Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tommy Lee Jones on coffee, Osaka

Note: the reason why I haven't posted anything for so long is I have spent months trying to think of a caption for the photo below. I concede defeat. I guess I'll just let it speak for itself.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Flat White, 3FE, Dublin

When I heard we were going to Dublin, a blip came up on my coffee radar.
"Hmm. Dublin? Why do I feel like I've heard that word before, in close conjunction with the word 'barista'?"
My subconscious clearly didn't have a problem with being asked direct questions, because it let me know straight away: "Is it the title of a blog perhaps?"
Good ol' subconscious: not giving away the whole answer straight away and letting me go on believing that I could figure it out for myself. Amazingly humble, really, considering my subconscious really knows not just everything I know, but everything I used to know and have since forgotten about, but have a sneaking suspicion that I did used to know it and could still join the dots myself if need be.
"Oh yeah! Is that the one?"
"No. Good guess though. Google it."
"Oh. Thanks. Found it."
So I knew there was a blog, and I knew it was about a barista in Dublin. So I knew Dublin had baristas, but where were they? It took me a few posts to realise that I should look for a place called 3FE. Third Floor Espresso. It's actually on the ground floor, but it didn't used to be. The story goes that Colin Harmon, in preparation for the WBC, constructed a quite ridiculous competition-spec training room in his apartment.
(cue your favourite training-montage soundtrack)
Pretty soon, he attracted the tastebuds of the people at Twisted Pepper and was offered a space in the lobby from which to serve up the best coffee in Dublin. They have since moved out of the lobby and into the bar up the back.

This is clearly not the flat white I had, but the pourover I went back and had the next day. The flat white was at about four minutes to seven at night. They should be commended for not only serving coffee until 7.00pm, but when somebody strolls in at 6.56pm and there are really no other customers around, they'll still make one.

(note: Their website currently says they close at 6pm, but that's still impressive.)

Having a flat white at 7pm is usually the sort of thing only done by people who clearly want to keep themselves up all night. But in a day where I'd woken up at midday, had lunch around 3.00pm, and then the free Guinness Experience tour pint of free Guinness at about 4.30pm, having a coffee at 7.00pm seemed to make sense. In reality, it eradicated any chances I had of getting some sleep that night.

Espresso, Guinness Storehouse, Dublin

I learnt a great deal about Guinness today. If they didn't have a coffee machine halfway through the tour, none of the facts would have stuck. Probably the most interesting interesting fact is that Arthur Guinness was so confident in the company's future success that he signed a 9000 year lease for the brewery site in Dublin. Try pulling that with your real estate agent nowadays. I wonder how that conversation went. They must have argued him down.
"So Mr Guinness, if everything's in order, just sign here, and here, and initial here."
"About the term..."
"Yes, the 12 months?"
"I was thinking more along the lines of...infinity."
"Well that hardly makes a difference. Let's say years."
"Well this is very unusual, Mr Guinness..."
"So is the taste of stout. But I've got a good feeling it's going to take off in a big way. An infinite-lease good feeling."
"Let's go for something more manageable...two years?"
"A million."
"Eight hundred thousand."
"Ten, and that's my final offer."
"No it's not. Six hundred thousand years."
. . .
"Nine thousand."
"Wow, that's gotta be some sort of world record."
"Yeah, but how would you know?"
"Somebody should totally publish a book of world records."
"Yes. Somebody should."
"I'm sorry, your eyes just turned into dollar signs, are you okay?"
Dot dot dot.

I can't remember the names of all the barrel sizes, but trust me, they were hilarious. For example:
Use that one wisely. As for the Experience itself, the view from that Sky Bar is magnificent. That's probably why they only pour the free-pint-you-get-with-the-tour, and don't let you by any more. People would never leave, with a view like that and Guinness-the-real-stuff-that-you-can-get-in-Dublin-that-tastes-better on tap. Having said that, and alarming number of tourists get all the way through the tour to their free pint, have one sip, and realise they don't at all like Guinness. Even if it's the one in Dublin that allegedly tastes better. If one were so inclined, one could have a pretty cheap night out finishing strangers' drinks at the Guinness Storehouse. If one were so inclined. I'm not.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Espresso, Milk Bar, Soho, London

Milkbar. From the people that brought you Flat White. It's just like Flat White, but with more room. That alone makes it more worth visiting, in my book. I fail to see the resemblance between this and a milk bar though. There was a milk bar around the corner from where I grew up. It sure didn't look like this. Streamers on the front door and a few milkshake cups on a shelf does not make this hip polished cafe a milk bar any more than a cash register and a box of Trill would make it a pet shop. But that's not important. It has Australian and/or Kiwi baristas who know what the hell they're doing. As if that doesn't excite a homesick expat enough. Calling the place Milkbar to boot will set off a patriotic nostalgic sentimental bushfire that only a just-a-strong-latte-thanks-mate can quench. Want to know how to get there? Put on your favourite patriotic nostalgic sentimental Australian and/or Kiwi classic rock album and get on the tube.
  • Get the tube to Tottenham Court Road. Oxford Circus will also do, but Tottenham Court Road means you'll spend a lot less time on Oxford St, which, trust me, is a good move. Head west.
  • Now that you're walking down Oxford St, you'll be getting pretty anxious to get off of it as soon as possible. Turn left down Soho St, into Soho. That's easy to remember.
  • Soon, it will open up into Soho Square. That's also easy to remember. Walk straight through Soho Square. Yes, even straight through the park in the middle. And out the other side.
  • On the other side of the square, there's a lane between two buildings called Bateman's Buildings. That's not at all easy to remember, but I'm sure you didn't get lost yet.
  • Come out the other side onto Bateman St, and right in front of you is Milk Bar. Welcome to Australia.

Yes, a guy on an iPhone4 just happened to walk past while I was taking the photo. What are the odds? Quite high really. I'm pretty sure the barista here yesterday used to work at Batch about five years ago. You might think, "Wow, small world," but the odds are pretty high on that too. Many Australians move to London. There is an abundance of good baristas in Melbourne. There is a dearth of them in London. Do the math. Being served by the same barista in St Kilda and Soho in any five year period is almost a certainty.

