Thursday, March 29, 2007

Caffènation Barista Jam Non-Professionals(1)


Start 9u45. Stop 12u Zondag 1 april



Saturday, March 24, 2007

Caffènation Latte Art Pics

Bird Cappa.
Incredible balance. A royal one.

Jessie double shot Latte.
Great contrast - only coffee and milk! Pretty original.

Bird Cappa.
Nice dark ring around rosetta.

Roberto Mocha.
Some etching fun.

Timor Aifu beans

Bought me a half pounder of Timor Aifu beans in Lisbon.
I thought it would be a good idea to write a review about this, for Belgium, not very known coffee.

In Indonesia we have a couple of well known coffee regions ; Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi. This one is less known, but may most definitely step foot next to the other.
As Sweet Maria (top roasting company from the States) states it :
After gaining political independence from Indonesia, Timor-Leste (formerly called East Timor) still has a long way to go ... it's a rough place. Many institutions are not self-sufficient and the economy has few bright spots. And coffee is one of them. Timor has 2 major regions producing coffee: Maubesse is higher-altitude terrain than Aifu region.
We've been pulling a dozen espresso shots and are delighted about the result.
It's a well balanced cup in where we find back this typical Indonesian earthy flavor, but not as strong as within the others, spices and strenght, a light mocca touch en a very smooth finish!
It's a bit comparable to some Java's, but not so heavy and difficult.

And maybe the most spectacular about this pack is the price. I paid €2,12!! That's not a bargain, it's a steal!

Sara Lee's counter attack

It's obvious Douwe Egberts is feeling pressure after our new House Blend launch.
This big billboard hangs one block away from Caffènation.
I didn't taste it yet, but maybe i will buy one of these days a pack to test on my Chemex.

Cool website though :

Opvallend hoe Douwe Egberts een week na onze nieuwe House Blend lancering een blok verder een groot doek ophangt met publiciteit van hun nieuwste topblend. Weet nog geen prijzen of smaken, maar snel meer.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Espresso in Lisbon Portugal

The Last 4 days, Lisbon was Europe's warmest city.
Great city trip i had. I've been running (6K), walking (30K uphill, downhill), shopping (white shirt, black jacket), eating (nice fish dishes), reading (Vian, Arion), sleeping (zzzzz), photographing (blue sky), sightseeing (urban life) and of course drinking espresso.....

Tuesday, i was exploring Lisbon's green side, via Campolide, and lost track. At the middle of nowhere i met a lonely hair dresser. Because of my busy schedule last weeks, i never found time to visit mine in Antwerp, so i asked the guy to give it a go.
His English was not so good, but a whole lot better than my Portuguese.
He came over four years ago from Romania. When we started talking coffee, he thought espresso here was always strong, but not very tasty.
Say no more.
Oh yes, i will tell you the way i worked myself through all the different coffee brands, without addresses. I picked them randomly and sure don't want to make final judgements on these brands, but just give my impression on that moment.

