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Posts posted by malachi

  1. Java-Joe's questions are spot on.

    In response to some of the other questions...

    Yes, a too-light roast will result in sour (astringent) espresso. If you get sour espresso, however, the most likely culprit is not the roast, but rather either the temperature or the extraction time.

    Yes, Italians traditionally never tamped hard, used pre-ground coffee (and rarely if ever cleaned their machines). Just because the Italians invented espresso, however, does not mean their methods are optimal. Even some of the leading lights of Italian coffee are beginning to accept that the "scientific" approach in the US has resulted in improvements. If you talk to professional baristi the world over, you're going to find very few top ones who are not Italian who don't follow the magic rules regarding tamping, fresh coffee (and cleaning their machines).

    The way a good barista can tell the pressure he or she tamps at is by practicing on a scale. Seriously. Along with weighing dosed, leveled coffee and checking levelness of tamp with levels, this is part of training.

    There are probably more coffee shops that roast their own and serve good espresso, but don't assume that roasting in-house is a guarantee of good espresso (or that not roasting in-house means you'll get crap). It's far more worthwhile to check out the things noted above (portafilters in the group, freshly ground coffee, a real tamper - used professionally, clean portafilters, extraction time within the range, good crema).

    I'd add a couple more... look at cup size. If the shop doesn't have any small cups, it's not a good sign. If a shop preheats the cup, it's a good sign. If a "small" cappuccino is 12oz, it's a bad sign.

    But, at the end of the day, the test is in the taste. If you like it, it's good.

    It makes me sad to think of all the people out there drinking Vente Vanilla Lattes, thinking they don't like espresso 'cause it's too strong. If only they could taste the real thing.

  2. It will help me to understand this as I was unaware of the difference. How do the older steam wands create a siphon?  Does it occur when they are shut off while still in the milk?  I sort of figured that purging the wand after every steaming session would expel such things but the physics of steam propulsion and boilers ccan be quite tricky.

    Effective purging will, of course, prevent this even in older machines. Of course... how many machines have you see recently with milk crust on the wands? Unlikely that the're fully purging if you know what I mean.

    Steam wands should be shut off still in the milk - otherwise you get spatter and BAB (big ass bubbles).

    Wjat do the local health authorities expect you folks to do? Use wasteful single service paper products to wipe the wand after every use?  Some regulations seem so counter productive that I wonder who really benefits.

    My belief is that Health Dept regs are rarely if ever designed to be practical or pragmatic and in few if any cases has anyone thought through what food service businesses will do to comply. We were told to either use throw away paper products or to keep a sterilizing bath to soak cloth towels in between uses.

  3. It depends on whether the machine has an anti-siphon setup. Most recent ones do, older ones often do not and can siphon through the wand.

    Technically, here it is against regs to have any damp rags on the counter and to re-use dirty rags (for example). We ignore this and get dinged for it periodically by the Health Dept.

  4. Most (if not all) Belgian beers have specific glasses they are served in. These glasses are both branded, and have shapes that are often specific to the flavours of the beer and their traditions (see the Kwak glass for the latter).

  5. Next time, you could consider crusting medallions with Pain D'Espice and pan-frying them. I ripped this off from Chef Hawksworth at West in Vancouver and have had great luck with variations on his dish ranging from slightly sweet (paired with roasted apricots) to full savory (paired with shredded warm duck confit and truffle butter). It goes wonderfully with a Maculan Torcolato di Breganze.

  6. If you're talking about the Deus from Bosteels, I'd suggest contacting Manneken-Brussels directly at mbinc@flash.net and asking them for a source in your region for the glasses. Distributors are going to probably be your best bet. Good luck!

  7. It depends.

    If you're talking about brewed coffee, the shelf life can be rather short (in a small, open pyrex pot) or a bit longer (in an airpot). In either case, in a commercial environment a pot of brewed coffee should never be older than an hour at the very outside and it's far preferable if it's served or thrown out earlier than that.

    If you're talking espresso... if it sits in a shot glass while the barista finishes the drink it shouldn't be longer than say 30 seconds. If (god forbid) the espresso is being pre-made (I have heard of such things) then run screaming from the building.