Latte, Lantana, Fitzrovia, London

Well, I tried. But holy crap that's some sort of queue. Twelve or fourteen people have to finish eating breakfast before I get a look-in. I would have loved to eat breakfast here. Lantana's founder Shelagh Ryan has a blog that tells the whole story: in brief, moving to London to open a cafe, with no experience in running a cafe. The blog continues to tell the rest of what is now – as the photo above shows – an Aussie-battlin' success story. If that doesn't make you want to eat there, the photos in the post about corn fritters sure will. But Sunday is clearly the wrong day of the week unless you're prepared to wait. I was much hungrier than that. If that girl at the outside table hadn't finished every last skerrick of that steak sandwich, I would have been on it like a seagull. That queue isn't for take away coffee though, so I was glad to get out of there with a coffee (a damn good one) and a blondie. It's like a brownie.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Stumpy, Fernandez and Wells, Soho, London

Just one dogleg away from Sounds of the Universe is Fernandez and Wells. I had been walking for over an hour and generally aiming for Flat White, after foolishly getting to Dose too late because, even foolishlier, I hadn't checked their website for opening times. It was 2pm and I was yet to have my first coffee of the day. I'm not sure what it was that piqued my interest when I walked past: maybe the contents of somebody else's cup. But nevertheless, with only two blocks to go until Flat White, I thought, "Bugger it, this place looks good enough."

A stumpy. It's bigger than a piccolo (and costs an extra 30p) but is smaller than a flat white. Why can we not agree on a name for a drink this size? Never mind. They were hopelessly understaffed for a Saturday. The staff were clearly suffering (Where are all the saucers? In the dishwasher, still dirty of course!), but the coffee certainly didn't. 10/10.
Oh. Ignore that last bit. I forgot for a second that I don't really do ratings.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Piccolo, Cafe Boscanova, Boscombe, Bournemouth

Five piccolos in two days. Yep, I really liked this place. Real food, badass coffee (the one pictured had fallen over a bit by the time I took the photo, but you get the idea), a must-see if you're in the area. It's a unique, original place; it has all the good stuff that is completely absent from the coffee chains up the road. Nice carrot cake too. Quick, before Boscombe gets completely overrun by pound shops.

The phrase "pound shops" has nothing to do with brothels. If that's what you assumed, you'll probably get the wrong idea about this sign too:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Espresso, Bagels and Wraps, Amsterdam

Okay, maybe I painted too grim a picture of coffee in Amsterdam. You might get lucky. For example: Bagels and Wraps. There's a Mac Bike place next door, but that hardly narrows it down. It's near the Paradiso. Yeah, that's a much better landmark to go by.

It might look a bit long but don't worry, that one was a double. Maybe the new rule for Amsterdam should be: if they sell weed and hash, don't bother with the coffee. If they sell food, the coffee might be okay. I usually trust an illy logo too.

Espresso, De Koffie Salon West, Amsterdam

Ordering coffee in Amsterdam can get difficult. The word 'coffeeshop' is used almost exclusively as a euphemism: they're probably more interested in selling hash to tourists. For those of us who like our stimulants divvied out in 30ml hits, it can be difficult to find someone who knows what to do behind the machine. So I was pretty excited, when I started googling around with the words "espresso" and "Amsterdam", to hear that Stumptown had opened up a place. But where was it? Amsterdam was oddly missing from the list of locations on Stumptown's website. What were they trying to hide? A bit more googling and I realised I was too late: they were only open for a few months, but not before they got blogged. The comments on a page that was linked to by a blog post about Stumptown in Amsterdam, that I can't be bothered finding again, sent me in the direction of De Koffie Salon West.

It was pretty good. A lot more fun than the cappuccino I had the day before (overly foamy). Not amazing, but let's face it, an oasis in a sea of . . . no, how exactly can a sea have an oasis? What was I thinking? Never mind. There's no need to dress it up in mixed metaphors: until Stumptown come back for good, this place will have to do. I would be delighted if you would prove me wrong with a list of places I didn't find.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Spoonfail, hotel room, Lille

Pictured: spoons. Before and after.

I don't know whose idea it was to provide thin plastic spoons to stir the just-off-boiling water with, but I'm certain this can't be the first time it's gone wrong. As excited as I was to drink Nescafe instant coffee (ie. not at all), the prospect of it tasting like melted plastic made me want to explore other options. Luckily, for me, there was a Nespresso Pro machine out near the conference rooms. I took it upon myself to run out there and make one* while nobody was looking. For the record: Nespresso Pro seems to make a pretty serious cup. Quite seriouser than the non-pro variety. I think you must need to prove you work in an office to get one of those machines. I don't have a photo of it though, I was too busy watching my back for hotel security.

* Okay I'll be honest. I made two.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Terrible Cappuccino, Paris

Paris's coffee is a real shame. They've got so many other things right, in ways no other cities can come close to. Why is it that, more often than not, you are served something like this:

Too hot, too watery, too bitter, too foamy, and far too expensive at €4.30. C'est shithouse.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Flat White, Bonanza Coffee Heroes, Berlin

The patrons were blissfully unaware that the empty chairs and tables opposite were actually a flock of white cardboard boxes who had been slowly gathering into formation all morning and were just about ready to take to the skies and flap away to safety...

Now, I don't usually do this, but I think it's necessary in this case. By 'this' I mean showing a map or an address, or even vague directions, to the place I'm writing about. A lot of other, more useful, blogs do so in each post. I like to think I give the reader a little more credit than that: if you've managed to find my blog, you can probably figure out how to google the name of the café and figure out how to get there. Moreover, I can't be bothered doing it myself.

But this time it's different. I don't want to leave anything to chance. If you're in Berlin and you only have a few hours spare and you don't want to be bitterly disappointed (in more ways than one) with the coffee, you have to go here:

View Larger Map

And if we zoom in even further than Google Maps will allow:

I had heard that Bonanza possibly has the only Synesso in Berlin. A great machine does not necessarily guarantee a great cup of coffee, but it's often a sign that somebody in charge has got their priorities right. If they're willing to fork out that many Euros for the machine, you would think they had some idea what should be going into it and coming out of it. On the "into it" front, they were roasting when I went in, using an iPhone as a timer for the roast. Maybe there's an app for that. And as for what's coming out of the machine:

There isn't much to eat that isn't croissant-related, so I figured I'd better leave after two coffees. I needed some food* in my system before I was going to attempt any more than that. It's also worth mentioning how easy it was to get here. Even considering I had to get off the train one stop early due to roadworks, Berlin still seems to be an example of the type of good public transport that people measure Melbourne's not good enough public transport up against.

