The Map

Posted in Uncategorized on April 10, 2011 by whyyoushouldhatecoffee

I’ve put together a Map.

It’s a map of places that I would enjoy getting coffee in Minneapolis and St. Paul.  I’ve printed 300 copies of the map, and keep them at the shop that I work at (Dogwood Coffee) and have encouraged all other shops on the map to do the same.

My original intention behind the map was entirely selfish.  A few guests over time have asked where else in town they can get good coffee, or where in NYC, Chicago, Seattle or a slew of other cities they travel to/spend a lot of time in.  I imagine most baristas get this question.  My common response had been to go through the 5 shops in town, then get a confused/concerned look and realize I should write them down for my guest to better remember them.  While this works, It’s in my handwriting and on receipt paper (it looks tacky) and if I’m in a rush, I might forget one.  For other cities, I simply write down the ones I’ve heard good things about, in some cases have been to.

I printed the map to save time, improve the interaction with my guests, and make something that looks nice.

I realized initially, it could be awesome and bring our coffee community together.  Or it could cause drama between some/any of the shops that disagree with the list i.e. don’t want to be on the list with another one of the shops,  there is drama between those shops or there is a conflict considering that it could reasonably be cannibalistic marketing.  These are all small businesses, trying to make a living.  We all have bills to pay, and to business owners that’s loud and clear.

I won’t lie, I took inspiration from Gwilym Davies “Disloyalty Card

On another note, I didn’t feel that every shop on the list would participate in a “discounted” product.  Totally understandable.  I also didn’t want to further encourage anyone to try to fill up the card and leave their “home store”  I also didn’t want anyone of my guests or my colleagues guests to feel this way.

On one side of the map, I’ve placed information about the shops. facts. not opinions.  I put all of the information that I thought was important, to help guests see what potential a shop had to make great coffee, skill of barista and quality of experience aside (thought they were taken into consideration for the map). This information includes: coffee source, milk source, espresso machine, espresso grinders, brewing options.

On the flip side, I have images of the Twin Cities with arrows to each shop.  Also, the address and hours of each.


I’ve also placed a disclaimer at the bottom of the map side

“this list does not represent the preferences of any of the listed companies. Please direct any questions to your Barista or”

On the other side also:

“for your home brewing needs visit:”

for those who brew coffee at home, and buy beans at any of our establishments.

Espresso Map3-20

For the simple sake of learning more about other cities I have the lofty idea of making maps for the most asked about cities. Seattle, San Fran, Chicago, Milwaukee, Portland and the like.  We’ll see how that goes.



Posted in Uncategorized on February 23, 2011 by whyyoushouldhatecoffee

This past weekend, I attended the 2011 NCRBC.  I spent my time there as a Sensory Judge, making my second year of judging, and putting myself in both judges shoes. Last year I judged the GLRBC as a Technical Judge.

Having thought about competition for some time now, I’ve thought one of the most difficult things for the competitor is that you don’t know the judges and unless you have judged, you don’t know what they talk about in  calibration, and certainly don’t know what a 4.5 per/con on espresso crema looks like.

To start, I certainly don’t find myself as any sort of authority. I have not competed, so therefore can only imagine the mindset of the competitors. I’m hoping to put down my opinion, and band together my impressions of the opinions of other judges with hope that it helps someone (judge, competitor,  the competition format). I’m trying not to write it like I’m coaching, but rather expressing what I personally think could do well, I most certainly could be wrong.  As objective as the score sheets try to be, there’s obviously still opinion.  I’m trying to write this without giving specific examples of low point scoring decisions/mistakes, because that’s clearly not okay.  my examples are going to be theoretical.

I think it’s important to note, that the judges are likely nervous as well.  maybe not as nervous as the competitor, but they are being evaluated by the same crowd (both literally and online) as you are.  they’ve also possibly had significant amounts of caffeine.  Saturday I judged 6 competitors, and I’ll be honest, by the 6th I had to really focus on sitting up in my chair.  It’s maybe bad to say this,  but I was quite literally intoxicated on caffeine, past the point of shaky hands.  I had to lay down afterwords.


