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Coffee at the Moment by Mark Prince
Recapping the Summer
Posted: September 14, 2008
Article rating: 8.2
feedback: (29) comments | read | write

With CoffeeFest just finishing up this weekend in Seattle, and me sitting in a cafe in Vancouver solely because the dogsitter I'd arranged for the loveable (yet dog-hating) Marzocco the Border Collie fell through, it seemed like as good a time as any to start writing the Coffee at the Moment column once again.

Barista Happenings

Well if you didn't know it by now, let me be the one to tell you - Stephen Morrissey is the 2008 World Barista Champion, scoring amazingly well in Copenhagen back in June. The videos are still available online for all the performances, first round as well as the finals, so you can see Stephen in both rounds.

You can also see your own country's representative, and many of the barista favourites. I'm particularly proud of Mike Yung, Canada's representative from Caffe Artigiano. Both is first round and final round presentations are online (he finished 3rd in the preliminaries), and here's how Yung did in the finals.

Mike Yung's Performance

There were some great techniques shown at this year's WBC. Morrisey's service of all four espresso cups and saucers without a tray (watch the vid to check it out) is a standout. Yung used a siphon coffee maker as part of his presentation, and it went well in the first round, but had a technical glitch in the finals.

Another standout for me was the barista from Thailand, Sirithai Rangjanthuek, who free-poured amazing swans in her latte art presentations to the sensory tasting judges. In the video below, you can see them at 7 mins in and 8:20 mins in.

I spoke to Carl Sara on a recent CoffeeGeek podcast and we talked about her and her great skill as a barista, representing both her country and that region of the world very well. Be sure to check out all the happenings at the U Stream website.

A little closer to home, the Western Canadian Regional Barista Championship took place, and Sammy Piccolo, fresh out of retirement, took top honours once again. Piccolo's won the Canadian Championships 3 times, and has never finished lower than 3rd at the World Barista Championships. You can catch Piccolo and all the other Canadian finalists and regional champions competing at the Canadian National Barista Championships, happening October 21 and 22 in Montreal this year.

Michelle Campbell and the WBC

Lastly, I have some rather sad news to report regarding the World Barista Championships - which, ironically enough, is related to very encouraging news.

The WBC has announced its new machine sponsors for the next few years (congrats to Mahlkonig and Nuova Simonelli!) and they're currently flush with funds, something fairly new for the organization. As a result, the WBC is planning on hiring its first full time staff (I know, I know), including a possible Executive Director and possibly other staff.

That is great news - it means potentially much better communication and logistics from the organizing body down the road. So why is it also sad news? Well, it means Michelle Campbell, a stalwart of the last six WBCs, and the person who's literally pulled the WBC's butt out of several fires at times, is no longer the main organizer for the competition.

She wasn't fired though - it's more complicated than that. I contacted Cynthia Chang, the WBC's Chairperson, and she explained the situation more fully. It comes down to the fact that up until this year's competition, the WBC contracted the SCAA to provide a coordinator to run the competition. Michelle Campbell has been that person (under SCAA employ) for several years. As Chang put it,

"The WBC board's decision to not renew the agreement for this year was in no way influenced by our opinion of Michelle's abilities or dedication to the organization."

Chang also stated, "The position of part-time administrator for the WBC was designed to be a temporary one, until such time that the organization was capable of hiring supporting full-time staff.  We will soon be announcing the details of a new full-time Executive Director position to manage and administrate the WBC.  As The World Barista Championship continues to grow and improve, you will surely be seeing more changes and developments that are designed to help improve the experience for competitors, audience and volunteers alike."

As for Campbell's involvement in the WBC in years past, Chang said, "Michelle Campbell has undoubtedly contributed immensely to the success of the WBC over the past six years.  Her innumerable contributions have helped the WBC develop into the world-class event that it is today.  Her work for the WBC and the baristas cannot be overstated, and for that, we are truly thankful to her."

