Category Archives: Meetups

Coffee Meetup During Grand Prix

The latest CGSG (Coffee Greens Singapore) gathering was held in my humble abode during the time Grand Prix was in town. As usual, the gathering was called up at the last minute. And as usual, the CGSG Gang of Four showed up.

CGSG Gang Of Four
CGSG G4: Steve, Kai Seng, Melvin, Colin (L to R)

The gathering was called up as I’ve procured a bag of quite-fresh roasted beans from Intelligentsia@Venice, CA courtesy of Sean Bonner. I met Sean on the chat session moderated by Nick Cho during this year’s WBC. We happened to be the only 2 in Singapore awake at an ungodly hour trying to catch glimpses from  a laggy stream of our favourite baristas in action. One thing led to another, and Sean, who’s a regular at Intelli Venice, bought me a bag of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Adado on his trip back to Singapore. On a side note, Sean also introduced me Intelli Venice’s Chris & M’lissa Owens (both of them renowned coffee greats) when they were in town for F1.

Kai Seng was the first to arrive as he had tickets to F1 finals that very day, and was in a rush to drink his fill and leave. I assured him that was not going to happen. Sure enough, the other 2 arrived late. We were all dying to try Intelli’s Yirgacheffe, which I’ve decided to save for this gathering. Steve brought his roast of Metropolis Coffee’s Green Line, which is an unroasted version of their popular Red Line. It was roasted to Full City +. Given that it’s home turf, I was the designated barista of the day and proceeded to pull shots for us all.

This CGSG gathering was unlike the previous ones we’ve been having. While CGSG was formed out of our love for coffee, we found that each of us had a common love for steaks, grills, wine, prosciutto, home baked breads, gourmet french butter, blue cheese and all these could be had at Kai Seng’s. (Un)fortunately, this Sunday gathering had none of these distractions and our discussion went back to our first love, coffee. We shared views on über coffeegeek, Mark Prince’s articles on the state of coffee and his call out to bring back spro downs instead of latte art throwdowns. Steve and I both remarked that we’ve become less anal retentive in our home barista routines. I’ve switched from using the Espro clicker tamper to a Reg Barber (which John Ting helped me get from WBC 2010 in London). Both Steve and I have stopped weighing the beans and have replaced the bottomless portafilters with La Marzocco portafilters, I’ve stopped taking infinte photos of the naked portafilter pours as well.

Specially for this Sunday gathering, I went back to using the Espro tamper as I wanted to minimise the variables in our taste tests for Steve’s Green Line and Intelligentsia’s Yirgacheffe. Since all of us were familiar with Yirgacheffe, we decided to prolong Kai Seng’s agonizing wait and pulled the Green Line first. Fortunately, the grind setting on my Compak K-6 was suitable for both coffees. The pull was started at 197.5°F on Eric’s Thermometer. The scent for Green Line espresso was tobacco, and the finish was caramel. Enjoyable indeed. The following picture has the taste notes from Metropolis Coffee.

Then came the Intelligentsia Organic Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Adado. The pull was also at 197.5°F. And wow! The scent was floral, and upon sipping the espresso, we all felt the lemony notes. While 99% of the time on most espresso with this type of taste profile, lemony notes go into overdrive and the taste gives way to brightness and acidity. This time, it was different. Very different. It was a first for all of us. The lemony notes pulled back. We couldn’t quite put our finger on what it reminded us of. Steve mentioned lemon cheesecake. I said lemon meringue or lemon cream. It was the defining moment of a Godshot for all of us. On the bag’s taste notes, it describes the Yirgacheffe as “Jasmine atop lime candy, lemongrass and bergamot.” The 2nd shot was quite consistent with the first. Same lemony notes that never had a chance to go beyond.

While our steakouts (what I call our wining and dining at Kai Seng’s for now) are both satisfying and sinful, I do miss our home barista jam sessions. I hope we get to do one more before the end of this year as soon as Steve can get his new place in order.

Meetup at Kai Seng’s

CGSG Gang of Four (L to R): Colin, Melvin, Kai Seng, Steve

Today’s gathering, January 17 2010, was called up at the last minute, and the attendees were the usual Gang of Four: me, Melvin and Steve at Kai Seng’s pad. Peter was away in Geneva while Adrian was selling bakkwa (roasted pork slices.)  As you can remember from the previous meetup, I, on behalf of the group expressed our enthusiasm and reminded Steve to, most of all, show up with the salsa. He did and thanks to Adhe who is wonderfully consistent, we finished the salsa in one sitting. Kai Seng also prepared ice lemon tea and had cream puffs.  Adrian, though absent, gave us a sampling of his bakkwa. As this gathering was called up last minute and that Steve had just returned from a business trip, most of us were caught without roasted coffee so much so Kai Seng and Dawn had to miss their daily americanoes to allocate for the group. I had a roast muckup the day before too on my Idido Misty Valley.

