Category Archives: Uncategorized

Two guys walk into a bar…

A guy is walking down O’Connell street and bumps into a mate of his from way back. They haven’t seen each other in quite a while and decide its about time they should sit down and catch up. Now, they’re not sure whether they fancy a pint, a bite to eat, a coffee or maybe even something a bit different, like a gallery or show, but they can’t think of anything thats on right now.

“I know” says the first guy, “we can head to the Twisted Pepper. There’s always something on there”.

This story isn’t a true one. I’ve made it up.

However, when myself Eoin and Trev from the Twisted Pepper sat down to discuss the concept of having 3FE as resident baristas at the Twisted Pepper we had this kind of scenario in mind and we wanted to build a social destination for Dubliners that wasn’t built entirely on booze.

Eoin and Trev and a simple message.

 

In the last few weeks there’s been a sense that we’ve found another gear, both at the Twisted Pepper and from 3FE’s perspective. That vision of an almost “Perpetual Festival” is really coming to fruition and people are really starting to grasp the concept that we began carving out when we lobbed an espresso machine on a counter in the hallway of an inner city nightclub.

Aside from our own expansion, the Twisted Pepper under the guidance of Eoin and Trev have been slowly shaping the venue into a hub of activity that really doesn’t rule anything out. In recent weeks we’ve seen comedy, acoustic music, world class djs, roller derbies, alternative life drawing, drum classes, corporate AGMs, dance classes, computer gamers, capoeirha, forest raves, TED talks, spoken word events (Banter being a highlight), samba dancers…..to name but a few.

Whilst all this is going on we at 3FE have been at the centre of all the activity happening around us in the various rooms off the main cafe. Its allowed us not only to reach out to a very diverse market on a weekly basis but also to act as an anchor draw for the Twisted Pepper to attract more and more events to the building.

We’ve recently made the jump to going 10am-7pm seven days a week and the Twisted Pepper is doing the same from 6pm-10pm. We’ve always wanted to present a destination where you can pop in for a drink or a coffee on the way home from work and its already taken off in the last 2 weeks.

This coming weekend sees not only the much-heralded Beatyard festival (across both the Twisted Pepper and her sister ship the Bernard Shaw) but also the launch of a weekly fashion market in the main stage room of the building. Every Saturday from now on we’ll have clothes, records, photography and other bits and bobs on sale and live djs for shoppers and coffee drinkers alike.

The next few weeks will see more and more diversity in the offering and 3FE will be at the heart of it all offering up coffees to the most random events Trev and Eoin can get hold of. If you think you’d like to join in or even have an idea for an event that you think would be worth pitching then we’d love to hear from you (you can contact Eoin at info@bodytonicmusic.com)

We’ve had a hard slog since we joined forces last December but we’re finally starting to see the growth of a destination venue that Dublin can be proud of. Time to jump on board.

Col

Sunday School; French Press

The Bloom forms (newer batch to the right)

I am delighted to announce that 3FE will be going 7 days a week from now on. On top of that we’ve decided to go until 7pm on weekdays too!

Sundays are gonna be our day for classes going forward and we’re gonna start the ball rolling with our French Press Class this coming Sunday.

The French press (Cafetiere, Plunger, Press Pot) is a great way to enjoy coffee and can be just as satisfying, if not more so, than the other brewing methods. Its simple, tasty, cheap and although easy to use, it is often misused. We’d like to show you why we love french press and help you get the most from your coffee at home.

Places are limited and as always there’ll be a free bag of coffee for every participant.

Places can be booked here

See you Sunday!

Col

100 not out. Happy 100th Inmymug

On the mitch in Atlanta

This week is a big week for coffee lovers, and particularly internet coffee lovers in that it marks the 100th episode of Steve Leightons “In My Mug” videos.

Next weeks episode would be the 100th “consecutive” edition but for a week in 2009 when Steve came to Atlanta to support me in my first WBC bid. I feel both honoured and guilty to be the reason why Steve had a “blip” week and I suppose this blog post is in some way for my own redemption.

Greater than that however, is the strong sense of admiration I have for Steve coupled with the huge debt I (and countless other coffee lovers) owe him for bringing me on a wonderful journey from washed Yirgs to natural Brazilians to pulped Sumatrans and everything in between.

Every week people all over the world (seriously!) receive a bag of coffee in the post, and then sit down to watch Steve talk them through it and sip the coffee and compare flavour notes.

Inmymug has been filmed in a fishing boat, at glastonbury, in countless cafe’s, at origin on some of Steve’s favourite farms and the odd time at his roastery in Stafford. He’s done them with friends, groups, strangers and even me!

