Friday, October 30, 2009

Brussels Espresso Bar Run - Karsmakers

My friend Jyrki opened his bar almost one year ago.
Here on the Rue des Trèves (Trierstraat?) you can spot people from all over Europe. The streets surrounding the European Parlement are covered with food and drink establishments, but it's Jyrki who serves the best cup of joe.

At Karsmakers you got a long list of drinks. And even 'Soydrinks' are on the list. That's rare, but a good thing. Some days we have dozens of soylatte's or whatever ordered, but I never see other bars offering a soy based cap or latte. Finally I found one.

The space is very deep and has a brilliant back garden.
The interior is very warm, with lots of wood and reminds me a bit at the Or Bar in Gent, but larger.

The machine behind the bar is a 3-group Kees Van Der Westen and the grinder a duo Mahlkönig. Right!
The beans are roasted by Coffeeroots.

I ordered espresso and cappuccino.
Even though the Walküre cups seemed to be too flat, the crema on the espresso was perfect. And the taste was very good. I'm ensured of good acidity in our House Blend thanks to a good portion of Yirgacheffe. I notice lots of coffee roasters are aiming to replace this with Sidamo or Zambia or Colombia or something, but mostly it's not the same. I was missing some punch in the sour-sweet area. But very good balance and great after taste.

There's still some work at the cappuccino's though. Too milky, too hot and not sweet and silky enough. It was a bit comparable to Simon Says last year or a Caffenation cappuccino two years ago. Better milk, less milk, shorter shots and a better binding in the second part of the steaming could be a help.

Very very good start Jyrki. A very relaxed atmosphere, great clientele and good coffee. I'll be back.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Brussels Espresso Bar Run - Natural

Centre Bruxelles gets a new face lift.
The Square is a part of it and already finished. Here on the Monts Des Arts, nearby the museums, I spotted one of the Natural Caffe Bars and stopped for a coffee.

First I thought I walked into an Illy bar. Same style, same atmosphere, same coffee.
On the Della Corte, coupled with a Mahlkönig, they prepare basic Illy coffee's. Mine was not warm enough, but tasty, and Isabel her Latte a tad too light and not sweet enough. My impression was that the girls were more concerned about polishing the chromé bars than making good coffee.

It got the feel of a modern sandwich bar and not an espresso bar. For me it's a missed opportunity to bring decent coffee in the heart of Bruxelles, but I can understand people like this clean and chain-like type of bar where you can easily step in and not being bothered by anyone else.

This month the Antwerp Barista is on the roll.
And you readers seem to appreciate this with more viewers than ever.
Thanks for all the support.
I finish up the month with a triple Brussels Espresso Bar Run. Hope you like it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

House Blend(ing) God Shot

This post is about Coffee Blending.

And my Caffenation House Blend God Shot this morning.

We were really struggling last 2 months to keep our main (House) blend top class level.
It's our workhorse, the blend that we propose to all our wholesale clients. Off course there are exceptions, but 90% of our pro's use the House Blend.

The beans do change once or a couple of times per season. There are different reasons for this. Mostly because a certain bean is not tasting fresh enough anymore, but also because we don't have enough stock of a certain origin. It can be due to price changes, ever changing personal taste, etc....

The current House Blend consists of 5 different beans. The main ones are a conventional Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (25%) and a neutral Brazil Santos (25%). Then the Latin American part with Dominican Santo Domingo Organico (15%) and the Bolivia La Paz Organico (15%). To finish there's 20% Papua New Guinea Sigri for the spicy bit.

The House Blend espresso this morning was a God Shot. It's a couple of times a year you taste a shot that so incredible you can't believe your taste buds. This one was like that.
Semi strong, medium body, controlled acidity and massive fruit with great chocolate.
The roast is a medium one and 6 days old.
The beans were roasted seperately.

I can't promise you it's going to taste every shot like that, but we'll try to.
To achieve this high level we added - again - an extra grinder; our 7th! But that's a post for tomorrow or the weekend.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Strada Badge work

New Strada Badge work
Originally uploaded by Terryz1
Inspired by Seattle manufacturers it looks like.

For more photo's ; go to Terryz1 Flickr page.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Espresso Capsules Test in Nieuwsblad

This Saturday we had 3 pages in one of Belgians biggest newspaper 'Het Nieuwsblad'.

Jürgen (The Glorious owner and a well known sommelier) en me were invited by André Peeters to test some coffee's.
The place to meet was at the Piva (cook school), where Luc was running the whole process and also judging the drinks with us.

This wasn't about Specialty Coffee, but household espresso machines working with capsules.

