The finest cup - Piccolo style... (updated Feb 2007)

Vancouver B.C. -- Vince Piccolo is no fool. Fact is, he has always had his hand on the pulse of the caffeinated nation - that's you and me folks!

Vince (and his new company at 49th Parallel) have paid a pretty penny for bags of some of the Planet's finest coffee beans on a program called Cup of Excellence.

The Piccolo brothers, Vince and Sammy and Mike, have always taken a more challenging road when it somes to avoiding the "other big guys" of the coffee scene. For the end consumer of finer bean, there is only win-win.

Some historic numbers: Mr. Piccolo and Co. have teamed up with an Australian company to pay a paltry $49.75 (U.S.) a pound during Brazil's seventh Cup of Excellence Internet coffee auction. The old Brazilian record of $13.65, which was paid by a Japanese roasting company in November, 2004. Broken!

According to the youthful Vince Piccolo, five dollars for a cup of coffee is not really going to scare anyone away - at least not the kind of people that have come to expect the best from the Piccolo's solo Vancouver area outlet on 4th Avenue. As Vince says, 5$ will buy a really, really bad glass of red wine (and one heck of a cup of coffee it seems!).

Some of The Beans: This classic Bourbon arabica coffee was grown by Francisco Isidro Dias Pereira of Fazenda Santa Ines in the mountainous Carmo de Minas district of Brazil's Minas Gerais state. Six of the top ten coffees (at auction) came from the same district in the prime real-estate of the south Minas coffee growing region.

Vince likes the flavor. I trust Vince. You will too!

The Market: Vince and I agree on a number of key things: Vancouver is near ground zero where cafe culture is concerned. Add Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington and you have the Tri-Cities of Java. There isn't a more sophisticated region of coffee drinkers in North America. It is just that simple.

The Customers: Recently polled 49th Parallel customers agreed - "There is no question whether or not we would pay five bucks for the perfect cup... none at all. Look, you can go to the competition and pay more than five dollars for a Vente something or other that contains virtually no coffee at all!" An 49th Parallel regular was more succint: "Do I need to queue up for this experience? If so, where!?"

The Future: A Victoria cafe and bakery owner commented today: "Some people worry that we are going down the road to a higher average price per cup. While that might be so, it is a good thing for the farmers and coop owners whose access to newer tools and commerce(these internet auctions) give them a better bottom line."

From the CoffeeCrew perspective: we have been watching cafe culture and the gourmet coffee revolution for over ten years now. Vince Piccolo's latest stroke of business acumen serves everyone well - it gives consumers more choices and offers a better quality of life for the farmers and families in the coffee business.

Colin Newell lives and works in Victoria, B.C. Canada. When he visits Vancouver, British Columbia, Cafe Artigiano, Prado, The Elysian Room and the 49th Parallel Cafe are designated stops (and often one of his last stops before heading home to Victoria.)

Wrapping up 2005

2005 has been interesting…

Oh, has it been interesting.

We moved through the ten and eleven year mark of the coffeecrew website. This year we added stuff and took some stuff away. I certainly have tried to do a few things differently.

Let’s start by giving credit where credit is due—to the people, places and things that made this all possible.

So, in no particular order.