Wow! While Steve was the undisputed champion of machine mods, Kai Seng has practically every latest gadget known to Man and was the envy of us all. Steve mentioned KS definitely had all his priorities right, marvelling at all his worldly goods. It’s techie geek pad EXXTREME, sporting a Dell Zino with BlueRay connected to his HDTV, a handheld wireless trackpad-keyboard all-in-one, a WDTV media player, a Nexstar HDD dock with eSATA, a Canon Vixia HF200 camcorder, and a nice roaster, of course. A La Marzocco GS3 or a Kees Van Der Westen Speedster would have completed this picture with a sweet note. I remarked about how we coffeegeeks are techie geeks at heart, and Steve followed up by saying that the research process leading right up to our purchase was meticulous and tbat anything that was lacking thereafter would immediately be corrected by some modifications. Did I get that part right?

Kai Seng, Melvin and I made a few espressos while I took turns with Melvin to try out the Vixia. Coffees drank today were Kai Seng’s Ethiopian Kuza, Melvin’s Kenyan AA, and my re-roasted Idido Misty Valley. The day before, I had overloaded my roaster with beans and after a 15 minute roast, was dissatisfied with the results and decided to re-roast half of the batch. Fortunately, the re-roasted batch tasted good, albeit a bit fresh and lacking body.

We adjourned to the rooftop where the roaster was situated. Kai Seng uses a professional gas fired drum roaster. We each had brought our own greens and Kai Seng was at the helm roasting them. We were blessed with a good wind and despite the heat, it was comfortable enough to lounge around in the shade. The 1st and 2nd cracks could be heard clearly over the drum rotation of the beans, and a sample of the beans could be easily taken out at any point during the roast to be examined for colour and consistency. Sight and sound are the 2 senses we use to determine when to end the roast, including all other methods we have employed in our coffee roasting, be it a popcorn popper, a DIY over-the-stove drum roaster, an i-Roast or a GeneCafe. The drum roaster also had the knack of rapidly cooling the beans upon exiting the drum, which is a major plus as you would want the roast to end instantaneously. It is akin to photography and its decisive moment. Our decisive moment makes or breaks the roast.

After the roasting, we went back downstairs where Kai Seng wrapped things up by showing us how he kept the greens, which would warrant a separate post. All in all, it was an enjoyable get-together as usual and a great stress reliever. I am so looking forward to our next gathering. We thank Kai Sneg and Dawn for graciously hosting this fantastic meeting of the like-mindeds.

Stay tuned to this blog for upcoming videos of the event and a sure-fire way to preserve your green coffee ala Kai Seng.

Meetup At The Cairns Episode II – The Dark Side of Convenience

I thought about letting this one go. But Melvin happened. And I just have to borrow his tagline for this post.

It was an ominous feeling to have heard Steve say those words. You just had to be there.

We talked about the Aeropress. About how good a cup of coffee it makes. But it just was not espresso, the way Aeropress had marketed it as.

And then, Steve introduced the N word into our lives and we never looked at him the same again.

Steve talked about how good Nespresso really was at its price point. And then he mentioned the Nespresso ristretto as a must-try. And of course, the convenience of it all. I started going over Steve’s history of machines in my head. A whole series of Braun-Krups-Krap before the transition to the Rancilio Silvia/Rocky combo, and then, now the Expobar Brewtus. And this same guy who’s speaking to us now about the wonders of Nespresso also did tell me in a phone conversation a few months earlier of his next fictional if any, upgrade-itis which was to be the La Marzocco GS3, instead of the Kees Van Der Westen Speedster, mainly because of support issues. This seems to be the upgrade path most home baristi take after the E-61’s I believe.

And then, we called it a day, and we left. And no, Melvin, my journey towards the Dark Side did not end outside Steve’s gates. After you dropped me off, I eventually ended up at ION ORCHARD. Well, it was the path I took to get home anyway. Waitaminute, doesn’t ION ORCHARD also have a Nespresso Boutique?

