Tag Archives: steve_cairns

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.

The REAL Latte Art Challenge

When I first heard that Nestlé is sponsoring the latte art competition, I was already wondering what magic new espresso machine they are going to pull out of their hat this time. Yes, Nestlé, as in Nespresso infamy. Someone actually leaked (untruthfully) that it was going to be a Nespresso machine that was going to do the espresso base for the cappuccinos. I smsed the rest of the CGSG group, only to have CGSG Founder Kai Seng reply with “They should up the ante and use Nestlé milk powder.”

Yesterday, as the Latte Art Comp preceded the main Barista Competition, it was finally revealed to us what the magic machine was. I regret I do not have any photos here. (I shall take some later today.) You know the kind of Milo/Teh Tarik/Black Coffee/Hot Chocolate dispensers they have littering just about any ubiquitous kopitiam/hospital/waiting area? Yes, that all-in-one dispenser was making the espresso, sorry, black coffee for the capp base. They had a briefing on the stage where the 2 dispensers were proudly displayed, its innards being revealed to all in amazement. The insides looked like the insides of your CMYK inkjet printer. They have neat cartridges for black coffee premix, milo premix, teh tarik premix, etc. I was thinking someone would just be out there to make a cost effective Continuous Ink Beverage Supply System for this dispenser. But, at the same time, Steve and I were thinking of the problems the competitors are going to face trying to make latte art with this coffee.

This dispenser comes without PID, without all the wonderful technology most people take for granted when working with a budget toy like a $50 Krups or Braun, without the consistency to put out even an un-espresso nespresso. This is the equivalence of a 2 in one coffee mix that comes 30 packs in a bag at your nearest supermarket. It makes sweet black coffee topped with big bubbly foam. Now, this is what I call a REAL LATTE ART CHALLENGE. Ever since their first Barista Challenge in 2009, CuppaChoice always had the creativity of doing something out of the norm with the rest of the crowd. Their 1st Barista Challenge had the blind latte art challenge where competitors had to pour latte art without looking at the cup. This, of course, produced hilarious results with half the competitors burning their hands with hot milk.

You just have to think out of the box for this one. A few competitors thought of stamping out the foam by knocking the cup against the tabletop, the same way you would when faced with bubbles in your micro-foamed milk. But, for some, the bubbly foam coffee was still inpenetrable by the micro-foamed milk. This is coupled with the fact that even if the milk found a way to penetrate the coffee foam, it still had the thick coffee foam to restrict the flow of milk on top to draw your latte art. To the untutored eye, it would seem these competitors just do not have the skill to put out nice latte art. However, much to the surprise of many, the few and the proud still found a way to make really nice 5 hearted tulips, rosettas, and the like. Of course, it didn’t help the matter much as the judges were 2 time Singapore National Barista Champion John Ryan Ting and SNBC 2010 #3 Suhaimie Sukiman, both of whom came in #2 and #3 in both this year’s SNBC and its companion Latte Art Competition. #1 was happily vacationing in some Indonesian island and wasn’t available to do the judging.

Here are the finalists:

  • Nizam (Jolly Frog)
  • Fadzli (Jones the Grocer)
  • Terrence (30 mls)
  • Sham (CuppaChoice)
  • Fadhly (CuppaChoice)

Here’s one blog post that came to my mind when I was watching the latte art challenge unfold. Since the coffee foam was hard to work with, it would be great if you could spoon off the coffee foam, leaving just the black coffee. Then you would, as illustrated in James Hoffman’s answer to the readers who mentioned that latte art would be difficult without crema, be able to easier draw your latte art in black coffee.

This is a screenshot from James’ site. Clicking on it wouldn’t produce the video. You have to go to the link above and view the entire video. :)

MITR PHOL Barista Challenge 2010

[This post has been updated with correct dates and times as of 3 June 2010]

CUPPACHOICE INTERNATIONAL PTE LTD has been given the honour and responsibility to organise and run a Barista Challenge on behalf of MITR PHOL THAILAND and MAXWILL (ASIA) PTE LTD, in conjunction with MITR PHOL SUGAR Trade Show 2010.

The Trade Show will be held from the 4th to 6th June and the Barista Challenge will be the main focus from the 5th and finals on the 6th of June on the 4th June from 11 am to 7 pm and on the 5th June from 11 am to 7 pm.

The main event is MITR PHOL BARISTA CHALLENGE and the side event, MITR PHOL LATTE ART THROWDOWN.

Come join us in this carnival, after all, it is also the GREAT SINGAPORE SALE and there is no better place to be than in Orchard Road.

MITR PHOL BARISTA CHALLENGE 2010 (in running order)

1. Jackie (Jolly Frog Bistro Bar)

2. Terence (Boomarang Express)

3. Noribsham (Cuppachoice Café & Academy)

4. Natasha (1 Caramel Café)

5. Mustaffa (1 Caramel Café)

6. Fadhly (Cuppachoice Café & Academy)

7. Jason (Starbucks Coffee)

8. Cessna (Café Cartel)

9. Arfian (30 Mls Coffee Bar)

10. Nizam (30 Mls Coffee Bar)

11. Andy (Starbucks Coffee)

12. Main Pavan (Jones The Grocer)

NESTLE LATTE ART CHALLENGE

1. Arfian (30 Mls Coffee Bar)

2. Alif (Jones The Grocer)

3. Fadzli (Jones The Grocer)

4. Noribsham (CuppaChoice Café & Academy)

5. Art (Jones The Grocer)

6. Terence (Boomarang Express)

7. Fadhly (Cuppachoice Café & Academy)

8. Jackie (Jolly Frog Bistro Bar)

9. Andy (Starbucks Coffee)

10. Nizam (30 Mls Coffee Bar)

11. Jason (Starbucks Coffee)

12. Cessna (Café Cartel)

13. Han Bing (Café Cartel)

[excerpted from Facebook]

—————————————————————————

PANEL OF JUDGES

The judges have been announced to be the following:

Alex Chong- Sensory Judge (Master Roaster & MD of CuppaChoice)

Colin Loh – Sensory Judge (CGSG Founding Member, espresso.colinloh.com)

Adrian Toh – Sensory Judge (Nestle Professional Representative)

Zaccheus Leck – Sensory Judge (Maxwill Representative Coffee Lover)

Steve Cairns – Technical Judge (CGSG Founding Member)

Cheryl Lee – Technical Judge (2 time Malaysia Barista Champion)

John Ting – Latte Art Judge (Singapore National Barista Champion 2008,2009, WBC 2009 Ranked #21, Barista@Oriole Cafe)

Competition Blend

The blend used for the competition is a 60% Kenya AA / 40% Ethiopia Sidamo roasted by CuppaChoice to Mid-Dark.

Personal Notes:

I went to scout the location today. While my previous post mentioned that the barista challenge was to be held at Takashimaya, it is in actual fact being held at the outdoors Civic Plaza. The area allocated for the MITR PHOL Barista Challenge is super-huge, as compared to the area we are so used to during the Singapore National Barista Championships. The SNBC 2010 area was about one-tenth the size of MITR PHOL BC. The stage area is just behind the fountain at Ngee Ann City. I hope to update this blog post with photos tomorrow.

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?