Stumptown available locally

stumptown-cabin

There are two places in town you can now get whole bean Stumptown. The Moscow Food Coop has a limited selection that gets replaced about once a week. It’s usually 1-2 weeks old. Cafe Artista also has some that is usually <10 days old. The single-origin stuff goes fast as they usually only get a couple bags in at a time. They usually have Hairbender espresso blend though.

I decided to pick up some of this Ethiopian for a trip this past weekend and had many cups of it over the course of the stay. It’s roasted about as light as possible, and is very one-note: jasmine turned up to 11. It’s rare that I’ve had a coffee so delicate that even just a dash of cream would cover it all up. If you really like traditional Yirgacheffe though, this is very nice. For the time being though, I think I’ll stick with the local Doma offering as it’s more versatile (and cheaper), but still top notch.

Three local coffees you really should check out this winter

#1. Dry Process Ethiopian from Landgrove in Troy. This stuff is NOT available every year and it’s been particularly good lately. The Doma offering from Coeur d’Alene is also very nice, though more expensive. I absolutely love this stuff, though it isn’t for everyone. It’s VERY lightly roasted with a strong blueberry flavor. Available at the Moscow Food Co-op.

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#2. Bucer’s Blend. A versatile and complex medium roasted right here in town twice a week so it’s only ever a few days old so it has some of that sparkle that always disappears after a week in storage. Works well brewed just about any way.

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#3. Cafe Artista carries top notch Stumptown beans, delivered about once a week. There is the famous “Hairbender” espresso of course, but far more interesting are the seasonal offerings on drip. If you happen to see the Rwanda Muyongwe in the carafe, ditch the latte and get this instead. It has a wonderful bright berry flavor without being too thin and bright. It tastes more like a very select central American coffee than an African.

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Cafe Artista opens, Retro Espresso closes

My interests increasingly lie elsewhere and so keeping this blog up to date has fallen by the wayside. Nevertheless, a couple of changed to the landscape have occurred:

Sister’s Brew is now gone and replaced with the Cafe Artista. The atmosphere of the shop is largely unchanged, though the addition of compact flouresent bulbs has not been an improvement. They are paying big money to use fresh Stumptown beans in all their drinks – a regional first. This would be excellent news for coffee lovers, IF they kept their espresso machines caliberated and the barristas threw out bad shots when they cropped up (it’s impossible for them not to.) This, unfortunatley doesn’t happen as far as I can tell. So even though there is Hair Bender in the grinder, you may not having anything amazing in your cup. It’s been really hit and miss when I’ve been in there. On the other hand, the drip coffee is pretty fantastic. It’s hard to screw up drip, so having fresh Ethiopian Nano Challe in the carafe is a win. Ultimately, their presence raises the bar for coffee across town and this is a good thing. Want the most consistently top-notch espresso though? You should still head across the street to Bucer’s.

stumptown-drips

In the drive-through department, the slick looking converted Airstream trailer that was Retro Espresso suddenly disappeared, a week after the grand opening of Dutch Brothers on the other end of town. Frankly, I’m surprised they stayed around as long as they did. They had really good quality drinks and food for a drive-through – too nice really. Perhaps they could have survived if the location were better. That intersection by dominoes is a bit funky. It’s too bad too – they had only recently purchased a pretty cool sign with a 1950s-style sci-fi rocket on top. Back in May they posted the following on Facebook:

A THOUSAND PARDONS to our friends and loyal customers. Personal circumstances forced us to close Retro’s doors and we are not sure what comes next. No worries on our behalf, please! But we are very sorry for the sudden change — we know how important good caffeine is to you all! We will provide an update once we figure all this out. Thanks to all for being so supportive!

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Pumpkin spice circus

pumpkin-spice-everything

It seems that the orange seasonal pumpkin spice latte has been the butt of many jokes this year. I’ve seen it referenced in a derogatory fashion by just about everyone these days. This is also the first year when we have really seen just about every national chain do their best to imitate Starbuck’s bestseller for 10 years running.

This piece from Thrillist does a great job reviewing and trash-talking all the latest offerings of this food-chemistry masterpiece. For example, it’s description of the new Caribou pumpkin spice latte is as follows:

On a scale of 1 to pumpkin, this tastes like -4 pumpkins. It tastes like broken dreams covered in sugar and white chocolate. When your grandkids are born, they too will have memories of the waking terror you encountered when sipping this hot travesty.

My recommendation? You should try at least one of these every October just to remind yourself what the big deal is (or isn’t).

Bonus points if you drink it with a pumpkin muffin and then later in the evening drink pumpkin beer and carve jack-o-lanterns.

Lose points if you become aware that a lot of pumpkin puree is made from other kinds of squash.

Chalk drawings

Tyler is one of the baristas at Bucer’s. He and his wife Meghan have the skillz of an artiste. They’ve taken to improving the chalkboard in the back of the shop over the past month. Last week it was Michelangelo. This week it’s the Book of Kells.

