Monday, February 26, 2007

Belgian Barista Championship 2007

Beste Barista/koffieliefhebber,

Dit is de foto van 's lands finalisten op het Baristakampioenschap vorig jaar.
Eind november heeft de volgende finale plaats, maar eerst is er een preselectie, einde mei te Rotselaar.

Waarom deelnemen?
Je doet dit voor jezelf. Misschien ook om te tonen wat je kan, maar vooral om een betere Barista te worden en hiermede het algemene niveau van espresso in ons land op te krikken. De vorige editie's waren zeer boeiend om volgen en de prestatie's gaan in sterk stijgende lijn.
De wedstrijden verlopen volgens de internationale regels opgelegd door het WBC (zie hun website voor meer info).
In het kort komt het er op neer dat je in vijftien minuten 4 espressi (3cl), 4 cappuccini (15 à 18cl) en 4 signaturedrinks naar eigen creatie maakt, en dit dan volgens de regels van de kunst. De smaak blijft zonder discussie het allerbelangrijkste en hiervoor staan 4 internationale en gebrevetteerde juryleden. Daarnaast zijn er nog 2 technische juryleden.
Wie voelt zich geroepen om zijn kunsten te tonen kan zich nog tot einde maart inschrijven. Je zal er geen spijt van krijgen!
Voor meer info kan je me altijd contacteren.
Let op : Caffenation of ikzelf zetelen niet in de organisatie, of hebben geen direct profijt of belang bij jullie deelname. Ik schrijf dit artikel omdat ik vorig jaar heb deelgenomen en zo zelf heb kunnen ondervinden hoe dit kampioenschap mijn baristakennis sterk vergroot heeft en de liefde voor het vak enkel heeft doen toenemen. De afwezigen hebben ongelijk.
Ik zal jullie (aan)vragen indien mogelijk doorsturen naar de organisatie.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The right grinder.

From blend building to coffee grinding. It's a small step.

I discovered why it seemed to be impossible to find the blend i was looking for.
At Caffènation we have 5 grinders.
One is this huge (50K) Ditting to grind big packs of coffee and also Turkish/powder. For quick tests of samples or grinding for Chemex and French press i also use it, to my satisfaction.

A couple of weeks ago i asked a specialized company to clean up a (old) Santos Silence grinder. This is a very popular machine in Belgium and France, and according to the resellers one of the best on the market.
I was very happy to have it repaired and ready with a new set of blades. Until today.

This morning i started working one hour earlier to give my newest blend a go. 4 equal parts of freshly roasted Yirgacheffe, Santos, Picacho and Italian Roast. To give it all the chances to succeed i threw it into my newest grinder, the Mahlkonig K 30 (see picture).
After 2 seasoning shots on each group i presumed my E91 Faema was ready for action.
First the espresso. 22 seconds. Mmm .... too short. Sourish and a lack of body.
Again a double. 18 grams updosing. 28 seconds. Mmm ... yes! I finally found this rich, full bodied, lightly citrus and punchy but no bitter aftertaste. The cappuccino. ... No problem.
Then the lungo. Coarser grind. (setting 8). Something like 7 grams on the single.
Mmm .... wow! One of the best lungo's i ever tasted. Then i checked it with some sugar and milk and again it came out fantastic. I'm a big fan of the Yirg for espresso's, but first of all for taller coffee's, on the espresso machine or other coffee brewers. It goes really well with sugar/syrup/chocolate, either warm or cold.

Then it was time to open the cafe and i filled the Mahlkonig with it's normal blend. My newest blend went into my Santos Silence grinder.

Between a couple of clients i pulled a double (new blend) shot for my barista Bird and myself. What a disappointment.... not bad, but way too sour and bitter. And then i suddenly realized, that until today i have been testing this new blend always on this same Santos grinder. Never i was able to obtain a good result. Sorry, never my grinder gave me the taste i asked for.

Unfortunately i sold my spare Mazzer Super Jolly last week to a friend. And i still need to wait one more week to go to Henk at ESW for my new Macap Chromé.

There are surely more good grinders on the market, but for myself i decided to stick to the three M's : Mahkonig, Mazzer and Macap, that's for sure.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Robusta or no robusta?

That's the question!

Normally i had planned to announce my newest Master and House blend one of these days. Normally .... Not!
After a recent downfall in quality (and personal favor?) of our organic Santo Domingo bean, i was looking for one or more beans to refuel our Master and House blend.

On this moment we have at Caffènation two different grinders for clean shots or bases for milk based coffees. Sounds wonderful, but i decided to simplify things and in stead of one blend (a classical Italian Roast Espresso with plus minus 25% Indian robusta) for ristretto, cappa and latte, and one blend (our 100% arabica master blend with Yirgacheffe, Santo Domingo a.o.) for espresso, machiato, mocha and iced coffees, i was willing to launch a new 100% arabica master blend for all these drinks and add a small grinder for a weekly single origin espresso on the free spot.
Good idea, but i can't find a blend that fits my (high) expectations. I noticed already during the preparation of my Belgian finals blend it can be a tough job with lots of invariabilty's as there are price, roasting conditions, storage difficulties, aromatic fights from one bean with the other and my personal taste standards.

