After hours of AeroPressing, 16 competitors, 10 rounds and 3 tiers—Jeff Verellen, roaster at Caffenation in Antwerp, brought home the World Aeropress Championship along with the golden pump for Team Sausage! Congrats on the win good sir!
I’ve been very clear about my opinion of the American k-cup trend, surprisingly Green Mountain Coffee’s PR guy still sent this my way. I’m not sure if Keurig machines are even sold in Italy, but they are using the allure of Italian coffee to sell their new “Barista Prima Coffeehouse” k-cups. As I leave this afternoon for Italy, excited to experience the coffee culture there first hand, I was truely disheartened to find this.
No one appreciates great coffee like Italian Barista Champion Francesco Sanapo. So after he won his second consecutive championship earlier this year, we asked him to try Barista Prima Coffeehouse® the first K-Cup® portion pack varieties inspired by the celebrated coffee houses of Europe. After savoring his first sip, he exclaimed, “Belissimo! (Beautiful!)” and fell in love with the deep, dark brews.
K-Cups are terrible for all the reasons discussed here, and for a coffee culture that is continually discussed regarding their relevancy in the emerging progressive coffee scene, it’s sad to see the Italian Barista Champion being used in this way.
The brand’s tagline, “Brew like a barista™” is insulting to Francesco’s accomplishments as well as every other barista who works passionately to serve great coffee every day.
This Sunday in Milan, a global showdown of AeroPress techniques will take over the Marco booth at HOST. Individuals from around the world (myself included) will compete for the golden AeroPress and a place in the WAC Hall of Fame. Press down!
A few weeks ago, I shared the announcement that MadCap Coffee in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was planning to open a new shop and roastery. Their announcement was attached to a video hinting at possible new locations around the world. On October 1, MadCap revealed more details, announcing their expansion to Washington DC. A move that should be cheered among coffee lovers in the area.
Yesterday morning I sat down with Trevor Corlett, the owner of MadCap, for coffee in his new home town to discuss the move. We talked about the DC coffee culture, the terrible traffic, and some of the neighborhoods he had his eye on in the heart of DC. Wherever the new MadCap ends up, Trevor says the shop will be unique.
Until the perfect space is found and transformed into MadCap’s new roastery and coffee shop, you can already get a MadCap fix in the DC area. Trevor has been spending a lot of time recently at Buzz Bakery in Arlington, where he hopes they’ll soon be known for their coffee as much as for their award-winning pastries.
As someone originally from the area, who visits fairly often, I’m excited to have MadCap add to the growing progressive coffee movement in the city. Welcome home Trevor and good luck with MadCap DC.
The second day at MANE was a long one, filled with 4 classes, a brew down and an after party. But there was no shortage of great coffee going around to keep everyone focused on all the great learning going on.
I started the day at “Introduction to Espresso” with Scott Guglielmino from La Marzocco. After gauging everyone’s knowledge and interests, the conversation steered towards best practices for dialing-in using the three golden variables—dose, grind and temperature. We discussed the characteristics to look for in a shot, to know which of the three variables that need to be adjusted, and how to make those adjustments. Scott also spoke about some of the unnecessary minutiae that muddles up making a good shot.
Some highlights from the discussion:
Try brewing coffee as filter before dialing in as espresso. This creates a reference point so you aren’t blindly adjusting to achieve unknown flavors.
Tamp pressure isn’t that important, just push down evenly.
An uneven flow has to do with an uneven machine, or dirty/defective spouts—not an uneven tamp.
Don’t spend a ton of time grooming, just level the grounds and tamp.
19% extraction is horse-shit. The correct extraction is what tastes best.
Next was a great panel discussion with Trevor Corlett, Dan Streetman, Philip Search and Gwilym Davies called “Training to be a Barista Champion.” Moderated by Troy, the group shared their personal experiences competing, tips for preparing yourself and how to make your presentation unique.
Some tips for competing:
Read the rules. -DS
Find a coffee that you love and really get to know it. -GD
If you enter the competition with the sole purpose of winning, you’ll destroy yourself. -PS
You can take a lot away from competition, without playing to win. -DS
Equipment shouldn’t matter, don’t let it dissuade you. -TC
Make a signature drink that accentuates the coffee. -TC
Find that thing you’re passionate about, that magic spark that can lead your presentation. -PS
Be consistent. Break your routine into steps. List them and learn them. Make them muscle memory so you can focus on the service. -PS
Play, have fun, get creative and experiment. -GD
After a nice lunch that included some of the best apples I ever tasted, Gwilym taught a class on the classic, but often feared Leva machine. He began with an introduction on how it works, why the standard rules of espresso don’t necessarily apply and the danger of flying levers. A disassembled group was then passed around to give everyone a better look at the giant pressure creating spring attached to the lever.
It’s a surprisingly simple machine that works in many ways like a high-powered AeroPress (or the AeroPress works like a low-powered Leva). After a brief tutorial, we took turns pulling levers and shots.
