It’s been a little more than a month since I posted here despite the fact that I promised myself to post at least once a week but I guess a busy work schedule and family obligations are getting in the way.
On May 17th, I attended my first latte art competition at The Coffee Box in Plainfield, NJ. The cafe is nicely decorated and well equipped with a Mahlkonig Twin and a La Marzocco Linea 2 Groups. Also, the owners and baristas were cheerful, friendly and just awesome.
Since this was my first time, I really did not know what to expect. I did not know what the rules are or how the winner is determined. Nevertheless, I paid the $5 to pour (free to watch) and wrote my name down.
A short while later, the rules were announced and each round included two baristas. For the first round each Barista needed to pour a heart and then a panel made of 3 judges voted on the better design of the 2 cups (one for each Barista in the round). Unfortunately, I haven’t poured a heart at home in a long time and so I was out of practice and was eliminated in the first round! However, I won the first raffle prize and I had a choice between multiple items and I chose a delicious Bolivian coffee from Intelligentsia.
Just winning the coffee made my whole night, I never win anything in raffles so I was excited to have won something. Aside from the coffee, the whole night was great. People were so much fun to hang out with and strike a conversation. Also, it is always nice to meet like minded folks with the same interests and hobbies and share information and knowledge.
Even though I was eliminated after 15 mns of the competition kicking off, I stayed till the end to enjoy the coffee and art. The winner of the latte art competition won an Acaia Pearl scale (Acaia was one of the sponsors), which was awesome.
Since I received my Kruve, I never gotten the chance to test it with Espresso so last week I decided to give it a shot and see what I can do with it. I started by using the 300 and 600 micron sieves and 34.5gm of coffee from the Super Jolly, which is almost two times my usual dose of 17.5gm.
After I shook the Kruve for a minute or so the yield in the middle tray was almost 21.5gm so I lost 13gm between the boulders and fines.
I chose to only use my usual dose of 17.5gm and the results were underwhelming. The shot was too fast and somehow way too bitter. The bitterness can be caused by the coffee lacking the boulders and fines but the water temperature could have been higher than usual as well.
This week, I decided to try the experiment again but this time move the adjustment collar/ring on the Super Jolly couple of notches finer. By doing so, I was hoping to create a finer grind to slow the flow while keeping the dose the same at 17.5gm give or take 0.1 or 0.2gm.
I started with the same amount of coffee I started with last week, which is 34.5gm (remember that the grind is finer here)
After shaking the Kruve for a minute or so, the result was 24.1gm, so I lost a little more than 10gm, which is better than last week when I lost 13gm. This can be attributed to the grinder being more consistent as the grind gets finer or maybe I shook the Kruve harder last week compared to this week.
To stay consistent, I kept the dose to my usual, which is 17.5gm and pulled a shot. The shot was on the slow side but the taste was much more balanced. Still, bitterness was a little higher than I’d prefer but there was absolutely no sourness whatsoever. Personally, I’m not a big fan of sourness in coffee, or anywhere really so this shot was a really good one to my taste.
Next week, I will go only one notch finer instead of 2 notches like I did today and do the same test again and see how the shot will taste. Stay tuned!
The Aeropress brewer is loved almost universally. I have neither talked to anyone who complained about it nor read a negative review by someone who bought it and didn’t like it. This love and appreciation by coffee lovers all over the world is mainly due to the delicious coffee the brewer produces, ease of use and portability but not due to the delicious espresso it produces. You see, the AeroPress promises to be a coffee and espresso maker but coffee lovers, including myself, disagree with the “espresso maker” part.
