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Saturday, March 05, 2005

vito's and vesuvius

i suppose it makes sense to have a totally italian day, doesn't it? and in that respect, i watched a great classic italian movie, the gold of naples, made a simple cappuccino etching, and made that cappuccino with terry's fantastic doma "vito's espresso blend."

i'd describe the roast color as much lighter than i expected, since it's pretty much a west-coast coffee (idaho seems plenty west to me!). but it's definitely in the standard northern-italian range, which as long-time readers know, is the way i like it!

maybe i'd say full-city+: only a very few beans showed the slightest pinprick of oil. it may actually be a tad more lightly roasted that mr. right's favorite batdorf dancing goat.

first, the great linglese, you know? in brief, i'd say it has a wonderful tea rose fragrance to the dry grounds.

as a brewed espresso, it's a buttery coffee, with a strong nutty aroma and a long chocolate-y aftertaste. it wasn't lost in the milk at all.

terry says that it's an unusual blend, in that all the coffees are from the americas, no indonesian component at all. i liked it so much i had two!

the temperature he suggests for "vito" is 202, with the pull in a 28-32 second range for a double. i'd tell you that i'd have this again tomorrow -- even mr. right liked it, and he is so loyal to the dancing goat -- but terry kindly sent me his ruby's organic espresso as well. . .

as for etching. i thought it was appropriate to try an etching with this coffee, since doma's barista j. lewis is famous for his.

thus, i went out and bought some chocolate syrup on a whim. i was confronted at the store with a sad selection: hershey's, bosco, nestle, smuckers, u bet.

i should have planned more carefully and ordered some of the guittard! anyway, i finally settled on a sugar-free version, walden farms, which inexplicably doesn't come in a squeeze bottle.

so after i pulled a nice 30 second shot into my 6 oz. cappuccino cup, i quickly poured a pool of microfoamed milk into the center. then from a chopstick i dropped small somewhat oval splotches of syrup -- maybe 6 or 8 -- around the circumference of the white pool as it sat surrounded by the hazelnut-brown crema.

with the end of the chopstick i lightly dragged the end of each splotch out into a little arc so it slightly came inside the beginning of the next splotch.

that quickly and easily made a simple, attractive and very easy lacy design. even with this basic etching, you have to have a light, free hand, and draw quickly.

don't try to overdraw, or else the design gets muddy-looking in a hurry. less is more.

and also, don't put the end of whatever you're using to draw with -- instant-read thermometer, skewer, pointed japanese chopstick -- too deeply in the foam as you draw, or you'll get unattractive ridges in the milk.

my design was ok; nothing i'd take to seattle, that's for sure! since you definitely are going to taste the syrup a bit, make sure you get a kind you like, but don't use too much of it!

i have to say, the vito's espresso made a great cappuccino, but i was waaay less than thrilled with the taste of the walden farms syrup! ick.

posted by fortune | 6:19 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Friday, March 04, 2005

press me, doma

long-time readers may recall that the first installment of the doma was delayed by a shipping bobble, making it a tad too old for a fair taste. but yesterday i was thrilled to receive outta da blue another batch of doma coffee, the front of the bag boldly roast-dated march 1.

have i said lately how much i love roasters who offer consumers a "born-on" roast date? if not, lemme say it now!

some people quibble about coffee freshness. i've personally found that espresso after day 14 is tired and doesn't offer good shots.

drip coffee doesn't have a much longer shelf-life, either to my mind, which is why i always say that "coffee is like milk." you wouldn't drink 3-week-old milk, would you, much less a month old?

but some people don't necessarily agree, and what's great about roast-dating is that then the consumer can decide: hmm, look at that date, do i want to buy it? again, just as you do with milk, going through the cartons to see the date stamped on top.

i mean, maybe there will be folks who love a certain coffee at 6 weeks. . .maybe.

so tomorrow we do the espresso thing with this new coffee. i didn't want to try it today because some people think espresso should "rest" for a couple of days before you pull it to let the flavors of the freshly roasted coffee meld.

the coffee should be well-rested and good to go. can't wait to give it a try.

also, today bccy pal oren is back from judging the coffee competition in ethiopia. he promises he'll write up a travel summary and pop it on his website: i can't wait to link to that.

more also, altho' maybe this should be filed under "regional coffee culture," i'm keeping my eyes peeled for how the u.k. baristi do in seattle at the world barista championship.

simon robertson of the leoni hopes to crack the top 10. if so, that would definitely be statement about the situation of the u.k.'s coffee culture: then we could clearly say that britain is well on its way to joining japan as a "formerly tea drinking nation."

finally, a lovely statement on the value of yoga from a former asana skeptic: "i also began to understand... that on some level yoga frightened me, because it made me feel so much. . . heaven knows it's hard for us humans to set aside fearful behaviors in favor of loving and trusting ones."

