Saturday, December 30, 2006

Clover Cupping

So, it's taken me awhile to get this posted, but here are my notes from playing with our new Colombia micro-lot...

Taken December 15, 2006.

Colombia Tolima

Brewed on the Clover, 19 grams, 6 oz. serving size

35 second extraction time-
Smell: initially light, of mild fruits, raisin... then cocoa, light caramel, smokey, fruit
Taste: initial first sip hints of vanilla, tangy~ black tea, citrus, dried fruit, smokey dried raisins, finishes with smokey, tangy raisin, but clean, moist on the palate, not dry.

40 second extraction time-
Smell: initially of chocolate, cinamon, spice, then of dried fruit (kinda prunish)
Taste: initially of mild spicey, tangy plumb, (hint of grapefruit), then moves to be more black tea like, finish is still spicey-tangy (mostly tangy), flavors of darker black tea, stew fruits, mild-strong citrus, grapefruit mostly, kinda lime

45 second extraction time-
Smell: initially of cocoa, sundried raisin, then loses the cocoa, gains spice, still raisin.
Taste: Initially light, mild, tastes of dried fruit and chocolate. Then very stewey, almost chewable (savory), light smokey, dried fruit. Then begins to pick up black tea properties. Mild in both body and flavor, delicate, like a tea. Finishes slightly more bitter, but not in a negative manner. More smokey properties come out, ends as a cup of smoked, stewed fruits...

Andrew and I really enjoy this coffee... he even named it our pick of the season for the holidays. Anyway, it sparked my interest to find the different properties that the Clover was able to pull out. I think we ended up choosing a 38 second extraction time to use in the shop. Well, we will see what coffee I can play with next...

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas?

I'm here at my parents house, located in Vancouver, WA, sending all of you reading this the warmest holiday wishes. It's been interesting this year because more than ever it feels less like Christmas. I think that much of those feelings, or lack there of, have been due to my transition, coffee business, and the intense lack of snow in Minneapolis. The cities minus snow equates to saddness this time of year... But what can you do?

I spent last week moving into my new house. The place was built in 1906 and is a masterpiece within itself. The first night I spent there, I slept on my two extremely old mattresses and my stuff sat in piles on the floor. Moving out of the dorms, I hadn't really thought too much about the fact that I had no furniture. That was remedied the next day at Ikea... The place is well located between my two job. Kopplins is just a 10 minute drive east and the roastery is a good 25 minutes northest from there. I really wouldn't want to be much closer to the roastery though... I mean, it's out there. A couple nights after I moved in we had to have a night to break the place in... actually, we broke the place in 3 nights in a row... but Friday was the intense night... It's good to be young.

Monday I started at Paradise. Roasting is a lot of fun. I'm not going to say everything I did was all that great, but the idea of doing something coffee intensive... all day... without having to explain to customers why we don't serve 20 oz. or raspberry syrup is kinda a nice relief. I think it will be a nice balance between serving coffee and seeing the expression on my customers face and walking away from that to breath in something different.

Many people have been wondering and asking about the Clovers. So far incredibly good! Almost every regular customer has commented on how much better the coffee is tasting. I have some notes from one of our new coffees I will post a little later. But, I have been playing more and I am finding some awesome things as I go. Honestly though, for the first week I was really fucking up the coffee. I was shrugging off the stirring thing and assuming the Clover was so good I couldn't possibly screw it up. Well, I was wrong. My coffee was tasting lame... and by lame I mean it lacked the clarity I could find in the cupping cup or french press. So, with some reading of coffeed I realized I was over-extracting the stuff. Thanks to Alistairs posting I found some remedies. Right now I have settled on his technique, which is to basically just push the coffee towards the stream of water and to gently saturate it. So far, that has helped massively.

Well, Clovers are in and running well, I am in my new house, I'm roasting at Paradise, and there's a competition coming up. Such craziness... There's much more going on, but for now I will leave it at that. Keep in mind, I am back in Portland, which means there is massive amounts of beer to be consumed, many coffee people to harass, and many friends to see! Peace out for now!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Clover Week

The Clovers have been up and running for a few days now. Beautiful machines... and we have two. Tuesday morning, this dude who looked way too little to be carrying such big boxes dropped off the shipment. What initially threw me off was the fact that he brought in three. When Andrew first mentioned we were buying a Clover, I was stoked... but he didn't tell me right away we bought two... I thought maybe he went totally overboard and bought three... But I was mistaken. Instead, the third Clover was for my other employer... Paradise Roasters. So, I now have access to two Clovers at my shop and another one at the roastery. Talk about spoiled.

Wednesday night Zander and Co. showed up at the shop to setup the machines themselves. They were already in town to install another Clover at some other place... We had a great time and got things running fairly smoothly. Somewhere in the shipping our drip tray disappeared for one of the machines... Which, if you've seen my bar, you'll know I'm slightly OCD when it comes to cleanliness, balance, and such... so, a machine minus drip tray will drive me nuts. Zander made a call though, and we had a box full of Clover shirts and a drip tray by 10AM the next day... I was impressed.