He’s even managed to chuck it together when he’s been violently ill, adamant that he won’t let down his loyal customers. Its sometimes weird, always engaging and seriously rewarding for any coffee lover.

What makes inmymug really unique however is Steve’s insistence that it remain accessible to the beginner and completely available to anyone who cares to watch it regardless of whether they subscribe to the coffee or not. That says an awful lot about Steve really.

If you’re getting into coffee and want to learn more then just watching the weekly episodes will accelerate your learning ten fold. Subscribing means a whole lot more.

Next week is a huge week for Steve and I urge you all to join me in congratulating him on such an amazing achievement. Steve is one of those people thats in the engine room of our industry, pushing it on through sheer drive, hard work and most of all passion. Congratulations Steve, 100 not out (bar one).

Col

Esmeralda Tasting, this Sunday Oct 3rd

Haceinda la Esmeralda is a coffee farm in Panama that yields some of the most sought after coffees in the world and in the last few weeks we have been offering this coffee as part of our tasting menu as an extra bonus for customers. It is by far the most expensive coffee we’ve ever served and this weekend we’d like to show you why.

Despite its price, the Esmeralda has been a huge hit amongst customers and for this reason we’ve decided to hold a stand-alone tasting event for the two lots of coffee that we have from this farm. We’ve also sourced two equally prestigious coffees from Guatemala and el Salvador to give you an insight into what makes great coffee great.

As always every attendee will get a bag of coffee to take home with them. Please check out the link below to book and we’ll see you Sunday!

Book here!

Col

Scoresheets; Yours to keep

This may be hard to believe but once upon a time I was a bad barista. Yeh, I know.

In order to redress the situation I began pestering people with questions, anecdotes and theories in the hope that they’d pass on their hard-earned knowledge. In most cases, they did.

One such person was Stephen Morrissey, who one day did something very simple for me which made a huge impact on how I approached competition, my job and everything that followed after. He showed me his scoresheets.

Now, at the time Stephen was the incumbent World Barista Champion and one of the biggest name in coffee. I on the other hand was petrified by talk of dosing, extraction and latte art and was in complete awe of the baristas I watched online and in the busy cafes of London. I was weeks away from competing at my first WBC and felt enormously out of my depth.

Stephen’s very selfless act helped me in a lot of ways, but mostly because it demystified the job of a barista. He showed me the video of his performance and talked me through the scores. He cringed at the points lost, pointed out his errors (a farm called Guatemala?) and pretty much showed me that he was human after all.

It would have been easier to keep the scoresheets to himself and go along with the idealistic opinion I had of him that day but he chose not to. In truth, despite laying bear all his shortcomings, my estimation of him grew.

In later months I was lucky enough to bear witness to a handful of other baristas scoresheets and each time I got the chance I lapped them up taking mental notes and learning lessons like they were maps through a mine field.

I have therefore decided to pass on this kind gesture and publish my scoresheets so other aspiring baristas can see the anatomy of a competition run and also reveal the glaring errors that I made along the way.

Another reason I have decided to do this is perhaps slightly more delicate a discussion to have and that is the topic of transparency. Anyone who’s ever been associated with barista competitions knows that there has always, regrettably, been a murmuring of collusion, bias and argument associated with the scoring. I, for the record, believe no such clandestine behaviour is at play.

I’ve always felt that however unwaranted this wink-and-elbow whispering is, it is perhaps the fault of the organisers for conducting scoring in such a secretive way. We all know the scores of the competitors so why not reveal how they got those scores and who gave them? The current set-up does nothing short of arousing suspicion and invite criticism.

My finals video (slightly chopped) can be found here and the previous rounds are easily found if you follow the links. The pdf scoresheets are posted below so please download, watch and learn from my mistakes. I will also be delighted to field any questions you may have.

Finally I would also urge other competition baristas to follow suit and post your own scoresheets. If we are to move forward as an industry I firmly believe that disclosure, transparency and the sharing of knowledge is the key to our mutual success.

FINALS Ireland-Colin Harmon-HeadRD

FINALS Ireland-Colin Harmon-TechDM

FINALS Ireland-Colin Harmon-TechMY

FINALS Ireland-Colin Harmon-SensMM

FINALS Ireland-Colin Harmon-SensJG

FINALS Ireland-Colin Harmon-SensSH

FINALS Ireland-Colin Harmon-SensAP

Shooting the messenger.

I’m sitting on the train on the way home and for the first time i’ve been compelled to post something off my iPhone (forgive the inevitable spelling mistakes).

