The Dirty Portafilter

My corner of the Internet, mostly espresso related but occasionally life will interfere.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Upcoming Items

It has been a busy few days. My blend #23 is in the hopper and I would have to say it is one of my best. I also modified my Isomac. I added a brew pressure gauge, a heat exchanger preheat line and insulated the boiler. I have a big article coming on that one. If you want a preview of that, than take a look at my thread over at Home-Barista.

Finally, my new custom cocobolo handles for my Isomac and Gaggia lever machine are almost finished. One more portafilter handle and two control knobs and it will be complete. They are looking VERY good. The handles for my Gaggia Factory are finished. I will be posting photos of them tomorrow.

RedLine, Final Thoughts

Well, I finished the last of my RedLine from Metropolis coffee a couple of days ago. I must say that it was as good, actually better, than I remember.

I would have to sum it up by saying this is a medium to medium high acidity espresso. In the cup you get a mild body with lots of citrus and a very pleasant and surprising chocolate finish. The blend worked best for me at the lower end of the brew temp range, 199-200. I would have to say the blend is at its prime between days 4-7 and good beyond that.

If I had to guess the blend, I would say there is a fair amount of Kenya with a dash of Sumatra and maybe a bit of Brazil and Yemen. A good bright cup, order yourself a bag or two and give it a try.

One side note for those of us that home roast. Tony sells RedLine in the green, so you can always have a batch in the prime usage range. You will not see the green offering on their web page, you have to call and request it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

RedLine Brownie Delight

I had a sweet tooth and the wife had just finished baking some brownies. So, I thought to myself, Self, lets make a creamy, chocolaty, coffee desert.

So I started out by breaking a brownie in half and putting it in a mug.


Then I pulled a nice double shot of RedLine into the cup and onto the brownie. To my surprise, that brownie absorbed most all of the espresso.



Next I took a few ounces of whole milk and frothed away. Now whipped cream would have worked good here, but I did not have any. I stretched the foam much further than I normally do. I wanted stiffer foam for this, like a light whipped cream. The whole milk develops a much richer and velvety microfoam. After the frothing, I added just a touch of vanilla syrup and a little liquid sugar to sweeten and flavor.


Add spoon and eat. It was not too bad. Next time a stiffer brownie would work better. After a couple of moments the brownie started to break down.

RedLine Recommended Extraction Temps

I emailed Tony in regard to his recommended extraction temps. He recommends an extraction in the 199-201 range.

I also inquired about the blend. Thinking back on my original experience at his café, I was getting a little different profile in the cup. I was defiantly getting a little more body/chocolate in the cup. Tony confirmed that they had made a small adjustment to increase the ‘…hearty (chocolate), but try to maintain the fruit and citrus base…’ The fruit and citrus is defiantly still there and as smooth as always. I do enjoy the added chocolate finish.

I guess that my pallet is developing; I actually remembered the flavor profile from a year ago and could detect a change. I would like to think that I have a relatively developed sense of taste. If I concentrate, I can pick out most of the ingredients in food (I enjoy cooking), now I am trying to translate that same process into espresso. I actually sit down and pseudo-cup a blend and try to isolate the individual tastes and correlate that to the countries of origin. Essentially dissecting the blend, quite fun actually and I have been getting better at it over the past few months.

Monday, October 24, 2005

RedLine Espresso Blend From Metropolis Coffee

Having been away on business last week, I was unable to roast any coffee. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to revisit Metropolis Coffee, specifically their RedLine espresso blend.

I ordered up a pound Wednesday and it arrived at my door that Friday. Metropolis packages it coffee in heat sealed foil valve bags. But one very nice touch is that they use zip top bags. So once you open the bag, you can restore it to its airtight state for storage. Let’s face it, most folks do not store their beans properly, they get left in a bag with a paper clip holding it shut or even worse, they toss them in the refrigerator or freezer! Owe the humanity of it all, such a horrible demise for such good beans. But with this packaging, just zip the top closed, one of those little extras that make a difference.


