Why Can't We Be Blends?

Author: george Posted: June 28, 2008

There are a few things on my mind right now, and most of them have something to do with coffee.

First, as the barista competition creeps up (slowly but surely) I am getting more into it day by day.  I’ve decided that I am going to try to make my own blend – which is really exciting but something that I have zero experience in so I need some help here and there.

Some of it is obvious (or is it) – pick beans you like, with the certain basic elements of an espresso blend in mind (acidity, body, taste profile etc.) and mix them in proper proportions.  The problem for me was how do you know what will taste good mixed, and how do you even go about figuring that out?  My answer would be given to me during a stop at Ethical Bean’s Headquarters.  While sitting in the cafe, typing away on my laptop, Jeff happened to come out and make himself an espresso.  After a little chatting I asked if Aaron was in, and to my luck, he was.  

When he came out we talked for a bit and I told him my situation (trying to make a blend for the first time). He patiently explained the basics, and what I would have to do. I took his advice and put into action the first few steps he suggested, and of course they worked perfectly.  Thanks again Aaron.

“Pull each coffee individually (as an espresso), and you will know what it’s role in the blend will be”

I have found since found the coffees I plan to use (with the exception of possibly one more addition) and will start to try to find the proper proportions for the blend this week.  I have a pretty good idea already of what they will be, but of course won’t know until I try it.  It could just completely turn out to be a bogus blend but I have a pretty good feeling about it.  It’s amazing how much the differences from coffee to coffee shine through when you pull them in their barest state.  I don’t plan on revealing what the coffees are, yet, but I may in the future when I know if I will be using it or not.

After writing some notes on the coffees I called up Spencer from JJ and told him what I was trying to do.  He said we should get together and try playing around with the roasting of the coffees – we plan to do this week or the next, and I can’t wait.

I’ve also narrowed it down to 2 sets of cups to use for the display of my signature drink.  I will test it out in both of them this week and see which does the job best and decide from there.  Training is most certainly coming along, and thanks to a timeline that Johnny made with me, it seems to be in order and right on schedule.

And lastly in regards to competition – much congratulations to Anthony Benda for coming 2nd in the Montreal Regionals.  We have been talking every few days via email and he is helping a lot on some competition things I would have no idea about had he not shared his insight.  Thanks. 

Something I am very curious about, but that has nothing to do with the competition, is single baskets.  I was at EMC this week picking up a couple to test out but unfortunately when I got back to crema and tried to put them into the portafilter they were too big.  I have a feeling that we (North America) may be using too much coffee for no reason other than with the mentality that bigger is better.  But we’ll see, perhaps it will turn out just too weak and over watered to really taste the coffee.  All I know is that after having a few sample shots at EMC I could drink a single basket espresso all day.

In terms of crema’s grinder situation, we have narrowed it down to either an Anfim or the Mahlkonig.  I highly prefer the Mahlkonig, which is chamber less and has a digital timer with the ability to save 2 different dosage times.  The only thing bad to say about it (and it’s not a big deal) is that the coffee tends to come out in little lumps.  They are very soft however, (they break with a soft finger touch) and some kind of wired grate at the bottom of the shoot should work fine to de-clump the coffee.  My brother Chris likes the Anfim more, and while it has grown on me the last few days, it’s no Mahlkonig.

Last but not least, I had an interesting little coffee crawl today.  Starting at great family friends place in Kitsilano, I had my first greek coffee.  I’d had some years ago, but had no appreciation for coffee at the time.  It was quite interesting – sweet and an almost velvety like texture, similar to micro foamed milk..  It certainly has a distinct taste, but it’s nice.  It even had a fair amount of crema on top.  When I was asked what I would like in it, I responded that I would take it black.  I was then told that no one takes it black, even if they say they do.  With that, a small amount of sugar was added.

Next I moved on over to 49th and had a macchiato and an Ethiopian Yirgacheff on the clover.  I was only charged 1.73 for the clover and told the guy at the cash I think that’s wrong, but he insisted.  He obviously hit the 12oz brew price instead of the clover button.  I just started “God in a Cup” and read a bit while I was there.  The title picture showcases my 49th experience.

Next I headed on to my last destination, Elysian, even though I really didn’t feel like any more coffee.  I had just had 3 cups and it was really hot out.  When I walked in and said out loud to Matthew I was unsure of whether I should get a clover or an espresso, he suggested an iced clover.  I wasn’t sure if he was serious, but after a few more seconds of conversing, he was – so I went with it, and am very glad I did.  It reminded me a lot of iced tea, probably because of how it looked.  Because of the way Matthew prepared it, you could still taste and appreciate the coffee perfectly fine.  I will be trying this out with the French Press at crema very soon – that is, if Vancouver decides to keep the sun around for a bit.

7 Responses to “Why Can't We Be Blends?

  1. Anth says:

    Many thanks man, much appreciated :) .

  2. Chris says:

    nice post George, like you said I prefer the Anfim to the Mahlkonig but I have to say it has definately grown on me in the last couple days…judgement day is near for the grinders! I would be interested to hear other viewers of CHD what they think

  3. Anth says:

    I think you’d be making a mistake by going with a Malk, clumping (and then channelling) can ruin shots, and the Anfim (while far from perfect) eliminates that and allows an easier stepping stone to train baristas by helping them with timed/measured doses.

    My $.02

  4. Chris says:


    Thanks for the input I agree with the clumping and channeling what I have noticed is the Anfim’s shots are georgious on the way out and taste great love the machine. With the mahlkonig I found it looks rather rank on the way out but tastes rediculas…any ideas

  5. John says:

    We have to make the decision on which grinder Crema is going to keep in the next few days, so yesterday was last night to play with them.

    We did a bit more of a side by side test, Anfim vs. Mahlkonig. Here were the parameters:

    18g’s of Espresso, 1.7 ounces, in 28 seconds, we shot 2 different espresso’s, 3 times, on each grinder . Every puck was weighed precisely to make sure it was an even test. The results have me quite confused, and un-decided. I’m going to comment just about the extraction and taste.

    The Anfim allowed a much cleaner, and more precise mound, as I could dose in a much more controlled style. We used a naked portafilter, and the extraction out of the Anfim was flawless. No channelling, rich, beautiful striping, and generally looked good. Looking at the crema, it was nice, not notably impressive but, definitely a good pull. On all three shots using Nero Profundo, the taste was at best a 7/10. The three shots, all had a very bright finish, and left a mix of tastes in my mouth, most of which I was un-impressed with. However, it was a good shot, but I was being very

  6. John says:

    …. I forgot to close my italic tag, and the whole other half of the comment got cut off. I’ll have to re-write the end later.

  7. ben says:

    lol you guys are nuts

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