making cups of coffee

So Neil should be writing about our trip up to Plowshares (which may be entitled, “Neil looks like a 3-year-old getting to ride a firetruck when he roasts coffee”) in the next couple days, but I’ll bring up something I’ve been up to ala TampTamp.

I got the chance to start Koji Yamanaka’s path towards great espresso preparation. Training people is always fun, but with a speed-learner like Koji, it was even more enjoyable. To begin the training exercise and get Koji’s palate trained, we went on a taste of the city coffee tour. I chose the places we went to get an idea of the differences among espressos even in the confines of a city. In this town’s pursuit of a perfect cup, everybody has a different approach, and I think it’s fascinating.

Training Koji Training Koji
all photos were taken by Koji’s lovely wife, Sai.

First we hit up Tommy at Le Parker Meridien in Midtown, which is known for serving both “American” and “Italian” style espresso (They serve Afficianado). Tommy spent a lot of time talking about his methods for achieving those tastes, indicating that he uses dose, extraction time, and machine temperature to reach the differences (you should go visit him if you want the exact details).

Then we popped around the corner to Zibetto, an italian bar on Sixth Avenue. In the middle of a morning rush, I was actually a little surprised to be served a delicious shot of espresso, and watch the barista pour latte art to our neighbor (I’ll admit it, I am biased, and American). After our little lesson next door, it seemed that the spro was a little more “american” in preparation, but since I didn’t ask, I can’t be sure.

Training Koji Training Koji

Next up was Joe, where the lovely Jane was making coffee, and Amanda Byron, Joe’s director of coffee, happened to be there to tell us all about the coffee. Since Barrington has a secret recipe, it’s always hard to say exactly what’s going on, but it’s certainly a distinct flavor in New York, different from anything else. I give some credit to the monsooned coffee that we know lives in the blend. I still really love the flavor of Barrington Gold because it’s one espresso that does not mess around.

Onto the next espresso in town that packs a punch, we managed to squeeze into a packed cafe grumpy. Jay was gracious with us despite the chaos he was controlling on bar. He talked to us about dose consistency, while I talked up the ethiopians in the heartbreaker blend. About as American and explosive as ristretto shot can get, Koji was ready to take it back down a notch.

Training Koji Training Koji

Our final stop of the day was Chelsea Market Ninth Street. Derek waxed poetic about his hairbender, as we evaluated the true triple ristretto. He also talked up the Synesso he was working on, his machine of choice. Koji marked the hairbender as a favorite, which, really, comes as no surprise.

Training Koji Training Koji

We met up a few days later to do the hands-on training (a special very big thank you to Amanda at Everyman for letting us train there). For the actual training I got some very tasty Black Cat to work with, and Koji returned his required reading – Schomer and Rao.

Training Koji Training Koji

It was great fun to work with someone who had a strong palate already and just needed to work on the mechanics. Koji was a fast learner and advanced pretty quickly to dialing in the espresso. It was perhaps my favorite espresso training to date, and not just because I’m now invited to Japan to teach milk steaming!

Every time I teach someone how to make espresso, and more importantly to make the connections between taste and the mechanics, I’m reminded of why I do this in the first place. Make great coffee, be nice to people. That’s it, and I hope it’s enough to be a principle of my future success.

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~ by Anne on November 24, 2008.

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