RedLine is a light espresso roast. I would have to say city+, right at the cusp of second crack, or one or two snaps into it at most. It is a nice chocolate brown with no oil spotting on the surface. This is a testament to the skill of the roaster, most espresso blends do not work well at this roast level. They tend to be too bright and lively, but Tony manages to balance everything out. The aroma is pleasant, a semisweet combination of floral, citrus, and earth.

In the extraction it presents itself as a dark brown lightening to a medium brown with dark tiger striping. My extraction photo is not the best, it looks like I had a little uneven distribution, but it still tasted good.

Once again, I pulled out one of the sacred Illy Collection cups. These only get used by me and only for special occasions. The shot pulls about 50% crema and settles out to approximately a half inch thick. It has a nice brick red crema that likes to cling to your lips and pallet. The cup is well balanced, plenty of body, medium acidity, and pleasantly sweet. It was a clean flavor with a hint of citrus and chocolate finish.

On a couple of occasions I found myself pulling shot after shot for myself. At one point I knocked off four doubles in one hour, espresso, cappa, cappa, espresso. I find it to be a very smooth and easy drinking blend with mild and pleasing aromatics.


My initial extraction temps appear to prefer a little lower temp, my best results were in the 198-200 range. I will have to email Tony to see what his recommended extraction temps are.

Metropolis Coffee, My First Real Café Experience

Let me start by saying that Tony (the owner), and Metropolis Coffee hold a special place in my espresso life. Metropolis was my first. It is the one by which all other café’s are compared. Sure, I had espressos from a couple of other café’s (I use the term liberally) but Metropolis was what I would call my first real café experience.

The smells and tastes of that night still linger in my mind. That night I had an epiphany. I realized how much espresso had to offer and how truly horrible everything I had prior to that was. I remember when I thought machine dispensed, whipped liquid of death cappuccino cut with 50% coffee at the gas station was good. I actually tried a sip a month ago just for old time sake. Words can not describe how ghastly it tasted, how our tastes change…

So to you Tony, I must give my most sincere gratitude. All that has come from that point forward was inspired by you. May your beans be perfectly roasted and your portafilters always hot my friend.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

El Salvador Montanita Cup Of Excellence

Before I headed off to Pittsburgh I roasted up my last little batch of El Salvador Lot #15 Montanita. This was a 2004 cup of excellence winner.

I roasted up a batch to city+, the first couple snaps of second crack. The beans were a nice milk chocolate brown with no oil spot. After a 5 day rest some light spotting was forming as you can see here.

I did try it as a single origin espresso, I won’t do that again. As an espresso, the brightness will blow your ears off.

Having decided that espresso was not this varietals high point I heated up the French press pot. The aromatics were very sweet and floral. I am at a loss for words to describe this coffee. It is bright but well balanced, sweet, floral and smooth with just a hint of nuttiness in the finish. A good coffee flavor and easy to drink. Unfortunately, this was the last few ounces I had and is no longer available.

This may make a nice addition to an espresso blend. It would have to be paired up with a deep bodied blend to control the acidity but we will never know.

Up next, RedLine from my friend Tony over at metropolis coffee up in Chicago.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Aldo Coffee Co. Revisited

Melanie (owner of Aldo Coffee) sent me an email after reading my blog. Belle, my first visit Barista, is actually their newest barista. Given that fact, it makes her performance even more impressive. Keep practicing and you will be pulling shots with the best of them.

Melanie recommended I stop by in the morning. Andi, their training barista, works mornings. So I set my wakeup call to 6am so I would have plenty of time of get over there and then make it to class.

A little side note here, Andi is from Budapest and has a very enjoyable accent. I am from Ohio, the only accent I get to listen to is from Kentucky, ya-all (nothing against southern accents, I have a bit of one). She has had training at intelligentsia, a tidbit not in her Barista Bio

I finally arrived (made a wrong turn and spent a half hour finding my way back) and ordered up a medium cappuccino. Very good. I enjoyed a bit of conversation with Andi between customers. A good drink is, well, good. But conversation is what the Café experience is all about.

