Saturday, December 22, 2007
(click any picture for the larger version)
So I had my three boys (11,9,almost 4)with me at the Museum of Science and Industry this morning (Star Wars exhibit). I have been itching to go visit The Coffee Studio up in Andersonville, and while the museum is nowhere near the shop, I figured, they’re both sorta close to Lake Shore Drive. We parked at the nearby McDonalds, bought some kid-pacifying burgers and brought them into the shop (not the classiest move, but I hoped eating would keep some busy hands occupied).
My plan was to try an espresso before I introduced myself. I mean, I’ve been following (and posting comments to) the shop’s blog for a while now, but I had this fear- What if I was disappointed in the coffee? It has happened at other places, and in those cases it would have been better to be an anonymous customer. I also had the thought, what if my kids trash the place? It would be better to be less trackable :)
Well, that was foiled right away, Lee recognized me (and the kids in tow helped give it away). I was a little shocked to be recognized, that threw me off a bit. My mind was quickly put at ease when I tried the espresso- it was really great! Phew.
The space is bright and inviting, you just get this feeling everything was well thought out (stands to reason, coming from two designers). The low counter seems to encourage interaction with the barista. The Synesso machine is nicely visible for people (like me) who love shiny
I didn’t get to investigate all of the décor, I was excited to talk to Lee and Miguel, and try to keep the kids from breaking anything. I believe there were coffee origin pictures and some info on the process of getting coffee from the tree to your cup. The stuff for sale on the shelves is what you would want people to use to prepare good coffee (chemex and eva solo brewers, baratza burr grinders,)
It is very cool to see owners that are so into the coffee. I think this placewill be introducing a lot of people in the neighborhood to a really high level of coffee quality. Definitely visit this shop.
Monday, November 05, 2007
I guess I should start with a picture of a macchiato from the weekend.
It is one of the better ones (taste) I have made, but for the record, I have never had a macchiato that has topped the first one I had made by Kara at intelligentsia.
This was my birthday weekend. I have been celebrating by treating myself to self-indulgent treats. Friday I picked up a Bacon Chocolate bar made by Vosges. Tasted in small doses I really enjoy the smoky-salt-sweet-bitter combo, but it isn"t something that I would grab ten times a day like the leftover halloween candy. I think I was expecting the bacon fat to come through some more, but maybe it doesn't play well with cocoa butter.
This past week I also got myself a couple new footbags (hacky sacks) . My 8 yr old had found one of my old ones a while back so it rekindled an interest for me. It didn't take long for my favorite one to get misplaced, so I had to check out what's new in the world of footbags. It turns out a lot has changed since I killed time between (or instead of) classes in college. Leather is not used much any more, synthetics are already pre-broken in, and sand is a popular fill. The new bags are pretty nice, but I was quite pleased when my classic old one tuned up in the flower bed. So trying to imagine I am as agile and flexible as I was half a lifetime ago? That sounds like a 37th birthday "crisis"!
Another food indulgence has been the boxes of Mallomars brought back from NY by accomodating in-laws. I am really loving those things- maybe it would be different if they were more commonly available here, but for the moment they taste even better since they are "exotic".
I had to start my Sunday with a real heath-defiant, see-if-I-make-it-to-my-next-birthday breakfast: funnel cakes!
The big birthday celebratory event was driving out to the buffalo rock shooting range. I brought a couple of buddies, met up with a couple out there, and spent the majority of the day blasting away.
I don't get the opportunity to shoot very often, and an outdoor range where rapid fire is allowed is even better. We even got the chance to break some clay pigeons with shotguns.
It's a break-barrel single shot 20 gauge- not very intimidating, but each time I pop a shell in and snap it closed I always want to say, "groovy!" a la Bruce Campbell(evil dead 2)
So all in all, I really had a good weekend.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Man bag (notcoffee)
Originally uploaded by pavasm.
A while ago i posted on coffeegeek asking what sort of man purse folks were using. I recently got a new Timbuk2 bag, and I love it. It's the messenger classic small, and it holds just the right amount of stuff. Thanks to Larry (previously of rocket coffee roasters) for touting the Timbuk2 bags (a long time ago).
