Nerdy Birds: Portland’s Micro-Roasters

The double-edged sword of many small start-up companies is that growth can often come at a price — sometimes that price is the culture, sometimes it’s the product and, if you’re a small company hailing from Portland, OR, it can come at the price of cred. With homegrown independent roasters such as Stumptown expanding into the burgeoning NYC espresso market, what was once considered an alternative to the big boys is slowly becoming a big boy itself.

So how does DIY and indie-heavy PDX keep it real? It becomes a breeding ground for the next wave of small independents that might develop into something larger down the line. Peopled by young couples with toddlers and folks exploring the next chapter in their lives, the growing swell of micro-roasters in the Portland area speaks to that region’s history of upstarts, rebels and creatives.

In this fabulously descriptive profile, Kathleen Bauer discusses the trend and poses questions about the Portland roasting scene to five of its stars. One aspect we really loved about this article was the discussion of the volatility of coffee — that dialing in the scientific elements is not actually a science at all, and that every batch of coffee is different. This extends into the brewing space, as well, and is something we often find ourselves reiterating to new-on-the-scene espresso enthusiasts who are in search of the Ten Steps to Perfect Espresso how-to guide that, honestly, can’t possibly exist.

The creativity, artisan craftmanship and just plain nerdy obsession with delicious coffee that these roasters embody is something we love — and something that makes us love the coffee they produce all the more.

2009 World Barista Champion: Gwilym Davies

The UK National Barista Champion, Gwilym Davies, took the top honor Sunday at the World Barista Championship! Held this year in conjunction with the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s exposition in Atlanta, the competition featured four days of trials and eliminations with participants from 52 countries. Throughout the course of the competition, Gwilym created four espressos, four cappuccinos and four signature drinks, coming out ahead of finalists from Canada, Hungary, Ireland, Korea and the US.

In addition to the super-tight title of World Barista Champion and a hefty trophy, Gwilym also walks away with a Victoria Arduino Athena espresso machine and Mahlkonig K30 grinder. He’ll reign supreme until next year’s competition, scheduled to take place at the June 2010 Specialty Coffee Association of Europe’s exposition in London.

Congrats to Gwilym!

Ask The Experts: How Should I Clean My Grinder?

Your grinder may have a few nasty habits it’s not too proud of: Namely, it’s clingy and has difficulty getting rid of things. While we appreciate the packrat sentiment, it’s important that you motivate your grinder to regularly clean up its act — and since it’s an inanimate object, you’ll have to take the lead.

Depending on how much you grind, you’ll want to remove excess grounds from the burrs on a regular basis — home grinders should do this monthly, while cafe grinders will need to do it weekly. If it’s easy for you to pop out the burrs on your grinder, do so and thoroughly brush the burrs free of any built up coffee grounds. If you can’t easily get at the burrs, you can use a product such as Grindz, which is a hard, starchy product designed to clear out the oils and lodged particles from the burrs.

We have heard that some people use raw rice or wheat to achieve the same results as Grindz, which is a wheat-based food-friendly product. However, we haven’t tried this out and don’t know how successful or safe it is for your burrs.

In addition to the maintenance on the burrs, we also recommend wiping out the hopper regularly to cut down on oily build up that could become rancid over time.

Hot Blog on Blog Action: Spronomy

Spronomy coffee related blog We just ran across this blog, launched in late March by a barista in Pennsylvania, and got lost in the tales and photos of his recent trip to a Guatemalan coffee plantation with which his cafe directly partners in trade.

In addition to a detailed discussion of the coffee process, Spronomy also talks about mod’ing his cafe’s Mazzer grinder to work around that annoying left tick the grounds seem to take and examines the success/failure of smaller cafes in the Pittsburgh area. While this blog is just getting started, we will definitely be keeping our bookmark on it and checking in regularly!

New! Seattle Coffee Gear’s Commercial Espresso Equipment

We have a deep love for and commitment to the home espresso enthusiast, but as our passion for making excellent espresso at home has grown, we have been exploring commercial-grade equipment, too. Obviously, comparatively few of us can afford to drop $15k on an espresso machine for our homes, but if you’re looking to either upgrade your business’ existing setup or thinking about launching a new espresso-based business, we have a wide selection of machines that is going to continue to grow.

Currently featuring primarily La Marzocco and Nuova Simonelli and Rancilio commercial-class espresso machines & grinders, we’ve also included a few of the prosumer class of machines that could work well in a smaller-scale business that has espresso as a complementary service — such as a bookstore or an art gallery. We also have tons of quantity discounts on accessories and wholesale pricing on coffee and syrups so just ask.

We’re excited to venture into a new realm within the coffee world and look forward to talking with you more about it! This blog will also expand as a resource and start offering up information that may be of interest to cafes and other small coffee businesses, so stay tuned.

Tech Tip: Adjusting the Temperature/Pressure on the Rocket Giotto

While Rocket thoroughly calibrates their espresso machines prior to shipping them out, some folks have found that, over time, they can maintain their shot quality by adjusting the temperature of the water that’s delivered to the brew group.

Gail walks us through the process of popping open the lid of the Rocket Giotto Premium Plus and adjusting the pressure to improve the temperature — and while we know people love to geek out and mod their machines themselves, following this process will void any warranties still on the machine. If yours is still under warranty, leave this to the pros.