Having just flicked through Twitter and facebook I’m near on shocked by the amount of people that seem intent on slagging off their customers. Deriding their orders, mocking their choices and lamenting their lack of knowledge is really not something that we should be doing. If anything it speaks volumes about our own inadequacies as an industry.

I’ve spoken with many baristas, roasters and other coffee professionals about how lucky I feel to be part of such a vibrant and thriving industry. I often feel like I’ve come accross a secret and it’s only a matter of time before everyone else clocks on too.

However lately I’ve seen a tendency from people working in coffee ( and admittedly other specialty fields too) to have a pop at customers for not “getting” it.

I think perhaps we should remind ourselves every now and then that ensuring our customers “get” it is in fact our job.

If your customers are ordering large drinks it’s probably because you sell large drinks.

Peoples ability to order syrups is directly linked to the availability of syrups.

If your customers don’t appreciate filter coffee it’s probably because they’ve had a bad experience. It’s up to you to turn it into a positive experience.

If there seems to be a lack of knowledge amongst your customers it’s up to you to fix that without being intrusive or demanding. Engage them, it’s your job!

A wise man (who needs no further praise from this blog) once pointed out to me that by the time you’ve sat down in a restaurant and looked at the menu you know whether its ok to ask for ketchup. What the restaurant industry does really well is build context, and context is everything if you want to guide your customers. If they never ask for it its probably because of two things;

(i) They don’t know it exists

(ii) Their perception of it is different to yours.

The surly Barista is a stereotype that really needs knocking on the head but unfortunately it’s probably a justified one. It’s up to us as an industry to make this easy for our customers and realise that every sarchastic tweet is damaging every other shop in this industry that’s trying to do a good job.

Be nice, our futures depend on it.

Col

Calling you out….Eleven People I’d love to see compete

So. I decided that there were a lot of people in the Coffee Industry that I would love to see compete and woke this morning to discover that one has already hilariously thrown his hat into the ring. The rest I’m sure will follow suit in the coming days….

Tim Varney (Tim Wendelboe) See here. Cant wait.


1. Mark Prince (Coffee Geek)- Dave Walsh blazed a trail for “non-industry competitors” last year. Your move Mark. (he should be made use a single estate coffee)

2. Cosimo Libardo (Nuova Simonelli)- This year Nuova Simonelli will supply machines for the last time before the contract goes back out to tender (they may win it back of course) so who better to get the most from the machine. Cosimo is someone I greatly admire and anyone who knows him knows he’s a competitor. Game on.

3. Tim Styles (Tropical Saloon, Square Mile Coffee, Espressopants, The Meat Wagon)-  If you visited Penny University you’d understand what service was all about. Judging Tim would be as pleasurable as would be fascinating.

4. Mike White (Free Lance, NY tour guide to the stars, Shot Zombies) - Writes for the NY Times. Enough said.

5. Doug Zell (Intelligentsia)- Now that none of his baristas are competing this year its pretty much perfect timing for Mr. Zell to step up to the plate. Nobody has more resources at hand (two WBC champs on his pay roll for starters), I’m 1000% certain he’d do an amazing job. I’d pay to see it.

6. Vince Fedele (Extract Mojo)- We can’t even conceive what Vince would come up with. He would reinvent the whole thing and explain in 15mins what we’ve all been messing around with for the last ten years or so.

7. Kentaro Maruyama (Maruyma Coffee)- How much fun woud this be? Kentaro is one of the worlds most influential coffee cuppers/buyers/roasters. Huge knowledge, huge heart and an amazing coffee proffessional.

8. Ben Kaminsky (Ritual Coffee)- I love Ben. Ben says what he thinks. Ben would do a great job, finish on 10mins and spend the remaining 5mins talking the judges through their scores. Has to happen.

9. Aida Battle (Kilimanjaro, Mauritania etc. El Salvador) - As competitors begin to talk more and more about farms it makes an awful lot of sense for a farmer with Aida’s status and reputation to take to the stage

10. Steve Leighton (Hasbean)- As long as he opened with the lines “Hello Judges, and welcome to in my mug.”

11. Paul Stack (Marco)- He’s still using the line “I’m not really a coffee person”. In truth Stack is as creative, passionate and engaging as anyone in coffee. He also has a history in amateur theatre. No brainer….

Thoughts? Missed anyone?

This is not an espresso class…

 

…its an espresso appreciation morning!

Our aim for the next event at 3FE is not to to teach you how to make espresso, but simply to present you with a wide variety of coffees served as espresso and help you develop preferences and  understanding of this most complicated of brew methods.