I believe that is the biggest difference between a European café and a US café. Now before I rant too much, I have never been to Europe, I am working from what I have read about overseas café’s. Everyone is in to big of a hurry in the US, everything has to be in a takeaway cup. Overseas it is a cultural experience, a meeting place where people gather to enjoy a good espresso and converse. Most of the café’s I have visited in the US, the patrons are in, order and run out the door. The ones that do stay to enjoy their drink have their face stuck in a laptop.
>/unmount soapbox

Back to Andi. Good cappuccino, thick and velvety microfoam, as I said, very good. Andi mentioned that her specialty was latté’s so after I finished my cappa I ordered up a latte. One of the best I have had with a nice little rosetta in the center. Good flavor, velvet foam, outstanding drink, good to the last sip.

I finally had the pleasure to meet Melanie. Enjoyed a bit of conversation while I finished my latte. Once again an enjoyable experience.

My only regret, I do not have much time left so I doubt I will be able to meet Rich, Melanie’s husband and Mr. Panini. I would love to give one of your panini’s a try, the cannoli’s sound good as well.

Would I recommend them to a coffee geek, yup. Good drinks, nice place. I am sure Melanie’s drive for consistency and perfection will bring good thing to the business and hone all of her barista’s skills. If I am ever back in Pittsburgh I will stop by.

They get my happy cappuccino rating.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Espresso In Pittsburgh, Aldo Coffee Co

I am in Pittsburgh on business this week, so my search for a good café starts anew. My last trip was to Newark NJ, it was a dismal, futile search (first post on my blog). I posted the same question to the eastern US forum on coffee geek requesting locations for Pittsburgh. I did get a couple of recommendations.

One of the suggested locations was relatively new, Aldo Coffee Co. I looked them up on the web. It looked like a nice place. They make panini and use Intelligentsia Black Cat espresso. Even more important, they are only about 6 miles from my hotel and the owner reads coffee geek. So after class I set off on the motorcycle looking forward to a good espresso and a fresh hot panini for dinner.

I had somewhat of a letdown. Apparently they only make the panini for lunch so all they had was a chicken salad sandwich and a salad, so much for dinner. So I ordered up a double espresso. It took her a couple of attempts to pull my shot. Now you may think, that is not a good sign, but I would argue the exact opposite. They are willing to toss a questionable shot and try again, that is a sign of quality. My only complaint, the body was a little weak and she pulled my double in an Intelligentsia cappa cup, not a demitasse. So I gulped down my espresso, pondered the experience and headed back up for a cappa.

I ordered a large cappa with three double shots, Ya Baby, Espresso Love. Once again it took her several attempts to pull my shots. She apologized for the wait and explained that she was having some trouble with the timing this evening. She made a small grind adjustment and tried again. She was timing each extraction.

Now I have to pause here and say how pleasurable it was to actually have a barista that is willing to tweak the grinder and time the extraction to give her customer a quality drink. I am more than happy to wait for a quality drink, good food is not fast and fast food is not good.

She finished pulling all of the shots and pulled out a pitcher to froth my milk. Now I am not a pro barista, but I have had enough drinks to know when someone is doing frothing correctly just based on the sound. So as I stood there watching her, I braced myself for the gurgling whoosh of someone creating dish soap bubbles. She starred intently at the pitcher; you could see the concentration in her face. Up to that point we had been having a very pleasant discussion about coffee and home (she was from Chicago). When I noticed the concentration in her face I stopped talking, I did not want to distract her.

Then I heard it, not the whoosh, bluble goosh of dry nasty foam, but the soft and delicate pssst, fssst of someone making microfoam. YES! I shout to myself, I love this woman, wonder if she is married. I ordered up a hunk of cheese cake to go with my massive mug of espresso and retired to a table to sip away. It was not perfect latte art quality foam, but very acceptable and better than anything I have had outside of Chicago or my home.

It was a pleasurable experience and I plan on returning at least once more this week. One last thing, they grind per shot, no dosers there, another big thumbs up.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Blend #22 Parting Thoughts

I have finished off blend 22. It was pretty good. The powerful aromatics persisted to the end. This blend had a little less body than I was expecting but I used a different Brazil in this blend. It was a much brighter blend than I was expecting, especially given the darker roast.

This is defiantly a keeper on my roasting list. Berry, fruit, floral and spice were the predominate notes. With the deeper body Brazil I should get a bit more base note in the blend which will make this one a definite winner.