Many people involved in the WBC and those who follow it are still saddened by this news - Campbell's contributions definitely cannot be measured easily. I've personally seen her overcome great difficulties and circumstances to ensure the events run smoothly, even to the point of having to play the "tough cop" with people when the need arose. This had some influence on some people's opinions of Campbell, but the vast majority of WBC followers know how tireless her efforts were to run a great event.

Campbell is not gone though - she's still the main coordinator for the USBC, and with the SCAA taking over the organizing and coordination of all the US regional competitions this year, her workplate is fuller than ever.

Waiting on Indian Summer?

Around most of the northern hemisphere, summer is winding down; here in Vancouver, we had our six days of summer about three weeks ago, now we're back to fall-like conditions.

During that barely-week of "summer" we had here, it was quite difficult to drink coffee because it was so darned hot - and it was doubly difficult because so many fantastic coffees were coming out. Summer is, of late, the time of the year that many Ethiopian coffees hit these shores. It's also the delivery time for many of the Central American coffees, especially those that were bought at the Cup of Excellence auctions we saw this late spring.

So what does one do during those super hot days when you have fantastic coffees but it seems unnatural to enjoy them the traditional way? Well, you still drink them the traditional way (hot) of course, and I'll have some tasting notes later on in this article. But its at times like this that I enjoy single origin coffees with a little bit of solid water  - the icicle kind. While some may consider this sacrilege, it's been my experience that, if done right, superrockstar coffees still taste superrockstar-like when care is taken during a cold brew.

I'm not talking about iced espresso drinks here - I still have yet to meet a single origin coffee I've truly enjoyed as an espresso - no, instead I'm talking about iced brewed single-origin coffee drinks.

Iced Coffee Brewing

There's many ways to prepare coffee cold that all have their own joys. There's the traditional Toddy method which ends up crafting a concentrated coffee elixir that you add cold (or hot) water to. There's the fancy slow-drip ice coffee makers that sit tall on the table, slowly dripping down droplets of water through spiraling tubes. There's compact ice drippers like a model Hario sells that do the same thing, but in a more compact space.

Still other methods are based on traditional drip coffee. George Howell's (of Terroir Coffee) favourite method is to put an extra fine grind in his Technivorm coffee maker, double the volume of ground coffee and halve the water used. He fills the carafe with ice, and lets the brewer do its thing. Other do similar brews with manual drip coffee makers - use twice as much coffee, half as much hot water (for proper extraction) but drip it all onto a carafe filled with ice.

All these methods are good, but I've struck upon a very fast, very simple, and very easy method for making my iced coffee. It involves using an Aeropress. Some tips about this before I get into the short visual how-to: I use a one of a kind filter for the aeropress that makes a world of difference in the cup taste. With this filter, and the inverted brewing method first discussed in our forums a couple of years ago, the Aerporess comes very close to mimicking the brew method of a Clover. The paper filters for the Aeropress do a fine job, but if you want a better brew, you can get it by using a cloth filter or some kind of hacked nylon or metal filter (people have had success cutting a "gold tone" filter to get a circular shape for use in the Aeropress).

Also, something that is true across most full-immersion brewing methods is true for the Aeropress: the more coffee you use to brew with, the stronger the resulting beverage. There's very little risk to clogging an Aeropress, no matter how much coffee you use, so go nuts. I tend to use 25-30g for an iced coffee brew in the device using half to two-thirds the amount of water I'd use for a traditional (hot coffee) brew.

With that out of the way, here's a simple how to, using the Aeropress, to make iced coffee.

