Category Archives: Pulls

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.

Americano Sans Crema Test

While I used to dismiss the americano as a watered down drink, I’ve grown to appreciate it much more after talking to fellow coffeegeek KS. It is much easier to discern the taste profile of the coffee if one is not used to the intenseness of an espresso. Of course, this intense taste profile comes only with freshness of the bean and quality of the barista and the machine preparing it. After watching James Hoffmann’s video blog and this morning’s taste test, I’ve embarked on another taste test now involving watered down espresso. I used a Bodum Pavina for the espresso, so that the crema could be clearly delineated. Here are the details:

Brazil Moreninha Formosa
Roasted to Full City +
4 days old
Dose: 18 grams

For this 1st shot, after separating the crema, I tasted both cups before adding water. Both taste tests were the same as previous post.

1st shot:

Eric’s Thermocouple:  Start at 200, end at 204 Fahrenheit.

Espresso only:  Slight bitterness.

Crema only:  Good fragrance. Taste spreads thru entire tongue.

Water-espresso 2:1 ratio:  Tastes like…. coffee. Smooth, even cup, no bitterness.

Water-crema 2:1 ratio:  Tastes wonderful. Pronounced fragrance.

Water-crema-espresso:  Good body, very smooth with good fragrance.

The first thing that hit my mind after drinking the 2 different cups was that if the Aldo Coffee taste test was repeated here, the ones who chose Maxwell House will go with the water-espresso cup, while the ones who were able to distinguish the CoE Fazenda Kaquend will go for the water-crema cup. Drinking the water-crema cup brings me the same sensation as my Panama Hacienda La Esmeralda. It doesn’t taste like conventional coffee. It brings the best to the table. To get a taste profile like this, I feel I have to roast the beans to almost Full City, without ever hitting 2nd crack.

2nd shot:

Eric’s Thermocouple:  Start at 198, end at 202 Fahrenheit.

Espresso only:  A bit bright, lemony feel.

Crema only:  Strong fragrance, berry-like.

Water-espresso 1:1 ratio: Citrusy lemony hints. A bright and smooth cup.

Water-crema 1:1 ratio:  Aromatic, perfumed cup. Hint of blueberries. Esmeralda-like. Not like coffee.

Water-crema-espresso:  Coffee with a good aroma. Smooth. A bit lemony. Pleasant aftertaste.

After this 2nd shot, it is safe to say that crema is not rubbish. Au contraire, watered down crema is IMHO a good way for beginners to distinguish the fragrances of the particular coffee. I would reiterate as I have stated in the previous Espresso sans crema taste test, espresso is not complete without crema. If this does work across the board for all coffees, I wonder if this process of separating the crema out will redefine espresso tasting/cupping sessions.

Espresso Sans Crema Test

After reading James Hoffmann’s 1st video blog (well done, James!), I was prompted to do an espresso tasting session at 1 am, and I’ve done enough to give myself a caffeine high at this point. His last words were a shocker. I won’t give any spoilers. You have to watch the video.

The message is that he was also prompted to do a taste test, following a discussion he had at The Coffee Collective’s blog post. Without further ado, here are my findings, and I believe there are more to come.

Brazil Moreninha Formosa
Roasted to Full City +
4 days old
Dose: 18 grams

I did 2 pulls at different temperatures, each indicated by Eric’s Thermocouple.  I used a Bodum Pavina for the espresso, so that the crema could be clearly delineated. I then separated the crema into another cup. Then I tasted the espresso, followed by the crema only, and then both the espresso and crema. (Note: for this article, the espresso means the black liquid without the crema.)

1st Shot:

Eric’s Thermocouple: Start at 200, end at 204 Fahrenheit

Espresso only:  1st sensation was that it was bitter, a tobacco feel. Bitter aftertaste.

Crema only:  Sour, with a tiny hint of some sort of fragrance in the mouthfeel.

Espresso and Crema:  Bitter and sour (At this point, I was thinking, “My home barista skills have gone into the Dark Ages.”)

2nd shot:

Eric’s Thermocouple:  Start at 198, end at 202.5 Fahrenheit.

Espresso:  No bitterness, more body than the 1st shot, very mild aftertaste, taste is mostly congregated at the back of the mouth. A bit nutty and dark chocolate.

Crema only:  No sours at all. Lemony feel. It’s almost akin to perfume oils. There’s a pronounced fragrance but not of the floral sort. Taste goes over entire flat of the tongue.

Crema and espresso:  Perfumed lemony dark chocolate.

I Hate (with a capital “H”) to disagree with The Coffee Collective and James, but I believe that espresso is incomplete without the crema. I believe that the crema is what gives espresso the fragrance and the defining factor that lends to its character and body.  But likewise, the body is incomplete without the head (pun intended). I will definitely be staying on this topic and will include more taste tests. My next set should involve americano.

