Omaha Espresso Marathon.

I leave for Coffee Fest Chicago Tuesday morning Feb 15. On my way there I will be promoting the Great Plains Barista Jam (Register Here) and I’ve created this event to help me with that objective:

Omaha Espresso Marathon Facebook Event page

Okay Omaha, can you hang?

Join me for an Espresso Marathon Tuesday morning!

What is an Espresso Marathon you ask? Starting in Gretna at The Beanery we will go from coffee shop to coffee shop across Omaha drinking one shot of espresso at each shop! Final shot will be downtown at Aromas.

Why would we do this to ourselves? To promote The Great Plains Barista Jam! and for FUN!

Where are we going? Following this route:
Omaha Espresso Marathon Map!

Please let me know if there’s a shop on my map that doesn’t exist or if I’m missing a shop that we shouldn’t pass up. Thank you!

I would love to see all of you! Even if you can only join for one drink at your favorite spot. I have no idea how long this will take me so if you want to meet somewhere along my route call or text me: 402-470-7045. You can also email me at tamara.vigil@gmail.com

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The Great Plains Barista Jam!

is coming March 11-13, 2011!!!!

The Nebraska Coffee Association is working with Cultiva Coffee Roasting Co. (and others) to organize our very own Great Plains Barista Jam!

It will take place March 11-13th. We are still putting the details together but here’s what we have so far. We will offer classes on Roasting, Cupping, Basic Barista Skills, Tea and Espresso Equipment Maintenance. There will be fun events including a beer tasting with Modern Monks Brewery and a Latte Art Throwdown!

We are so excited that Chris Schooley is confirmed as the instructor for the Roasting class. You can learn more about him HERE.

The other instructors have not been confirmed yet but check back because we will be updating this blog as soon as we have more information.

There is a small fee to attend classes. You can purchase an all-weekend pass for $75 or purchase individual classes for $30/per class(the Tea and Espresso Equipment Maintenance classes are $10). You must register in order to be able to attend classes. There is limited space so registration is first come first serve. Register by downloading this form: Register for Great Plains Barista Jam and mailing it to the address on the form.

We are looking for all the help we can get. If you would like to help by sponsoring or volunteering please leave a comment or you can contact me at tamara.vigil@gmail.com.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at this same email address.

Prefer to stay in touch via facebook?  Click here for the event page to see who’s attending.

This Guy knows, Espresso Machine Maintenance is Important!

A couple of months ago as I was trying to come up with some ideas for this site, I asked my friend Stephen for some suggestions. I wanted to do profiles of local baristas to highlight the passion and talent we have for coffee in this area. He suggested I interview our friend Jeremy.

Jeremy is not a barista. But he is an expert in espresso machine service. He has come to the rescue on more than one occasion when a machine I worked on needed fixing. I asked him a few questions and he answered…

Who are you? What do you do?

I’m Jeremy Cisco. I diagnose, repair and fine-tune all types of espresso machines.

How long have you been doing this work?

I think I have been doing this for about 4 years now.

What do you love about your job?

Debunking myths and theories pertaining to espresso equipment.

What is your favorite machine and why?

Rio two-group espresso machine

I have to name a few here. I love Rios for their engineering and design. They are a workhorse of a machine. I’ve worked on Rios which have come out of a barn, covered in cobwebs, and after a day I can have them running like new. A true gem of a machine.

I like Faemas for their consistency and build quality. They have a much more terminal lifespan than the Rios, but the quality of shot I get from these machines is reliable and true.

Of course I have to mention the flagship La Marzocco. They are very good under a trained hand. A La Marzocco is a true professional machine which highlights the abilities of the barista running it.

What should cafe owners know before purchasing an espresso machine?

It’s important to know what kind of volume you expect. This will help to keep you from overspending. I’ve had people look at $12,000 super-automatics when a $3,000 110v single would work just as well, if not better, for them. It’s good to buy what you need with hopes of expanding at some point. Keep in mind, though, if you buy a 3-group machine, but only use 1 or 2 of those groups, that third group is going to plug up from lack of use.

Also, I cannot stress enough that a person buys a machine that is serviceable and parts are readily available. Almost all machines out there are very high quality in their own ways, most of them being built in Italy, Switzerland, France…all European product. The important thing, though, is to not go with too unique or ‘boutique’ of a brand unless you have access to parts for that machine. I said before that espresso machines are high-maintenance and will inevitably need service at one point or another. It’s important to not get yourself into a position where you need a part and find out there is only one distributor in the US and the part you need is a special order from Italy. Be smart and ask around before investing.

Is it better to buy used or brand new?

Buying used can be smart if, and only if, you know what you are looking at. I would never recommend buying a machine sight unseen unless you have access to parts and are able to repair it yourself. Even then there is a great likelihood you may pick up a machine that you find is unsalvageable after investing more time and money than you actually paid. A great majority of problems with these machines are hidden where the eyes can’t see.