The tested coffee's were Illy, Lavazza, Nespresso and Dolce Gusto Nescafé, all on their own equipment of course.

We were testing them blind in neutral cups.

I was afraid I wouldn't like the espresso's at all and told this to André. He understood, but asked us not to sack the coffee's. Of course I understand.

The biggest problem for me was the way they made the coffee's. I'm sure this could have been better, but on the other hand was this system an ideal way to copy the way people make their coffee's at home.

This test happened two weeks ago, but I didn't report you to keep the scoop to the newspaper. A part of the article (in Dutch) you can find here.

My personal taste results?
Best cup of the day was the lungo from Dolce Gusto. It was a pleasure drinking it. Fruity, balanced and fresh.
Unfortunately we were looking for espresso's and therefor we couldn't give it more points, although I tried.

Best brand was Lavazza. They gave this typical Italian taste. I missed intensity and freshness and details, but it was better then I expected.

Illy was liked more by my two friends, but not by me.
I tasted cheap and old beans. Can't understand the Trieste men can not perform any better.

Nespresso was the biggest disappointment. Don't know what happened, but I even had one cup on which the crema looked like sour coffee milk.
Their ristretto I simply couldn't drink and all of the 3 variety's tasted very chemical.
Based on earlier Nespresso testing this came to me as a big surprise.

So happy with the fact the press is giving a bit extra airplay to coffee. Hopefully this may inspire the big names in the Industry to give us better beans and machines.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Singapore Coffee

Keefe was our WEHTMMM gallery man last summer.
In September he visited his parents in Singapore and brought along a small bag of typical Singapore coffee.

They roast it pitch black and with sugar.
A real hell of an experience to drink this as an espresso. It is actually impossible, even for Heavy Metal Cuppers.
Brewed like the Asians do, with a sock/filter it tastes like.....charcoal, but drinkable. Also Keefe gave it a sip, ... smiled and said "Hm, this feels like home". :-)

A espresso bar story on itself.

Good luck in A'dam Keefe (and Josefine).

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Our newest link.
Tons of coffee news and fun.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ivan Verschueren

Caffenation history classes :

The summer of 2002 and I'm sitting in my backyard at the Haantjeslei with a friend called Ivan Verschueren.
We first met in 1997. In those years Ivan was a sales representative for Lavazza. We had a meeting once, but in our coffee supplier search for our Pitten & Bonen juice and coffee bar, we finally picked Segafredo.

No hard feelings from Ivan, who was a sporty guy and even with coffee from the 'competition' on the grinder he visited us at least once a week and we became friends.

That day in 2002 he was going to work for Cook & Boon and I was as a consultant working on a 'Soup and Coffee' project in which the client asked me to get some info about this Cook & Boon coffee, that was hyped a lot in Antwerp those days.
While sitting in the sun and drinking some beers Ivan thought that I wasn't the right man to work with existing coffee company's. Better, to him, was to seek companionship with a small specialised coffee roaster somewhere. And even better; starting my own company.

For me it was a totally new idea and I wasn't interested. I had one consultancy job on the roll, a second one was coming in and I was not very reluctant to start something that serious immediately.

Half a year later, when both consultancy jobs unfortunately ended/failed, I started to think differently. By that time I met Jean Vermeulen who was the right roaster/companion to start working for myself. The project was an espressobar with coffee bean sales - retail and wholesale.

June 2003 Caffenation Hopland opened doors and now 6 years later we're a well known named in coffee land Antwerp and surroundings.

Ivan now works, since a couple of years, for Rombouts (Holland) and we still meet up from time to time.
Last time was at the Belgian championships 3 weeks ago.
Ivan was standing next to me when Kenny was announced winner of the championship with a Rombouts coffee on the grinder.
I felt really happy for Rombouts and Ivan, people with a big coffee heart.

So Ivan, again thanks for the top tip that day long ago. A small tip, but oh so important in my life and, if I may say, in this of so many Antwerp coffee lovers.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mad Cow Milk (Dutch Photo)

This week has been hectic. Big storm on the shop to taste our new (mad cow) milk. :-)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I love the taste of Freedom

From the same photographer as the Latte Art below.

You can see on the bottle the cow that produced your milk. Unbelievable.

That's better than those Vedett beers with one or another drunk on the back of the bottle.

Latte Of The Day


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

October & November Crisis

Every year we suffer in this period of the year.
We angrily waiting for the new Brazilians to arrive and hope to find enough African or, rarer, fresh Latins.
After been disappointed by the latest arrival of El Salvador, Colombia, Honduras and Nicaragua single origins; next two months could be tough.
The organic Santo Domingo and Bolivia La Paz should be back by Saturday. They still had a less grass, jute and ashy taste when we had them at the beginning of September. Hoping....