1. BUONDI on La Cimbali machine, Ranchilio grinder. € 0,50. Old dirty bar. First one was a bit too cold, but second was surprisingly good. Good size. Medium dark crema. No robusta kick, good all around taste. Italian styled technique. Knock off the portafilter, click, press, clang and push the button.
2. The all famous BRASILIERA on Rancilio machine and Gaggia grinder. € 0,50 and that's very cheap if you see the location and interior!! The taste was a bit what i expected from Portugal. Cheap, robusta and a bit stale, although they have their own brand with different tastes/roasts and even merchandise. I guess they have to check and clean their machinery. Nevertheless i recommend the place. It's beautiful and unique. Very old, busy, nice chandeliers and painted ceilings.
3. SEGAFREDO. € 0,55 on their typical San Marco combo.
The worst Segafredo shop ever. I even added sugar for the first time in 2007, and hopefully my last. I remember Berlin, where espresso bars were hopeless, and Segafredo was the only exception. I still believe a good Barista can fix a good Segafredo black label espresso, but not this Portuguese 'barista'.
4. NICOLA. € 0,40! On Mercury machine, Promac grinder!?
A weak, tasteless, under extracted cup of ...
To show you the barista, and his well maintained and tuned machine, is the most influential link in the coffee chain ; i had an other Nicola two days later and this was my best espresso in Lisbon! On a Faeam E 91 (not by accident i think), although i was shocked to see this 2-group water boiler pressure drop from 110 to 85 after they made two tea's! On our 3-group you need to tap off 3 liters before this happens. Cause this was my best espresso, i ordered a second one, but that one was over extracted. Anyway i want to give you the address, also because of the very fresh, good looking and super tasty pastries! Botica Do Café, Rua Sampaio Bruno, nearby the beautiful Cemintério dos Prazeres.
5. IL CAFFE DI ROMA. € 1,15 for a single origin Ethiopian. On La Cimbali and Demoka grinder (on demand). 10 second poor i had. And so i tasted. I reminds me at Madrid, where one espresso chain company was making publicity with their single origins. I ordered a Kenya. The girl was so incapable that the cup ran over. She then pushed the button, wiggled the cup a bit and served me this dishwater.
6. Another coffee chain, STORIA DEL CAFFè. Same machines. They served speciality coffee's America, Africa, Asia and Colombia. I went for the Asia at € 0,70 a cup, from which they sold the beans at €3,50 a quarter kilo.
The woman started with a good updose, yeah. No Tamp, mmm? The poor, oh my God!, it streamed as it was a long coffee and half in, half out of the cup. The woman didn't see this and did not believe me when i complained. She looked at me like 'you fool tourist, what do you know?'. "No, no, no," she said and waived away my gesturing.
Crema? No crema. Taste? No taste. Help.
6. DELTA Platina. Brasilia machine (E61 group head) and grinder (i think). € 0,55. Delta is the number one brand in Portugal. You can drink Delta all around the world. Where ever a Portuguese goes, Delta goes.
Nice crema and temp. Robusta kick, Italian styled. Not to bad, but very strong, straight forward and bitter on the finish. I start seeing why most people here use sugar.
7. DELTA Ruby at Easy Café. This is their softer image. Brasilia machine and grinder are all stickered with yellow and orange flowers. Finally a new fresh type of espresso bar, very small but busy. Taste : average. It had this typical flat taste you sometimes find back in Italian resto coffee's. I guess i has to do with the type of roasting...
8. My last brand is TOFA. Rancilio equipment.
This tasted like a 50% robusta. Very strong and bitter. The only thing i liked about it was the cup itself.

I had a couple more espresso's and even a cappuccino at the airport for breakfast, but nothing special.
Lisbon is definitely one of the better city's for espresso, as long you don't want to drink single origins or championship shots. Espresso shots are pulled in a crazy tempo, nowhere automatic machines and sometimes shot by shot grinders. Hopefully they will start cleaning their machines better and i pray they may start to understand their still are fruity, spicy and floral notes in the beans as well.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Le Café est bon à Lisbon?

Again a very busy day at Caffènation.
Again a very busy week at Caffènation.
Again a very busy month at Caffènation.
Again a very busy year at Caffènation.

I'll be out of town for a couple of days.
Portugal, Lisboa.
I need some rest, but definitely checking out the coffee scene around there as well.

Keep you guys posted,

Thursday, March 15, 2007


It's a never ending story : blend building.

No matter what the outcome is, you never stop hesitating and worrying about the result. Shall they like em? How does it keep its aroma over longer periods? Is it too strong or too commercial or too expensive or ...?

A lot of things to consider, but we took a decision.

4 unequal parts :
1. Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, medium roast, 30%. Fruit, Citrus, low caf and flexibility towards cold or sweetened coffees.
2. El Salvador Picacho SHG, medium dark roast, 30%. Weight/Body, a bit nutty and with it's low acidity as a contrapart for the Yirg.
3. Brazil Santos Fancy 17/18, medium roast, 20%. Binder, soft finish for longer coffees, sharp price and air supplier.
4. Italian Roast Espresso Mixture, 20%. Some Latin beans, Java Boungie and a bit of Indian Robusta. For strenght, a tad of bitterness, color, stability and easy handling.
Retail prices on small quantities : €12,40 a kilo. Yes, it's a bargain.

I know it's ballsy to show all people what we put into our blend. The first time i saw Kontra their labels i was almost shocked, but i think we got nothing to hide, au contraire. And if somebody wants to steal it : go ahead, it would be a compliment.
It's our intention to try to stay ahead and continue to go fast forward and readjust our blend on and on.
I'm a bit afraid for the continuity of the El Salvador, but the other components were really good and stable the last 3-4 years.