The last class of the day was a filter brewing lab where we picked a brewing method we were unfamiliar/uncomfortable with and took time to learn and experiment with it. I choose the Clever and teamed up with Jessie Kahn from Counter Culture, to see if I could actually produce a better cup of coffee with one.
After many attempts and realizing the water was causing everyone’s coffee to taste off, I walked away still unconvinced by this brew method.
By the end of the 4th class, it was time for a break. Everyone split-up for dinner on their own, so I went with Mark Hundley, a Providence local, to get burritos and walk around Thayer Street for a bit. Then we came back early to pull shots on the Strada before the whole group returned for the brew down and after party.
There was more coffee brewing, beer drinking, laughing, and fun—and just when we thought things couldn’t get any better, a surprise appearance by Providence’s own Extraordinary Rendition Band got the room moving.
The following morning there was a light breakfast and two more sessions. My last two classes were a second manual brew lab and a class about how to implement a modern brew on demand program. The latter was a bit dry, with lots of information, but without any visuals and very little applicable information. It was more of a general overview of the pros and cons of making such a move.
Afterwards everyone began to disperse to to head home or spend an afternoon in Providence before catching flights. As a left, I had a bag full of coffee and a notebook full of knowledge and a lot of excitement about the direction the coffee industry is moving. More passion, better education, and improved skills will mean more great coffee.
Thanks to all the new friends and thanks again to Troy and Gerra (and all the volunteers) for making MANE such a valuable event to attend.
I just got back from a great weekend in Rhode Island, where the best coffee conference I’d never heard of, took place. MANE, or the Mid-Atlantic / Northeast Coffee Conference, has evolved over the years from a barista jam to its current state. The event has grown into a gathering of more than 150 coffee professionals sharing knowledge, taking hands-on classes, and partying with new and old friends in the industry. I heard about MANE for the first time just 6 weeks ago and when I saw the dates aligned with my trip to the US, I did what I could to make it to Providence.
MANE offered 4 “tracks” this year, including Barista, Advanced Barista, Roaster, and Owner & Manager. For only $75, attendees received 2 full days of classes, all the coffee you could brew and drink, food throughout the day, beer at night and a swag bag full of goodies. I’m not really sure how Gerra (of New Harvest) and Troy (of Cosmic Cup) pulled it off, but a huge thanks to them for doing so.
My first day was a crash course on all things milk—starting with a class called Milk Science. We began by cupping various milk samples—heated to different temperatures as well as properly and improperly steamed—before discussing what we liked and didn’t liked about them. From there, Todd Mackey broke down milk into its key components (water, fat, sugar, protein) and what happens to those components when they’re being steamed (adding surface area and splitting disaccharides).
The class wrapped up with Trevor Corlett talking about his experience using non-homogenized milk at MadCap and some of the advantages (sweeter and creamier) and disadvantages (seasonal diet of the cows affecting milk taste) of using it. The class was an enlightening primer on dairy and set the stage for what was next—Latte Art.
After a brief introduction to proper milk steaming techniques and reminding everyone that texture and taste is more important than the aesthetics of a pour, we wasted no time breaking into groups to work on all three.
After the first day of classes, dinner and beers were provided while everyone relaxed and practiced what they learned on the bar stations set-up throughout the space. After a bit of downtime, a warm welcome by Troy was followed by Gwilym Davies keynote, which addressed the importance of staying hungry for knowledge.
After Gwilym set the tone for a great weekend to come, it was time for some more drinks, fun and a little latte art throwdown.
Overall the conference was off to a great start. It was equal parts inspiring, humbling and encouraging. Seeing so many people in one place with a desire to continue pushing their abilities to make great coffee, is something I would have never imagined in the days I worked on bar. Coffee has come such a long way, and yet we still know so little about it. Gwilym made the point repeatedly, saying, “we have to admit that we really don’t know that much.” So we agreed and set off to learn as much as we could.
Sometimes I dream about coffee and sometimes people make dreams come true. This morning I woke up and found this video of an adorable robot brewing a Hario woodneck—pausing for the bloom and all. If this doesn’t make everyone smile and forget about bat guano coffee, the world is lost.
Forget the new iPhone, where can I line up to get one of these?
A new video on FunnyOrDie takes a shot at what they call “pretentious assholes that work at high end coffee shops and they make you feel stupid if you’re not as obsessed with a stupid drink as they are.”
The impact of a negative experience always seems to reverberate more with people than good ones, and in turn they become exaggerated and amplified. Though I don’t think this is representative of “third wave” specialty coffee as a whole, I’m not gonna lie and say I haven’t seen some of this—at some level anyway—in real life.
The truth can hurt, satire makes it funny, and some people really aren’t cut out for the service industry. It sucks that the video perpetuates a stereotype that could reflect poorly on quality-focused coffee shops, but then again, it’s just a joke. Enjoy.