Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Etihad, Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow

If you order coffee outside meal service times, you are handed this:

It tastes a lot more like instant than what they serve from the jug, but it's much stronger, and comes on its own tray. It's the little things that make my mandatory inflight coffee (stave off caffeine withdrawal; stay awake during what is daytime in the time zone I'm flying to) that much more enjoyable.
And I watched Mars Attacks.
Oh, and I got the noise canceling headphones. Wow. I had no idea they worked that well.

Etihad, Melbourne to Abu Dhabi

I definitely didn't enjoy this as much as that QANTAS cup this morning, but the "Tastes Like Fresh Milk" thing was pretty hilarious.

Aside from the coffee, Etihad are great! Economy class gets water before take-off, and there is a USB jack under every seat!! I charged my phone during the flight! This is the future.

Espresso, Hudsons, Melbourne Airport

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Come on Ryan, it's worth the walk to Macchinetta, go there instead!"
Well, I tried. But I was too late. They were closed. Hudsons, I decided, was far more trustworthy than anything on the other side of Immigration.

Nice. A good accompaniment to duty free noise-canceling headphones shopping.

Monday, June 29, 2009

QANTAS, Melbourne to Sydney

A bit weaker than usual: there goes my "reassuringly consistently acceptable" theory.

Strong Latte, Tre Bicchieri, Carlton North

Don't worry, I won't leave it on the roof.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Flat White, Tre Bicchieri, Carlton North

I forgot to take the camera with me, but thanks to a black biro, LLL's drawing skills, and the back of a receipt, you can all see what it looked like:

Ahh. The sausage rolls are spectacular here too.

Latte, home

One hundred grams of beans.
Fourteen grams per double shot.
I've made five coffees (one yesterday morning, one for my dad yesterday afternoon, one that didn't work, one latte for me yesterday evening, and this latte this morning) and now I'm out of beans.
That should only add up to seventy grams.
The other thirty (two more coffees!) can be attributed to wastage I guess. I often grind a few more grams than necessary, and some more gets spatulaed off before tamping.
I guess I've learned my lesson now: buy 250 grams! You'll always use it!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Latte, home

Wow. These beans really are chocolatey, and the milk seems to bring it out even more. It's like I accidentally dropped half an Aero in there or something. Well, the espresso in this latte came out a bit too quick, so it's more Ovaltiney than chocolatey. But still amazing. It's the Java beans I bought yesterday. Nothing at all to do with this.

Short Mac, Rose St Artists' Market, Fitzroy

“Can I have a name for the order?”

Damn. We could have said anything. Brian, Bryan, Byron, Bon Jovi, Bridget, anything.
Oh yeah, Bridget from Neighbours seems to be working at Babka (a bakery) around the corner.
Does that mean her character has been written out of the series, but it hasn't happened on TV yet?

Espresso, home

Mm. Chocolatey.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Espressi, Toby's Estate, Brunswick

I'm going overseas on Monday, and I ran out of beans this morning.
My first plan was to really hit Melbourne cafes hard over the next two days.
But a dude's still gotta wake up in the morning.
FYI, the minimum amount of beans they will sell you is 100g.
So 100g of Java it is.
But I was on the phone to my mum at the time, and decided drinking the espresso while talking was preferable to hanging up, taking a photo, drinking, then calling back. So here's my photo of the empty cup:

Extra special super kudos to Toby's Estate for what happened next.
I went in to pay (which I had to hang up the phone for anyway), and one of the guys said that if I had time, and could handle* another shot, he would make me another one.
Yes, really. He said that last one wasn't the greatest, and it was the last of the Costa Rica, and he could make a much better one with the Java.
I called my mum back and told her about this extraordinary example of customer service and attention to excellence-of-product. She insisted that it meant they knew who I was.
But I don't think so. I think this is how the fuck Toby rolls.

Let's put it in perspective: I've had two extremes of attitude-toward-customers today. At Rathdowne Food Store this morning my bacon was way undercooked but somehow still scorched with too-hot-grill marks. I left most of it on the plate, but nobody even thought to ask, “How was everything?”
A few hours later, Toby's serve me what I thought was a bloody excellent example of espresso, and they insisted on giving me another one on the house because they knew they could do better.

Guess which of those places I'm going to go back to?

* About an hour later I figured out what they meant by "handle" when I found myself wandering around Safeway, not quite making sense of what I was seeing.

Latte, Rathdowne Food Store, Carlton North

From Crikey.com.au:

9:27am: Today show has mash-up of Jackson’s life and music with Richard Wilkins voice-over. Crikey wondering how they edited it together so quickly when it finishes with this quote: “This man is a unique talent, we can’t wait to see what he comes up with next”. Oh dear.

Oh good. I'm glad I didn't just imagine it.
But at the same time, I also wish that I had. You suck, Channel Nine.
Here's another interesting note from Crikey's coverage:

8:54am: CNN plays Thriller video. That puts the time between his death confirmation and playing his film clip about the undead at about 20 minutes.

I wonder what the window was between the death confirmation and Borders on Lygon St playing two Michael Jackson albums simultaneously?
(Crikey's work experience kid points out that Sanity weren't quite so on-the-ball.)
Something tells me today's sales may have helped Jackson's financial situation. If only he were still around to enjoy it. Sure, Thriller may not "endorse a belief in the occult", but who knows? He might still be out there somewhere. Darkness falls across the land. The midnight hour is close at hand.
(Well, it's midnight somewhere, anyway.)

On to the coffee. The black box will show that the descent to the table was a little too fast, resulting in some meniscus-related spillage on impact.

Jackson, Goldblum, Fawcett, Wilkins: Espresso, home

The first thing I need to make clear is YES, I'M SORRY, I WATCHED TODAY THIS MORNING. I decided I couldn't trust Twitter as a reliable news source regarding the death of Michael Jackson, so I (regrettably) turned on the television. Sure enough, there was Karl and Lisa and Richard Wilkins talking about the same. They didn't have a lot to say, but they sure ate up a lot of screen time saying it. Kerri-Ann also seemed to get the arse, with the MJ news being more important. Note: the next few lines are a parody.

