Am I Back?

Recently back from Norway. I grab beans anywhere I go. I bought ØKOLOGISK Nuevo Esperanza, from Got Brød. While in Norway, I brewed it in my Aeropress, using my hand grinder. Not as impressive as I was hoping. Might have been something with the water or my technique.

Home now, and tried it in my espresso machine. It came alive. Much better body. Smooth flavor. Excellent créma. Forgot to take pictures of the coffee, but here is the bag so you can try to decipher something. Don’t ask about the price in Norway. Everything seems expensive there, but the country is clean and beautiful. Lots of very friendly people in and around Stavanger where we stayed.

ØKOLOGISK Nueva Esperanza

ØKOLOGISK Nueva Esperanza

ØKOLOGISK Nuevo Esperanza

Rock City – North Beach Espresso


Chris brought these beans to me from Maine. The beans looked very dark and oily. The taste was great. Usually, beans that look this dark and oily will be bitter, or have less depth to the flavour.

I noticed that I got less grind for the same unit of time as compared to most other beans. My grinder was cleaned just before putting the Rock City beans in. The beans tamped easily, looking very dark in the porta-filter. First cappuccino taste great. Strong flavour, lasts a while in your mouth. No bitterness at all. Same results after a bunch of capp’s. You definitely taste that these beans are roasted a bit longer than other beans I use regularly, but that edge does not turn bitter.

Smooth and strong when brewed as an Americano. I decided to try it that way on Thursday, even though Craig was in PEI. Craig often drops by for an Americano on his way to work on Thursday mornings.

My big surprise was how well a shot of espresso went down. Very smooth.

Chris had his usual assessment of a latté, “Nice beans, old bean.”. There was plenty of body to make lattés taste great.

Caffeine is a performance enhancing drug

That is good enough justification, whether thinking or doing.  We know that our coffee keeps us going mentally during the day. One scientific study  (written up in Runner World in plain language) reported about a 2% improvement physically for fit cyclists.  The peak performance was 2 to 2.5 hours after having the coffee.

This times perfectly with my desire to finish a cappuccino just before heading out on the water for windsurfing racing.  Now I need to work on having a fresh cappuccino waiting for me on shore to drink before going back out in the afternoon.

Update your passport


In Ottawa, 12 local coffee shops got together and created an Indie Coffee Passports. Chris (my partner at Two Old Beans) and I checked out I Deal Coffee today.

I Deal Coffee is non-descript outside, and features a coffee roaster inside. They roast twice weekly, and it showed in the taste of my cappuccino. Strong body, not bitter, made fairly dry. Chris had a latté, served in a thick clear bar glass. Good all round.


It has been a few days since my last post. From the pile of empty bags behind my espresso machine, I think I have tried a few.

How many of these coffees have you tried?

Beans, Machines, and Human Beings

There is a big difference in Espresso drinks from one shop to the next (or from one house to the next).  I am generalizing that there are 3 variables:

  1. Beans (source, blend, roast)
  2. Machines (not just the espresso machine, but also the grinder)
  3. Human Beings (timing, settings on the grind, tamp, pull, the pour, temperature, ….)

On a trip out to Vancouver (visiting a Brother-in-Law and his lovely wife) we visited a lot of independent coffee shops (between 2 and 4 a day;-).   After one spectacular cappuccino, we bought some beans so I could try that at home. Later that morning, we were in another coffee shop where the cappuccino was rather bland and mediocre.  The shocker was that the bland coffee-house was the bean roaster/supplier to the spectacular coffee shop.

The difference: the bland shop was mostly about image.  The spectacular shop was all about the product.  They were asking specifics about how we wanted our drinks done, and followed up asking what we liked about it.  It may have helped that I was noticing the very high-end machines they had.

Note that I have been into shops with the same machines, and had mediocre cups as well.  I believe the Human Beans are the most important link in making a great cappuccino.

Could I make a cup as good as the better shop? No, but I did make cappuccino (and straight espresso) as good as my best home-brewed cups with these beans as with my other preferred beans.

hmmm…. the people are most important.  The beans are extremely important.  The machines are key.  I guess I better go do some more research.  Care to join me for an espresso, cappuccino or latte?

Express Espresso Repair

I may be a bit tired today, but I have my daily quota of cappuccinos, with minimal fuss today.

After 4?!? years, my Breville Cafe Roma was getting a bit messy inside.  It was just the filter screen, so I thought I would remove 1 screw to clean the screen, like I did when the machine was 1 month old.  It turns out that the screw was firmly corroded into the thermoblock, so with very little effort, I unscrewed just the head of the screw.  Now nothing held the screen (and pressure gasket!) in place.

$40 and a week to wait for a thermoblock to arrive.  I picked it up late Sunday afternoon to install.  Everything went very smoothly until trying to get the control knob off, for the last 7 screws to get to the thermoblock.  I eventually got in without breaking anything.  Then, re-assemble.  At 1:00AM, it is amazing how many ways you can drop a tiny screw, lock-wasker, the piece of metal it holds, or the nylon part that everything is fed through.  Add on that I should have made one last cappuccino before I started this….

But this morning, I had a very satisfying cup.  The thermoblock seems a bit quicker than the previous for coming up to temp, and it steams great.

I think I should just get to writing here more often….

Costco (Kirkland) Espresso Beans

I made a commitment to try new beans in my Espresso machine. A recent trip to Costco was when I was reminded. Reasonably inexpensive beans, and a chance to try what I had thought of for a while. These Kirkland-branded beans are supplied by Starbucks.

The beans themselves looked very oily, and smelled very roasted. Perhaps over-roasted, but I am not able to decide that from looking at beans. Let’s brew!

First reaction was that I must have over-extracted. It was bitter, but weak at the same time.

Fortunately, I am willing to make the sacrifice and keep drinking cappuccino. Pulling a shorter shot seemed to be the solution to the weaker brew, but the bitterness seemed to remain. I was also left with the feeling that I was using a double-shot of grounds to make a single-shot of espresso.

When I got back to the William Spartivento,, I was reminded that my first thoughts on this espresso were correct.