Barista Space/Customize Coffee Tools Milk Jugs

Earlier this week, I received some sample milk pitchers from the folks at Cutomize Coffee Tools (@customizecoffeetools on instagram). One of the pitchers I was most excited about since it was custom made with my logo etched on it. I have been slowly working on getting some digital and physical branding done for my blog and YouTube channel and so I started off with the logo then the YouTube channel banner and now this pitcher. I’m also working on a video animation intro for the videos but anyways back to the pitchers.

As soon as I came back from work I ripped the package open and was greeted with 3 boxes, one for each pitcher. Packaging was generally good, enough to keep the pitcher protected but nothing fancy. The pitchers themselves though are just something else! They are beautifully coated and polished and the custom pitcher has the logo beautifully and accurately etched.

Once I moved past the aesthetics, I checked the spout and found it to be exactly what I was looking and hoping for. A narrow and more protruding spout is featured on all 3 pitchers. Having been using generic, $8.99 pitchers from amazon, the spout design was a nice addition to my arsenal.

Another feature I love about the pitchers is the handle. The handle design is simply more ergonomic and much more comfortable than the average pitcher. This however may be a less important feature if you pour one or two lattes per day but if you do more, you will appreciate the handle design and comfort.

Custom jug on the left and generic on the right

Excited, for the last few days, I simply been making lattes and pouring some of my best latte art as of yet! These are some examples of latte art I poured with the Barista Space Titanium/Rainbow pitcher and my The Coffee Field custom pitcher.

To be perfectly clear and honest, if you are not currently pouring latte art and think that the pitcher is what you need to finally pour a Rosetta, then don’t bother with these pitchers yet. Focus on more important factors such as milk quality, steaming techniques and steam wand position, etc. The pitchers are awesome is that they will take your already good latte art to the next level. I feel that the pitchers will make you better at pouring latte art and they will unlock more patterns or at least make them easier to pour more beautifully.

For full disclosure: I have received these pitchers for heavily discounted prices in exchange for my feedback.

Kruve for Espresso, an Experiment – Part 1

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 Force Tamper – Review

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.

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The Force Tamper with all its glory
The Force Tamper comes with the following:

  1. One handle of your choice (see picture below)
  2. One base (see picture below for different choices)
  3. One small pouch/bag in case you would like to transport the tamper (see picture below)
  4. One rubber tamper base to sit your tamper on it (see picture below)
  5. A plastic clear box where everything fits

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3 different handle shapes, the Jelly (far left), the Mushroom (middle) and the ball (far right)
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The bases are (in order from top left then bottom left): Flat, Curve, Euro Curve, C-Flat, Ripple, Euro Ripple, US Ripple and C-Ripple
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The pouch, the box and the base on which the tamper sits
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.

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Some of the many parts making up the genius design of The Force Tamper
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A picture of the leveling base (without the tamping base) that sits on top of the basket to ensure a leveled tamping
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.

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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. 

 

Grounds for Sculpture (Hamilton, NJ) and The Coffee Room (Newtown, PA)

Saturday my wife and I decided to do something different. Lately, we have been spending our weekends cleaning up the house, hosting or visiting friends and family so it was time for a change. One of our favorite towns to visit and walk around is Newtown, PA. The town is located in Bucks County and less than 20 mns away from New Hope, PA (also in Bucks County) and Lambertville, NJ and 35 mns away from Frenchtown, NJ. All 4 towns are quaint and charming and have something for everyone. Plenty of clothing shops, antique shops, bike shops, restaurants, cafes, espresso bars and bike trails. Since my wife and I adore coffee and love biking, all 4 towns offer a great deal of fun for us.

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This map shows the location of all 4 towns, only 40 mns between Frenchtown, NJ and Newtown, PA

As we headed out to Newtown, PA from North Brunswick, NJ, we decided to stop at the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton Township, NJ. As outdoor lovers, we enjoyed our visit tremendously. The Grounds for Sculpture is located where the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds used to be and it includes three of its major historic buildings. The Grounds have a gorgeous and diverse collection of Contemporary outdoor sculptures and acres of perfectly manicured landscapes for your strolling enjoyment. The Grounds allowed me to practice another hobby of mine, photography. The pictures below, although taken with so much care and effort, still don’t do the Grounds justice.

After we have spent hours checking out the sculptures and admiring the trees, flowers and landscapes, it was already 2.30 pm and it was time for us to head to Newtown, PA and enjoy another stroll on Sycamore and State Streets. We arrived around 3.15 pm and first thing I did was to open the PlugShare app and check to see if there is a car charger in town to charge my Chevrolet Volt. Sure enough, there were 4 chargers on Swamp Road available for free. Luckily Swamp Road was a 5 minutes walk from State Street so we parked and plugged the Volt and headed to The Coffee Room. After we made a right on State Street coming from Washington Avenue, the Coffee Room was right there on our left. For full disclosure, I have been here once before and I enjoyed the coffee and ambience then.

