Thursday, March 20, 2014

tamping pressure

Really cool tampers

Perhaps the most iconic image of the working barista is the tamper in hand. Barista techniques have centered around this tool for a long time. 

I like to discuss techniques and develop standards, here are my thoughts on this one: 

Tamping pressure is not an a good way to adjust espresso flow rate. Contrary to popular belief, the difference in flow resistance caused by lighter or harder tamping is negligible. Furthermore, tamping pressure is relieved as water saturates the coffee grounds. 

Barista's folklore typically teaches to aim between 30 and 50 pounds of tamping. Often measured on a bathroom scale during trainings. 30 to 50 pounds of force, measured over the total surface of the coffee, would result in 7-12 pounds per square inch (psi). 


This force is easily overwhelmed by the water pressure from the group head. 

For example, if the grouphead is dispensing 9 bar: 
9 bar = 130.5psi

And a 58mm (2.28in) espresso basket has a surface area of 4.08 square inches, or: 

It follows then that: 
(130.5psi)x(4.08in^2) = 533.7psi 

That's much more than a barista's 7.5-12psi. 

All that combined with the risk of repetitive stress injury leads me to conclude that a lighter tamping technique is both more consistent and safer. 

The primary goal of tamping is consistency. Other advantages include; keeping the grouphead cleaner and reducing waste (less channeling).

I propose that a smooth even tamping technique is more productive then a forceful and level one. Further, it has been my observation that attempting to correct an unlevel tamp causes more problems than it solves. 

Push it in there, pull it out, brew and serve. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cyclocross Worlds is coming. It's in the US and it's kind of a big deal.

totally unrelated, here's me, cowbell in the foreground, running up at Alpinerose.
It's all happening between January 31st and February 3rd in Louisville Kentucky at Eva Bandman park and Cylcocross venue. Details here.

A lot of people are headed out to spectate and it's going to be cold. 30's and potentially snowing.  I thought I'd put together some coffee tips to help you keep warm and caffeinated while you ring cowbells, screaming at Katie Compton and Jonathon Page.

Quills Coffee - Just a couple miles from the Worlds venue, Quills downtown location is a short bike ride away and known for their pourover coffee program. (which you know I love) 930 Baxter Avenue (502) 742-6129 Quills is a multi-location joint, so, depending on where you're staying, look em' up.

Sunergos Coffee - The newest downtown location of Sunergos is within walking distance of the Cylocross park.  231 South 5th Street (502) 589-3222 This location features Seattle's fabled Slayer espresso machine and multiple espresso offerings. A while back this nice blog about them popped up: 
Also a multi-location business so look for the one that's on your way to the park in the morning.

Cafe Classico - For a delicious espresso.

Looking into eat and drink around Louisville I came across a couple other things you should know about. Here some more places within minutes of Bandman park.

For breakfast and snacks check out:
Please & Thank You
North End Cafe
Baby D's (for bagel sandwiches, and right around the corner from Quills coffee)
Nancy's Bagel Grounds

And if you get a little farther from the park,
Wild Eggs.
Blue Dog Bakery and Cafe

Got other good tips? Groups rides, bourbon tours? email tom[at]pouredover[dot]com and we'll get em' up here.
Thanks to Tom from Vanilla Workshop for contributing to this post.  

Friday, January 04, 2013

5oz cappuccino

Spent my day with John and the Franke Evolution ASP. Of course most of my peer group are ultimately skeptical of this type of automated equipment. On top of that, most know the story of La Marzocco USA and Franke in Seattle. It seems like everyone has their own version of that story. No matter what happened, it helped shape the industry as we know it.

In the past I've had limited exposure to this kind of espresso machine. I worked at Visions in Seattle and they were always working on these things. It's a kind of Rube Goldberg device on the inside.

Tightly assembled and complex

In the lower right you can see the main inlet manifold. All this is cold. You can also see the same Pro-Con pump we use on any other commercially viable espresso machine on the left.

Valves from left to right control; hot water tap cold mix, auto milk dispenser (not installed) and auto boiler fill.

Everything hot is centralized on another manifold. There are multiple steam valves, depending on much steam you want. The stainless boiler is small, but has a relatively large heating element. From the install, the initial heat up was around 4.5 minutes. These machines are also available as dual boiler. There is easy access to the fill probe here too.

Behind the tubes you can see the Ditting grinder. 