We’ve got some amazing coffees in for you so all you gotta do is turn up and taste and have a chat, simple as. We will of course have a bag of coffee for every participant too.

We kick off at 11am on Saturday so sign up here and we’ll see you there!

Are you tasting or drinking?

We generally get two types of customer at 3FE and we value both equally, but we found there were certain occassions where we weren’t fulfilling what the customers were looking for.

Some customers want to hear all about the coffee and really experience something. They’re there to taste and want to leave having enjoyed their coffee and hopefully learned something. We love these customers.

Other customers just want a cup of coffee. They’re aware that we’re quite into what we do but they dont want to hear any shpeel, they just want a tasty cup of coffee. We love these customers.

A huge part of your job as a barista is to gauge exactly what your customer wants, in both the product and service.

With this in mind we have decided to divide our menu into two sections, namely a “Drinking Menu” and “Tasting Menu”.

What this does is help us to identify what each customer is after and also enable the customers experience a broader spectrum of tasting at 3FE.

Here’s how it works;

drinking menu

filter coffee

guest filter

cappuccino

flat white

espresso

guest espresso

long black

 

Tasting Menu

filter tasting (minimum 2 people)

we pick two very different filter coffees and serve them to you side by side.

 

 coffee trio (minimum 2 people)

we take the same coffee and serve it three different ways to you; as an espresso, a cappuccino and as a filter.

 

 espresso duo

(minimum 2 people)

an opportunity to taste our house espresso against our guest espresso. 

espresso set

a single espresso and a cappuccino.

 

What we hope to acheive with this new menu is a way to ensure that each and every customer that visits 3FE gets the experience that they want and not the one that we feel they should get. It also enables us to present our coffees in a manner that allows people to taste different cups side-by-side which is the best way to grow your understanding of coffee and develop your own preferences and opinions on what tastes good.

This menu is up and running and has been wonderfully received by customers last week. Pop down, have a look and taste/drink as you see fit. We’ll be happy to see you, either way ;)

 

 

Adventures in slow-brew filter coffee and why I hate James Hoffmann

photo courtesy of David Walsh

He is undoubtedly at the forefront of everything we do and has an impressive ability to educate people without making them feel like an idiot. He constantly pushes the quality of what he produces and has a refreshingly disproportionate answers to questions ratio, despite his lofty status. But I hate him.

Every time I am 99% sure of how I would convey some thoughts effectively on any given coffee subject I am rudely interrupted by another one of his poignant blog posts explaining and informing the world of coffee on how to bypass said problem, increase coffee’s quality and consequently expand one’s learning. Any old idiot can claim he/she was thinking the same thing only hours before. I am that idiot.

Recently the Hoffmann’s first retail store Penny University, run primarily by the Talented Mr. Styles, decided to close it’s doors after a brief but amazing appearance off Shoreditch High Street. It had open just in time for the World Barista Championships and briefly wowed the international coffee community before folding up and packing away its cups and saucers.

Penny University was an incredible store, and having only 5 seats and no espresso machine, milk or sugar was an incredible way to focus all its attentions on the real star; the coffee.

We at 3FE have in our own way, tried to present filter coffee in a similar light albeit accompanied by some of the more familiar aspects of a coffee shop. One immediate similarity is both locations use of an Uber boiler and our consequent approach to choose a high quality, slow process approach to brewing filter coffee in a retail setting.

So, six months in and preempting what I expect he’ll do next, here is my own findings and opinions on slow-brew filter coffee in a retail scenario before Hoffmann does it himself. Enjoy and stick your oar in;

Approachability

Customers get it. You can wax lyrical about the nuances of your high-grown Guats but stick it in a 12oz cup of steamed milk and its a hot coffee flavoured milk-shake. Don’t get me wrong, I crave milk in espresso on a daily basis, but using milk drinks to truly appreciate the nuances in different coffees is a difficult task for most baristas, let alone customers. Filter coffee is approachable and customers get it.

Side step the milk and sugar

We always suggest they try it first without milk or sugar. We do this politely and don’t get angry at them if they later decide to anyway. Be nice.

Choice

I have a real soft spot for coffee that I file as “incredible examples of normal coffees” but I would never give these to someone trying a “slow brew” for the first time. The weapon of choice is always a floral, washed Yirg, fruity natural Brazilian or a bag-o-blackcurrants Kenyan. If you want to get them on board take out the flashy ones, they’ll grow to love the sweet, reliable stall worths in time.

An infinite choice of coffees is also a paralysing thing for most customers and for me often means that I really don’t get to know coffees as much as I probably should. If you can manage it, I find it best to keep the choice to 3. Everyone wins.