Now, a company named Fellow, which makes the fancy Stagg gooseneck kettles and other coffee brewing equipments and accessories, decided to try and bring the AeroPress closer to its promise of making espresso by manufacturing and selling the Prismo. To be clear, the Prismo does not promise espresso shots instead it promises espresso-style (more on that in a second) shots. According to Fellow (copied from their website), the reason they can’t claim that the Prismo produces an espresso shot is the following:
“Traditional espresso has a long and honored tradition of how it’s made, from tamping the puck to pulling a shot in the right amount of time, to that well-revered 9 bars of pressure. There were enough differences between how “espresso-style” coffee with Prismo works and traditional espresso that we felt the need to let our customers know. Here are a few important differences we wanted to share:
The pressure inside Prismo doesn’t reach 9 bars… unless you’re superman! By our calculations, you would need to put over 2,000lbs of force on top of your Aeropress Coffee Maker to reach 9 bars (130psi) with Prismo. That’s not something we recommend trying at home!
The temperature of a Prismo shot is somewhat lower than an espresso shot. High end espresso machines tend to have pre-heated group heads, which help to maintain high temperatures in the puck while pulling a shot. Our preferred recipes with Prismo haven’t involved pre-heating, which means the coffee slurry temperature is a little lower. This lower temperature does great for producing chocolatey flavors with a lot of body and is excellent for blends and medium to dark roasted coffee. Your local cafe’s espresso blend will probably work great! However, for some lighter roasted single origin coffees, we’ve prefered brewing a full cup of coffee on the Prismo rather than an espresso-style shot.
Our best tasting espresso-style recipe takes about 70 seconds from start to finish. We’ve loved the flavor we’re getting from Prismo’s espresso-style coffee when we give it just a little extra time to develop. With some stirring, the right temperature water, and a strong press, we’ve produced full-bodied shots with a thick, yummy crema that lasts. But yes internet, a traditional espresso shot is about 20-30 seconds.”
Fellow’s approach to the Prismo was to replace the original plastic basket (or filter holder) of the AeroPress with one that has a pressure actuated valve. This valve allows more pressure buildup inside the AeroPress, hence making it easier to produce a shot with qualities, such as crema, resembling a traditional espresso shot. The way the Prismo allows for more pressure buildup is simply by having the valve require more pressure from the user before it opens up to release the coffee. This idea is very similar to pressurized baskets used in lower end espresso machines. The pressurized baskets help cheaper machines achieve the pressure needed for an espresso shot while making the grind and the grinder less important.
The Prismo comes in two pieces, the first piece is the plastic basket replacement and the second piece is the built-in 80 micron filter.
The Prismo has few benefits that I like:
It allows for the use of paper filters if you prefer paper over metal filters. I personally use a combination of both (yes, a paper filter fits on top of the metal Fellow filter)
It eliminates the need for brewing using the inverted method since the valve does not release coffee unless you’re applying pressure. This also makes the AeroPress much easier to use as you do not have to rush and insert the plunger after you have poured enough coffee to start the blooming phase of your brew.
The metal filter by itself, which is included with the Prismo, makes the device worth the $20 I paid for it.
After playing with the Prismo over the period of few days, I don’t believe that it produces an espresso-style shot/coffee. The Prismo produces excellent coffee and an americano I made with it was absolutely delicious, and the “espresso-style” shots I made were full bodied, had a rich mouthfeel and really maintained some of the chocolatey notes I usually pick up in the shots I pull using my Nuova Simonelli Musica (coffee I used was Lavazza Top Class). However, I think the same way the Bialetti Moca Pot and the Turkish coffee made in the Ibrik don’t claim to make espresso or espresso-style coffee, the Prismo shouldn’t claim that either. The reason I believe so is that I don’t think it’s fair for the Prismo! While Fellow went to great lengths to explain what they mean by espresso-style, I’m positive that many people out there will confuse espresso-style with espresso and the Prismo will still be compared and measured against traditional espresso and the verdict won’t be in Prismo’s favor. Having said that, when the Prismo is judged by itself as a coffee making device or accessory, that can take a brewer (AeroPresso) to the next level, the results are very favorable and highly desirable.
