Portola Coffee Lab - Wednesday, October 26, 2011
"Welcome to Episode 5 of there is a Reason for Everything which makes this the Empire Strikes Back of coffee blogs." - Clinard Lets start this week by going back in time for a second, please keep your hands and arms inside the DeLorean at all times. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="255" caption="best way to enjoy kyoto iced coffee without waiting 10 hours is time travel."][/caption] In the 1850’s the coffee industry had two problems, they couldn’t control the temperature of water well enough to brew coffee properly and they couldn’t filter the grounds from the brew mixture properly so most coffee had the consistency of mud. Enter the siphon, or vacuum pot (“vac pot” for short) - an 1850’s German designed coffee brewer that is the most entertaining to watch of all the brew methods in our shop. We have a blog that goes into more detail about this machine’s history. But lets get back to the future, and address the question at hand: Why have I never seen this thing before? And why use it, just for the coolness factor? The coolness factor is only a peripheral benefit that is secondary to the quality in the cup. Just like with everything we have talked about, it is what ends up in the cup that is the most important. As to why you might not have seen one, the siphon has reemerged in America after being trumped by countertop auto-drip machines, stovetop brewers, and instant coffee. Because (much like Walmart, fast food, and sweat pants) these methods have dominated this country purely out of convenience. Now that we are experiencing a coffee quality renaissance here in America, the siphon is making a comeback. In Japan, where specialty coffee is taken very seriously (and they don’t like Walmart), the siphon is as widely used as espresso machines here in America. All coffee brew methods fall along a spectrum with what we call “Body” on one side and “Flavor Clarity” on the other. The Hario V-60 falls in the middle, the Trifecta between the middle and body side and the siphon is at the extreme side of flavor clarity. The siphon is special because it presents some of the most delicate flavors in the coffee. It effectively draws some flavor oil but few coffee solids so while the coffee’s viscosity is lighter, the ability to detect even the most subtle flavor notes is amplified. It’s like when you remove the white noise so you can hear the notes of song more clearly. The peach in my Guatemala La Soledad and the key lime in my Kenya pop when brewed on the siphon. It’s beautiful! I absolutely love the siphon. Even at 160 this old guy is keeping up with all the young guys on our bar. Like the Slayer. The Slayer was designed and built by the fine folks from Slayer Espresso in Seattle, Washington in the good ol’ US of A. It is refreshing to see a company venture off and experiment with the age-old and ever-so complicated process of brewing espresso. What did the Slayer do that was so different? And why did you pick this machine when there are so many machines out there that are cheaper, and make good espresso? Slayer bucked the norm and created a machine that allows the trained barista to affect brew pressure at various points in the brew process - commonly referred to as “pressure profiling.” What this means is we can custom design a shot profile to highlight what is best about a particular espresso and mute what is offensive or undesirable. Because even with amazing coffee, if prepared improperly, then it can taste less than good. With the Slayer, we have the ability to alter the shot in ways that simply aren’t possible with traditional espresso machines. That is why I can put some pretty amazing single-origin shots on the menu that would generally not be obtainable on standard espresso machines – at least without some sacrifice. We can also make many adjustments at the machine to hone in the extractions on our Show No Mercy espresso blend. We have a great blog on the Slayer if you want to read more about this killer machine: It’s Called Slayer. You might wonder why we chose this machine when there are other machines out there that utilize pressure profiling in some way or that can pull single-origin Espresso just fine without being a Slayer. I would love to get into detail about that, just comment on this blog with your questions, or hit us up on twitter or facebook. I would talk about our Japanese cold water drip iced coffee brewer, dubbed the “Kyoto” or the Hario Fretta iced coffee system, but again we previously created a blog that does this wonderfully. If you have more questions about those methods, please just comment on the blogs and we will happily answer them. All of this "stuff" is meant for nothing other than creating the freshest brewed coffee and is part of the equation as to why our coffee is as good as it is – the other part of the equation is the ingredients. Support Good Coffee Jeff Duggan.
