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          Archive for October, 2013

          Thursday, October 31st, 2013

          An important part of espresso making is water flow rate. Yesterday we tackled such an issue on bar. Commercial espresso machines are simply boilers, combined with switches and mechanical valves, a motor (nowadays) and a pump. Yesterday both our motor and pump failed, and we are unsure in which order.

          Commercial equipment is normally plumbed in to a water line (it is directly connected to the cities water supply, like a sink or dishwasher). The condition of the water is just as important as the consistency in pressure. At our bar building pressure is high, and we include a pressure regulator/ reducing valve, which steps pressure down with the purpose of smoothing out flow rate. The flow rate of the water is directly connected to the flow rate of the espresso. Normally with commercial espresso machines there is a pump, mounted externally or just outside the machine, which boosts incoming line pressure by a set amount. Any irregularity in the water pressure will simply be boosted by the pump, so incoming pressure will almost directly affect after pump pressure. This is super important, and to the unskilled imagine the espresso machine you see on a daily basis to have a remote pump and motor, normally located under the machine in a cabinet.

          There is an electrical cord leading from the machine to the motor. There is a water line leading to the pump (mounted directly on motor), and a line leading to the espresso machine.

          The job of the pump is to amplify water pressure so that it may force its way through the coffee structure and extract the “espresso.”

          When the burning/electrical fire smell came from the pump motor, we knew we were in trouble. Biking to the roastery we received a new motor and pump, coming back to replace.The motor held a distinctly awful smell, and the pump bearings had seized and would not turn. There are two thoughts- one that the motor overheated and killed the pump bearings, or that the bearings seized on the pump and fried the motor. When we diagnosed the issue the machine was pulling wonderful espresso, but it smelled near death. So since we replaced the unit…

          The Pump is responsible for the pressure of water pushing through the coffee grounds. When replacing the pump it is vital to adjust the new pump to create the pressure one wants. Who can trust factory offsets? In this scenario we moved from an arbitrary 114psi to 109psi using the scace device- which is… pretty arbitrary, yet relevant. This calibration tool is our reference point. Lower pressure results in not as much extractive force. This was a fun excersize, and i have to say- it was one of the best days.

          Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

          Every Wednesday we head to the Westmoreland Farmers Market to pick up eggs from Greenville Farm- Forest Grove, Oregon. The chickens are pasture raised, and super near Portland. All the eggs we use come from this Farm, however in an emergency we will buy eggs from Wag farm, Champoeg, Oregon (equally awesome).

          The location of our products are immensely important to us.

          Sunday, October 13th, 2013

          Japan. We flew into Haneda (vs. Narita), friends drove us to their home in Kikuna, Yokohama. Met at the airport by crazy Eitaro, who came to our coffee bar one day. So tired from the flight I barely understood that he took the train to Haneda to welcome us- meaning there was no way back. Eitaro bikes Tokyo, and with no trains after midnight he slept at the airport. Our welcome itself awesome, then we arrived at 7-Eleven.

          It was two in the morning, selecting beer was challenging, and the store so clean, then the prepackaged ice caught my interest, labeled “coffee”. You purchased ice and insert it into the coffee machine before closing the blast door, and select desired strength. Please remember it is very hot and humid this time in Japan, and a typhoon was coming. Cold coffee seemed perfect, and only one dollar. Ground and made to order, revolutionary.

          The country is utterly advanced, yet they still produce everything themselves. Made in Japan should make people proud. Bathrooms mostly have heated seats. Bathtubs keep hot for as long as one wants. The sink drains are wider. Stovetops come with a drawer to broil fish. One may drink beer in public, yet it illegal to ride a bicycle with an umbrella. No one checks I.D. when alcohol is purchased if you look over fifteen. No one is fat in Japan (im sorry this must be said), and they dress very very well, even in the country (everyone is beautiful).

          Visiting Sanjo, Niigata, I was prepared to work harvesting rice. Instead they drove me out to the fields and were very interested that I was interested in rice farming. Later I went to the rice center and sat in on grading session, very similar to coffee. In the country many families have their own rice mills in their garage, and share a plow with their neighbors. They all have signs that say NO TPP.

          The words TPP stand for Trans Pacific Partnership, and in english stand for Free Trade- an ultimate evil, which we stand wholly against. All the farmers in Niigata have signs that say NO TPP- good for them- screw you Americans forcing Japanese to buy your rice. Its odd that we live in the U.S. and have no idea of what we inflict upon others. Why should Americans force themselves on other countries, but of course this issue is not as simple.
          After Niigata we met with coffee roaster after roaster. We biked our way through Japan. Highlights included working at Paddlers Coffee, making Stumptown coffee pourover style in Able brewing SS filters, visiting Horiguchi, Be A Good Neighbor, Fuglin, Little Nap, and the Coffee Bar, and meeting with the most lovely people. Most coffee roasters are Fuji Royals it seems, designed after the US Royal (a company later bought by Probat, Germany). Most of the Royals used in Japan are perforated drum roasters with direct fire, and from what ive heard people are doing 20 minute roasts, as compared to the Portland 12 minute roasts. I have to say everyone in Japan was ridiculously nice, and customer service amazing.

          In the end we tripped to Kojima for denim, yet found an amazing Kissaten scene (old coffee bar). We went to Niimi, Okayama, only for Aogami super steel knives from Takeda. We went to Ishinomaki for the island of cats, but instead found an awesome kissaten, and a jazz bar ‘Cruiser.’ We visited Hayama and met Five Beans, along with old Courier regular Kenske. And we went to Tsukuba!

          We ended up missing our flight home, but luckily made it thanks to Japanese Delta, without any charge. Returning I have a very profound new image of coffee bars, and how carefree biking could be, not to mention a new take on customer service.