i think this insight is common to every single serious yoga student i know. weclome to your advanced yoga practice, terry marotta!

posted by fortune | 8:06 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Thursday, March 03, 2005

turkish coffee, part vi

i promise this will be the last installment on turkish coffee for a good long while. honest.

i would write about the newsweek chocolate article, except for some insane reason it isn't available online in their rss file. what's the point of that?

you'll have to buy the dead tree version to read this pretty-ok piece on artisanal chocolate. which is a shame, because otherwise i could link to it and drive people to their website, which would increase their ad revenue. . .on what planet do these dopey online-marketing people dwell, hmm??

so chocolate fans, i'm sorry i can't indulge you on this one, but long-time bccy pal clay gordon of chocophile gets great mention!

as for the subject at hand, la-la land food critic charles perry offers a fantastic overview of the turkish coffee landscape here on

and to humor bccy pal and comment fiend alex b., the story of the jordanian driver. . .

yesterday the awesome todd, gary, and lauren of wholelattelove sent the major door prize for the scaa march 9 nyc coffee meetup. a lovely gaggia "coffee" in white with a matching white gaggia "mm" grinder.

these are lovely entry-level espresso devices, smallish in size, and thus suited to the crowded nyc apartment kitchen! with just a little practice, they make such fine espresso that many owners never bother to upgrade.

they are well-reviewed and well-regarded machines that with some care can last many years. i know some people have had their "coffee"s for 6 years now.

however if you already have a mid-level or above espresso machine, this gaggia model won't be of interest to you. . .but most people in the meetup group seem to lack any espresso machines at all. so i'm very happy that wholelattelove donated this nice beginner's machine.

what was i saying? yes, to take these machines home meant i had to call a car service. said car being driven by a pleasant jordanian; naturally i quizzed him on the turkish coffee front.

he expressed his deep affection for turkish coffee with what he called "hel" or "hal." i asked him if this was cardamom or cinnamon, to which he replied no, but said if you went to standard bklyn hangout, sahadis, mr. sahadi would mix it into the coffee for you.

i searched the net and it seems we had some confusion -- because "hel" appears to be an arabic word for whole cardamom seed. apparently if you buy coffee for turkish at sahadi, mr. sahadi himeself will ceremoniously stir the proper proportion of cardamom seeds into the whole-bean coffee for you, so that you can grind it up together in your brass grinder.

the driver also mentioned that some people put "cherry" into the coffee. being a coffee person, i thought he meant dried bits of the coffee fruit, also called cherry, and which is used to make a kind of arab tea, "qishr."

but no! it appears he is referring to what i would call "mahlab," from a dried tiny sour cherry.

this powdered fruit seed adds a bitter, almond-like taste to the coffee, and i suppose could serve as a taste balance to the ultra-sweet cups often served in the middle-east.

finally, he noted that powdered ginger went well with coffee too. so your authentic middle-eastern spice options are wide indeed!

posted by fortune | 8:04 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

turkish coffee, part v

ok, i'm beginning to feel like i have this turkish coffee thing licked. i did incorporate some points from the i need coffee tutorial yesterday to benefit; however i altered them to ensure they would offend less against good coffee-making standards.

i backed my saeco 2002 grinder a hair behind its zero point, for an even more powdery grind. be careful trying this at home, depending on your grinder!

i used the same gillies yrg from yesterday, but increased the amount to 18g (about 0.6 oz.). i also increased the water to 6 fl. oz. (about 177.5 ml).

i then:

  • added the same pinch of cardamom and cinnamon to the ibrik,
  • clipped my instant-read therometer to the side of the pot,
  • poured in the water,
  • measured in 2 regular coffee scoops davinci sugar-free simple unflavored syrup (because 18g coffee is about 2 "rounded" coffee scoops, and i wanted to keep the amount of sweetener and coffee close to equal),
  • stirred, and
  • dumped the coffee on top of the liquid without re-stirring, as the i need tutorial instructed.

the tutorial claims that to have a cap of undissolved powdery coffee is important to the "physics" of the process, a statement i'd like to see some more info on. because it frankly just seems to be that such an uneven distribution of coffee in this "slurry" will just result in unequal extraction.

which is all bad by specialty coffee standards. however, i think i see what the tutorial is getting at: the particles of undissolved coffee floating at the top not only create a cap that helps prevent the stuff from foaming over, but may also contribute extra bean-fiber material and coffee oils to add body to the froth when the foam finally overwhelms it.

this is just the question for scaa chief and coffee chemist ted lingle, but it so happens he is presently in japan, probably drinking his favorite halogen vac pot coffee in some elegant, upscale kisaten.

and all i have is my bklyn kitchen! anyway. . .