KARL: Wow, he did Thriller, didn't he?
LISA: Yes Karl, he really did. Millions of people all over the world might be thinking exactly that right now.

Groundbreaking stuff. But then, a number of odd things happened:
  1. Richard Wilkins also announced the death of Jeff Goldblum. I said, “Oh I hope this isn't some stupid Twitter rumour that is being treated like real news.”
  2. They played a reel of Michael Jackson career/controversy highlights, narrated by Richard Wilkins. Oddly, it ended with the phrase, “...and we can't wait to see what he does next.” They obviously put this together months ago.
Let's cover number two first. They obviously put that reel together months ago. It could have been useful to play if any non-fatal MJ news came to light, but it was just a bit weird this morning. Karl and Lisa didn't miss a beat when we returned to them in the studio though.

And on to number one. I was right. Here's what Kevin Spacey had to say about it:

Jeff Goldblum is alive and well. I just spoke to his manager. Stop these stupid rumors.

That's unrefutable. If I died, my manager would be the first to know.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Flat White, Tre Bicchieri, Carlton North

Bing is Microsoft's new search engine. As far as I know, it's named in honor of Ned from Groundhog Day:

(if you feel like you've seen other bloggers make that same connection, consider it a salute to the repetitive nature of the referenced material)

I have no plans at all to actually use Bing, but I thought it might be vaguely interesting to check how easy it is to find my blog via Bing.
It turns out it's pretty difficult. You need to search for "ryan on coffee" in quotes. Any less specific than that, and I'm not in the first page of results. But I did find something else fascinating. The guy who nabbed twitter.com/coffee, it turns out, is named Ryan. Have a look at some of his updates:

About to go to band rehearsal. Ugh.

Coffee is bad for your teeth.

I'm pretty happy with my new haircut. I should twitter more.

Wow! Sounds like me, doesn't it? I'm still not convinced that twitter.com/coffee isn't actually my alter-ego that only tweets while I'm asleep.

(n.b. according to Google Analytics, my search today it the first time anyone has used Bing to find my site. Furthermore, I'm not sure what sounds more perverse: "googling yourself" or "binging yourself". If you find that a little too highbrow, maybe you will take amusement from the fact that to access Analytics I just have to type "anal" into the address bar, and the rest of the address will be auto-completed.)

Latte, Apte, Alphington

I was Graham again today.
Does "Ryan" really sound anything like "Graham" when partially masked by cafe noise?
Do I have a severe speech impediment?
I wonder what name would go down on the list I said my name was "Apte"?
The coffee was still brilliant. Apte has an unblemished record in my book.
(it's just a figure of speech - I don't actually have a book)

Triple J Will Tear Us Apart: Espresso, home

I'm voting on the Hottest 100 of All Time on the Triple J website, even though I think the contest is a bit of a sham.
The main problem I have is that this same countdown used to be called the Hottest 100. It had the same "of all time" parameters, but then they changed it to "hottest 100 of the last twelve months" because they were sick of Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart winning every year.
I think Love Will Tear Us Apart is a good song, maybe even a great song (it's fun to listen to when you notice that the melody and the bassline and the chords are all the same), but certainly not the hottest of all time. But I'm still voting for it. As a protest, or something. It would be a pisser if it won again.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Espresso, Jungle Juice, City

Yes, I drank it and got out of there so fast that my camera could only capture the whole event as a blur. The reason for my haste was the cup was a bit on the chilly side, and I wanted to get in quick before the espresso followed suit.

I was happy to see, however, that somebody has scrawled, twice, on the sign of the cafe opposite to Jungle Juice, “It's free!” Having eaten there before, I know they are referring to the fact that there are no prices on the blackboard. You don't realise how much your overpriced sandwich costs until you pay at the end. Very sneaky. I'm glad a tall person with some chalk felt it necessary to warn any future passers-by.

Colour Scheming: Latte, home

Do you like the new colour scheme around here? I've noticed that the most readable blogs seem to be black-on-white, with little else going on. Not long after I noticed this, I visited my own blog and recoiled in horror at how much of a shitfight it looked. After some substantial CSS fiddling, I arrived at what you see right now. That coffee photo up the top might have to go soon, it's starting to make me think I might actually have a colour monitor in front of me. I made the post titles 33% larger too, which I'm a big fan of too, but I probably won't push the font size envelope as far as this guy.
Anyway, I'll probably keep tweaking this until I'm happy*, but one day I'll muster up the courage required to make the whole blog look like the Hot Dog Stand color (sic) scheme from Windows 3.1.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Espresso, Jimmy Watson's, Carlton

This place always gave me the creeps, mainly because I thought it had something to do with the AFL. But I realised that's Timmy Watson, not Jimmy. It turns out this place has been here since 1935. A lot longer than the AFL. The anchovy pizza was spectacular. We ordered most of the desserts (actually, everything but the cheese platter). Nice teamwork. Here's my espresso and the remains of my white chocolate spiced pudding:

Yeah, it's not often that I go for the dessert before the coffee. The coffee was great too (as you would hope from such a landmark on Lygon St) but maaaaaan I just couldn't stay away from the dessert.

Short Mac, Bella, South Melbourne

It's a Burt Bacharach afternoon. Check this (30 second preview) out:

Something Big - Burt Bacharach

Why is it so cool when Burt does it, but so very very not cool when Jack Johnson does it? I'm only really talking about the voice here. The 'rach has got it goin' on harmonically in a totally different ballpark to the Jack.