Brazil Moreninha Formosa – Full City +

I apologize for the multiple posts of Brazil Moreninha Formosa, but I just can’t seem to get enough of it. This roast was done at a lower average temperature and for a shorter period.

From Eric’s Thermometer, the pour was started at 200 degrees and ended at 203 degrees. The temperatures are a bit on the hot side as the pour had a slight bitterness. As a 4:1 water-espresso americano, hint of berry can be detected, and it is full bodied. 2 ounces in 25 seconds. I will try it at 198 tomorrow.

Return of the 45 second Pour (2009)

The 45 second ristretto makes a comeback with 3rd day Brazil Moreninha Formosa. I’m in seventh heaven. This is my GODSHOT! I can’t remember a finer shot than my previous one a long time ago with eCafe Sidamo. Pronounced DARK Chocolate notes, caramel creamy goodness, long aftertaste I wish could last forever.

While many would balk “45 seconds? Ristretto (restricted espresso)? That’s almost twice 25 seconds – the standard timing for a shot of espresso.” I was well aware of this, taking quick looks at Eric’s e-61 thermometer to ensure the temperature doesn’t drop below 198 degrees Fahrenheit while watching the pour to cut at first blonding. The resulting pour:

The details of the pour are:

Roast: Brazil Moreninha Formosa
Degree: Full City +
Machine: Quickmill Anita
Brew Pressure: 9.5 bars
Boiler Pressure 1.5 bars
Dose: 18 grams
Grind: Ultra Fine
Tamp: 30 pounds (Espro Clicker Tamper)
Eric’s e61 Thermometer: Flushed to 187, Start pour at 198. End pour at 198.

Here’s  the sequence of my 3rd cup today. Same variables as above shot with
Eric’s e61 Thermometer: Flushed to 187. Start pour at 200. End pour at 203.5
which resulted in a slight bitter shot, but still very pleasurable. Slight bitter dark chocolate.

Colombian El Descanso / Brazil Moreninha

I’ve had enough of the i-Roast 2 presets. I programmed into PROG 3 the following:

Temp/Time      Period
380F/3:00       12:00 – 9:00
450F/4:00       9:00 – 5:00
480F/4:00       5:00 – 1:00
400F/1:00       1:00 – 0:00

I roasted 90 grams of Colombian Cup of Excellence El Descanso and 60 grams of Brazil Moreninha Formosa. 1st crack was at -6:00 and 2nd crack was at -1:30. I was extremely pleased with the evenness of the roast.


After a rest of just 1 day, I pulled 2 shots, the 2nd with a slightly coarser grind setting.


Both drinks had slight fruited tones with a floral finish. I feel the fruits will be more pronounced on the 3rd day. This is one program I’ll be keeping.

Rate of Flow

What is an acceptable rate of flow from a bottomless portafilter?

Brazil Moreninha Formosa Day 5

For me, I try to keep it to a mouse tail. While I know this is applicable
to those stock portafilters with their bottoms intact, I’m not sure
about the bottomless. Something to look in the forums for. My ideal for
a well-rested coffee would be to do a 45 second ristretto, where the
flow is sticky, gooey, and drips down like chocolate fudge, and I’ll
cut the flow at the slightest hint of pale. Intense.

Technorati Tags: , , portafilter,

Finally after a long hiatus

Another long hiatus for me since the last post. I haven’t been roasting nor pulling either. I did a good roast half an hour before midnight on Feb 23rd. Ethiopian Sidamo roasted to Viennese in 5:28 minutes as recorded on my iPhone. Did a pull this morning as I couldn’t wait any longer. BRING BACK THE 45 SECOND RISTRETTO! I tried to take pictures, but my iPhone resetted itself after installing some apps. But I got these pictures below as a consolation.

A bit blurry, no channeling.

The grind was right, funnel formed right in the centre, pour ran about 45 seconds before there was even a hint of blonding. I shall be better prepared tomorrow. Check out the machined edge of the Verna naked/bottomless portafilter.

There was a hint of lemony brightness, a bit of dark chocolate notes, a guinness pour as the beans are too fresh, should peak in another 2 days. But I can’t wait, so I’ll do another tomorrow.

I can’t remember my last pull before this. My Anita has been neglected! The pump almost wouldn’t come on to fill the boiler.

Technorati Tags: quickmill anita, ecafe sidamo, , naked portafilter, , ,

My Ritual and the next move

I’ve had a long hiatus since my last post, what with handling a chaotic comic book shop, and trying to move the whole shenanigan to a new place (more on this later), I haven’t even the time to do a roast. But I managed to find some time, what with my poor time management skills, to allocate for Roast Day Sunday last.

Today is Day 3 of SM Italian Espresso Blend. I did a pull yesterday, sorely out of temptation as I haven’t had a “proper” drink in quite a while. Yesterday’s was kinda grassy, too bright for my liking, and well, not well-rested.