Monday, September 10, 2007
crude grinder timer
Originally uploaded by pavasm.
This was a weekend of little espresso projects. I ordered parts from McMaster Carr to cobble together this little grinder timer. The red button will grind for the time set by the dial, the black button will grind as long as the buttton is held. The range is 0.1-10 sec. I was thinking this will help me waste less as I experiment with smaller-dose espressos.
I also replaced the brew group valve on my Gaggia Carezza (former backup machine- probably going to a family member). I sheared the head off of the 1/2" hex "bolt" part when I was cleaning it up.
Lastly, I stuck a thermocouple probe on the boiler of the Starbucks Barista machine (new backup machine). I wedged it in under the thermal fuse. So far I saw the temps at that point range from 190-210F while the green 'ready" light is on. The temperatures swing back and forth pretty slowly at rest (as opposed to the temps I measured on the outside of the Gaggia boiler)- maybe due to the fact that it is a larger mass of water in the larger Starbucks boiler.
Friday, September 07, 2007
I first remember hearing about the connection between coffee and clothing on one of the Portafilter.net podcasts. Notoriously snazzy dresser Daryn Berlin (of Counterculture Coffee) said (something to the effect of) his wardrobe evolved it's hipness because he would wander into clothing shops that were usually near the cafes he visited for work. Phil (peaberry picker) documented this phenomenon here.
Now Ben (chemically imbalanced) noted that the impending arrival of H&M to Atlanta should certainly bring more worthwhile coffee to the area.
I don't really know what to make of this. All I know is that a very short block away from the Monadnock Intelligentsia, you can shop here:
and buy stuff like this:
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Originally uploaded by pavasm.
I went without espresso for 10 days on a recent roadtrip (chicago-mammoth cave-smoky mountains-isle of palms).
Thankfully, I was able to route through Greenville SC on the way back to break my espresso-less streak at Coffee & Crema. I had a very good double shot of CCC's 5 countries blend (guest espresso) and a macchiato. I will definitely return to try and fill up my punch card if I am in the area again, I would love to try the SO Yirg that is the normal espresso there. It was a bit eerie when Shannon knew my name from reading posts on coffeed.
My mornings on the roadtrip were brightened by the chemex I packed along with a grinder and a pound each of Intelligentsia Yirgacheffe and Solstice Blend.
Our afternoon coffee break was typically Starbucks- a lifesaver when travelling, when you want some brewed coffee that is not dreadfully underdosed. The GPS unit and smartphone helped us locate *$ when they weren't visible from the highway.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Test print 2
Originally uploaded by pavasm.
I finally set up the cafepress shop to produce these shirts. www.cafepress.com/smallcoffee
If you want to buy one, you'd be helping me cover the cost of sending a few to Peter (his request in return for permission to print the shirts).
Try googling "cafepress coupon code" and you might be able to save a few bucks.
If there is a different color or something you'd like, just email me and I will see if I can set it up. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Monday, June 11, 2007
Originally uploaded by pavasm.
So we recently got a Prius. So far we are really loving the car. There is something aesthetically pleasing , engineering-wise, about watching the display as the energy is swapped between chemical (gasoline), kinetic, and electric.
As I understand it, the battery pack is about 200VDC. The internal combustion engine charges the battery pack. I saw some guy made use of this to have his prius serve as a UPS for his house while it is parked in the driveway.
I was thinkin, you could probably rig an espresso machine to run on 200VDC (especially a lever machine). That would be a really cool way to make espresso at a farmers market.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Friday, June 01, 2007
Lunch today consisted of the Extreme Beef and Cheese Quesadilla combo from Taco Bell. Very cheesey. A lot of food for $3.63. What do you chase such a repast with? A cup of coffee that costs twice as much as the meal, of course!
