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While on our trip to the Chicago Cubs Convention, we took an afternoon to hit the town.  We went to this great little restaurant Bella Bacino’s.  I had a good Chicago pizza, and Jen had some really fancy chicken with mushrooms and truffle sauce.  Afterwards, we went somewhere that I have been longing to visit for years: Intelligentsia Millennium Park.

Intelligentsia Sign

Intelligentsia is one of the top roasters in the country.  As someone who works in the specialty coffee industry, I have had the pleasure of drinking Intelligentsia coffee many times, but I had never been able to go to an actual Intelli location.  I was not disappointed.

Intelligentsia Millennium Park

We came in around 1pm, and it was packed.  There were 4-5 people working on bar, and they had the line flowing well.  As someone who sells coffee gear, this place made me giddy.  From the Mahlkonig grinders to the offerings of Eva Solos, Siphons, Chemexes, and V60 Pourovers, Intelli offers anything my coffee-snob heart could desire.

Intelligentsia Brew Methods

I ordered a Single-origin espresso. I also bought a bag of Zirikana, Rwanda coffee and an Intelli mug.  Because I was buying the mug and coffee, I got a discount on the nearly $5 espresso shot, which was cool.  I’m not one to talk about mouthfeel and tasting notes and all that stuff, but I will say that this was the best espresso I have ever drank in my life. No joke. It was legit.  Next time you are in Chicago, you need to check out Intelligentsia.  Whether you are a coffee snob or not, they will treat you well and give you a great cup of coffee.

Until later friends…

One of the great shows of 1980s was Transformers.  I don’t have many memories of watching the show, but I do distinctly remember being fascinated and frustrated by the toys as a child.

Optimus Prime Cartoon

I think the cool thing/most-frustrating-thing-ever about Transformers was the mechanical-mindedness it took to play with them.  The fact that your toy could be two different things blew the minds of many a child in the 80s and 90s.  Now that my generation is all grown up, we don’t play with Transformers.  However, I think that subconscious love of adjustable/mechanical devices remains.  That is part of the reason I love the new Prima Tamp so much.

Prima Tamp - World's First Adjustable Tamper

I have been privy to the entire development process of this sweet device.  I have been able to use it to tamp and pull some good shots of espresso.  The more this thing developed, the more geeked out about it I became.  While this doesn’t transform from an espresso tamper to a little robotic man with a bazooka and a sword, I feel the same sort of fascination towards it.

Prima Tamp InstructionsTransformer Toy Instructions

OK, so it’s not nearly as complicated, but that makes it cooler right?

Baristas have gotten a bad rap, even though many of them deserve it.  Many people have seen Funny or Die’s “Coffee Snobs” video, which I won’t link to here because of offensive language.  This video is a bit of an exaggeration, but it speaks volumes about the awful coffee-shop experiences people have had due to snooty baristas.

"Coffee Snobs" - Funny or Die

Jason Dominy of Batdorf and Bronson recently wrote a blog post entitled “No More Coffee Snobs.”

Jason Dominy

Dominy is a class-act, and is well-respected in the Specialty Coffee community.  Dominy states, “we have got to find a way to meet average customer halfway, without compromising our passion and thoughts on what good coffee is.”  He is exactly right. No one wants to be talked down to when they are buying a cup of coffee.

Chris DeferioChris Deferio (pictured above) is a former finalist for the United States Barista Championship.  He is another big name in the Specialty Coffee Community, and he too is an advocate of kindness in coffee. I think Deferio really hit on something in his comment on Dominy’s blog: “It seems that we have anthropomorphized coffee into our imaginary friend and are constantly trying to defend them against the customer who we view as the one who doesn’t believe in them. Without the customer we are nothing.”

Dear Specialty Coffee Community,

Please be nice.

Sincerely,

For Aslan and the Volunteer State

In other related news, I have been greatly entertained this week by a series of posts on Quora about Tip Jars in Coffee Shops.   Here are some of my favorite funny, snarky, or just plain clever tip jars:

Darth Vader Tip Jar

I love Star Wars, Coffee, and tipping. So naturally, I am entertained by this.

Ninja Tip SharingVeiled threat about unseen ninjas jumping people in the parking lot…I like it.

Tupac or BiggieI’m not sure who I’d vote for, I can only say mo money mo problems.

Chuck Norris Kicking Justin BieberIf this were true, I would drive to wherever this is and put in $10.