Portola Coffee Lab - Thursday, October 20, 2011
So lets review the basics. When you order any hot coffee at Portola Coffee Lab, We grab a tin with a pre-weighed dose of coffee (to a tenth of a gram) and place it into our Marco Uber grinder. We grind the coffee and immediately place it into the brewing apparatus – be it the V-60, Trifecta, or siphon. We then proceed to brew that individual cup of coffee just for you – which is anywhere from a 3 to 8 minute process - the Trifecta being the shortest and the siphon being the longest overall. Your mind is then blown by the freshness and flavor quality of the coffee! We never go to a dispenser to fill your cup. You simply cannot have the ultimate in quickness/convenience AND absolute quality. We do not want you in and out in 60 seconds. Gone in 60 is a phrase for car chases and Nicolas Cage, not our coffee. So after emphasizing that we brew coffee fresh, it raises the question: Why did you choose to use the brew methods that you currently use? I love that question, and I am actually going to take 2 posts to answer it so we don’t feel rushed. First up, the Hario V-60 cone dripper. This is not your grandfather’s Melitta. As a matter of fact, I never liked single-cup dripped coffee until I experienced the Hario. The Hario did what others failed to do – brew a flavor-intense, fully extracted, non-bitter cup of coffee. How does it do this? The Hario’s pointed cone design slowed the passing of water over the grounds (without having to grind excessively fine or double-filter), which increased the amount and quality of extraction. You end up with lots of “origin flavors” (resulting from where the coffee was grown) along with great body in the cup. It is a method that really utilizes the idea of “movement” while brewing. It is a paper filtered drip method so you do not get any sediment in the cup. Pour-over bars seem common when talking about 3rd wave coffee, but not all cones are created equal and we think this cone definitely stands above the rest. Next up is the Bunn Trifecta. This is a single-cup, “profile” brewed machine. It is commonly compared to the now debunked, Clover machine. Some think that this was Bunn’s answer to the Clover but the fact of matter is the Trifecta and Clover went into development at the same time. The Clover was rushed to market quicker while the Trifecta underwent a lengthier R&D period. Which paid off. What I love about the Trifecta is the ability to tweak the brew profile to the “Nth” degree for each individual coffee. My baristas and I have the ability to affect 10 variables in the brew process to enhance the flavors coming off each coffee we offer. We create a custom profile for our Brazil, which is different from our Guatemala, which is different from our El Salvador, and so on and so forth. With the Trifecta, there is no such thing as a “broad brush” approach to brewing coffee. No one size fits all. No government issue brew profile. Each coffee takes work and skill to make it taste amazing in this machine. We typically spend hours dialing in the Trifecta whenever we add a new coffee to our lineup. Do these 10 variables matter? Without question! I was astonished by how much the brew variables changed the resulting cup flavor. It creates both a nuanced and full-bodied cup, creating a flavor quality superior to other full immersion brew methods such as the French Press – (in my opinion). At the end of the brew cycle, the Trifecta applies 12 pounds of air pressure to the brew liquid and presses it through an extremely fine metal mesh filter. Some coffee solids make their way into the cup, which gives it a heavier mouthfeel, but not enough to interfere with the cups flavor clarity. What happens with some brew methods that allow a higher degree of coffee solids in the cup is those coffee solids combine with the flavor oils to form what are called “Brew Colloids” – which essentially hinder the detection of the most delicate and subtle flavors in the coffee. The design of the Trifecta avoids this shortcoming. With all of the calibration at our fingertips, and the ability to repeat the processes countless times with just a push of a button... This machine has become the clearest example of our brewing standards. And it looks like it is from the future. It uses technology to put us more in touch with coffee rather than neuter it and make it into a new version of a vending machine. I will take time in the next blog post to go through more of the methods we have here and give my personal opinion as to why we chose them, but in the mean time feel free to look around this blog to learn more about each method. Even before we opened, we were writing this blog as a resource to help people understand a bit more as to why we are doing what we are doing and why we chose the equipment we chose. Our Roaster The Slayer Siphons BUNN Trifectas Iced Coffee Methods Till then, support good coffee. Jeff Duggan.
Portola Coffee Lab - Wednesday, October 05, 2011
Portola Coffee Lab is different and I can assure you that everything you see in our shop, minus Clinard and Truman’s bow ties, is done for a reason.If you walk into 99% of all coffee serving locations (Starbucks, Peet's, Duncan Donuts, etc) you will see some form of coffee storage. Like a coffee urn, thermal dispenser, or coffee pot.