Last week it finally seemed to be solved. Nice combo of El Salvador SHG for binding and boldness, Harrar Longberry for acidity and fruit, some Santos and smaller parts of Costa Rica and Java, this last one for strength and color. Now in our second day of try outs i'm deeply disappointed. Too harsh and a boring and very bitter aftertaste. Why? I guess i don't like the Java - too earthy - and the Santos medium roast - sour finish on espresso. I don't know, i tried already so many.

Actually i always was pretty found of my Italian mix and decided to leave the 100% arabica idea behind and mixed our Italian Roast again. Now with this great El Salvador, my favorite Yirgacheffe and a equal part of Santos. Yep! First test scores went well on small espresso's and even on lungo's, still a very popular drink in Belgium, even at Caffènation.
But what with this (5%?) robusta part? Does it hurt? Why are we all so focused on full arabica mixtures? And what with a good portion of dark roast, even when it's mixed unequally with others?
Probably i'll have to keep on searching and find my thing finally, probably with a small part of robusta, quality robusta of course. What the ...

You see what can be on a Antwerp Barista's mind. Today it's blend building. Tomorrow ...?

Keep track, i'll be right back.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


After hearing all these positive reactions on this Chemex Coffeemaker (James Hoffman and Tim Wendelboe f.i.) i decided to order me 4 small ones. They arrived a couple of weeks ago and surprized me with their elegant design and simplicity.

The Chemex Coffeemaker was invented by German Peter J. Schlumbohm in 1941 in New York City.

We call it a 'Chemex', although the word 'Chemex' actually stands for the wooden collar/handle (with tie) in the middle.
The glass is heat proof, laboratory grade, borosilicate glass. And the filter paper is different from the ones we know as 'Melitta' filters. It's 20-30% heavier, very strong and it removes even the finest sediment particles as well as the undesirable oils and fats. The formulation of the filter permits the proper infusion time by regulating the filtration rate - not too slow, not too fast.

I'm still in the experimental stages and will probably get you a couple of Chemex brew reviews soon.
I kept two for myself (one at home and one on display at Caffènation) and gave one to Peter (Deprez) and one to (my roaster) Jean, who is really impressed by the it's pure, non-bitter extractions, best comparable with these from the Aeropress coffee maker.

If you want this fine and unique piece of design you have to contact the company in the States.
Top tip Rob : if you contact them directly (by phone/mail), you can also order their Taiwanese models. They are a whole lot cheaper, but not available at the online store.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Ethiopia. Oxfam vs Starbucks

There is a lot to do about Ethiopian coffees. Fact is that those farmers can use some more money for there work. There has been some improvement lately, but of course we need to do better. Starbucks is now eager to take in more volume from the Ethiopian market and with their volume and profitability it could be a perfect partner for Oxfam.
Read more ... in this article.

Ethiopia coffee brews up to conflict

The more than a year brawl over Ethiopian coffee trademarks continues as fair trade organisations today accuse the US coffee giant Starbucks of abusing its negotiating strength. Ethiopia is aiming at registering three most its famous coffee districts as international trademarks, despite Starbucks threats to stop negotiating a renewed deal with Ethiopia.

The fair-trade organisation Oxfam was today strongly criticising coffee giant Starbucks for not moving forward in negotiations with Ethiopia until its terms are respected. In a statement, Oxfam asked Starbucks to stop forcing an alternate agreement on Ethiopia and come to the table - open and willing to negotiate.

The Ethiopian government filed applications to trademark its most famous coffee names - Sidamo, Harar and Yirgacheffe - last year, which would allow it to secure rights to capture more value from trade, control their use in the market and therefore enable farmers to receive a greater share of the retail price.

Annually, it is estimated that coffee industry and farmers in Ethiopia could earn US$ 88 million extra, implying that the brawl costs the impoverish country dearly.

But Oxfam has been pinning down Starbucks for opposing Ethiopia to trademark its own product.

"Starbucks has engaged in some positive initial steps in helping coffee farmers living in poverty - I don't understand why they won't take the next step and come to the table to discuss Ethiopia's proposal in good faith," said Seth Petchers, Oxfam International's Make Trade Fair campaign coffee lead.

The agency said if Starbucks is "genuine in its commitment to farmers, it will sign licensing agreement Ethiopia has offered," adding that the country had chosen a strategy that best meets its needs, and in consultation with intellectual property experts and legal counsel.

Ethiopia, a country where 15 million people depend on the coffee trade, derives 40 to 50 percent of its export trade from coffee income. The country has over 80 percent of its citizens bitten by poverty. It ranks in the bottom ten of the UN human development index of income, health and education.

But it is apparent that Starbucks is annoyed by Oxfam's never-ending campaign, which prompted the company to issue a statement yesterday, asking the organisation to end its campaign. Starbucks is said to have received fax or calls from over 60,000 concerned consumers expressing support for Ethiopian coffee farmers.