Thursday they installed the machine at the roastery... which wasn't easy. Apparently, the machine doesn't like the cold weather Minneapolis/St. Paul has to offer... but hell! Who does? I guess something within the machine froze because it was left in a car for a bit... Then there was an issue where the machine kept dosing too much coffee... So, a six ounce cup setting was putting out some 8 ounces. Four hours after replacing parts and troubleshooting over the phone, someone suggested double checking the size of the cup... and apparently that was the problem... Not the machine. There's a deeper lesson to be learned in that somewhere... That night all the Kopplin's employees and the Clover crew met at the shop and our crew was taught how to rock the Clover. The highlight for me though, was drinking Red Hook ESB and Hobgoblin Ale out of a french press with Andrew Milstead, one of our baristas... By the way, Andrew is a very cool kid who I am super glad we have at our shop. He started out at a local Dunn Bros. with Kopplin and through family ended up spending his summer in Seattle working for a Zoka wholesale account in Kirkland. He was actually trained by Nathan at Zoka who Phuong trained... welcome to the coffee world people...

My Friday was spent training our newest barista, Katherine. Katherine is the first person I am training from scratch. Everyone else up to this point has just been fine tuning what they already know how to do. Thus far, Katherine is doing an excellent job. She's picky about her tamp and it's a great thing. She's already very level and very solid. She was struggling with consistency, but lately it appears she's mastered that. Now, she just needs to speed up and she'll be great with shots. I also worked with Meghan... When Andrew Kopplin opened the shop, he was the only employee with help from his friends and family... Then he hired a second person, Meghan and until I started at Kopplin's she was the only other barista, so she has the most experience at the shop. Her shots are great, she's cool and confident behind the bar, and now she's beginning to pour some beautiful latte art. Hollow leaves are forming, and oddly enough, the one pour she's struggling with is the heart... She has this natural tendency to move back and pour a rosetta... it's rad. So, our baristas are rockin' it!

Yesterday, after being out till 3AM at a party... bad idea... I opened the shop and we featured free coffee samples all day long. The samples are 6 oz. and are free in a ceramic cup... Cups which Andrew bought at a used restaurant supply store... Anyway, the idea was we had somewhere around 20 coffees available. Andrew sent out a press release and personally invited coffee professionals from all over the area. It was the first Saturday I was consistently busy making coffee all morning. If I wasn't preparing a cup on the Clover, I was pulling double espressos or making cappuccinos. It was a ton of fun! I met some of the folks from Cafe Imports. Really cool people and I look forward to cupping the COEs with them soon. The crew from Peace Coffee dropped by as well... Oh, and of course, Miguel and Aaron were there from Paradise. Miguel brought in some awesome coffees that were just jaw-dropping. Of course there was some Esmerelda... I'm still taken back by that coffee every time. We also tried some mouth-watering brazils and damn good Ethiopias.

My week capped off last night chillin' with Aaron and Andrew Kopplin and celebrating with some sparking wine and cognac. Aaron is a very knowledgeable source on spirits and fine liquors... lately he's been helping me learn about bourbon and build my collection. Great week over-all! Things are moving quickly! Last class in school is tomorrow! Then I drop of the deposit to my place and pick up the keys. I'll be moving stuff throughout the week and then I start roasting next week. Oh, and then I get to reset... I fly home to Portland Dec. 19... I'll be taking a break from the shop, school, responsibility... all to just sit in Lava Java and drink hairbender! Mmmm...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Life: WTF?

Well, Kopplin's is now on myspace. Make sure to check it out. Add us as a friend. You can see many of my flickr pics of the shop there, as well as keep up on what is currently in our espresso grinders.

Big news friends! This blog is long over-due. Some of you know this, others this is new... but life for me is changing in a big way. Ever since I arrived in the cities life in coffee has been awesome. I've been given fresh opportunities every few weeks. Things keep progressing and growing. Kopplin's has changed so much just since I've been around. The shop still looks the same, but the drinks are so much better! Our espresso tastes great, we've got more blends to offer, and in a week we'll be dealing Clover style.

The biggest news is life changing though... Paradise has been looking for a production roaster for awhile now. I am falling more and more in love with coffee... and when I say coffee, I don't mean being a barista. I mean, I am falling for the bean, the product, and the process. I said I would never get into roasting, and I still have apprehension and fear within me, but I am taking the job at Paradise. No, I am not leaving Kopplin's. I am leaving school. As important as academics are to so many people's futures, I believe in chasing what you dream about and what drives you. School means nothing to me. Not now at least. I am putting 10% of my heart into school and about 40% into coffee. The other 50% has been lost in trying to figure out what to do with this all... and a chunk of it's been into this girl. Well, I've realized some things and it's time to pursue what I love. I am diving whole-heartedly into coffee.

