Friday, July 31, 2009

It really is a small world here in Minneapolis

Megan from Public Coffee House was working the espresso machine at Anodyne today so I really lucked out. She pulled me a house shot and then one of her own. They both were great even if my preference was for her ristretto. Citrus, woody, a little caramel aroma, smooth acidic taste and just the right bitterness afterwards. And all was well and comfortable in my espresso world for quite some time as I helped my friend Bonnie with some computer advice... Seems like I just keep sharing the espresso experience with people...


I mean look at it... look at it!


Bonnie and I work together at Minnehaha Academy...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Greg eyes my 2 espressos with 1 eye...

Always great to share a 2 espresso with a collegue or a friend. How better to spread the word? But what's up with his eye?! Anyway, we were hanging out after I turned in my grant application to study the art of espresso in Italy next year. Trieste, Italy the birthplace of espresso is my hoped for destination. Let's hope I get it because I really want to go to the source...


Blue Moon's kind of a regular place for me these days...

I had espresso with Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys...

You see the uncomfortable look in his eyes? I think the espresso scared him, or maybe he was thinking about Paul McCartney again, I don't know. Anyway that's not really Brian Wilson, but my colleague Patrick. We decided we'd had enough of the computer labs so we walked on over to Dunn Bros. Definitely not the best espresso in the world (see any close-ups?) but it was great getting away from work. He does kinda look like Brian though...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Finally some good espresso!

Behold beauty in a cup. To drink is divine....

Funny how I go on a rant about how no one can "finish" an espresso in this town and then the next day I walk into Amore Coffee in St. Paul and bam! Great espresso. The difference you ask? The barista knew what she was doing and they had ristretto shots. Ahhhh. I felt reborn. The minute I smelled it I knew I was in for something and wow did it make the hair on the back of my neck stand up, but in a good way... Lemony and killer acidity combined to make this a "pick me up and a half" shot that blew me away with it's taste and beautifully extracted oils... Maybe it was a little over the top on the acidity range but it had been so long... Thank you Amore Cafe!

You'll have to tear through this grill to get to my espresso!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Photos from Tillie's Bean and Corner Coffee

Both Tillie's Bean and the Corner Coffee offered up some wonderful photo ops and pleasant atmosphere, Corner Coffee having a very perfect warehouse feel about it...

Corner Coffee has all the right comforts...


I'd like to see more red in my crema and less white...


At Tillie's Bean you can play!

We need better coffee in this town!

Almost everywhere I go in this town the coffee could be better. I met with Shawn from Public Coffee House and discussed the mediocrity of your average coffee house in the Twin Cities. Most have good product and most are roasted well, but what they lack seems to be the execution of the coffee. Too many espresso's are over extracted and not enough attention is made on the barista end. I'm not knocking the good baristas in town, there are some, I'm talking about the college summer job barista with no training. And I'd venture a guess that 80% of the coffee houses in town don't "execute" their product well. I think due to different factors. It's cheaper to hire a student to serve coffee. But you could train them! Additionally, atmosphere seems to take precedence over the actual coffee. Most places work hard to provide a hip, comfortable environment to update your facebook status but they don't follow through with excellent coffee. And that's what I'm talking about, excellent coffee! It can be so much more. Sure we've made strides and bounds when it comes to buying fair trade beans and roasting locally, but unless you take the bean to its logical and oh so delightful conclusion it's all for naught.

Making espresso is a complicated process yes, and that may take some effort to learn, but the rewards are absolutely divine. And isn't that what people should be searching for in each cup, a bit of the divine, the fruit of the gods? And what about the public? They don't ask for great coffee because they don't have any point of reference other than the overly sweet and syrupy concoctions most places offer. They don't know that coffee has over 700 aroma descriptors compared to wines 150. They don't know about the nuances and subtleties that are contained in each and every perfect espresso.

If the public knew they wouldn't put up with mediocre coffee, they'd demand the best. So I will keep trying to get across to readers the importance high quality coffee AND high quality training. They go hand in hand. And I will keep pushing people to brew better and better coffee, because we can and we deserve it. You deserve to know everything an espresso can be. Once you taste the perfect espresso you won't be able to settle for anything less...

planB completes my recovery


planB in Uptown has a nice kind of "my friend's college living room" kind of feel to it. Sofas and random carpet swatches provided the backdrop for my 2 espressos today. A bit of citrus in the aroma followed by a nutty, caramel, woody taste. Beautiful brown white flecked crema topped off a regular shot that perked me up after a long day of recovery (we were on the beach with friends until almost 4am the night before).

