Archive for March, 2007

SO Espresso

I had my first real single origin espresso yesterday courtesy of the folks over at Elysian. I was told I would be given something “special”. Not knowing what I was getting, I was impressed with the shot when Matti handed it to me. Beautiful balance across the shot. Lots of fruit in the little ACF demitasse. I thought it might have been a tweaked blend that they had running. But then I’m shown the bag. It was Novo’s Adado Espresso. Holy crap guys, it was good. Then I had a short americano to accompany my trip to the liquor store up the hill and all you could smell were those Kettle Valley Organic Blueberry bars… Very, very good stuff.

Also, I saw Danny Howells, one of my all-time favorite DJs, last night at Celebrities. If you are at all interested in seeing an amazing house DJ play a show, check him out.

How to pronounce genmaicha

So I get a ton of search engine traffic from people who want to know how to pronounce genmaicha. Here it is, from my Japanese instructor (or coworker), “gen-my-tcha”. And no, it is NOT “jen-my-tcha”.

My milk guide

Alright, so I’ve had requests to post a more detailed description of the technique Arthur Wynne taught me this past weekend. I can’t take any credit for it, but I’ll try to describe it here below. No pics or video yet since I just work weekends and have been super busy all week with school.

So here’s the deal with the milk. It’s pretty subtle, and I’m pretty sure that people like Chris are already doing this technique… I think I just never learnt it properly in my self taught travels. For the information of my readers, I am using a 3 group La Marzocco GB5 with the standard 4 hole steam tip, and a 32 oz straight walled stainless steel pitcher.

The step-by-step approach:

1. Get everything ready (probably any pitcher will do… my preference these days has shifted to a 32 oz standard spouted), have your shots pouring, etc. You know, the usual routine.

2. Insert steam wand about 2-3 (maybe as much as 5 depending on pitcher geometry/steam wand) cm from the edge of the pitcher at about the 11 o’clock or 1 o’clock position depending on whether you are left or right handed or the configuration of your machine. I, for example, am left handed, using a steam wand mounted on the left hand side of the machine, so I put mine at the 1 o’clock position.

3. Bring the steam up to full power right away. This is the most important part: you must keep the tip super close to the surface. I was surprised (after steaming probably tens of thousands of pitchers in my career) to see how shallow the tip was kept. You want your tip to be at a slight angle, we’re talking if the milk surface was flat, the pitcher should probably be angled towards you 5-15° with respect to the milk. Surf the milk gently. Again, I was surprised about how much surfing was done, as I had been doing much less before. Essentially, you want the milk to vigorously whirlpool with little or no movement from the barista. It’s like there’s a whirlpool sweet spot at that point in the pitcher.

4. When the milk gets warm, raise the pitcher slightly so you’re not surfing, but your wand is still very very shallow in the milk. Keep that whirlpool alive.

5. Steam to desired temperature, stop the steam, purge and wipe that wand, bang out your pitcher and swirl. I’m a fan of steaming to 130°F for my own drinks and letting it cruise on up, but for the cafe I do a 140°F steam which usually ends up just above 155°F.

6. Pour sweet latte art.

7. Drink.

The awesome thing about this milk is it will stay more stable over longer periods of time, it will be beautifully glossy, it allows for multi pour art with more consistency and you can let the pitcher sit for a bit and the milk will thicken up over time and still be pourable! (Works for low fat and soy too!)

I hope I haven’t over hyped this technique. I really think it’s being done everywhere that’s pouring sweet latte art… let me know what you think and I’ll try to take pictures on the weekend of what I’ve been doing… or of the results.

Milk guide pending

I’ll try to post up a guide for my milk technique in the next little while. School’s pretty crazy right now, so that’s the focus, but I’ll try to get it up soon (I do have a draft copy at the moment).

I’m a little hesitant to be so high on this method, because I have a feeling most of the top pros are using it already, I just hadn’t been taught it. However, I’ll post it soon and I can get feedback as to how it compares with your own methods…

And to Cachaça Dave, you’re right! It is caipiroska, not caipirovska. In gratitude, here’s how you can make a great caipirinha, video from the aforementioned Cachaça Dave. His video is the only one I’ve seen that suggests using a shaker with the drink. I think it’s a lot easier/cleaner/better to use it than mixing with a spoon in the glass. I wish I were in the States! We only have one cachaça available in BC according to the liquor store’s site.

