Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Espresso Evaluation... What's your standard?

As a barista, one of the long-lasting mysteries of the coffee industry for me has always been the standard for which the coffee industry reviews itself.

Coffee Review and many others in the coffee industry have long believed that the standard for coffee should be no different than that for wine, insisting that the pointing system of 1-100 is a secure method for evaluating coffee. It's a strict standard that Coffee Review uses to blindly taste or "cup" their coffee, removing as many variables as possible to the objective observer, used in a controled environment to level the playing field for each individual varietal.

I came across a very interesting evaluation of Coffee Review's methods this morning
in a recent post from Coffee Geek's Mark Prince. In this, he takes to task Coffee Review's generally accepted methods of cupping espresso, suggesting that espresso would be better evaluated through pulling consistent shots than through cupping alone. I found this to be the most interesting observation by Prince:

Start your list with the variables. In cupping, variables are controlled and regimented. In espresso evaluation, as much leeway as possible (within reason) should be given. Tamping - I remember being at Alistair Durie's lab with Vince Piccolo (49th Parallel Roasters) and other baristas, pulling shots of Heather Perry's WBC Competition blend. We were doing the same dose (from an Anfim timer grinder), same machine temperature, aiming for the same brewed volume, but changing only one thing - the tamping method. Vince would try his and pull a shot. He'd vary the tamp, and pull another. Alistair would go up, not change anything except tamp in his style. And I'd do the same. And every shot came out different - different tastes, different look during the pull, different variances in the finished shot as it sat in the cup.
This is what makes the barista profession so unique. You'll get one dude on one machine and another on another machine with the same grind and variables -- one puts a little more muscle than the other into the tamp, and you get two completely different personalities in the espresso shot. I guess it's the dork in me that loves this stuff, but also the reason I have hope for the future of our profession.

There is very little personality in a Starbucks super-automatic-uniform shot, but you'll get some interesting character in your drink from a local, independent barista. So I guess this gets back to my original subject of this post... What's your standard for evaluating espresso? Should it be considered the same as coffee cupping, or should it be evaluated as Prince suggests?

How do you evaluate your espresso?

You can learn more about Maestro Coffee Roasters at www.maestrocoffeeroasters.com.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Woo-Hoo! Happy Coffee!

Hello everyone, and welcome to the first blog posting for Maestro Coffee Roasters. Yay, this is exciting.

So the "woo-hoo!" is because the Maestro Coffee Roasters' website is finally up and running. You'll find some really useful stuff there, which should probably answer most of your questions about us as a roaster. But on this blog, I intend to give some updates from time to time on some of our new blends, maybe a new single origin coffee or two that we add monthly, and some inside, personal info that you're not going to read on the Maestro main page. Basically, beyond the slogans and all that, I hope to share some information with anyone interested in making an awesome cup of coffee.

Just so you know, my name is Phil James. I'm a former coffee shop owner of
Mars Cafe in Des Moines, and now the guy that hopes to bring specialty coffee to the next level with Maestro Coffee Roasters and the awesome stuff we're doing with beans.

I'm a barista, a father and a guy trying to do the right thing for the earth and my kids through sustainable coffee. I can't wait to meet you and talk to you about why great service matters, and why it's important to have a great relationship with your roaster.

So for now, peace out.


You can learn more about Maestro Coffee Roasters at www.maestrocoffeeroasters.com.

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