Context is everything

If you feel frustrated by your customers lack of understanding of specialty coffee and wish they’d open up to the joys of filter coffee then look around you. You need to make it extremely obvious that theres something else going on here.

Customers are not ready

I actually disagree. I used to look at places like Intelligentsia Venice, Kaffeemisjonen and pretty much all of Japan and long for a consumer base that was interested in the nuances of small-lot specialty coffee. We only started doing filter coffee for the geeks that would inevitably drop by. Now its catching up on espresso, and we are by no means in a trendy part of town.

As if to further emphasise this point, as I typed the last paragraph a customer tweeted me this message

@3FE The brazilian coffee? Yup. Choice was between that and a nice Kenyan. TBH though, I think my taste runs more to the kenyans.

To my knowledge, this person is not a coffee geek and has only recently started to frequent 3FE.

Mojo Everything

Scott Rao recently said in his new book “Everything but Espresso” that Vince Fidele’s “contributions to the coffee industry have encountered much resistance from the specialty coffee establishment”. Vince created the Extract Mojo and it has turned coffee into a science for me. At first I was reluctant and in truth felt deep down that I had a wonderful gift that enabled me to create great coffee. I dont.

Vince has changed the game in terms of repeatability of quality and the inherent professionalism that we should all show as Baristas. The Mojo is not there to tell you how to brew your coffee, its there so you can tell people how you brew your coffee.

Changing your grind

We change the grind from time to time for these reasons.

30g of coffee with 500ml needs to be coarser than 15g of coffee with 250ml, if used in the same brewer. In something like a chemex, the amount of coffee in the way of the falling water has an undoubted effect on its speed of passage. Grind to suit.

Different beans grind different ways. Roast, age, density all play a part. Don’t presume you’ve got a catch-all grind setting.

Extraction trumps yield

Don’t aim to yield 500ml of coffee and be reasonably sure it will taste good. Aim to make 18-22% extraction coffee and be reasonably sure it will fill the cup.

Batch Brewers will work (ignore this one if you’re from the US/Scandinavia)

They will. They can brew great coffee and if used correctly will offer a more high-volume, high-speed location. We choose slow-brew, slow-pace filter because of the context of what we do. Both will work effectively and with tasty consequences.

Pouring Kettles are to filter what latte art is to espresso

In truth its not just kettles, but the unnecessary faff that goes with them. I speak with a lot of baristas who seem pre-occupied with the visual aspect of filter and how they approach it. I really love the feeling of meticulously puring every drop onto each ground, but do so only if you’re sure it is reasonably stable in temperature and is REALLY improving your extraction.

Your most important criteria without doubt are temperature, brewing ratios, extraction time to achieve the required TDS/Extraction Yield. Do not prioritise the visual aspect of filter coffee over any of these factors. Ever. Kettles are enormously helpful way to make excellent filter coffee, but remember where your priorities lie and use them sensibly.

We’re missing a trick

One of my goals for this year is to become a better cupper. Every time new coffees arrives we line them up and cup ‘em and really try to understand the real identity of the coffee. I can’t hep but feel when I cup coffees however that we’re missing a trick when it comes to filter coffee. This may seem strange coming from someone who’s just posted a shpeel bigging up its merits, but in truth I feel that we’re 95% there.

The problem for me lies in the filtration. I still adore filter coffee but I’m yet to see a paper filter that doesn’t retain a little too much of what I want in my cup. Any metal filters I’ve used are just plain sludgey and cloth filters are just plain inconvenient. There is a next step, we just need to keep pushing on.

Its the future

They had an aeropress in Flat White. If thats not a wake-up call….

Theatrics

I’ve seen people brew great filter coffee in conventional batch brewers and watched it die on its face. We can give customers as much information and passion as we want and use the requisite brewing parameters but in the context of a specialty coffee shop turning and filling someones cup with a tap just isn’t going to impress a customer.

Slow-brew in high volumes may be a logistical pain but ultimately it demonstrates to the consumer that there’s been thought, effort and passion put into every cup. Don’t presume they know this, its not that obvious to someone walking in off the street.

Working bar you often catch people just watching you pull shots. Its theatrical, engaging and in a busy cafe can be somewhat hypnotic to watch a barista silently but efficiently pull shots and steam pitchers of milk. Slow brew coffee redresses the balance when it comes to theatrics and engages the customer in the process, thus encouraging them to appreciate the outcome that little bit more. Next time you’re in a shop, see how many people choose to stare at the wall rather than watch whats happening on the bar.

Col

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