* Call me crazy, but I don't really count croissants or pain au chocolat as food. They're made almost entirely from butter, which generally doesn't seem like a good thing to eat, and adding chocolate to that equation doesn't really help in my book. But, hey. When in Rome. Or Paris. Or Berlin.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Coffee, le Royal Meridien, Hamburg

Just when you thought this blog was worthy of a name change to Ryan on QANTAS Coffee, I'm finally back at sea level. Well, almost. It's the ninth floor.

Not only was there an amazing view across the lake from which to eat (free!) breakfast, the menu also held a pretty amazing quote from Andrea Illy.

For Andrea Illy, chairman of illycaffê a cup of espresso is not a beverage.
It is a creative way of life. "It's a total experience. And it's polysensual. It involves the sight, the taste, the smell...everything." Coffee culture – the café, the cup, the espresso itself – not only provides a milieu for creativity, but makes drinking espresso a creative act in itself.

Polysensual and milieu-providing. That's very rare. The all-lowercase illy are clearly more than just a sexy red logo. I think that paragraph could use a few more commas, but that bit at the end is so profound it deserves to be written again in a larger font.

"...drinking espresso [is] a creative act in itself."

Take heed, procrastinators! That coffee break counts as work too!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Espresso in a QANTAS cup, home

Okay, my weird fascination with QANTAS coffee just reached even weirder new heights. Yes, I stowed the cup in my vomitbag.

If you're planning on stealing one of these cups for yourself, I should warn you that they're hard to find these days. You're more likely to be given a recyclable paper cup instead, unless they're serving breakfast. A short flight makes it easier too: it's more plausible that it would take longer to drink your coffee than the flight time allows. If you've still got the cup when they have collected your tray, you're home free. Keep it out of sight though: people will get suspicious if you're clutching a full vomitbag but refuse to throw it in the bin.

Monday, September 13, 2010

QANTAS, Townsville to Brisbane

"Yes, thanks."
"Milk and sugar?"
"Just milk, thanks."
Better get the camera ready. It's in the pocket of the seat in front of me. Oh shit. I dropped it. Curse you, slippery caseless iPhone. I'm in a window seat and everyone's tray tables are up. There's no way I can reach the phone on the ground. There's also no way I'm gonna ask the other people in my row to move just so I can get my phone so I can take a photo of my coffee for my blog about coffee. That would be crossing a line. Thanks god I'm not sitting next to strangers, that would be even worse. Even with people I know, it's crossing a line. There's only one way to do this:
  • Hold down the heel of my right shoe with the toe of my left shoe.
  • Slide the right shoe off.
  • Hold down the toe of my right sock with the heel of my right sock.
  • Slide the right sock off.
  • Fish around with the bare right foot until I find the phone.
  • Flip the phone, with my right foot, up against my left shoe so at least one corner is off the ground.
  • Grasp (yes, really, grasp) the phone between my right foot's big toe and the unnamed one next to it. Let's called it the "second toe" for now.
  • Bend right knee as much as possible without disrupting tray table, and bend right foot upward.
  • You should now be able to reach the phone with your right hand. If not, pick up the coffee with your left hand, shove the tray table out of the way with your knees, hold the tray table against the seat in front of you with your head, and reach down and pick up the phone.
  • Click.

Hmm, now that I think about it, why didn't I just move the magazine and pick up the coffee and move the blasted tray table? The photo doesn't show the whole tray, there must have been a muffin on there too. Reelin' in the Years (which can be found on audio channel 12 or 8, depending on your flight and aircraft) is pretty amazing this month: a look at the music of 1995. Love it. It's worth listening to the whole thing just to hear Glenn A. Baker say "Tokyo Ghetto Pussy".

Sunday, September 5, 2010

QANTAS, Perth to Melbourne

"Would you like the chicken or the lamb?"
"Oh, actually I should have a vegetarian meal on the way...?"
"Did you order one?"
"Well you weren't on the list, you must have changed your flight."
"Not that I know of. I didn't book it."
"Oh, you must have changed it at the last minute."
"No, it's been booked for at least a month."
"And you're sure you ordered a vegetarian meal?"
"Yes, I was given one on the flight over here."
"Well, we do have two spare ones."
"The two guys sitting behind me ordered vegetarian too. Let them have 'em."
I'm not quite as strict with this stuff as the other guys, I was sure they'd appreciate me being the fall guy.
"Okay. Would you just like a tray then?"
"I'll have the lamb if you've got one."
It's not like I'm allergic to meat, I just don't think it's necessary to eat it three times a day, or even once a week for that matter. It's a sometimes food for me, and I've got to choose my times wisely. QANTAS is never going to be one of those times. That's why I eat vego on planes. But they fucked up, it's a long flight, and I'd rather it get eaten than thrown out. Clearly my effort to not cause a scene was completely lost on the flight attendant:
"A vegetarian but you'll eat lamb?? HA! The wonders never cease!"
That is what she really said.
"I'm being flexible."
"It's a preference. There's no need to laugh at me over it."
Aside: get fucked.
"What? Oh, you don't need to take it so seriously!"
Right. Fuck you too.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

flat white, bills, surry hills, sydney

bills seems to insist on their name being strictly lowercase. that is about all they have in common with silverchair. in recognition of this, this whole post shall be written in lowercase. it looks cool, but it will get difficult when i start using proper nouns that aren't "bills" or "silverchair". anyhow, last time i came to sydney (in early april this year, during one of the blog's many hiatuses) i visited single origin (i emboldened their name because this is a situation where capital letters for proper nouns can really help avoid confusion) and was highly disappointed with the coffee and quite put off by the wall-to-wall rayban wayfarers and was all but ready to write off single origin as a bit of a hipsterwarren: worth going to if you want to look cool eating breakfast for seven hours, but not worth it for the coffee. however, i wanted to give them one more chance. coffee hunter spoke quite highly of them, so i figured it was worth walking down and up a hill for.

