Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Thoughts about cruise ship coffee

Well, just got back to my espresso machine and grinder. It had been a long four days of less-than-stellar coffee on a Western Caribbean cruise with Celebrity. I brought an Aeropress to help ease the pain, and managed to make it through.

How is it that a ship's executive chefs can offer five-star dining, but lousy shots of espresso that average 90-second extractions from dosers full of stale coffee? I lost count of how many time the same pitcher of milk was resteamed. How is it that such poor quality control merits $4.00 plus 15% mandatory gratuity? Ridiculous!

My word of advice on the matter: do yourself a favor and bring a grinder, press/cone/aeropress, and fresh coffee with you if you have to cruise. I had to sacrifice bringing a sweater and a pair of tennis shoes to do so, but it was ultimately worth it to have a proper cup of coffee with breakfast.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Budget Proposal

So...along with becoming an official club comes monetary needs. So far, I've covered these, using part of my earnings from tutoring on campus (keep it in the family). Well, I added it all up, and yea, it's cost me a bit, money I would probably have rather allocated toward beer. So I'm writing today to announce that we are asking Student Government for money for school year 09-10.

Added all up, we're requesting a budget of $380.50 to cover the cost of coffee, cups, cream & sugar (I know....), and equipment purchases. Long gone, hopefully, will be the days of bankrolling the club and carrying all of my coffee equipment across campus.

Everybody wish us luck, and if you want to help us get funded, please write a brief letter of your support to the Student Government. Lets get the money that other clubs let go to waste!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Cupping Club is OFFICIAL!

Hey y'all, just figured I'd let the world know that Florida Atlantic University now has an official student organization dedicated to appreciating coffee: The Cupping Club. So far, we have had two meetings, with a third scheduled for Monday, October 13th, at 4pm in the Burrow.

So far, we have tasted the following, in order, Sumatra Grade One Mandeheling, Panama Carmen Estate 1800+ meters, Ethiopia DP Harar M.A.O. Horse, and Ethiopia Korate wet-process.

At our next meeting, I have an exciting tasting planned: high-quality robusta from Panama v. the Panama Carmen Estate. Time to see whether high-quality caffea cantephora deserves the same reputation as the ultra-cheap, and super-prevalent Vietnamese Robusta.

See you there.

Last meeting:

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Coffee on the Home Front

Well, it's finally happened, the espresso upgrade bug has bitten. A few weeks back, I contracted the upgrade fever. In the past, I was able to avoid upgrading my espresso set-up by exploring other brewing methods, pour-over drip and vac pot, and by focusing on my roasting. However, I knew all along that I was just delaying the inevitable. Thanks to the release of a weak-dollar fortified, American-made espresso machine, the Salvatore One Black, I will soon have an appropriate E61 machine (two more weeks). Also, thanks to fortuitous timing on the CoffeeGeek buy, sell, trade forum, I now own a second-hand La Cimbali Jr. commercial espresso grinder.

These photos are borrowed from, and, respectively. I will provide my own photos once I obtain a decent camera.

Update: La Cimbali Jr. arrived safe and sound last week, and is now a productive member of the Cafe del Dormio espresso bar. Baratza Virtuoso has been transfered to the drip bar/travel grinder department.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Jupiter Environmental Laboratories, Inc.

So, I'm not doing what I originally planned for Summer 2008. Earlier in the year, I had hoped to work for a roastery, or a flavored syrup manufacturer. Neither of those possibilities worked out, so I'm here at my back-up internship, Jupiter Labs. Not to say this is at all a bad thing, as it still passes the Test. What is the Test? The Test is a question I ask of myself before making any major life decision: "does (or can) it relate to coffee?" Fortunately for JEL and me, the answer is YES. I suppose learning how to test soil and water for environmental contamination, nutrients, and quality could easily be applied to working with coffee growers at origin in the future. Hooray!
As far as coffee goes at JEL, it's in a sad state. A dirty Gevalia auto-drip and a big can of "100% Colombia Supremo" pre-ground. But I can't blame the lab, it's just part of being in South Florida. If only there were a Volta around here. The first step in coffee improvement was to bring in the 30 oz., Bodum Bistro pour-over, and a refurb Baratza Maestro grinder, and a Bodum Mini-Ibis kettle. What a great combination! So far at the lab, we have enjoyed fresh-roasted coffee from all over Latin America, most recently an El Salvador and a couple of Hondurans.