My week will look something like this... Monday I will head to the Roastery and catch up on the weekends orders. Tuesday as well will be spent roasting coffee. Wednesday morning will be done doing the same. Then Wednesday afternoon I will head to Kopplin's to work the bar and close the place. Thursday and Friday mornings I will be at Kopplin's rockin' out drinks... and then I'll be back at the shop to serve drinks one shift a weekend. So, I'll be at work six days a week and have an entire day to do nothing... Which being in school hasn't even really allowed.

Other random events involved will include training new baristas as the time comes, possible training for Paradise accounts, teaching classes in the evening at Kopplin's, and training & competing when the time rolls around. Somewhere in there, I am hoping to work in a few origin trips as well... Which, would be amazing... So, here we go. I am launching what I would call a career. Doing what I love. I am very excited to be doing all this. I feel it is best for me. School is not out of the question for the future, but it won't be at North Central... in fact, I'm thinking something in the area of food science...

Well, mid December classes end, I start moving into my new house... and then I take off to Portland for the holidays... When I get back, the true craziness begins!

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Legend of the MAW...

I just witnessed a new move. This is one I haven't seen in awhile, but it's out there... The one enemy I find in this industry... well, one of a few, is the "MAW." Otherwise known as a middle aged woman. You've seen them... Some of them can be incredibly cool... others are what drives this congromerate society we live in.

I just witnessed a "MAW Lunge." This is where the creature jumps at something with a complete and total lack of patience, as if the world cannot stop to breathe, even if for a few seconds. This encounter started with the MAW running into the cafe, and before I could utter the words, "Good morning" she was blurting out her order as though it hurt, "Large, skinny, vanilla latte, with whip!" So, I cut the comradery short to make the latte... trying to meet her demands on time... I finished the drink and before I had a chance to set the whip cream canister down I became a victim to the lunge. You've seen it before... I made my move to set the drink down on the bar, declaring what it was... and before the drink was a few feet away from the counter, she made her move... damn near leaping over the bar in effort to grab the drink! Milliseconds had already been lost in my motion to set the drink down... life was wasting away for her right before her eyes... So, she felt the need to take aciton! Nearling taking my life in the process of recieving the drink. As she made contact with the latte, I could feel the determined creature begin to pull the drink away before I could begin to release my grasp on my finished work... Before I could even utter the words, "Have a good day!" it was though the MAW had disappeared faster than it had appeared.

I escaped with my life. For that I am greatful... but I walk with caution. You never know when another of these attacks may occure...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

So, if that wasn't enough...

I don't know what I did to deserve this, but somehow my life in coffee keeps getting better. We've got the Roburs... and a Synesso, which isn't bad when you start playing with group temps... The steaming still leaves a lot to be desired... but who knows, maybe soon I'll find a way to manipulate the steam wands... Our espresso is tasting incredible...

As I've mentioned before, all our coffee is made "by the cup." Currently, we malitta all our standard coffees... We also offer the option of french press, but most people choose the malitta. Well, many of you have seen this new machine that's just hitting the market. That is the Clover. It's a sweet automatic, temperature stable machine that allows you to brew one cup of coffee at a time. The key is you can adjust the temperature very easily for each cup. You can also set it to brew anywhere from 8-16 ounces. The idea is it creates the perfect cup of coffee... one cup at a time. It's incredible. Coming from Portland it's nothing too new for me. Stumptown's had a Clover in their Annex shop for almost a year. It does produce excellent coffee...

Anyway, yesterday we put in the order for two. That's right folks... not just one clover... No, we are buying two for Kopplin's. This wasn't even my call. I didn't even fight for this... I don't disagree... but it wasn't my ambition to purchase two so quickly... It's all been Andrew and his dreams. I am very lucky to have such a passionate boss who is this into delivering the highest quality coffee... I've heard the machines should arrive sometime in mid December... We are going to have to figure some electrical things out, but once we get that taken care of we will be rocking THE BEST coffee in the cities... and even the greatest of coffee geeks won't be able to deny it... Assuming we aren't retarded with it.

This leaves one last step to take... a new space... more to come in the future...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

They're in...

The espresso is already so much better. Currently rocking Paradise Roaster's Classico Espresso in the full griner and using the remants of out El Salvador SO in the other... Tomorrow we get a larger order to play and train with and we'll be moving to Paradise Roaster's Espresso Havana. It'll be the first time I taste the stuff in a decent grinder! Stop on by~

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Roburs and Photos!

So, just got off the phone with the lovely Jana Oppenheimer... Can I just let everyone know how much I love this woman! She is absolutely one bad-ass chick. She has taken excellent care of me over the last year or so, starting with competition and that ordeal and now by helping me get two Roburs! Thank you Jana!

As you can see from the picture... Andrew had some fun with Halloween this year. Don't let the corporate world get ahold of this... We may have to burn the costume!

I also decided to add some more photos of Kopplin's and what's going on there... So, feel free to click the blog title and enjoy!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

New Flickr

Well, Scott Lucey suggested I get Flickr to post some of the many pictures from my trip and the competition. So, I did. So, go ahead and click on the entry title and check out the stuff...