Milk texturing gone right, Food Network, yuzu

Yesterday contained a revelation. I worked my first full shift with Arthur at the cafe where he showed my very quickly, a technique for texturing that he learnt in Australia. See, Arthur’s milk is always ridiculously glossy and smooth, no bubbles, even in low fat milk, and it’s as sweet as can be. That, and one of my regulars who brings in Lactaid milk for us to steam said that Arthur’s milk, in relation to mine was always “creamier”. That and Arthur always got the volume of this customer’s milk just right with no left overs. I always had about a half ounce or more in the bottom.

Apparently in my self-taught ways, I had never really learnt the proper texturing method. I always had decent milk, but it was never the best, especially with low fat and soy milks. As soon as I was told the new technique, I had the beautiful milk I had been lusting after.

It’s simple: keep the tip shallow, surf gently near the edge of the pitcher and let it roll. See… I thought I had been doing that, but the new way is infinitely better. I don’t really have a video setup, so anyone curious can email me and I’ll try to describe it better or, better yet, come into the cafe on the weekend and I’ll demonstrate. I love it.

Also, I am addicted to the Food Network. Iron Chef America (I’ll explain) must be the best program on television. Now, I feel I have to justify favoring the American spin off of Iron Chef. It’s more competitive and it’s less campy than the Japanese original. Seeing food of that quality is quite spectacular.

Food of that quality rarely reaches this poor barista’s palate (well, maybe if he saved more). However, during the family visit that I mentioned in my previous post about Vancouver restaurants, we managed to eat at 3 places: Go Fish!, the Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company and Vij’s.

Holy crap, Vij’s is amazing. The service there was exceptional, beyond any restaurant I have been (and I have been to a few acclaimed spots). Vij and his team do a phenomenal job to make you feel welcome. The little things like immediately serving chai to those of us waiting in the rain for a spot in the restaurant before they open (they don’t take reservations, hence the line up). The food was incredible too. It being an Indian restaurant, you might expect a dish or two to be quite spicy, but everything there was expertly spiced so that enough heat was provided without any sinus action. Everything was solid.

I’ve added a secret weapon to my arsenal of ingredients for cocktails. Any of my readers ever hear of yuzu?

It’s a Japanese citrus, described as being somewhere in flavor between a lemon and a grapefruit. I’ve added a bottle of the juice to my pantry. It’s good stuff. It’s salted though, and I only ever seem to find the salted variety when hunting in Japanese markets. That salt though seems to help cut the acidity in more citrusy drinks (my drink of choice is the caipirovska, the vodka variant of the caipirinha – whole lime, sugar and cachaça shaken with ice).

Here’s my current cocktail:

Citrus-mint caipirovska

  • About 1 tbsp of fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp of yuzu juice
  • 1/2 lime, quartered
  • 1-1 and 1/2 tsp. castor sugar
  • 2 oz vodka
  • ice

So, chop that mint, add the yuzu and muddle for a bit. Add the lime (I’ll sometimes use the whole lime if they’re on the small side) and drop the sugar on top of the lime. Muddle more, but be gentle, as muddling the lime too much will bring out the bitters from the rind. Add the vodka on top (my preferred is Luksusowa, a Polish potato vodka that is without a doubt the best vodka for the sub-$45 price range). Add ice and shake. I shake a lot so there is some dilution and breaking of the ice cubes. Pour into a rocks glass and garnish with a sprig of mint. It makes for an interesting drink.


On tap

49th Parallel El Salvador La Montaña
Excellent coffee for everyday drinking. Well expressed acidity and classic El Salvador profile.

Bulleit Bourbon
By far the best bourbon available in BC for the price. $35 for a bottle gets you the highest rye content bourbon on the market. Lots of spice and typical bourbon corn sweetness. Excellent on its own, but also makes a mean Old Fashioned. Better than Knob Creek in my books and pretty close to Woodford Reserve.

The Phonograph

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