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bucers-kells

Barista chatter

Ben Schott over at the New York Times recently published a really fun styled list of esoteric barista jargon.

Link here.

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A few of my favorites:

  • Check the honey – Indicates an attractive customer in line. (“Can you check the honey?”)
  • Facemelter – A superthink ristretto, extracted for more than 30 seconds, less than one ounce
  • Juicers – Customers who sit all day at their computers
  • Phonies – Customers who order while on their cellphones
  • Sipsters – Hipsters who insist on porcelain rather than to-go cups (Guilty!)
  • Ghetto Latte – When a customer orders an espresso over ice in a large cup and then fills the cup with milk at the condiment bar to save money
  • Sorority Special – A skim milk latte with sugar-free vanilla syrup
  • Churchill – A classy tipper

And also in the baristas-saying-not-so-nice things-behind-people’s-backs department, a coffee shop worker in Seattle (we call it “The West Side” here) was fired last week when it was discovered he was the writer behind The Bitter Barista blog/twitter feed. Fortunately, he immediately got several job offers at other shops the following day. Some of his rants are pretty funny. (Language warning!)

You need 3 airpots of coffee for a meeting? You need it immediately? Or you’ll be late? Lucky for you, I’m a wizard!

No ma’am, we do not serve soy eggnog. We don’t serve unicorn milk either.

Don’t let that 3-foot tall glass wall between you and the pastries stop you. Climb over it and try to touch as many things as possible.

Please pour your coffee into the trash can so it can ruin my day later.

 

 

Notes on some unique coffees this winter

A couple months ago, we received a visit from Emmanuel Sitaki Kayinamura, a native of Rwanda who survived the 1994 genocide there (though much of his family did not). He was in the states raising money for the Christian ministry he operates there that supports widows and orphans. You can read more about it at www.ermrwanda.org.

He bought with him, in his suitcase, about 25 pounds of green coffee from a farming cooperative near by his village in Kigoma. I roasted it up at the shop and we sold it around Christmas time as a special batch with the money going to his organization. It was exciting to get my hands on some pretty high-grade stuff that is not available from any of the warehouses I have access too. It was a bright red bourbon. Not complex. A very straight-forward coffee, but top-notch. Hopefully he will visit with some more next year!

My youngest brother also spent a couple of months recently in Guatemala, where a terrible rust is devastating their coffee harvest. Sad times. While he was there though, he picked up a bag of some locally produced and roasted coffee for me. This stuff wasn’t very high-grade, but it was fun to try anyway. It’s nice to see the locals breaking out their roasters, foil bags, and inkjet printers and making a lot more money than they would selling everything green to the middlemen.

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Limu coffee from west of Jimma

At Bucer’s now, we have coffee from the Nano Sebeka cooperative, located a bit west of Jimma Ethiopia. Up until only about 2 years ago, most of the farms in this area had no access wet processing stations and so their beans were deemed low-grade and not exported on the specialty coffee market. Things are starting to change though. I raved about this coffee earlier here. I noticed that Stumptown is also touting a new product from this region as well. Their coop also has the word “nano” in the title. I was curious if the farms were very close to each other. I had to do quite a bit of poking around to get the latitude and longitude of the washing stations, but was finally able to track the data down on an industry accountability website. It turns out the two coops are only about 20 miles from one another!

On this map, I’ve also included a few other notable markers. In the center is Addis Ababa, the capital (alas, the only place I’ve ever been to). In the top right is Harar and in the bottom center is Yirgacheffe. On the left, the yellow is Nano Challa and the blue is Nano Sebeka.

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The best home-brewing method

I have tried (and failed) many times over the years to produce an excellent cup of coffee at home. I’ve tried various drip brewers, many different timings and ratios with a French press, and at least a hundred attempts with an Italian moka pot, including the Brikka, which includes a pressurized cap. That one actually made some good tasting stuff – about 15% of the time. Arg! For several years I had given up. Only the espresso at the shop was good enough to drink.

aeropress-brew

Ah, but no more. This past year I picked up an Aeropress. This is it! It’s simple to use, easy to clean (very important!) and CONSISTENTLY produces are really great-tasting cup, bringing out the nuances of the bean lot. I can’t recommend it highly enough and at only $30, it’s the best piece of brew gear to be had anywhere for under a thousand. For a couple years, some friends have been telling me to get one. I should have listened to them earlier.

The exact brewing method is up for debate, but the instructions on the Stumptown website here are pretty good. For maximum effectiveness, you are going to need a quick-read digital thermometer and, of course, a burr-grinder. I have found through many brewings that if I try to guess on the water temperature, it doesn’t turn out near as well. My thermometer was out of batteries for a couple weeks recently and everything went south. Do yourself a favor and get one of these for the bean lover in your life – perhaps even yourself.

Dancing Starbucks

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I know Gangnam Style is old, old news now, but this fun enough to repost regardless.