Archive for the ‘ Espresso ’ Category

Aurelia Updates

OK, so the Aurelias that are out there in coffee shops are basically the same as the WBC spec Aurelias, but not exactly. They can swap out the valves located in heat exchange intake and outlet, and valves in the group head, to achieve a near perfectly repeatable brewing temperature with only a 1 or 2 second flush time. My co-worker in Atlanta, David Lamont, did have in his possession a WBC spec Aurelia for a brief time, and he experimented with the Thermofilter device to find beautifully stable brew temperatures.

The WBC spec Aurelia with temperature stabalizing valves install

The WBC spec Aurelia with temperature stabalizing valves install

Nuova Simonelli has achieved stable brewing temperatures in a heat exchange machine by carefully controlling the flow of heat exchange water into the group head. Bear in mind that the group head holds 1 liter of brew water in a reservoir. While the NS people use their soft pre-infusion and ergonomic steam valve control as their big selling points, it is the ingenious temperature control that becomes the shining star on the crown.
Imagine if you will the water sitting in the heat exchanger for some long period of idle time. This water has become too hot to brew, while the 1 liter of brew water in the group head reservoir has become too cool. A careful injection of super heated water, coupled with appropriate convection to blend the two temperatures inside the group head itself, would yield brew water at a desirable temperature. Conversely, a heavy load of drink prparation would move the over heated water form the exchange to the reservoir, raising the heat at the group head. But again, activating the pump will blend the cooler HX water with the hotter reservoir water creating a flow of appropriate brew water into the portafilter. The 1 or 2 seconds of flush time will purge cooled water from the pre-infusion chamber and bring brew temperature water in place and ready for extraction. The NS people have said that longer flush times will raise the temperature of the brew water. This seems consistent with filling the reservoir with more and more HX water. This analysis is purely my synthesis of the information I have been able to gather from various sources and through communication I have had with those who have Scaced the WBC spec Aurelias. I may be wrong about the details of the temperature stabilizing process, but my explanation is an attempt to make sense of the facts that I do have, which are:
Fact 1- Aurelias for the WBC are not exactly the same as Aurelias currently being sold.
Fact 2- The difference in how the two set ups function lies in swapping out a few Gicleur valves located in the HX and the group head.
Fact 3- Aurelias without the WBC set up function like any other HX machine, only with a very slow temperature fluctuation.
Fact 4- Aurelias with the WBC spec valves hit the same brew temperature every time.
I do not know what the NS policy will be concerning retro fitting original Aurelias with a new set of valves, but if I owned one I would definitely asked about getting it done.
My experience using the Aurelia was very pleasant from a Barista’s perspective. There is good clearance between the bottom of the spouts and the drip tray which makes moving cups and shot glasses easy. The angle of the front ledge does give good sight lines to the working area. While some have found the steam a little fast, (reduced in the WBC spec, and cool pipes to the touch), I had no problem texturizing excellent milk. I was not bothered by the dribble of the pre-infusion chamber, but if you are NS has a part you can have installed that drains the excess drops in an unseen fashion.
All this leaves only one major complaint. Can NS style the appearance of the machine to be more appealing to the eye? They have other models that are a sight to behold, like the Adonis for instance.
Much more stylish, the Adonis offer curves and sparkles.

Much more stylish, the Adonis offers curves and sparkles.


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.

Annual Evaluation

So the original intent of my bolg was to chronicle my return to the SERBC, and hopfully take a top three spot.  I live just outside of Philadelphia this year, so I am not in the Southeast area.  Now I am in the Mid Atlantic, which may possibly be in DC come February ’08. 

 The topics of this blog have not really been about my future plans for competition, so I guess I have not really fulfilled my mission.  But in my own defense, I did not want to let the cat out of the bag as far as my sig bev goes.  One of the things I lost points on last year was the unique nature of my drink.  It would seem that it was not original enough.  I made it using an ingredient that I had never hear of untill a couple of months before the competion.  I assumed no one else had heard of it either.  Starbucks came out with a big ass latte using the flavor only about a month or two after the competition.  I can’t help but wonder where they got the idea.  But anyway, one of my judges had apparently hear of the drink before.  It was a shot of espresso with carmalized sweetened condensed milk; dulce de leche.  A Columbian neighbor’s mother told me about how they made it in South American countries and eat it in a variety of ways.  It did not score too well.

  The secrecy with which Baristas plan their signature drinks is instigated by the necessity for originality.  With hundreds of Baristas running through the course of competitions since the beggining of the format, it very difficult to come up with something new.  I thought I had come up with somthing truley original this year, so naturally I did not want to let any info get out there for someone else to beat me to the punch. 

    Anyway, yet another competition is getting ready for the near future.  If you have seen the latest Fresh Cup magazine you may have seen the paper doll Barista ad for the Nothwestern.  I thought it was clever and I cut it out for my daughter to glue on some paper.  But I also scanned it to the computer to have at it myself.  Please enjoy.

A Visit to Chestnut Hill

I am sitting in the dining room of Chestnut Hill Coffee Co., and I am basking in the soft sun lit window looking out on a cobble stone street lined with trolley tracks and lackadaisical pedestrians in the upscale Germantown, Chestnut Hill district along Philadelphia’s Main Line. A parking spot opened up about a block up, and I could smell the familiar aroma of coffee roasting somewhere. I knew I was in the right place.

I ordered a double espresso, which barely filled a LaMarzocco brand demitasse half way. It was wonderful.

Sorry for the blurry picture with bad color. Ever since my camera was stolen I am reduced to the phone camera. Not visible in this photo is a great deal of dark “chestnut” brown flecking. I have not had a truly satisfying ristretto style shot since I left North Carolina, and it was damn refreshing.