Future acclimated warehouses (like the Trabocca or 49th P Roasters ones) should help us enormously.
Therefor I'm very happy with the new Efico efforts and their soon to open new warehouse in the harbour of Zeebrugge.
Hope to get there soon and write an article (with photos) about it.

To finish a photo of a Caffenation Latte with Tulip design. Not the best tulip ever, but nice microfoam and contrast.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

'I Need Coffee' Battle

A nice article from Michael Allen Smith (I Need Coffee), who's talking about the best two shots he ever had and compares a (all mighty) Esmeralda Clover brew from a top notch coffee company with a proper (popcorn) roasted Kenya brewed with his French press.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Cupping Notes from Jeff & Joost


49th Parallel roasters:

Guatemala, Finca La Perla

Altitude: 1400 meters

Variety: Bourbon and Caturra

Roast: Tad darker than medium

In the cup: White peach with some caramel. Very sweet and balanced cup, clean finish.

Honduras, El Manzano:

Cup of Excellence winner #3

Altitude: 1500 meters

Variety: Catuai

Roast: Medium-light

In the cup: Very juicy sweet and snappy acidity, reminds me of an apple I like named “jazz” little oak wood, little caramel, clean aftertaste and mouth feel.

Coffee Collective:

Guatemala, Finca Vista Hermosa

Altitude: 1700-2000 meters

Variety: Bourbon, Canturra and Catuai

Roast: Medium-light

In the cup: Clean, toffee, milkchocolate, nice body and good underlying acidity. Still, not that interesting, maybe I expected more.

Ethiopia, Idido Yircha Cheffe Aricha

Altitude: 2000 meters

Variety: Natural Arabica varieties

Roast: Light

In the cup: Creamy ripe strawberries very very pronounced, good acidity for ajuicy mouthfeel. Maybe a bit off balance, but still very clean for a natural. Mind-blowing clear-cut taste profile, one of my all time favorites to cup.


Ik heb eindelijk de tijd gevonden de 3 Caffenation koffies te cuppen.
Allen gecupt als espresso's omdat ze espresso-gebrand zijn.

Hier de resultaten:

Guatemala El Bosque Red Bourbon:

Geur van de bonen: vol, zoet, romige vanille
Uiterlijk van de bonen: egaal, gelijkmatig, middelgebrand (vlak voor de 2e krak)
Geur van de gemalen koffie: vlezig, als paté, doet denken aan Kopi Luwak, aards, warm en vertrouwd

Aroma (geur van de natte koffie): honing, zoet, caramel, marshmellows op de bbq, crema catelana ( gebrande suiker)

Smaak van de hete espresso: vol, zoet, veel body, stevig, lichte afdronk van gepofte kastanjes

Smaak van de koude espresso: fruitiger; zoete dadels

Waardering: 9

El Salvador Finca Los Amates Cup Of Excellence :

Geur van de bonen: licht gerookte noten
Uiterlijk van de bonen: groot, net na de 2e krak, zeer goede kwaliteit
Geur van de gemalen koffie: loden/ tinnen soldaatjes, truffel, stevig, mooie diepe geur

Aroma (geur van de natte koffie): rozijnen, dadels, weer gebrande suikers

Smaak van de hete espresso: verrassend licht en genuanceerd, veel romige vanille, zoet fruit als ananas en mango.
ook romige pure chocolade
licht assige nasmaak (te donker gebrand?)

Smaak van de koude espresso: wanneer de koffie afkoelt krijgt hij ene veel diepere bitterdere smaak, richting verbranding

Waardering: 8,5

Brazil Fazenda Cachoeira Canario :

Geur van de bonen: notig (pecan), zoet, vol
Uiterlijk van de bonen: klein rond, ruim na de 2e krak, een paar, heel licht geroosterde bonen er tussendoor (±2%)
Geur van de gemalen koffie: aards, vol, stevig, truffel, donker, diepe bittere chocoladegeur

Aroma (geur van de natte koffie): zoet, heldere suikergeur, kaneel (mooiste crema van allemaal)

Smaak van de hete espresso: kaneelsuiker (heel duidelijk!), romig, chocolade, stevig, vol, ietwat verdrogend in de keel.
wat te donker gebrand. Helaas geen fruittonen, wel een heel heldere laurierdrop nasmaak

Smaak van de koude espresso: De koude koffie wordt veel vlakker, erg bitter en de laurierdrop overheerst.

