Now brewing at 201.5 degrees
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this vantage point, you are looking at the underside of a bottomless portafilter, also known as a naked or crotchless portafilter. This apparatus is what holds the ground espresso in place under the brew head. And this particular example has had the bottom removed with a hole saw. Why would you do that? I’ll get to that later.
We have a new espresso this week, a single origin Ethiopian from 49th Parallel. What does it taste like? Well, it smells like blueberry muffin.
At the Pourhouse we are blessed with very good equipment. Our espresso machine is handbuilt at Synesso, Mark Barnett’s small and beautiful company in Seattle, Washington. Mark was an engineer at La Marzocco for over ten years before he left to build this machine, introducing several design features that the rest of the industry has been slow to adopt. Each brew head has it’s own boiler, which is thermally regulated by a PID controller. I won’t get into what that means, but it’s the most accurate way of controlling temperature at the brew head. What do other espresso machines do for temperature control? Nothing. They use a different technology, a heat exchanger, and the temperature can fluctuate up to 40 degrees during the brew cycle. Ever tried to do any baking with an oven whose temperature floated to the tune of 80 degrees? I haven’t, but i know what the results would be: burnt outside, doughy inside. The Synesso is stable to within .2 of a degree.
Some of the other features include all stainless steel construction, double insulated steam wands so you can’t burn yourself, and the absence of knobs or push buttons – which are the leading cause of repetitive stress injuries. Brew heads and steam wand are lever actuated.
But all of this technology is useless unless you know how to use it. And we’ve all had our fair share of bad coffee to prove that. Incredibly, every bartender at the Pourhouse has shown an intense interest in bringing their coffee game up to the same level as their bartending. It’s not a surprise because most of us like coffee as much as we like cocktails. But even Brian who doesn’t drink coffee, and thank God he doesn’t, makes very consistent espresso. We’ve implemented a serious training program and like with our cocktails, you’ll often see your bartender tasting an espresso before they make your coffee. You’ll also see us dumping out your espresso and starting over if it didn’t pull right. And no one touches the Synesso until they have been trained and am I am happy with the quality of their coffee. This means only our bartenders make your coffee. Retraining is ongoing.
On any given day of the week you’re likely to find at least one of us hanging out at Elysian Coffee. In our opinion they set the benchmark for coffee in Vancouver. Alistair and his crew have been generous and supportive in all aspects of keeping us educated and growing as baristas. But besides that, we just like the place. And you won’t get a better coffee anywhere else town…
But you will get a coffee as good at 49th Parallel. And we are extremely happy to have them as our roaster. We LOVE their epic espresso, but Vince has been roasting some single origin espresso of late that has been absolutely amazing. Right now we are brewing an Ethiopia Yergacheffe and as Lachlan described it… blueberry muffin. Ethiopian coffees characteristically have intense berry notes and this offering is bursting with cherries and blueberries. Crazy, right?
What do we mean by single origin espresso? Typically espresso is a blend of coffees from different regions or parts of the world. Coffees from different areas contribute different qualities to the espresso, like sweetness, acidity or body. Blending is an art, as you might imagine. But every once in a while a coffee seems to produce a balanced espresso all on its own. This has been the subject of much debate lately as single origin espresso has been enjoying some popularity. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t. This Ethiopian is delicious. You should come down and try some before it’s all gone.
Lastly, why did I saw the bottom out of our portafilters? Because as baristas we can see how the shot is developing. Blond-ing and channeling guarantee bitterness in the cup, and those are two things that would be hard to see otherwise, unless of course you can see through metal. In the days that follow I will post a video here so you will have an opportunity to see the entire brew cycle as viewed from underneath a bottomless portafilter. It really is quite beautiful.
So You Want a Revolution?
For as long as I can remember, part of the joy of traveling through the Pacific Northwest was getting to sample the seemingly endless selection of great craft beers. And every time i returned home i would curse the local draught… why can’t we have craft beers like they do?
Well those days of cursing are over. In the last few years BC’s craft beer scene has exploded, with the quality of our ales rivaling anything south of the border. Though you wouldn’t know it, unless of course you walked into the Alibi Room and stared dumbstruck at the 30+ tap selection of predominantly BC beers. Do they really make beer in Chilliwack? Wow, they make really GOOD beer in Chilliwack!
Hold that thought… let’s get back to the Pourhouse for a moment. (more…)