Competitors have clearly spent there time with the competition setup and routine.  they’ve at least spent the past 15 minutes setting up their station.  I think it’s important to note, that when the judges walk out onto the floor, they don’t know your setup, they don’t know your routine, they don’t know why they have three spoons rather than two, or why they have three glasses already in front of them, some simple assumptions can be made, but typically aren’t.  This is an excellent chance to welcome them and make sure they know what, more importantly why they have these things, if they’re different from other competitors. a glass for spoons is awesome.  I really don’t want to dirty your linens.

The intro speech is huge. but doesn’t need to be everything. making a connection to the farm, or the intensity of your personal experiences with the coffee, or roasting = awesome.   the judges are looking to learn something.  they’re looking to go on a journey with you. there are plenty of other times throughout the presentation to give information. “judges are post-it notes” they just record information. Simple, accurate, to the point information.  Making a connection with a judge is super cool. likely wins them over, and has them subconsciously rooting for you in calibration.  attention to detail.

Taste Evaluation of Espresso

Color of Crema (hazelnut, dark brown, reddish reflection)

To me, I think it’s important to focus on what protocols the judges are required to follow and what they are going to focus on.  Judges are told they can only use your crema descriptors before the shots are extracting (so they know that is your intention. rather than accidentally pouring really short shots and saying they’ll be awful. duh.)  It’s really tough to score really high on this.  accurate descriptors certainly helped. having a color palette to compare to would be a really cool touch.

Persistency & consistency of crema (per con)

analyzed by tilting the espresso towards the judge, once.  If the cream falls apart/breaks that’s bad. If it’s thick and resilient, that’s good.  If the bubbles are all the same micro size, that’s great. if there are even slight variations or bigger bubbles, not so great.

Taste balance/Tactile balance (BIG points)

Judges are told they can only use your flavor/body descriptors before the espresso is extracted.   they’re looking for specific flavors/characteristics. ambiguous characteristics are almost ignored. chocolate, nutty, fruit, silky, creamy, velvety, syrupy = almost obvious.  toasted pecan, clementine juice = really good if they’re actually true. taste and tactile balance in espresso are HUGE points. Honestly, I think flavor is more weighted.  It’s the first box on the score sheet, so has to be filled out first, so looking back, I judged it first.  then body was somewhat of an afterthought.  specific information about these categories when accurate gets great points. when they don’t match, in my experience it’s lost points, or the judges just go back to what a “calibrated” shot should be like.  Simple, elegant, well presented descriptors seem like the way to go.  pausing to allow the judges to write things down was super helpful.

Presentation/Professionalism + Attention to Detail

The moment you set down the beverage, and break eye contact, the judge is analyzing it, and that’s good.  the crema is strongest and looks the best.  this seems like a really bad time to tell them things they’ll have to write down.  they need a little time. rushing their decision might be risky.

Taste Evaluation of Cappuccino

Visually Correct Cappuccino

Latte art isn’t a big deal. I’m pouring hearts. don’t whiteout.  don’t over texturize. symmetry is important. simple.

Persistency & Consistency of foam

It needs to be 1cm. that’s easy. The foam should be nice, sheeny, and consistent.  Big bubbles are probably going to be everyone’s problem in this category.

Evaluation of Signature Drink

Well explained, introduced and presented.

Please set time aside to explain your sig drink, or be able to speak clearly and loud enough for me to hear it when your back is turned and you’re prepping your drink.  I totally would understand being scared to stand facing the judges with nothing in your hands.  I’m a terrible public speaker.  but the judges need to know.

Look and Functionality

This is basically just your glassware/spoon. does it look right/ is it functional and attractive.  is it an aromatic drink? should it be in a snifter style glass?

Creativity and Synergy with coffee.

Knowing the ingredients for the sig drink is clearly important, but knowing why you used them is huge.  sure you used a citrus fruit with your coffee from Kenya because a lot of Kenyan coffees are citrusy, but you have to make that connection for the judges.  To me this seemed more about pairing flavors and ingredients with flavors in the coffee.

Taste Balance (according to content, taste of espresso)

This was a tough one. based on the fact that the ingredients need to be factored in, both taste and tactility.  basically just make a drink that has balance overall.  I really don’t have any advice on what to use/make other than please don’t use spicy/hot things and be hesitant to use fruit/cream/espresso, it almost always tastes curdled.

Tech scores are easy points.  Be confident.

If you mess up, don’t point it out. go with it. it’s possible the judges didn’t notice. very possible.

simplicity in dosing and distributing & tamp is almost always going to get better consistency points.