How important is machine maintenance and what are some steps we can take to keep the machines running in good condition?

I can never stress enough the importance of maintenance on an espresso machine. This goes all the way from the water supply to the machine all the way to the shower screen under the group assembly. Every step is important.

First and foremost, you need to ensure the water going to your machine is filtered down to 2-3 grains hardness. Most tap water I see can range anywhere from 10 grains to over 20. The fastest way to ruin a machine is to run it unfiltered. Even after a few months you will start to see limescale buildup not only in the boiler, but through the complex heat exchange system that feeds the group head. Understand that the restrictors and injectors on these machines are the size of a needle…no joke. They plug up quick. Limescale kills espresso machines…nuff said.

As far as basic maintenance goes, you need to backflush the group heads daily with coffee cleaner. It also doesn’t hurt to take out the screen and diffuser to really make sure things are clean up there. Understand that backflushing cleans the coffee oils from the water dispense and the brew valves, that’s it. A common misconception is that backflushing keeps water lines clear all the way back into the machine to keep a good flow. That’s actually taken care of by the filters mentioned earlier.

Dirty Steam Wand Tip

Another basic item of maintenance, and this needs to be done after every drink…blow out the the steam wand for a few seconds. There are a couple of things that happen if you don’t do this. First, your steam wands get plugged. I can’t tell you how many times people call me to say their machine isn’t steaming only to find the steam wand tip is plugged with nastiness. The second thing that happens if you don’t blow out the milk is that as the steam wand cools between drinks, it gradually draws whatever is in that wand back into the boiler. Once that milk gets in the boiler, it never comes back out…ever. One of the nastiest smells in the world is milk that has been setting in a boiler and cooked for days and months. For this reason, never soak the steam wand in a glass of water to clean it. Always use a wet towel.

As far as parts, expect to change a few common parts every 3, 6 or 12 months depending on drink volumes. Most common is your group gaskets. A good way to tell these are getting bad is if water leaks from the portafilter when you backflush. Also expect to replace steam wand/valve seals and o-rings. You’ll know these are going bad when water starts to drip from the steam wand joint when steaming milk. A couple of common part failures that occur on an espresso machine are the vacuum breaker, pressure stat and water pump.

What’s the most important thing a barista should know about their equipment?

First, I think it’s important to put the whole premise of the espresso machine into perspective. Here you have a 150lb piece of machinery composed of expensive metals like copper, stainless and brass, pulling 220v of power to heat a 13L boiler and engineered to push a couple of ounces of water out at 9 bar of pressure and 196 degrees…all to make tiny cups of coffee. I don’t say this to take the romance out of espresso, but rather we keep in mind that a whole lot of work goes into building a pretty complex piece of equipment for a pretty small amount of product. By their very nature, espresso machines are complicated, high maintenance and in no way the ‘plug and play’ product they are often treated as.

With this in mind, I think the most important thing a barista/shop owner needs to know about their machine is its basic engineering and function. To know the water that goes into the boiler is completely separate from water which dispenses from the brew group. To know what the gauges on the front of the machine mean (Hint: they actually serve a purpose other than decoration). Basic understandings like these are infinitely important when I have to diagnose a problem and describe it to the owner. Many owners know routine maintenance and upkeep, but it’s also important for them to understand what the maintenance they perform is actually doing and what it affects.

As an aside, it’s also important a barista knows how to program and setup their own machine. You’d be surprised how many people buy a $9k machine and don’t know how to program shots or set up grind.

What is your favorite coffee and why?

I wish I could tell you I have a favorite, but I don’t. Honestly, starting with a good-quality espresso, freshly ground, and watching what the barista does with that is what I enjoy the most. I’m most impressed with skill, familiarity and understanding with the machine and the craftsmanship which results from that.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!

 

Do you have a question for Jeremy? Leave a comment! or contact me at homelessbarista@yahoo.com

-Tamara

Guest Blogger: Latest Dish Talks Cold Brew Coffee.

Earlier this summer I had read an advertisement in a magazine for an “iced coffee french press.” The instructions were pretty simple. Put grounds and cold water in this thing, stick it in the fridge overnight and press it down. Drink. Supposedly enjoy. It also said that it worked for hot coffee too. I didn’t really get it. Cold water? I was sure that I had read somewhere or another that to get all the tasty goodness out of your beans, water needed to be a certain temperature, (as in hot…). Much like the functionality of speaker wire, it made no sense to me. I was done. I was over it…until later that week.

