Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Over to Wordpress

Wordpress beckoned...I heeded.

The blog will hence be located here, and will be updated about as frequently as ever.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Novo Hache

We at the Elysian Room have been eagerly anticipating this coffee ever since we got a small sample of it to brew at the Canadian Coffee and Tea Expo. At the time we were blown away by how sweet and jammy and amazing it was - in fact it has started its own thread on the forum that shall not be named. Now, after a looooong wait we have it! Within seconds of the boxes arriving, we dove in and brewed up some on the Clover. And it was amazing. The coffee starts with beautifully floral and fruity flavours, including some violet and strawberry notes. A soft body carries these to the almost red wine like finish. It is truly a great coffee, and so easy to drink. This is now one of my favourite coffees of all time - and one that I think everyone should come and try!


Monday, September 04, 2006

Grinder Project

So it's official - the secret forum has a study group up and running.

Among the many interesting topics is my lowly one on grinder heat. My basic question is whether the fact that most espresso grinders do heat up the grinds is a problem. Common wisdom says that it is, and some people (Schomer) have gone to great lengths to stop the grinds from getting hot. Now, I've worked on a couple of Robur's that have been spitting out fairly warm grinds, and have not (superficially) noticed a difference in the way the shots were running. With this project I hope to test this. As the study group was envisioned to enable continuous projects, mine has two parts. Part one (which will be submitted by the first deadline) involves me doing a bunch of research on why heating grinds could be bad. I think that I should be able to provide at least a qualitative but complete explanation of what higher temperatures do to both the grinds themselves, and possibly the espresso extracted from them. Part two will involve me doing taste tests of shots with grinds at different temps. Hopefully I can substantiate part one throught part two (although, by my calculations, it will require at least 15 pounds of espresso!!!).


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Barista Competitions

So, the Western Regional Barista Competition was held in Vancouver last week, with Barret from Cafe Artigiano taking the top spot. Watching the competition got me to thinking about the problems with it. These have been discussed often but mostly center around the more technical aspects of the comp. The one thing that jumped out at me was the formality of the presentation. It didn't look fun, and there wasn't really any connection with the judges. One of the things that the comps have been critized for is the lack of connection to the actual cafe setting, and in the aspect of customer service, this disconnect is really apparent. In a sense, anytime you go into a cafe, you are a judge - of the service, quality of drinks, etc. But if you were treated like the judges are treated in competition, tips for baristas would probably be far and few between. I'm not talking about drink quality, because it is at a high level in comps, but rather the strained formality with which most competitors present themselves. I would like to see the baristas have more fun with their presentation, and open up to the judges a little more (Jay Caragay's performance at the USBC comes to mind). In this aspect, I think barista comps could borrow from bartending, where your tips are very much dependent on your interactions with customers or judges. Stephen tells me that Arthur has been doing this, and I would really like to see him compete. I think that adding some fun to the competitions would also draw more spectators in (something that was sorely lacking at the regionals).


Saturday, July 08, 2006

Espresso Aging

Just a few thoughts:

In general, with single origin coffees that are prepared using say, a french press, a few days off the roast is ideal. You want that coffee really fresh. Coffee does develop as it ages, but often after day 5, it's gone (especially if not vacuum sealed). However, the common wisdom with an espresso blend is that it starts to get good at about day 5 (or so). Now, part of the reason has to do with mouthfeel. Really fresh espresso is still degassing at a fast rate, and when a shot is pulled, you get a frothy shot, with a lot of crema, but not necessarily much body. If you let the espresso degas a bit (even in vacuum sealed bags), the crema is much finer, and the actual liquid often has a much nicer body. The blend also develops in flavour as it ages, and this is the part that interests me. True, the mouthfeel of espresso is an important aspect, but are we sacrificing taste for body? It is hard to pull a good shot of fresh espresso, but couldn't it possibly be even better on day 3 than day 5? What about single origin espresso? Should we follow the rule for single origins or espresso? As you can see, I've got a lot of questions but not many answers.


Monday, June 26, 2006

It's been awhile

Yes, I know.

More than a month without a post. I could blame school, or work, or a combination of both. But really, I've just had a hard time sitting down and writing. So here goes...


The Elysian Room is now the proud owner of a brand new Synesso Cyncra 2 group. And it's niiiice. I've really enjoyed working on it these past few weeks, and have totally noticed an improvement in the shot quality. The mouthfeel is ridiculous!! So rich and creamy.

Clover 1s

That's right. We also have the brand new Clover 1s, making us the only place in the world with the Synesso/Clover 1s combo of amazing brewing devices. The 1s is also really nice, and addressed a bunch of issues with the prototype. The filter no longer has the screw in the middle, meaning that less grinds stick around from cup to cup. As well, the water stream is now a single stream, which is actually better for grind incorporation with less stirring. The single stream also results in better temperature stability. Good work, Zander et al. The 1s is great!


A bunch of nice coffees have been through the Clover in the past month. We have the El Salvador Las Mandarinas which has been consistently sweet and smooth, and also the Tanzanian Peaberry which has some really nice milk chocolate/blackberry notes. We also had a Rwanda Musasa which was stellar a few weeks back. One really exciting coffee that is coming up is the Panama Esmeralda Special which fetched $50 a pound green at the Best of Panama Auction. We are offering only 12 cups of this coffee at $10 a cup, available only by pre order. It promises to be pretty special. The Esmeralda I had last year was stellar, and probably the best coffee I've ever had, so I am really excited about this!

Visiting Baristi

Stephen Morrissey (aka the flying thud) is a barista from Ireland here for the summer to work at Wicked. He's been into Elysian several times, and has even been included in a late night supper/drinking/latte art fest at Elysian. Go check out his work at Wicked, or his blog, or his flickr site.

I promise to actually post from now on.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Drinking Temperature

All experienced cuppers will taste coffee at multiple temperatures - often once while hot, and then several more times as the coffee cools. Tasting at different temperatures will often reveal new flavours, and also affect the overall impression of the coffee. I've been wondering about the physical basis of this for the past few days. There are a few possible reasons I can think of (with my limited science background). Just as the brewing temperature will determine which compounds are extracted, I think that the temperature at which the coffee is drunk will probably impact which compounds are perceived. My guess is that there are many compounds that can only be "tasted" while they are in a certain phase (gas/liquid/solid), and that phase transitions may be occurring as the coffee cools. In this case different combinations of compounds will lead to different tastes. Another guess is that temperature affects our ability to "taste". By taste, I am not necessarily referring to only taste bud sensing, but also to smell which we perceive as taste. Higher temperatures would lead to more aromatics being present which could account for coffee becoming duller and flatter at cooler temperatures. However, I have often found coffee becoming sweeter as it cools, and the acidity often becoming unbalanced. Perhaps the lack of aromatics causes us to notice more of the flavours being perceived by our taste buds. The increase in acidity is a thorny problem. Studies have shown that perceived acidity does not necessarily correlate with pH, and other merely astringent compounds can also be perceived as acidity.

Most coffees will have specific brew temperatures that make them taste good, and my guess is that certain coffees will taste better at certain drinking temperatures (which will probably also depend on brewing temperature). However, just as different roast treatments and brew temperatures reveal different facets of a coffee, drinking the coffee at different temperatures will reveal different characteristics. Different types of beer and wine are drunk at certain specific temperatures, and I think that the same could be done with different coffees, perhaps using double walled glasses to somewhat maintain the temperature.