I wanted to try this exclusive and highly regarded coffee, but wasn't about to drop over $30 for a half-pound. I mean, I am not confident in my brewing skills to believe I would be coaxing the nuances out of the coffee. That's why I am so glad the Monadnock Intelly now has a Clover! I ordered the 12 oz ($7+tax). This Clover is much more visible than the Millennium Park one, so it was cool to watch my coffee brewing (and what is it that makes the squeegee at the end look so satisfying?).
My first few sips- very clean, sweet… "what is so special about this again?" Wait a minute, a few more sips- it really started to show off different flavors. I could definitely see why people use descriptors like 'silky' or 'creamy'. The subtle fruit and creamy texture made me think of a dreamsicle- maybe not what they actually taste like, more like what they should taste like. By the end of the cup I was really glad I had gotten a chance to try this classy and refined coffee.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
So I stopped by Intelligentsia today, ready to plop down my $8 for a cup of the Brazil COE 3rd place coffee, lovingly extracted by the shiny, new, up-close and personal Clover brewer. My plans were derailed when I saw that the lovely and talented Amber Sather was working the espresso machine. Since Amber was the barista who (a few months ago) prepared the best shot of espresso I have ever experienced, I decided I would have to have espresso. It was excellent, of course. I also got a chance to see a sign posted alerting me to upcoming Signature Drink Days, one at each location http://intelligentsiacoffee.com/retail/monadnock/05-30-2007 I am really excited by this, I will have to sneak away from work to give them a try. The only other signature drink I have ever tasted was Steve Fritzen's from 2006, he gave me a sneak preview before the 2006 GLRBC.
Here are video clips of Amber and Matt at the 2007 GLRBC:
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Until last Friday, I don't think I have ever ordered an espresso macchiato. I have long known what it was, and even made them at home occasionally (usually to palate an inferior shot, if I am not inclined to re-pull). Friday lunchtime I was near the Monadnock Intelligentsia, so I decided to try something different (i usually just have espresso).
Holy crap! it was fantastic! I really like the cup, bowl shape, probably about 3oz capacity. The barista poured a nice heart. It tasted like someone had figured out a way to turn crema into butter. All the flavor of the espresso came through and it just had this really creamy mouthfeel.
(Note- the picture was not of THE drink I posted this about. It is from the one I got today, to get a picture of the cup)
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Originally uploaded by pavasm.
I think my pstat is starting to go. About a year ago the original pstat on my machine (Signal Lux) failed. The boiler temp ran away and tripped the high-limit thermostat. I replaced the pressurestat and the thermostat. I took the Signal Lux stat apart, and found the contacts were pretty toasted. I found that the full heating element amperage was running through the stat, which I believe is not rated for 10+ amps. When I put in the replacement Mater stat I also added a relay, so that the full amps do not run through the stat. I also strapped a thermometer probe to the boiler so I would be able to keep an eye on the boiler temp if it changed over time. Well, now that is apparently happening. The temp used to happily idle around 214F. Now it does upon initial warmup (up to an hour or so), but after shots are pulled, the temp climbs up to about 218F. From some forum research, it appears the exposure to the steam on the pstat line evantually degrades the stat (or maybe it is some sort of scale in the line). When I originally replaced the pstat I vowed to switch over to some sort of digital control (PID) if the replacement went. I think the time has come. I also wanted to try adding a dimmer to the pump wiring so that I could control the pressure of the vibe pump, and I thought I could use the same enclosure as the PID/SSR.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Okay, not really betting. I was thinking that would be cool, but the logistics and legality were deterring factors. Instead, I posted an appeal to coffeed.com asking for folks to email predictions of the final six baristas, and the top 3 spots to email@example.com
I figured people would send predictions if they knew that it would be kept anonymous (heck, it is really easy to get an anonymous email address these days).
I haven't gotten much of a response yet (please help!).
Next year maybe I can figure out some sort of prize to motivate people to put a prediction on record.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Exposed brick, tin ceilings, bottomless portafilters and short shots. These are some of the impressions that really stick with me from my NYC trip.
There is something really special about a place where there are a variety of shops staffed with people really interested in good coffee. It was cool to talk to a barista at one shop and, once they knew I was a visiting coffee geek, have them enthusiastically recommend I check out other shops. That is the sort of 'coffee community' that you don't get in very many places.