Up next, a single origin. The last bit of El Salvador Lot #15 Montanita. An ‘04 Cup of Excellence bean.

Blend #22 Roast Level

Jeff left a comment with a couple of questions that I thought would be best explained with another thread so all can see.

His question was in regard to the roast level of the Brazil/Yemen. I normally only take the Brazil/Yemen about 20 seconds into second crack, not quite a rolling crack. The Brazil roasts just a tad faster then the Yemen. So when the Brazil is at full city, the Yemen is at city+. If you take a Brazil much further than the first snaps of second crack, it tends to develop a little carbon taste. At least for me it does.

The Harar I am using does not have much of the sought after blueberry note. It is there, but requires a bit darker roast than I normally use to unlock it. At a lighter roast I get apricot/fig/spice, which is good as well, but I find the acidity to be just a tad too high.

Next time I will substitute my normal Brazil (Poco Fundo). It has a bit more body and chocolate note, and go to my normal roast level.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Blend #22 Day Two

Another days rest, not much more has developed in the cup. I lowered my extraction temp. My first shots were pulled in the 200-202 range. Since I was getting a bit of carbon in the cup, I dropped the temp down to 198. The carbon was almost gone, the floral/fruit notes were more apparent and I noticed some spice I missed on day one. I believe the carbon was masking it. I believe this one has a lot of potential. The next roast, I will go quite a bit lighter with the Brazil/Yemen.

I made a slight grind adjustment, the shot was not as goopy as day one, but was very thick and flowing. The aroma is incredible.

Blend #22 Day One

Well, this one definitely turned out better than blend 21. Most of that one went down the drain or in the trash.

This blend contains 50% Brazil Cerrado Carlos Piccin, 30% Ethiopian Harrar Oromia and 20% Yemen. I find that the Harrar needs a darker roast in espresso. While it has plenty of fruit and spice, to unlock the blueberry notes you have to take it to full city+. I post blend this in two parts. One roast for just the Harrar, a second roast for the Brazil and Yemen.

I broke the top rule for home roasting. I left the roaster unattended for just a moment, and the second roast got away from me a bit. The wife shouted out for my assistance. Thinking something was wrong, I left the roast, ran in the house and went upstairs. Then I find out she needed something carried downstairs, owe bother. So I quickly carried it down and returned to my roast. To my surprise, it was in a rolling second crack. By the time I dumped the roast and cooled it, it had also roasted to full city +, drag. Being to cheep to dump it, I decided to go ahead and give it a try. After all, some of sciences greatest discoveries were accidents.

Well, here is the blend in the hopper. Most of the beans are a solid full city/full city+. This has had 3 days to rest. Some small oil spots are appearing but 90% of the beans are dry.


The first shot was the goopiest I have ever gotten from any of my roasts. It was thick and viscous, dropping in the cup in a stream of globs. I stood there drooling as I watched it in anticipation. It was not to bad. There was a hint of carbon in the extraction but not as much as I had feared. The Yemen funk factor was muted, I was getting more chocolate than the typical Yemen roast. Quite a bit of fruit and berry in there as well.





The Brazil I used was not my normal variety. This one has a little lighter body and made a noticeable change in the flavor profile. Much lighter and more fruit. The shot looked awesome in the cup. It had a very thick and persistent crema with an enormous amount of tiger flake; the photo does not do it justice.

My initial thoughts, little over roasted, plenty of fruit, light body, good mouth feel, more acidity than I was expecting and VERY strong aromatics. It fills the house and lingers for hours, a definite wow.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Blend # 21

I decided to try something new with this blend. I was digging through all of the remnants of beans I have, trying do decide what I could do with them. Some of these are starting to get a bit old and need used up. Unfortunately, there was a reason they were getting old.

This blend consists of 50% Brazil Poco Fundo, 20% Nicaragua Matagulpa, 20% Kenya AA Lot 220 Karatina and 10% Yemen. Now I have tried a blend that was similar. My notes on that blend red ‘ok, but nothing special’. It seams that most of my blends have that note beside them. Then there is the occasional, ‘winner!!’. Well, this is not one of the winners.