so i trundled down the hill (one of the many hills surry hills has to offer), got lost, checked google maps, got lost again, then finally figured out where i was going. about two blocks away i remembered why i was so excited about single origin last time i was in sydney:
  1. i had only been once or twice before, and it was really very good
  2. it was so good that the photo has been the wallpaper on my phone ever since
  3. this wallpaper has served as a constant reminder that i should check them out again next time i'm in sydney
  4. every other time i had tried to go there again, they had been closed, only making the myth stronger
 that last one is the important one. they're not open on weekends, or sundays, or something. crap. i kept walking, just in case they've recently changed that policy. after all, white people sit around eating breakfast for hours on weekends usually, don't they? but no. damn. they were closed. it's sunday. i'm sure i'm not the only one who tried to drop in. where do they all go when single origin isn't open? what do they do? click here for a comprehensive list.

so i walked back up the hill. another place popped up on the left (called bang bang or something), but they had just stopped serving coffee. damn. i headed back down crown st, the lack of caffeine in my system really starting to get to me; i was surrounded by some seriously sydney-lookin' dudes and their fashion sense was confusing me. the old saying still rings true: "if you want to know what homosexuals in melbourne will be wearing three years from now, look to what straight guys are wearing in sydney today". in january it looked like everyone was on their way to a dress like lee kernaghan party. times have clearly changed.

and then i came to bills. sorry. bills. i didn't care if the name had something to do with ducks or if it was named after two guys called bill or even if it was named after one guy called bill* who couldn't use apostrophes or capital letters. i also didn't care that one cup of coffee was probably going to cost me about twenty-three dollars.

it was fantastic. thanks bills. or bill. whoever you are*. and guess whose beans they were using? single origin. those guys are alright, after all. i'm glad i gave them another chance.

* it turns out it's bill grainger.

QANTAS, Brisbane to Sydney

There was some shithouse traffic on the way to the airport today, mainly due to detours to make way for some sort of fun run. Those words just don't belong next to each other, if you ask me. There was a queue of about 100 people who had missed their flight. There's nothing fun about that.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Flat White, Campos, Brisbane

Wow, the coffee in the cup looks just like the logo on the side of the cup.

Sadly, that's about all I can enjoy here. It's pretty similar to the Campos experience I had in Byron Bay two days ago, and I think I'm pretty ready to say that Campos is just not my thing. It tasted more like a weak hot chocolate to me. Campos is great as an espresso (or a sparkling long black, if you're thatwayinclined) but it has trouble poking its head through any amount of milk, it seems. It's not terrible, and they're not doing it wrong, it's just not what I'm into. There. It's a little on the subjective side but hopefully I won't get any angry comments or emails.

Having said that, the ceiling fan arrangement here is incredible.

Piccolo, Fresh, Coolangatta

What? No. This place couldn't possibly also be called Fresh. It was something along those lines though. Slightly north of the Coffee Club I went to yesterday. Well, not technically north, but along the beach in the direction you would walk if you wanted to go north up the coast.

There's a breakfast burger on the menu, but you have to look pretty hard to find it. It's listed under "Burgers", rather than under "Breakfast". Ross was the only person who ordered one, so I guess that means he's the only person who looked at the "Burgers" section before 11.00am.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Piccolo, Coffee Club, Coolangatta

McDonald's, Gloria Jean's, and finally a Coffee Club. See what I mean about there being a lot of chains around here? The lesser of those three evils, somehow, was Coffee Club. The place always gives me a feeling that I'm going to get something that's too weak with too much milk, so I figured the best defence against that is ordering a piccolo.

It was pretty good, in the scheme of things – the scheme of things being McDonald's and Gloria Jean's. You have chosen wisely. It seemed to take about fifteen minutes to come out though. If you do plan to "meet someone at the Coffee Club" as their slogan suggests, I recommend getting there twenty minutes early. Maybe my plan for a hire car company for impatient people (Just Give Me the Fucking Keys! Pty Ltd) could do with a coffee bar too. Name suggestions are welcome.

P.S. The photo doesn't make it out very well, but yes that really does say Australian wine at it's peak on the Wolf Blass branded water bottle. Yeesh. Their website shows that they have since fixed up the apostrophe problem, but I wonder how many of those bottles got printed before somebody noticed?

Flat White, Bambi Deluxe, Tweed Heads

Wait a minute, is this Tweed Heads or Coolangatta? Am I in New South Wales or Queensland?! It gets confusing for anyone who hasn't lived in a border town. I'm just glad I'm here outside daylight saving. Y'see, New South Wales participates in daylight saving, but Queensland does not. You can cross the road and lose an hour. Yikes. But on the bright side: if you sleep in in Queensland, the kitchen's probably doing breakfast in New South Wales. Or the other way around. Fuck it.

It's good to see that the guitar shop with the insane collection of old Matons and Goldentone amps has found a new home. It's called Cool Music (clearly, it's in Coolangatta, which is a shame because I'd much rather visit a guitar shop called Tweed Heads), and you'll find it in the mall across the road from Aldi. Sorry, but that's the easiest way to describe it. I think it's sort of behind and downstairs from a Montezuma's. I managed to pick up a book called A Desktop Reference of Hip Vintage Guitar Amps, a book that appeals to a demographic whose fanaticism more than makes up for their extreme scarcity.

Oh. Good coffee, too. It's refreshing, and rare, to see somewhere to eat in this area that isn't a chain, as you'll see in my next post.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Flat White, Fresh, Byron Bay

Fresh now use Campos coffee.
I had an awkward experience here years ago returning a coffee that I was convinced had skinny milk in it, to which the barista said, "No it wasn't skinny." I should have just said it was "shithouse" instead, that would have been much more constructive. Anyhow, things have changed, and they now use Campos which is great news, if you like Campos.
I'm starting to think I don't. To be continued...