Beyond Flickr a lot of great things have been happening. This weekend, my boss, Andrew Kopplin took off to North Carolina. Not for the best reasons, but he was able to go... this is the first weekend he's taken off since he opened the shop. Our staff is now 10 deep and we've got 4 capable baristas. I'm currently in the works of retraining Andrew. We also have hired another dude named Andrew (Milstead) who is already Zoka trained. Actually, it was Nathan, whom Phuong trained, who trained Andrew. Small world.

We also just made the decision to purchase 2 (not just 1, but 2!) Roburs from ESI. So, in a few weeks we'll be double armed and very dangerous. The Synesso hasn't been my favorite machine, but I am slowly falling for her. The last week I've been playing with the machine temperature and messing with steam wand pressure. I'm finally rocking the kind of milk our espresso deserves. The espresso is tasting less like a fuit basket and featuring more chocolate flavors. Right now, the stuff is just awesome.

Life has all around been swell. School is school. It's midterm season... I just registered for my next semester and I am taking a majorly light load. I plan on hitting three regionals before the USBC so I didn't want to over-due anything. I am taking an audio engineering class which should be cool. There's a new girl. Well, not too new, but I can say there is only one... Now, all I need to do is lock in a sig drink and get my shit together for the midwest regionals...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Seattle adventures and more...!

Well, I'm currently situated in the Portland airport, just chillin', waiting for my flight to board. It's been an incredible 10 days and I have loved most of it. I've also learned something about coffee and about myself. Bottom line, at this point, I am just excited to get back and start to really develop the potential that Kopplin's has... We just decided to pick up one of the Roburs from this past weekend. So, in a few weeks we'll be rockin' that beast... Which makes me extremely happy! I've been working with Andrew to make him a rockstar as well... We have a very bright future ahead of us...

So, I spent Saturday in Seattle... I went to visit the Coffee Fest Show, but ended up mostly just chillin' with the homies... and by homies I mean kids like Scott Lucey, Chris Baca, and Tony Serrano... We did have lunch with Steve Vick as well... Actually, in exchange for some coffee, I gave that fricker a ride up to Seattle. That was fun. We stopped in Olympia for a cup of Clover at Batwicks & Bronsons (Or whatever the name is, sorry, I'm tired)... We both went with the Kenyan. Not bad.

Once in Seattle, I hit the show floor and stopped by the Barista Mag booth... FINALLY, I signed up for my subscription... Apparently now I'm set with issues until 2008. Heck yes... I moved from Barista Mag to Zoka... caught up with Chris Davidson a bit... Big congrats to Zoka's head roaster... His Paladino Beer is now going to be featured in a local pub... There are even possibilities of it moving beyond there... Someday I'll get to try it.

Once I was done chatting with the Zoka crew, Chris Baca called me... I ran downstairs to catch up with him, Lucey, Tony, Vick, Justin from Alterra, and Al (Sorry, Al, but your name is entirely too complicated for me to remember it's full form at this point)... Anyway, the group all piled into Baca's mom's Explorer and busted over to Victrola. It was cool to see a Synesso at work in someone else's shop. I think I may have learned a thing or two from just watching. We left Victrola to get lunch at a place called "The Honey Hole." Amazing food, great beer, messed up name!

So, my set is now complete. Once out bellies were full of food and beer... ah! Beer... We went over to Vivace... Right before I left for college, I visited Seattle with some very noncoffee people. I explained the significance of Vivace to my friend Mike, to which he replied, "Dude, let's steal a suvinere..." I told him no at the time, but within 5 minutes after we left we both revealed out booty... demitas spoons... Again, before returning to college the second time, I was in Seattle with Brent Fortune picking up my friend Devin. We visited the new vivace... and when we left, my bag contained a demitas cup... Now, with the help of Lucey, Baca, Serrano, & Co... I have completed the set with a saucer... Hooray. David, if you read this... Don't hate me. This would not have been done if you were not the "holy grail" of espresso.

From Vivace we bounced back to the show floor. Baca and myself took over a GB5 at the ESI booth and started pouring the latte's... this would not be the last of our impromptu latte are expositions... We left the show and headed to Casa De Alterra and enjoyed several PBR's... which do taste better when consumed with a guy from Milwaukee. From there, we bounced to the Visions espresso party... where, when we realized the GS3 was on, the next big latte art exposition began! Before we knew it, everyone was trying to pour the design Chris Baca's been pouring in competition... you know, the heart with the wreath thing...

Well, I need to get running soon. My plane is being cleaned and we'll be boarding soon. I head to San Fransisco first. Then I have one hour to chill. Then, I board a plane at midnight to fly into Minneapolis. I land at 6 AM, then I have class at 7:45... but wait, it doesn't stop at that. I have to run by Kopplin's to drop off the Hairbender I am bringing back... yes, we will have Hairbender! All Grapefruit infused and shit... It will be available tomorrow too! Yeah! I'm actually carrying it with me to keep it in a pressurized cabin and everything... Well, Portland it's been great! Billy~ Thanks for the drinks today. If you haven't heard... Mr. Wilson will be returning to Lava Java to work a guest shift on Nov. 11... wish I could be there. Peace.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Education Necessary?