Dripulator, Bette and Bill's house

I've finally discovered the secret of why my grandparents' coffee is always so satisfying. Actually, there are a number of secrets that all work together:
  • they grind beans, and don't let them sit around for too long
  • they use a grinder that's been around longer than me
  • they use a LOT of grounds per person
You can't really go wrong with freshly-ground beans, and lots of it. The dosage happens to be one soup spoon per cup of water in the machine, plus one "for the pot". They used to use a dessert spoon, but recently switched to slightly rounder, slightly more capacious, slightly more bodacious soup spoon. So for the three of us today the machine was filled to the 8 cup line, with NINE soup spoons of ground coffee in the filter. There is also some sort of Strength knob on the machine, which was dialed to its strongest setting. Woooo! Driptastic.
“That isn't too strong is it?”
I wanted to say “hellllll no!” but then remembered where I was.
I'm pretty sure my hand will be going up for coffee from now on, rather than tea.

(not that there's anything at all wrong with their tea technique - I'm still thankful they taught me early on the importance of heating up the cups)

Let's Get Rocked: Latte, home

Def Leppard. Let's Get Rocked.
The animation looks kind of naff now, but back in the day it looked like The Future™. The song is still rad though. And I don't mind the dancing mic stands.

Wow, how many pedals are there on that drum kit?
The reason I'm posting this is I thought it was worth commemorating on the blog that on Saturday morning I bought two Def Leppard albums: Pyromania (1983) and Adrenalize (1992). While queuing up I realised that I was wearing my Hysteria (1987) t-shirt. Oh Jesus. It was a coincidence, but if I was working the counter at JB Hi-Fi that sort of customer experience would have made my day.

Don't call me gigolo, don't call me Casanova
Just call me on the phone and baby come on over.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Espresso, Seven Seeds, Carlton

Strangely, after all that clover™ business I still felt like I hadn't had any coffee. I'm pretty used to that espresso kick I guess.
(not to be confused with the espresso kick that was banned from Australian rules football some time in the mid seventies - it was an unfair advantage, to say the least)

We saw a kid who could have fitted in his own schoolbag come in and order a takeaway latte. I wish I'd started on coffee that young. He then went out into the street and started hooning around on whatever the kids these days call what I used to call a Snakeboard back in my day. Man, that kid is fulfilling all my childhood dreams!

clover™, Seven Seeds, Carlton

(note: the inventors of the clover™ insist that it should be spelt all-lowercase. I'll make sure to bold-ify it and add a trademark symbol so you can differentiate between a clover™ and a clover, be it four- or three- or seven-leaved.)

The clover™ grabbed my attention the first time I went to Brother Baba Budan. It was a shiny futuristic coffee machine that I'd never seen before, and it was operated with some sort of specialised whisk. The staff were such fans of it that the huge exploded clover™ diagram on the wall had equal prominence with the diagram of a coffee bean. Any new coffee machine out there that the BBB folk take as seriously as the coffee itself, it's worth investigating. The clover™ website I found that day said something about how the machine could connect to the internet, for auditing or some such purposes. A coffee machine that can write its own blog. How much more cred can this thing possibly have? The clover™ has since been bought out by Starbucks, and technical details are a little thinner on the ground on the Starbucks website, but there are still some gorgeous hi-res images of the whole process, whisk and all. A little closer to home, the St Ali blog had this to say:

The clover is basically a very stable platform to produce a brewed coffee similar to vacuum pot/french press. The boiler is PID controlled and the barista sets temp, brew time, grind, weight, and drink size. The cup quality is very clean with, I think, a beautiful highlight on the mid tones of coffee. Some coffees perform better than others and the roasting of coffee should be adapted to the style of brewing.

After reading all of this I still didn't really have much of an idea of what happens when somebody uses the clover™. For that, we have to turn to YouTube, and a very SWPL-looking (coffee, glasses, etc) guy from the SWPL-friendly Wired magazine.

So, with all that in mind, let's take a look at what I was served today at Seven Seeds. They have a separate menu of coffees that they brew in the clover™, and I went for the Ethiopian Aricha 14. I think. It came out served in what I would usually call a teapot. It's a pretty long drink, and the teapot lets you take your time without it cooling down too much.

I know my phone's camera gets terrible results, but you can still sort of tell what's going on in the cup. I've never really seen that shade of red-brown with that sort of translucency in a cup before. The same goes for the flavours: it was very complex. At first I thought my brain was just being tricked into thinking it was drinking tea, but it's just because I've never had that much stuff jump onto my palate at once via coffee. More power to the bean. It's a miraculous thing. The menu said the Aricha 14 was a "mixed bag of melons and hints of strawberry turning into cocoa" - it's nice to see "mixed bag" used as a positive thing. Come on, we all loved mixed bags when we were kids. You might get a banana, you might get some fizzoes, a few choc buds, a few snakes, you can't really lose unless you're not into black jelly beans. If you don't want a mixed bag, get a Redskin or a Toffee Apple.

So that's the clover™. I'm convinced. It's good to know that some nerds at Stanford can still totally reinvent the wheel like this.

Latte, home

Out of all the blog posts I've caught up on this morning, after not reading any blogs for nearly a week, the one that grabbed me the most was the post on Back of the Cereal Box about the origins of video game characters' names. E.g.

“The story most often circulated about Mario’s name is that it comes from Mario Segale (or Mario Segali, depending on your sources), who was the landlord for Nintendo of America’s office around the time Mario Bros. came out...

Furthermore, Luigi's name may have come from ruiji, Japanese for "similar".