Flat White, Cliffs Café, Kangaroo Point, Brisbane

It's good to know there's actually some good coffee in Kangaroo Point. It's a long walk across Story Bridge to the good coffee district, a walk made even longer if you haven't had any coffee yet today. A word of advice though: the view of the cliffs over the river may look nice, but if it's a windy day you'll freeze your ass off, and your coffee will too thanks to Newton's Law of Cooling. The tables on the other side of the building are truly the sunny side of the street in comparison, but if you love the view that much the café also provides blankets. You'll need one.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

QANTAS, Melbourne to Brisbane

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm glad QANTAS have finally moved up to the 1990s and started recycling, but they still have a long way to go.
You'll notice that I've wound up with three serviettes on my table. That is not by choice. First, they give you one with the cookie. Then, when they hand you your coffee, they give you another one. Then, if you ask for an apple, it is handed to you via a third.
QANTAS, I don't need three serviettes. I don't even need one. Handing out less stuff could be even more beneficial than recycling. I'm sure nobody will be offended if a human hands them an apple by hand.

Also, you'll notice that the coffee comes in a recyclable cardboard cup made from 35% recycled material. I guess the jury's still out on whether that is a better idea than washing reusable cups.

Short Macchiato, Macchinetta, Melbourne Airport

Whew. I made it all the way to the airport with no caffeine in my system. Remind me never to try that again.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Espresso, Brother Baba Budan, City

I've now seen Inception*, and I really want to go on holiday in that Pariscube.

* It's good. But Christopher Nolan obviously never had any primary school teachers tell him that "it was all a dream" is the lamest possible way to end a story.

Latte, home

On dosing:
The digital scales are great, but they're a bit of a pain to balance under the grinder. They're also very light. This is sort of hard to illustrate without a photo, but as soon as I turn on the grinder the vibrations make the scales start sliding around, thereby negating their ability to accurately measure how much ground coffee they are catching. So I've simplified: it takes roughly 15 seconds to grind roughly 14 grams of coffee, so I'm going to go sans-scales from now on and just grind for 15 seconds. It's not a particularly scientific technique, but neither is my tamping. Considering I used to grind for 20 seconds before I had the scales, I'm now dosing a lot lower. That means I can drink more coffee now, I guess.

Monday, August 23, 2010

MOON8: espresso, home

As Danny Goon said on Facebook: if you like Pink Floyd and have played a Nintendo, listen to this.

The whole album is pretty easy to find on YouTube. The start of the guitar solo in Money is worth sticking around for.

Strong Latte, Hudsons, Canberra Airport

A word of warning: there is no food on the other side of the metal detector. Eat before you go through.

A second word of warning: there is not much food on this side of the metal detector. You'll probably end up getting some banana bread from Hudsons.

A third and final word of warning: they won't let you take your coffee through the metal detector. Make sure you know how long you have until boarding, and size your beverage accordingly.

I had about 8 ounces of time before I had to get on the plane. Perfect.

A bonus word of warning: the structural integrity of the banana bread is compromised if you dip it in your coffee. You might lose most of it in there. It is also highly absorbent and will drink your coffee for you if you let it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Latte, Tosalini's, Canberra

Canberra. The day after the federal election. The streets were deserted. There seemed to be a strange mood in the air; a change was coming – maybe – though nobody wanted to say precisely when, how much of a change, or from where it was coming.

Oh, who am I kidding? It always feels like that in Canberra.

Flat White, Jindabyne

I didn't take note of what this place was called, but the coffee was pretty good. Having said that, I think it's worth mentioning that EVERYTHING to do with the snow season is a complete rort. It's understandable, though. Most of the tourism up here only happens over winter (though it's beautiful here in summer too) so I guess they have to make what money they can when the people come. The coffee situation illustrates what sort of price hiking you'll find.

ME: $4.20 for a latte? 60 cents for an extra shot? But $3.60 for everything that's not a latte?
KIERAN: Hmmm. I'm getting a cappuccino.
ME: Yeah. I'm getting a flat white.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Espresso, Hudsons, Canberra Airport

Well, it was there. And probably better than any coffee I'd find on the road to Jindabyne.

QANTAS, Melbourne to Canberra

Web check-in. It's the greatest. Print your boarding pass out before you go to the airport so you don't need to queue up to get one. It makes leaving for the airport dangerously late look pretty tempting, especially if you don't have any luggage to send down the belt. Unfortunately, I cut it a bit too fine this morning: leaving home an hour before the flight. Subtract traffic, long term parking spot hunting, walking to the terminal, metal detector, random explosive checks and walking to the gate, and there's not much time to spare. It all comes down to how organised all the other passengers are: if they start boarding as soon as boarding opens, everyone will get on the plane in less than ten minutes, and your name will start getting announced pretty soon. Unfortunately that happened just after I ordered some toast.

Congratulations to whoever got my toast with Vegemite that I paid for but never picked up.

Steam fail: latte, home

The Silvia has two thermostats: one to get the temperature right for pulling shots, and one to get the temperature right for steaming. As thermostats aren't terribly intelligent ("Turn the heater on if it's not hot enough in here.") my new PID setup has replaced both of these. The PID is a box with a blue LED temperature readout that measures the current temperature and figures out whether to turn the heater on or not, taking into account a few important points:
  • What was the temperature a moment ago? How fast is it changing?
  • How far away from the target temperature are we?
  • How long does it take the heater to start heating after we turn it on?
  • How long does it take the heater to stop heating after we turn it off?
Etc. That's the gist, I think. I'd go into more detail, but honestly I tried reading a serious document about how PID works, and my brain nearly melted. But that's not what this post is about.

It turns out there is also a third thermostat in there. If, somehow, the temperature gets to 155ºC (yes, very bloody hot) then something has obviously gone wrong, and the third thermostat shuts the whole thing down to prevent anything from seriously screwing up. The "I'm heating up" light will still come on, but the heater will be disabled. Somehow, I did this today while steaming milk. Yikes. In Silvia's defence, I was trying to do five things at once this morning. If I'd just stayed at the machine and focussed on the coffee-making thing, it probably wouldn't have happened. Pressing the reset button requires a screwdriver and moving all your stacked-up glasses off the top of the machine, so it's a bit annoying. Not quite as annoying as when you have to walk outside in the rain when you blow a fuse trying to boil the kettle and cook toast and at the same time, but almost that annoying.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Espressi, home

Countless espressi. I was trying to get the grind right. Too fast: go finer. Too slow: go coarser and/or use less of it and/or don't tamp as much.

