Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Holidays

The holidays are in full swing and Christmas is almost upon us.  Our two stores are being stocked with all manor of goodies.  Coffee being the most important, to me anyway.  As is our tradition we have put together a new blend.  A Holiday Blend.
For a couple of days different regions were thought about for their distinct attributes. Once we decided what we were looking for things started moving pretty quickly. Through sample roasting and cuppings with traders at our different suppliers green beans were decided on.  Roast profiles were experimented with, as well as percentages of parts.  Lots of blind taste testing of the different experimental blends lead us to what we now have available.
The new Holiday Blend contains three different parts, Sulewasi, Burundi and Kenya.  Each type of coffee is very distinct and brings those qualities to the cup.  Sulewasi for body, Burundi for acidity and Kenya for a touch of fruit.
Try it as a pour-over at either of our locations.  Take it home and make it the way I like it.  Done up in a french press.  This coffee is sweet enough on its own any way you make it.  But it also blends well with milk and sugar.

A note from Maintenance:
Things require a certain amount of simple maintenance.  We take care of our espresso machines scrupulously for instance.  But the unsung workhorse, the grinder is sometimes overlooked. Until it needs help.  Sure we vacuum them out and clean the outside and wash the hoppers at the end of the night, but that is about the extent of it.
Recently several have decided that they don't want to switch on anymore.  During the holidays to boot.  The main back up grinder as it turns out was having the same switch problems as the others. Causing a swap with what I call the "little" grinder, about two-thirds the size of the others.  This little trooper was once used for single origin espresso and now has been called up to the big boys as it were. Filling in for the decaf, that became the main espresso grinder.
So two by two (just like the Ark) they go off for maintenance.  Rockridge grinders this week and Downtown grinders next week. While they are out we are also having the burrs replaced. When these grinders get back from Pacifica (thats where the maintenance magic happens) they will be running like new.  Ready for that morning espresso.    

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Obama Blend


The last few weeks have been pretty hectic, settling into what will be the routine and ironing out the wrinkles.  However the last few days have been absolutely crazy.  Events unfolded that led Bittersweet to develop a new coffee blend.  The new blend was given at the Oakland campaign dinner for the President.  Hence the name Obama blend.  

Let's start on Thursday July, 19th.  I was given the green light to start on the Obama blend.  It would have to be sourced, developed (roasting, cupping, testing different blends) and everything figured out by Sunday the 22nd.  Many phone calls ensued.  More phone calls.  If this was going to happen the coffee would have to be sourced by end of business. After receiving some pricing from different vendors, then discouraging news about availability I was starting to think that this might not happen.  I found the Kenyan first.  Paper work and payment were arranged the only thing left was the pick up at the warehouse.  Soon after and more phone calls and faxing I was able to source the Hawaiian.  Dealing with the time difference and being very lucky to get through to the right person it all was coming together.  Finally I could breathe, biggest obstacles overcome.  

Friday July, 19th a new day.  The day started as usual, cupping then cleaning the roaster. I had arranged the pick up of the coffee the day before and we headed off to the warehouses. We were on a strict timetable and I would still have to do my regular roasting for the day.  With the coffee picked up we headed for home.  While all this was going on Penny was working on the labels.

When we returned I started roasting my regular orders as soon as the roaster was up to temp.  As I finished I realized the new coffees would have to wait to Saturday.  So I prepped things for the next day.  

Saturday the morning of the 20th came early.  Off to the experimental roasting day.  Things went very fast.  Roasting, waiting, cupping and changing ratios,  more roasting...  This went on until the current blend was settled on.  

Three full finished batches for the day on top of experiments.  They would have at least a day to rest before bagging.  Then off to the dinner.  Whew.

On Sunday Penny labeled and bagged everything that had been roasted the day before.  Packed it up and delivered the first of the Obama blend to go out.  