So, our barista's are waiting to serve you the new House Blend as a ristretto, espresso, lungo, lungo radicale or americano. Cheers!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


No, this is not Antwerp's sexiest Barista practicing for the Barista Party May 19.
These pics come from the United States where some espresso bars try to push sales via sexy pin ups.
Another remarkable thing about this story ; all articles talk about how sexy they are and how good these businesses are doing, but not one word about the quality. Neither about what they serve. Iced coffees i presume.

Monday, March 12, 2007

My Reg Barber Tamper

Last week i took a couple of photo's of our main tamper.

We use two tampers.
The most important one is this one year old Reg Barber.
It's a powder coated, aluminium handle with stainless steel base, 58mm us curve-convex.
It took a while to find this final one. We started with a aluminium based, plastic handle Lava, euro convex. We still sell those at the shop. I always recommend people to learn tamping with this one, cause it's light and what we call European convex. For those who are not used of all these terms, we talk about how strongly the bottom is bended/curved (convex) or not (flat).
Most people think a flat tamper is the best, but i think you just have to see what type of machine you're using. We pull our shots on a Faema, which is different to for example La Marzocco. Some people think you tamp deeper with a convex, although i never noticed a difference between both, it just feels different.
On the BBC we worked with the Dalla Corte machines and used a 54 flat one. For those deep baskets it felt right, although the people from the factory didn't really take one side or another on this subject.

Later one we started using the Lava Deluxe, also euro convex. This one is still stationed on the left side of our machine, where we grind and dose our House Blend for lungo's and americano's.
The problem with this Lava Deluxe is the balance. I think the top part is too heavy, but of course that's personal.
I don't think it's necessary to always use a tamper to make good espresso's, but it helps to work more stable and first of all it keeps your portafilter, baskets and group head cleaner.

For all those who are willing to buy and use a tamper, get yourself a tamper station.
Henk from ESW was friendly to sponsor us with this retro-styled station, that perfectly suited to stand next to our Macap on the Marble Mantelpiece.
This tamper station is not only to protect and keep clean your tamping surface, it's also very useful to put it always back on the same spot!

Oh yes, thank you Reg Barber to nicely stamp my initials in all your tools. ; )


Friday, March 9, 2007

Macap M5 grinder

After almost 4 years of Caffènation, i've been buying coffee grinders on and on. And as i mentioned before (see post : 'the right grinder') not all grinders are doing the job perfectly.
Since i met Henk from ESW (Espresso West Den Haag) it all became a whole lot easier. Not only did he help us to upgrade our barista techniques, he also was a big help on choosing the right equipment. Over one and a half year, every barista tool, piece of machinery, top tip or technical support was the right one. So when i was on the research of a new small grinder i picked one from their range : the Macap M5, chrome finish.

And it looks stunning, on our old black marble mantelpiece.

Tech specs : 250 W Power, 58 mm blades at RMP 1400 and 9 K. It's funny to see how close it is to the more known Mazzer Mini. All the same, except the Macap is plus minus 1 kilo lighter.

Theoretically it is able to grind up to 4 K an hour. Where do they get this number from? Never in a lifetime, cause the grinding speed is problematically slow. When you forget to start the grinding before knocking off and cleaning your portafilter, you will loose some valuable time, waiting for your portion of fresh ground.
The motor is not too loud. The puller is loud and feels a bit cheap, so i beg my barista's to treat it gentle.
Another weak point is the adjustment rate. The stepless adjustment system is optional. I suppose this would be a good investment. Mostly if we switch from a male barista to a female we turn the blades one notch finer, but with the Macap it's mostly too much, so now i ask the girls to dose higher or the guys to tamp lighter. I don't really care as long as i see the right crema flow.

And crema is dripping bulky from the sprouts. Of course it's new, but first of all the Macap is good. I won't say it's better than the Mazzer Mini or Super Jolly - i'm not talking the Robur - but it's for sure a good alternative, for comparable prices. I bought mine € 315 tax excl!
And again : it looks good, damn good.