I think I’ve heard some controversy on the spouts of the portafilters. whether placing them on a tamp mat or clean towel is good enough for cleaning them or not.  I would play it safe and just wipe off the basket, the wings and the spouts every time.

Morning Buzz

Posted in Coffee of Course on November 25, 2010 by whyyoushouldhatecoffee

This morning a customer informed of an article he had read in the New York Times. The article by Frank Bruni entailed a coffee drinkers experiences in a cafe, asking Baristas and shop owners about home brewing equipment and how best to use it. It details his experiences with the French Press, the Hario V60, and finally the Chemex. From his radical word usage It seems as though Mr. Bruni hates brewing coffee by the cup at home.

After reading the article I had a number of thoughts regarding the act of home brewing, it’s cost/reward ratio, the cost of our product and the customer experience.

-I’ll admit. I brew coffee at home and it’s rarely Great. I use a Chemex or a Clever, a Hario Skerton, a digital .01 gram scale, a timer, a Hario Buono kettle, and a measuring glass to measure Minneapolis city water. There’s a few things I do alright, but most if it could be done better. I know that others make worse coffee at home and I know that others make better coffee at home. regardless, I still do it. I would prefer to do it than to have to leave the house and have someone else make it.

-I also make myself an omelet/breakfast on my mornings off. I source all of my groceries from The Wedge, most of them local and organic. I’ve gone through a few different routines, a few different breakfasts and found out pretty well what I like. I use multiple pans, multiple utensils, and multiple herbs, spices and oils. This is certainly not me trying to brag about my routine, quite the contrary as it seems to me such a simple selfish pleasure. Much rather I’m trying to point out that it seems silly to expect that I would only use one pan, one utensil, one plate and one glass. Different foods cook differently, and therefore to me different kitchen tools are required. So it goes.

-I don’t want to get into the argument of whether nutrition, both food and drink, should be valued as high as they seem to be today. I can’t say why I value them so much considering my Barista income, but I can say at they are very valued. Maybe excessively.

-Brewing coffee at home is almost obviously cheaper than buying coffee at a coffee bar on a daily basis. Depending of course on your equipment, and where you buy whole bean coffee.

At the shop.
10oz coffee 2.75avg.
X 5 days = 13.75/wk.
X 4 weeks = 55/mo.
X 12 mo. = 660$/yr.

At home
Clever = 12.50$
Hario Kettle = 55$
Hario Slim = 34.50$
Gram Scale = 25$
Filters = 7$
Coffee = 15$/455g avg.
455g/12g doses = 37ish brews
We’ll say 1-455g bag = 1 mo.

Whole bean costing 15$/mo. And 1 cup at the bar costing 55$/mo.
Equipment costs 132$
Saving 40$ per month home brewing, the equipment would be paid for in roughly 3 1/2 months.

This of course makes many assumptions about your ability to make coffee at home, your desire to, and that this would be your only equipment. Adding more would cost more, using more coffee would cost more. On top of that, this is all to say that you would be making coffee at home that’s alright. Sometimes Great, but rarely.

To me, making a connection with a customer about home brewing is so much fun! I don’t know if it’s the fact that I get so much pleasure brewing coffee, troubleshooting coffee, that it reminds me of my routine, or that someone else is actually excited about it too. Of course it could be all of the above. All I know is it’s pleasant for me. I feel I can say that anytime I, as a customer, have an experience with a service industry person and they are/seem happy, passionate or excited, I have a better experience. That’s good.

At first I was honestly a bit upset about the NYT article. Now I’m actually pretty excited that single cup home brewing or hand brewing (Chemex) is in the paper. The fact that it’s a topic of conversation is great!
I certainly don’t mean for this to be a rebuttal against Mr. Bruni. Simply my thoughts on the matter, that I decided to let out. Also, I really like the word expeditiousness.

Milk Texture

Posted in Uncategorized on September 11, 2010 by whyyoushouldhatecoffee

I’ve been thinking for quite some time that one of the things that I don’t see enough chatter about in the industry and on the forums/blogs is Milk Texture.

there’s loads of theory, opinion, how-tos and trouble shooting concepts on espresso, single cup brewing and extraction in general which I think is great.  I think considering how much of it we use, that Milk should be discussed as well and in further detail than it has before.