i turned the gas flame to low and carefully watched the therometer dial. in a just a moment, all the coffee had sunk deep into the liquid, leaving me with no dry coffee crust.

thus i quickly grabbed a demitasse spoon, filled it less-than-halfway with some ground coffee and sprinkled it on top of the slurry: lemme guesstimate this was about 1g coffee. where it stayed dry.

at 195 degrees f the edges of the coffee began to seethe. at 200, simmer; at 205 the foam started to rise. as it reached the top i snatched the pot from the flame and let the foam subside (maybe 10 seconds).

remarkably, the dry coffee "cap" remained. on the second foam, however, the cap was subsumed. i went for the third foam. . .at no time did the thermometer pass 205.

but i understand that these little instant-reads can be slow to react. the result was a heavy layer of very dark, cocoa-colored foam, that glistened with coffee oils, rather like what you'd see in a cafetiére with ultra-fresh dark-roast coffee.

this foam persisted long enough for me to finish an entire cup! i poured out 2oz. of the brew into a demitasse, and spooned some of the froth on top.

when i returned for a second cup, there was still a bit of froth on the coffee. surprise! the coffee was the best turkish yet, really delicious if you like spices in your coffee. . .

the lower heat did extend the coffee-making time to 5 mins. start to finish, which is not too bad. the ibrik itself is easily cleaned with the same baby-bottle brush i use for my bodum vac pot.

and finally, lemme offer a big bccy round of applause to fellow sjc alum, schneider, for finding me a pic of the sand brazier used to make turkish in a commercial setting. this would alleviate temperature concerns, since you of course easily could monitor the sand temperature.

he also sent along two other pics (here and here) of ibriks on sand that caused me concern, however: notice that they show the foam as being a very light beige! the foam i saw was extremely dark. . . hmm.

could there even more to investigate here? sigh.

posted by fortune | 6:59 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

turkish coffee, part iv

just when i thought i was waaay done with my turkish coffee experiments -- it's such a simple method, right? -- along comes more information. and of course little of it is consistent; everyone disagrees.

however i do often visit i need coffee, and so i was over there early this morning checking out their turkish coffee tutorial.

after going through my email yesterday, a common thread appeared: that the heat should quite low, not medium-high, and that it appeared i wasn't using enough water or coffee for my size pot.

the majority urged me to use "enough water to fill the coffee to the bottom of the neck," slightly more than 5 oz. in my pot, and that i should use 14g (2 regular coffee scoops) coffee.

an interesting note of the i need tutorial is the author's insistence that you do not stir and also that you don't let the coffee boil. several of my correspondents stated themselves that if i put an instant-read thermometer into the ibrik i'd find that the coffee foams below boiling, 212 degrees f.

so that actually turkish coffee bubbles and simmers, yet never truly boils. this was a fair and quantifiable test, which i performed this morning.

and i did find that the coffee does seem to foam at about 205 or 206 degrees f., which is just at the upper limit for the recommended temperature of coffee brewing water.

and this would perhaps offer support for the theory that coffee for turkish should be light-roasted, since it's widely felt that most darkly roasted coffees are best brewed in the 195 to 200 degree f range.

being now out of fresh gillies yemen, i retreated to gillies yrgacheffe, and made the pot with the thermometer fast in it to monitor the temperature and make sure it didn't exceed 205. the coffee was much better, which i attribute to the careful use of the thermometer, but could also be due to the fact that i am quite fond of yrg.

tomorrow i'll test the "no-stir" method, since to change the coffee and the temperature and the stirring situation would be too many variable to move about at once for a fair trial.

if turkish can be made truly well, it's a useful method for a coffee lover in the morning seeking only a single small cup or two, because it has to be the fastest non-espresso brewing technique ever.

really: you can make a pot of turkish coffee in less time than it takes to boil water and wait for it to drip through a melitta filter, it seems to me.

as for my question about how the mermaid intends to offer turkish coffee in a quick-service context: apparently they could manage this by nestling ibriks in a gas-heated tray of sand, which allows the staff to make many individual turkish coffees at once without the problems of an open gas flame. i can't find a picture of one of these sand beds on the 'net anywhere. . .

however alties from greece also report that turkish is sometimes made by simply pouring water from the hot-water wand of the cafe's espresso machine into an ibrik with instant coffee(!) and stirring. this makes a very sub-par drink, obviously.

posted by fortune | 7:22 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Monday, February 28, 2005

turkish coffee, part iii

even the mermaid's getting in on the act now. turkish coffee is breaking out all over.

please see my first take on turkish coffee and the second here.

a friend of mine, a retailer himself, quipped this morning that turkish is a perfect vehicle for the mermaid's over-roasted beans: "since you burn the coffee anyway, no one will notice." ouch.