This past weekend has been a huge success, but now it's reminding me of why I moved back to Minnesota... I have so much down time right now that I don't even know what to do with myself. Monday was spent lounging around the house and just killing time... To some this may seem luxurious, but to me and where I am in life, it felt like a big waste of time. Seriously, the homework and school junk I left behind is going to catch up with me when I get back and for what? To sit around all day...

Which brings me to a long time delema that has been raising new questions in my mind... Why am I in school? And by "why am I in school?" I mean, "Why am I not just pursuing coffee with all my heart?" Every time one of these trade shows or events comes up I find myself questioning why I am in school, dumping much money into an education I care about, mmm... sometimes. Logic tells me this, I'm young (21), I've got time (both to finish school and to develop a coffee career), and it would be difficult to raise and support a family on just a cafe income...

I've got a sweet situation with a cafe I truly believe in. Kopplin's, in short, is my dream cafe, just in a way where I don't see the main profits... which is fine. I just find that the majority of me wants to be there more. There also is that side of me that is partially looking to just find a way out of school. I'm not that great at it and I have never really wanted to be. It stresses me out in a way I don't appreciate. I mean, coffee, customers, business all stresses me out, but I see the profit and reap many of the benefits from the stress... schooling just sort of pisses me off.

I guess we'll see where my priorities lie in about 6 months or so... This years USBC runs May 3-7. My finals week is the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday before that. I could be screwed...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

NWRBC Finals

Well, the results are in and the competition has ended. The finals were tough. I, personally, do not like any situation where 4 of my favorite baristas are up and only one can win... or almost worse, only 3 of the 4 will be recognized with a prize. As you all have probably heard, Billy Wilson is the new reigning Northwest Regional Barista Champion. Jon Lewis, one of the best men I know, not only as a barista but as a human being and father, took second, and Kevin Fuller, owner of the Albina Press took third. Kyle Larson, whose attitude towards coffee I greatly admire, was another finalist, as were the two girls from Zoka...

Billy and I were talking before the announcement and he kept worrying about placing and felt like he had made some mistakes... and this is the point I make then and now... Two years ago, Billy was one of the best baristas I knew. He had passion, drive, and much skill. But he kept competing and making it into the finals to only have his signature drinks shot down for lack of creativity... mainly cause they sucked. Now, with time and maturity, Billy is the best American barista I know... He's taken his weakness (a lack of signature drink) and become a food scientist. So, with this, I say congratulations Billy Wilson. I'm proud to have my roots in the same place you do. I admire anyone who can target their weakness and work hard to over-come it.

I am so tired right now it's kinda crazy. Tonight is the Bikes to Rwanda benefit show. Lots of fun there. Oh, and I leave everyone with this... The first round was kind of rediculous... Kevin Fuller actually had the highest score and it was his first run through in competition ever. Billy was #2... Ryan Dixon, also a first timer, finished 7th tieing with Lorrie from Trabant. Congrats Kevin... top score, 2nd anniversary, great party... sounds like a decent weekend to me...

NWRBC Travels Pt. 4

I don't know how I let it slip my mind last night to update this thing, but here I am now. For the most part, I'm sure you all know who's in the finals... In case you don't, let me fill you in...

1. Kevin Fuller- Albina Press
2. Jon Lewis- Bumper Crop Coffee
3. Kyle Larson-Stumptown Coffee Roasters
4. Billy Wilson- Albina Press
5. Maki Campbell- Zoka
6. Lindsay Elliot- Zoka

It's been an awesome competition with much happening. There are a few people beyond the finalist I feel need mentioning... Kyle from Zoka did an excellent job. He really rocked it steady. Also, Ryan Dixon did a great job and though he made some slightly larger mistakes, he really did well at keeping his cool and really remaining focused.

Last nights party was an great time too. Thanks again Duane for all the great food, beer, and music! Highlights for me here were talking to Klaus and really getting to ask him a lot of questions about coffee. I've been wondering a few things lately and he set me straight on some issues. Watching Duane occassionally bust out a dance or two was awesome... Many of my favorite coffee people were there just chilling. It was good to see Ryan Wolf from Crema, Rhiannon, Grady, and of course the Ritual kids. By the way, I have to tell you, Liz from Stumpies is doing an amazing job at just dominating this weekend. She's been most of the organizational mind behind the competition and she's a large part of what has made this weekend such a success...

Well, off I go to the finals....

Saturday, October 21, 2006

NWRBC Travels Pt. 3 (The Press Party)

So yesterday finished out very well. Competitors were awesome... and then the fun began! I dropped by the Albina Press just a bit after 8 and there still weren't too many people there... in fact, there were about just as many grinders as there were people. Coffee was everywhere... so much that it was harder to find alcohol compared to coffee...

Coffees present included... and this is just the two hours I was there... Nick Cho's Competition Blend, Black Cat, Hairbender, Ecco!, Paradise Classico, The New Mutiny Roaster's Dark Horse Blend, Bumper Crop, Vivace, Altera, and many more I don't even remember.... It was rediculous...