I’ve been thinking it would be nice to have some baselines for how milk texture is applied and how to best control it.  Recently I’ve been making lots of charts and graphs, which I find really helpful.  I composed this one to start discussion and get thoughts on the topic of analyzing milk texture using a control chart.

This chart shows three different methods of achieving “good” milk texture.

The red is a very aggressive introduction of texture/air,  assuming it’s followed by incorporation with the rest of the milk.

The Orange is a longer time(0-2.5sec)/less aggressive introduction of texture/air, less incorporation is needed because the larger bubbles are not as present.

Finally, the Yellow spans from 40-90°F or 0-4sec. much less aggressive, and requires less/no incorporation with the rest of the milk.

In my experience, any incorporation of air after 90°F is extremely difficult to incorporate with the rest of the milk.

I’ve found that when texturizing small quantities of milk, for say 1-6oz. Capp, using the last methods works best for me. trying to stay consistent throughout. changing aggression levels has proven difficult for me, especially on a Synesso.

Whereas, large quantities of milk, say for 1-12oz Latte, using a super aggressive introduction followed by a long period of “polishing” seems to work really well and allows for me to hone in on the final texture.

Anyways, just thought I’d through out some theories on that and see what everyone thinks about aggression levels and if that’s something that other Baristas are messing around with.

On another note: methods for incorporation.

I assume we’ve all noticed a difference, while incorporating air, in the second part of the steaming process, how high or low you place the steam wand, and what that does to the shape of the milk (intense cyclone/hills), and what it does to the final texture.

Low in the Milk/Intense Cyclone

High in the Milk/Hills

When I originally started training for Latte Art, one of my coworkers shed some light on what the steam wand is doing.  For some reason I had never really thought of it, I had simply always aimed for a cyclone or intense little tornado shape in the pitcher, folding the milk on top of itself.

My coworker turned the steam wand on while it wasn’t in the milk and showed that the steam is aiming down at roughly 45°, depending on the tip of course.  In his theory, you could use this to your advantage.  Instead of folding the milk on top of itself, use the steam to force the air bubbles down into the rest of the milk.  In order to do this he explained “you simply, place the steam wand in the appropriate depth”  of course this is hugely dependent on how much air you’ve incorporated in the beginning, but paying enough attention I have found that it works out really well! especially for larger quantities of milk.

The latter image shows his theoretical technique.  Of course there would be a bit more turbulence, but surprisingly not very much.

There you go.  Thoughts on Milk!

Extract Mojo, and Refractometer

Posted in Uncategorized on July 25, 2010 by whyyoushouldhatecoffee

This is our understanding of the Extract Mojo and Refractometer, and how we’ve been using it for the results we have.

Posting this is mostly a hope to start conversation about how to best use the mojo, point out the flaws in our system, and hopefully point out some things we’ve noticed that may help, though in our short experience that’s not likely.


Brew coffee.

Stir Coffee with syringe or eye dropper (supplied with Mojo)

Take 15mL sample and place into clean/dry cupping glass (glass 1)

Stir by moving glass (dissipate heat faster)

Wait 2 minutes then place 3mL +/- into Refractometer.

Press read in Native mode.

Copy Temp. and Refractive Index possibly look at TDS

Place into Mojo, and copy results into moleskin.

Rinse syringe with distilled water (glass 2)

Dump out cup 1 and wipe dry with microfiber towel.

Rinse Refractometer with distilled water.

Wipe Refractometer lens with super microfiber from eye glasses store. (spec optical)

Repeat. allowing time for the meter to cool, notes to be taken and coffee to be prepped/conversation to be had about next experiment.

Guatemala COE

Posted in Coffee of Course on July 15, 2010 by whyyoushouldhatecoffee

I’ve been foolish for the past 5 years.

I’ve been foolish in the sense that I have worked in coffee, and have not taken advantage of an extremely powerful tool that Minneapolis, and St. Paul have to offer coffee professionals, that Tool is Cafe Imports, and Jamin Haddox.

For those who don’t know, Cafe Imports is a green coffee importer, and wholesaler.  Their warehouse is equipped with an awesome cupping lab (no surprise there) and a really awesome coffee lab, equipped with a 2-group Synesso Cyncra, Robur, Anfim (temporary), Probat, Clover, Ditting, Fluke, and Extract Mojo among many other really cool little toys and tools.