Waardering: 7,5

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Barista Jam & Home Brewing Session Attendees (Dutch)

Onder het motto 'Met een Muji Timer in de hand wandel ik door heel het land' gaan we er deze herfst weer keihard tegenaan.

De volgende mensen worden nu zondag 11 oktober verwacht op de Barista Jam Non-Professionals vanaf 18u45 te Hopland 46.

DAVE (2)
LORIN (laatste kans)

En de 11de november/wapenstilstand voor de eerste Home Brewing Session - sorry voor al die Engelse woorden - vanaf 9u45 's morgens tot 12u stipt (want de zaak moet open).


Hier kan/moet nog iemand bij.

Tot dan!
Uw gastheren/vrouwen Rob, Katrien, Jeff, Noömi

Monday, October 5, 2009

Barista Job Search Stories

Last week we had a good one :

Girl walks in and asks : "A Soy Decaf Flat Latte please". And 5 seconds later : "And do you have a job for me?"
At least she was polite. And drinking (some kind of) coffee. Lots of people asking for a job don't even drink coffee. Do we look that good?

Last year we had another good one :

Guy walks in and orders a 'Latte de Pooh'. This is a latte sweetened with honey (on top).
One hour, or something, later he walks out without paying. Bird yells at Katrien that she needs to get the guy. Katrien storms out the bar and chases him.
When she comes back in with the guy on her heels something funny happens. He pays his dept and without a shame he then asks us if we don't have an open position for him.

I don't know his name, but he's still coming and drinking his poohs. But I think he found a job somewhere else now. :-)

Oh yes; for those interested : we're not looking for new people right now.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Caffenation LGB at (Dutch)

Toen Dennis, van het Nederelandse Koffieforum Home Barista, me vroeg om eens iets van Caffènation aan hun proefpanel te tonen hadden hij en Harm net een pakje Little Green Bag in de molen steken.
Gezien ze deze heel lekker vonden, en wij ook :-), hebben we dan maar besloten deze melange aan 12 fanatieke proevers voor te schotelen.

Het resultaat is zeer positief.
En zoals eerder merken we dat we soms nog een heleboel kunnen leren van non-professional Barista's.

Als je wenst te weten wat hun ongezouten mening is : klik hier.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Our Bird is Cuptasting Champ!!!!

Huray! We have our title!
Bird is a 5 year Caffenation Barista on October 2nd. And the new Belgian Cuptasting champ.

I participated two years ago and Bird and I did a lot of training those days.

Last year we both were challenging the Efico boys. It showed that Bird was the better championship cupper from the two of us, but Bart was too good, which displayed at the World Championships where he became 2nd.

This year we did not practice on triangle cupping.
Bird originally was selected to defend our colors at the Latte Art competition, but after Roeland's bad results at the selections 4 weeks ago I resigned as a trainer and Bird cancelled his latte art participation.
Last week he called up Jeanne he wanted to come over for the cuptasting again.

Every day we taste a lot of coffee and with the experience from the past and his talents this seemed to be enough to become cuptasting champion.
London here we come.

Fun thing is that my resignation has fantastic results.
In the first place there's Bird his title.
Secondly I was willing to help Jeroen with the coffee in good spirits. I didn't, and ..... he became champion today. Congrats Jeroen and good luck in London.

Then I delivered coffee to Isabelle, who was on stage for the Belgian Barista Championships. We decided to go with the Guatemala El Bosque Red Bourbon. A complex, spicy and unique bean that Hasbean Steve shipped over. Thanks for that Steve.
The reactions were very very positive, but unfortunately she just didn't make it to the last 3.

Those who want to drink her championship coffee can come to Hopland this week and enjoy a cup of the fantastic El Bosque.

Last 3, that means finals.
Francois Knopes finished third after receiving the cup for best Latte Art expert. Very well done Francois. I'm so happy you finally won a title and good luck in London.

2nd was last year's champion Melanie. She also won the price for best sig drink.

And the new Belgian Barista Champ is Kenny Burssens. He is actually a sommelier, but gave it a try and did it very well.
Great show Kenny. Good luck at the WBC.

I remember I was backstage at the selection in Mechelen with Kenny and we had a great talk. I saw this guy had a cool style and good tastebuds, but becoming the new champ is a phenomenal performance for a non-Barista. Congrats also to you and Rombouts with the 'best espresso' price!

(Birds cupping picture is from Jeanne's son and was the Belgian photo for the coffee photo of the year championship. Nice, isn't it?)