Tubes from top to bottom; steam, steam, more steam and the hot water including the mix (up from the bottom)

The brewing chamber is vertical, not true on all super automatic espresso machines. That big obvious orange O-ring seals up the brew and the tube above it leads the coffee to the dispensing port. The finished coffee travels 8-10 inches in rubber tube. That tube also holds left over coffee. After 5 idle minutes the system automatically flushes the brew chamber and delivery tube.

Birds eye view on the brewing chamber

dose calibration
The first espressos we're very sour. We found the dose to be really high, 21.5 grams. The Water Avenue Coffee we used is lighter roasted than your typical Super Auto users (read McCafe), and therefore more dense. The dose was set to 18.5g (3.4 seconds) and the volume at 70ml.

Because of the length of the delivery tube, shot timing isn't what you're used to. You can hear the brew valve open so we timed from there.

dialing in
Espressos were right around 30 seconds. Another side effect of the deliver tube is, espresso isn't as hot as normal. The flavor was more than acceptable. I drank several.

 Here's a video of espresso brewing action. Yeah, yeah, I'll hold the phone sideways next time. 
Franke Evolution espresso from pouredover on Vimeo.

I was very interested in the milk steaming functions. The steam wand is a giant double walled stainless and teflon thing, it's about triple the normal diameter. It has a temp probe sticking straight out the bottom of the tip. The holes in the tip are huge. The holes in the tip turn out not to matter during autosteam because air is induced upstream, via another valve, and a Venturi effect. So, during autosteam, the holes on the tip are covered by liquid all the time.

We turned all the autosteam functions off so I could try to steam old-fashion style. My hypothesis was that I'd prefer the steam turned all the way up. After several test runs, I was right. I made the cappuccino in the first photo with this technique. I then expanded my hypothesis and added that I thought maximum steam would be best in all conditions.

Programming with the technicians card
From there we worked backwards to configure the autosteam to perform as close as possible. It's very configurable. A few significant settings include the temp at which the air valve closes and the ending milk temperature.  So, for example, typical users of this thing would differentiate "latte" and "cappuccino" by leaving the air valve open to a higher temp (longer) to make more foam for cappuccinos.

Right away I noted that the air valve was open until a much higher temp than I would teach a Barista. Turning it down below 38C (100F) yielded really great results. I ended up turning it down to 24C. One downside is that if the starting milk (or pitcher) change temp, it will impact the foam quality.

Maximum steam volume provided better milk in all my tests. 

 For me, the lesson is almost the same as always: people make coffee, machines do not. After John and I set it up and dialed in, the drinks we're great. The key to great coffees will always be great people.

A big thanks to John.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Handlebar Coffee regular customer Steve makes cool stuff. He blogs about it and all kinds of other cool things he's up to over at LifeAsSteve.

This surf board bag is mad of a jute coffee bag and other reused material, mostly off cuts from the outdoor industry. Not just any coffee bag, this one is from Aida Batlle in El Salvidor. Aida produces extremely high end coffee, here's a little fact sheet about her. Also, I've had the privilege to meet her and drink coffee more than once, she's lovely. I ate a ripe coffee cherry she smuggled in her pocket, delicious.
Here's Steve's post with a photo of a board actually in the bag. 

Good work Steve!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Field trip: San Luis Obispo

Taken from the train just off Point Conception, two wrecked sailboats on the beach
Monday morning I headed north on Amtrak's scenic Surfliner, from Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo. The Surfliner is a Euro-style, commuter with a double-decker cabin. It travels a lovely stretch of rail and boasts access to portions of the coast that have no roads. North of Gaviota the highway moves inland and this historic line, part of the Coast Starlight, stays coastal all the way around Point Conception.

Though I love riding the rail, the reason for the trip was training and coffee delivery.

Bello Mundo is charming cafe of only 280 square feet. Disappointed by the demise of Ecco Cafe, Bello Mundo has been searching for a new provider and as of Monday, features Handlebar Coffee Roasters.

We had a great day and some great conversation. We talked about brewing ratio and how increased dosage contributes to under extraction. This is an often miss understood concept and grasping it helps Baristas to gain some clarity on what's happening with the espresso.

