Today is Sunday, August 2, 2009, and I’m parked at the roaster’s desk in the back of our LA works after finishing up a round of eleven batches of coffee for our cafes out here in the West.  A few weeks back the company was kind enough to ship me out to Chicago to meet and reconnect with the roasters and quality control team out there.  Recalling my visit conjures four principle thoughts: good people, good food, good beer, and—of course—good coffee.

I spent most of my time down on the roasting floor with the guys (Kurtis, Josh, Jason, and Kornman), where I learned that ninety kilo roasters aren’t that dissimilar from the forty kilo I’m acquainted with here in Los Angeles.  As I did when learning on the forty, I started off my Chicago roasting with some batches of dark roasts to feel out the controls and intricacies of the machines.  Aside from the weird inner-drum opening mechanisms, confusing grain elevator, fancy de-stoner controls, and somewhat alarmingly large cooling trays, I really don’t have much else to say about the nineties other than that they were fun to roast on.  However, I might mention that the twenty-three kilo did take me for somewhat of a joy ride while I tried to reign her in.

In our daily roasting operations, the teams in LA and Chicago communicate a good deal about new coffee arrivals and trial roasts, existing coffee specs, Agtron calibration, cupping scores, various Black Cat topics, and more.  This sort of ongoing communication isn’t quite as effective if one isn’t at least roughly acquainted with the other people involved, so while we were cupping and/or playing pool we rehashed some old and new issues and came to a better understanding both between individuals and facilities.

Most of the differences between our facilities, I come to realize, have to do with batch sizes and timing.  Out in LA we’re still varying our batch sizes to most efficiently match our roast reports, meaning that some days we’ll roast thirty pounds of a single-origin brewed coffee and another day we’ll roast fifty pounds of the same coffee.  When trying to minimize the amount of variables roast to roast and nail down proper specs (based on trials, cuppings, etc.), the addition of a variable batch size is a somewhat dented tooth in our LA cog.  As for timing, in Los Angeles we have to begin roasting early enough in the day to continuously roast all batches and successfully finish production by 2:30PM, the deadline for our packers to get stuff ready for UPS, whereas Chicago has the ability to roast side-by-side with the two (or three) roasters and catch up, when needed, in a manner that I’d imagine a bit less frantic.  Really though, two roasters moving at once just felt smooth.

On the second night of my stay, I attended a Black Cat meeting with a star-studded cast: Kyle Glanville, Geoff Watts, Mike ‘Kurtis’ Kearby, Stephen Morrissey, Chris Kornman, Jason Lips, and Jesse Crouse.  Earlier that day I’d been cupping Rwanda samples with Geoff, Jesse, and Sarah Kluth so while we awaited everyone’s arrival to dinner Geoff further discussed some of his finds in Burundi and hopes for coffee coming from there and Rwanda in the coming months and years.  In the meeting we discussed methods for testing the performance of Black Cat by day, week, and month, and also Kyle’s hopes and plans for this year in Cat.  Looks like the roasting teams will be more involved than ever in selecting roasts, specs, and even coffees for this year’s Black Cat Classic, SO lineup, and seasonal blends.  Watch out!

My third night I was introduced to an area of town called Pilsen, where I savored a Three Floyd’s beer after getting my ass kicked at the latte art smackdown earlier at Millennium Park Intelli.  I was really impressed both at the latte art smackdown and throughout the rest of my stay by the Chicago baristas’ skill and joyfulness.  Pilsen also happened to be the part of town where I enjoyed a stellar dinner the following evening (just after also enjoying my first Midwestern early evening thunderstorm in quite awhile) at a place called ‘Nightwood,’ which boasts a daily-updated menu and is soon to be featuring our coffee in Chemex form.

Anyhow, suffice to say the Intelli folks in Chicago all made me feel at home and helped me find a new sense of excitement for Intelligentsia.

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So many great coffees out right now.  That’s a good place to start.  Roasting coffees that consistently score 85+ on the cupping table as production roasts after their arrival is a thing of beauty and wonder.  

 

Last week Jesse Crouse and Chris Kornman came to visit.  Jesse is second in command in the QC department in Chicago, having recently(ish) relieved Kornman of the same position (Kornman is now a roaster).  This also happened to coincide with Deaton’s news that his more prestigious visa went through (renewable for up to ten years or something length like that).  Was a real nice couple of days for us all.  We spent some time cupping the new Tanzania release, determining which of the many trial roasts tastes most ideal for a production profile.  

 

Black Cat’s been rolling through some changes, currently consisting of 80% Brazil and 20% Bolivia.  Mellow, caramel, with some green grape acidity.  Out in Venice (slow bar and otherwise) they’re pulling some single origin production roasts as espresso with some pleasing results.  No more wondering after exclaiming, ‘I bet that’d be good as an espresso!’ eh?  Some of these might taste a big light or ‘green,’ but I support fruity coffees pulled at a light degree.  Not for the faint of heart (or canker sore of mouth–literally, watch the spark on these if you’ve been eating too many green apples).    

 

Hasta luego

I’ve been promoted to ROASTER.

look out for it this weekend! see you at the venice party tonight!

‘All:

Our La Tortuga, Honduras is now available to order.

Please note that this coffee was launched on July 3rd last year, so we are getting it out about six weeks earlier than the 2008 edition. How is this possible? There are a number of reasons and a lot of people involved but the biggest has to do with Doug, Cara, and Geoff working on a plan to finance the coffee ourselves. When we don’t need to rely on importers, the coffee is paid for more quickly and we control the logistics to get it here faster. You will here more about this as more of the Centrals come in over the next few weeks.

MPJ’

revved by tonx

revved by tonx

happy birthday otra vez, d $.

come celebrate!

come celebrate!

all i do is steal photos…

Autumn recommended Dent May to me sometime last year; it’s was Steve and I listened to for awhile today, along with Dengue Fever.

I like this photo by tonx:

Nick B at IntelliVenice by tonx.org

Nick B at IntelliVenice by tonx.org

and I like this photo by Nicole, new Venice hire:

tropical?

tropical?

We just got new La Tortuga Honduras in and it smells just as, if not more, fresh as the Panama we received last week.  Look out for the marks Machete and Tortuga in upcoming weeks..  mmmm.