For this week’s post, I wanted to compare two different coffee distribution tools, The Force Tamper distribution tool vs the OCD knockoff distribution tool. Both tools are supposed to achieve the same thing, which is distribute the coffee grounds evenly in the portafilter basket, albeit using different methods. The OCD knockoff is using three fins that are slightly angled as to push (distribute) the coffee around as you twist the tool. The Force Tamper built-in distribution tool uses a metal bar that sits on what appears to be tiny springs. The base’s weight sits on the coffee grounds and when you start twisting the tamper/base the metal bar starts pushing the coffee around to also distribute the coffee and the springs that the bar is sitting on ensures that it adapts to coffee bumps or any unevenness in the basket, the same way a car’s suspension adapts to road unevenness.
For the purpose of this comparison, I have chosen to pull 2 shots, one using the OCD knockoff distribution tool and the other using The Force Tamper built-in distribution tool. The only variable here is the distribution tool. Both shots were pulled using the same coffee (Kimbo Superior Blend), same grinder (Mazzer Super Jolly), same espresso machine (Nuova Simonelli Musica), same cooling flush duration (5 to 6 seconds after flash boiling), same basket (VST 20gm) and even same tamper (The Force Tamper, one with base that has the built-in distribution tool and the other with a flat base without the built-in distribution tool).
The results were interesting, the shot pulled with The Force Tamper built-in distribution tool looked nicer and a little less bitter. Below is a side by side comparison of both shots 10 seconds after the first drop of coffee appeared from the basket.
To be totally fair, the less bitter taste could have been the result of a little longer cooling flush before I pulled the second shot but it could also be the result of a better distribution, as shown in the side by side pictures above.
Personally, I prefer The Force Tamper built-in distribution tool for the following reasons:
Visually better extraction (taste difference is negligible but definitely better distribution).
Tool costs under $30 and can be easily retrofitted to your existing The Force Tamper. The OCD knockoff costs around the same, although it can be used with your existing tamper but with less than ideal results.
More streamlined workflow as there is no need to switch between tools.
Unlike the OCD knockoff distribution tool, The Force Tamper does not need to have the depth of the fins adjusted (manually or by adding shims) every time you change dose or coffee, as it adapts to the height of the coffee bed.
I have made a video documenting the comparison and you can watch it here:
For this week, I decided to take advantage of the fact that The Force Tamper, which I have reviewed and blogged about before, have been sent to me with multiple bases and make a video to compare the effects the shape of a tamper base plays in the extraction of an espresso shot. What I’m after is to find out if there is a basis to claims that some bases perform better than others taste and looks wise. I chose the following bases for the test as they are more commonly used/known:
For this test, the following variables are constant:
Temperature is maintained at around 200F by doing a 5 to 6 seconds cooling flush
The basket is the same one used across all 4 shots, a VST 20g basket in a bottomless portafilter
The input is 17g of coffee and the output is around 32g to 34g of liquid.
Distribution evenness was maintained by using the WDT distribution technique (paper clip to distribute/agitate the coffee grounds in the basket) and a Chinese knockoff distribution tool similar to the OCD.
The following are pictures showing the shots 10 seconds from the moment the first drop of liquid appeared from the basket. This will give a basis for comparison that’s pretty consistent.
First shot is using the Curve base:
Second shot using the C-Flat base:Third shouting the Ripple base:
Fourth shot using the Flat base:
Looking at the pictures, I seem to think that the Ripple and Flat bases have performed best. Taste wise, I haven’t noticed any major difference, except that the shot extracted using the Curve base tasted unbalanced and the shot extracted using the Flat base tasted the most balanced. Please note that these tasting notes are based on my palette, others may be able to detect much deeper differences and complicated notes that I may have not tasted. I personally use a flat base as I find it to be the easiest to work with and the most consistent but others have found other base shapes to be best for their coffees, use or machines. You can also watch the video below for the full extractions and feel free to leave me comments with any questions or suggestions you may have.