Until later friends…

Hello old friends.  I realize that it has been at least 5 life-cycles of fruit flies since I last blogged.  I just returned from a vacation to East Tennessee with my wife and in-laws.  It was glorious to be back in the Volunteer State, which is the “greatest state in the land of the free” to quote the good ‘ole Davy Crockett theme song.  We stayed on a mountain in Pigeon Forge, and we spent Saturday/Sunday at Dollywood/Splash Country.

Dolly PartonBefore anyone makes any redneck or Dolly Parton jokes, you need to know that Dollywood is actually a nice park.  Dollywood reminds me of the Opryland that I grew up with.  It has three good roller coasters, and several other rides and attractions that families like.  One of the Dollywood employees also told me that they are breaking ground on a new roller coaster that will “put Dollywood on the map.”  He said it will be the “biggest and fastest roller coaster in the world, built to compete with places like Cedar Point.”  I’ll believe that when I see it, but the possibility of that great of a roller coaster being in the Volunteer State makes me happy.

Dollywood Splash CountryDollywood Splash Country is a great water park.  There are a number of really good water slides.  It is also very clean.  If I were not whiter than the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, I would enjoy water parks a lot more.

Stay Puft Marshmallow ManMinus the sunburn I received on my neck and shoulders after reapplying SPF 110 four times (I kid you not, I am one white dude!), I really enjoyed my time at Splash Country.  I also like to count the ridiculous tattoos involving eagles, wolves, skulls, dragons, and the like.  Seriously people, before you get a tattoo wait a couple of days and ask some intelligent people what they think about it too.

Yesterday, before Jen and I headed back up to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, we decided to do a couple more touristy things.  We drove through the scenic route of Cade’s Cove.  It is supposed to be a great place to see bears, but I had never seen any there before.  As we drove, the cars in front of us suddenly slammed on their brakes and people started pointing.  In the woods about 25 yards from us was a black bear and her two cubs.  It was really cool to see them in the wild, and the cubs were very playful and inquisitive.  One hung on the side of a tree to look at all of us looking at him.  It looked like this:

Another pleasant surprise we found in Pigeon Forge was Mad Dog’s Creamery.  I love ice cream, as all sane people do.  I enjoy Baskin Robbins and other chains, but I really like going to independent shops.  I was very pleased with Mad Dog’s Creamery.

Mad Dog's Creamery Pigeon Forge

Mad Dog’s Creamery had several ice cream choices and the people working there were very friendly.  I was also surprised to see a Nuova Simonelli Appia Espresso Machine and a MDX Espresso Grinder.  I didn’t expect a creamery to have such a fine espresso set-up.

Nuova Simonelli Appia 2 Group Automatic Espresso Machine and MDX Espresso Grinder

So, intrigued by this set-up, I asked what roaster they used.  Lo and behold, they were brewing Counter Culture‘s Apollo.  Amen!

So, I promptly ordered a double-shot. In spite of the fact that a couple of the workers found it surprising that I wanted a double-shot without cream or sugar, the espresso was excellent.  It was really nice to see that this shop, although not a Third Wave Coffee shop by any stretch of the imagination, could offer a solid espresso option with little training or frills.  That is the beauty of good machines and good coffee. So, props to you Mad Dog’s.

That’s all the Tennessee Tourism propaganda I have for today.  Until later friends…


Recently a couple of my friends were trained in espresso equipment repair and maintenance.  I was able to weasel my way into the training for a bit and learn a little more about espresso machines.  It was fun getting to see the inner workings of both a super-automatic and an automatic espresso machine.  You might not know or care that there are four different types of espresso machines, but I do (and so do about 13 of my friends).

I have been thinking awhile about the best way to explain the differences between the four types of espresso machines: Manual, Semi-automatic, Automatic, and Super Automatic.  A parallel finally dawned on me this week – cars!  So, today I will go over the four types of espresso machines and their parallels in automobile transmissions.

Manual Espresso Machine

The manual espresso machine is like the Lamborghini of espresso machines.  It is classy, beautiful, and requires a fair bit of knowledge and work.

The manual espresso machine is the original espresso machine design.  It uses a lever-action for preinfusion and extraction.  The volume of water and length of extraction is manually controlled by the pull of a handle.  So, in many ways the manual/lever espresso machine is like a sports car with a manual transmission.  It takes extra work, but someone that knows what he is doing can really have a lot of fun with it.

