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Date: 02 Dec 2006 09:18:21
From: ramboorider@gmail.com
Subject: Fellow Newbies - go check out a GOOD barista (long)
I'm about a month in with a Silvia/Rocky and have posted a couple of
pleas for help and a few observations over that time. One of the
recommendations (from shall I think) was to go check out John
Hornall's shop in Chestnut Hill (since I live in the Philly area). I
wasn't able to for a while, and just kept plugging away. I was
increasingly pleased with the shots I was getting, but wasn't sure
exactly what a great shot tasted like. I'd gotten to where I'd get a
deep chocolate-like flavor, but the whole idea of 'citrus like
overtones' was lost on me. I don't have a sense of smell (none, nada,
zilch, zip, not even a trace) and I figured some of what I was missing
might have been do to that, although I have a pretty refined sense of
taste that I guess I've developed to compensate. So I didn't know quite
where I was, but I didn't feel much sense of urgency.

I recently made it up to John's shop for a cappa and a couple of double
shots. John wasn't around, but a couple of guys he trained were, both
of whom obviously knew what they were doing. The first observation came
about one sip into a double ristretto - fruity overtones abound! Along
with the chocolate-like taste I'd had. I could get used to drinking
shots like this. They let me step behind the counter to watch the
shots. I realized that I'd been pouring too much volume and, in some
cases, too long.

Second observation had to do with foam. I'm very happy with the foam
I've been getting, but I'd never quite understood what was meant by a
DRY cappacino. Now I do. I'm not even sure I prefer it, but I sure was
impressed with it. My foam is what I'd call a very firm liquid - you
can't see any bubbles in it, it's very shiney/glisteny and it pours
really nicely and sits on top of the drink. What these guys came up
with I'd describe as more of a pourable solid - you could see the
bubbles, but damn they're tiny! And the whole drink had a very dry feel
to it (and a much less reflective look), like you're almost eating it
instead of drinking it. He poured it over the top of the cup and it sat
there like a mushroom without spilling over the sides. My foam is
really quite good I think, but it's nothing like that. Frankly, I'm not
sure you could do latte art with their foam, whereas mine would work
really well for it - I've almost stumbled on a nice design once or
twice. Not sure what the ideal "microfoam" is anymore, but nice to see
the possibilities.

Anyway, I got home and started playing with the shots and I was getting
shots very much like what I tasted there within a few tries. Tightened
up the grind, simplified the dosing and distribution a bit, a bit more
pressure on the polish twist (based on what I saw them doing), and I
was getting very nice fruity overtones from my shots. I played around
with the PID temperature and found a new sweet-spot at 228, still
cooler than some have recommended for the Black Cat beans I'm using,
but at 230 I started losing the overtones and at 232 it started getting
bitter. I also found that by taking the portafilter holder off of the
doserless rocky I can more easily dose the basket a little overfull, at
which point, I can distribute with a poor approximation of the
stockfleth (sp?) method. This is quicker and easier than distributing
with a chopstick on a partially full basket and then topping it off,
which is what I had been doing. With the portafilter holder in place,
the grinder spout knocked off the top of the dose and made it tough to
get the basket full enough to distribute and then level it off at the
top of the basket.

Anyway, the point is, spending 15-20 minutes with some folks who really
know their stuff made a HUGE difference in my understanding of what I
was doing right and wrong and how to improve it. Seemingly by osmosis,
my shots improved substantially pretty much right away, partly just by
having a better understanding of what's possible. If you're similarly
new to this home barista bidness and are either frustrated or just not
sure about what you're shooting for, I highly recommend finding a
really good barista in your area and go hang out with him or her for a
little while.

-Ray





 
Date: 02 Dec 2006 14:35:17
From: Randy R
Subject: Re: Fellow Newbies - go check out a GOOD barista (long)

shall wrote:
>
> It was me. Over time I've realized that many coffee lovers live in a
> "coffee bubble," where they really think their coffee is about as good
> as it can get, because their only roasting reference points are stale
> superket coffee or their only espresso reference points are badly
> trained local baristas.
>
> For anyone who has never had the experience and is serious about home
> coffee, I really think it is worth a trip to a shop that has all its
> ducks in a row to get a reality check and learn what you can be doing
> better.
>
> shall

The same thing can be said about roasted whole coffee and espresso,
especially for home roasters. It's nice to know what good fresh coffee
and espresso can taste like and how it can taste if it's properly
prepared. I think 90% of coffee shop owners don't have any idea (and
don't care?).

