Archive for July, 2010

MANE Barista Jam, 2010

2009's Spro Down champ, 16 year old Casey Killo of Perk On Main in Emmaus, PA, with Jam organizers Troy Reynard, Cosmic Cup in Easton, Gerra Harrigan of New Harvest in Providence.

The Mid-Atlantic/North Eastern Barista Jam is set to go for October 8-10, 2010.  This year marks the first North Eastern location, Providence Rhode Island.  The Jam will alternate between the Mid-Atlantic and North Eastern locations each year from now on.

This Barista Jam is much more than a simple Jam.  It is a 3 day extravaganza, a convention, a massive gathering, with participants last year coming from Ohio, upstate New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and California.  Lectures from World Barista Champs, coffee importers, and top shelf professional trainers are par for the course.   Activities ranging from free form espresso play, manual brewing experimentation, latte art throwdowns and spro downs are always on tap.  Delicious food, copious alcohol, and the occasional  hot tub are always on the agenda.   This is not a small gathering of Baristas in little coffee shop, this is a blow-out of huge stature that goes on for days.  Connections are made, careers are forged or bolstered, new friendships are formed and old one sustained.  The elbows you rub here might someday get you a job that will propel you skills to new levels unachievable at your current dead-end job.  Star crossed lovers will meet.  Lives and careers may very well reach the turning point they have been waiting for.  This is not hyperbole, people, this event is the pinnacle of Barista Jams in North America.  Brace yourselves.

I will post registration details  as soon as they become available.  If I am not overstepping by giving you a tiny preview,  I have it on good authority that the keynote speaker this year will be Sarah Allen  of Barista Magazine.

Ellie Matuzak, with assistant David Latourell (sitting on the table), at the esspreso preparation lecture at the 2009 MANE Jam

Also, I’ve updated the blog appearance to something new.

The Mystique of the Chemex Filter

At the risk of alienating a lot of good coffee friends and placing myself in that category of observes who will most assuredly get picked last for the Barista KickBall tournament (again) this year, I’m just gonna go ahead and say it.  I do not believe in the Mystique of the Chemex filter.

From the side of the Chemex filter box we read:

“Perfect coffee gives you full flavor without bitterness….  Chemex-bonded® filters filter out all bitterness, sediment, and oils: prduce a clear, flavorful coffee, without fail.”

This simple and effective marketing language has spawned the widely held belief that there is something special and unique about the fiber and construction of this particular paper that endows it with the almost magical property capturing “all bitterness”.   I would appreciate an explanation of just exactly what physical mechanism present in the fibers of this revered fabric can distinguish between bitter flavor components and all the hundreds of flavor components present in coffee liquid.  Of course, that is the purpose of marketing; to distinguish your product as something unique among all the similar or identical products available.  Well I don’t believe it.

As any Barista experienced in dialing in pour-over brewing methods will (hopefully) tell you, reducing bitterness is a function of grind adjustment, agitation,  and dwell time.  The Chemex can be a real curmudgeon when it comes to dwell time.  This is in no small part due to the design of the filter (in combination with the smooth and ridge-less glass).  The beauty and elegance of the beaker is without question.  There is no bucket of criticism in that department that will carry any water, or coffee.  The exquisite  hour glass shape combined with accents of natural wood and leather provide the user with an unparalleled feeling of happiness when brewing or serving.  But this is no reason to imbue the Chemex with such fictitious qualities borne out of the herd mentality, or worse,  superstition.

I believe the most important factor in filter paper is the fiber from which it is made.  Abaca filters are excellent for strength-to-weight ratio and low occurrence of flavorful starches and tastful impurities.