This weekend was a busy one. On Saturday my wife and family celebrated my 32nd birthday and went above and beyond to get me a cake fit for a coffee addict/lover like myself. My wife tricked me into believing that we will be going to my parents house to celebrate my birthday when they were in fact all coming to my house. The biggest surprise of the night, aside from not knowing that people are coming to my house, was the cake. My wife used one of my instagram latte art pictures and worked with the baker to make me a custom-made cake in the shape of a latte mug with latte art. The cake stole the show and people started taking pictures of the cake instead of myself!
On Sunday, we decided to go walk around New Hope in Pennsylvania and pay Sky Roast Coffee a visit. Sky Roast Coffee is a new coffee place located in the newly constructed New Hope Ferry Market. Ferry market is located on Main Street and it’s home to 13 vendors offering different culinary experiences and a wide variety of food and drinks. The owner, Alan Cohen, is an active member of the Home Barista forum and his journey to obtain and open this place is well documented there and I had intended on visiting his place once he was in business. Alan was on premises and so I introduced myself and congratulated him on the shop. I proceeded to order a medium roast coffee from their batch brew and my wife ordered a chai tea. The place has a bar and stools to sit and the seating is facing the beautiful 3-group Victoria Arduino Athena copper.
Alan was working on tweaking the grind for optimal espresso shot extraction and then offered me a double shot and tasted excellent. It was balanced with plenty of body, very different from the usual, more common acidic and floral notes I get at most other specialty coffee places. I then proceeded to check the collection of whole bean coffees for sale and picked a Brazilian blend that promised a lot of chocolate notes and very little acidity, exactly the way I like it. One thing I liked about the package was the easy open tab on the back of the bag. Opening a sealed bag of coffee usually requires scissors or you can try to open it by hand and risk having your expensive freshly roasted beans fly all over your kitchen!
After I went back, Alan offered me their signature drink, a Maple Syrup Cortado! The drink was delicious, the maple syrup balances out the bitterness in the coffee and adds to the sweetness of the steamed milk that makes up 50% or more of the Cortado.
Aside from the espresso and the espresso-based drinks. Batch brews and pour over coffee are also available and by the looks of the pour over station and the smell of the freshly ground coffee, I expect the coffee to taste delicious.
New Hope and its neighbor, Lambertville in New Jersey already have excellent coffee places such as Rojo’s Roastery and the Lambertville Trading Company but Sky Roast Coffee, with its hands on approach by the owner, the excellent coffee selection, freshly roaster beans and excellent location, takes the already excellent coffee scene in Bucks County to a new high. These are great days for specialty coffee and coffee aficionados in and around Bucks County.
Last year my wife and I visited the 2016 New York Coffee Festival and we had a great time. My wife is not as crazy about coffee as myself but she enjoyed the live music, the excellent selection of talented up and coming musicians and the live latte art booth at the festival (yes, a live music indoor set is part of the show!). Last weekend my wife and I decided to repeat the experience and visit the New York Coffee Festival again.
Last year, the festival was held at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue, which was not a good idea. The 69th Regiment Armory is an indoor venue with high ceiling but no AC! This issue became the source of many negative reviews and feedback to the festival’s organizers as the place got warm and people were sweating profusely, especially after few espresso shots. This year, the location was different and much better as it was held in the Metropolitan Pavilion on 18th street between the 6th and the 7th Avenue. This place was better, cleaner and much cooler (climate wise).
One of the great things about this year’s festival is the fact that more manufacturers and more roasters showed up. More showing at these festivals, especially by equipment manufacturers, is extremely important. Currently, major distributors such as Seattle Coffee Gear and Whole Latte Love are spread out and they carry certain brands of machines, grinders and even cups so for the consumer who’s looking at different brands and would love to be able to compare them side by side (almost) and pull shots on both, a Coffee Festival or show maybe their best bet.