Randy R



  
Date: 02 Dec 2006 22:41:50
From: Marshall
Subject: Re: Fellow Newbies - go check out a GOOD barista (long)
On 2 Dec 2006 14:35:17 -0800, "Randy R" <rrostie@gmail.com > wrote:

>
>shall wrote:
>>
>> It was me. Over time I've realized that many coffee lovers live in a
>> "coffee bubble," where they really think their coffee is about as good
>> as it can get, because their only roasting reference points are stale
>> superket coffee or their only espresso reference points are badly
>> trained local baristas.
>>
>> For anyone who has never had the experience and is serious about home
>> coffee, I really think it is worth a trip to a shop that has all its
>> ducks in a row to get a reality check and learn what you can be doing
>> better.
>>
>> shall
>
>The same thing can be said about roasted whole coffee and espresso,
>especially for home roasters. It's nice to know what good fresh coffee
>and espresso can taste like and how it can taste if it's properly
>prepared. I think 90% of coffee shop owners don't have any idea (and
>don't care?).
>
>Randy R

If anything, 90% is on the low side. But, more serious shops are
opening every week.

shall


 
Date: 02 Dec 2006 22:05:23
From: Marshall
Subject: Re: Fellow Newbies - go check out a GOOD barista (long)
On 2 Dec 2006 09:18:21 -0800, "ramboorider@gmail.com"
<ramboorider@gmail.com > wrote:

>I'm about a month in with a Silvia/Rocky and have posted a couple of
>pleas for help and a few observations over that time. One of the
>recommendations (from shall I think) was to go check out John
>Hornall's shop in Chestnut Hill (since I live in the Philly area). I
>wasn't able to for a while, and just kept plugging away. I was
>increasingly pleased with the shots I was getting, but wasn't sure
>exactly what a great shot tasted like. I'd gotten to where I'd get a
>deep chocolate-like flavor, but the whole idea of 'citrus like
>overtones' was lost on me.

It was me. Over time I've realized that many coffee lovers live in a
"coffee bubble," where they really think their coffee is about as good
as it can get, because their only roasting reference points are stale
superket coffee or their only espresso reference points are badly
trained local baristas.

For anyone who has never had the experience and is serious about home
coffee, I really think it is worth a trip to a shop that has all its
ducks in a row to get a reality check and learn what you can be doing
better.

shall


 
Date: 02 Dec 2006 13:54:09
From:
Subject: Re: Fellow Newbies - go check out a GOOD barista (long)

Randy G. wrote:
> "ramboorider@gmail.com" <ramboorider@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> >I'm about a month in with a Silvia/Rocky and have posted a couple of
> >pleas for help and a few observations over that time. One of the
> >recommendations (from shall I think) was to go check out John
> >Hornall's shop in Chestnut Hill (since I live in the Philly area)
> [..snip]
> >Anyway, the point is, spending 15-20 minutes with some folks who really
> >know their stuff made a HUGE difference in my understanding of what I
> >was doing right and wrong and how to improve it.
>
> This is akin to recommendations I have made to many new barristas-
> Since I am not knowledgeable as to there to find good coffee shops I
> often tell folks to invite an experienced barrista over to assist-
> having someone else make some espresso with your machine can teach you
> a lot. Sometimes just one click on the grinder makes all the
> difference. What you thought was a light tamp may have been too firm,
> etc.

>
> Randy "worked for me" G.
> http://www.EspressoMyEspresso.com
Ray
I couldn't agree more about John's shop (Chestnut Hill Coffee Company)
I got my Rocky/Silvia about the same time you did and wasn't happy with
my first results. I'm using their shots as a gauge for mine at home.
John has been super in helping me with ideas, dose amounts, PID
settings, etc, etc.
My shots are getting better but not really good yet. Keeping at it.
Stan



 
Date: 02 Dec 2006 12:04:45
From: Randy G.
Subject: Re: Fellow Newbies - go check out a GOOD barista (long)
"ramboorider@gmail.com" <ramboorider@gmail.com > wrote:

>I'm about a month in with a Silvia/Rocky and have posted a couple of
>pleas for help and a few observations over that time. One of the
>recommendations (from shall I think) was to go check out John
>Hornall's shop in Chestnut Hill (since I live in the Philly area)
[..snip]
>Anyway, the point is, spending 15-20 minutes with some folks who really
>know their stuff made a HUGE difference in my understanding of what I
>was doing right and wrong and how to improve it.

This is akin to recommendations I have made to many new barristas-
Since I am not knowledgeable as to there to find good coffee shops I
often tell folks to invite an experienced barrista over to assist-
having someone else make some espresso with your machine can teach you
a lot. Sometimes just one click on the grinder makes all the
difference. What you thought was a light tamp may have been too firm,
etc.

Randy "worked for me" G.
http://www.EspressoMyEspresso.com