Semi-automatic Espresso Machine

If the lever espresso machine is the Lamborghini of espresso machines, then the semi-automatic espresso machine can be compared to the Honda Prelude (not that it is a huge price dropoff, or less quality, but that it is easier to use).

I drove a Honda Prelude once and it had a transmission with an automatic clutch.  With an automatic clutch, you can control the change of the gears without having to mess with an extra pedal.  The semi-automatic machine allows the barista to control the the length of the extraction with a push of the button.

Automatic Espresso Machine

Automatic espresso machines can be compared to the Chrysler Pacifica.  The Chrysler Pacifica has an automatic transmission, but if you are feeling particularly confident or sporty, you can switch to a manual transmission with automatic clutch (sometimes called a Slapshift).

The automatic espresso machine has multiple buttons representing numerous brewing settings.  The barista needs only to grind, tamp, and press a button once and an espresso is made.  If, however, the barista is feeling confident or sporty, she may use the semi-automatic push button to exhibit more control over the length of the extraction.

La Marzocco GB5 3 Group Espresso MachineSuper Automatic Espresso Machine

Super automatic espresso machines are like those crazy auto-pilot cars in the film Minority Report.

Super Automatic machines do all the work.  All the waiter/server needs to do is push a button and the machine will grind and dispense.  It is very much like a car that does all the driving, except with a super-automatic machine, if you don’t clean it every single day, it dies.

So, there you go.  Those are the varying espresso machine versions and their parallel car transmissions.  I hope this has been entertaining and informative for you.  If not, visit again tomorrow for something completely different.

Until later friends…

Featured Espresso Machines

This past weekend was great. It was a blast to not have to do anything related to school.  Freedom is a blessed thing.  I did not make it to the Prima Coffee Barista Bash on Friday.  I love going to the Barista Bashes, but I really wanted to spend some good time with Jen.  So, we went to Buckhead’s and had a huge meal thanks to a coupon we got from Restaurants.com.  Then, we went to one of my favorite places on earth, Half-Price Books.  Jen and I got a book each for a total of about $9 – boo yah.  Then, we went and hung out with some friends and their kids.  Saturday was the first day in a very long time that I was able to sleep until I woke up without an alarm clock – it was glorious.

Death to the Alarm Clock

Saturday we also put up our Christmas decorations, which was a lot of fun since we have a lot of new Christmas stuff from some friends that moved away and left some of their Christmas decorations with us.  Jen then went and hung out with her sister and I had a Man-Day of Guitar Hero and Call of Duty with my home-dawg Josh. Afterward, I took Jen to Old-Time Pottery because I am a husband that loves his wife, and then she tagged along with me to Best Buy where we scoffed at the ridiculous prices.

Sunday we went to church, and then we ate lunch and played Wii with Jen’s sister.  Sunday night we were both craving burgers, so logically we went to get the best burgers in town at Flanagan’s.  And since I had already gone through the trouble of parallel parking, we went to Quill’s Coffee next door. Quill’s is probably my favorite coffee shop in town.  I know several baristas there, and I think it has the best atmosphere in town.  When we walked in I saw that my friend John was behind the bar.  I remembered ‘ole Phil Revell telling me about a sweet new drink that Quill’s was offering but I couldn’t remember what it was called. So, I asked John about the ‘Phil Revell Special’ and he made me an Espresso Accoppiato.  I must say, I like this new beverage quite a lot.  I like espresso a lot, but I always find it difficult to lay down $2-$3 for such a small amount of liquid.  The Espresso Accoppiato at $3 seems more worth it to me for some reason.  I’m not sure if there is that much more beverage given, but the novelty of it is quite nice.  In case you are too lazy to click my links, the Espresso Accoppiato is a two-for-one drink.

The barista – John in this case – pulls a double-shot of espresso (I think, correct me if I’m wrong John).  Half remains a straight shot of espresso, the other half is used to make a macchiato.  It is meant to be drunk concurrently.  The contrasting flavors of an espresso and a macchiato pulled from the same shot are quite enjoyable.  Props to Quills for the introduction of such a cool beverage offering.  I also thank John for giving me a miniature presentation about the drink while I enjoyed it, I feel like I got to experience a little bit of the Best Cup Competition two days late.  After our informative and delicious visit to Quill’s, Jen and I dropped by Redbox on the way home and rented How to Train Your Dragon.  I recommend the movie.  It was enjoyable and included a bunch of Scottish-accented Vikings.