This year, I was excited to see Breville attending the show for the first time. They had their brand new Oracle Touch on display along with the Smart Grinder Pro (excellent grinder for the price point), the BES920XL dual boiler machine and of course their new coffee maker. Their staff (or the staff they hired for the show) was friendly and they let me pull shots, steam milk, and play around with the machine. While at the booth, I met one of my heros in the coffee industry and that is Chris Baca! I have been a big fan of Chris, I listen to his podcast, I follow him on Instagram (@realchrisbaca) and I watch his YouTube videos. Chris was down to earth and was open to taking pictures and really seemed like an even cooler guy in person than online!
On my way out they give us a bag with a microfiber cloth/towel on it to wipe the machine! Neat!
Also, attending the show this year for the first, is Commandante hand grinders from Germany. This was also great to see as the grinder is not sold by retailers I know and the show was one of the few opportunities to be able to touch it and play with it.
It is also important to note that some manufacturers from last year were also attending this year, which is always a good sign. Manufacturers include Bodum and La Marzocco. However, I noticed that some manufacturers were not attending this year, which I thought was a little disappointing as I’d personally love to see as many manufacturers as possible. Espresso Parts, Espresso Supply/Bonavita are among the ones missing this year. Also, it is otable to mention that some of the attendees this year had a weaker showing compared to last year, those include Nuova Simonelli. Nuova Simonelli last year had the Oscar 2 on display and they allowed guests to play with it and pull shots. This year there was none of that and the only Oscar 2 on display wasn’t even plugged!
The show also featured plenty of roasters from New York and elsewhere around the country such as Stumptown, Cafe Grumpy, Apes & Peacocks and others. Overall, the show was exciting and I can’t wait for next year and hopefully see more manufacturers on display!
While browsing coffee gear and coffee-related posts on Instagram, I stumbled upon a post by Socraticcoffee showing The Force Tamper and indicating that a review of this tamper is on its way. Looking at the tamper, I was intrigued. Every tamper out in the market that promises a leveled tamp has to be manually adjusted to accommodate different doses. What do I mean by that? Basically, self leveling tampers that promise a perfectly leveled tamp and a consistent pressure works by manually setting the travel distance of the tamper base to a set level and this level is controlled by your dose. In other words, if you dose 19gm in the basket and you adjust the travel distance of the tamper to tamp down at let’s say a 30 lb of pressure but then if you decide to dose 21gm or if you change coffees (and the new coffee has different density) or if you use different size baskets then you will have to adjust the travel distance of the tamper or you will be tamping too much (or too hard) before the leveling base reaches the basket for a leveled tamp. Once Socratic confirmed that this tamper provides a perfectly leveled tamp regardless of the dose, I was ecstatic and I reached out to the owner (Zubing Sun) on Instagram (@starmoonxp) and asked for more details.
After some back and forth, The Force Tamper complete with multiple bases and handles, was on its way from China to New Jersey and I couldn’t be more excited.
The Force Tamper comes with the following:
One handle of your choice (see picture below)
One base (see picture below for different choices)
One small pouch/bag in case you would like to transport the tamper (see picture below)
One rubber tamper base to sit your tamper on it (see picture below)
A plastic clear box where everything fits
Once I unboxed my tamper, I wanted to see how the mechanism of this tamper works and to confirm my understanding of its uniqueness and so I disassembled most of the parts but before I show you the parts and components it is important to understand why this tamper is unique. In my mind, the perfect tamper is a tamper that tamps level while applying consistent amount of force or pressure. All tampers on the market that I’m aware of (before the release of The Force Tamper), promise either a leveled tamp (by having a base that sits on top of the tamper), or a consistent pressure, or both as long as your dose is consistent and your coffee is the same. Never existed a tamper that promises a leveled tamp, a consistent pressure regardless of coffee, basket size or dosage (more on that later) without any adjustments!
