Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Holiday Delight from Paradise Coffee Roasters

Thanks to an excellent contest on Home-Barista.com I am the proud owner of a bag of Espresso Classico and a Paradise demitasse.
The coffee description states it is a "Northern Italian style" espresso, and the label has a picture of Venice. I have only pulled a couple of shots so far, but I will say it is better than 95% of the coffee I had in Venice. Of course, this was freshly roasted and ground per shot, something that those 95% of shops did not do. It really reminds me of the coffee I had at the Caffe del Doge, Rialto that I blogged about in July. I am looking forward to really exploring this coffee as I work through the bag.

Monday, November 27, 2006


I am a fan of dark chocolate. My wife and I like to keep some of the Valrhona bars from Trader Joes, and I have tried a bunch of different brands. Maybe the most high-falootin' stuff I have had has been from Vosges- really excellent.

I have typically been disappointed when the major candy brands come out with a 'dark' version of a classic candy bar, either the chocolate isn't really that good, or it doesn't fit well with the other components of the bar, or something intangible.

The dark version of Nestle's hundred thousand dollar bar (the name I still think of when I see "100 Grand") is a big exception! I think it is a better harmonious balance with the caramel and crispies.

Egad- I have found another way to gain weight over the holidays.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

New addition to the list of things I am thankful for:
Due to the fact that my office is an easy walk to Intelligentsia, I am able to walk to pick up my weekly stash of coffee. Occasionally I am fortunate enough to encounter a weird bit of marketing, such as this rubber band guy, who accompanied the (claimed) largest rubber band ball in the world. He was dancing to the music of a local high school marching band, while other performers juggled 3" dia rubber band balls, and passed them out to audience members...such as myself.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Originally uploaded by pavasm.

Most folks who have driven up to Milwaukee from Chicago have noticed the Mars Cheese Castle right off the highway near Kenosha, WI. The building has faux parapets, and a big lit up sign to let you know you need to check it out. Inside they have the usual Wisconsin gifts, sausage shaped like a beer bottle, a chunk of cheese shaped like the state. The place has a feel that just screams "road trip" of a past era to me. The lounge inside the store is definitely old school. The cheese castle isn't where you get the landjaeger, though. For the best landjaeger you need to go next door to the castle. Bobby Nelson's Cheese Shop is the home of the best Landjeager I have ever tasted. This unassuming little building literally in the shadow of the more visible and tacky cheese castle might have remained an undiscovered gem if I hadn’t heard Steve Dahl talk about it. (In the 25 years or so I have been listening to this guy on the radio, I have yet to be disappointed when trying a food this guy has touted. http://www.dahl.com )

Landjaeger, as best as I can figure it out, is a very dry Swiss sausage. It is practically like beef jerky. It is usually displayed by having pairs linked together hung on a peg or line. It has this great chewy, tough texture with a salty, oily flavor. I prefer the black pepper variety. This stuff is great- there are times I get the craving, and I foolishly try to fill the void with Slim Jims, but nothing satisfies like the real thing. (Can you tell I recently watched “Harold and Kumar go to White Castle?)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

new cups

new cups
Originally uploaded by pavasm.

Intelligentsia got new cups. I like the look, though I guess they are kind of 'modern', which fits nicely with the decor of the Millenium Park shop.

I wonder what became of all the old Black Cat cups.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Two recent aquisitions

Originally uploaded by pavasm.

I recently got a new tamper- The Home-Barista compressore from espressoparts.com. It is a slightly concave piston, and I am really liking the feel of the tamper as a whole and the fit in my baskets. I got the tamper when espressoparts had them on sale in honor of Home-Barista's anniversary.

I also recently got a bag of Counter Culture Coffee's Toscano espresso blend. When I got my grind and dose dialed in it was sweet, had some brightness (acidity) and maybe slightly less body than my usual Black Cat. On the best shots I pulled I also got a nuttiness I have not really experienced before. I got the espresso when Counter Culture had a labor day sale .

(sorry about the bad pic, I have been lazy and just using my phone for pictures lately)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Barista's Daily Grind, Kearney, NE
Barista's Daily Grind (2)- Kearney, NE

I visited the shop at 2400 Center St.
This is an amazing little oasis. The shop and drive through is imbedded in a nice garden with little waterfall fountains.
The espresso was top-notch, and the La Marzocco is behind the counter so you get to see the espresso pour very clearly.
My espresso was served in a Zoka cup, I believe they use Paladino.

Barista's Daily Grind - Kearney, NE

The baristas were friendly, and seemed happy to hear I knew of the shop because of Ryan Dennhardt's USBC participation.
Colorado coffee- the bad and the good.

I spent some time in Boulder and Winter Park. Boulder had many coffee shops, but I only had a chance to try a couple. The first place I tried had a beautiful Rancilio lever machine. I was pretty excited to try the espresso, but sadly my ‘double’ was like 5 oz and watery. I tried another place that had a nice ‘bar’ surrounding the machine, and the espresso was decent, but I really cringed when I saw the barista leveling off the coffee in the portafilter with the drippy spout over the doser. In Winter Park I found the shop of a local roaster. They also had a lever machine, and my double shot was big and watery. I could have guessed, as I browsed the roasted beans that had no roast date.