All in all, I think I made about five double shots and probably had a sip of four of them. That really adds up. I also probably didn't really need to use the word "countless" at the beginning of this post, if only three sentences later I was happy to downgrade it to a much more accurate "five".

Flat White, Sweet Source, Carlton North

This is the downside of my bird's-eye-view coffee photos: the iPhone occasionally gets confused when it is horizontal and thinks it should switch to portrait. iPhoto didn't seem to want to rotate it either. It's time like this that I think I should be putting so much faith in so many iThings.

Strong Latte, North, Carlton North

Oh get the hell out of here. I'm nineteen posts behind?! How did that happen? As I'm sure you'll understand, I'm having trouble remembering what my strong latte from North was like last Friday. I imagine it was good. I'm pretty sure I woke up with no milk or coffee in the house, and went out to find both. Preferably in one cup.
So, uh, not a particularly interesting post. I'd better move on. Eighteen to go...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ch-ch-ch-changes: espresso, home

Two new things have come along in my coffee setup recently:
  • LLL splashed out and bought some digital scales. I now know what 14 grams of coffee looks like. I thought I did before, but I was way off.
  • I installed a PID in the Silvia. The temperature is now far more stable. That means better espresso.
I'll explain both of these in more detail in other posts fairly soon, but all I want to mention right now is that both of these changes happened in the same day. I'm making much better coffee now, but it's hard to know which of the two Major Changes was more beneficial.

Picture a swimming pool. You've been swimming laps at the same pool for a year and a half. One day, you decide to shave your head AND wear flippers. Your lap times improve dramatically, but it's difficult to figure out if it's the new aerodynamic (or is that hydrodynamic?) properties of your head, or just the extra kicking power that made the difference.

Wow, I think all those episodes of Numb3rs have started to rub off on me. I just did a Charlie-style analogy without even realising.

Flat White, Lot Six, University of Melbourne

Coffee photos with an iPhone invariably look shithouse because of the way the light reflects off the milk. To rectify this, I'm just going to try it from a different angle.

A pear and chocolate danish too. Nice. On top it's easy to distinguish the pear from the chocolate, but as you delve deeper into the danish, the borders become a little less clear.

Mark Scott: latte, home

Media Watch was really, really, really worth watching this week. It was the last episode Jonathon Holmes will be hosting this year, before his job is filled-in-for by Paul Barry. Paul Barry, as you would remember if you watched the Media Watch 20 year anniversary special last year, was fired in 2000 for being too critical of the ABC's managing director at the time. As it's Jonathon Holmes's last week before long service leave, he's in no danger of being fired. He decided to bring in the ABC's current managing director Mark Scott and grill him on precisely why ABC News 24 – the new 24-hour news channel – is having such trouble covering breaking news as it happens. That Jonathon Holmes sure has balls.

Even if you don't care to watch Mark Scott squirm, the episode was still worth watching for his tie. It makes him look like a licorice all-sort.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Blogging photos: Latte, Kent St, Fitzroy

So there I was, just polishing off my second Kent St latte for the day, when I noticed I was surrounded by great black and white photos of things in Melbourne. The poster told me the exhibition was from, a site that posts a new photo from the streets of Melbourne every day. I thought to myself, "Yeah, posting something every day, that's a great idea. I should do something like that. Oh hang on. I already do something like that. Oh crap, I haven't posted on the coffee blog since the start of July! I'd better take a photo of this empty cup.

Well, that photo didn't quite work out as planned. I'd better add a better photo. Here's one from Darwin on the weekend. Waiter, there's an elephant in my coffee.

Okay I'd better get back to regular posting. I had a lot of terrific coffee overseas in the last month or so, watch the space below (chronologically) for the posts.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cappuccino, Dolce, Darwin

I figured an elephant like that deserves its own post. Whoever made this coffee is pretty into their experimental gimmicky latte art. But I saw a few other coffees come out an hour later that were a totally different story: it just depends who is behind the machine. If you're going to use Google Maps to find this place, as I did, beware: the directions will actually lead you to a post office. Ignore that, and walk one block south (ie, the diagonally opposite corner of the block to the south) to where Smith Street Mall actually is. That's what tipped me off: Smith Street Mall is more than likely to be located on Smith Street, not the post office on Cavanagh St.

They use Segafredo Zanetti beans. That only reminds me of two things:

Friday, August 13, 2010

Brunetti Stopwatch Challenge World Record!

If you haven't read this blog before, I should briefly explain the BSC. Basically, you time how long it takes to walk into Brunetti on Faraday St in Carlton, order an espresso, drink it, and then walk back out the door. Click on the bsc tag to see previous entries. With that out of the way, let's move on to my absolutely astonishing record-breaking time:

2 minutes 22 seconds.

Wow. About half a minute faster than my previous personal best. Considering it takes about 30 seconds to pull an espresso, and about 20 seconds to drink it, that doesn't leave much slack time. It's hard to imagine I'll ever beat this time. Most of all, I'd like to thank all the people who almost went to Brunetti today but decided against it: without you guys, the queue would have been much longer existent.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Flat White, Brunswick East Project, East Brunswick

I'm glad my last coffee in Melbourne (until I get back from overseas) was as good as this one:

Okay, I've gotta be at the airport at 4.00am. Better go do important things, most of them at the laundromat. The blog will have to scale back to part-time for a while. Considering giving up coffee for a few weeks. That will make for some interesting blogging, but unfortunately I won't be able to write about it until I have another coffee. Hmm.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Big Star deserves your attention: latte, home

I cannot stop listening to this:

I'm filing Big Star under Wish I'd Checked This Out Fifteen Years Ago.

Selling out: Latte, home

I've been meaning to dedicate a whole post to Curtis Stone being a dirty stinkin' sellout, but that really is last year's news, and as such I probably shouldn't write about it. Only yesterday I was denouncing the Sunday Age for passing off last year's news as current. Also, I never ever ever ever ever watch Masterchef, so I'm hardly qualified.

But the more you look around, the more sellouts you will find. Wherever there's a respected expert in some field, there'll be someone offering them money to cash in on their reputation. Unfortunately, nearly* everyone has their price. Here's a question you probably don't want to answer:
Was Professor Julius Sumner Miller a sellout?