So far, the initiative seems to be working, with many co-workers appreciating the coffee-brewing intern (really!). Unfortunately, most of the staff does not seem to be afternoon coffee drinkers, but I am working to change that. JEL may soon have a Coffee Snobs cold brewing tower.

I promise, pictures of the JEL coffee lab and Ugly Mug will be showing up at some point, weather permitting.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Coffee Domination Visits The Ugly Mug in Ypsilanti, MI

No, I'm not talking about a relative. I'm talking about the Ugly Mug coffeeshop in Ypsi (ip-see). This is a shop I've wanted to visit for some time now, since usually visiting relatives in Michigan is a coffee-deprived experience. Not so this time! On Saturday, May 24th, we rolled in to the Ugly Mug, and were greeted by Jim and Ethan, two great characters in coffee. Lucky for us, we managed to catch Jim on his last shift ever, before he opens his own shop in Ann Arbor.

We made brief talk about Coffee Domination, and SCAA Minn., and the Baratza Vario, then got down to business, drinking coffee. I started out with a double espresso, the usual, except this one was pulled triple ristretto on a beautiful Synesso, of the Ugly Mug's own in-house roasted espresso. My accessories to my visit (parents) had a latte and a cappuccino (both presented well, not too hot, and with the obligatory latte art). The Ugly Mug's espresso blend had the desired chocolate tones in milk, without too much pungency, probably attributable to the lighter roasted espresso waiting in the grinder.

After espresso, we pressed a coffee I had brought, a home-roasted Costa Rica Naranjo Peaberry, in Ethan's Ikea-sourced $5 press pot. It turned out fairly well, but the cup was a little chalky and sour, which Jim attibuted to the aging Bunn grinder. Overall, however, a fun experience. Jim sent me home with a sample of Ugly Mug's Ethiopian something-or-another (sorry to forget) that I pressed today: Excellent: highly floral with a muted acidity, somewhat strange for my usual Ethiopian expectations of bright and citrusy. Almost Guatemalan in profile. Alright, enough words for now, will post pictures later.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Day 5: Last Day of Coffee Domination: Palm Coast Coffee on St. Simon's Island

Well, here we are, the last day of our Southeast Coffee Domination Tour 2008. And the coffee sucks. I mean really sucks. As in, I've experienced better coffee at Starbucks. Their ad says "great espresso, nothing automatic," but as I have observed many times in the past, some shops are better off going automatic. I'll try to help while I'm here, if I can just cover the basics: grind before brewing, knock out portafilter, wipe steam wands. As the Boy Scouts preach, leave a place better than you found it.

I assume the biggest problem with the place is the tourist base. No accountability with the shop's customer base. Also, no other coffee shops on the island, so no competition. Atmosphere is nice, however, sunny and upbeat, with a great rustic, southern-island feel.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Day 4: Coffee Domination in the Greater Charlotte Area

Today, I met up with Jason from Dilworth. As the espresso specialist (among other things), Jason knew of all the best shops to visit. He even drove us in his Mini Cooper S. I want one when I graduate: fun to drive, fuel efficient, and comfy.

At the Dilworth roastery, we got a tour of the equipment, met Sandy, the President, and got to try their SO espresso. Jason had to dial in all of the grinders, which was fun to watch, but probably not much fun for him. After dialing in the grind, we had a couple of lattes, and tried Jason's signature drink; it was Great. I can't wait to start working on my green tea and chocolate espresso signature drink.