Monday arrived and my day started like any other.  Finally back on schedule and roasting a new blend as part of my regular orders.  As I started roasting the channel 7 news crew arrived.  Good timing on their part - first crack had just started.  So I gave them a rapid fire synopsis of how the whole process played out.  I made the evening news.  The reporter even joked about $30k+ (the cost of the dinner) sips of coffee.

I would like to give a shout out to a few people who made this possible.  Eric with 197 Coffee.  Derek who manages the Waialua Estates.  Mark and Susan from Volcafe.  And the staff of Bittersweet who came together to make this happen.

Till next time,

Monday, April 30, 2012

Roaster moved and Running

Hello All,

As you know we have been running for a few weeks now. Last time I left out news of the roaster thinking that I would dedicate an entire entry to our IR-7 and its travels. 
Our little roaster has been a trouper.  Coming out of the move with no scrapes, scratches or other damage. It started right up and took on its responsibilities of roasting tasty coffees from around the world for you. 
With the new location comes new ways of doing things. The roaster is tucked into a space near the back door.  This makes for good airflow and keeps me from being cooked.  Along with this I have a variable speed exhaust fan that adds a layer of fine tuning that I did not have at the old location.  I was adverse to the fan in the beginning but quickly came around.  The more ways to tweak things is better.  While the fan adds another aspect to keep an eye on, every layer of fine tuning that you add gives you more control over what the coffee is doing and what you are trying to achieve. 

At the new space I have much less square footage than we had at the warehouse. I have had to grow up and not out.  Sharing space in the kitchen has been challenging but the system seems to be working well. 

I like keeping the active coffee close at hand without much of the mess that comes with having bags on pallets.  Of course I have to go down to the vault and refill these white Brutes.  This method makes inventory a little more difficult manage and I have to keep a close eye on things, but overall works very well. 

Till next time. 


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Open for Bussiness

It has been to long since my last post and many changes have occurred here at Bittersweet! I will up you on some of what has been going on in our little corner of the coffee world.

We have opened a new location! Where you might ask? Downtown Oakland 1438 Broadway.

We are all moved in a running at full steam. Before that though there was about a month when the roaster was in flux. Our warehouse was closed but we were waiting on all the permitting for the new location. If it were not for Ritual Coffee Roasters and Steve Ford there may not have been any consistency during the moving/construction of the new space! By graciously allowing me a couple of hours a week on their Probat, I was able to avert tragedy and keep up with the needs of the cafe. This also kept us from having to go to an outside source for our coffee during the interim period, so a big thanks to them for saving our bacon...bean.

As I mentioned above the warehouse could no longer house the coffee and peripherals so I had to make other arrangements. "Safe" arrangments.

Enter the vault.

Pretty kewl don't you think.

I don't believe that anyone will be able to get at the coffee when I am not around.

While I am around however, I keep the door open thus allowing the coffeee to breath.

Do you think the coffee will ever be in a more secure location?

With the green coffee taken care of we move on the the roaster...

Next time.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Were back up and running.

Hello everyone Jake here (Chewbacca to Ian's Han Solo),

(See previous posts for upcoming references.)

Chewbacca has now been flying solo for a while, roasting a mean bean and will be using this blog to sassily write about what is going on in the world of Bittersweeet coffee (and barely operable machinery in the warehouse).

I have to give much thanks to Ian for giving me the skills to do something I love. Roasting makes not only me happy but all the people who need to get their fix, I mean daily cup of coffee. So thanks Ian for the training and mentoring. You have been an invaluable asset to not only me but Bittersweet as well.

We will be holding public cuppings on Friday afternoons at two o'clock here at the cafe. I will be taking this opportunity to showcase one of the coffees that we are currently offering, while hopefully giving out some good information about each selection, teaching people how to cup, and why cupping is important.

On the shelves is a new Yemen Mocca Sanaani. This is a limited run so... come in while we have it! I know that many people will miss the Bali as one of our single origin offerings but the Yemen is a strong stand alone contender. Give it a try. This is a natural processed coffee and every one who has tried it has liked it very much, each for different reasons. Pretty good for being sun-dried and sorted on a Yemenese roof top!