    As for steamed milk... there are two answers. First, if a barista is making your drink and after steaming the milk puts the pitcher on the counter while building the drink, that's one thing (though in general it is preferable to steam while pulling the shot and thus not let the milk sit and separate). But if you mean a pitcher has been steamed, poured and is then sitting, partially full, on the countertop... you should go to another coffee bar. Seriously. I, personally, won't patronize a place where they re-steam milk at all, but I can see it being maybe borderline acceptable if the milk has been re-cooled in the refrigerator before being re-steamed and the milk is then used in something like a Caffe Mocha -- but only if it's been re-cooled.

  8. Plugra would work.

    Butter-poached Lobster Tail with Bacon-Mashed Potatoes

    This dish takes advantage of the insulting and moisture retaining properties of butter to prevent frozen lobster tails from becoming tough in cooking. Paired with bacon and mashed potatoes, you have a luxurious dish. Pairs well with a high-quality (not over-oaked) Chardonnay or White Burgundy.

    Keys to success:

    · Keep butter sauce between 180 and 190 degrees,

    · Don’t overcook potatoes.


    2 Frozen Lobster Tails

    2 Pounds Unsalted Butter

    1 Tbsp Water

    1 tspn Chopped Chives

    1 tspn white vinegar

    Salt and Pepper

    Thaw lobsters by placing in refrigerator for 24 hours.

    Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

    Put 1 Tbsp water in narrow, tall saucepan and bring to a light boil. Reduce heat immediately to a low simmer. Whisk 1 Tbsp butter into water. When completely melted, add another Tbsp and whisk. Repeat until all butter combined. If, at any point, the butter mixture looks like it will begin to boil, break or separate – immediately remove from heat and let cool before proceeding. You can use an instant read thermometer clipped to the side of the pan to monitor heat (it should stay between 180 and 190 degrees). Keep at this temperature in a double boiler or on low simmer.

    Boil 2 quarts of water with the white vinegar and 1 tspn salt. Once boiling, remove from the heat and add lobster tails. Cover and let sit for 2 minutes. Remove the tails from the water and rinse in cold water. Remove all meat from the shell.

    Put lobster meat and lobster shells in a high-sided, small roasting pan. Cover with the butter sauce. Place in oven for 5 minutes.

    Place lobster meat on top of the mounded potatoes in a bowl. Spoon 3 Tbsp of the butter sauce over the top and garnish with chopped chives, reserved bacon and fresh ground black pepper and salt.

    Bacon-Mashed Potatoes


    4 medium Yukon Gold Potatoes

    3 slices Thick-cut Smoked Bacon

    4 Tbsp Salted Butter

    4 Tbsp Sour Cream

    2 Tbsp Milk

    Salt and Pepper

    Cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy. Drain, cool and crumble. Reserve.

    Peel and quarter the potatoes and place in 3 quarts boiling, salted water. Cook until a fork pierces the potato easily. Drain and place potatoes in a large bowl. Either mash or rice the potatoes. Add the butter and stir with a rubber spatula until combined. Add the sour cream and milk and stir to combine. Add 2/3 of the bacon, stir and salt and pepper to taste.

  9. At many coffee shops the staff is less likely to cheat on the amount of coffee in the pot, and far more likely the cheat on the shelf-life of the pot and/or the completeness of the cleaning of that pot. The most likely cause of your coffee tasting better is that it is truly fresh brewed. A very good coffee bar, on the other hand, will be dilligent about throwing out pots of coffee that are past their standard max shelf-life and will clean very thoroughly each and every night.

  10. About a year ago I was asked to come up with a good (easy to execute) recipe for frozen lobster tails. My first reaction was that, as you say, they were not "worth cooking." I still feel that it is a significant compromise (and truly not worth the money), but it is, in fact, possible to create a tasty dish.

    The recipe oven-poached the lobster tails in beurre monte and served them over applewood smoked bacon mashed potatoes.

    To be honest, after a year more thought, my first choice would be to make ceviche. Second choice would be the above treatment and third would be to tempura fry them and serve them in a "taco" of sorts.

  11. Some tasting notes of "winter" beers (not from one sitting - grin):

    2000 Alesmith Grand Cru. 750ml corked bottle. Cellared since release. Pours a gorgeous copper/brown with a thick and creamy lace head that clings and clings... A nice spice/citrus nose. Some sweet fruit esters (pluot?) with a strong alcohol note. The beer is incredibly smooth. The first taste is actually a bit shocking given expectations. Very creamy and polished, with sweet (caramel?) and spicy notes. The alcohol is mellow and nearly hidden. Mouthfeel is thick and syrupy. Strong notes of malt and yeast. A very very complex beer. Strongest flavours are of spice (coriander?) and fruit. Complex, beautiful, thought-provoking. Not a beer to chug, not a beer for the hophead in us all - but rather a beer for an evening in front of the fire with a nice book. Wonderful.

    Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout. 16oz bottle. Cellared since winter 2002 release. For a long time, this was my benchmark for American Imperial Stouts. Now that I've tried more stouts - and in particular some of the West Coast Imperials and Chocolates - I have to say that I don't know if I would categorize this beer as a true "Imperial" (though it's also not a traditional Chocolate Stout either). It, like the Storm King Stout, is its own beast. And, again like the Storm King, what a phenomonal beast it is!!! In this case, the bottle was from the Winter '02/'03 batch. When I first tasted it, it was still a bit raw. After a year of cellaring, it's improved dramatically. The initial pour shows a enormous tan and creamy head on top of beer of the deepest and darkest black. The head slowly diminishes to a quite thick and sticky lace. Aromas are of malted chocolate balls, toasty grain, alcohol and a hint of espresso. As good as the appearance is, the smell may even be better. Initial tastes are sweet and chocolaty - a rich almost "fudge-like" flavor that could be cloying in some beers, but is balanced by the crisp (and somewhat unexpected) carbonation, alcohol bite and the slight undercurrent of hops. The finish is of a tart and nearly bitter chocolate-malt that is dry and lingers seemingly forever. This is a great stout. Like the Storm King, I don't imagine anyone seeing it as a session beer. But as a treat - this is a wonderful one.

    Unibroue 11. 750ml bottle. Cellared since release. With each beer from Unibroue I taste I become more convinced that this is one of the top 100 breweries in the entire world. With the Unibroue 11, I feel that the brewery has elevated themselves into serious consideration for top 25 status. It's that good. Initial pour shows some serious carbonation, creating a very active beer whose pour results in a massive white head. I would guess that it would subside to a sticky lace, but I simply didn't have the patience to wait that long. The beer itself is a beautiful orange-gold with a very slight hazing (chill? yeast? wheat?). A seriously attractive brew!! I started drooling just looking at it. Aromas are strong, with some tropical fruit notes on top of the appetizing honey-malt bread smells (like a fresh baguette with honey but no butter). There are citric and herb hints and a tiny whisper of alcohol present as well. No off notes in the nose at all. Perhaps it was the smell that made me lose my mind and drink before the head settled!! The first taste is ambrosial - smooth, with the tropical fruit, and honeyed bread notes from the aroma continuing into the taste. The citric/herb notes are more dominant here than in the smell and serve well to tie together the fruits, malts and grains. The strength and complexity of the flavors, combined with the aggressive carbonation, does an excellent job of camoflaging the alcohol, though there is a "snap" and warmth in the finish that should clue you in to the sting in the tail of this beast of a beer. The flavor profile is weighted towards the middle of the palate and the taste, resulting in a beer that teases, explodes, and then tapers. Perfection in a bottle. Beware!! There is danger in a beer with 11% ABV in a 750ml bottle. It's just never going to be a session beer for me (call me a lightweight if you want). Anyone who thinks that there are no great (not good, but truly great) Belgian style beers from outside Belgium needs to try this beer. It's truly and authentically Belgian in style, and near to perfection in its execution. Lovely, seductive, intoxicating and oh so dangerous.

  12. Obviously, it is preferable to cook the whole (live) lobster. Lobster tails (especially frozen) are a challenge to do well.

    My suggestion would be to either make Ceviche, tempura fry or to oven poach in Beurre Monte.

  13. have you read any of the names of dishes at the French Laundry? "Softshell Crab Sandwich" that isn't served on bread. "Bacon and Eggs" made from poached quail eggs reheated in beurre monte, topped with brunoise and served with applewood smoked bacon. "Linguine with White Clam Sauce" that doesn't use linguine at all. "Macaroni and cheese" made from poached lobster, mascarpone and orzo.

    does the above "misuse" of dictionary defined terms mean that the French Laundry is a bad restaurant?

    my suggestion would be that, when you are going to a restaurant because you want a specific dish prepared a specific way, you should be sure to ask the staff if you are going to get exactly what you want. as an example, i never order pecan pie without clarifying the difference between pecan pie and pecan custard pie.