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Enter the shop and you are greeted by the coffee bar/counter on the right and a wall with merchandise (t-shirts, mugs and Counter Culture coffee bags) on the left.

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Once you have placed your order and if you would like to stay in the café, you have two seating options either you walk in and sit in the back or you can sit facing a beautiful window overlooking State Street.

Part of the seating in the back is this table designed for a larger group of people
This counter style seating is across from the group table. I especially loved the coffee posters and the directed warm lighting
The high chair window seating overlooking State Street
In addition to the beautiful yet simple decor, the place is very well equipped for folks who love to get work done while sipping on their favorite coffees as electric and USB outlets are readily available for charging all your electronic devices.

For my order, I asked for a small latte and a chocolate biscotti. The latte was served in an 8 to 10 oz latte cup but no latte art, which struck me as strange for a hip coffee shop serving specialty coffee such as Counter Culture, but nonetheless the latte tasted excellent (latte art is more of a visual treat but its lack thereof can be an indication of improperly steamed milk, not the case here). The excellent beverage taste was courtesy of the barista but also the slew of professional grinders (Mazzer, Mahlkonig EK43 and a Mythos) and of course the espresso machine (LaMarzocco Strada). Every time I visit a café, especially a newer one, I’m simply fascinated by their choice of equipment and the way it’s all laid out for workflow efficiency. High quality equipment serve as a sign that the café is serious about coffee. Of course the barista plays a critical role but the equipment are the first impression.

Overall, I found the location of the café to be convenient, the decor to be comfortable and inviting (warm light helps, LEDs are not cozy) and my latte and biscotti to be delicious. I will definitely come back the next time I’m in Newtown for a stroll or a bike ride.

P.S. here’s a money saving tip, before you visit The Coffee Room, visit one of the local stores on State Street, you will find discount cards like the one below. Enjoy!

New Coffee and Espresso Station/Table

If you haven’t read my previous post about my coffee equipment and station, please do so before reading this post as it will give you a better idea as to how different this new station is. 

For some time now, I have been scouring the web trying to find a table that’s 60 inches wide by 30 inches deep and 34 to 36 inches in height and under $100 (my total budget for the project is $100 to $120). The reason for those measurements is simply because that’s the largest table I can fit in my kitchen and I was going after the largest table since I have a lot of stuff and I wanted to contain it in one place. Also, my wife was getting tired (never complained though and that’s why I love her!) of me sharing the kitchen counter space with her so this size table will allow me to get everything done in one place and also tuck the mini fridge under the table instead of next to it. This was my setup until last weekend before my father and I completed the new station 


As you can see, it’s nice but not enough space to prepare the coffee or the espresso shot and definitely no room to add more accessories or gear in the future. 

I finally found the perfect table, it’s a butcher block, measures 60x30x34.25 inches and looked like it was built like a tank, one issue though, I live in New Jersey and the table was in Long Island, New York. 

The table was listed on Facebook marketplace for $75 and I negotiated it down to $60, which is a discount that helped offset the cost of tolls and gas. It was a Saturday and I borrowed my mom’s Chevrolet Equinox (I measured my wife’s Jeep and the table wouldn’t fit) and my wife and I decided to make a day out of it. We left New Jersey heading to Long Island around 10 am and was there, on time, at 11.30 am. The table didn’t fit all the way in the car and so we ended up leaving the trunk slightly open but tied down with ropes and bungee cords. Upon arrival and further inspection, I noticed that there are some deep scratches that will require some major sanding and paint chips on the white paint, which will require sanding and repainting. Here’s a picture of how the table looked like when I went to pick it up. 

And another picture showing the scratches 

Scratches and green stains were tough to get out, even after 4 hours of sanding with 100 grit sand paper and a palm sander

On the way back from New York, I went to Home Depot and purchased white semi gloss paint, wood stain, 2 paint brushes and sandpaper. The supplies cost a little less than $40, bringing the total cost of the table to just under $100, not including tolls and gas. As soon as I got back home I went to work on the table and called my father and asked him for help. Luckily, he was free the whole day Sunday and told me that he will stop by first thing after church to give me a hand. 

First thing I did to the table after we came back home on Saturday was to sand the tabletop


First thing Sunday, I decided to continue sanding till my father arrives and once he got here we made the cutout in the bottom shelf to accommodate the mini fridge


Once the cutout was done we started sanding the white paint to remove the paint chips and prepare the surface for a fresh coat of paint. 