Also, Cafe Grendel has a great video showing how a very cheap popcorn popper can be used to roast coffee beans. I've heard rumours about this before, and it's good to see somebody has finally demonstrated it on Youtube. Mind you, I never searched for it on Youtube before, so somebody else may have done it already. The machine used in the video is a Breville Crazy Popper, one of which, by coincidence, I actually have in the kitchen right now. I'm pretty sure, though, that once it has been used for coffee it can never return to popcorn duty. There's probably no health risks but it's just...weird. Unless caffeinated popcorn is worth a try.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Temptin' Ain't Easy: Espressi, home

Okay I'm back. In general, I drank much less coffee on that holiday than I expected. I think walking/hiking/hobbling all day means you're too busy to think about coffee. If I'm in the city and there's 20,000 places on every block to get coffee from, I'm more likely to realise it's time for a coffee. But with nothing but the sky and the trees and the occasional wombat, coffee doesn't spring to mind as often.
So let's get back to business. Blogging. First things first. Go and watch The Temptations sing My Girl.
In particular, the verse after the key change.
At about 1 minute 59 seconds, I'm pretty sure he sings, "I got all the bitches, baby."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Espresso, Brunetti, Carlton

Okay, just one more post before I go. I wanted to renew my faith in espresso after the disastrous results at home this morning (I tried to make the pre-ground beans I bought for the Aeropress (as I never found a portable cheap good grinder) work for me, but they wouldn't), and what better way to do that in under five minutes than with another episode of the Brunetti Stopwatch Challenge?
Not bad. That's ranked at #2, I think.
(click on the bsc tag at the bottom of this post if you're not sure what I'm on about)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Holiday: Aeropress, home

Okay folks, I'm taking a few days off. From music, blogging, traffic, buildings, (most) humans... yeah, nearly everything. It's gonna be great. I'm sure I won't take time off from coffee, but I won't be blogging about it. I'm packin' 500g of CoffeeSupreme beans that I will be consuming via Aeropress roughly once for every five hours that I am awake. So the next week of blog titles would look like this:

Aeropress, somewhere.
Aeropress, somewhere.
Aeropress, somewhere.
Aeropress, somewhere.

Et cetera. You get the idea.
In the meantime, here is something I wrote a few years ago called Terminate Humans. It used to live on my Myspace, which I have long since deleted. I think it deserves a permanent-ish home here. It has also been translated into Dutch (Ruben, if you're reading, please post a link to your translation).
Enjoy. See you on Saturday.

Espresso, home

I've been working on my cringe technique for Curb Your Enthusiasm season six.
There's some particularly cringey moments in the first few episodes (and indeed the rest of the episodes, I would venture to guess) and I feel a lot better if, when I know something awkward is coming up (say, when Jeff walks into the Blacks' welcoming party with the cake box containing the penis-shaped cake and you know he's about to open it but he hasn't yet seen what's in there), there is something convenient to cringe behind.
So my technique involves slouching down far enough that raising one knee will block the TV screen entirely. If you hold your knee up at half-mast (if indeed one's knee can have a mast and be halfway up it) as the cringe approaches, you will be ready to duck your head a little further just in time.
This technique can also come in handy when watching (and even re- or re-re-watching) The Office.

Latte, Tre Bicchieri, Carlton North

Yes, I have coffee at home. It may seem weird to go out and get a takeaway coffee for no reason. Well, this was just a safety net coffee really. I was a bit worried those beans still weren't going to work out, and I didn't want to be stuck at home with coffee I wasn't going to enjoy drinking. So with a Latte, Tre Bicchieri, Carlton North under my belt at least I would only have to deal with one of the following scenarios:
  1. A great latte and a great espresso.
  2. A great latte and a passable but not very fun espresso.
  3. A great latte and an "interesting" (in the name of science) espresso that I wouldn't drink.
Anyhow, it all worked out, as my next post will illustrate.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Espresso, I Carusi ii, St Kilda

Thanks Claudia!
(this marks the first time on the blog where I have had coffee at a place where I know the manager - it may have been awkward had the coffee not been really good, but that was not the case - they were also happy to field Danny's request for an "extra hot flat white" which he insists is hotter than a "very hot" one - kudos to the bases of the pizzas here too - this also marks a record word count within one set of parantheses - and an oddly high number of dashes too)

Metal Zone: Espresso, home

Pictured L-R: Espresso, Brat, Metal Zone
This all started when I was a budding 15 year old guitarist. Like everyone else who played guitar in high school, I really wanted to stand out from the pack, and the only way to stand out just like everyone else was with a Metal Zone pedal. They provided hilarious amounts of distortion and a three band EQ that included a sweepable midrange frequency: perfect for that signature 90s metal scooped overdrive sound. Read: anything on Metallica's black album. James Hetfield almost certainly never used one (he could afford all sorts of Marshalls and Mesas-Boogie that a teenager can't) but it achieved a similar effect. Your palm-muted power chords would be satisfyingly, and more affordably, chunkier and scoopier. To illustrate what I mean by "scoop", find a stereo with a graphic equalizer. Turn the leftmost and rightmost sliders up as high as they will go, the one in the middle all the way off, and the others somewhere in between. Does it give you vertigo? That's what happens when you cross the threshold and enter the Metal Zone™. But unfortunately they were still $220. I compromised, and bought a ProCo Brat (which is more Freak-by-silverchair standard) for the much more reasonable $99. I was pleasantly surprised with the results: if you dig around on the interweb you'll find the review I posted a few days later purchase (I haven't posted another review since - this partially proves my theory that all online music gear reviews are written by 15 year-olds). I was pretty happy with my choice of cheapness over scoopiness. Fast forward to last Wednesday night at Cherry when Yuri was telling me about how mixing was going on the new album:
"It's great. Between 6pm Thursday and 2pm Monday I slept for six hours. We put the snare drum through a Metal Zone. Who needs compression when you have extreme distortion?"
And then it hit me. Like a bongflash on the beach in the middle of the night:
"That's it. I'm buying a Metal Zone. I wanted one when I was a teenager, and I never had one."
At the Swop Shop this afternoon it was a choice between the much hallowed Metal Zone, the Heavy Metal HM-2 (the MZ's predecessor from the times before the mid-range scoop ruled the airwaves), the Xtortion (which is worth it just for the name), or the rare beast known as the Digital Metalizer (complete with chorus AND doubling delay: for when you want to sound like two out-of-tune guitarists from the 80s). But it had to be the Metal Zone. It seemed prophetic that they had one for $99. Should I have left the Brat on the shelf at Troy House of Music on Chapel St and waited twelve years for what I really wanted? I'll never know, because I soon noticed they had another one for SEVENTY-SIX DOLLARS.
This is great. I feel like Lester Burnham.