I complemented the short drink with mug of “aged” Sumatra. Even through a paper filter it was full of the musty shroominess of distant lands, and hinting at the street market transactions of the Betel Nut chewing ladies of the bazaar. It comes with one free refill.

My experience was made complete with very good and friendly service. From start to finish, this is a great place to drink coffee and enjoy cafe life.

Don’t be a ‘Spro, Bro

     I don’t know…..    Maybe I am too old to be hip anymore, if I ever was.   Maybe I am just not on the cutting edge of cool.  The kids like their lingo, and the lingo morphs from one generation to the next.  Hell, it changes from one graduating class to the next for that matter.  Everything has been shortened or abstracted.  If you are in the know you will get it, otherwise you just some old geezer, or at least over 35 years old. 

     Peeps, scrilla, the shizzzz, tat, the ‘Tane;  almost anything can be shortened, abrieviated, or altered for added hip value.  With the exception of the timeless “cool”, the relavence of any given piece of slang is restricted to a period in history that lasts about as long as adolesence.   You will easily be spoted as an older poser if you try to whip out an expression you think is cool, but has already gone out of style.

“Yo G, slap me some skin, ’cause you look crazy stoopid in all the Bling!”   You get the gist.


 Maybe I am just to old to appreciate creative language.  Am I a stick in the mud, or is the term “‘Spro” just the most juvinille sounding thing?  Do you walk into a sophisticated establishment and turn to the Somallier and say “Dude, pour me some Vino!”  So why would you walk into cutting edge modern day specialty coffee bar and say, “Gimme a ‘Spro, Bro!”  Maybe the torn and un-laundered jeans and ratty T-shirt with a Kitchy silk screen allows you to let down the guard you normally reserve for interaction with civilized and cultured individuals.

     The long and short of it is, wheather I am too old to be cool or not, I just think it sounds bad.  It is not that I think it gives the coffee industry a bad image, or that the Barista community needs to clean up it’s act.  I am not advocating any sort of social correction.  The expresion istelf is just crude and awkward.   And besides, it is very reminiscent of the term “Spooge”.

Update Nibblets

A long and grueling weekend of Coffee Fest in Atlanta has left me depleted of the energy to write up something long-winded and socially insightful at the moment. You can use these nibblets to snack down and be satisfied, (I say that as though I have a reading public clambering for more material, but you know what they say, built it and they will come).

Octane Coffee Bar & Lounge is pulling off the balancing act of being coffee bar, liquor bar, Internet bar, art hub, haven of house music, social gathering point, shining star of coffee excellence, and high crime location all at the same time. Nice Job.

-Laptop and camera stolen, life is meaningless when disconnected from the outside world. We are accused of creating a “Crime of Opportunity” by parking a locked vehicle on the street, under the street light, next to a busy location, while “security guards” patrol the area.

-Creating a big atrium inside of a hotel with a restaurant, reception hall, and liquor bar is a bad and noisy idea.

Intelligentsia‘s Sarah and Alex are lovely and dynamic, Jay Cunningham’s hair is very curly, and the rest of the crew are great folks (sorry for forgetting the other names) and made me some great coffee. Ellie was also nice and hospitable.

-Phillip Search is a cornucopia of technical knowledge, and works a fine looking copper clad lever machine. Dan Griffin was also working the 49th Parallel booth; I thought he was from NYC.??

– The coffee consuming public wants to participate in cuppings, but they just need a little tug in the right direction.

Chemically Imbalanced‘s Ben Szobody is surprisingly calm in person.

-Dan Griffin wins $157 dollars on the spot in the spontaneous Latte Art smack down at the Dirty Dirty South CCC party.

-Most of  Peter Giuliano’s stories about sourcing coffee in remote locations of the world go something like this:

-I was cupping many coffees in ______________, and it turned out that all the coffees I liked came from the same place, the village of _____________.

-I asked them to take me there, and we began our long and arduous journey crossing the __________ in a makeshift ___________,  and were in real danger of being _________ by the __________.

-All the villagers knew we were coming, so when we got there all the people were in the street to greet us with their hands in the air, cheering and signing while someone wearing a _____________ began the ______________, which is the local custom.

-That night they served roasted ______________ which I ate anyway, and it was delicious.  Then they poured me some _____________, which is a fermented ale made from ______________.

-They threw the big party because it was the first time since the ___________ that they now have the ability to sell their crop for good price, and now they can afford to feed their children.

Another Job Change


OK, OK, I swear this will be the last change of jobs for me, hopefully for ever. After four jobs in the last four years, my wife and I have decided to get her back up to her large, touchy-feely, Italian family in Philadelphia. For years it has been a source of stress for me to even consider trying to relocate and find a house, a job for both of us, a good school for Anna, a swim club (for those nostalgic moments created), and the stuff that needs to happen at the right time and in the right way to make a big move like that happen. Well they all happened.

After spending the summer training for my new job here in the Triangle, I will be off to Philly to open the not-yet-existing Counter Culture Coffee training center. I was offered a roasting apprenticeship by CCC in 1994, before they ever opened their doors, but the planets just would not line up at the time. Had I taken it, Daryn Berlin would probably be selling insurance right now. Good thing I didn’t, because he is going back and forth right now building the nest for me in Pennsylvania.

The good folks at Stockton Graham & Co. gave me their blessing to make the shift form one roaster to the other, and I thank them for that. Hopefully everyone will be happy with way it all turns out. I will always be grateful to them for giving me my first full time professional coffee position that did not involve working behind the counter all day.

I will be staying at my parents house through out the summer while my wife and daughter proceed without me for the time being. That is sure to be fun time. Really. No I mean it.

See you at the Rocky Ballboa statue.