THE NESPRESSO EXPERIENCE

I walked into the Nespresso Boutique. Wow! It’s a beautiful sight. If you’ve ever walked into a Nespresso Boutique, you’ll know what I mean. Wall to wall packed with Nespresso bricks of different Pantone colours. A whole line of Nespresso coffee pods in different colour shades. Right smack in the centre of the store is an island, where they have demo machines, and all the flavours of Nespresso with it.

Wait, the journey to the Dark Side cannot be complete until I’ve had a taste of, what did Steve recommend. . . “oh! Ristretto please?”

A saleslady made me one by dropping in a pod, and pushing the button. It was served in a clear plastic demitasse. I took a sip, and . . . .

TCBE

This Can’t Be Espresso. This Will Never Be Espresso. BUT, it wasn’t really swill either. I can detect very very slight hints of spice. . . tobacco maybe. It was under the temperature though, slightly warmer than room temperature. It was thin coffee.

The saleslady told me of the convenience factor, about how you could just plug in a Nespresso unit and just churn out coffee without having to wait for a warm-up period. Even my old Gaggia thermoblock required at least a 15 minute start up time. But that did make a different class of espresso as well.

In all fairness, the Nespresso is simple to use, doesn’t make a mess. It makes ok coffee for its price point and for the amount of effort put in. But just like our discussion on the Aeropress, I feel you cannot call this espresso. It’s just convenience coffee.

Meetup at the Cairns

This coffee get-together was organised at a last moment’s notice on Sunday, 8th November 2009 at Steve Cairns’ new place. The ones to turn up this day were me, KaiSeng, and Melvin. Peter couldn’t make it and Adrian was in Malacca. (UNLUCKY)

I regret that I didn’t take any pictures of the HIGHLIGHT AND MAIN EVENT of the day:

The . . . . .

. . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . .

S A L S A ! ! !

which was prepared by Steve’s wife, Adhe. Actually, I don’t really regret as I was too busy stuffing my face with the corn chips and the springrolls dipped in the salsa. I’m hungry now just thinking of it. I think I’ll start off by petitioning that no future coffee meetup shall ever start without Adhe’s salsa. It just would not be complete.

After the fabulous salsa, we retreated inside for drinks. Steve has gotten a really nice work table from IKEA for his coffee equipment as you can see in the accompanying photos below. His line of equipment include the Expobar Brewtus, a Macap M5D grinder with a digital display and worm driven stepless grind adjuster, a Rancilio Rocky grinder (from his Silvia days), a new Reg Barber tamper with a made-to-order 58.2mm convex base, a new clicker tamping base, topped off with the familiar “Espresso Open” backlit sign on his wall. Steve went on to explain about how he and Kelvin (another CGSGer) felt that the 58.2mm base was a much nicer fit than the usual 58mm. We all took turns trying it out and I think that 58.2mm just might be my next purchase.

KaiSeng, Melvin and I brought our own home-roasted coffee, while Steve had Spinelli. My Brazil Formosa was just roasted the day before and I felt it wasn’t rested enough, so I declined to even take it out of the bag.  KaiSeng brought Bolivian AA. Melvin brought a blend of Bolivian AA and Ethiopian Limu. We all took turns as baristi, including Steve’s daughter, Samantha who made an exceptional americano for her mom. I should’ve taken a video or photos because her pour using the naked portafilter was excellent – the basket being equally saturated, the first few drips and then smoothly coming together at the centre of the basket, a slow and steady pour. WOW!!

Without further ado, here is the awards ceremony. The votes are counted (award winners’ votes are discarded) and the winners are . . . .

ishot-2

Best Newcomer:  Samantha Cairns

Best Barista:  Samantha Cairns

Best Roaster:  KaiSeng (that’s saying something as Spinelli was also in the running)

Best Entree which every future meetup can’t do without:   Adhe’s SALSA (which just became the best incentive for us to increase the frequency of our meetups.)

Best Salsa Stuffer: 3 way tie between Colin, KaiSeng and Melvin. (Even though Melvin came late, he caught up real fast.)

We really really have to start planning for the next meetup. How’s everyone for December or January?

Brazil Moreninha Formosa

Roasted on I-Roast 2 Rec 2, stopped with 2 minutes remaining.
Full City to Full City +

2nd day: espresso, slow drip, 45 second ristretto, gorgeous naked flow. Extremely creamy, long aftertaste. Hint of spice, chocolate notes. I think taste will be more pronounced when it peaks later. Will be better tomorrow or day after. Needs more rest. Fantastic RISTRETTO roast. I’m in love! What have I been doing blending this with Zambia? This Brazil is great on its own. KS, take note, I know you have some left, don’t waste blending it.