Instore Freebies, Jasper, Fitzroy

I've had dozens of free samples from the Jasper free sample table in the past, but today I figured that drinking two full cups in a row justified a blog entry.
Yirgacheffe (left): yes!
Blend #6 (right): no! (comparatively)
If you had to choose to live on a desert island with hundreds of kilos of either of the two coffees Jasper had open for tasting today, go with the Yirga.

Another thing you'll need on a desert island (aside from an inexhaustible supply of near-boiling water) is some sort of portable grinder. Once you're on the island, it won't need to be portable, but if it made it to the island in the first place it probably had to fit in your pocket or luggage. The possibility of either is exactly what led me into the doors of Jasper today.
"I was wondering if there is any such thing as a good, small, possibly battery-powered, grinder."
He said yes, yes, no, and yes, respectively. This surprised me a bit. I'm sure you all remember that pivotal scene in City Slickers when Billy Crystal accidentally spooks the entire herd of cattle by turning on his coffee grinder. I think the punchline is something like, "Er, coffee anyone?"
Terrible writing, but it got me thinking: that thing must have been battery-powered. They were in a tent in the middle of nowhere. That could come in handy when I go travelling (with an Aeropress or one of these or possibly one of these) for three weeks roughly two weeks from now.
But according to the guy at Jasper, they (or indeed anybody in the world) don't have any. The next best thing, I guess, would be a small mains-powered grinder.
The smallest one they had looked ideal, but it was only a blade grinder. Blade grinders are not cool, when it comes to coffee. They will just chop up whatever is in there until you turn it off. It's near impossible to control how fine your grind is going to be. I know a guy who used one of these to chop up ganja. I never drank his coffee.
So I was then pointed in the direction of hand-powered grinders. These ranged from expensive and looking like a squat pepper mill, to expensive and cubular with a drawer at the bottom where the grinds fall. A sense of nostalgia washed over me: my parents had one of those. It took me years to realise that it was only house-fillingly loud because it was always operated on a wooden table that acted like a giant amplifier. If you picked the grinder up, it was harder to use, but only as loud as coffee beans being rapidly crunched between two metal spinny grindy things.
So that $220 brass manual grinder looked like a beautiful, precisely-engineered, hand-cranked, manual-laborious, respectable way to grind coffee that I would be proud to own and never need to replace it. But it wasn't really portable enough, so it doesn't fit the brief. It's a great way to grind coffee, but so is the Rancilio Rocky that I already own.
The hunt continues. Hopefully soon I'll figure out who was lying about battery-powered grinders: the screenwriters of City Slickers, or the guy I just spoke to.

Espresso, home

I'm not sure I'm digging these beans.
Maybe they are still a bit too fresh?
How long should I keep saying that for?
There is an extensive article about bean freshness in the June 2009 issue of BeanScene.
I won't spoil the ending for you. Go out and buy it, or at least sit at a cafe that has a copy, instead.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Espresso, Amsterdam St, Richmond

Demitasse.It doesn't look so demi from this angle, though.

Long Mac, Amsterdam St, Richmond

Studiocoffee. This music isn't the kind of thing that will sound better when played by jittery, over-caffeinated band members, so I had better wait a few hours until my third for the day.
My order was much less confusing than the one Luke told me he just had.
"Can I get an espresso?"
Order-taker: "A short black, sure."
Barista: "Was that an espresso?"
Order-taker: "No, a short black."
Barista: "Ah, a short black."

Latte, Tre Bicchieri, Carlton North

Sometimes, it can take ten minutes for one of the staff to come back to your table and inform you that they've run out of the thing you ordered.
I find it hard to understand this.
They didn't seem to take, "I'll get the croissant, that won't take long will it?" as the affront to their order-taking skills that I thought it implied.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Espresso, Amsterdam St, Richmond

I forgot to take the camera with me, so you'll just have to trust me that the crema was spectacular. It was thick. Like somebody had dropped a teaspoon of icecream in there, and it hadn't quite dissolved yet.
I was also very impressed with her use of the word demitasse. You know the small cups that espressi are served in? That's what they are called.
"Would you like the short black to take away, or in a demitasse?"
What a great word. It sure deserves those italics.

Strong Latte, Volley, Richmond

According to the blog, I haven't been here before.
That's surprising. I remember the posters, the cardboard chairs, the Veneziano Forza blend - I'm sure I've been here.
Well, if I have, it was before last January. Scary.
I laughed out loud when I realised the Johnny Cash they were listening to was singing Personal Jesus. That dude could cover anything and get away with it.

Espressi, home

Kind of undrinkable.
I now see why you're not supposed to use beans that have just been roasted.
The guy at Seven Seeds said it was worth a try though, to see exactly what the results were like.
So that means I learnt something today, over breakfast.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Espresso, Cafenatics, City

"We are open," the writing on the door assured us.
It sure looked shut though.
I walked in, and it turned out they were open.
I was impressed.
It's not often that you walk into a place where the staff are cleaning up at the end of the day, and the coffee machine is still going.

Excellent. I salute Cafenatics's staff training regime. I've never had an even remotely mediocre coffee here. More chains should be like this.

Flat White, Seven Seeds, Carlton

Finally, I visit Seven Seeds. As I said a few days ago, the buzz has been building about this place both in the blogosphere, the cafesphere, and in real life. A whole lot of people were excited about this place opening. Surely it's a good sign that I recognised so many faces from other cafes around town amongst both patrons and staff.
What's not to love about this place? The coffee plants, the roasting out the back, the sardine toasted sandwich, the really heavy dub they were listening to, and of course the indoor bike rack. That top row looks a little impractical though:
And the coffee, which is why we're all here, is spectacular. Add this to your must-visit list. In short, it's Brother Baba Budan with more room. And a greenhouse. And a laboratory of some sort. Beans seem to be constantly on the roast, and being tested and tasted. The 250g of Panama Santa Teresa Honey I bought was so freshly roasted that I could feel the heat of the beans through the bag.
And here's the flat white:
They have a Clover too. I should try one of those soon.