What makes this tamper unique and what ensures the consistent pressure is the method it employs to apply the force to the coffee. Most tampers on the market that regulate the pressure applied to the coffee in the basket, do so by using some sort of feedback function such as a click or a compression spring that’s designed to provide a preset level of pressure. The Force Tamper unique design is different. Pressing down on the handle of The Force Tamper compresses a spring, then at a point controlled by an internal mechanism, the spring is released pushing or punching a piston down onto the base and then the bases compresses the coffee. This genius of this mechanism is what eliminates the need to adjust the tamper travel distance, like with other tampers, every time you need to adjust your dosage or change coffees.
The pressure or amount of force applied can be adjusted. You can do so by unscrewing the handle from the tamper then you will find what looks like a washer (t’s not) with two dents or bumps (see picture below). Grab a coin, then insert it in the two holes and rotate clockwise or counterclockwise. Clockwise will increase the pressure (or punch) force applied to the coffee and counterclockwise will decrease he pressure (or punch) force applied to the coffee.
I have embedded below a video I made showing how you can easily adjust the pressure.
From the day I saw Socratic’s post on Instagram, I knew that this tamper is a game changer and once I received it and started using it, I was sold. The Force Tamper with its perfect leveling and consistent pressure tamping, practically eliminates tamping as a cause of bad extractions. Also, for cafes with multiple baristas or multiple locations it helps uniformize tamping. Finally, for working baristas, The Force Tamper eliminates elbow and wrist injuries caused by hours of tamping as you only need to hold the portafilter and tamper still while pushing down on the handle.
I have made a video review of the tamper as well. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I received the tamper in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.
As someone who’s been working in the coffee catering business for some time, I have the opportunity to experience and observe the business first hands. The 10 to-do things below are things I see all the time and things that I would personally do if I ever start my own coffee catering business. The advice below will make it easier to operate the business smoothly and successfully.
Use 110/120V equipments: this one is a little tricky because most heavy duty commercial machines are 220/240V and catering work requires commercial machines. The good news is you can still buy 110/120V commercial equipment but you will have to look a little harder than if you were buying 220/240V.
Use new equipment whenever possible: used/second hand coffee equipment may seem like a good value at first glance but look deeper. Used equipment, especially ones without service records or invoices for all the work done, can cost you a lot of money in the long run, making any financial benefit of their lower price questionable at best. Think of a scenario like this you find a second hand machine for $2000 and new the same machine goes for $4000. At first, this seems like an excellent deal, a 50% discount off the original brand new price but look deeper. Getting a commercial machine with heat exchanger or a dual boiler professionally descaled can cost upward of $300 (scale buildup in the boiler is common if hard water is used)! Replacing a solenoid valve can cost upward of $150 per group. This number can be $300 or $450 for machines with 2 or 3 groups. Rotary external pumps is another item that can cost upward of $350 with installation. Adding any combination of some of these items together may cost you anywhere between $500 to $750 and this is only for parts and maintenance without taking into consideration any opportunity costs. What opportunity costs you ask? Imagine this, you’re doing an event and you are serving for 2 hours, after one hour and when you’re having a line of people waiting for their drinks, the machine acts up and starts losing pressure. An incident like this may cost you explicitly and implicitly. The lost money/profit you’re making off of the event (or whatever compensation you will offer to the venue or the event manager) is your explicit cost but what about implicit costs such a as damaged brand image and reputation? Adding all this up, you can easily see why buying new is the way to go. Finally, new machines have warranties, so even if something were to go wrong with a new machine, the fix is one service call away. No out of pocket cost for repairs and parts.
Buy your equipment from local, close by vendors: last thing you need, if something were to go wrong with your equipment, is to have to ship your machine or drive for hours to a service center. Shipping will not only cost you a lot of money (machines are heavy), but the reckless way UPS and FedEx handle large, heavy packages/ shipments will likely cause damage to the machine and result in more work for your technician.
