 66 rock glasses. I said 66. There was a Columbian Cauca from Counter Culture, Sumatra Gayoland from New Harvest, and Yemen Sanani from Bumper Crop. All were fabulous coffees, and each was very distinct with it’s own characteristics of origin and processing. We were prepared to set ’em up again if the crowd was big enough. As it was though, there was enough for everyone to break a crust who wanted to break a crust. After the break down, and I will spare you the details, we were all starving. Jay Caragay shows up holding a menu for a South American restaurant, and he wants Troy to show us how to get there. Dary Berlin says, “if you want good food, follow Jay”, so we did. We asked the chef to make us some kink of appetizer, and a main course that he felt best exemplified his restaurant. I am still full. Jay might eat like this all the time, but for me it was a meal I will remember for a long time. It was just magnificent.

My introduction to Ceviche was followed by this huge plate of South American cuisine.

Jon Lewis, keynote speaker, prepares a portafilter with a steady and sure hand.

I can’t wait till next year.

Anfim and Compak

I had the opportunity to try out these grinders at the Jam last week and I wanted to post a few observations I had and to ask about anyone else’s experience with them.

I’ll start with the Compak:
I used this with the Biloya for SO espresso. I was trying to use a low dose, about 15 grams. The grinder has a massive conical burr like the Robur but is slightly smaller in width and hight. It is also a bit lighter, which made it easy to move around the counter. It ran very quietly, which was very nice. It has a stepless grind adjustment that is much more sensitive than the Mazzer adjustment collar. You have to turn the dial more to achieve the desired result, but that means you can make even more subtle changes. The adjusting ring itself if very large in the palm of your hands and is smooth and rounded. This makes it feel nice. It has to be loosened and tightened with a set screw for every change, which is a little bit of pain. Overall I like it better than than the Robur for it’s size and weight and infinite adjustment. And the icing on the cake is that the grinds fall straight down. You don’t know how much of a luxury that is till you use it.

Which brings me to the Anfim:
This machine does posess all the qualities that have been attributed to it as of late. It has great visibility into the dosing chamber, the wheel sweeps the chamber very cleanly, the grinds fall straight down. It is also a very quiet grinder and has those big flat titanium burrs. The grind adjustment is a click setting, so no stepless changes. This is where the timing device comes in. I was at first really thrown off by this grinder as to how to achieve the proper balance between grind setting and timed dose. But I reallized it is like the old days when I use to use a stepped grinder. I had to use my dosing to get those “in between” adjustments by uping or downing depending on how the coffee was flowing. I figured out that with the Anfim you have to chose one of two options. If you have a coffee that benefits from up dosing, you must find the next best coarse setting and adjust the dose up to the right flow rate. If your coffee is better at a lower dose, you set it the next best fine grind setting and adjust the timer down to achieve the right flow rate. All the training we do with stepless is geared towards leaving the grind adjustment as the only variable to play with. With the Anfim, you find a close grind setting and use the dose as the changing variable.

After using both of these grinders over a three day period I am convinced that the dynasty of the Mazzer as the industry go-to grinder is fast coming to a close. They are either too loud, bulky, hot, or messy when compared to others coming out on the market. I believe that the Barista community needs to take a serious look at both of these models. I first thought that the recent rash of Anfims out there was a quaint and trendy ripple in the business, but I am definitly a convert.


MANE Barista Jam in Full Swing

Today we hooked up four GB-5s, splicing electrical cord, duct taping it to the rug, and in some cases rigged a little hard wiring, to get things up and running for the East coast Jam of the year.  Jon Lewis, billed as “Keynote Speaker”, wheeled in a cart which was outfitted with a hand crank grinder, thermal French Press, and pumping device.   He brewed some coffee in the press after which he poured the liquid into a bucket of water, pumped the coffee/water solution with the handle driven pump into one cup, and poured it’s contents into someone else’s cup.  That cup was poured into another, and then again and again, until the whole audience had both received and gifted the coffee to others.  All the while, Jon talked of letting it flow, let it flow, let it flow like Ralaph Waldo, let it flow like Ultimo, let it flow like Giuliano.  There was also something about creating our own deliberate life as an artist would create a work of art.  Don’t forget, he was dressed in brown overalls and dark brown specs, as he was to be the espresso shot of the collective Baristas.  Thusly did we commence the Barista Jam.

A Spro Down was to follow, and I am wanting a rematch against Aldo’s Rich Westerfield, as he narrowly beat out Austin of Olso coffee in Brooklyn, and myself in the second and final round of the robust and friendly competition which raised over $300 for Bikes to Rwanda.  Not present was the whoopin’ and hollerin’ typically characteristic of these events.  Instead there was a respectful atmosphere nurtured with polite “golf” applause.