Using the Handpresso Wild

We’ve had the Handpresso Wild in the store since October, and it’s one of the most handled objects on display. People are often tickled by the thought of taking their espresso anywhere they want — and we’ve had avid backpackers, day hikers, car campers and international (wo)men of mystery who travel extensively pick them up to make their lives a little bit easier and much more caffeinated.

Last week, we decided to film this awesome contraption — and the ever-suffering Gail went toe-to-toe with it. Check it out!

Blue Mountain Coffee: Dodo or Buffalo?

We found this very interesting letter to the editor of a Jamaican newspaper, which describes the state of the coffee agricultural industry in different regions around that country. The writer references the fact that the farmers in non-Blue Mountain areas decreased their coffee output as a form of protest against the commercial industry’s treatment and pricing. Over the last eight years, output has plummeted by nearly 85%, yet it hasn’t been addressed — or even picked up on — by the international coffee community.

Now, even Blue Mountain farmers are fed up with the industry and may head in this direction, as well, which would be a real shame. People often dismiss the essential influence of climate, environment and soil in the end result of any agricultural product — and Blue Mountain coffee has a distinctly unique flavor. While varietals were transported to Hawaii and form the basis of Kona coffee, the environment is quite different and Blue Mountain still retains its special taste.

This is part of a larger picture, however, that encompasses how we get our food — who grows it, how it’s grown, preserved and delivered. Applying a mass market ideology to our food supply has been detrimental in many respects, most poignantly in regard to the basic economic viability of smaller scale farms. If you’ve ever been part of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group with an annual subscription, you understand that the cost and time involved in growing food on a smaller scale is significantly higher than what you might find at the local Safeway. It may not seem worth it — you know, when you can’t get oranges in December or your eggplants don’t last 6 weeks.

Could the Direct Trade or Fair Trade movements help balance this out? Will an international acceptance of more equitable trade practices happen quickly enough to address the issues these Jamaican farmers are experiencing? There is something to be treasured in the limited, hard-to-find, micro-production of artisan foods and we hope there will continue to be an avenue for Jamaican coffee to be shared with the rest of the world.

With the explosion of the Robusta coffee industry in China, whether or not the international coffee industry will see the value in quality over quantity remains to be seen.

Brew Tip: Temperature Surfing on the Rancilio Silvia

While single boiler machines are extremely cost effective, they do suffer from wide temperature fluctuations which can result in poorly extracted espresso. As such, the technique for ‘temperature surfing’ was developed by home espresso enthusiasts and you can watch as Gail goes through the process on a Rancilio Silvia. This technique can be applied to any single boiler machine — such as the Saeco Aroma, Ascaso Basic or Dream and any of the Gaggia semi-automatic espresso machines.

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

It would make sense that the purported origin of coffee would proffer an elegant and traditional ceremony that highlights the importance and appreciation of this little bean. Taking you from green bean to brew, the Ethopian Coffee Ceremony begins with freshly roasting beans before your eyes and ends with the sipping of a rich, delicious cup of joe — or three.

We found a great description of the ceremony, which covers both how you might experience it in a restaurant versus a traditional ceremony at home.

Brew Tip: Static Cling

Does your bipass doser sometimes seem a little faulty? We occasionally get reports from customers that their older Saeco or Gaggia superautomatic espresso machine (which features a metal burr grinder instead of the newer ceramic grinder found on the most current models) is producing nothing better than dirty water every time they try to use pre-ground coffee in the bipass doser.

The cause? Static cling. In really dry climates, the static can build-up in the metal burrs, so when ground coffee is poured into the bipass chamber, it ends up clinging to the sides or going around the brew group instead of landing directly into it.

The best way we’ve found to counteract this issue is to add a little bit of moisture to your grounds before you pour them into the bipass chamber. The moisture and extra weight will make sure the majority of the grounds land in the right place and that you’ll brew a great shot of espresso.

Perky Tampa

This year’s Super Bowl may seem far more animated than usual, considering its stadium will be chock full of Tampa residents — the highest caffeinated town in the US. The source of the caffeine for Tampans was more likely pain relievers, energy drinks or tea than it was coffee, but they’ve finally outpaced the previous over-caffeinated city of Seattle this year.

After Tampa, Seattle and Chicago rank 2nd and 3rd, with New York City and LA rounding out the top 5. The least caffeinated region is the Riverside/San Bernardino area of California, where you’ll no doubt find plenty of chilled out folks telling you to just take it easy.