Tag Archives: kaiseng

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.

Hands On Review: La Marzocco FB80 Paddle Group

First of all, I would like to thank May Soo from Wineberry, the official La Marzocco distributor in Singapore for inviting me and Kai Seng to Food And Hotel Asia 2010 at Singapore Expo. The first thing we did after passing through the visitor registration process yesterday was heading to the La Marzocco booth at Hall 5C-8. The La Marzocco booth is also conveniently located opposite from the stage area where the Asia Barista Championship is being held today and tomorrow. Thankfully, ABC’s La Marzocco machines are sponsored by Wineberry, unlike Singapore National Barista Championship’s mismatched pair of machine-grinder combo.

On display were 2 very sought after machines of mine.

This is a La Marzocco GS3 Paddle Group with clear side panels. The clear side panels are an exhibition only feature as the original GS3 comes with black side panels. This one time model is also on sale for a very good price of S$9000. I was told that there will be a price hike for La Marzocco soon.

And the winning espresso machine of FHA 2010 this year would be the La Marzocco FB80 Paddle Group. This machine is a beauty to behold. We could see that the 3 groups all had individual PIDs, with temperatures set at 94.8°C, 96.6°C and 95.5°C. As the temperatures show, it would mean the PIDs could be configured in steps of 0.1 degree. WOW!

This FB80 model comes with LED lights too. Note also the matte black steam wands. Sleek!

That’s one less trip to Ikea to get the LED strips.

Paired with the 2 La Marzocco espresso machines is the La Marzocco Swift, a grinder with auto-dosing and auto-tamping.

The real feature the FB80 and the GS3 had that attracted the both of us were the paddle groups and the ability of pressure profiling. So many of the other espresso machines found at FHA this year were mostly boasting Green-Save-The-Environment features. These paddle group machines meant that we could control the amount of pre-infusion time and the amount of pressure manually. The paadle group lever goes smoothly from right to left. As I gradually moved the lever to the center position, I could see that the pressure went to 3 bars steadily, and as I moved the lever to the left, the pressure began to climb to 9 bars.

With the La Marzocco Swift ensuring the tamping and dosing variable would remain constant throughout, we could easily put the FB80 to the test. I went first. I chose to use the 95.5°C grouphead and proceeded to flush the grouphead with the portafilter attached. I then detached the portafilter, gave it a good wipe and locked it into the Swift. The coffee provided was Oriole Cafe’s freshly roasted Espresso blend, another good match to the machine. After the Swift’s dosing and tamping ended, I unlocked the portafilter and locked it back into the FB80. I gradually moved the lever to the center position and then waited for the first drops. Just as I did that, I knew that Kai Seng would probably be thinking the same thing as I was at the time. This experience would be perfect if I had brought along my naked portafilter. After about 7 seconds, the first dark chocolate coloured drops appeared in the cup. I let it drip for about 4 seconds before gradually moving the lever the the left, bringing the pressure up to 9 bars. The pour was superb, the colours went from dark chocolate to lighter dark chocolate. The crema in the cup was so spectacular. At the first sign of very slight bloding, I moved the lever back to the right to stop the pour. The espresso was heavenly. I could taste the wide complex taste spectrum of the espresso. No bitters at all, some chocolates, a buttery mouthfeel. At 95.5°C, I was in 7th heaven with Oriole Cafe’s espresso blend.

Darn! I’m late for work. I will finish this review when I return later in another 11 hours’ time. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, please attend FHA 2010 even if it means paying the $80 at the door. Wineberry will not be having the FB80 for long. I’ve heard that the unit already has a buyer.

P.S.  The only odd feature we didin’t like was the fact that there was only 1 pressure gauge shared between all 3 groups. I turned on the 3 individual groups at different times and it seemed that the pressure gauge displayed the highest pressure at any one time.

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.

Home Barista Steve Cairns

Home Barista Steve Cairns shows you how he goes about his espresso routine. Equipment used are an Expobar Brewtus espresso machine, a Macap M5D grinder & a Reg Barber tamper. This was filmed at his home on Sunday, 8th November 2009 during one of our get-togethers.

I’ve just spent an hour uploading this video on Youtube, only to realise Youtube needs another 6 hours’ crunchtime processing the video before it can be properly viewed. So, I’ve included a smaller 16:9 video (suitable for viewing on an iPhone) on this post instead while we await the higher res one on Youtube to finish its due course.

I’ve got much better experience with Vimeo, so here it is.

This video was taken with a Fuji F50fd digital cam, so please pardon the poor quality.

HQ version on Youtube:

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zi-k-K4xaI

P.S.  Comparing the 2 online video servers, Vimeo and Youtube:

I spent an hour uploading the video on each of the 2 servers, but Vimeo didn’t require the 6 hours’ processing time. However, Vimeo is not as iPhone-friendly as Youtube which launches the Youtube app as soon as you tap on the play icon on your mobile Safari.

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?