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What You'll Need
For making iced coffee, all you need is the Aeropress, a strong glass, coffee, ice, and hot water. Milk and (liquid) sugar optional.
Inverted Method
The best way to use the Aeropress is the "inverted method", pioneered by many Aeropress enthusiasts in our forums. Basically you partially assemble the device upside down, with the plunger set to near maximum extension.
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Adding the Coffee
For iced coffee, you want to make a really, really strong brew - for a normal Aeropress, I use 16-18g for 200ml of water. In this case, we'll be using about 30g of coffee for 150ml of hot water. Grind is finer than drip, depending on the filter you use.
A lot of coffee.
Again, this is about double the amount of coffee I'd use in a normal hot cup of Aeropressed coffee.
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Adding the Water
Just off the boil (95C or higher) water should be used in the Aeropress.
Stir the slurry like a madman. As you can see, I'm doing about "half volume" in the Aeropress. I want a really concentrated brew.
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Add Filter / Filter Holder
Time to add the filter holder to the device, after about a 30 second steep time, and a 15-30 second stirring time.
Assembled Upside Down
The press is still upside down, ready to be turned over, but first...
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Add the Ice
Time to add the ice!
Lots of Ice
Basically, you want your glass to be as full of ice as possible. These are Schott-Zweisel "Tritan" crystal glasses, the large whiskey model from the Pure line, and hold about 350ml to the rim. Very strong glass too - make sure you use super strong glass to handle temperatures / aeropress pressures.
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Turn over!
Carefully turn the Aeropress over above the glass. Some brewed coffee will immediately start to leak out until a vacuum is formed in the device.
Plunge 'er Down
Then plunge the Aeropress down. Be very careful, as it's very easy to send things flying, especially since you're using double the amount of ground coffee, creating greater resistance to passing liquid through the filter.
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Press it All
Press completely through, including the air pocket, to get the bloom (Co2 bubbles with oils) to pass through, making a bigger-bodied cup.
Adding Milk?
At this point, you can stop what you're doing and enjoy a nice black iced coffee. Stir vigourously to get the temperature down. Add liquid sugar if you like. Or, you can add cream or milk.
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Pouring Cream
This sure does create a nice visual...
More Cream
Redundant photography just because it looks so nice. The finished beverage is tasty as all heck - with or without cream, with or without sugar. Just remember to stir!

Slow Brew Ice Method

I mentioned previously another ice-brewing method - the glacially slow drippers -  and they seem to be more and more popular these days. Several cafes in North America have installed commercial versions, including Vancouver's own 49th Parallel Cafe, but did you know that for $80, you could have a virtually identical system in your own home? It's true, and it's a brewing device offered by Coffee Snob.

Eventually, I'll have a full blown How To on iced coffee that will also show step by step how to use one of these devices, but since I've already covered the Aeropress method above, here's just a teaser of how to use one of these devices.

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Coffee Snob Ice Dripper
Just like the "big boys" have, but less than $100!
Adding the Coffee
Adding the ground coffee to the middle chamber
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Adding the Ice
The top bowl should be completely filled with ice.
Drip Away!
Basically, 1 drip a second works well. Equals roughly 6-7 hours' brewing time.
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After about 45 minutes, coffee elixir starts to curl down the bottom tube.
Finished Brew
Very strong coffee is the result from this brewing method.

Summer Coffees

There are just so many amazing coffees this summer - most of the Cup of Excellence coffees are just hitting the market right now, and the coffees of Ethiopia and Kenya are hitting North American shores. I've tried so many of them, and I recapped some in a recent CoffeeGeek Podcast. In this article, I'll talk about a few more - namely the summer's biggest rock star coffees!

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Cupping 49th Parallel
Cupping several 49th Parallel Coffees against others. Included are the Esmeralda #4 Microlot and (far right), the Best of Panama winner, La Carleida.

49th Parallel Roasters
I continue to be impressed by the roasting skills of Mike Piccolo and the purchasing decisions of Vince Piccolo of 49th Parallel Roasters based here in my hometown. When they first started, the product was fairly immature, but today, I feel very confident in calling them one of the top five roasters in all of North America - and possibly top three.

I got to taste several of their offerings recently including two really interesting Kenyas, last year's Esmeralda off-auction lot (they keep it vacu-sealed and frozen in green format before roasting), but right now, they have three superstar coffees that surpass even these.

Esmeralda 2008 Auction Lot #4
This coffee, which is unique amongst all the Esmeraldas auctioned off this year, is a "double pass" coffee following in the pioneering footsteps of Australia's Mountain Top coffee. What's double pass? This processing method follows the Ice Wine industry's modus - the cherries are left to essentially raisin on the plants, and they are dried longer. This allows a lot more interaction between enzymes, chemicals, nature - you name it - between the cherry, mucilage and the bean within. Some believe it results in a sweeter coffee.