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Where art meets band meets espresso

Caught these photos at our neighbor spotArt's gallery show the other night. I think the guys playing music thought I was nuts...


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Talk with Shawn from Public Coffee House

This guy knows his craft and is passionate about it. Seems like the perfect combination for success.


video

Lily's in Redwing, MN

Lily's had a beautiful yellow daisy background from which to shoot photos while enjoying some 2 espresso. The Alakev blend was a dark roast and left its impact on the tongue long after. It was kind of a burnt woody taste. Like regular dark coffee brewed espresso style. But it tasted great after our camping trip was spoiled by flooding and white trash hicks ruining the Harbor Bar in Hager City.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A lean mean fighting bean machine...

J & S Bean Factory in Saint Paul has a wide selection of their own roasted beans to choose from. I had heard that they were one of the better purveyors of roasted beans around so I decided to drop in this morning to check it out. The aromas of all their different blends wafted up the street to greet me and it was with keen anticipation that I ordered my two espressos...


How were they? Well the barista used an interesting tamping method, grinding and then pulling the filter back and pushing up on to the attached tamping tool, not my favorite method for tamping but it seemed to work for him. This might explain the slightly over extracted liquidity of the shots. This was really my only complaint, the rest of the experience was wonderful. The smokey aromas of wood and citrus leaped into my nose. The taste had a hint of green peppers and afterwards left a bitterness on the roof of the mouth that wasn't at all unpleasant. Nice crema and body even if a little watery. One of the baristas told me it was a blend of darker roasts from Costa Rica and Guatamala. I hope to return soon because they seem to change their espresso blends from time to time and who knows what I might taste next time!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

When chain restaurants do espresso better than a lot of coffee houses


Panera surprised me in that their espresso (although just a tad weak and watery) was actually flavorful. It had the right acidity, tartness and bitterness I have come to expect in some of the better prepared arabicas. It's the right bean and the right roast that make a big difference... Take note coffee houses!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vintage Old Italian Machine, Molto Bene!

Look at this baby! Classic! I could hardly believe it. I was so happy to see this espresso machine and the porch at Uncommon Grounds was so sweet and relaxing that I was almost able to overlook the taste of the espresso. It wasn't bad, just a little over roasted and dry bitter for me. Nothing leapt into my nose and said Yes! But definitely a nice vibe here and maybe the next batch will be better...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Still haven't found what I'm looking for... usually.

espresso

These are great cups of espresso...


I keep looking for the good stuff, the aromas, the texture and body, the look, the feel. Few and far between the perfect cups of espresso. They represent the highest of all possible coffee worlds and I guess it's normal that I don't find art in every cup. I guess that should make it unique. Espresso is the end all and be all of everything that coffee can and should be. I want to taste those unique sharp flavors, that perfect bitterness and aftertaste where when you exhale it's like your last breath because that's all you needed in life and now you can die happy. Fortunately you don't die so you can go on searching for little works of art. My palette and nose cry out for more of a good thing and I cannot stop this journey I am on. I must continue this road I've set before myself and see where it takes me. With so many possibilities in every cup the road will be strewn with average espressos and a few great ones. So I push ever onward...

You can tell the difference almost immediately when you walk through the coffee house door. There is a different attitude, a professional demeanor, a passion for coffee, precision, attention to detail in every aspect. You can just feel it's going to be something special, and usually it is. These rare coffee houses employ people who know what they are doing, who understand the delicate balancing act that is espresso. They understand that you have to pay attention to the beans you buy, the way they're grown and cared for. You have to pay attention to the freshness of the bean before it is roasted, it can't sit around for too long. They choose the best roasters and assemble the best blends. They constantly strive to find the perfect blend of heaven on earth. And when those beans arrive they know that they must carefully prepare each cup. They pay strict attention to grinding, tamping, the purity of the water and temperature, making sure to serve the espresso in the right kind of holy ceramic vessel it deserves. In short they miss nothing...

And I understand why many do miss, why many espressos lack the perfect oily texture, full aromas, delicate crema and savory aftertaste that only the best prepared espressos have to offer. It's a complex process. But that doesn't mean we should demand anything less than more attention to detail and perfection. I've tasted art in a cup and everyone deserves a chance to do the same. We need to raise the standards, educate the coffee makers and public so that everyone can enjoy what they truly deserve to enjoy...

The perfect espresso. Or two in my case...