it's just true that turkish coffee is a paradigm that violates several sacred tenets of the specialty coffee ethic. to which i cling as an scaa-lovin' consumer member.

however, as i myself have discovered, turkish can be an interesting alternative cup -- but only if very carefully prepared. since it loses the delicate aromatics, the heavy base notes and aftertaste dominate the drink.

this does theoretically allow you to use lesser quality beans, no doubt, since it's probably pointless to pay large dollars for blueberry notes that will be lost anyway due to the method of preparation.

but the problem in a fast-service context is the same problem the mermaid has in all her endeavors: the careful preparation part. is there a turkish coffee equivalent of the superautomatic espresso machine that will allow mere people-behind-the-counter to make a decent cup by simply pushing a button?

while turkish is made quickly, it also requires super-focussed attention to minimize boiling, and a perfect grind. also, i got good results only by using the highest quality yemen mocha sanani i could get my hands on.

the chocolate, molasses, and tobacco finishing notes in this gillies yemen manage to survive the turkish process, if performed with utmost care.

the raw sugar used in the turkish recipe actually highlights the molasses and chocolate feeling, while adding literal tiny pinches of cinnamon and cardamom compensate for the loss of the other aromatics.

there's also going to be a roast issue for starbucks, as several people have argued to me that despite widespread beliefs to the contrary, turkish coffee should actually be lightly roasted. similarly widespread seems to be the idea that turkish blends served in the middle east are inevitably rio-y.

(rio-y is in most countries considered a foul taste fault, a caustic nasty flavor coffee beans acquire when they have been attacked by vicious beasties -- like streptococci, rhizopus, etc. -- during the drying process. since this used to happen commonly in natural brazils, it acquired the name "rio."

the compounds responsible for this ugliness are methylisoborneol and most often trichloroanisole molecules, which are also found in corked wine. methylisoborneol also commonly appears in robusta.)

i encourage you all dear readers to make some more turkish and tell me what you think!

posted by fortune | 7:37 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

Sunday, February 27, 2005

turkish coffee, redux

long-time readers know that here at bccy sunday is pizza day, so after i once again marvelled at how folding the dough half-way through rising really improves it, i took another stab at turkish coffee.

during the week i had the opportunity to talk to a number of people, including the man who started it all, ahmet. it turns out ahmet also dislikes cardamom in his coffee; he claims it's a "syrian habit."

can any egyptians or syrians reading this affirm or deny his claim?

anyway, having received a fresh pound of batdorf dancing goat (thanks as always, jessica!), i thought. . .hmm, wonder how this caramelly, walnutty delight would be as turkish?

also, in response to email, i wondered if it could be made with splenda instead of raw sugar. i decided to make this test with some da vinci sugar-free simple syrup with splenda.

and finally, it was suggested to me that i try the coffee with cinnamon as well as cardamom. why? to help compensate for the loss of the delicate coffee aromatics that the brief boiling causes.

when i spoke to a professional exchange cupper, he disdained turkish coffee. "it's burnt, it's bitter, and it smells terrible," he literally sniffed.

and it's true i think that there is a little burnt sugar -- perhaps we could kindly call it "dark caramel" -- smell to the coffee, which a professional cupper who delights in the floral and citrus tones of his bright favorite (a kenya aa kirinyaga) would register with horror.

thus the spices to mitigate it. plus, they taste good. but really, as i've discovered for myself, well-prepared turkish coffee isn't the crime so many believe. . .

since in the standard turkish recipe you use as much sugar as coffee, i measured out a coffee scoop of the unflavored simple syrup to keep the proportions the same. and i reduced the water to 2 oz to accomodate the liquid of the syrup.

this time i tried the "3 foams" method, but found that with my current turkish skill level the froth didn't actually last any longer than with the "1 foam" method. so in the future i'll still to the 1 foam, because the less boiling the better.

it was still an interesting quick cup of coffee as a change, but it won't displace my other coffeemaking methods.

i do prefer the beautiful aromas found in a well-made cup of (nonboiled!) coffee. . .

as for the fortune-telling part, i did give that a try. i swirled the demitasse clockwise (to the right -- in turkish culture, the left is unlucky) 3 times, popped the saucer on top, and turned it over to let the dregs drain out so the grounds could form a pattern on the porcelain sides.

after much peering, i have to say all i saw was three upward-pointing triangular sections containing surprisingly regular geometric patterns, like a bride's henna decoration, or the embroidery at the bottom of a traditional middle-eastern dress.

after mocking me savagely, mr. right himself deigned to take a look and thought he perceived a dog towards the bottom of the cup.

according to the little explanation of symbols here (scroll down), this apparently means i have friends needing help. and the upward triangles are good luck.


posted by fortune | 12:21 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments

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