In its statement, Starbucks defended that the trademarking initiative might hurt farmers if "roasters stop purchasing Ethiopian coffees." It also said if Ethiopia is given the right to its coffee names, it could result in punishment and unwillingness to work in true partnership with farmers.

The director general of Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office, Getchew Mengiste, countered Starbucks' statement saying, "Ethiopia wants to continue in its role as a growing source of coffees for the world market - it is in our own interest. We have 15 million poor people who depend on income from coffee every single day. Our goal for this project, which was developed in consultation with the farmers unions, is to help improve conditions for poor coffee growers."

Ethiopia is struggling to secure ownership of its coffee names in the United States, as it has in the European Union and Canada but its efforts have been derailed by Starbucks that has reportedly filed opposition to it. This would allow Ethiopian coffee industry to build its coffee brands and value it, which could result in alleviating poverty among its farmers, authorities hold.

Even Western consumers seem to agree with Ethiopia and fair trade ideals. In July, new technology and fair trade idealism had assured top bids for quality coffee from cooperative producers in Ethiopia. The average prices achieved in the first-ever Internet auction in African coffee far more than doubled the world market price and it generated US$ 187,800 for Ethiopian cooperative producers.

US-based ECAFE Foundation that organised the auction sourced coffee from 150 cooperatives in eight regions across country to reflect the diversity and quality of coffee grown in Ethiopia.

In this first Internet auction of its kind for African coffees, coffee companies from around the world bid top prices for winning lots from Ethiopian cooperative coffee producers. The US-based ECAFE Foundation, who organised the auction, sourced the coffee from 150 cooperatives in eight regions across the country to reflect the diversity and quality of coffee grown in Ethiopia.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Viva Sara - Peter Deprez

Net terug van uit Vichte en een babbel met de Belgische koffiehoop in bange dagen, Peter Deprez.
Peter is onze huidige (en ex) Barista kampioen en onze vertegenwoordiger op het WBC over enkele maanden te Tokio.
Van beroep is hij mede-zaakvoerder van het koffiebedrijf Viva Sara.
Het was een uiterst leerzame en onderhoudende ontmoeting. Een kijkje in de branderij, het prachtige museum, vol stokoude branders, molens en diens meer en Peter's kantoor anex personal espresso bar.
De toekomst is duidelijk. Blijvend kwaliteit en informatie brengen naar alle koffieliefhebbers groot en klein. Blijvend de passie verspreiden en dat doen ze daar te West Vlaanderen. Peter heeft met zijn ambasadeurschap, en Viva Sara met 700 klanten, een zeer belangrijke poot in het populariseren en verder ontwikkelen van koffie in het algemeen en espresso in het bijzonder.
Met alle aandacht voor versheid en verscheidenheid van de groene boon tot in de 'cup'. Hoopvol sprak hij zichzelf uit om in de toekomst op regelmatige basis 'cup of excellence' zakken naar België te laten verschepen en deze via gespecialiseerde kanalen als Viva Sara en Caffènation op de markt te brengen. Dat moet lukken en het is ook een mooie afsluiter. Veel geluk in Tokio Peter en tot snel.
Foto 1 : Een splinternieuwe Kees Van Der Westen 3 groep Mirage. Wow!
Foto 2 : Een (stok)oude Probat Stalenbrander. Ook Wow en blijvend functioneel.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Kauai Hawaï Blend

Always happy when a client walks in the espresso bar with a pack of coffee beans. Kauai is the name of this colorful blend. It's from the biggest estate in Hawaï and it's vulcanic soil, tropical sun and fresh mountain water gives the coffee it's typical (kona styled) taste. Seattle's Costco Wholesale brings this 100% Hawaïan blend on the market.
Unfortunately the beans were not the freshest and roasted too dark.
It took a while to find the right grinding and dosing, but once we found the right flow, it became a cracker.
Lots of spices ; clove, pepper and a tad of cardamon. A touch of dark beer and wood tones.
It had a good bite and this typical - i call it - pacific touch, we often find back in Indonesians and the Australian Skyburry.
The after taste was bitter. Too bitter, but hey .... nothing is perfect.
Always happy when a client walks in ....... what are you guys waiting for?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Hi Coffee Lovers

Welcome at Rob's Antwerp Barista Blog.
It's my intention to be your guide into the amazing world of coffee. I'll try to keep you all up to date about the Belgian and International coffee/espresso scene, starting at Hopland 46, Antwerp, Caffènation, Nation of Caffè!
As Dutch is my language by nature i probably going to switch between English and Dutch.

Soon an article about a wonderful newly arrived El Salvador SHG bean, that refueled our Caffènation House & Master Blend.
A report of my visit at the Viva Sara Roastery, Peter here i come.
Information about recent or upcoming Antwerp coffee reviews.
A freshly opened pack of Hawaiian espresso blend.
Latte Art in Antwerp.
My newest brewing toy, called Chemex.
Tips and Trick for better espresso and espresso based drinks.
And some atmosphere pics from my new Lumix cam.
C u soon,
Roberto Bergami