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May 2009 Newsletter

A New Orleans stopover started our journey to the SCAA Atlanta
conference. I've always wanted to check out Café du Monde as many
of my friends in the USA have sung its praises. What it serves
are Beignets, kind of a doughnut with a crisp outside and a
somewhat undercooked centre smothered 1cm deep in Icing sugar. I
could feel my teeth rot and my waistline expand as I looked at
them! These are accompanied by Café-au-lait, a brewed coffee and
chicory mix blended with hot milk and stewed in giant urns. The
popularity of the place (it's open non-stop and was packed
whenever we looked) has to be due to the experience rather than
the quality of the service, "food" or surroundings, though.

I did find one place (Community Coffee on Decatur St.) which made
decent espresso, but most of the coffees I tried were horrible,
particularly the "espresso" from the Café Fleur-De-Lis, which was
the most vile cup of corrosive black beverage I have ever
experienced in the USA.

The famous Cafe du Monde.

They advertise espresso. Pity they don't serve it!

Then it was on to Atlanta, home to Coca-Cola and CNN, and
otherwise a fairly grey concrete canyon sort of city. The 2009
conference was a lot smaller than the last Atlanta gathering I
attended, but there seemed to be a lot more going on.

The Barista Competition hall had 4 espresso stations set up,
where the "off duty" baristas and support staff pulled free shots
and built various drinks using coffees and blends from all over
the world. You basically just rocked up and asked for whatever
you wanted. Some of the best shots I tasted during the whole
conference happened here. The only problem was that every time I
nipped in for a quick shot I ran into someone I knew and lost an
hour in conversation.

The educational seminars were well organized, well attended and
valuable, but as usual all the really interesting stuff was on
the show floor. I tasted shots from "The Slayer" espresso machine
... they were average. Doesn't matter how "perfect" the machine
is, the coffee, the grinder and the barista all have a bigger
effect on the final result.

My standout items were first of all the Mypressi Twist, a fully
portable 9 bar espresso maker, which works by using pressurized
CO2 cartridges to force hot water through a 53mm double filter
basket. It produces real espresso from the hand-held unit, and is
the sort of thing I wish I'd thought of myself.

Second was the Malykke grinder, a grinder designed to accurately
weigh, dose and grind each time. The unfortunate part is that
it's optimised (at present) for plungers.

Third was the proven Behmor roaster, which will now be available
in 220v 50hz configuration. It <should> be possible to sell this
locally for around A$500.00, but we'll see when it gets here.
Inventor Joe Behm was lamenting that his Aussie contacts hadn't
yet turned up at the SCAA show so I don't know what stage local
supply is at.

Dinner with The Boys, a dangerous bunch at best.

Barry & Maddy Jarrett queuing up for an espresso at the Barista Championship. 

The 2009 version of Silvia & Rocky. Nothing's changed under the hood, though.

The UCC Syphon Bar. I read recently where someone's planning to open up "Australia's First Syphon Bar". I closed Australia's second syphon bar in 1996!

The Mypressi twist in action. They were underdosing a bit, but started getting excellent shots with a bit more coffee.

Mykke grinder display. These are slick looking machines with impressive functionality, pity they don't do espresso.

The 220v Behmor, complete with Brit plug.

"The Slayer" espresso machine wasn't producing killer shots.

Finally, I tasted some great coffees, including this month's
special, which is:

Mexico Tapachula Chiapas

The best description I can give to this coffee is "Sparkling
clean flavour with balanced sweetness and acidity and a medium
body." Very refreshing indeed.

And yes, I talked with people from Mexico and other far away
places without catching the flu or anything else. Fortunately the
whole flu thing came up after we were safely back home, so no flu
jokes please!

Until next month,