I decided to pre roast blend these, as most will roast relatively even. In the hopper the blend looks darker than it is. The darkest is full city, and the rest is city+. Mostly dry with an occasional oil spot. It has had 4 days to rest.

After a couple of test shots to dial the grinder in, I had my grind/timing just right. I popped in the bottomless portafilter, got out the camera and pulled a beautiful looking shot. Unfortunately, this shot looked much better than it tasted.

Now I have used a Brazil/Kenya based blend before and it was not too bad. I believe the Nicaraguan blew the blend. I can not quite put the taste to words. It has a dirty earth flavor that I do not like. Not like a good Sumatran earthy, more like ‘there is dirt in my portafilter’. There is no one dominate flavor or harmony in the cup. It is more of a train wreck. I will give it another couple of days to see what develops. Unfortunately, I believe most of this will be going down the drain and in the trash.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

New Coffee Crop

I am a bit excited about the new coffee crop. I have seen some very promising comments on many of the mid season pick. There are usually three pickings for coffee. The early picks are OK but a bit erratic. The cherries have not had proper time to develop. The mid season harvest is normally the best. The cherries have had time to develop and mature. Then the third pick are the stragglers.

Many of those mid season picks have been trickling in over the past couple of months. I need to burn through some of the last of my 04 and a few early 05 beans.

Final Notes On Blend 4

The blend has surpassed its prime. Something I have noticed with Sumatran based blends. The blend needs about 4 days to rest. After that it is prime from day 5 to 10. After that, the blend starts to develop a strong earthy tone. At about day 12 it is time for the trash.

This is not a unique trait to this blend. I have noticed the pattern on every Sumatran based blend I have used, be it my own or a roaster purchased. I am going to have to try some Sulawesi. I have seen it compared to a good Sumatran, but with much less earth note.

Up next, blend #21.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Dave’s Espresso Blend #4

I home blend and roast most of my espresso. It is actually quite easy. I built my own drum roaster, but that is another thread. Seriously, it is easy. If you can pop popcorn, you can roast coffee.

I plan on posting some of my favorite blends over time. So I will start with my first acceptable blend.

Blend 4 consists of 50% Sumatra Mandheling grade one from Sweet Maria’s, 20% Guatemala Huehuetenango – El Injerto, 15% Brazil Poco Fundo from Coffee Wholesalers, and 15% Indian Robusta – cannoncadoo Estate.

I have roasted the blend separate and together. This one actually works quite well as a pre roast blend. The Robusta hits full city (2nd crack) just before the rest of the blend. The Brazil and Sumatra are on the verge of 2nd crack while the Guatemalan is at city+.

The blend pulls best at around 200f. The higher acidity of the Guatemalan helps to reduce the earthy note the Sumatran brings to the blend. The Robusta adds a bit of chocolate/nut and a lot of body, not to mention a little extra caffeine, which makes this a good morning blend. The Sumatran adds some earthy body, the Brazil adds more chocolate note, low acidity and sweetness. The Guatemalan adds some herbal notes and a hint of citrus while balancing out the deep body.

You have to watch this blend, if you go a little too long on the roast, you will end up with a carbon taste. Sumatra and Robusta will give you a nasty carbon/dirt flavor if you roast them to long. I go about 10 seconds into second crack.

The shots pull a nice thick red/brown crema. The crema does begin to break down if you let the shot sit for a minuet. While it does not dissipate, it does settle to thin layer. That is a side effect of Robusta, thick crema, but short lived.


It makes a good cappuccino. About 90% of my drinks are milk based so that is what I blend for. Roast up a batch and try it yourself.

My Home Server

I have been busy the past couple of days working on my home network. I had a DNS resolution issue with my server. So I had to rebuild the system and flash the firmware, upgrade the BIOS, drivers etc.

Finished up last night, activated the active directory, configured the DNS, WINS etc. Yes, I have an AD domain in my house. That is a Dell PowerEdge 2500, 2gb RAM, a RAID 5 controller, hotswap ultra-320 10K SCSI drives, twin gigabit NIC’s, redundant power supplies and a DLT tape drive. Ya, it is overkill, and two feet long and 80 pounds, but it is all mine.