From May 1, we will start using this M5 for our weekly espresso, mostly single origins. Just thinking about it gets me thirsty. It's a pity i'm at home and no espresso machine to quench this thirst. Mmm, tomorrow a new pack of Kenya AA+ is waiting to be tested. I think i'm going to work a tad earlier ....

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Company Visit Efico with cupping session

Laurent is Efico’s young and fanatic trade officer. He is following the Belgian and International coffee scene all the time. And so it happened a couple of times we met, drank some espressi and talked coffee of course. Today he invited me for a company visit with cupping session.

Efico is located in Antwerp and via the close by harbor, they import, since 1926 coffee beans from all over the world. From here on they trade the beans again to roasting and coffee company’s all over the world.

To give an idea about their volume and strength : in their enormous warehouse they stock a total of 150 000 bags of coffee beans!!! Knowing a regular bag weights between 60 and 70K ….
There was a lot of traffic going on at the warehouse. Small vans and big trucks driving on and off, all loaded with bags of beans. Yes, coffee is still the most popular beverage in the world.

When my Barista Bird and I walked into the cupping room, we couldn’t believe our eyes. The look of these cupping tables is pretty cool. A roaster and cupping master were standing ready to offer us an unforgettable experience. And then the design …. all these small boxes stocked with beans, the old tables, the boiling kettles, the screening sets, the spoons ready for cupping …

On my demand they roasted us some organic beans, Peru, Guatemala, Columbia. Then a couple of Indonesians and the Monsooned Malabar with this fantastic yellow shine.
It's not easy to evaluate all these tastes if you are used to espresso, but once started i didn’t want to stop. After 10 minutes of slurping and spitting I was ready and ordered myself to keep the taste characteristics stored in my brain next to an open space for the espresso cupping tomorrow at Caffènation, if the roasting degree allows us to test it thoroughly.

To finish of we were able to meet Efico's co-owner Patrick Installé. He was enchanted about our intentions to inform people openly about the way we build our blends, bringing coffee with all it’s mystery’s and magic towards young and old via barista jams, the possibility of offering top class single origins in ‘ideal’ circumstances and the fact their new offices will be close by so we could meet up from time to time for a nice warm or iced cup of coffee.

It’s Efico’s deepest wish of helping us with all their knowledge to constantly reevaluate our blend and invite us therefore as often as necessary at the cupping table. Nice!

Thank you for this support Patrick and Laurent and all those other friendly and helpful people from Efico.

Website :

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Latte Lingo for Dutch speaking

A nice guide into the crazy world of espresso beverages, in dutch.

Voor regelmatige bezoekers van 'new style' espressobars zal het al opgevallen zijn dat wij Barista's er een gek taaltje op nahouden om al jullie mogelijk drinks te benamen. De bedoeling vandaag is om jullie voor eens en altijd wegwijs te maken door het bos van Engels-Italiaanse termen die je dikwijls om de oren gesmeten krijgt.

Eerst de basis, de meeste drankjes hebben melk als basis. In België en Nederland is dat bijna altijd volle melk, latte. Half volle is breve. Sojadrink (de meesten zeggen sojamelk, maar strikt genomen is dit geen melk) is soy. Slagroom is con panna. Als je iets dry wenst betekent dat wel melkschuim, geen vloeibare melk. In de States vind je dan ook nog soms rice latte.
En een laatste is een latte zonder melkschuim, dat is een flat white.

Dan voeg je de espresso toe. Een shot is ongeveer 3 cl. Je zou er ook een ristretto kunnen bijdoen, maar dat komt smaaktechnisch op hetzelfde neer. Een ristretto wordt straight away gedronken, zonder melk en liefst binnen de minuut, maar op de niet milk based drinks en koude variëteiten komen we in deel II terug. Je kan dus ook meer dan één shot toevoegen. Twee is een double shot. Voor grotere maten (je kent de Amerikanen) doen ze soms een triple en voor de durvers bestaat er zelfs iets als een quad of vier shots!
Ook toevoegen kan je siropen, dat zijn die flessen met pompen die je dikwijls naast de machine of op de bar terug vind. De inhoudsmaat is variabel. Op veel plaatsen komt dat overeen met een espressoshot of 3 cl, maar ikzelf doe er maar 1 cl in, wegens te zoet, dus let op. De meest populaire smaken zijn caramel, noisette of hazelnut, vanille en cinnamon.