The weekend was great. I am now back in the midst of another work week, but now my work hours are normal.  This is joyous.  I really enjoy not having to drive back and forth to class every other day.  I am looking forward to the spring semester, but I am really enjoying all the time I am getting to spend with Jen and friends.

Until later friends…

Related Posts

For those of you that are not coffee snobs, be forewarned that this post will most likely not interest you much.  I will give some of the more exciting-for-non-coffee-snobs content up front, so you can see that and move on to your sports and gossip blogs.

  • I still think this is one of the best specialty coffee commercials I’ve ever seen.
  • Check out all the great Coffee Fest stuff going on.
  • Congratulations Ryan Soeder – a cool guy I know from the Prima Coffee bashes – for kicking some butt up in Seattle and representing Louisville so well.  Even though you moved to Seattle, I’ll still take it as a victory for the Louisville coffee community.
  • If you have no idea what the last bullet point was about, check this out.
  • Speaking of Sprudge, check this out…your thoughts?…comments?
  • Also, Sprudge has a sweet link to Prima Coffee‘s immensely helpful Hario Mini Mill vs Skerton blog
  • Just discovered this blog.  I don’t know how great all the content is, but I enjoy the Daily Mug Shot.

  • Hope you’ve enjoyed all the Links

Until Later Friends…

I had to share this video.  I found this on Sprudge.com (a comedic news site for coffee snobs – be warned that there is some adult language used sporadically throughout the site).  This video reminds me of a play I was in entitled Words, Words, Words.  Both the video and the play use the Infinite monkey theorem with comedic results.  In Words, Words, Words we were on a stage with typewriters and blocks, much less expensive than this video with dozens of monkeys, espresso machines, espresso grinders, and espresso accessories.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

Until later friends…

Last night was my night to go to night class.  I needed to get some work done between my classes though, so I remained at school instead of my usual routine of going home to eat dinner.  Jen came to meet me for dinner and we went to Founders Cafe.

Founders is a nice student cafe.  It is a lot swankier than the Lexington Inn Cafe at my alma mater (although I have many fond memories at “the Lex”).  Founders is well supplied with a GDM-72 full of cokes, a T-49 for sandwich supplies, some sort of undercounter stuff I haven’t been able to identify yet, and an Astoria Espresso Machine.  Founders has a cool atmosphere, and the food is a good value.  I enjoy getting a calzone there for $4.50.  They usually have ESPN playing on a big screen, which is a nice attraction for someone that can’t afford cable.  For all you new seminarians out there, Founders gets my recommendation for a quick meal.  Although I would prefer something from Quills, Anchorage Cafe, or Sunergos, the coffee is pretty good, and the most convenient around campus.  Plus, Founders gets bonus points for being named after these guys:

That’s all my free promotion for today. Until later friends…

I am a bit tired today.  This weekend seems to have flown by. Friday night we had a lot of fun at the Prima Coffee Barista Bash.  You can see some cool pictures of it here. I always enjoy the free coffee.  I really enjoy espresso, but I rarely buy any because I don’t like to spend $2+ for 2 oz. of anything. So, I especially enjoy getting free espresso (and it is even more enjoyable when I get to pull the shot myself).  After the bash we went and hung out with some friends at their apartment. Somehow the girls got to talking about girly things (i.e., hair and stuff), and Josh and I were able to steal away to his X-Box 360 and play some Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.  It was my first time playing that game, and I must say, I do enjoy shooting terrorists.

Saturday was marked by errands and homework. I read a whole heap of material for my classes, and then Jen and I finished off the day by watching The Count of Monte Cristo.

Yesterday was my last Sunday morning teaching a 12-week study on Church History for the youth at North Oldham Baptist Church.  Then, in the afternoon I did more homework, while watching Joe Flacco bring down my Fantasy Football score, but I have faith he’ll redeem himself next week. Then, last night we had a youth event at church, which went well.  We got home around 9:30 or so, and then I got back to homework.

This morning I got to work around 7:00am. I am tired, and I wanted to make coffee this morning in my Bodum French Press, but I was running a little late and did not have time to clean it.  So, I am really looking forward to one of my co-workers coming in with his brand new Mypressi Twist V2.

Mypressi TWIST

The thought of some fresh espresso from a quality portable espresso machine sounds great right now. Well, until he gets here, I will do my best to soldier on. Until later friends.

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