Aeropress, home

The grinder just proved me wrong again.
"Go on. There's more beans in here than you think."
"But it looks almost empty."
"But not almost enough. Seriously. Just start grinding."
"There will be enough for an Aeropress?"
"A really strong one."
"Thank God. I'd have been in trouble this morning without coffee."

Yeah, it was a pretty busy morning. Remember that scene towards the end of Goodfellas where he has to get up at 6am and start cooking for that night, and then go out and pick up some guns or dope or something, and all the while his brother is stirring the meatballs and there's helicopters following him all day? Yeah, I wasn't quite that busy. But pretty close.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Aeropress, home

Here's the description for Coffee Buzz, a new iPhone app:

Find and share the Coffee Buzz everyday with friends, followers and other iPhone users. The easiest way to tell the world you're "having a coffee".

Sound familiar? Now everyone can do what I do on the blog, but it's much less time-consuming. I think I've just been made redundant.

If you've been following my Twitter feed you may notice that the subject matter of this post has already been covered, in less than 140 characters. You can be the judge of what's preferable between my efficient, concise coffeetweeting (approx writing time: 4 seconds) and my wordy, rambling, unwieldy coffeeblogging (more like 4 minutes).

Espresso, home

Apple have announced a whole bunch of interesting (to Apple users) stuff today:
  • Snow Leopard will be out in September. It will be $29.
  • Safari 4 is now available for download. It's faster than anything else, allegedly. If you're one of the few people whose internet connection is so fast that you truly believe your browser is slowing you down, Safari 4 is for you. You need to upgrade to Leopard 10.5.7 first - but if you use your Mac for audio stuff, make sure that 10.5.7 is a good idea. Your hardware might not be working with it yet. I think I just felt a disturbance in the force; like a million users yelling, "Fuck you Digidesign!"
  • iPhone 3.0 will be available for download on June 17. And yes, most of those rumoured new features really exist. Even TomTom navigation. And accessing your iDisk from the phone. That makes MobileMe something worth really having all of a sudden.
  • The iPhone 3GS has also been announced. It's faster, with better battery life, a compass, a better camera, and up to 32GB storage.
  • Firewire is included in the 13" Macbook Pro. Good news for anyone wanting to do recording on a very small Mac. Unless they want to use Safari 4 at the same time: that could get tricky.
Also, in non-Mac news, I didn't go to Seven Seeds today. I will soon, though.

Espresso, home

Warning: Mad Men spoilers coming up. Read on if that doesn't bother you.

Yes, it's kind of clever that Donald Draper grew up as Dick Whitman, and changed his name to Donald Draper after he saw the real Donald Draper die in action in Korea.
I thought it brought interest to a spectacularly stylish show with great characters but not much happening.
But then LLL pointed out that exactly the same thing happened to Seymour Skinner in The Principal and the Pauper. The sudden change in Skinner's history was, according to the writers, inspired by the real life Tichborne Case, which perhaps the Mad Men writers were also big fans of. So it's possibly not just another case of The Simpsons Already Did It.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Espresso, home

I'm pretty sure I just received my first spam phone call.
She opened with, "Hi Ryan," and said something about how I had called them earlier, and she had some information about trading, or an investment, or something.
It was ringing absolutely no bells.
I said it must have been a wrong number, and she said, "But I am speaking to Ryan, aren't I?"
I didn't know how to tactfully say, "Yes, but you're wrong, I didn't speak to you earlier, you made that bit up," so it was difficult to get off the phone.
But when I did, I did what I usually do after a weird phone conversation. I googled the number.
Sadly, 0756677156, 07-5667-7156, and +61756677156 yielded no results.
But if this is happening to anyone else, I'm sure they will start googling the number.
If that is your circumstances, welcome! Feel free to have a look around at the rest of my blog. It's about coffee, and things that happen to me before, during, and after coffee.
But sorry, I have no information about who just called you. Just be reassured that it happened to me too.

Espresso, home

Possibly swine flu.
When I say "possibly", I mean just that. It is not impossible.
So I'm off the milk again. Espresso City for me.
Judging by the level in the grinder, I should have bought more than 250g of beans.
What was I thinking?
I'm sure I'll last until tomorrow though, when I finally pay Seven Seeds a visit. I know they haven't even been open for a whole week yet, but that feels like a long time in blogland. Melbourne Gastronome has been there already, and the photos convince me that I should leave room for lunch.
There hasn't been this much buzz about a new coffee place in Melbourne since I started the blog. Just take a look at what Luca at Pour Quality had to say about it in today's post:

"Frankly, this place has nearly everything to be one of the best coffee roasteries in the world. And I don't say that lightly."

Yep. I'll go there tomorrow.

Espresso, Paul, near Covent Garden, London

Ah, Paul. I posted something about something else called Paul, on Regent Street, last year sometime. It seems these guys are a chain. If they are in fact a chain, they are easily the best one around. The Covent Garden cafe is huge. They have a sit-down area, and a whole other section for take-aways only. Very handy for buying coffee and a croissant, and doing a Breakfast At Tiffany's thing.

But the coffee. It was like in "The Soup Nazi" when Elaine tries the soup and says she's gotta sit down. There was something about the espresso that I can only describe as Kona-esque. Nutty and creamy in the best way possible. Let's hope it's always that good.

P.S. I just checked their website - to make sure it was 'Paul' as opposed to 'Paul's' or even 'Pauls'. They have a section called 'Find a Paul'!

Macchiato, Maison M..., near Covent Garden, London

What is with London on a Sunday morning? This is what I miss about Melbourne. In any suburb, and any sub-area of the city, I can think of many, many places where you can get a decent breakfast on a Sunday morning. With a decent coffee. But not in London. You can walk for half an hour and only have seen stupid chains that don't really do breakfast, or crappy plastic-tablecloth-"Full English for £3.95"-with-watery-Americano-only "cafes".