“Is it easier to brew large amounts of coffee and then serve it over time?” Yes. “So why not brew, store, and serve like everyone else?” Because freshness matters. It matters a lot. Unlike wine, coffee is best drunk fresh…period! I have visited a number of shops in existence that work hard to roast coffee on site in small batches so that they can have the freshest beans possible, but then don’t take that freshness ideal into the brewing of the coffee. While we also go to great lengths to roast in small batches on site to offer the freshest beans possible, when it comes to selling brewed cups of coffee, the job does not stop there. If you brew coffee and let it sit, it will not taste as good. Just let brewed coffee sit for a period of time and you will understand what I mean. There are chemical changes occurring in brewed coffee that are detrimental to coffee flavor when not consumed fresh.Why? Why does coffee start to taste bad when left to sit? (WARNING...I am going to offer more science than most people deal with on a day-to-day basis, pace yourself.) After coffee is brewed, hydrolysis of chlorogenic quinic lactone occurs. This results in the formation of quinic acid in the brew – which is a major contributor to perceived bitterness in coffee. This occurs whenever coffee is maintained at a high temperature of 75 Centigrade or higher - like with any coffee dispenser. To say that storing coffee in a dispenser of any type does not matter is scientifically and factually incorrect.
I often refrain from taking rigid stances on many subjects (i.e. mac versus windows, if bigfoot exists, if bigfoot uses mac or windows) But this is one I cannot avoid. Freshness absolutely matters and from an objective and professional perspective, I cannot be convinced otherwise. There is a degradation in taste quality whenever coffee is pre-brewed, stored in dispensers and subsequently dispensed over time – even relatively short periods. So back to the question: “Is it easier to brew large amounts of coffee and then serve it over time?”Yes, it is easier to funnel coffee into cups from a storage dispenser.
But we didn’t open Portola Coffee Lab to make easy coffee, we opened it to make great coffee at uncompromising standards. Jeff Duggan
Portola Coffee Lab - Tuesday, September 27, 2011
PREFACE::A Brief History of Portola Coffee Lab (Provided By Clinard): [caption id="attachment_141" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Portola History"][/caption]
- 245,000,000 BCE - The Dinosaurs walked the earth
- 44 BCE - Roman empire: democracy, aqueducts, sandals
- 1903 - Henry Ford makes the model-t that runs on oil made from dead dinosaurs.
- 1969 - Man lands on the moon.
- 1972- Jeff Duggan is Born.
- 1998 - Duggan roasts his first “batch” of coffee - done on a cast iron skillet – is declared an “utter disaster.” -Jeff Duggan & everyone that saw it happen.
- 1999-2007 - Duggan uses his background in Chemistry to understand the chemical reactions occurring during the roasting process. Over these years he tweaks, reforms, abandons, and tests many roast styles before settling on his own.
- 2007 - iPhone is introduced, the world rejoices.
- 2008 - the next iPhone is introduced, and the world begrudgingly upgrades.
- 2009 - Duggan opens Portola Handcrafted Coffee Roasters inside the Layer Cake Bakery in Irvine .
“Thanks Liz and Ehriline!! It was here that I was able to introduce my coffee to Orange County and the positive reaction I got was the major factor leading to my decision to open a retail coffeehouse and roastery in Costa Mesa.” - Jeff Duggan
- 2010 - another iPhone is introduced, this time with HD video, the world begrudgingly upgrades and videotapes nonsense.
- 2011- Portola Coffee Lab opens in Costa Mesa California. The coffee world rejoices.
There is a Reason for Everything // Part 2by Jeff Duggan When we opened, we knew this location would be different in every way. And the main thing that we get asked about is our multitude of amazing brew methods. I didn’t open Portola Coffee Lab until 2011, so it is obvious to say that I am not the first person to ever create a manual brew, single-cup coffeehouse. (Even though we are the first of our kind in Orange County.) The retail coffee industry has been in a process of evolution for at least the past five years - although many would argue longer. And in this evolution we have seen this manual-brew focus pop up all over the US. I have traveled the country visiting some of the most reputable and respected single-cup coffee companies in existence such as Four Barrel, Ritual Roasters, Blue Bottle, Sightglass Coffee, Stumptown in Portland, Espresso Vivace, Victrola, and Caffe Vita in Seattle, and Intelligentsia in LA. There are many more of course but this is a good sample to give you an idea of my coffee quest. What I saw in