Once we laid down the white paint, we started staining the tabletop and the shelf. 

My father giving me a hand and while I was taking pictures
Once the staining was done the table was pretty much complete. 

The tougher part was lifting this beast and bringing it inside the house, this required my wife’s help as my father’s back has seen better days. Once inside I proceeded to arrange my stuff and admire the weekend’s worth of hard work….and it was beautiful! 


These are pictures showing my old and new espresso/coffee tables. 



Please let me know what you think in the comments below or if you have suggestions for updates or a better layout. 

Who I am and how I started my journey to coffee addiction? (Part 2)

My home gear journey started in 2013 when I decided that I want to spend the rest of my life with my girlfriend (now wife) and proposing to her. Once she said yes, the wedding planning began and I realized that saving for the wedding of her dreams will require some sacrifices on my part. At the time, I was working a banking job in New York and as I looked for ways to save money, I realized that in one year I have spent close to $2000 on Starbucks! This sounds crazy but a simple math will show how I got to this number, so follow along.

One year has 365 days or 52 weeks.
One week has 5 working days for a total of 260 days
Deducting the paid time off (20 days) and annual official holidays (10 days) leave us with 230 days of working/commuting days.
Every day, on average, I had one latte in the morning and one regular coffee in the afternoon. The latte costs around $4.50 and the regular coffee around $2 for a total of $6 per day.
Multiplying 230 working days by $6.5 brings us to $1495 (not including weekends, just working days)
On weekends, I usually had one latte per day so adding that to the math brings us to $468 (2 day weekend x 52 weeks = 104 days and multiplying that by $4.5)
Adding $1495 on weekdays + $468 on weekends = $1963!

Looking at ways to cut my spending (Junior Analysts salaries are low and the cost of working in the city is high), I decided to stop buying coffee by bringing my own from home. This decision started a snow ball effect!

I already had a Cuisinart coffee machine that I thought was okay, at that time, in making regular coffee so I focused my energy on finding an espresso machine I can afford. From talking to my fiancée , I already knew that we will be registering at Bed Bath and Beyond for our wedding registry so I started looking in the store at what espresso machines they had in stock and I came across a Dualit 3 in 1 espresso machine.

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Picture courtesy of Bed Bath and Beyond

The machine seemed reasonably priced at around $200 and without any experience or much research, I decided to pick it up and take it home. Since I didn’t have a grinder at the time, I was using preground coffees from Lavazza and Illy and I thought my lattes tasted excellent (little did I know!). Once I had the espresso machine, I needed a table to put it on because our cabinets are very low and my wife (we were living together at the time) wanted the small counter space we have for cooking and making smoothies, etc. I started looking at Craigslist for used table that I can use as an espresso station and it was my lucky day! I found someone selling a butcher block table, that they have customized to include a knock box for their Rancilio Silvia. His reason for selling was that he can no longer drink coffee for health reasons. This gentleman gave me one of the best deals I have ever made. He sold me the butcher block table ($300) with the built-in knock box ($70), an Espro calibrated tamper ($80), a Concept Art tamping stand ($70), a tamping mat ($30), espresso and cappuccino cups made by Nuova Point ($100), Cafiza espresso and coffee machine cleaning solution ($20), Grindz grinder cleaning tablets ($30) and bunch of brand new, unopened, Monin syrups ($100)! All of this for $200 (approximately $750 in retail value)! Ecstatic, I took the stuff home and officially had the first iteration of my espresso and coffee stations setup.

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The table, my first espresso machine, accessories, ground coffee and some syrups

As I dove deep into the coffee and espresso world, I realized that pre-ground coffees are not the best and a burr coffee grinder is the way to go to grind the coffee beans on demand. This led me to purchase my first grinder, a Compak K3 Touch.

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The setup, now including the Compak K3 Touch

Further research revealed that my espresso machine was using pressurized baskets, a no-no for espresso enthusiasts. Pressurized baskets are used on low-end machines with low end pumps to help build enough pressure to extract the shot. A pressurized basket usually have an internal screen that filters the coffee into a small reservoir and has a single hole in the bottom where the shot is released from. Pressurized baskets are for beginners as they can be used with pre-ground coffees and don’t require attention to ground distribution, tamping pressure, coffee ground size, etc. Looking to improve my espresso quality shots further, I decided it’s time to jump into a Rancilio Silvia to replace the Dualit.