A first for me as a trainer was, "Baca said..." Training in the Northwest I'm accustomed to "Ryan Wilber said" or "Jen Prince said.." Im in a new region with a new peer group and it's a privilege to work in this space.
A big step for Handlebar
The Surfliner offers no shortage of good views

Monday, May 09, 2011


The Clive Stand

This beautiful pour over bar, the Clive Stand, is the proud product of Mark Hellweg. Mark put together this bar with input from a local artist/craftsman and feedback from baristas, including myself. The Clive Stand does the same work as any other 3 up pour over bar, yes, but it's more elegant. Allow me to elaborate:
  • It's smaller, that saves bar space.
  • It looks good, always a plus.
  • It's made of salvage wood, that's Green.
  • The holes are beveled 60 degrees, that fits those Harios like a glove.
  • A little ridge in front of the pitchers centers them under the cone, like a tennis ball on string in your garage.
  • My friend Mark invented it, undeniable!
The real Clive Stand, standing up.
A week or two ago, during SCAA's trade show in Huston, I was made aware of some low-brow rip-off's, at least one that counts as corporate. Corporate, that means they have enough money to get their own and they spent it mocking up someone elses'. Also, they're in Florida, what does that tell ya? Lame. No excuse for it, none.

The 'C' shaped side panels are meant to represent Mark's brand, Clive Coffee.

So it is now, with much disappointment, that ask of you; do not buy these products. Thank you.


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Experiments in Hario Temperature Stability

I'm working on a project to narrow down the accuracy of temperature measurements in the Hario V60. Preliminary testing shows differing results across multiple pouring techniques. The first technique (A) is a continuous (or nearly continuous) pour. The second (B), a bloom and fill, or two part pour and finally a five pour technique with agitation was tested (C).

The arrangement is pretty straight forward. We worked with a couple different probe types and placements. These are select results and show only what mostly happened. A complete write up and more testing will follow.

Each of these test brews contained 28 grams of coffee and brewed to between 450 and 473 milliliters. I considered not publishing that; this test wasn't measuring deliciousness, just temperature. Still, all but one pouring technique yielded favorable results. Poor brews were likely due to lack of practice in the pouring method.

We learn here what we always learn: our testing methods and equipment are insufficient. Go back, prepare better, get new tools, record more and take better notes. Lastly, why Fahrenheit?

Thanks to Sam, Kasey, Jared, Intelli and Water Avenue Coffee. And always, thanks to Roust About Products.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Concept Cafe

Looking toward the beginning of April, I see great opportunity. I'm headed to Portland, OR and joining a company called Water Avenue Coffee. WAC is well underway and you'll hear all about it when we're ready. WAC plans to open the first week in May. Meanwhile, there are other ideas.

A short-term, concept project, has presented it's self and is great venue for some delicious coffee; it's called Temporary Coffee, a division of Water Avenue Coffee.

Temporary Coffee is the brain child of Matt Milletto, Director of Training at the American Barista and Coffee School and founder of; and seasoned roaster Brandon Smyth, Partner and Head Roaster at Water Avenue Coffee . Adjacent to the school, Matt and Brandon identified an empty space with all the makings of retail coffee. Temporary Coffee brings the offerings of WAC in a sort of 'sneak prevue'. It allows us to what we do best; focus on coffee preparation.

For a limited time we'll offer an elegant program of espresso beverages and pourover coffee, featuring but not limited to:

Rwanda Abakundakawa Coop FTC - Fully Washed
Honduras Micro-Lot Santa Barbara, Jesus Moreno
Sumatra Permata Gayo FTC Organic

As a compliment, we're serving croissants from Peal Bakery and potentially meat and cheese baguettes from Olympic Provisions.

We hope you can join us for this special offering, starting April 1st.

Temporary Coffee
1028 SE Water Ave. 
Portland, OR 97214
M-F 7-2

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Coffee Fest New York
These and a host of other gadgets will accompany me on the bar at Coffee Fest New York. Visit me at booth #231 where I'll be brewing pure deliciousness. March 5th - 7th at the Medowlands. 

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Second Best Use for Your Right Hand

The Skerton is Hario's mid level hand powered grinder. Its primary features are adjustable, conical, ceramic burrs and the $44 price point.

From Right, Skerton, Roman and Mini Slim.

At first glance, the grinder is shapely. The bean hopper is smokey polycarbonate plastic and its overall shape resembles an hourglass. In my hand it feels stout, in part due to the ground coffee receptacle, a ridged glass bowl that conjures mason jars and lantern globes.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Herkimer's newly modified Synesso.

Herkimer Synesso Mod from pouredover on Vimeo.

In the lab at Herkimer Coffee in Seattle's Phinney Ridge neighborhood something exciting is happening. Using a timer, regulated line pressure and a pump bypass valve, a Synesso Cyncra has been modified for pre infusion brewing with variable pressure.

In stage one, the timer provides 4 seconds of 5 bar, regulated line pressure. The timer is easily adjusted, this was just a starting point. When the timer runs out, the pump receives full power but a bypass valve diverts a portion of the flow to the drain. Using about 7 bar, the bypass phase then leads to stage two.