Cafe Grumpy (Chelsea)
I think this would have to be my favorite place that I tried. I think they did a great job maximizing the space, and the fact that is is so narrow with a low counter puts you up close and personal with the baristas. That was nice because I was able to get recommendations for other shops I needed to check out. It was very cool that I could choose espresso made with Counter Culture Coffee or Ecco Cafe beans (I chose both, naturally!). If I went there again I would want to see the Clovers in action, since they are right where you can watch the whole process. I was very excited to watch and taste espresso made with a Synesso. My shots were very dense, incredible mouthfeel. When I got the second espresso (CCC Toscano), the barista (Nick) tasted several test shots first to make sure the different blend was dialed in.
My wife's capp was very good, but she felt the short shots made it taste less strong than she is used to. I think she might like a macchiato.
Cafe Collage (Greenwich Village)
This was one of the recommended places from the guys at Grumpy. They also use a Synesso, and all of their Cappuccinos are the 'traditional' size (as opposed to places that offer both the "american" version and "traditional")
Ninth Street Espresso (union square)
Excellent espresso (CCC Toscano)- didn't get the barista's name, but he was very into it.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
I picked one up at a garage sale like 15 years ago, but let it get thrown away when my parents moved. Recently I got the hankerin to use one again, so I picked one up at Intelligentsia. I don't really use it, though.
I should explain my afternoon coffee routine.
After lunch, I measure out enough beans for 6 cups of coffee, put them in my Solis Maestro Plus grinder, and head out into the hall.
There is an outlet there, and I used to feel self-conscious that my grinding noise would disturb those around me. I am much more relaxed grinding in the hall. Keith (the guy with the desk next to mine) brings the melitta express kettle to the pantry and fills it with water. I use a melitta cone brewer to brew the coffee. I pour myself a cup , then pass the coffee pot to Keith. He pours himself a cup and passes the pot along to his brother, who finishes off the pot. The person who finishes the pot then brings it to the pantry to rinse it out.
Which brings me back to my new Chemex. It took me a long time to rationalize buying the new brewer, and breakage was one of my main concerns. I mean, it's one thing to break a garage sale find, but I thought it would be too painful to break one that I bought new.
Enter the Improvised Chemex.
I just took a big funnel and cut off the bottom. I found the flow rate depends on how much of the tip of the cone is exposed, so I tried to match the opening of the Chemex as close as I could. It sits pretty securely in the melitta pot. I am really liking the coffee, and I don’t mind the cheap coffee pot being passed through 3 or 4 sets of hands each day.
I have come to realize I really enjoy the ritual of sharing good coffee with my friends at work each day, and I didn't want to have any reason to be uptight about it.
I still have the real Chemex, maybe I will bring it home for special (non-espresso) occasions.
Friday, February 02, 2007
The other morning on WBEZ I heard a short essay about the upcoming superbowl. As the peice ended, "The Superbowl Shuffle" was the transition music. The CPR host (Jason Derose, I believe) remarked, "Ah, the Superbowl Shuffle. I'm sure we will be hearing that ad infinitum and ad nauseum before Sunday."
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Originally uploaded by pavasm.
A building near my office recently opened a coffee kiosk in the lobby. I had never seen this use of "Golden Cup" as a marketing device. I tried an espresso, I didn't like it. I asked for a single, and it was served in a 12 oz paper cup (the smallest they had). It was about 4 oz of strong, bitter coffee, with little to no crema. When the barista was pulling my shot I asked where their beans came from, but she didn't know.
Monday, January 29, 2007
(picture from our Venice trip last July)
I only had enough beans to pull one double this morning. I gave it to my wife. These are the kinds of sacrifices you make when you're truly in love. My advice to any other guys that might find themselves in this situation, however- Make the sacrifice without making a big deal about it. Otherwise you might get "reminded" that she sacrificed when she gave birth to 4 of your children, and there isn't much to counter that argument.
Happy 12th Anniversary!