As you can see, shortly after I got there Phuong arrived and jumped on bar. She and Billy rocked it for a bit. Then Philip Search found his way in there as well. The three rocked the bar for a bit busting out shots... Then I grabbed the Paradise Classico to throw in a grinder and show to people. Next thing I knew I was living the dream, rockin the bar, pulling shots for some of my coffee heroes...

Unfortunately, I had to leave the party early to head to a friends house and catch up with him... but the highlight of my night was definitly being at the party. I also was up way too late... I had to sleep in, so unfortunately I missed the heavy-hitters of the day. Sorry Kyle, Phillip, and Jon... Some how I think I may be seeing each of you tomorrow still.... The last competitor is running through his gig right now, and then soon we'll be announcing the finalists...

Friday, October 20, 2006

NWRBC Travels Pt. 2

Well, day one is done... almost. In a couple hours we'll all be at The Albina Press, ready and willing to down 3 kegs of Widmer Brothers beer and 7-8 different espresso blends! Yeah for depresents and stimulants! But seriously, if you ever have the chance to try a Widmer beer, make sure you do so! Incredible.

Anyway, the news of the day Eight competitors have thrown down what they've got... Kicking it off was the Zoka-man, Kenji from Japan. He did an excellent job, especially being that the competition wasn't exactly set to work with translators and all... Not too long after, Albina Press Owner and mighty fine barista, Kevin Fuller took to the stage for the first time in this competition format. Kevin rocked it as he always carries himself... smooth. His drinks looked good, and things felt consistent. Just as the shop presents itself, there was a confident (not cocky) air flowing between Kevin and Billy. They just felt as they were... at home.

The next dude who stands out in my mind from Kevin was Ryan Dixon from Stumpies. He chose a Nicaraguan coffee as his epsresso. He's the first competitor I've seen forget a runner... but in the end, it may have helped as he finished way under time. I haven't seen the score sheets in a long time, but if forgetting a runner adds that much time, there may be a concept here.

Somewhere in the mix, Ryan from Paradise rocked his gig. He had some microphone issues, which lead to time issues, all kinda generated by nerve issues, but still showed some fine skill in the creating of his espresso.

Finally, the talk of the town, Billy Wilson... Who rocked the crowd in a way I've never seen before. Now, keep in mind, O'l William here was throwing judges rose water americano's two years ago... oh, and the aguave macciato at last years NW regionals... Well, he's fully redeemed himself with not just the Hairbender Espuma, but now, espresso caviar... WTF? Let me tell ya... I got a taste of these tiny little espresso balls, and wow. There is an awesome concept here... Of course, being that an amazing signature drink isn't everything he had some minor issues... but played it smart... as a competitor of 5 years should. Part of the suave coolness of Albina today was brought in when they brought in bar stools... A comfy alternative to the judges standing all day. Well, all was going great except Billy forgot to put the stools behind the judges table. So, his first minute was spent moving the stools for the judges and encouraging them to relax and take a load off... That minute is pretty much the amount of time Billy went over... Like I said though, he played it smart. Rather than freak out and rush to get it all done, he gracefully took the 20 point deduction... and then the 40, and with a calm manner, finished his signature drink and aweing us all...

Those are just the highlights of the day. Other little details that were cool would be meeting the ever-so-funny Klaus, seeing the Ritual kids and hearing of their growing success, talking with Philip Search and hearing of his new endeavor (Mutiny's on the horizon!), Chillin with P-Diddy (AKA Phuong Tran), Hearing Klaus call Brent Fortune young and cute (or something of that caliber), having one of the best burgers ever below the venue while sitting at the bar with Philip and Ryan from Paradise and cathing up a bit with Duane, seeing the smiling face of Jenn Prince, taking advice from Joel Pollock, and (shamefully) having my first true gin martini...

This is day 1! Two more days of craziness! Tomorrow is the big one! Much going on... including the reture of Kyle Larson! Yeah, it's gonna be awesome!

NWRBC Travels Pt. 1

So, yesterday I was up at about 5:00 AM Central time... Caught a flight from MSP to Boise, ID. Chilled in Boise for about 2 hours (board out of my mind) and then caught my final flight into PDX... Home! Anyway, I got in about 1:45 and it's been non stop craziness ever since. My afternoon included catching up with Phuong at the Albina Press. Then I moved onto Crema for one of the amazing double chocolate croissants. Finally, the caffeinated portion of my day ended at The Annex, catching up with Jeff and sipping on some amazing pre-production Guatemala Finca El Injerto...

Lot's been going on since I left. Venues have shut down, bands I love have broken up, friends have moved away. Hell, even Joe Raines is leaving Lava Java! Much change, but coffee is continuing to grow and take over Portland, and that makes me stoked!