I did eventually find Maison M...something - the rest of the name was overly-long and unrememberable. By this time it was after 11am, and I hadn't had any coffee or eaten anything. I figured there must be something decent in the vague area near Monmouth, even though Monmouth doesn't open on Sundays. The macchiato was pretty damn good, as were the potato pancakes.

But come on London, if Melbourne can be business as usual on a Sunday morning, why can't you?

Espresso, The Old Vic Theatre Pit Bar, Waterloo, London

Warning: not Ryan. I was going to see "The Cherry Orchard" by Chekhov, starring Ethan Hawke, amongst others. I wasn't going to have coffee, but the invisible coffee aroma lines in the air seemed to drag me over there, as if I was Elmer Fudd with my nose upturned.

A girl took my order and went over to the espresso machine. There was an extremely attractive man also working behind the bar. I stared at him for so long that he said "Is someone serving you?" And then a few seconds later, "Really, is someone serving you?"

The espresso was excellent.

Oh, and so was the play.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Extra dollop, Flat white, home

Hang on, didn't it used to say "extra dollop of cream" on there somewhere? I guess these days people don't want extra dollops of anything that is bad for them, especially if it is written right there on the carton. It now says they have "more of the wholesome cream left in, just as nature intended," which somehow makes it sound healthier*. Clever people.
So has Farmhouse changed its recipe from extra dollop to leaving-it-in, or was that extra dollop business just an extra dollop of marketing bullshit from the 80s?
Those ads were great though. When I was a kid I thought the farmer really did walk all that way with a spoon of cream to dollop into each carton. But my uncle was a milkman so I should have known better.
The farmer drove a TRUCK with one hand, holding a spoon in the other. Yeah, that sounds more likely.

* 4.9% total fat, for the milk-stat-heads out there. 1 metric dollop = 9 grams. If you look into the origins of the name of the band 10CC you will find that one dollop is equal to something else too. Just try not to think about that next time you pour Farmhouse over your muesli...

Espresso, home

Well, it's 10.17am and I haven't had any coffee. First of all, I need to go down the street and get milk and bread so I can have breakfast, after which I can have coffee. Most of this should also be preceded by a shower. The reason I haven't done any of it yet is because there are too many awesome blogs on the internet, and I need to read them all now.
Ah bugger it, I should have coffee now. By the time I do all the other stuff, I'll be ready for another one, I'm sure.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Espressi, home

Well, I tried four times. Woolloomooloo is not co-operating. It's coming out way too fast. Maybe it knows it's in Melbourne. The crema was way off the charts too. I'm going to have to grind even finer tomorrow. Until then, amuse yourself by watching and re-watching The Scary Door:

Espresso, Toby's Estate, Brunswick

The new guy doesn't really know how to work the bag sealer.
But that's okay. I didn't mind that my 250g of Woolloomooloo Blend wasn't entirely sealed: there was no doubt that it was going straight into the grinder as soon as I got home.
A word on the Woolloomooloo blend: I think it's pretty brave trying to spruik, in Melbourne, something named after the Sydney-est of Sydney suburbs. I have to admit, the first time I saw the name on their menu I thought two things:
  1. "Ah, it's going to be fun spelling that on the blog!"
  2. "Eurgh. Sydney."
So with Toby's decision to open a branch in Melbourne, they brought a little bit of Sydney with them. And why not? That's what they're all about. Toby's started in Woolloomooloo, they named their prized blend accordingly, I really like Toby's's philosophy on coffee, and I'm assuming the blend named after the place they are from (a place they are so proud to be from that they name their blend after it) would be about as Toby's (and therefore as Woolloomooloo (and Sydney, by association)) as coffee can get.
With all that in mind, I bought some.
The espresso I had in the shop today, though, was...er...
Oh crap. I've said the word "Woolloomooloo" so much I can't remember the names of any countries.
It might have been Ethiopia.

Espresso, the place downstairs from The Balcony, Byron Bay

I decided this morning that it was worth trying The Balcony's coffee exclusive of sitting down for breakfast, and in turn the extended waiting time that comes with ordering breakfast here pretty much any day of the week.
But then I noticed on the sign downstairs that their slogan is, "Be seen on it, not from it."

I make a point of not wanting to be seen on anything that goes out of its way to point out that it's worth being seen on.
So I guess I'm just not cool enough for the balcony at The Balcony.
The bakery downstairs seemed much more humble; they felt no need to waggle their exclusivity in your face.

She banged out the old grounds, but didn't rinse or wipe the portafilter. I braced myself for the taste of stale exhausted grounds lacing what could have been a great espresso. I also grimaced when, after the machine finished extracting, she turned it on again for a few more seconds.
I had to restrain myself from yelling, "Leave it! I don't care if it's too short, it will almost certainly be better that way!"
All things considered, it was a spectacular espresso.

It made me feel a lot better about throwing into the bin most of the take away latte from Bay Leaf. I probably would have continued drinking it, until Adam assured me that life is too short for bad coffee. It could have just been me, and not the coffee, that was bitter and soured from the experience at the aforementioned Bay Leaf. But Jesus Christ. Forgetting to make my coffee three times? Maybe they need to write down the orders as they come in, or something.

Got Latte? No. Bay Leaf, Byron Bay

When the eggs benedict came out before my coffee, I was surprised. I reminded two waiters (one of which asked if I wanted to order ANOTHER coffee) that I was still waiting. When I finished eating and was ready to leave and there was still no coffee, it was game over.

But you know what they say.
Don't get mad. Get blogging.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Latte, Bohemia, Byron Bay

Oh god. Five hours between the soundcheck and the gig. I'm going to need to kill some time. With coffee.

Bohemia. It's where the 24 hour bakery (not to be confused with the 23 hour bakery) used to be. I'm sure they are not open for that long anymore, but with the d├ęcor upgrade has come some serious coffee skills. Very nice.

