true's blog

Tea on the bar

One last cup of Buddhist Tea on the new bar before the chaos breaks loose...

(and excuse me if I say that I'm so proud of the way the espresso-stained cypress on the bar turned out)

Pour Down Like Silver

Last minute practice shots.


We just passed the state health inspection and city fire code inspection. Final city inspection for our certificate of occupancy is tomorrow morning. So close...


We just passed our city inspection and are clear to open. I'll post more info soon...

Cera Una Volta

Almost there...

Playlist for the final day of setup before our health inspection:

  • Dark Meat, Universal Indians
  • Devotchka, A Mad And Faithful Telling
  • The Gutter Twins, Saturnalia
  • The Kills, Midnight Boom
  • Retribution Gospel Choir
  • Times New Viking, Rip It Up
  • Velvet Underground, Gymnasium Bootleg

The refrigerated case for the desserts went in this evening; we're still waiting on the iron work for the tea side of the bar to be finished up, but it will have a cypress counter to match the espresso side..

The espresso-rubbed cypress bar, and my poster from the italian release of "Once Upon A Time In The West"

The view from the back of the bar

The second chalk board mirrors the cupping station, but is made of pegboard so we can play around with our big lettering

First draft of the chocolate kiosk. Hmmm. Bacon and chocolate bars...

19 April

We spent the day cleaning the space, organizing the inventory, and setting up the seating. Only three things remain on the punch list: installing the glass and shelves for the display case behind the bar, installing the bar surfaces along the ends of the work area, and installing the counter along the windows facing the street. The bar will have cypress inserts that match the trim running around the shop. Fredrik came over after the staff had left to experiment with a new stain for the wood: we're creating a staining paste from the spent Blackcat espresso pucks to impart a coffee patina to the cypress. The results were even better than we had hoped for. We'll stain the wood today and then hopefully it will be installed tomorrow, just in time for our Tuesday inspection.

Playlist for the Saturday workday:

Philip Glass; Satyagraha (the complete opera, start to finish...)
Charles Mingus, Live at the 5 Spot
Beastie Boys; Paul's Boutique (original demo tapes)
The Raveonettes; Lust, Lust, Lust
Thelonius Monk, Riverside Recordings Vol. 8
Thievery Corporation, Babylon Rewound

just in time delivery

We were surprised this week by a lucky, cool break in the weather just as the spring temperatures were climbing into the 80s. Just what we needed to place our stocking orders with four of our major chocolate vendors. We're learning that some vendors suspend shipments to Florida if the heat crosses a threshold. By the end of this week we'll be pushing the low 90s. With five days of 40 degree nights and low 70s in the days, we took a chance on big orders from US producers Askinosie, Vosges, and Escazu, and we picked up Maglio and Artigiano from Italy. The Italian chocolates were a real revelation-- the Maglio bars straight single-origin, but are massively big flavors. The milk chocolate from PNG is probably the single best milk chocolate that I've tried. And we're carrying a single-origin Cuban bar. (Technically/legally it is an Italian chocolate, but the cocoa solids are Cuban.) The Artigiano bars are much more refined, with locally sourced (in Italy) spices and dried fruits-- like a sweet sea salt and olive oil milk chocolate bar that is a amazing: sweet and salty, peppery and luxurious. As for American-sourced chocolate, Askinosie is the find of the season for us. Following a model much in line with Intelligentsia's direct trade practice, Askinosie is one of the only bean-to-bar producers in the US. They import directly from two farms, bringing the beans to Springfield, MO. In one facility they roast and grind the beans to produce their own chocolate liquor and cocoa butter, then move through mixing the chocolate, conching, and molding. We're using Askinosie chocolate and cocoa powder to make our chocolate syrup and to make one of a half-dozen drinking chocolates. Good stuff.

Big bags of Vosges drinking chocolate mix

Maglio single origin bars

The Storm Called Progress

We passed the first round of city inspections today; the state health inspection is Tuesday morning. We just might be able to take the paper down from the windows Tuesday afternoon...

The casework is almost done. Stainless inserts were placed along the sides of the stained concrete facade of the bar. The bar seating surfaces are the last details to be brought on site and installed. The hanging drum lights were a last minute addition.