Jamin is the Director of Quality Control for Cafe Imports, basically sample roasting and cupping everything that comes through the doors.  He’s awesome and has been super insightful to us and to the coffee industry in the Twin Cities.  Much thanks Jamin!

Jamin has also set up public cuppings of most of the Cup Of Excellence selections of which I haven’t had much of a chance to participate in (bad priorities on my part).  I recently was able to participate in the Guatemala COE cupping, and let me tell you, it was really cool!

The cupping was composed of two rounds of two tables of 7 coffees, 28 coffees total.

I was in attendance along with @MWalcher (Michael), @CoffeeBrigade(Shawn, my roommate), @madcapcoffee(Ryan Knapp),  and manager of @quixotic_coffee(Gordon), all from Madcap’s new account Quixotic coffee in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul. also, @kopplins(Andrew Kopplin) @BullRunDan(Dan, my coworker) and of course Jamin.

COE Farm List

The cupping score in the box is mine (obvious) the one circled is the average of the room, the one above it is Jamin’s (most respected palate/Q cupper) the one way over on the left is the score from the judges at origin.

I was amazed at how consistent our room was considering that this was my first COE cupping and our group doesn’t typically cup 28 coffees at a time.

Mojo vs. V60 01

Posted in Coffee of Course on July 15, 2010 by whyyoushouldhatecoffee

The Hario V60 has been a source of debate for me.

The brew method, is currently quite widely used and has been adopted by many as “The Standard”  To me this is intriguing for two reasons:

To create good coffee, requires extreme consistency and extreme skill and knowledge. (like Espresso)

To create good coffee, it seems as though you actually have to work against the system.  It brews really fast!  You practically need a Hario Buono, or similar kettle, to pour/drip slow enough otherwise you end up with an under-extracted tea like coffee beverage.  There’s always upping the dose to accommodate, but really?

I wanted to give it a run through using a few different techniques to get a further (hopefully) grasp on how it works, and what factors matter the most i.e. time, dose, grind or turbulence among the many many others.  For this experiment we used a coffee that we are pretty well familiar with: San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala.

As it seems fit, we started with the technique that Justin has been working on.  Justin’s main theory is that people don’t rinse the filter properly and that the little air bubbles between the filter and the wall of the V60 cause channeling later on.  I believe it to simply be speculation and that the coffee and water’s mass compress the pockets. unfortunately there is no real way of knowing.  But that’s what we started with.  Super Flush.  pre-infuse with around 30mL for :30 seconds. then slow pulses to keep the bloom for :30 seconds, then a slow pour matching the speed of the water coming from the bottom, while keeping the slurry about half full.


As always we tried to keep everything as consistent as possible, in only isolating one variable at a time.  This seemed to work.. kind of.  In this case, that would be the grind setting.  It worked out alright.  We have issues with the brew time changing, more specifically the drop or the finish, after the pouring is done.

We can speculate that this is because of a few things:

Justin “releasing fines that have clumped to larger particles, clogging the filter.” this is from turbulence.

Too much or too little Turbulence. inconsistency.

The little circle that you pour. maybe that changed.

In the end we decided that this may be more difficult than it is important in the Cafe.

Round 2:

The long respected Barismo Spec. (Or at least our interpretation of. I don’t want to offend anyone by our mistakes or misuse.)

Divet,  30mL pre-infuse for :20seconds, 180 mL over 80 seconds on a backwards timer.


In the end, we concluded that this would not work very well in our cafe, as we serve 8oz. and 12oz. this is simply too little coffee, and changing portions doesn’t really work in coffee. sad face.

Round 3:

Of course @NickCho has some twist on the Hario V60 and how he uses it! Thanks Nick!

So, once again, I don’t want to offend Nick, or anyone else who uses this method.  This experiment was to find what would be the most fool proof, consistent method that we could for the Cafe.


In the end we decided that to try to train a staff to consistently pour 8-15mL bursts every 5-7 seconds would be a bit more complicated than showing them what thickness of stream they should be aiming for.  Interesting.

We also, throughout the experiments found that Time is not as significant of a variable as we have all been thinking!  “Time Doesn’t Matter!”

We found that we had pleasant cups at 2:30 and at 4:15 finish.

Turbulence is Huge!!!! or that’s our theory.