Onward to the land of barely operable machinery...
Rebuilding steam wands seems straight forward enough, however, in the land of "barely operable machinery" this becomes a challenge like many others. These things have been the bane of my machine repairing experience since I took over the coffee program. There are only a handful of small parts but each one is apparently essential to the proper working of the steam wands and by that I mean not leaking, or spitting hot steam all over your hands. Unlike other projects where a left over bolt is no big deal, these things are picky.

After rebuilding a couple of wands I was getting rather good at it, or so I thought. They come apart easy enough and go back together easy enough, but in the end after installation and some high pressure steam, small leaking prevailed, proving that easy is not always the case. Espresso machines (I have learned) need constant love and care. Like a puppy they demand attention and if they don't get it they can become annoying in little ways. So the wands still puff out a little steam, minor in the grand scheme of things, but annoying none the less, and I only have one rebuild kit left so... wish me luck.

So there you have it my very first blog post ever. I am sure that you will be seeing more and maybe giggle while learning something along the way.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

You know what would be a good name for a coffee blog?

Hot Commodity. Right?! On so many levels. Most often served hot, second most traded commodity in dollar terms after oil (and with far less depressing concequences when huge quantities of it are spilled into the deep ocean, mainly highly caffienated blobfish, which, let's face it, they could use some caffeine) and um, also it's ... hot, which I'm not sure I mentioned, and a commodity.

Also, since, in this case, the author often refers to himself as a hot commodity, Hot Commodity as a blog title becomes the heretofor unthinkable quinta entendre. Which is all by way of saying that I wish I'd thought of it earlier.

Alas, the pun will have to remain tetravalent, as I will be departing for the semi-arid hills of Los Angeles' Silverlake district at the end of this month.

I know. Unthinkable, right? Who will man the host of barely operable machinery in the warehouse, not to mention the barely operable puns of this blog?

Fortunately I have trained a new roaster, Jake (Chewbacca to my Han Solo), and he is fully equipped to roast a mean bean and blog sassily about it later. Also, he has a history as an EMT and volunteer fire fighter, two professional skill sets which often come in handy in the wild and dangerous world of coffee roasting.

This then, is the last word I'll be typing for the bittersweet coffee blog. And by the last word I mean this





Friday, June 11, 2010

Within 5/8" of my life

It's easy for me to forget that most people spend less than 80% of their waking hours around high-voltage, pressurized equipment and, as such, have far less opportunity to learn the valuable lessons that can only come from working with high-voltage, pressurized equipment.

In fact, I find I learn these lessons on an almost daily basis. Today, for example, I learned that Type L 5/8" O.D. soft copper tubing is either a) sixty feet long or b) contains materials known to the state of California to be hazardous. Although I'm not sure how total length affects whether or not the tubing is hazardous, there is clearly a correlation. And while I would be happy to buy 60' of tubing even though I only need 10' if that means I wouldn't be source of an army of mutant babies from Emeryville, I'm worried that only sixty continuous feet of tubing will actually remain free of hazards, so as you can see, I'm in a bit of a bind: Either I create an elaborate rollercoaster of copper tubing in our already cramped warehouse, or everyone who drinks my lattes ends up looking like Jeff Goldbloom at the end of "The Fly."

Oddly, 1/2" soft copper tubing doesn't seem to have this issue, nor does 3/8" or 1/4". Also these sizes are available at any hardware store with a plumbing department, whereas neither Home Depot nor Ashby heating and plumbing had 5/8". Although I am happy to report that, for those in need of 5/8" soft copper tubing, it can be found at Ashby Lumber (contains hazardous materials) and Rubenstein Supply (sixty feet long).

That said, everything else is in place for us to open a small retail operation out of the warehouse. I have recently returned old one-eye to it's original housing, and I'm happy to say it looks very sleek and 80s (which is to say tremendously boxy). In honor of this transformation, I am rechristening it Johnny 5 after the eponymous robot protagonist of the Short Circuit movies. Here is a direct comparison:


Keep drinking coffee.