Always have a backup machine and grinder in your van: this may seem like a waste of money at first but look deeper. A backup machine and grinder can be the difference between a happy customer and a successful event and miserable customer and a nightmare event. If you’re still not sure where the nightmare will come from, go back to my second point and the part I talk about implicit and explicit costs. The good news here and to save money, your backup machine can be a used one, why? Because a backup machine is just that, a backup machine, it’s only used in case of an emergency. This is not your main work horse and its sole purpose is to help save the day when your main work horse is out in the middle of an event.
Don’t buy machines with 2 or more groups: instead of buying one machine with 2 groups, buy 2 machines with one group each. This may seem like counterintuitive and inefficient at first glance but look deeper. Buying 2 one grouphead machines is better than buying one machine with 2 grouphead for the following reasons: 1) If a machine with 2 groups goes down, that’s 2 groups out. If a machine with one grouphead goes down, no problem use the other one grouphead machine. 2) one grouphead machines are lighter, easier to use and carry. They are also easier and cheaper to maintain 3) many baristas cannot multi task to take advantage of both groups. The end result is one group is used way more than the other.
Your image, your image, your image: I can’t stress that enough! Your business and brand image are critical for your success. If you think showing to an event with a faded black shirt or a shirt missing buttons is not important, think again. If you think showing up with a nasty machine is no big deal, think again. If you think using a 20 year old banged up van is okay, think again. Every little detail matters. Your equipment, shirts, looks, van, etc. say a lot about you. A nasty image give people the perception that you don’t care and no one wants to do business with someone who doesn’t care. Your van is a mobile billboard advertising for your business so make sure it’s clean, in good shape and a good representation of your brand and company.
Don’t hire people who don’t drink coffee or can’t drink it late at night: this may seem obvious but you need to make sure your employees are comfortable drinking coffee late and/or at any time, why? Because your employees must be able to taste the coffee before serving it to the guests. Someone who can’t drink coffee after 5 pm because “it keeps me up at night” won’t be able to dial in the machines and taste the espresso shots/coffee to ensure it’s good for the guests. Going by coffee color, flow and crema is not enough to ensure good tasting coffee, a good Barista must be able to drink coffee before the start and during the event to ensure consistency.
Maintain an exact set of brewing parameters and define your drinks: Ideally, you want repeat customers to taste the same coffee and drink the same beverages. The last thing you want is for a client to hire you for an event and love your coffee then hire you again just to taste different coffee! Imagine how annoyed will you be if you go to McDonalds, order their McMuffin and love it just to go the next day to order another McMuffin and have it taste different, missing ingredients or have ingredients you don’t necessarily like. Consistency is key, not just to maintain clients but also to diagnose issues. If you were hired by a client for an event then the following event you learn that they have hire someone else, having consistent drinks will rule out quality as the reason why you didn’t get the job. It could have been pricing, customer service, presentation, etc. but definitely not the drinks. Also, make sure those parameters are listed on your menu and don’t deviate from them unless explicitly asked by the guest.
Focus your energy on straight espresso orders: pulling straight espresso shots (single or double) is very important since they will not be diluted with milk, syrups, whipped cream, etc. the espresso quality in this case is extremely important. Any bad flavors or weaknesses will be totally exposed. On this topic, always ensure that you do a cooling flush before you pull a shot. Running some water through the grouphead helps stabilize the brewing temperature and clean the shower screen of old grounds from the previous shot.
Fresh coffee makes a huge difference in taste: Ensuring your coffee is fresh for all events is critical as it helps ensure consistency. Don’t store the coffee in its original bag, use a vacuum sealed coffee storage canisters. This won’t eliminate coffee deterioration as time goes by but it will at least slow it down.
For this Saturday my wife and I decided to go to Lancaster to tour the Amish Village and explore the area. Since I’m always on the lookout for good espresso, I used Google Maps to search for espresso bars and local roasters in Lancaster and found a few but one stood out for me and that is Aura Espresso. Later on in the post I will explain why the place stood out and describe my experience.
