January 2006

Monthly Archive

Audi’s Roadjet even makes the coffee

Posted by on 10 Jan 2006 | Filed under: Consumer Trends, Machine

Audi announced their new Roadjet at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week. Among a variety of technical gadgetry, “The rear centre armrest on the Detroit show car incorporates an espresso machine complete with water reservoir, stable cup holders for four cups and accessories.” (See Motoring – Audi’s Roadjet even makes the coffee.)

The machine is apparently made by German manufacturer, WMF. Given the temperature consistency and absolute pressure that such a machine is likely capable of, wedged into the armrest of a car, it may as well serve espresso in an oil pan. In the meantime, it raises the question: How long before hands-free mobile phone laws soon extend to drivers pulling shots of espresso?

The Americano litmus test

Posted by on 09 Jan 2006 | Filed under: Barista, Quality Issues

Sometimes you can be surprised by the “bizarre double life” you and your coworkers might share. A co-worker in my “day job”, Jason Parker, happened to come across my interview in SFist and confessed his own secret love of great espresso. Turns out the guy can also pull a mean shot too, given that he previously worked magic at Peet’s Coffee & Tea for six years.

Jason left me a helpful tip for ensuring that your morning cup is at least semi-tolerable — even if the café isn’t that great. He then reminded me of another suggestion: some coffee lovers have told me how they judge a place by ordering a Café Americano and observing how the café goes about making it.

Here’s what Jason had to say:

Let me tell you a story that you’ll be able to understand being the coffee aficionado that you are: Often when I find (or suspect) that a café’s coffee isn’t very good, I order the Café Americano (espresso + hot water). Usually, you’ll get something a little bit better than the drip coffee at least. BUT I tried the same thing at Chatz down the street, and the guy who works there destroys the Americano by letting the machine run in order to add the water. Needless to say all he’s doing is over extracting the living hell out of the espresso making it almost undrinkable. (I gotta have my caffeine, even if it is crap!).

Heady scents drift from Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Co. in downtown Watsonville

Posted by on 09 Jan 2006 | Filed under: Beans, Local Brew

Donna Jones wrote this piece in today’s Santa Cruz Sentinel about the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company: Heady scents drift from Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Co. in downtown Watsonville.

Their beans have some limited distribution in San Francisco, but they have a much larger “footprint” in the South Bay. While not my favorite South Bay roaster per se, they are part of the small but noteworthy espresso industry (machines, parts, service, suppliers) that’s clustered around Santa Cruz.

SFist: The Man Who Rates Espresso: SFist Interviews The Shot’s Greg Sherwin

Posted by on 09 Jan 2006 | Filed under: CoffeeRatings.com, Local Brew

A big thanks to Jeremy Nisen for coverage on this site (and, well, me) in SFist today: SFist: The Man Who Rates Espresso: SFist Interviews The Shot’s Greg Sherwin.

But enough about me…

Vietnamese coffee prices surge on demand

Posted by on 08 Jan 2006 | Filed under: Beans, Fair Trade, Robusta

According to the VietNam News, the average price of wholesale coffee in Vietnam has risen up to 80% in the past year due to a regional drought in 2004-5. Coffee supplies are estimated at 30-50% lower than normal: Coffee prices surge on demand.

Given the awful, mass production quality robusta beans that largely come out of Vietnam … who knows? Maybe this will make other specialty coffee growers around the world a little more attractive for the big coffee cartels.

Who am I kidding? You double the price of coffee sold for pennies on the pound and it costs, well, pennies on the pound. At least it hopefully won’t hurt the sustainability of quality bean growers as Vietnamese coffee dumping has in years past.

Nestlé backs coffee-based sustainable farming system

Posted by on 07 Jan 2006 | Filed under: Beans, Fair Trade, Robusta

When people talk about The Big Four that are responsible for the proliferation of some of the worst, highest-volume production coffee in the world — that’s choking out the little guy growing better beans — Nestlé is definitely a named co-defendant.

