US Barista Champion: Michael Phillips

As we wrote about last week, the US Barista Championship took place this past weekend in Portland, Oregon, and the winner is: Michael Phillips of Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago.

Each barista is responsible for creating three drinks for the judges — a simple espresso shot, a cappuccino and a signature drink — and are evaluated on the quality of product, overall technique, speed and cleanliness. Michael Phillips’ custom drink sounds quite lovely: A companion affair featuring a hot concoction of dark chocolate, brown sugar, sea salt and diced almonds balanced by a cool combination of freshly pressed blackberries, simple syrup and iced coffee.

Michael will join National Barista Champions from around the world at the SCAA’s annual exposition, which will be hosting the World Barista Championship this year, and battle it out to determine who will reign as the world’s most accomplished coffee slinger for the next year.

Selecting a Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine

One of the things that sets the crew here at Seattle Coffee Gear apart from the rest is that we have a storefront that features over 60 machines on display for anyone to come in and check out during their selection process. The experience of coming into the store, asking questions, working with Gail and understanding which machine meets your needs and your budget is fairly unique in this space, so we thought we’d make a movie in an attempt to replicate that experience for folks that don’t live in the Seattle area.

If you’re in the market for a semi-automatic espresso machine and aren’t sure where to start, this video is a great primer for what we think are the best in class machines that will fit in anyone’s budget.


Part 1: Gail talks about the different types of machines and then discusses the Saeco Aroma and the Rancilio Silvia semi-automatic espresso machines.


Part 2: Gail continues up the semi-automatic espresso machine line with an introduction to the Quick Mill Alexia and Rocket Giotto Premium Plus.

Coffee, From Dusk ’til Dawn

One of the aspects of coffee that we dig the most is the interconnectedness across cultures and nations. As the second highest traded commodity, the buying and selling of this little bean is serious business for both farmers and connoisseurs — and being on the consuming end of the spectrum, learning about the life and experiences of the folks who grow coffee has definitely deepened our appreciation for the brew.

To that end, we found Zach Dyer’s Java Enabled: Portrait of a Coffee Farmer very illuminating. Zach spent time working on a Mexican coffee farm and randomly found beans from that specific field in a DC coffee shop about a year later. The discovery inspired rumination on his experiences working with Braulia Lopez, a coffee farmer who supplements her income by driving a taxi in town. It’s a wonderful snapshot of the life of a coffee farmer and a great read for java lovers everywhere.

Recipe: Chocolate Espresso Pudding Cupcakes with Caramel Milk Foam

The writer of one of our favorite experimental cooking websites, Dog Hill Kitchen, engaged in the Iron Cupcake competition for March, which had coffee as the essential ingredient. The result looked and sounded so delicious, we just had to pass it along to you.
Batter:

  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons +1 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons milk (Silk DHA Enhanced soy for us)
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping:

  • 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoons mini chocolate chips (Enjoy Life chips is my choice)
  • 6 tablespoons hot espresso
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Stir together the dry ingredients for the batter (the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt).
  3. Add the milk, oil and vanilla and stir until a smooth batter forms. Spoon equal amounts into 4 oven safe espresso cups or use 4 other oven safe ramekins or mugs.
  4. In a small bowl mix together the dry ingredients for the topping (the brown sugar, cocoa, and chocolate chips). Spoon equal amounts of this mixture over the tops of the batter filled cups.
  5. Place the cups on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
  6. Pour over the boiling water mixed with espresso powder or hot espresso. I spooned a tablespoon over each and then repeated with the remaining hot liquid until all was distributed evenly.
  7. Carefully place the baking sheet with cups into the hot oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. The cakes are done when the tops are puffed and set but you should be able to tell that there is pudding settled on the bottom.
  8. Remove the cups from the oven and cool slightly. Serve warm topped with caramel milk foam, whipped cream, ice cream or eat as is. You could foam some milk using a milk frother like this one.

Caramel Milk Foam
Based on tips from Garrett of Garrett’s Table. Thanks Garrett!
Makes a little over 1 cup of foam

  • 2 grams Versawhip 600K (soy protein powder purchased from Willpowder)
  • 40 grams of soy milk
  • 50 grams caramel syrup (I used syrup from this recipe)
  1. Whisk together the Versawhip and soy milk together until soft peaks form.
  2. Drizzle in the caramel syrup and continue whisking until all the syrup is incorporated and the foam is light and frothy.
  3. Spoon over the cupcakes and serve immediately.

Tune It Up, Little Darling

We’re all looking for ways to stretch our loot a little further these days. Keeping your home espresso machine in excellent condition means you can enjoy high quality espresso for years to come at a significantly reduced cost than what you’d pay at a local cafe.

To that end, our techs offer a Tune Up service for both superautomatic and semi-automatic espresso machines. This is a popular service that we wanted to share with more people around the country (yes, you can ship your machine to us for this service) and so we asked Gail to describe how this service works, what we do, etc.

For those of you not into watching videos or if you’d like to contact us about having your machine tuned up, we have full detail on the service and a contact form here.

Java & Jollies

Over the past several months, we have been seeing story after story filter across the wire regarding the proposed topless coffee shop in a small Maine town. Many of the stories were about zoning, town feedback, determining if it could be licensed, etc. — until last week when the business passed all the muster and opened its doors.

Now we love a nice piece of tail just as much as the next person, but when we read this article by CNN we couldn’t help but be a little bit disturbed by the underlying exploitation inherent in this business. We particularly liked it when the owner references that they didn’t ‘hire any 10′s’ or the fact that the shop was inundated with applications primarily because of the poor job market in that area (and, really, everywhere around the country right now).

Also, they mention that most of the customers right now are couples and women — maybe the men don’t want to do a lot of ‘splaining about their newly increased espresso budget.