Brewing Market - Boulder, CO
I was impressed with a place called the “Brewing Market” in Boulder. They had La Marzocco Swift grinders and a Linea. The barista was friendly, and while chatting found she had some mixed feelings about the Swift. I was really impressed by the assortment of equipment they had. I felt a bit sheepish snapping too many pictures, but you can get an idea of the variety they had on display. They also had a Pasquini Livia and grinder combination, and a bunch of hand grinders (No Zassenhaus, but they looked like quality grinders- Peugeot, I believe)
Brewing Market  - Boulder, CO

Monday, August 21, 2006

Hill of Beans - Durant, IA

Hill of Beans - Durant, IA

I had read the post on coffeegeek about this shop opening, and heard Ray (excitableboy) call the portafilter.net skypecast podcast talking about the shop. I decided I would try to stop in, and it happened to coincide with the time when my wife and I needed some coffee and a place for the kids to go to the bathroom. It was just a short drive off of 80 and very worth it! I had a very nice espresso. They use Intelligentsia Black Cat, and a shiny La Spaziale machine. They also use the "chicago chop" levelling method, and I got a nice, proper-sized double. The seating area is bright and comfortable, I wish I had time to sit and hang out, but we had a lot more road to cover. It was an early stop on our trip, but it would turn out to be some of the best coffee we would have while we were away. If you are passing through- please stop by and see Theresa (I believe that is the owner's name)- support someone doing things right in eastern Iowa.

Hill of Beans - Durant, IA lounging area

Saturday, July 29, 2006

I have some 3 day old Harrar from Intelligentsia and I have been pulling shots. This morning I was inspired to add some milk. I have the splatters-o-shame around the edge, betraying the fact that the shot had some channeling. I don't mind that the latte 'art' is pretty pitiful- I enjoyed making it and drinking it!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Office coffee

Office coffee
Originally uploaded by pavasm.

sorry about the lo-res pic. I recently brought my Innova grinder to work since it is a bit more quiet than the Solis Maestro Plus. It is pretty loud in a quiet office, though. Yesterday the company president happened to walk by as I was grinder and he gave me quite a look! He walked away before I could offer him a cup of fresh pour-over drip. Maybe it is time to get a manual grinder.


Sent from my Treo

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Originally uploaded by pavasm.
Here is an unauthorized phone picture of the small
meet & greet Jim Schulman organized to coincide with
Andy Schecter's Chicago visit. Here Andy tries to
catch his breath from a visit to the Intelly roastery
while Jim makes lunch plans.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Not an espresso maker

Not an espresso maker
Originally uploaded by pavasm.

but the aeropress should make a nice travel brewer. I will not, however, be lugging the Cimbali grinder along


Sent from my Treo

Saturday, July 22, 2006

CoffeeHound exterior
This past week had the opportunity to visit Steve and April Fritzen at CoffeeHound in Bloomington, IL. It is a fabulous shop, and I have no doubt that has everything to do with Steve's passion for coffee.
Yes, they have top notch coffees (from Zoka), grinders and machines (Mazzer and La Marzocco, naturally)- but I think Steve and April's enthusiasm for what they are doing is what sets them apart. It is no real surprise that some of my favorite baristas at Intelligentsia in Chicago had previously worked at CoffeeHound.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Originally uploaded by pavasm.
I decided that rather than pay ~$50 for 1/2 lb of the beans of this the exclusive Hacienda La Esmeralda Jaramillo Especial, Panama coffee, I would pay ~$10 for a cup brewed on the Clover machine at Intelligentsia. That ensured that the grind, brew temp and time were ideal for the coffee. It was definitely a unique experience, wonderfully floral and fruity.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Trip to Venice, Italy
obligatory St Mark's Square shot
Well, my first impression of the coffee in Venice was that I as able to find a lot of sorta decent shots of espresso, but they were generally a bit long and hot for my tastes. I had better results when I started ordering 'une ristretto'. I definitely enjoyed the experience of bellying up to the bar to get a shot. I chatted with a very excellent gentleman who pulled me a shot on a gaggia commercial machine and we chatted a bit through the language barrier, and he was able to come up with excellent phrases to describe what he wanted to tell me , like, "the coffee listens to the humidity ". Or when he was saying if the coffee is not extracted under enough pressure it is "blah" with the associated facial and hand gestures, but, if the coffee has the right pressure it is good (to emphasize 'good' he drilled his finger into his cheek as he smiled, creating a dimple.)

Dosers were always full of ground coffee, one quick flick o the handle deposited 7g into the portafilter, the tamper built onto the grinder may have quickly tapped the coffee, then the pf was locked and the button was pushed (typically there was no flush) Most of the machines I saw were auto, heat exchanger machines.

