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Quick hit here, coffee kids.  Just like with an automobile, keep your coffee equipment happy and it’ll keep you happy.  With cars it’s tires and oil changes (and other, less regular maintenance as needed).  The espresso machine equivalent to that is changing out “gaskets and baskets,” meaning, the gaskets that go up into the top of your espresso machine grouphead and portafilter brew baskets.  These days of laser etching means baskets are more sturdy than they used to be and have a bit more life in them.  But gaskets, by virtue of the fact that they are made of rubber–necessarily need to be changed out regularly so that they don’t get brittle and begin to leak all over your beautifully pulled espresso shots.  The frequency of gasket changes will vary with your use.  We change our about once a quarter, before gaskets have had a chance to hardify.  

Below are two gaskets.  The top one is obviously the older one.  Some of that warping around the edges is actually the pull of the awl used to get them out, as well as the little dimples that are part of the gasket design.  But there are indeed signs of warp and wane on what should otherwise be smooth edges, as in the new gasket toward the bottom of the picture.   Image

 

For the price of a couple good shots of espresso you can ensure that all the espresso shots you serve with be consistent in that your equipment will remain in good working order.  So keep ’em clean, folks, and they’ll return the favor.  

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The workshop is back.  Oh, is it back.  

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Turning this into liquid gold on Tuesday, 27 March.

We have had so many requests for an espresso workshop lately we have carved out an evening of caffeinated fun for you.  Seriously, we say this every time because it’s true every time:  space is extremely limited so don’t delay if you want to participate in this fun workshop. 

All the deets are below the fold here.   

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ABC

As I broke yet another portafilter brush yesterday (snapped clean off) I was reminded of the importance of keeping a clean set of tools.  We talk a lot about consistatizing the coffee experience here at The Brown Coffee Company — taking the necessary steps to ensure that one espresso shot, one pourover, one ColdBrew is as consistently delicious as the last…and the next.

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Clean Surfaces

If we’re serious about taking espresso seriously we need to grapple carefully with the “known knowns” we can control that contribute to shot inconsistency.  Among those are the usual suspects:  consistent weight; high incidence of uniform grounds particle size; water temperature stability; and so forth.  One of the basic considerations everyone knows about but gets surprisingly overlooked intraday is the massive importance of keeping one’s portafilters clean.  And it’s understandable to a point.  Even the most careful baristas who find themselves in high traffic espresso bars all find themselves in the same predicament:  If I’m busy cleaning a portafilter I’m not serving customers.  You might guess the easiest response to that:  If you’re serving customers with dirty portafilters, are you really serving customers?

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Known Knowns. Coffee buildup makes the parts we can't see look gross over time. The worst of it is, rancid coffee oil buildup is largely invisible

Some best practices.  First, schedule daily and intradaily chemical and non-chemical cleaning.  Intraday, even if it’s busy, one still can generally find the time to give a non-chemical scrubby scrub utilizing said cleaning brushes and the easy access one has to very hot water.  This can take a little as 30 seconds but can help boost the flavor of your espresso back closer to its intended taste.

Second, if you are in a higher traffic location that has a full time back bar to do your dirty work for you, have them do the deeper chemical cleaning for you (including a good soaking in near boiling water).  Since this will necessarily mean the loss of one or more of your portafilters (read: you will be slower on the line), consider purchasing a second set of portafilters.  Then it’s just a matter of bing, bang, boom, switcharoo, and you’re back in business with a fractional loss of time.

The longer I do coffee the more I realize that so much of what we can control in brewing better coffee is simply mitigating as many variables as possible that cause us to make a divine shot one time, and simply a pretty good one the next.  Control what you can control to the best of your ability and you’ll go a long way to making the next customer as happy as the last.

It’s a small part of the larger mosaic of minimizing variables in the good fight for better and better espresso.