Ok, well, I guess I need to back up a little. I apologize, but there’s sort of another story here. A story you should know…

We used to have an espresso machine at work. One of the perks of the day (in warmer weather) was making a delicious iced latte to reward yourself for plowing through all the tubs of dough and to help give you a boost to make it through your shift. It was glorious. It was magical. And then…it went away. I was beyond bummed. What was I to do when the weather turned warm again and I needed to guzzle that sweet, amber-colored Guatemalan glory juice? Those were dark days. The weather turned colder and I dusted off my trusty French press and was able to brew pretty good stuff all through those colder months. Then it started to get warm again. As the temperature climbed, I could feel a dark cloud of disappointment billowing in near the coffee station at work. What was I going to do? I’m a natural born chugger, people. I wasn’t about to sip my way to refreshment.

I finally decided that I was going to brew an extra strong batch of coffee and that way when we iced it down it would even out. So I did, and it kind of sucked. It was ok at best. I had decided that I would drink my coffee warm in the morning and that was that. I had acquiesced defeat…Until I decided to try an experiment based on that ad I had read. I was pretty sure it wouldn’t work. I was sort of sure it wouldn’t work. I mean I was hoping it would, but I had my doubts. I filled up my trusty press that night with a little more than my usual amount of grounds and cold water, stuck it in the fridge and went about my day. Later the next day, I pressed the coffee and poured it into a thermos with a little milk and then I stared at it. You see, I WANTED this to work. I missed those iced latte breaks, big-time and didn’t want to get my hopes up, just to have them shattered. So I finally took a sip. It. Was. Bonkers. So incredibly smooth that it kind of threw me for a loop. I had become used to the fair amount of acidity in a regular brew (and a reg. Iced latte, for that matter). It was like tasting something entirely different. Things like chocolaty, and caramely, and deliciousy were coming to mind. I was blown away. I couldn’t wait to make a big batch at work, but soon realized that due to the extra grounds and whatnot I couldn’t get much actual coffee out of it. So I did some research. I don’t know why, but the internet is kind of a last resort for me. Turns out, it was full of information. Will remember that for next time…

Anyway, I discovered that lots of people do this using a jar, or a BIG jar. I liked the big jar idea so my boss and I tried this method (grounds and cold water in jar overnight). Then, after this, you strain it through a sieve and then filter it through a paper filter. It was even better than the press method. The paper filter gets rid of a ton more silt than the French press and you are left with a really clean, really smooth end product. We have been making this now for about a month, and I have to say that I, for one, am hanging on to this warmer weather for the sole purpose of this delicious treat. So my advice to you: Go grab a big jar (we repurpose an empty, large mayonnaise jar, clean of course), follow the ridiculously easy method, and sip (or chug) away these last days of autumn.

COLD BREWED COFFEE

Fresh ground coffee: 6 oz (by weight) (I used a med sized grind)

Cold water: around 8-9 cups (honestly, I just fill it to the top, there’s no exact science in my method)

Put coffee and water in jar. Stir to moisten all grounds. Cover. Put in fridge. Wait 24 hours. Strain through a mesh sieve, then strain that liquid through a paper filter. Pour into a glass and add milk and ice if you’d like. Raise said glass to lips and drink.

Also: this is for a pretty big batch. If you want to make a smaller batch, just use a smaller jar and around two more cups of water than the total weight of coffee (ex –3 oz of coffee would equal 5 cups of water). But you should make a big batch. It gets better as it sits in the fridge and will stay fresh for around a week, but I doubt you’ll have it around that long

Ps. I did a quick test on some ice-brewed tea, and it turned out great. I just used tea bags (earl grey, my favorite), so I can’t give an accurate result for you loose-leaf lovers, but the method is also ridiculously simple, except here there is no straining required. I love iced tea so I’m pretty much going to have a batch of this stuff going at all times now.

I just used a medium sized pitcher and three tea bags.

**Editor’s Note**

About the Author. Steve Dishman is a great friend and an all-around culinary mastermind. He is employed as a baker for Le Quartier a local bakery well known for it’s high quality goods. Check out his blog at THE LATEST DISH where he shares his delicious creations.

Thanks Steve!

-Tamara

Nebraska Coffee Association is BACK!

Last summer I started the Nebraska Coffee Association. We had a few jams. We tasted some coffees. We had some fun. Well, I stopped working in coffee and no one seemed very interested. As of now I do not get paid to work in the coffee industry. But as far as I’m concerned my heart belongs to coffee and the first chance I get I will be back. In the meantime I’m still a Barista at heart. My goal for the Nebraska Coffee Association is first for the Barista and then for anyone who wants to learn more about coffee. It’s important that we have a strong community in Nebraska. I’m proud to be here and be a part of it. So I’m starting this page as well as a twitter account which you will soon see. We will be planning some events and classes as soon as possible. Anyone that wants to be involved can contact me at homelessbarista@yahoo.com

I spent the past eight years of my life learning everything I could about coffee. Sharing knowledge and learning from others is vital to whichever career path you choose. The Nebraska Coffee Association was started with this in mind. I have much to learn and I want other Baristas to have the same opportunities that I have been fortunate to have. Baristas who push themselves to learn more are taken more seriously and will have an abundance of opportunities in this industry.