The absolute best espresso experince I had was at Caffe del Doge, Rialto:
Caffe del Doge, Rialto

This was an extremely hardcore shop. Two semi-auto brasilia machines handle the common espresso orders- with their standard "red" blend (100% arabica, incidentally):
Bad Blurry pic of one of the Brasilia Semi-autos, Caffe del Doge, Rialto

The thing that blew me away, however was the fact that they also had 8 mazzer mini EEs set up with different coffees,
(1/2 of the) Single origin eespresso selection, Caffe del Doge, Rialto(1/2 of the) Single origin espresso offerings @ Caffe del Doge, Rialto
single origins, mostly, for use in espresso drinks to be pulled on the 3 group lever machine. Brasilia Lever Machine, Caffe del Doge, Rialto
This was the only situation where I saw true "grind per shot" being used.This was also the first place where I saw a hand tamper being used.
Blurry Pic of hand tamper, Caffe del Doge, RialtoAnother Tamper at Caffe del Doge, Rialto
To be fair, the grinders at CdD containing the standard blend also had a built-in tamper, but it was a piston affair, where the pf is supported on the grinder fork and the tamper can be pressed down.The baristas were very pro and happy to try and understand my questions. I gathered that: 7 grams is still understood as the magic dose for a single, though when they use the mini EE's they add a bit more. They also had no idea when the coffee was roasted, so I assume they don't have strict rules about only using coffee of a certain age.

If you want to find it, here are my best directions: Starting at the Rialto vaporetto stop (or if you have walked from Plaza San Marco), cross the bridge and turn left, so you are walking along the grand canal (the canal is on your left and shops and restaurants are on your right. Watch for the third alley on your right, the Calle dei Cinque (you won't see the name until you turn into the alley and look right). Down that long alley on the right side is the logo.Unassuming exterior, Caffe del Doge, Rialto

Our trip also brought us to Ljubljana, Slovenia. We had some good coffee there, my favorite was "Bar 2000", I wonder if it is roasted locally. I thought I saw a building with the same logo, but it was while we were driving through the night so my memory might be incorrect.
Hearty Breakfast in Ljubljana

While this is not coffee related, we also spent a bit of time in Croatia, where I got to try truffles- Yum!
Gnocchi with Truffles!
Truffle in Istria

The trip was a really excellent experience, but it is nice to return to the comforts of home
No place like home...

You can click on any of the pictures to bring you to my flickr page for larger versions of the pictures.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 15, 2006

expobar office control

expobar office control
Originally uploaded by pavasm.
Click on the picture to go to the Flickr page which has notes.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Machine Modifications

I want to try to list out anything I have done with the machine since I got it:
Replacing the steam tip (with the 2 hole 30 degree from www.espressoparts.com)
Replace the Hi-limit thermostat, and the wiring to it.
Replace pressurestat (the original Signal Lux microswitch failed)

Heating Element Replacement

Last Saturday I heard an odd ‘Click!’ in my kitchen. I found that the GFCI outlet that my Expobar Office Control was plugged into had tripped. Unable to reset it, I found that the breaker for that circuit had tripped as well. Once I reset both of them, I tried plugging in the espresso machine and turning it on. Everything seemed normal, except the thermometer that I use to monitor the boiler temp was indicating the boiler was not heating. I checked the hi-limit thermostat on top of the boiler: that was normal. I checked to make sure the pressurestat and associated relay were working- they also were normal. I emptied the boiler as much as possible- Since the boiler was not heating I had no steam pressure to force the water out of the hot water outlet, so I opened both the water valve and steam valves, held the vacuum breaker closed and blew in the steam wand to force out the water. I removed the bottom panel and tried to measure the resistance of the heating element, but it read as an open circuit- Bingo!

On Monday I called Bill at
www.espressomachineparts.com and ordered a new heating element along with some new group gaskets and dispersion screw. It was a very reasonable price (the element was literally half the price I was quoted at another source), excellent service, and I got the parts via ups on Wednesday.

To remove the element I needed to bring the boiler down past the frame of the machine, which meant I disconnected the tubes that feed the group (at the backside of the group) and disconnected the hot water and steam valves. I didn't disassemble any more because I didn't want to mess with the pump and wiring at this point. THe tricky part with all these fittings in getting enough leverage to get them to turn. I wedged the handle of some channellock pliers between two other fittings to get the element to start. The inside looked pretty clean, which was encouraging since I don't descale very often, I just drain the boiler and refill with new distilled water each week.
Dead element:
Best picture I could get inside the boiler:

The level probe is at the top, and the heat exchanger is the pipe running through the boiler at the upper right. The other openings at the top are for the vacuum breaker, and the steam wand/pressurestat line.

I got so excited when the element arrived I didn't take pictures before screwing that puppy in!

After reassembling everything, it took two trial start-ups before I got everything tightened up with no leaks, but it was back in service Friday morning.