The readers of CoffeeCrew.Com – to the regulars, the returning readers and the once-was-enough guests. Thank-you, thank-you and thank-you! The e-mail has been awesome too!
Sara Lee Spector and EveryDay Gourmet Coffee – for a seemingly endless supply of quality coffee, advise, guidance and solidarity.
Frederick Nakos – more energy than a hive full of wasps. Thank’s for steering me away from some of the really dumb ideas I have cooked up.
Glenn Szlagowski – for digging deeper into the dark side and the tech side of the biz so far above and beyond the call of duty. Thank-you!
Dave Anderson – It was great meeting Dave (if only for a few days). Your tireless devotion to better coffee and espresso has been an inspiration.
Reg James and Brenda – EspressoTec.Com have been very good to me… more like family than partners in caffeine. Thanks for everything.
Reg Barber – There isn’t a more generous person in the coffee business. The man is a living legend.
Nelda Jo of Trickle-Creek Gallery – our unofficial president of the CoffeeCrew fan club… It is a rough job but someone has to do it!
IslandNet.Com and the Morley family – there is NO ISP like this one! Family owned and operated. rules! They have never let us down.
Bob Harris – thanks for the laughs Bob!
The Piccolo brothers and Cafe Artigiano – thanks for letting me into your World and showing me some of the neat stuff about this business.
Nancy and Philip of Coyote – I have watched this cafe since its germination. It continues to grow. Thanks for keeping me in the loop.
Dave Reimer – Thanks for being the new kid on the block and hanging out with the old-guy in Vancouver!
Adam Tindale – One of the other new guys. Thanks for adding some positive energy to the websites and keeping us on course.
The Finnerty Express team – For treating us like Coffee Royalty, thanks!
Saeco West – for all your support. Thanks!
Mark and Valerie Engels – for the insiders view of a successful (and tasty) bakery, thanks!
Derek and the Buon Amici’s Team – Great coffee, food and people. Thanks!
April, Micheal, Albert and Wayne – the CoffeeCrew test lab techs. Good heavens did they drink a lot of coffee!

I could go on and on and on. My point: A good website and coffee project like CoffeeCrew takes a lot of great people and inspiration. It is not, nor has it ever been, a one person project.

In 2006 we will offer more of the same and some. Hopefully there will be stuff to give away, stuff to learn, stuff to teach and so on. I hope all of you, out there, have had as much fun as I have.

Really, thanks everyone!

Colin Newell - Editor/Creator

What is espresso?

We are not sure. Or at the very least - nobody seems to agree.

Perhaps we should ask the people that first invented it - the Italians.

The classic Italian definition from the Istituto Nazionale Espresso Italiano says a "single" espresso is:

Necessary portion of ground coffee = 7 g ± 0.5

Exit temperature of water from the unit = 88∞C ± 2∞C

Temperature of the drink in the cup = 67∞C ± 3∞C

Entry water pressure = 9 bar ± 1

Percolation time = 25 seconds ± 2.5 seconds

Viscosity at = 45∞C > 1.5 mPa s

Total fat = > 2 mg/ml

Caffeine = 100 mg/cup

Millilitres in the cup (including foam) = 25 ml ± 2.5

In North America we tend to use a mishmash of metric and Fahrenheit measures so this would translate to:

6.5g - 7.5g coffee is used to make less than an ounce of espresso exiting [from the spout?] at a temperature of 187F - 194F in 22.5 seconds to 27.5 seconds.

It is interesting to note that 22.5ml is only about 3/4th of 1 U.S.ounce - and that's including the crema!

Contrast the above classical Italian definition of espresso to the U.S standard, where as one might guess - the term "supersize me" takes on new significance.

So who defines what espresso is in America? This falls under the auspices of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA).

Oddly enough, I could not find the SCAA definition of espresso on their website, however the following is the one most quoted:

"Espresso is a 45ml (1.5 ounces) beverage that is prepared from 7-9 grams of coffee through which clean water of 192F - 198 F (88C - 92C) has been forced at 9-10 atmospheres of pressure, where the grind of the coffee has made the brewing "flow" time approximately 22-28 seconds."

Therefore. in America, an espresso could be twice the size of an Italian espresso.

A double shot by SCAA standards, would be an astonishing 3 fluid U.S. ounces.

"Supersize me" indeed.

To make matters even more confusing, I've seen many other definitions at various other coffee websites.

All different.

So what is the definition of espresso?

Even for the pros, it could very well be:"Don't know - haven't the foggiest idea."

Glenn lives and works in Waterloo, Ontario as a senior financial analyst and investor. He is one of the CoffeeCrew's most prolific writers and is quickly becoming an authority on all things bean and caffeine. illy and Rancilio gear photo and concept by Colin - canon A60

Mastering the single

Q: What is the best way to make a single?
A: Split a double!

[..hysterical laughter from audience...]

Sub-zero Roasting

If you live in northern climes, many an ardent home roaster puts away
their roasting gear at the first hint of a snowflake - forced to buy their beans
until warmer weather returns once again.