My friend Joey and I stumbled downtown last night and wandered by the DT Stumptown. It easily became apparent that this is going to be a fucking radical weekend... The party was very chill... it was a smaller group compared to what we'll probably see tonight at The Press... but many of my heroes were there... It's always good to see people like Duane, Steven Vick, Andrew Barnette, Zander, Grady, Liz, John Lewis, and many more... Oh, and major thanks to you Duane for the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale... Such a good beer! It's great to be back in the NW...

I finally got my ass out bed about 7AM and made my way over to the Wonder Ball Room... Where I am now. Thanks to the wifi here I'll probably be updating this often while I'm here. Competition starts in about an hour and a half and things are well underway. From where I stand I can see Billy Wilson and Ryan from Paradise rocking their practice times... In fact, I'm thinking it may be a good idea to scam a shot from BW...

Let me first describe the space... Wow. This IS Stumptown. First off, we're in a music venue. The floor space in front of the stage is where the machines and tables are setup. The sides have curtains thrown up where the competitors tables are hidden. Zander and company have a Clover setup in the back of the room and are brewing coffees left and right. Jen Prince is running around helping out her two Japanese friends... who will be competing out of region today. I really don't think this weekend's events could be any more punk rock. Oh, and of course Klaus is in the house! He's chilling in the balcony right now going over his cards... Yes, that's right. The World Champion... AKA King of Baristas! Is Emceeing today!

Well, I am gonna go steal of those shots if I can... more later!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Havana! Check this out!

If you haven't seen this lately... check this out! Make sure to scroll down and see the competitors... How Havana beat Hairbender, I'm not sure, but congrats Miguel!

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Once again, epic decisions have been made. When I left home to come out here to the cities, I thought I was settling. I thought I was leaving something temporary to create a new home. I was expecting to get here and just find my niche. Let me tell you, the search for that niche is still going, but we've made a new development...

This last week a pretty sweet offer came my way... With some thoughts and advice from friends, I decided to take it. On Thursday I put my 'two weeks' into Black Sheep. The cafe is strong. They've got a great machine, awesome grinders, some sweet food, and a full bakery. 'The Sheep' has some awesome employees and great management. Everything about the Black Sheep Coffee Cafe is cool... but it is not me. The mentality of the customers, the sourounding area, the full-food deal, it's not my dream or desire. It's a cafe that I would love to visit, but not work at.

In less than two weeks, I leave for Portland. Home. No, not for good, but it will be a bridge of sorts. I will be there for 10 days to help out at the Northwest regional barista competition as well as Coffee Fest Seattle. When I come back though, I will begin working at Kopplin's Coffee in St. Paul...

The cafe is small. The space is smaller than Lava Java, but the service is similar. Just coffee... and that is the driving passion of the place. All coffee is brewed by the cup. There are three grinders for Paradise roasters espresso, decaf espresso, and a single origin of some sort. The idea of the place is to be a traditional espresso bar. Latte's are available in 8 or 12 oz., Cappuccino are available only as double 6 oz, and there are only 3-5 syrups available. Mocha's are made with a high quality chocolate made by a local chocolatier... available in sweetened of bitter sweet... Iced drinks happen, but there are no blenders. It's all about the coffee...

Friday and Saturday nights the cafe is open until 10... but it's all sit down service. You walk in and find a table. Then someone will come and serve you water. You can order all drinks, and then on top of that we bring in deserts to serve. There is also a coffee pairing for each desert. It's all about the coffeee...

Other perks are that the cafe is about 10 minutes close to where I live... cutting my commute in half. Just found out the other night that there is a bowling alley in the basement. No lie... It's completely throw back. No digital scoring... just chalk boards. The place is sweet. Next door to the cafe is a little dive bar-esque place called the Nook, "A small place with big burgers." God knows I'll probably spend a fair amount of time there... Oh, and 3 to 5 colleges within 10 minutes of the cafe... So, the atmosphere is pretty chill.

I am very excited to be in a new cafe that is all about the coffee. I really think this is going to be an awesome endevour. I actually know what I am getting into and I am happy about it...

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The History of a Ghost

Sometimes it just amazes me to think back to my beginning and realize where I have come from. I remember the first time I had a Con Panna... My friends decided to play a little joke on me and bought me one at Starbucks... Just to see my reaction. Then, I decided to start buying them to see my friends reaction. Then I began to drink them to impress people with what I could handle (Mind you, I'm 15 about this time).

Then one day, one of my current band mates, Matt Brown, decided to tell me about a little coffee shop called Lava Java... it was a place where his best friend, Billy worked... I loved the coffee... With a little in from Matt I landed a job at this place where people competed in coffee... knowing nothing. My experience at the time was short... I was young and dumb... but what I learned from that coffee nut, Billy, changed my life. The way he talked about coffee will stick in my brain forever. The first time I tasted straight espresso was with this guy. He walked me through the process as we were hit with flavors of Meyer lemon, sweet cherry, and sweet, rich chocolate... Ah hairbender!