I'd go with, "Not necessarily."
Selling chocolate to kids is like shooting fish in a barrel, really, so I don't know why you need such a formidable weapon as Professor Julius Sumner Miller to get the job done. He had been all over the television teaching kids about science in his mad, blackboard-scribbling way for a long time. But there must be a way to get the message across to those who might be interested in science but don't even know it yet. What better way to get kids' attention for educational purposes than through their chocolate?
This doesn't quite translate to the Curtis Stone situation: anybody watching Coles ads is probably already aware of the existence of supermarkets. But his appearance in the Coles ad is just one strategy in the Masterchef war to get people into their kitchens. And make shitloads of cash.
On the other hand we have Mrs Marsh, whose motives were less clear. The Colgate ads she appeared in were aimed quite squarely at kids, but how many kids go out and buy toothpaste? I still have no idea what that chalk and blue liquid shit is about:

* Tom Waits has no price. He has a history of winning court cases against companies who use music similar to his in their advertising.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Espresso, home

The following was revealed in the Sunday Age today:
  • there are blogs about food called "food blogs"
  • some of them are good, some of them are not
  • restaurateurs either like or dislike them
In other news, last September called and wants its story back. 
I've said it before, kids. Do not bother reading the Sunday Age, even if you don't have to pay for it.

Latte, Pelican, St Kilda

My phone's battery was flat this morning, but I wasn't going to let that bring me down. I'm not that tied to my technology. Far from it. If any emails or missed calls or texts came through, they could wait until I got back to my charger. I was just out for breakfast. The only consequences would be that I couldn't take a photo of my coffee for the blog. I figured it was unlikely that I would see anything else that would make me regret not having a camera on my person, or anyone else nearby's person for that matter.

But that was before I walked down the Esplanade and saw a whippet in a denim jacket. That's the kind of moment that keeps Kodak in business.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Stovetop, Steve's house

There are quite a few posts missing from this week, but most of them looked a lot like this:

One cup of coffee, one amplifier, one microphone stand, the slab* I'm sitting on, and the worst chart I've ever written.
Eb 3 3 3 4 D 3 3 3 4 etc.
Luckily, I'm the only one who has to read it. I did a nice, legible one in Sibelius for other bass players. But for my purposes, I figured all I needed to write down to remember this song was the root note of the chord, and how many beats are in the bar. That says a lot about Kelsey's tunes: the piano and the melody do enough of the work already, the bass player need only play the tonic at the start of each bar, but you really have to know how long that bar's gonna be.

* The slab has hot water pipes running through it. For when it's so cold outside only Ancient Rome's finest heating technology will do.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A hard earned blog needs a big cold blog: filter, home

This is my end-of-the-day wind-down blog, to recuperate from a hard day's blogging. More specifically, I'm undertaking a pretty extensive rescue operation on my dayblog, and it's taking its toll.

dayblog. n. 1. The blog you write at your dayjob.

It's been written over the last six years, on four computers and three operating systems. Myspace is famously non-supportive of batch-exporting. All things considered, I'm now faced with a barely-navigable Myspace blog, and a whole forest of trees of badly-named directories full of an assortment of similarly-yet-nonsensibly-named files with extensions of .doc, .odf, .odt, .txt, .rtf, .html, and some other mysterious ones with no extensions that seem to be executable. So it's annoying. I'm moving it all to big shiny open source futureproof WPL-friendly importable/exportable wonderplatform WordPress, and by the time I'm done, the keys required to copy and paste will be worn out on my laptop.

I guess all you can learn from this is if the year is 2003 and you plan on starting a blog, think about the future.

Strong Latte, North, Carlton North

Pop quiz, hot shot.
One of your friends is in a precarious on-and-off relationship. Every time it's off, he says good riddance and this time it's definitely over for good. Then three days later, when they get back together, it's like everything's back to normal. Everybody who said what they really thought about the former ex-girlfriend is now wishing they could take it back. But you can't help but think that if more people said what they thought while they were broken up, with that many dissenting voices among people he knows, the guy might start to see that something is up.
He seems happy. Everybody else thinks he's joined a cult. The word "intervention" has come up more than once.
What do you do?
What do you do???

One-Armed Scissor: Latte, home

Ten years ago. Wow.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Espresso, Lamaro's, South Melbourne

I confirmed my suspicions later on that Mountain Goat is -- to put it diplomatically -- something I don't quite understand the popularity of. Sure, it's local, and their staff get incentives to ride to work, and they're undertaking measures to reduce their environmental impact...but do I want to drink it? Nahh.
Let me know if I'm alone on that front.
Dan put it well when my pot of Goat came out.
"Yeah, that definitely looks like it came out of a goat."

Filter, home

One minute twenty-seven seconds. Eric Dolphy coming in at 2000mph. Keep your arms inside the vehicle.

The Modern Ballcock: Latte, home

Watched The Godfather part one last night.
It's still brilliant. I think I need to watch it again soon though. If you can't summarise the plot in dot-point form, you probably need to watch it again.
It surprised me that in the opening scene, the band at the wedding played the theme from the Godfather.
"Hey, do you guys know the theme to The Godfather?"
"The Godfather."
"Yeah, he's over there. Get in fast. He can't refuse any request on his daughter's wedding day."
"How about you guys?"
"Do you do requests?"
"It just so happens, my daughter's getting married today too."
"Why aren't you there?"
"Got a gig."
It also surprised me that, while planning to pull the ol' plant-the-gun-in-the-toilets move, they refer to the urinal with the chain-flush as "old-fashioned".
Is this historically accurate? I remember those being old-fashioned in the eighties. I'm sure they were old-fashioned when the movie was shot in the early seventies. But it was set in the mid-forties. Were chain-operated elevated cisterns really old-fashioned in the forties too? When were they considered in vogue?

Sorry folks. Don't get too excited. I started googling around, and soon realised that answering this question would require me to understand more than I care to about toilet technology, and use the word "ballcock" in a mature manner. Apologies. I may have to leave this one unsolved.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Latte, home

Oh. You've got to be kidding me.

EDIT: It gets better. This guy is the only person in the world with more spare time than me right now.

Brunetti Stopwatch Challenge: Brunetti, Carlton

5 minutes 38.1 seconds.