  14. I think Fair Trade is a young movement, and it's probably a bit early to judge it. None the less...

    It would be great if the big four bought into Fair Trade but we all know this isn't going to happen without a lot of consumer pressure over the long term. Small boutiques, on the other hand, are willing to get involved on a purely ethical basis. These businesses are not being forced to buy Fair Trade coffees, being "targeted" or being coerced into supporting Fair Trade as a concept. They believe in it. And it seems to be starting to work. Dunkin Donuts, for example, announced that they'll be using 100% Fair Trade espresso beans.

    As for the "capitalism vs socialism" argument... I have a hard time believing that the increased prices paid by US roasters for the high-end green beans is resulting in increased wages at the bottom of the chain. Yeah - someone is getting more money, but I think we all know that is all in the middle of the chain.

    In terms of the taste... I've cupped a lot of coffees in the last couple years. On average I cup between 10 and 12 new coffees per month (in addition to the regulars that I cup on an ongoing basis). While many of the best have not, in fact, been Fair Trade certified - a number have. Examples include the La Perla de Oaxaca from Intelligentsia, the Full City Sumatra from Equal Exchange, the Timor from Uncommon Grounds and the Fair Trade Organic Guatemala from Bucks County.

    Your point that Fair Trade could eliminate boutique estates is unfounded. The La Perla mentioned above, for example, is produced by a prototypical boutique estate - albeit one that lives up to the Fair Trade standards.

    The "pooling" model is actually a problem that is independent of Fair Trade and which, in fact, one could argue might be addressed long term by Fair Trade. Many small growers have begun pooling in collectives in order to compete on price given the glut created by the lowend Brazilian and Vietnamese growers and driven by the big four. "Pooling" is actually a real problem. You could argue that it is what has effectively destroyed Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee.

    Finally... I could not agree more when it comes to your point that the problem is the consumers. Consumers in this country want everything for nothing and are consistently willing to sacrifice quality for cheapness (and then become upset when things break, or taste bad). I recently offered customers here a chance to pick up some 100% Kona Greenwell Farms estate coffee for Christmas gifts. I decided to do pre-orders only and built in just enough to cover our costs. We offered this coffee for $22 a pound. We had two customers buy a pound a piece (and employees order another 8 pounds). I heard at least 10 complaints each day about the "ridiculous" price.

  15. It's particularly depressing to see the Ethiopian coffee plants being uprooted and replaced by Khat. Yet another reason to only buy Fair Trade coffees and to boycott coffee companies that buy from Brazilian and Vietnamese bulk growers.

  16. As a caveat - I'm a barista by training, profession and passion. My bias should thus be obvious.

    It's interesting to me that so many people who would not set foot in a McDonald's by choice (or at least without an ironic intent) choose to drink coffee at Starbucks.

    From reading the various posts, my guess is that even this subgroup (arguably a self-selecting group of palate focussed or obsessed individuals) is woefully under-informed when it comes to espresso. The only explanation that I can come up with for the drinks that people here are choosing to consume is that few if any have had the chance to taste truly great espresso. It make me sad. It would be as if everyone still felt that the only good thing to do with Tuna was to can it.

    I implore folks here to try and seek out great espresso in your area. It's a taste experience you need to have. And when you find it, please... just once try it without milk, sugar, syrups or chocolate. A great espresso needs no such gussying.

    As for Starbucks... the reason that their drinks have so much milk - are served in such big cups - are mixed with syrups and flavours and the like is that their espresso is nearly undrinkable without being thus masked. Espresso is very hard to produce well. Nothing I cooked in a restaurant was as challenging. The vast majority of consumers think that it is simply a matter of putting some ground coffee in the machine and pushing the button. Starbucks has done a good job of selling this belief. It's simply not true. Dr Ernesto Illy once estimated that there are more than 1000 variables in the production of a shot of espresso. It is simply impossible to produce great espresso in a business like Starbucks. They seem to have realized this and have tailored their product and their marketing to get around this by not selling espresso.

    Starbucks has done far more harm than good in the US. They've miseducated the american consumer in many ways. The vast majority of Americans believe that coffee needs to be strong to be good, and that strong means dark and bitter. The vast majority of Americans think espresso (straight) doesn't taste good.

    Starbucks is the Almaden of our time.

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