Always

Be

Cleaning

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New year, new avenues

New year, new avenues.  The Brown Coffee Company is pleased as punch to announce some of our recent coffee partnerships.  In November we began selling coffee and gear at Amazon.com and have begun getting some good traction there.  This week we are happy to let you know we have begun collaborating with Roaste.com.  We’re pumped about both of these developments and want to encourage you to check us out via those avenues.  Amazon offers a price discount and discounted shipping, while Roaste offers free shipping.  Both have very good about advertising for us.  One recent Roaste customer had this (lovely if long) review on us:

I am surprised that there has not been another blog post about this recent addition to the roasters here at Roaste, Brown Coffee Co. I know it seems like there is always a new roaster starting to sell here, but thought I would take it upon myself to welcome them because I was very happy to see them here yesturday and have already ordered a bag from them.

The reason that I know of Brown Coffee Co is because they are based in San Antonio and one of my friends happens to have family that lives there. As you may have guessed they have been kind enough to bring a bag of coffee back from Brown Coffee Co a few times over the past year and have been impressed each time they come back with a bag for me.

If my own personal recommendation was not enough for you, they were highlighted on Serious Eats last year as one of the 5 Small-But-Mighty Coffee Roasters to Seek out. The list that you see also had them with other roasters that people have talked about here including Handsome Coffee Roasters, and Wreckingball Roasters. I have also heard very good things about barismo, which made that list as well. If you are only as good as the company you keep then this roaster is doing a very good job in being mentioned with these others.

I also took the opportunity to look through the Brown Coffe Co website and was very impressed to see that they are hosting one of their growers for a Q&A. To me this made my eyes bug out a little bit because it just shows me how committed they are to keeping relations with their growers, which is probably going to translate to the cup.

Unforunately since the last time I had them was over the summer I cannot remember what exactly I had, but needless to say I already have a bag on order with them and hope you guys do the same as they are not a roaster to overlook

All that to say, we are stoked to be moving into new avenues to provide a wider audience with our coffees.

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Up Sleeves

Up Sleeves.

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Thinking about coffee stuff here at Brown Coffee Company for 2012.  So many things are happening and coming to fruition this year here that it’d be a whole string of blog posts to discuss them all.  (Hey…there’s an idea!)

Mainly, in the cafe, our occupation is in building better systems of delivery.  Is every shot as consistent and beautiful as it can be?  Do we have the technology on the grinder and espresso side to make that happen?  Can we buy that technology, if not, or do we have to fabricate it? (Many of you know of our long history of building custom coffee stuff.)  Or is the answer not even a technology one?  Maybe its efficiency of motion as baristas–saving steps and motion to be more fluid and/or consistent cup after cup.

Outside of the cafe, The Brown Coffee Company is also branching off a new operation that most of you are already familiar with: the coffee truck. This will be a wholly separate operation from Brown, although the goals will be very similar, of course:  to bring better and better coffee to San Antonio.  Truck is operating under the name Ursa Major and a quick page can be found at ursamajorcoffee.com

Outside all of that is our internal transition into new and different areas of focus in the Company.  Exploiting new avenues of delivering coffee.  This being internal you, the reader, will of course not be privy to all the details.  Suffice it to say that as 2012 comes to an end Brown will look like a very different company.  You’ll know it when you see it, I would dare say.

More, as they say, to come.

 

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Raised drying beds helped produce the Menedez family's 2011's stunning Las Delicias Reserva lot

We are pleased to announce for our January “Brew This!” Workshop series the visit of Guillermo and Miguel Menendez from El Salvador.  The Menendez family owns some of the amazing coffee farms we’ve featured in 2011:  Finca Santa Barbara and Finca Las Delicias Reserva (which went on to place 7th in 2011’s El Salvador Cup of Excellence competition).

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On a hillside shared by Finca Santa Barbara and Las Delicias. You can't see the machete in this guy's left hand

They are in town specifically to visit us here at Brown.  We are thrilled they have made time in their hectic harvest schedules to meet customers and talk the talk of producing world-class coffees.  The Menendez brothers will of course share all sorts of information about their farms, as well as possibly have some interesting pre-production stuff for us to taste.

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Coffee trees in full bloom after a freak harvest rainfall

The workshop is free and open to the public, but we do kindly as that you RSVP here.  This workshop WILL DEFINITELY FILL UP, as space is definitely limited.  Reserve your space today.

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