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.