Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Feelgood Story ...

Armed with a new charger for my camera, I wanted to post a quick reflection on three events that happened this week.

1. Biscuits?!

One of my regular customers brought in a bunch of biscuits for me, made using some coffee that I had roasted for her the week before. Note the exquisite work with the piping nozzle. (The textbook is pretty good, too.)

2. Catastrophe!

For some reason, I came home to find puddles of water all over my espresso bench, including all around my tampers. This stuff sometimes happens in a shared household. It only took a minute to clean up, but I realised that the handle of this tamper had rotted so that it no longer gripped the threads of the bolt.

Whilst I don't use this tamper any more, it still has a lot of sentimental value. I bought it from Greg years ago when I bought my first espresso machine and grinder combo. Back then, the tampers came with a really long handle, the idea being that you could grab it in your fist. The base was also just a well machined circle of stainless steel. The tamper traveled back and forth between Greg and I as various modifications were made. The first was cutting down the original Jarrah handle. In hindsight, we probably went too short. It didn't take too long until I met up with Greg in Adelaide and he showed me a zany new type of handle - I had to buy it and switched over to it straight away. I can't remember exactly what happened with the base, but at some stage I ended up with a version with the lines that I wished for in my review and the partly chamfered base that Greg Kaan suggested. Of course, along the way it has also been my pleasure to test out various tampers and designs that I'm bound to stay silent about.

Watching Greg's tamper and his business evolve has been a lot of fun. The tamper will continue to occupy a special place in my collection.

3. Syphon

In the photo; Syphon brought back from Japan for me by Pete, cup brought back from Sri Lanka by Nim and copious amounts of advice from the Barismoids.

I have met a lot of very nice people in coffee and I shall miss them very much when (if?) I leave it.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Sydney - Aroma Festival, Cafes and a Melbournite's POV (part 2)

My last post on Sydney promised a second part. Now that I sit down to type it up, I'm surprised by how little I have to say ... I'll also warn everyone that this is probably just going to be a rather uninteresting list of things that happened, more just so that I don't forget it than anything else. I also only recently recovered the charger for my camera, so no photos. All of this means that I'm not even going to pretend that this entry will be up to my usual lofty standards. So bail out, while you still can!

Faithful readers will recall that I was recently up in Sydney for the Aroma coffee festival. The idea was to relax, kick back and enjoy the latte art competition, so I turned up on the day with the three lovely people who had graciously lent me their couch over the weekend. The weather outside was unappealing, as were all of the stands, so we made our way to the latte art comp and I scabbed a few coffees for us from Corinne, the first ever Australian barista champ. The comp itself was surprisingly packed and I was distracted by a multitude of lovely people from around Australia, who I caught up with in five minute snippets. My friends and I stayed to watch Reuben from Mecca compete; his stuff looked great, but not brilliant, and I later found out that he lost to Tristan from Dalla Corte.

After leaving the barista comp a few minutes through, it was time to wander around without responsibilities and enjoy myself. We detoured over to the ECA stand and scabbed another round of coffees from Chris, then my friends bounced off to their meeting, leaving me to wander over to the Di Bartoli stand and check things out. It was great to finally meet Renzo in person and pleasantly surprising to see Aaron confidently demonstrating the Rancilio machine packages to everyone. I had sold Aaron my Silvia/Rocky package second-hand only a year ago!

Of course, it was inevitable that I would get sucked in to scoping out gear. Renzo and I played around with the Ascaso i-Mini, which is to say that we took a look at it and I pulled a single shot off it and the expobar machine that was around. Amazingly, that single shot was one of the best this trip - second only to the shots that Rube had pulled me at Mecca! This little grinder is certainly going to be a thorn in the side of honest espresso equipment retailers - I don't think that anyone can seriously contend that the more expensive domestic grinders produce a better shot, though they are superior in practically every other way. None of the new prosumer espresso machines impressed, which was disappointing because we had sold out of all of our prosumer machines at work. Still, better to sell nothing than risk selling something that we don't know about, I guess. That said, I'm not going to completely dismiss everything from two minutes' use, particularly not at a coffee festival. I also talked to Peter and Charles at ECA about their new stand-alone steam machine. This thing is basically a boiler with auto-fill and a steam wand, so I think that there's definitely a place in the market for it. It would be great for coffee carts, or busy cafes that have two benches meeting at right-angles; have one person stand at the corner pouring drinks and handing out coffee, have a barista making shots and pass them towards the corner and then on the other side have another barista steaming milk on the steam machine and passing the jugs to the corner. Perhaps a niche market, but a good idea.

The coffeesnobs shoot-out at Di Bartoli drew a huge crowd. It looked like great fun, although, again, I absconded in order to say hi to still more people that geography has conspired to keep away from me ;P

Coffee was definitely a bit better than your average coffee festival. The best of the day awards go to the unexpected coffees. I'll toot my own horn and say that the random shot that I pulled won shot of the day ... which was a pity, because no-one had kept track of what coffee was in the i-Mini, so I couldn't buy any of it! The milk drink of the day award went to Zane, who randomly presented me with a short macchiato whilst I was locked in conversation at the ECA stand. (Sidebar; I'm terrible with names and had actually forgotten Zane's, so I'll come clean now and confess that I am not 100% sure that that is actually his name. But it's a pretty cool name, so I will bestow it on him from my lofty blog, anyway. I'd welcome corrections from the bloggosphere if I'm wrong. I'll also add a further confession, which makes the whole situation even more absurd - I was actually talking to a management academic about the importance of remembering peoples' names at the time!)

Anyhoo, I'll leave this poorly structured, quasi-incoherent and disinterested account there without even making an attempt to acknowledge any of the people who I met or talked to. Chances are that I'll forget a few names ;P

... and, with that, my moral obligation to fulfil my promise to provide a second part to this story is fulfilled.

Some somewhat relevant links:

Espresso Company Australia - formerly ECM Australia, but now stocking Vibiemme instead. And a nifty steam gadget. Home of Peter Cairis, espresso machine tweakologist to the max, and a bunch of other dudely dudes.

Di Bartoli - sellers of domestic espresso equipment. By the bucketload!

AASCA - AASCA. I don't know how else to explain it. Check out the webpage for competition results.

Forsyth Coffee - Rob Forsyth is the chairman of AASCA. This is his business. I mention it because I have never actually tasted his coffee, nor have I ever heard any discussion of his coffee. Has anyone tried it?

Brother Baba Budan

Just a quick note to let my readers know that I'm aware of this. I'll leave it to someone else to blow their cover. In the meantime, those of you that are scratching their heads might enjoy reading this next sentence for some background information.

Worshiped by both Hindus and Muslims, legend has it that Baba Budan was responsible for smuggling coffee seedlings out of Yemen.

That is all for now.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Hoff Wins WBC 2007 / Milking It For All It's Worth

Massive congratulations to James Hoffmann for winning this year's WBC. Be wowed by his genuine writing style and general coffee knowledge over at his blog or, better still, check out his incredible mastery of milk, right here:

... or you could check out video feed of his performance at zacharyzachary. Aspiring WBC competitors might want to continue the Hoffmannia by checking out an article that he wrote on one of his sinfully delicious signature drinks.

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