Archive for July, 2008

Esmeralda day

Made my way down to Headquarters in Durham, NC today for the Friday cupping. The week’s table featured the Panama Esmeralda, which was conspicuously missing all those quakers this year. Sadly, that did not prevent its mouth puckering tartness, still prominent in the finish and aftertaste. Don’t get me wrong, it has a bushel full of fruity flavors packed in layers of floral complexity. This is a very unusual coffee in that respect. But still, the disappointingly thin (tea-like) body rolls over into grape skin and banana peel astringency. It continues to escape me why everyone gives a pass to those aspects of this most sought after coffee. There is all that burgomot and citrus, but it is not, to my taste, the total package. It is, nonetheless, a peculiar curiosity.

I am not a roaster, but I can’t help but wonder if a shade or two darker might tame its wild heart.

Glasses of Gesha stacked and ready to grind.

Glasses of Gesha stacked and ready to grind.

A pretty package.

A pretty package.

Not getting what you want from the shop?

I would like to relate an anecdote, a true story, of ordering something in a food service place, complaining about how it was made, and consequently being told how it should be made.

About 14 years ago, my roommate and I stopped for lunch at an Italian eatery in Garner N.C. Be aware that Garner is small “Mayberry” type of town “out in the county”. They resist development because they like it the way it was in the 50’s, and they want to keep it that way. There is a section of the highway running through town that has some big name places, but there is certainly nothing in town that can be called Fine Dining. So we stop in, I think it was a Ragazzi’s, and ordered some kind of pasta. My roommate, a native of an even countrier town called Clayton, was displeased with the texture of his meal. He told the waiter that his pasta was undercooked. We received a very serious look from him as he sourly informed us:

“It’s called Al Dente, and it is suppose to be cooked that way.”

I guess this was one of those places that simply won’t prepare things any old way you ask for it, even if that is the way they do it at the cafeteria.

Names for Barista Techniques

Over the years I have heard expressions and phrases uttered by my fellow Baristas to describe various techniques used in the espresso craft. My exposure to numerous cafes and Baristas has afforded me the opportunity to collect these bits of woven words that add color to the sometimes mundane and repetitious life behind the counter. I also have the fortunate duty, as part of my career choice, to train a great many novice Baristas in the art of espresso preparation. I find it very useful to have whimsical and descriptive imagery to help Newbies remember parts of the procedure that might otherwise be forgotten. Here are a number of terms that I have either heard others use, or have coined myself to aid those who might otherwise leave out steps.

.5-Dosing the grounds-
-Pulling the Paddle
-Flipping the Paddle
-The Flutter

1-Settling in the forks:
-Feeding the Snake

2-Settling on the counter
-The Carpenter
-The Hammer

3-Distribution and leveling:
-Schomer Technique
-Stockfleth’s Move (Right handed clockwise)
-Petting the Kitty (Right handed counter-clockwise)
-The Four Corners
-Chicago Chop

4-Dislodging the rim grounds (Cling-ons):
-The Bump (Hitting with the tamper butt)
-Fender Bender (Hitting with the tamper butt)
-Staub Technique
-The (Murky) Drop

5-Tamping ergonomics:
-Scarecrow Elbow
-Doorknob grip

6-Smoothing the coffee bed:
-The Polish
-Spinning the Roulette Wheel

7-Flushing the Group Head:
-Milking the Cow

8-Cleaning the Portafilter:
-Knock the Puck
-Bang the Biscuit

Any contributions to the list are welcome.