At 7 am, I got out of bed and first thing I did was go to my espresso station and prepare my latte. My Nuova Simonelli Musica is plugged to a TP-Link Smart Plug WiFi timer that ensures the machine is on on weekends at 6 am so by the time I’m up at 7 am, the machine is all warmed up and ready to go. After I prepared my latte I sat down to read the August edition of Barista Magazine and enjoy my morning cup. Around 8 am and after I was done with my latte, I started preparing a V60 for myself and my wife (the latte is just a warmup). After we enjoyed our morning drip, we started to get ready to leave the house and by 9.45 am we were already on the highway heading to Lancaster.
Before arriving to Lancaster, we decided to grab a quick lunch as we were both starving and after a delicious lunch at Cracker Barrel, we resumed our trip to the Amish Village. Finding the Village was pretty easy with huge building pointing where the village is.
We parked the car and lined up to buy the tickets for the tour. The ticket office is located inside the gift shop, which is located inside of an actual Amish house where an Amish family used to live back in the 70s. After we purchased the tickets, we were led to a small room (what used to be a functional living room for an Amish family) to listen to a quick introduction of the Amish, their homes and their lifestyle. After the very informative intro, our tour guide walked us through and explained the different parts of the house and how the Amish lived in it. The tour ended outside the house after we were shown the summer kitchen and were told to roam around the village to explore.
After the tour was over, we drove and got lost (on purpose) in the backroads to enjoy and admire the Amish’s farms and vast green and beautiful lands. After that was done, it was time for Aura Espresso. Aura Espresso initially grabbed my attention because they serve and sell Lavazza coffee. For those of you who know me or follow me on Instagram (if you aren’t, you should) know how much I love Italian coffee and specifically Lavazza. My favorite two blends are Lavazza Top Class and Super Crema. Both blends are not sophisticated but are excellent choices for milk drinks and even for straight espresso if you’re like me and don’t like the lighter roast specialty coffees with the fruity, bright and acidic notes/taste. Earlier in the week, I decided to reach to Aura Espresso through Facebook Messenger and let them know that I’m coming and also ask for their permission to photograph the place. It’s one thing to take few pictures with your cellphone and it’s another when you show up with a professional camera and start taking pictures like if you’re the Paparazzi. The response I received was very gracious and was told by George (one of two owners) that I’m more than welcome to stop by and photograph all I want. Upon our arrival, we were received by Tina who introduced herself to us as George’s business partner.
As soon as you enter the café, you are greeted by an Aura Espresso Room sign and a beautiful decor, incorporating two of my favorite colors, white and blue, giving the place a cozy and calming ambience while at the same time serving as a perfect match to the logo and the brand image of Lavazza. After a small conversation with George and Tina, I learned that they are both from Greece, which explained their color choices for the place (white and blue).
Looking around in the café, I noticed a sign explaining what the word “Aura” means, which I thought was smart and it shows that a lot of thought was put in the name and it wasn’t just picked cause of a cool factor or by a marketing company.
After I was done looking around, I ordered a small latte and my wife ordered an Americano, both were delicious and served with fresh thin waffle cookies, a perfect complement to the coffee. George explained that the cookies can be eaten as is or can be placed on top of the coffee mug to heat up and become softer. Either way, it tasted delicious.
Being the gracious hosts they are, George and Tina offered us an apple cinnamon muffin and made us their signature Aura Espresso drink called Freddo Cappuccino. The Freddo Cappuccino is made of 2 shots of espresso, frothed milk and Aura’s secret syrup. George adds a nice touch by etching some art on top using chocolate syrup. The art doesn’t affect the taste but it shows that he cares and loves what he does.
All three drinks, waffle cookies and muffin were so delicious that this is how the table looked like 15 minutes in and my wife loved the muffin so much she took what’s left of it with her.
If I’m back in Lancaster, I would definitely come back to Aura Espresso for a latte and a Freddo Cappuccino. The place and drinks are everything a coffee aficionado can ask for. Delicious coffee made by an excellent barista and unbeatable service, all in a gorgeous and clean ambience. Can’t beat it!