Not too bad considering it was Saturday lunchtime rush hour, but I don't think this quite counts, as my order also involved a loaf of bread. That should discount this from being included in the official BSC times.

Gimme some reggae: Latte, home

More from the Don't-Need-My-VCR-To-Watch-This-Anymore-Thanks-To-YouTube department:

Friday, June 25, 2010

Espresso, ABC, Ultimo

I didn't really plan it this way, but somehow this is the third ABC cafeteria I've visited in the last two weeks. Welcome to the ABC in Ultimo. If Sydney has anything over Melbourne*, it's the suburbs that sound like superheroes.

What surprised me about this place was the choice of beans available. Not just different origins and blends, but different suppliers too. I've never run or worked in a café before, but I imagine all those supplier-branded umbrellas and sugar packets and cups have some sort of exclusivity clause attached to them. Use-our-beans-and-cover-everything-in-our-logo-and-you'll-get-free-and/or-cheap-stuff. So I guessed a display like this is kind of like Britney Spears being sponsored by Pepsi but requesting Coca-Cola on her rider:

The ABC simply don't do advertising, and are pretty strict about even showing company logos on screen. For example, next time you watch Rage, you'll notice there's an Adrian Deutsch poster stuck to the side of a computer. It's there to hide the Apple logo. Adrian Deutsch must be loving that**. Maybe coffee supplier logos in the cafeteria have similar restrictions. Still, the result is no compromised interests in your cup, and more choice for the coffee drinker. That impressed me.

What didn't impress me was the pricing. Takeaway: $2.90. Have here: $3.40. A 50c have-here tax. That seems downright backwards in a world where, if anything, we should be giving people an incentive to use less disposable coffee cups. Australian takeaway coffee cup consumption may not quite be the greatest moral challenge of our time, but it must at least make the top ten.

* Remember kids, I said "if".
** The ABC don't see him as a conflict of interest, he gets a free plug, and now I've heard of him. And so have you.

QANTAS, Melbourne to Sydney

Something I've been meaning to write about since the start of the year is that as of 2010, QANTAS have finally moved up to the 1990s and started recycling. When they come down the aisle to collect your empty water bottle and paper cup you will notice that they will be thrown into the appropriate section in the trolley. They've also done away with the ridiculous tray mats that nearly everybody threw straight into the trash anyway.

I'd say I'm glad they're doing it, if it wasn't so mind-bogglingly stupid that they haven't done it sooner. Something tells me it will take a few more decades for them to realise they don't need to serve their coffee in disposable paper cups either.

Latte, home

Oh crikey.
Apologies to Dr J.Mo (aka the founder of the Crikey Jar - put $1 in the jar every time you say "crikey" - it's a good deterrent, just one of the many ways we can help fight ockerdom, though our new PM is setting the ocker bar pretty high) if you're reading, but I just sat down to catch up on the blog (two days later) and it appears I'm eight posts behind. Crikey.

So I have to write something about this coffee I had at about 9.00am on Friday June 25. I remember it like it was yesterday, which is surprising when you consider that it was actually the day before yesterday, but not so surprising as yesterday was a day where I didn't really do much, and so it's pretty easy to remember the events of the day that immediately preceded it. I flew to Sydney at 11.30am, and then back at 8.30pm. That made the day annoying enough. But it was QANTAS in both directions, and I like their coffee, so that made it easier. The return flight wasn't serving hot beverages unfortunately, but did have a free beer/wine service. That offered some consolation, but also made me wish I hadn't just spent $6.95 on a Carlton Draught at the airport.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"Originals": Strong latte, Cafe Pinocchio, Carlton North

I'll tell you about Pinocchio some other time. There are more pressing matters to attend to:

"Celebrate originality."
Really? That's the slogan you came up with for two minutes' worth of desecrating a 33 year-old movie?
If Star Wars didn't need CGI Jabba the Hutt back in 1997, it sure as hell doesn't need David Beckham now.*
Practise what you preach, Adidas.

* Though I was kind of glad to see Ian Brown.

Spillard: latte, home

Julia Gillard is now the Prime Minister of Australia.
For more details, ask the rest of the internet.

Is that damaged 2UE microphone bothering anyone else? Too many pollies headbutting it out of the way?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Flight, Foxy Brown, Northcote

The "flight" of coffee at Foxy Brown intrigued me when I saw it on the menu. Basically, they serve up some different beans in an espresso, a piccolo and a ristretto, for $8. Pretty reasonable really. Being able to taste different beans, and extractions, in quick succession is a great way to be able to compare them. The downside is that it involves drinking three coffees in less than twenty minutes. I wouldn't recommend trying it if you don't usually have more than three in one day. You know that feeling you get when you have had more caffeine than you are used to? I used to know that feeling. I don't get it very often these days. But the flight sure reminded me what it's like.

First up: the espresso, with Sumatran Mandheling. You are clear for takeoff.

Then the piccolo, with the Foxy blend (the waitress listed all the beans they use in the blend, but it was a lot harder to remember than just the word "Mandheling"). There's a light and a whistle for attracting attention.

Finally, the ristretto, also with the Foxy blend. Keep your seat upright and your tray-table in the locked position.

I've heard caffeine takes up to an hour to really kick in, so it wasn't until I got home that it all added up and I had finally reached a cruising altitude of 39,000 feet and was free to move about the cabin.

Time for the guru: flat white, home

Spring break. Expect the blog content to change slightly: it's all about guilt-free procrastination. Sure, I was blogging a week ago, but the whole time I knew I had more important things to do. Today, and from now until March really, I have nothing better to do. So I might go to some pretty extreme lengths to get some pointless things done. Did somebody say, "Transcribe the piano solo from Guru Josh's Infinity, aka the worst piano solo ever?" I sure hope so. It comes in at 1m47s:

The only thing that's more badly executed than the last two seconds of that solo is the first thirty-eight.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Short Macchiato, Tre Bicchieri, Carlton North

On my way to my last exam for this semester. Open-book. The only mistake (other than not actually learning anything since the start of the year) you can make is taking too much material in with you, and taking longer than necessary to find what you're looking for. That 800+ page C: the Complete Reference may have been a bad move. Regardless, spring break is imminent. Woo. And I'm deferring next semester as work is getting pretty busy. Did somebody say "eight months of spring break"?