De chocoladetoevoeging is iets van een heel andere soort. Komt er chocolade(siroop) bij dan spreken we van een mocha. Dit woord is een afgeleide van 'mokka'. De mokkabonen zijn bepaalde bonen afkomstig uit Jemen of Ethiopië en hebben een zekere ondersmaak van chocolade, vandaar dat men op een bepaald moment latte's met chocolade mocha's zijn beginnen noemen. Bijkomstig : als je een gespecialiseerde espressobar een 'mokka' besteld, dan vraag dus eigenlijk om een boon uit bovenvermeld gebied en niet zomaar een klein straf koffietje.
Zo bestel je dus ook geen koffie verkeerd of lait russe maar een caffe latte of latte machiato. Voor het gemak mag je de aanhangsels laten vallen en zeg je dus gewoon latte. Over machiato's gesproken. Dit betekent min of meer 'gespikkeld'. Vraag je dus een latte machiato dan is dit dus 'melk' met espresso. Vraag je een caffè machiato dan krijg je 'espresso' met melk(schuim).
Cortado bestaat ook, en dat is espresso met warme (in Spanje hete) melk en geen of bijna geen schuim, dry.

Min of meer, en naargelang het land, zijn machiato en cortado 7 cl, cappuccino 18 cl en de latte en mocha 30 cl.

Nog een ander voorzetsel bespreken en dan kunnen we gaan bestellen.
Zonder vermelding krijg je espressoshots van de 'huis' espressoblend, maar je kan ook caffeïnvrij gaan, dat is decaf. Of half caf, dat is ofwel één shot gewoon, sommige zeggen ook wel eens full caf, en één shot decaf. Er bestaan ook handige jongens die een blend hebben die zeer laag in cafeïne is en die gebruiken voor half caf, waarom ook niet.

Zo, we kunnen ons favoriet drankje bestellen. Eerst vemelden 'to stay', blijven of 'to go', om mee te nemen. Als er verschillende maten zijn begin je daarmee. Small, medium, tall of ...
Dan al dan niet het cafeïnegehalte en eventuele extra shots, de soort melk, de drank zelf natuurlijk en eventuele extra shots.
Iets relatief simpel zou kunnen zijn : Double shot latte.
Of : Soy cappuccino met een shot vanille.
Of : Large cappuccino con panna.
Of : Dry half caf cappuccino.
Ingewikkelder : Decaf Soy flat white mocha met een shot hazelnut .
En als je de barista gek wenst te maken kan je nog altijd gaan voor een :
Tall half caf double shot breve latte con panna met een shot caramel. Happy shopping!

Voor de goede verstaanders, alle deze dranken zijn warm, tenzij je je op een hete namiddag in Arizona bevind, dan zouden ze wel eens kunnen veronderstellen dat je het iced wenst. Een 'iced' en 'zonder melk' chapter krijg je binnenkort in Latte Lingo deel II.

Met dank aan Stefanie was dit het weer en vergeet niet, enjoy life, one cup at a time.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

AKC Master Roasters

Today i was very lucky to visit AKC Coffee & Tea.
AKC is a specialized coffee roasting company at Kruibeke, nearby Antwerp.

It was a while ago i met co-owner Michel Hoorens. What struck me was his passionate approach on coffee in all its aspects. And then i didn't meet his brother Serge yet.... until today.

First of all, let's state things clear : AKC is a premium player in the specialized coffee business, not only in Belgium or Europe, but even worldwide.

The company roasts and packs coffee, ground or not, for coffee company's, mostly those who run a chain of espresso, food or bakery shops, from Moscow till New York.

And what they offer is very wide. A whole lotta single origins from all continents in small or large packages, regular espresso blends, Starbucks styled dark roasts, Turkish ground, Fair trade, Organic blends and others.

De coffee is packed followed the newest techniques - don't ask me how exactly - and labeled or not, but never with an AKC print and never retail.

The AKC lab is the beating heart of the company. Here they cup, pull espresso shots, measure moisture level in the bean, judge new packages, roast samples, stock their green bean samples, and so on, and so on.

The world may be proud at AKC and all their devoted employees for so much quality and craftsmanship. An industrial coffee roasting company with a nice small town feel, from Flanders.

Hope to meet up soon, Michel and Serge.