There's enough space behind the bar to comfortably hold 10. We know; that's how many we had around the machines during training, and it was never really that crowded. The layout is almost like a teaching kitchen. Oh, and the Rancillio will never get a chance to live out its life as the decaf grinder. A replacement Super Jolly is on the way-- much more suitable for guest espresso, anyway.

Details, details

As the end of the month approaches, Fredrick Wetterqvist is able to turn the crew's attention to the final detail work. The chalk board wall in the cupping area is done, allowing us to have the space for the first staff cupping.

We now have 1" X 1" cypress trim that chases the edge of the ceiling around the space, outlining the different lighting features and adding some shape to the walls. Here's the cypress in the corner above the chalk wall...

Framing out the exposed iron fire suppression pipes with the custom back-lighting...

...and the light-box frames with stretched sail cloth that cover over the back-lit cut-outs in the soffit.

Finally, the new staff were in today practicing steaming microfoam and pouring 5oz capps.

More technical issues

...but not with any of the equipment this time. We started the hiring process the day Jim finished up his work installing all of the brew equipment. We had almost 50 people apply for barista positions in response to an ad in the student newspaper. By Saturday we had narrowed it down to 17 that we wanted to bring in for extended interviews. Against all expectations (and not really realizing how exhausting the process would be for us), we were able to schedule all 17 for extended interviews over Saturday and Sunday. Janet and I were floored by the quality of the people that we were able to interview; given a choice, we would have been happy to have any of them on staff. We made some difficult cuts and made offers to five people on Monday. All accepted, and training began first thing Tuesday morning with Alexandra Switzer and Chris Clements from Intelligentsia.

The training absolutely rocked. The best moment: when one of the new hires tried pulling her first shots on the GB5, she looked like she was getting frustrated with dosing and tamping problems. After tasting a few of her under- and overextracted shots of Blackcat, she absolutely nailed it with a perfect shot. With a big grin on her face, she looks at Alexandra and asks, "is it really supposed to taste like this? Can coffee really taste like when you first bite into a ripe Rainier cherry?" On Wednesday we had our first staff cupping. After spending a few hours building a common flavor vocabulary to describe all of the coffees that we'll open with, we moved over to the Clover and spent the afternoon experimenting with dosing, grinding, and dwell time variables. Our target was to dial in the Clover to best match what we found during the cupping. We had a few happy accidents-- by shortening the dwell time by two seconds on the El Salvador Finca Matalapa, I found that it picked up a barley malt syrup-and-fresh baked bread overtone that was unexpected and amazing. Two seconds longer and 2 grams more coffee (as in ~8 coffee beans) and the profile was transformed completely to more closely match the notes from the cupping.

Unfortunately, I was so busy with staff and guests that I didn't realize that both of my cameras were out of commission. On Tuesday I discovered that I'd left the Pentax turned on over the last few days and had flat-lined the battery. The backup Lumix had a corrupted SD card and ended up scrambling all but a few of the photos. On the second day of training I had charged the batteries for the Pentax but didn't notice that I'd left the SD card sitting at home. It has been that kind of a week. I've been spending so much time at the shop that my own dog hardly recognizes me.

Technical Issues

The first real moment of truth was a week ago today when all of the machines were unboxed, plumbed in, and turned on for the first time. First problem was with the Cirqua water conditioning system. A broken float in the mixing tank resulted in us flooding the floors a few times. Lucky for us, Jim Karr was down from Intelligentsia to help with the install of our machines. Not only was he able to troubleshoot and fix the Cirqua, he was on hand when we discovered that the Clover had taken a massive hit (either before or during shipping, although the box was undamaged...). The stainless base to the Clover was bent and bowed by at least a quarter inch; the drain tray wouldn't fit, water lines were pinched internally, and the machine was screaming like a banshee. After a round of frantic phone calls to Seattle and Chicago, the crew at Clover was able to overnight a new base and Jim set about to attempt his first ever Clover heart-lung-brain transplant.

Four hours of surgery, and patient Clover 205(b) is now alive and cranking out cup after cup of amazing microlot coffee. I probably aged a few years over two days, but we have all of our equipment in place and working flawlessly. Fredrik's work crews are plumbing in the last of the sinks today and are already making headway on the final trim and finish. Full steam ahead.

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