After the roastery, we visited nearby JavaPassage. The owner was very friendly, and had a nice La Marzocco that would match my Taurus wagon. However, the store did not have ceramic cups and my double of Tuscano was on the thin side. I worry that the shop is not grinding fresh for each shot.

Following JavaPassage, we hit up the Dilworth CoffeeHouse on East Broadway, the store I grew up going to. I had a double ristretto wet macchiato, the Picolo, my mom had a Mocha Bananas Foster, and Jason had Lemon Green Tea.

From there, it was on to Cupps, a place in Rock Hill, serving Intelligentsia. I had a double of Black Cat, and finally realized that I haven't been pulling such bad shot at home until just recently. I will now order new burrs for the Virtuoso, and see if that doesn't make things better.

From Cupps, we went to visit Brady at The Coffee Garden. Brady graciouly served up a double with a glass of water. He must be on his way to competitions. The shop was beautiful with a nicely-restored Astoria 3-group.
Lastly, for the day, we visited another Dilworth CoffeeHouse, but I can remember its name. The guy there knew Isiah from the DoubleShot, though. More proof of a small world in the coffee industry. I'll update the post with location of the shop and at least one photo.
Good night.

Catching up: Day 3.5 Dripolater in Asheville

Alright, so we went to Izzy's. Maybe it works for them, but just a little too much attitude for me. I'm probably just not counter-culture enough. Oh well. Fortunately, Liz, the nice barista from last night, recommended a place just about a mile away, the Dripolater.

Well, we got there, and I have to admit, I was a little burned-0ut from Izzy's. That changed right away, however, when I introduced myself to Jay, the owner and one of many baristas (or baristi, for my Italian friends reading this blog). Jay was extremely nice and welcoming, and started me off with a great double espresso. Strangely enough, I am learning through this tour that, at least when visiting good shops, espresso tastes more alike than different. This shot was not Tuscano (finally non-counter culture), instead, Dripolater sourced Larry's Beans, a roaster also in the Raleigh/Durham area.

After downing the shot, and chatting a little more, I fetched the vaccuum pot to do some demonstrations. I brewed a pot of the Washed Yirgacheffe Misty Valley from Crema Roasters, and then a pot of Papau New Guinea Kuta. Both coffees came out really well and were quite a hit for Dripolater employees and customers alike. I had a good time briefly explaining the history and science behind vac pot coffee.

After vaccuum brewing, we had a great lunch, prepared by a full-on chef on location. I had a tempah reuben samwich, and my mom had the special, a salad with poached salmon. Delicious. Dripolater has managed to serve both the interests of food and coffee, without sacrifice in either. We left Dripolater full, happy, and well-caffeinated. On my way out, I decided to make peace with Dripolater's wire guardian.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Coffee Domination is Hard Work

The title says it all. Going to bed late, getting up early, that's a vacation. Well, I'm going to get some shut-eye, and tomorrow, I'll tell you all about the Dripolater, and show you wonderful pictures. Tomorrow, I'll be meeting Jason from Dilworth to check out the Charlotte scene.

Day 3: Izzy's Coffee Den in Asheville

Hello all loyal readers. We are stationed currently at Izzy's Coffee Den in downtown Asheville. Liz pulled a clopen and is our barista this morning. Izzy's is the place to go if you'd like an everything bagel with your coffee (they actually have everything on BOTH sides of the bagel, amazing). Liz pulls shots of Counter Culture's Tuscano off of a two-group Astoria, with a Astoria-badged Mazzer. The craziest feature of all is the unique tamping stand/tamper holder, made from PVC and iron pipe. Of all the coffee shops visited so far, Izzy's is by far the busiest, just booking on a Tuesday morning, all the way till 11 am. It's a bit quieter now, so I'll try to snap some photos, no promises, though.