these amazing shops was freshly-roasted coffee brewed manually through a couple different brew methods per coffeehouse. Most locations didn’t provide more than one or two different ways to have you coffee brewed. It was my decision to take things a step further by designing a coffeehouse with a variety of single-cup methods rather than just focusing on one or two. So now back to the focus of these posts, WHY? Why offer so many brew methods? Because, in my opinion, there is no such thing as a “perfect” brew method. No matter how quantifiable you want coffee brewing to be (like when we use our refractometer to measure extraction rates while brewing) it is impossible to measure something subjective like people’s tastes. When it comes to our brew methods, like with one's own kids, I don’t have one favorite. We love each one of our methods (“kids”) equally. I cannot tell you that one manual brew method is superior to any of the others we offer - that is not what it's about. What I can say is each brew method creates its own unique flavor experience. So now why is that important? Another great question! Not everyone likes coffee prepared the same way. Just like not everyone likes food prepared the same way. Let’s take chicken for example. We can grill it, broil it, or fry it. Which one is the best? I would venture to say that an equal number of people would select each one based on nothing more than personal preference. Similarly, I want to give my customers the ability to drink my Kenya, Brazil, Tanzania or any other coffee I offer in a way that best suits their individual palate. Options are wonderful! Things just aren’t as enjoyable if you don’t have some choice in the matter (e.g., Communist Russia, known for horrible coffee.) Some come into Portola Coffee lab who are dedicated Trifecta drinkers and others love the Siphon or Hario drippers. It makes me happy to see that all of our different brew stations are being enjoyed. For me, it is validating. There is no other place around that gives you so many expert choices when it comes to brewing freshly-roasted coffee. So you ask:: “Why do we offer so many brew methods?” And the answer in my opinion is: Because more than ever, we want it to be YOUR choice. And we look forward to giving you the best options available to make that choice. Above all, it is our fanatic commitment to freshness not only in the beans, but also in the cup that motivates us to go to such great effort to brew each cup of coffee just for you. It is your cup of coffee, and it should match your palate. Everyone is welcome, come find your favorite. -Jeff Duggan.
Portola Coffee Lab - Monday, September 19, 2011
[caption id="attachment_405" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Jeff Duggan. Owner/Roastmaster"] [/caption] We are not fast coffee. We brew to order. We roast to flavor. Our raw coffee is not cheap, and it is even hard to get. We don't have flavored syrups. Our espresso is made with the Slayer Espresso machine that utilizes pressure profiling. We do everything thing in our power to get the most enjoyment and natural flavor out of the coffee we serve no matter what it takes. Our coffee shop may not be for everyone - that's ok. Although this style of coffee shop is popular and highly sought out in San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and increasingly in LA, there was no way to know how my incarnation of “slow food”, brewed-on-demand coffee would fair here in beloved Orange County. Would Orange County be ready to treat coffee with the same respect they do wine? We didn't know. Obviously I had confidence that my fellow Orange County citizens would love Portola Coffee Lab since I made that leap of faith and opened shop in May 2011. It has been four months and It still makes me feel thankful, warm and fuzzy inside to see such a positive response to our efforts daily and I go home happy when people go out of their way to tell me and my wife just how much they love Portola. In so many ways Orange County WAS ready for this, and we see that playing out in our shop. Now that we have been open for a few months, I have had many opportunities to interact with our customers on many levels. Whether it is a casual conversation at the register or table, or during the many tasting and cupping events we have hosted at our shop free of charge. And there has been one question that has permeated most of these conversations in one way or another. "Why?" When I first decided to commit 100% to this business model, I knew we must provide our customers with the knowledge to answer the question of “why?”
- Why do we offer the brew methods that we do?
- Why is it important to brew-to-order rather than brew into thermal dispensers?
- What is pressure profiling for espresso and what does that do to the flavor quality of the espresso?