Ethiopia Yrgacheffe Idido Misty Valley 2008

I was introduced to Idido Misty Valley when I had coffee at fellow coffeegeek Kai Seng’s place last year. It struck me as a cup full of floral notes. At the time, Kai Seng had blended it with several other beans. I had wanted to buy it straightaway but Idido Misty Valley is a bean that doesn’t stay long on the shelves. I’ve read of some coffeegeeks who keep their lists of Idido Misty Valley sources secret from their spouses, much less their peers. When I caught first sight of the 2008 crop, I grabbed them and was quite lucky as I took the last batch my source had to offer. So, here are my cupping notes.

Ethiopia Yrgacheffe Idido Misty Valley

Crop: 2008

Roasted to Full City +.

Day One

I did only one double shot. I separated half as espresso, the other half as americano. The naked pour had tremendous dark chocolate crema, very good tiger-striping. In the cup, the crema was speckled. For aroma, I detected notes of chocolate, fruit, heavy on florals,  As espresso, it was like drinking unadulterated perfume which was very difficult at my stage to discern the different tastes.  As an americano, which I diluted to a 4:1 water espresso ratio, it was winey, slight chocolate, slight lemon fragrance towards the end, fruity. A coffee that comes to mind when I drink the IMV is Panama Hacienda La Esmeralda, the finish is unlike coffee but closer to tea. I am so tempted to make a second shot. This coffee still tastes very fresh and I think it deserves a rest of at least 2 more days. I just hope it will last that long.

Day 2

Aroma has more milk chocolate and floral notes. The naked pour is more intense today.  Heavy chocolate crema with speckling.  Despite making my grind half a notch coarser on the Compak, the pour is slower today. I flushed the group to a cooler temperature of 198 than yesterday’s 202. This coffee is extremely forgiving. a huge contrast to Square Mile’s Winter Espresso.  Pronounced chocolate and winey notes.  More fruit towards the end. Mild bodied.

Mini Meetup – First Notes

KS came over this morning. I introduced Anita to him, and after checking out the way she looks, KS is just so eager to try her out. His girlfriend, Dawn is perfectly fine about it. Hey, I don’t mind as long as I know Anita is in good hands.

Anita looks so fine, except she had all these spritzes around her body, thanks to me and my inconsistent dosing and tamping. We — KS and I took turns pulling shots from her. From this meetup, we made a few discoveries about Anita.

We kept looking for the screw depression on the puck, but couldn’t find any, so we just kept dosing more. Then I realized the blunder after a while. Anita has no screw on her shower screen!

The beans for today were Zambia, Ecafe Shilcho Sidamo, and KS Blend. KS managed to hit on an ideal grind setting on the Compak K6 after a while, which produced a beautiful 25 second pour. Still a bit bright though. But the best pour of the day was 45 seconds long. In spite of the very very slow pour, and the expected over-extracted bitterness, it was the best espresso we have tasted for the day. It was neither bright nor bitter. The beans were KS Blend of Zambia Harrar Brazil Sumatra. Although this grind setting may have been ideal for KS, it may not work for me as I DLT differently. The Compak K6 was easy to clean, especially after the mods.

We unloaded the portafilter after pulling a shot each time, and noted that the pucks were still wet, despite the OPV (Over Pressure Valve). When we finally reached the ideal grind setting though, the puck was dry. Also, the dosing was correct, as you can see a slight indentation from the rim of the shower screen.

One minus point about Anita is after using the steam and hot water wands, even with the rubberized grips, the wands are still too hot to handle. I plan to add clips to the wands.

Some points observed about Quickmill Anita are:

1) The boiler is well-insulated, thereby conserving energy. The sides do not run too hot to touch.

2) The hot water wand may be in the way of the brew lever. You may want to swivel it away before turning on the brew.

3) The 3 litre reservoir is more than sufficient. We made about 6 drinks, performing water dances prior to each drink, also to heat up the glasses, backflushing about 4 times for about 5 seconds each time. But by the time we were done, the drip tray was full to the brim.

4) The HX maintained a steady temperature. Even when the red light (boiler) comes on after the portafilter was locked and loaded, it takes at most 5 to 7 seconds before the boiler switches off.

5) The extra portafilter included with Quickmill Anita comes in handy, as you can fit a blank in one of them to backflush. In ordering the naked portafilter from Chris, I now have a triple basket, in addition to the single and double baskets from Anita.

Future posts include frothing milk, and dissecting Anita.