My tasting notes: Definitely a sweeter version of Esmeralda - I've tried five lots this year, and this is by far the sweetest. It doesn't quite have the super delicate florals of some of the other lots, but makes up for it in a kind of juicy-fruit overall sensation, with adequate body. Quite an impressive coffee.

This coffee will be available exclusively through Vancouver's Caffe Artigiano.

Ethiopian Beloya
For me, Biloya (now Beloya) was last year's coffee of the year. I had it from four roasters last year, and from three of them, it completely blew my mind and palate. I was very much looking forward to this year's offerings, and I got 49th's microlot first.

Tasting Notes: When you grind this coffee, you immediately get a kind of watermelon / cantelope / melon smell - its quite unique and shocking to those who haven't experienced culinary coffee. The cup is a cacophony of pleasing tastes - you get base coffee, but lots of big soft fruits, a nice big wallop of body, and a medium and quite pleasing acidity. The finish is impressively long. This is a fantastic coffee.

It's also a special order coffee from 49th. It's not on their website, you'll either have to visit their cafe (4th Avenue in Vancouver) or call to be put on a notification list for it. So far, it's the best coffee I've had this year.

La Carleida - Best of Panama First Place Coffee
49th Parallel scored the top coffee in 2008's Best of Panama auction, and I was able to sample 12 ounces of this precious (and very expensive) brew.

Tasting Notes: Big huge florals, citrus and a sparkly acidity. This is a juicy, spritzy, low body coffee that will impress anyone who normally thinks coffee is a commodity / utility drink. I served it to a French wine sommelier friend of mine, and in his very French way, described it as "a very beautiful, well endowed woman with a PhD." Very apropos.

Again, this is a limited, special order coffee. Contact 49th Parallel Roasters to find out how to order or taste.

PT's Coffee

Kansas' PT's Coffee also sent me not one, but two Beloyas to sample in the last few weeks, and both were amazing, further cementing this coffee type as my possible coffee of the year.

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Beautiful Coffees
Simply beautiful and impressive Beloya offerings from PT's Coffee.

Beloya Selection Eight
My slight favourite of the two Beloyas PT's sent me, this one just had some intense grapefruit and floral aromas on the grind and brew. In the cup, the juicy fruits continued, but I found a lot of spiciness, yet I couldn't quite place the spices. And talk about complex - here's my raw notes: Creamy, some wine, not much, definite blueberry, the melon's all in the aroma. A coffee with texture on the tongue. Cools like a champ. Aftertaste is lingering, almost spicy again, clean but lasting - it's a like a big blueberry Kenya without the acidity. Love it!

Beloya Selection One
Nearly as good as Eight (and better than 98% of the coffees I've had this year), this one seemed to be more into the blue fruits. Again, my raw cupping notes: Cream. No, wine. Cream and wine. Juices, blue fruits, some melons. More cream, body is killer. Finish is fantastic and long lasting.

Both of these coffees are special orders from PT's coffee. Contact them to find out when they're roasted and what the prices are. I highly recommend these.

Wrap Up

One of the longest Coffee at the Moment Articles ever, some things simply didn't make the cut this time around, but I'll talk about them soon, either on the podcast or in the next article - these include some new changes in brewing standards, coffees from Square Mile Coffee Roasters (home of two WBC champions - James Hoffmann and Stephen Morrissey), and a lot more.

Article rating: 8.2
Posted: September 14, 2008
feedback: (29) comments | read | write
Coffee at the Moment Column Archives email author
Mark PrinceColumn Description
Whether it's up to the minute, happening this day, this week, or in the recent past, this column's goal is to present coffee and attempts to make the experience truly culinary. You'll find short reviews about past events, interesting coffees coming on the market, new and different ways to enjoy espresso and other brewing methods, and give an insight into efforts around the globe to make coffee a truly culinary thing. Column written by Mark Prince.

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