Matchbox just around the corner


Ok, so I've been negligent when it comes to getting to this place which is literally 100 paces from our pad. Very friendly barista showed me all her beans. They mostly have B+W stuff but one of the lighter roasts was trucked up from Mexico and roasted locally. I like that. Got 2 rather unique mugs to drink my espresso from but still managed a couple of nice shots and the espresso was pretty good too. Usual B+W aroma of citrus and smooth finish. We'd just flown in from California that morning and the espresso helped to ground me back here in good old Minnesota. I'll be back...

Check out my funky mugs of espresso...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Joe and The Cow's End at Venice Beach, CA


Not only a good place for a photo-op, but the Cow's End in Venice Beach also has great coffee. We spent 2 days wandering Venice Beach and boardwalk with our good friend Joe (here we are with some good Italian Cappucino) and we had a blast eating, drinking, hanging out with the freaks and drinking coffee of course...




The Cow's End abides... dude.

C'est Si Bon in the desert!


C'est Si Bon at Shoshone in the desert. Great soul and awesome espresso. Molly served us up some excellent espresso in her beautiful little corner of the universe. C'est Si Bon is in the middle of the Mojave Desert at the crossroads of nowhere and somewhere special and afforded us not only good coffee but healthy conversation. We'd spent the night at Tecopa Hot Springs Resort the night before where we soaked in 115 degree water when it was 120 out, go figure... We had a delicious Mediterranean plate of healthy food that night at Pastels Restaurant and now were enjoying Molly's company at C'est Si Bon. We spoke about organic food, ayuasca ceremonies in Peru and O3 while sipping a well prepared Lavazza. Unfortunately the morning ran away too quickly and we had to head to LA but we certainly had a good time in the last place I expected to get good espresso...


This place has all the right energy lined up...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Espresso Parlor My Soul

Day 2 in Lone Pine and I'm at the only place for decent espresso once again. Going to start fund raising for ceramic cups for those guys because they deserve it. Way to go Espresso Parlor!



Attention to detail is everything...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Betty mixes up some sweet espresso in Lone Pine

At the Espresso Parlor drinking some very fine tasting espresso prepared by Betty the Barista. Fantastic to find such good espresso exactly where I didn't expect it. One must always be ready. Perfect crema and bite to it, creamy and lemony and just what I wanted here in Lone Pine, CA. Ask for Betty!

This place rocks!

In the desert the one eyed espresso drinker is king

Way out in the desert helping with tech support at the Badwater Ultramarathon the next few days (http://badwater.com). Managed to find my bliss (well not totally in Panamint) and am still enjoying the pleasurable moments only 2 espressos can offer.

Allegro Cafe in Vegas on the way into the Mojave...


Panamint Springs and my canned espresso...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Lily and me...


Lily's on Central proved itself a nice respite on our journey north today. Zach the barista welcomed us and mixed up a decent Lavazza bean espresso. I knew he knew when he told the server that you "have to serve the espresso right away." Nice touch. Sweet little joint on your way up towards Columbia Heights. The espresso was bright with just enough verve...

The Poosa makes her exit with gumption...

Bad Waitress because there is none...


Chris and I decided to meet at Bad Waitress at 26th and Nicollet for our almost weekly get together to talk all things China and music. The Bad Waitress has everything for the aspiring "I need a cool place for everything" kind of person. It has great food, booze, ambience and oh yes, coffee. And good coffee. My espresso had a strangely familiar taste and I realized it was because they were affiliated with Spyhouse where you will recall I had an awesome espresso.
We settled in and discussed the current situation in the Xinjiang region of China along with preparing a possible gig on our beach that is top secret for now so I can't say more. It's going to suck to see my good friend head off to China to work and study but at least we'll be able to share espresso via Skype or somesuch method. Unless, of course the Chinese decide to crack down and ban everyone from drinking espresso. We'll have to wait and see. Espresso does have some subversive elements, that's part of the reason I like it so much... Of course in the jolly old USA they still have the death penalty... barbarians indeed.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Comfortable but over roasted organic-local-fairtrade-browness

We popped into Diamonds Coffee Shoppe over on Central for some jungle espresso. There was an old espresso maker sitting on the wooden floor and we had fun taking pictures amongst the plants. Definitely a comfortable place to relax and unwind. Espresso was over roasted and bitter though so maybe get a light roast of something else... Or maybe it was just a bad batch from B + W who seem to supply a lot of people here, I know I've had better espressos made with their beans... Photos by Poosa!

Put your feet up...

Welcome to the jungle...