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Saturday, November 01, 2003

coffee party

so today i was privileged to host an awesome coffee party, which turned into the ultimate-home-espresso-machine fest and a great discussion of the scaa c-membership.

the goal was to showcase home machines, but naturally i had to have a pile of coffee. too much coffee, almost. fortunately we got to try every one.

when the reporter called originally, he discussed krups and capresso. oh no, i said, we need to show you some real home espresso machines. . .

the party was supposed to go from 2-4pm, but actually lasted until nearly 7pm. (sorry!) it was one of those moments you had to thank david dallis for -- he and jim munson have the kind of vision to put these things together.

there's absolutely no denying that dallis bros. has been among the lead supporters of the c-member initiative, for which i'm deeply grateful. i hope to be able to work with david dallis, jim munson, and steve schulman many times in the future.

the reporter came for lhj. he was very nice, and realizing that we had even coffee, kindly brought a bottle of glenlivet. as usual, i was planning to serve pistachio biscotti and assorted dark chocolate bars: korkunov, 2 kinds of bernard castelain (the intense 77% and a hazelnut milk chocolate), as well as a michel cluizel 65% dark single origin from sao tome.

however it was protested by attendee don schoenholt of gillies that this intense chocolate would not be great for tasting the espresso.

thus i broke open a bottle of passito d'albana tre monti and one of clos de paulilles banyuls. these dessert wines are excellent with chocolate and biscotti.

we had many more machines than i had thought: the silvia, the expobar, as you would expect.

but also todd of wholelattelove brought a gaggia and matching grinder, while jim p. of 1st-line equipment brought la valentina, the spidem divina superautomatic, and an olympia cremina lever.

jim munson didn't come empty handed, either. he brought an extremely cute faema faemart with matching grinder, the family.

i had never seen one of these machines before. pictures don't do them justice. they're sweet! i think you can buy them from dallis direct.

the family grinder has great ergonomics, i thought. i loved the big ball on the dosing lever. the attached tamper foot on the opposite side could be heavier, but actually didn't do a bad job, tho' you had to hold the grinder down with the other hand to get a firm tamp.

on the other hand, the faemart espresso machine -- similar in size say to a starbucks barista -- had some advantages, such as the machine doesn't slide when you lock the portafilter. even my silvia moves a bit.

also the slanted portafilter is easy to get off and on, although it was odd at first since it locks from right to left. most of the machines lock the other way. it's small enough to fit on anyone's counter.

i'd love to have this machine for my cubicle at work, actually! jim brought the new dallis blend, new york espresso, in a cool package. i loved the label: listing the aromas and tastes, one of which was "burnt cookie." that was great!

also in attendance was mike white, a pro barista with gimme! coffee. he's a latte artist, and poured two nice rosetta lattes, as well as dialing in piles of shots from gillies carioca, intelligentsia's black cat (thanks mason!), batdorf's dancing goats (thanks holly!), the dallis blend, and his own platinum blonde espresso.

i started pulling shots and then thought: what am i doing? mike is sooo much better at this. . .

he's a great guy, a barista with a future, and also has an extremely elegant tamp. i have flat reg barber tamper, and while he prefers the convex ergotamper, he managed to make do. . .

jim brought some segafredo and esse whole bean and palombini pods, "pods that don't taste like pods." even don was surprised at how well this coffee came out of the superauto divina.

the coffee master was todd, who brought his java joe kona espresso, some malabar gold, and some supreme bean palermo.

we spent tons of time dialing in the carioca, because of course we were as usual misjudging how much stuff we had to do! and then my mazzer mini briefly jammed. fortunately, mike had brought along a monster mazzer robur, which we quickly swapped in! that's beautiful, but gigantic.

so plowed through a lot of coffee on that, while discussing the difference between the concepts of conical burrs and parallel ones. the reporter took the gaggia grinder home to play with.

we tested out the gaggia and faema grinders, but we were losing time dialing in so much coffee for so many machines. when mike pulled a great shot, we served it to don, who was tasting with the reporter, and also giving his usual amazing history-of-coffee spiel.

jim munson -- who's quite talented with a camera actually -- served as event photographer until his battery went wonky. i hope he will email me pix of this to add to the blog in a couple of days.

what i was hoping to do was impress on the writer the importance of a great grinder as well as a great espresso machine. and i wanted to show him a range of cult espressos, as well as talk with him about the beauties of coffee appreciation.

i mean, i even dragged out lingle's cupping book, as well as a coffeekids brochure. the poor man was overwhelmed, but hopefully educated in my brooklyn kitchen. i mean, we even showed him a zach & dani!

with so many machines, we had to invade the dining room; my travertine marble dining table seats 8, but was completely filled with machines and equipment.

i love these kinds of coffee parties, and i hope we scaa members, pro and consumer, can work together more often to bring our message to the broader public.

when everyone left, i had to stare at the ruins: the water in the hallways, the grounds between the wooden floorboards, the many cups of all sizes completely coated with syrupy espresso. . . .

my husband looked around, with a glum expression. then he smiled, and handed me the vacuum cleaner.

posted by fortune | 8:06 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Friday, October 31, 2003

coffee & chocolate tasting

and today finds a great article on a starbucks' led cupping class.

however, i will disagree with one smidgeon of this article: cupping isn't entirely personal. it actually isn't "extremely subjective." and it's not an ink-blot test.