Fortunately, this shop is also the first to offer shirts. I'll try to get one in my size. Side note: some crazy artwork, focusing on cows. I guess they're big about milk around here. By the taste of the latte, they're sourcing some good stuff.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Whynatte

Yea, I forgot to tell y'all about the Whynatte, the drink you see featured on my shirt in a few photos. The Whynatte is an accessory to my coffee domination tour. Its the latest after-hours coffee drink to sweep the nation, and I'm bringing it to the Southeast, well, I'm helping spread word.

So, what is the Whynatte? Let's just say, it's a drink of contradictions. Hot and cold, milk and licorice, stimulant and depressant (more on that). So, you may ask, what is in the Whynatte? It's a hot latte, not too hot, bombed with a "colder than ice" shot of Jaegermeister. It's even an official Jaeger drink, featured on their website.

For more on the Whynatte, see

Remember, always drink responsibily, use fresh coffee and fresh milk.

Day 2: In Asheville, will Coffee Dominate Tomorrow

Well, we didn't make it to Brew and Ewe. It rained, what can I say? I did pick up a half-pound of Crema wet-processed Ethiopian Misty Valley, in the spirit of all things Ethiopian at the SCAA conference. We got to enjoy a great Indian meal at Mela in Asheville, as recommended by a customer at Coffee and Crema.

Funny enough, Mela was just up the street from Izzy's Coffee Den. We dropped by and chatted with Liz (no coffee after 4 pm for me), who was relieved to hear that there ARE coffee lovers in South Florida. I am now known as the Traveling CoffeeGeek. I've been called worse. Anyways, Liz gave me Mary's (at the Asheville Counter Culture Training Lab) number, so we'll try to drop by there tomorrow. Hopefully, I'll get some time on the machines to refresh my commercial machine skill, and keep the Barista Wisperer at bay. Tsss.

More coffee tomorrow at Izzy's. Wednesday, we'll visit Jason at Dilworth, and go from there.

Day 2: Coffee and Crema in Greenville

Shannon strikes a pose at Coffee and Crema (the Coffee Domination stance). Partially concealed behind him is a super-awesome Faema E61 Legend that pulls amazing shots of single-origin is espresso. Today's featured coffee was Papau New Guinea from North Carolina's Crema Roasters. I got to show off my Behmor 1600 Home Coffee Roaster, though Belks wasn't exactly encouraging us to roast indoors. 5:07 pm update: customer declares "perfect latte." Next stop: Brew and Ewe in downtown Greenville.

Day 2: Octane Coffee in Atlanta

I'm here now at Octane, enjoying some sweet shots of CounterCulture and a press of Sumatra Gayo Aceh. It's all good. The cinnamon twist sticks are amazing (a great pairing with the thick body and subtle spiciness of the Sumatra). From here, we'll be hitting up Coffee and Crema in Greenville, and maybe West End Coffee Roasters. More coffee stuff: we also had a press of Biloya (spelling?) Natural (Ethiopian, in spirit of the SCAA convention), and a "Shakaroo," the "barista's whim" drink prepared by Charro. Charro also highly recommends the CoffeeMaker, made famous by Murky Coffee in D.C. Speaking of Murky, how 'bout that dynamic duo at the SCAA, emcees Nick Cho and James Hoffmann?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Day 1 of Southeast Coffee Domination Tour 2008

Today was Volta Coffee. The first qualified coffee shop in Florida. Anthony took good care of us with Clover coffee, Intelly Black Cat espresso, lattes, sipping chocolate, and some great eating chocolate. I contributed a vaccuum pot demonstration. I'll send Anthony some complimentary coffee when I get back, maybe a Whynatte sticker, too. The layout of Volta was awesome, and the equipment was even better, with Clover, a GS/5, Mazzer Robar, and sinks galore!

After Volta, we continued on to Atlanta, but not without stumbling on Old Coffee Road. It was a pretty run down area, coincidence? The sign even says, "STOP Old Coffee." Look like FDOT is looking for a little help with coffee domination. Remember kids, always roast fresh, grind fresh, and brew fresh, or you'll end up in a run-down motel on a street called Old Coffee. Oh yea, and don't forget to share the coffee love.