Today. Today, on the other hand. What a difference a full day makes!

Assisted by the 2 megapixel camera on my iPhone (has anyone seen the curvaceous MacBook Air?), and my military grade Surefire L2 light, among an entire entourage of devices such as the venerable Eric Svendon Digital Thermometer Device, and not forgetting, the Anita, I sought out to find enlightenment in these dark days. (My, my, this is just after my 2nd drink.) Without further ado, here is the following sequence of my (haphazard, can’t help it – one hand holding the iPhone feels like one hand tied) ritual:

First drops of nectar. I was so sure there wasn’t enough light, so I used a Surefire L2, which provided a 15 lumens flood beam. Overkill. Looks like 10 seconds at this point. The Anita provides a pre-infusion of about 8 to 9.5 seconds at around 3 bars. During these first drops, the pressure climbs to a 9 bar at a steady rate.

Here, you see the Guinness effect (akin to a Guinness Stout pour, non-believers), which happens when you have well rested beans. The colour is really slightly darker, but thanks to the Surefire Overkill, it appears so much lighter.

More of the Guinness pour. This is really looking good. From experience, this looks like 15 seconds into the pour. (Non-believers, this is espresso, no milk added.) On the right, that’s the hot water wand, which I always swing out of the way, to allow easy access to the brew lever. And that’s a Bodum Pavina 2.7 oz, by the way. And why is it kissing the naked portafilter? You will see….

Mmmmmm… The iPhone moves slightly lower to reveal the dark coffee starting to invade the voluminous crema. The tamping was not done well, because, at this point, I noticed that the funnel was not coming from the center, but rather to the right. Another smaller drop was forming to the left, but seemed to be drawing nearer to the main funnel. I could seem the righteous left(no pun intended) dark chocolatey drop forming, and was determined not to stop the flow until they reunite. This is hitting the 20 second mark. Come on, you slow drop!

OK. So, chocolate drop at left field went independent. It didn’t seem that left field was yielding anything more than a drop, and flow is starting to thin. Time to reach for the brew lever. It is now 25 seconds.

And it’s a fumble! Lights out. So, Surefire was needed afterall. Whoops. 28 seconds. Thank God I tamped really hard just now. Seems to be paying off.

So, now you know why Pavina was almost kissing the naked Verna Design portafilter. Have you seen a Verna up close? You have not seen a naked portafilter til you have a Verna. If I were Pavina, I would be kissing the Verna pf too. Remember what I said about the Macbook Air? The Verna portafilter is to all other naked portafilters what the MacBook Air is to all other generic laptops. More on this later in a separate post. OK, back to the main event. Note: colours are really darker than what it looks like here. Everyone? “SUREFIRE OVERKILL ! ! !”

This was taken approximately 10 seconds after the pour. Raised platform sponsored by’s excellent measured shot glass. However, I’ve not had the pleasure of measuring anything with it yet. The 2nd drink was not as good as the first. A slight thinning out as I was fumbling for the brew lever, and careful not to place the iPhone on anything hot.

Here’s another look at the crema laden pour, with espressoparts shot glass trying to edge itself nearer to bask in the limelight. “Hey, Mom! Hey, quit shoving!”

Slight channeling to the left, where the left ear is. It could be from the disengaging of the portafilter from the grouphead, right? But, I think not. Can’t blame anyone, darn! Eric’s Digital Thermometer (EDT), on the left, says hi. The reason you are able to see the colours through the Pavina is because I flushed the Anita with EDT, and heated the Pavina with the ensuing flush. Without the Pavina all heated up, the glass would be more hazed up than it is in the pictures above. The Bodum’s double walled insulation helped a lot here. And that’s why I’m not using the EP shot glass. Besides, the Verna Design pairs up wonderfully with the Pavina.

In summary, I would like to thank the following uhh.. tools that gave these 2 wonderful pours light of day. Quickmill for designing a beauty of a machine, the Anita; Eric Svendson for the digital thermometer to aid in my flushing attempts; Verna Design for making a beautifully crafted and cut portafilter; Bodum for artfully crafting a double walled insulated shot glass; for equally making a flat bottomed shot glass; Surefire for providing adequate flood light. Last but not least, thanks to the tutelage from the people at CoffeeGeek, Home-Barista, and CGSG, without whom I would not have the necessary skills to pull this off.

A small announcement to make. This blog post has taken too much of my time, and a lot feel that time should be better spent at the shop, so put 2 and 2 together, Anita and all the tools mentioned here will be making the exodus to the new place. Stay tuned either here or at my shop blog to figure out where we will all end up next. And if you are a CG, HB, or a CGSG, just mention your affiliations, and I’ll see to it you’ll have a nice welcome drink. More on this in another post. I’m late for work. See you soon. BIG SMILE.