Espresso, St Elmo, Byron Bay

This place was recommended to me by Shaun, for the food. It wasn't really food o'clock when I walked past, but decided anyway to sit down at the vast shiny polished concrete bar for an espresso from their vast shiny polished Elektra machine. Very nice.
In other news: when I got into town today, I walked into the Beach Hotel and Kokomo came on. Perfect.

Latte, The Little Larder, Brisbane

Number two. Why not. It is a long(ish) drive ahead.

Latte, The Little Larder, Brisbane

Someone at the next table ordered what looked like a soup bowl full of coffee. Yikes.
Our table of ten managed to order nearly everything on the menu. I think the winner of Most Coveted Breakfast was the savoury mince on toast that Kish ordered.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Espresso, Merlo, Brisbane

Drive-through lanes. Open until 5.30, unlike a lot of other places around here. The use of the word "hatch". Merlo has many virtues.
I went inside: walking up to the hatch is, I assume, almost as taboo as walking up to KFC drive-through. That thing's for driving only.

The shot was, well, not bad. Not amazing, but okay. It came out suspiciously quickly. If you're in a hurry and driving north, this place is very handy. But on foot, and not in a hurry, you could do better.
That ice cream does sound intriguing though.

Espresso, Spoon, Brisbane

Jamie's? Closed. Campos? Closed - they specify take-away only from 3.45, and closed at 4. I came down this end of town about an hour too late, it seems.
Next on the list of helpful suggestions via Twitter was Spoon, at the James St Market. It's not the kind of market you might be picturing. The first thing I saw in the carpark was a woman cramming groceries into impractically small boot of her Porsche. That set the tone for the rest of the complex. Luckily, Spoon is one of the few places where "kitchen closed" is not synonymous with "coffee machine off". So a short black it was.

Ahh. Pretty good.
I didn't feel like spending $9 on a baguette that has been unfortunate enough to still be sitting there at the end of the day, so food will have to wait until later.

Strong Latte, Macchinetta, Melbourne Airport

Well, it's sure not the strongest strong latte I've had. I've had stronger normal-ass lattes than this.
Standards appear to be slipping, but it still shits on any other coffee at this airport.

But I got three stamps on my loyalty card today. Nice.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Espresso, Quists, City

Ah. I put so much thought into fitting the sign and the cup into the photo that I forgot about the contents of the cup. The crema wasn't quite as happening as last time I was here, and it was a bit long, but still pretty good. It was also a different coffee machine to last time, although they do seem to be fans of the eagle-perched-on-a-big-brass-thing motif.

Latte, Liaison, City

Okay, I don't need to survey the city's whole caffesphere to know that this is the only place in town with the barista's face on the lid of every coffee he sells. He is, quite literally, the face of the whole operation.
They were out of sandwiches, but happy to make one. And it was spectacular. Did she say "aubergine mayo"? I'm not sure. The toasting time meant I probably didn't need to get the coffee to take away, but then I never would have seen the aforementioned lids.
And no, his face was not toasted onto the sandwich.
But that is a possibility...

Strong Latte, North, Carlton North

I still haven't stocked up on coffee beans yet. But that's okay, I'm sure I can survive on extracurricular (that is most certainly not the right word) coffee until tomorrow morning. Then it's just a short uncaffeinated drive to the airport, then I'll probably hit Macchinetta, then I'll be in Brisbane. I hear there is a Campos in the Valley now. Will have to investigate that one. Also, that place behind The Zoo that has "pizza, cold drinks, radness" written on its blackboard. And I'll probably be tempted by something at Tym Guitars. But first thing's first*:
That's North in the middle there. Partially obscured by a slate-coloured Commodore.

* Do I have that right? Is it "the thing that is first is first"? That makes a whole lot more sense than the "first things" coming first: only one "thing" can truly be first.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Aeropress, home

Grimacing at the taste, he held up the glass and asked, "What is this?"
"J&B," replied Pete Campbell, fulfilling the bizarre dialogue-product-placement requirements. "The network sent me a case."
He eyed the contents of the glass with even more disdain. "This is why I don't have a TV."

Jesus, Mad Men. When you should be subtle, you're far too obvious. Actual dialogue: "It's flattering to be able to keep you interested." But when you're clearly name-dropping a paid advertisement, you're too vague. Here's my top five interpretations of that last line:
  1. "I'm glad I don't watch TV: it would be a shame if advertising coloured my judgment when all I want to do is get shitfaced."
  2. "I've spent so much money on liquor that I can't afford a TV."
  3. "I had a TV, but sold it so I could buy more liquor."
  4. "Last time I drank J&B I got so plastered that I threw my TV out the window."
  5. "Yeah, tuverculosis. Whisky cures that doesn't it?"

Espresso, Dancing Goat Cafe, City

There's absolutely no reason why I need another coffee yet. But I was driving up King St, and the goat lured me in with its hellish fire-breathing dance.
(metaphorically - I've never seen an actual goat on King St)It's a little hard to see in that photo, but the darker bits in the crema appeared to draw a little fractal Melways map. Or maybe that just means I've had enough coffee today.
Kudos to the $2.50 espresso-at-the-counter price. In theory you could be in and out of here in less than two minutes. If you're really in that much of a hurry.

Latte, Milktoast, St Kilda East

This place has been here for as long as I remember hip cafes arriving on Carlisle St, but for some reason I've never been in the door.

The coffee was nicely-poured but a little on the milky side. And it was a little too toasty too. Milktoasty, as the name implies. So I thought maybe I hadn't missed out on much by not coming here before. But that was before I noticed the avant-garde muffins on the counter.

If that's a chocolate muffin, then how does it have mint leaves sticking out? This requires further investigation. It's not often I feel like a muffin as big as my fist (sensibly-sized muffins seem to have become obsolete), but I'll have to check these out next time it happens.

Strong Latte, Wall 280, St Kilda East

A guy gave me a suspicious look after I took that photo.
Yeah. I must be a terrorist if I'm taking a photo of a building.