Meetup at Highlander Coffee

This CGSG meetup was organised by Melvin at Highlander Coffee today at 11 am. I went late, and Adrian was already there, having finished his first Latte, which he remarked Ray the barista had made quite a nice rosetta on.

Having tried the doppios the first time round, I decided on a cafe mocha. Not as sweet as Starbuck’s, but definitely more milky. My 2nd drink was a cappuccino, a good balance between the coffee and the milk. The price for a single espresso is just $1.90. All in all, the milk drinks were an improvement over Starbuck’s. We managed to sneak in the backroom where they house a Diedrich roaster and a few coffee machines including a Gino 3 group machine, a Rancilio Silvia, & a Sunbeam EM6900. There were quite a few interesting charts; one of them was the SCAA chart of grading coffee, the number of defects, etc. Phil and Cedric made us feel entirely at ease and even showed us a video on latte art. Wow! Triple Rosettas. Phil gave us some tips on latte art as well.

Adrian announced that he’s starting a cafe soon. If you want further details, stay tuned to this blog. He’s already ordered a La Marzocco GB5. Now, people will get to taste what CGSG coffee is all about.

Cedric mentioned he favoured Jura over the Quickmill, which is one of the machines I’m looking into getting. He also mentioned that if you want a good coffee machine, to look at the roots, which is Italy. Not something I would agree on though.

With award winning coffees in my collection – a few Colombian COE’s, Gesha, ecafe Sidamo, it seems justifiable I should be getting a HX machine instead.

While the coffee was better than average Singaporean cafes, the service was a tad on the slow side. Understandable since Ray’s the only barista at the time. And he grinds on demand, meaning he measures out single serving doses into the grinder each time. With freshly roasted coffee, this is the way to go if you want good crema.

Well, KS has given in to hosting the next meetup (read previous post). I’m really looking forward to this one. Steve or KS advised we could have a cupping session. Some talk of having a conference roasting session maybe? Excellent company and excellent coffee to boot. That’s what CGSG is all about.

Mini Meetup at KS

I had a mini meetup at Kai Seng’s yesterday. When asked pointblank why he shouldn’t be hosting the next meetup, he replied that his place was too small. Oh PUH-LEEZE! All that concerns the CGSG in me is the company and the coffee. Of course, the only other major factor would be GOOD coffee. And Kai Seng’s HX machine is way better than my Gaggia, which I subjected many of the CGSGers to when I hosted the 2nd meetup. It was pure torture. I’m sorry. The ones who didn’t make the 2nd meetup were spared luckily. Hmmm…  maybe that’s why Steve declined to turn up, after having tasted the swill from my machine a few days earlier when he helped me diagnose its faults.

We pulled the KS blend, which was so endearing it followed me to work later on the day. Endearing because it had this wonderful lingering fragrance. I wonder if it’s the Ethiopian Idido Misty Valley. Wonderful, you must try KS’s blend. He blended 4 different coffees into it. WOW!

I pulled my Zambia Malabar blend. He tried some and said it was one-dimensional. I tried some, and to me it wasn’t. I’m so used to the crappy swill that comes out of my equally crappy machine, that when it comes to pulling the same from fellow CGSGers’ high end machines, I basically can taste the BIIG differences in the coffee.

As for Kai Seng’s remark about his small place, it’s unwarranted. He probably just doesn’t want us to raid his coffee collection. (Just kidding. KS.) He offered to let me take some beans home. What a guy! Tell me why KS shouldn’t be hosting the next meetup. :)    ;)  KS Blend over Highlander blend anytime, anyday.

2 things that came up yesterday:

I suggested that we should try and design a logo for CGSG and make some cotton drawstring bags with the logo. Wouldn’t that be neat? I know everyone in the group should need cotton bags to age or store their coffee. After all, Singapore is the place to age coffee. We have the right humidity and temperature working for us in Singapore.

KS suggested going over to Keith’s restaurants during a less busy day/time to try some of his brew after I harped to him about Keith’s espressoes. I’ll be arranging this for the next next meetup after the Highlander’s and KS’s (if there is one).

Meetup at Steve’s

Thanks to Steve Cairns for hosting the 3rd meetup for CGSG. We all had a great time.  I really enjoyed this meetup, as I finally got to touch and pull shots from the ultimate Expobar Brewtus II.  I used Vivace Dolce, roasted til verge of 2nd crack, rested for only a day.

Here’s a video of Kai Seng pulling a shot of Mexico Oaxaca from Sweet Maria’s. Steve has this neat sign that says “Espresso Open” on the wall overlooking his Brewtus.

[qt:/files/meetup_steve.mp4 176 160]