The Philippines’ Sun.Star General Santos reports today that Nestle backs coffee-based sustainable farming system. Nestlé are no dummies. There’s only so much they can do without the growers of mass production crude robusta coffee that sells for pennies on the pound. They need to ensure their suppliers have sustainable crops at these market margins.

Therefore, Nestlé Philippines Inc. is pushing their “Coffee-Based Sustainable Farming System” strategy — encouraging their suppliers to stay afloat by diversifying their cash crops.

That’s no baptism font, that’s my coffee

Posted by on 07 Jan 2006 | Filed under: Café Society

The Sioux Falls, IA news site, Keloland.com, reports on heartland America’s trend of coffee houses as ministries: Christian Coffee Houses.

One can only hope that divine inspiration improves the chances of a proper crema on a shot of espresso, because most secular professionals sure can’t get it right. “Can I have a grande, half-Solomon, four-pump Ecclesiastes macchiato?”

As Helena Bonham Carter, playing Marla in the movie Fight Club, explains why she attends support groups for diseases she doesn’t have: “It’s cheaper than a movie, and there’s free coffee.”

I’m fluent in coffee, booze – so give me your best shot

Posted by on 07 Jan 2006 | Filed under: Café Society

Bill Hall wrote an article in today’s Tacoma, WA The News Tribune illustrating the many parallels between espresso bars and, well, “bar” bars: I’m fluent in coffee, booze – so give me your best shot. It includes the fanciful drinks ordered by people who really don’t like what is really in them (be it espresso or alcohol) … down to the clientele you can find at each kind of establishment.

Some have called espresso bars the new “corner bars”. Are baristas the new bartenders? (Barista being the Italian word for bartender.)

Starbucks Economics – Solving the mystery of the elusive “short” cappuccino

Posted by on 07 Jan 2006 | Filed under: Add Milk, Quality Issues, Starbucks

Yesterday, Tim Harford posted an excellent article for Slate: Starbucks Economics – Solving the mystery of the elusive “short” cappuccino.

Many may not know this, but Starbucks offers a short cappuccino that can be readily ordered at just about any of their forty zillion locations. However, you’ll never find it on the menu. And the dirty secret? It’s both superior and cheaper than the bathtub-sized offering they list on their coffee menu.

Why is it superior? For one, it’s vastly superior to their “regular” cappuccino because the highest quality microfoam you can make does not produce in large volumes. You have to skim it from the frothing pot of steamed milk. The standard Starbucks cappuccino, being so gargantuan, requires any shape or form of steamed milk just in order fill the oil tanker-sized cup. (And this says nothing of your tastes for a cappuccino with more or less espresso in it.)

Why is it not listed on their menu? Because of the economics of serving beverages. It’s the same reason why movie theaters want to upgrade your “medium” 24-ounce soda to the gallon size for an additional 50 cents. The profit margins are much tighter on cheaper items, so the bigger the price tag, the better the cashflow. Even if it costs a few cents more to sell you something that much larger, the additional ingredient costs pale in comparison to things such as rent, barista salaries, insurance, utility bills, and business loans.

Well, that and this is the nation that invented the 46-oz Super Big Gulp®, afterall.

So the next time you find yourself in a coffee wasteland with a jones for an acceptable cappuccino, ask the nearby Starbucks for a short cappuccino. You’ll get a far better beverage, and you’ll even save a little pocket change in the process. And tell them TheShot sent you.

Calcium With Your Coffee

Posted by on 06 Jan 2006 | Filed under: Add Milk

Does anyone really wonder why press releases are often such a laughingstock?

Today PRNewswire ran this from the “Got Milk?” guys, the California Milk Processor Board: Calcium With Your Coffee. It goes on to tell us how their surveys show we’re all ignorant for not realizing that a latte contains milk. (And with latte being the Italian word for milk, what we’re really talking about here is the caffé latte.)

Why some people insist on obsessing over the reported health benefits or liabilities of a commodity, such as coffee, is beyond my comprehension. All you need is one doctor who can publicly state that the horrid shag carpeting of the 1970s is high in fiber, and these PR savants seem to expect a major health craze of people eating the remnants tossed out of bad condo remodels.

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