A couple years went by, I remained friends with the owner of the shop... I left for college and took with me the knowledge I had gained from these barista... Through circumstances and the lack of good coffee in Minneapolis, I moved back to Portland... I decided it was time to take a break from school and pursure something I loved. Due to some age and maturity, the owner of that little shop, Phuong, decided to give me another chance. The rest from there is continuing to develop... So far the story included a competition, some hard training, and losing my ego... which is still happening slowly.

I owe so much thanks to some key individuals. Many people have invested time in helping me learn about coffee and customer service. This entry is here to say thank you to some awesome people... First and foremost, Phuong... you gave me many second chances and spent a lot of time training and investing in me. Without you I would not have the career opportunities before me. Joe Raines, you are one of the best day to day barista I know... Your cappuccinos amaze me... your sense of style floors me... Philip Search. You are are a well of knowledge and passion that few compare to. Your eccentricism makes me jealous. Without you I would never have questioned anything... now, I know what I know because it is science, not hear say... Billy Wilson, you inspire me. There is no need to tell you how good you are. Only a need to say thank you for being as passionate as you are. If I had not seen it, I would not be in coffee today. Brent Fortune... You have been an awesome friend and an excellent man to work for. Thank you so much for the time you spent ripping apart my cappuccino and espresso... You helped me out when I really needed it and for that I am greatful. These people have been awesome to me. We all have people who inspire and mentor us a long the way, and I guess I just felt the need to make some of then known...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Something fun, something new...

Here's a fun little shot of Nessy... Photobucket - Video and Image HostingFor those who may be interested. This Friday, Sept. 29, we will be featuring some Stumptown Hairbender at the Sheep. Come try some amazingness. It's still one of the best espressos I have ever tasted, so come grab an espresso or two...In other news, I definitly will be heading back to Portland and Seattle for the coffee happenings in October. I will throw some more information up on that as it unfolds... More news to come later...

Monday, September 18, 2006

On the list of things done lately... Beyond learning what it's like to work 35+ hours a week and be in 17 credits worth of classes... I managed to finally bust out my flat espressocraft tamper. Peter at Blacksheep has been rocking the convex model. Not bad. I've never had two identical tampers before in both versions... so went to play.

The convex tamper which we've been using initially altered my tamp a bit. I had to kinda over-pack a bit more... Even then, there was a lot of "fruit" shining through the espresso.

Then I busted out my flat tamper. Which made me feel a little closer to home... I pretty much was able to use the same method I use in competition... which is yet to fail me... The espresso you ask? Thick, carmel like coffees just rocking my world... The flavors were more intricate and full bodied. Of course, we were rocking Paradise's Classico. We're still playing with our methods in this madness, but for now I am sold on the flat bottom tamper.

In other news... I called Stumptown last week. The idea was we wanted to carry Hairbender as a second espresso to introduce our coffee nut customers to something else. Something wonderful... but being on this side of the Rockies, I was gracefully rejected... Thanks Matt... Anyway, the significance to this is that it was the first time I realized how far from home I am. Honestly, I don't like it, but whatever. I keep focused on the positives, like how I am educating a whole new region of baristas, and forget the negatives, like how much being in a Starbucks/Carribou dominated area sucks.

The other positive side to the story is I was informed on some packaging options Stumptown is looking into that could allow them to work with a cafe in my region... I have two opinions on this. A) "Sweet, world domination and a piece of home my way" and B) "Please just don't sell out and change too far from the sweet punk rock paper bags!"

That's all for now folks, but with the stuff that's been going on in life, I am sure there will be more to tell soon!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Am I still alive?

So, here's the deal. I love coffee. There is no denying that. I enjoy every element of preparing cofffee, presenting it, and watching the expressions on my customers faces... But here in the twin cities... more specifically, South St. Paul, where my shop is... I am finding the customers to be the toughest bunch I have ever dealt with. They just don't understand or seem to appreciate hardly anything going on in the cup. Part of me wonders if this is just life outside of the NW, but part of me also wonders if it's just the area. It frustrates the life out of me.

I've noticed the area seems to be pretty conservative, and people in the area seem to have a lot on their mind. Like, they are just trying to get by. There's little room for patience, and everything seems to be rushed. The stress is rubbing off onto me. I don't like it. I miss SE Portland and the chill people we dealt with there. Yet, this is a new area and I am still trying to push through and give it all a chance.

What makes this experience worth it is the look on someone face when they get it. They see the rosetta and they are impressed and awed by the new artwork before them. Then they taste the coffee, and the notice there is no burnt or bitter taste. Everything is pleasing to the palate. At that moment, something clicks inside them and you can see they fall for what is in their hand. Those few moments have kept me going...

The end for now...

PS. I hate panini's... Many of us need them to keep our high end coffee business alive, but I hate them... fuck panini's.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Ghost Blog... now.

Well, here it is, the first posting on my new blog. A space for my rants and raves about coffee... Yeah! I've learned a lot in the last year, been involved with some highly knowledgeable peoples... and now have moved to a whole new location. Working in a new shop, using new coffee, and even a new machine... Lots of mixed feels. This is where those feelings will be coming out as I learn more about coffee, technique, and life!