there are standards; there is a fairly accepted set of "terms of art." and the scaa does offer a sensory evaluation test to ensure your "coffee nose" works.

but of course there is an element of subjectivity; there is an element of personal talent. some people are born with better tasting abilities than others; and some have spent decades studying coffee to learn it.

few people fall into both groups: but a famous example of one who does is, of course, don schoenholt of gillies. there are other many notable cuppers, such as lindsay bolger of green mountain; erna knutsen; jerry baldwin of peets; steve colten of atlantic.

among scaa c-members, there are also a couple of budding cuppers. the first that leaps to my mind is of course jim schulman of chicago.

on the chocolate front, i was recently given a bar of blommer milk chocolate. it's nicely packaged, but not that great -- inferior sheen, poor snap, bad finish, slightly gritty mouthfeel, weak chocolate taste, waaay too sweet.

i'd be surprised if this was even 31% chocolate liquor. personally, i don't think it's even equal to ghirardelli.

still, i appreciate the gift. it's the intention that counts.

and it's an opportunity to give a truly world-class artisan chocolate in return. to continue our mission of educating the planet one mouth at a time!

of course, in the u.s.a., today is halloween -- the ultimate chocolate fest. tomorrow is in other countries, the day of the dead -- more candy! enjoy 'em both. . .

posted by fortune | 10:12 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Thursday, October 30, 2003

caped crusaders

i've been hearing a lot of great stuff about andrew's bay-area ecco espresso. he's got great buzz on, but i haven't yet ordered from himself.

and so it was great today to see an article devoted to his coffee. i think it may contain robusta; i'm not sure.

will report when i have more info.

and if you're interested in the feedback to the recent caffeine study, then you might be amused to read this.

and here's an article that asks the european version of one of my favorite questions: where does your coffee euro go? i think alert readers will understand the answer, which is frankly a tad in-between the lines in this story. . .

finally, i don't understand what the fuss here is about. honestly, all great pizza takes is some flour and a little time.

long-time readers know pizza is easy to make (and here!), very affordable, and easy to eat!

posted by fortune | 10:26 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

eurochocolate & espresso will

seems like this week's annual italian eurochocolate (flash required) festival was the usual tremendous success.

featured was the world's largest chocolate, made not only for the record books, but also as a political stab at the e.u.'s stupid chocolate rules.

the e.u., under political influence from certain "chocolate" makers, is lessening quality standards to force cheaper quality chocolate onto europe. the french and italians are struggling to hold out.

long-time readers may recall that i've writtten about this controversy before.

and, as much as i prefer to keep bccy light-hearted for the most part, i really have to get serious here for a moment. no, no, it's not about the world-price depression known as the coffee crisis, or nyc's threat to gillies, or even coffeekids.

recent sad current events have proven you really must make your most personal, private health choices known to the planet. my choice: as long as the tube accepts coffee or valrhona hot chocolate, keep me plugged in.

thank you. i'm sure any serious pain problems can be managed by proper doses of opiates and espresso. . .

posted by fortune | 10:00 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

drive more safely, with plato?

"there is absolutely no question that single-car accidents are reduced in coffee drinkers."


"as to whether decaf is safer. . . some evidence suggests that the opposite may be true."

from the ny times today. just log your bad self in and think of bruce (saute, wednesday).

with chocolate in mind, as we approach halloween, let me note that one of my favorite tv shows of all time, the peanuts holiday special, "it's the great pumpkin, charlie brown," is on this very evening on abc.

vaclav havel (and here) is one thing, but linus van pelt is the ultimate in philosopher kings!

posted by fortune | 11:17 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Monday, October 27, 2003


"hence the antique world has lots of coffee grinders or mills for the discerning collector."

this is so true: everything connected with coffee is eminently collectible, it seems. but, as don schoenholt of gillies -- who has several beautiful grinders of his own, handpainted and enameled, from the civil-war era -- notes, the grinder collectors are especially intense.

not that those who seek antique coffee pots, illy cups, etc. are much less devout! i myself would love to have an antique copper napoletana, or flip pot.

the problem with these is that actually they aren't good for coffee unless lined in stainless. copper or tin add off-flavors to the brew.

and finally, because i know everyone loves recipes -- esp. those involving coffee and chocolate -- let me send you to one of my favorite online collections from espresso maker palombini. . .

posted by fortune | 8:51 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Sunday, October 26, 2003

bumpin' elbows

well, there are a lot of coffee roasters up there in that part of washington state. . .

but what's most interesting to me (besides the photo of altie pro & bccy pal terry z.!) is batdorf's idea that roasters don't have to provide clients with equipment. because i'm hearing lately there's a lot of pressure otherwise.

still that there's a pile o' roasters up there could be good in terms of creating an innovative, quality-oriented knowledge base. because thanks to improvements in shipping and packaging, it's possible for these roasters to sell pretty much to the country at large, meaning they don't have to fight it out there at home.

here in bklyn, i was talking to a friend of mine in the coffee business about batdorf. "they make good coffee," they admitted. "thank god they're far away."

but oh no they're not! every month it seems they pick up accounts here in bklyn. . .

and by the way, don't tell anyone, but i think they're after me!

seriously, this story only confirms our oft-repeated statement: drink your coffee moderately, or switch to half-caf. . .

long-time readers know that today's pizza day, so i have to skidaddle to start making dough!

posted by fortune | 8:38 AM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

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