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The setup with the Silvia. You will also notice that I started upping my drip coffee game (lower shelf)

In the meantime, I worked on upping my auto and manual drip coffee game so I upgraded my Cuisinart and replaced it with a Behmor Brazen Plus, one of the few SCAA (SCA now) certified auto drip coffee machines. The certification means that the machine is capable of brewing coffee using water heated within the recommended SCA range of 195 to 205 degrees. I also added a Chemex, a gooseneck kettle from Bonavita and a scale (also from Bonavita).

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The setup, now with upgraded auto and manual coffee brew section

Although I loved the Compak K3, I hated the clumping. Also, further research revealed that I’m still missing out on taste and my espresso can become even better if I upgrade my grinder. This is when I decided to go with a Mazzer Super Jolly Electronic Doserless. Not wanting to spend $1200 on a brand new one, I decided to start looking for a used one but being the picky person I’m I couldn’t settle with one that’s not like new with no cosmetic damage whatsoever. I finally found one for sale in Brooklyn, NY that was less than 1-year-old with less than 500 shots on the counter. The seller promised the grinder is in excellent condition and was asking for $900. I brought it down to $750 and drove to pick it up. The grinder looked brand new, no scratches or dings anywhere and worked flawlessly.

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The setup, now with the Super Jolly

My quest for better espresso did not stop there, I added a PID to the Silvia to improve shot consistency but still, since I drink mostly lattes and cappuccinos, a single boiler machine like the Silvia where I need to switch back and forth between brewing and steaming was started to become a pain in the neck. This led me to look for a heat exchanger machine so I can brew and steam at the same time. Since most of my drinks are mostly milk based, I started looking for the best steamer in town using a 110V (I’m renting and have no access to 220V/240V for the foreseeable future). With that in mind, I landed on the Nuova Simonelli Musica! The Musica, at $2500 brand new is a no go for me but used, they looked like they depreciate quite rapidly. Lurking on eBay, I finally found one for less than $1000! (eBay had a deal going on and offered 10% of the purchase back in eBay bucks, which made the deal even sweeter). This is the tank model with LED lighting, exactly what I was looking for. The machine was described as in pristine condition, which upon receipt of the machine and inspection, turned out to be inaccurate  but I’ll leave this for another post. I also added a dedicated drip coffee grinder (a Breville Smart Grinder Pro) since it’s a pain to switch the Super Jolly back and forth between espresso and drip coffee grind.

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The setup, now with the Musica, is pretty much how it stands today.

While in the process, of upgrading grinders and espresso machines, I kept adding accessories and other brewing vessels such as a V60, milk pitchers, coffee storage canisters, etc.

In future posts, I will be reviewing and writing about each of my equipments but if you can’t wait, I already have videos on my channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/hazzi15/videos). Enjoy!

Who I am and how I started my journey to coffee addiction? (Part 1)

As you can probably tell, this is my first post and so I thought I would talk a little bit on who I am and how I started my coffee addiction journey. My name is Gabriel Hazzi and I’m coffee addict born in Alexandria, Egypt. When I turned 18 my family and I moved to the United States and I currently live in New Jersey. I have a full-time job with a well-known money manager and insurance company. I’m also a part-time consultant/contractor for a coffee catering company also based in New Jersey and I’m grateful to have both jobs where I’m able to make a decent living while also work with coffee, which is something I’m passionate about.

Since I reached my coffee drinking age (if such a thing exist), I always loved the time I had coffee in the morning and in the afternoon (around 5 pm) with my family. It was always an excellent bonding time, a time to catch up, talk about our plans for the day and how our day went. It was a comfort time. Back then, I didn’t think about coffee as a beverage, instead I thought about coffee as moments. Today, I love the beverage and the moments it brings.

I only got fully submerged into the coffee world less than 3 years ago when I was at a friend’s house and he was showing me around his new house and telling me about the scotch and cigars he collects and also the coffees he buys from different parts of the world. As a coffee lover, I was intrigued by this part of the conversation and he went on and explained (not in too much details) how coffee can taste different from one region to another, from one altitude to another and even from one farm to another. At this point, he proceeded to brew me some Costa Rican coffee made by a company called Café Britt. If you are not familiar with Café Britt, it is a company that was founded back in 1985 and based in Costa Rica. They make excellent coffees and chocolates and really served as my introduction to “gourmet” coffee instead of the common Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts coffees that I was previously consuming. Once I tried Britt coffee at my friend’s house, I was pretty much hooked. I discovered that Britt is sold on Amazon and so I went ahead and ordered bunch of them, different coffees, different roasts, etc.

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One of my first orders of Café Britt from Amazon

This marked the beginning of my coffee addiction/journey. In the next post, I will share my humble and initial coffee gear and what I have today. Stay tuned!