Stage two is full pump pressure, approximately 8.5 bar. Based on visual cues the Barista goes back to bypass after just a few seconds.

The result was viscus, sweet, espresso with a huge amount fat to coat the mouth. Pure deliciousness.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Brief report; Thursday at the CEL

The Coffee Enhancement Lounge features common hours every Thursday.

According to their web posts, "The Coffee Enhancment Lounge (CEL) is Seattle areas' premier coffee lab." Visions Espresso Service's CEL is analogous to a coffee community centre. The CEL features commercial quality equipment in a an environment that is open, often free and can be booked for private use. The brain child of Sarah Dooley, a long time Seattle Barista and organizer, the CEL has also been the site of the ongoing Barista Round Table Meetings.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

PouredOver thought we knew how to make a Chemex, but, we were wrong.
PouredOver field trip; Hario USA.

"A smattering of Edwin's imports were on a table near the door. Roasters from Mad Cap in Grand Rapids, MI to Square Mile of London, UK have provided samples of their finished product."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Left, Square Mile Coffee. Right, Dunkin Donuts.

**Update** Yeah, okay, I get it... you think I was trying to compare the relative darkness and there are a host of issues with that. I was simply pointing out that they were in the same room. It's funny, come on.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Slayer bits on the table.

Matt and Brandon from the American Barista and Coffee School talk tech with Eric in the Slayer studio. 

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Hand Pour Brewing, Me and the Hario V60:

I'm a die hard Chemex fan. There are a couple things about the V60 that have really captivated me including the spiral ridges, more on that below. It's not that hand pour is the greatest brew ever. I don't think it provides the cleanest cup or the most even extraction. I think even extraction is rubbish. Hand pour is an aesthetic and engaging practice that anyone can learn to enjoy. 

When I first got into Chemex brewing it blew my mind. I emailed Danger Dan straight away and we discussed the technique. Later, I of course saw the infamous James Hoffman video. James provides a fantastic base for understanding hand pour technique and my process is only slightly dis similar to his. If you haven't seen it, you should Actually, I normally do it this way for customers.

I've been Hario brewing for a few months. I figured it's time to jot down my thoughts.

The spiral ridges along the side of the V60 allow air to move up and out as liqued flows into the cup. They aslo allow for brewed coffee to exit the filter all around, rather than just out the bottom. This combined with the large size of the aperture means extraction is controlled by grind and not the paper, the aperture or back pressure from below.

Another reason I lean toward the V60 over the Chemex is that I can remove it full of water. I like to keep the cone full of hot water throughout the brew. Not only does this keep all the grinds in the water all the time but it maintains more heat energy in the brewing chamber. I just pop the thing off and onto antoher cup. Removing a Chemex filter full of water is asking for it.

This is only one technique and there are many. The Japanese have been hand pour brewing for decades. Barismo recently published a post with several non English videos. 

I begin in the normal fashion by weighing out my dose. 60 grams per liter and plus minus a couple to taste or based on my experience with a particular roast. Select a grind that provides a total brew time of around 3 minutes and no more than 4. Because the V60 is not flow restricted like other pour over brewers, it's a little faster.  

Preheat all components and rinse throughly the paper filter. Be sure to fold the seam over. I have a clear plastic V60 and I can see water run right out the seam.

Water should be off boil, 92c or 198f.

After adding the ground coffee to the cone, use your finger to make a small depression, or a well, in the middle of the coffee bed. The well really helps new pourers to control this phase. Start your timer and pour in about 1 or 2 milliliters of water per gram of coffee. This should be just enough to saturate the bed. Pour from the centre out in rings. Avoid pouring onto the sidewall of the filter as this will cause bubbles. This is where a good kettle really pays off.

Letting the bloom carefully saturate the coffee bed helps to prevent dry spots and water channeling.

At this point there should be little to no dripping. Wait 30 seconds or about until the bloom deflates.

I don't put the entire operation on the scale. I use a volumetric carafe. Because the cone is full of hot water the scale doesn't tell us much.

Begin pouring again, in circles out from the middle until the cone is nearly full. Pause, don't over flow. Pour slowly right in the middle. Pour slow enough not to cause bubbles or churning in the brew. Repeat this part as needed to keep the cone full.

Watch your timer and when the time and volume come together, remove the cone. Normally by this point the top of the brew is white and thin looking, that's over extraction and we don't want it in our cup.


Hario V60 Brewing from Tom P on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Hario V60 that my Grandma sent for Christmas. 

Sunday, January 03, 2010

My favorite Stumps.

They came to visit me at Porch Light today.