Portola Coffee Lab - Saturday, September 10, 2011
|Coffee on its own is amazing.|
|Beer on its own is amazing.|
Why do this?All coffee has a unique flavor that actually cannot be replicated artificially, and when specific beans are used that have desired taste qualities... then the resulting beer will have a new flavor profile that will be more dynamic and tastier than it was on its own. Similar to a chef adding coffee to chocolate, to cookies, and especially to mole sauce (so good!). Most coffee beers are done with a resulting stout or porter, and those heavier beers have a weight that compliments the more complex qualities that coffee adds to beer. Though Portola Coffee Lab aided in the creation of an unconventional Coffee Blonde using PCL's Ethiopia. It was developed with Tustin Brew Company's brewmaster John Porter. That beer did a great job to show the dynamic range of coffee flavors and how they aren't just heavy and dark. Southern California is emerging as one of the premiere hubs of the craft beer industry. Craft beer = any beer brewed in small batches with a goal of intentionally great flavor and quality. (not Bud Light**) So it makes sense as to why Portola Coffee Lab has had such great relationships with local breweries on a quest to make a great coffee beer. ** = doesn't impress women at all. Breweries such as TAPS Brewery in Brea, Tustin Brew Company in Tustin, Pizza Port Brewing Company in Carlsbad, and The Bruery here in Orange County all are great examples of craft beer. Tustin Brew Co, TAPS and Pizza Port have several great award-winning examples of beers that utilize Portola Coffee Lab Coffee in their brewing process for some outstanding beers. So let's get educated:: (Most of this general information was originally gathered from the beeradvocate.com)
The Basics of Beer Brewing
|Mixing the grain (usually barley in this case) and hot water to start breaking down the enzymes of the grain to get the sugars out. When the water in the mash reaches a particular temperature it activates enzymes that convert starch into sugars.The the grain is then filtered leaving a sugary liquid called the wort. It is kinda like steeping a beer-like tea.|
|Now the resulting wart is boiled t to coagulate the proteins, so that they can be removed during the whirlpool. It also ensures things are sterile so that the beer doesn't end up compromised. It is also during this process that hops are added to affect the flavor of the beer.What flavor does the hops add to the beer? The answer is, it depends on when it is added to the boil.|
|Now it is time to turn these sugars to alcohol. Enter the YEAST! After the wart is done boiling, it is cooled quickly and then the yeast is added. Yeast basically consumes the sugars and converts them to alcohol and has co2 as a byproduct. Once this starts to happen, this liquid can now be called beer.|
|The beer is transferred to a secondary tank so that it is no longer in contact with the dead yeast and the other stuff that has settled at the bottom of the first fermentation tank. You can sometimes conduct this secondary fermentation in beer bottles.|
Portola Coffee Lab - Tuesday, June 07, 2011
We've been open for a week and a half and one of the main things we hear is: "How did you do that design on my drink?" This my friends is Latte Art. Sure you want to know how we pour art, but the better question should be:: "Why did you make that design in my drink?" And the EVEN BETTER question should be: "Can you make that design look like Batman?" So here is the how:: Latte art is the process of using perfectly textured milked to pour a desired design into espresso. When the milk is textured properly it will produce something called "microfoam." Meaning that the steamed milk will the creamy consistency of melted ice cream. [annewatsonphoto] Once that is the case, then the barista uses a steady pour to break up the dark espresso and urge a design into the crema of the espresso extraction. [annewatsonphoto] Here is a video of one of our baristas pouring a practice design. Most common designs:: heart:: [annewatsonphoto] rosetta:: tuplip:: Obviously these drinks look amazing. But the beauty of these latte's also serves as an indicator for how good the drink will taste. Here is why:: If the shot of espresso is extracted improperly, if the milk isn't textured correctly, and if the timing is off on the drink... then the design cannot be poured. And when those factors are off, the drink will also not taste right. So when you see a rosetta on your mocha, you can know that you are about to drink an amazing drink. It has perfect milk, a great extraction of espresso, and you can know that you are in the hands of a professional. Competing on the streets of San Diego Portola had the chance to sent our very own barista, Alex, down to San Diego for a latte art competition. We've barely been open and within the first week, and we have already have had a barista place in the top 8 out of 50 competitors in a nationally recognized barista competition. To say we are proud is an understatement. To get all the details from the event, check out our Portola Tumblr Page, made specifically for updates on our Baristas. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="a sample of the art that was poured in San Diego"][/caption] We are proud of our staff. ::To stalk our amazing baristas, and to keep up to date with the efforts of the Portola Coffee Lab make sure to subscribe to our email list & follow Portola on Tumblr, Twitter or Facebook::
Portola Coffee Lab - Saturday, May 14, 2011
The city has done their inspections and has given it's final green light... it is time for us to open. But before you step foot into our lab, we wanted to make sure you were familiar with the technology that we have been bragging about for the past couple months. Take a sec and re-introduce yourself to these beasts of the coffee industry:: Revelation, a hybrid coffee roaster by U.S. Roaster Corporation Our Coffee Roaster is Saving the Planet Slayer Espresso Machine It's Called SLAYER Hario Halogen-Heated Coffee Siphon A Steampunk Retro Coffee Explosion BUNN Trifecta This is How to Make Coffee in a Flying Car. Kyoto-style Coffee Maker Let's Keep it Iced, Sweet, and Freedom-Loving. Geronimo. Offero Coffee Mugs Jumpsuits, Kitten Heels, and the Smell of Functional Coffee Fashion.
Portola Coffee Lab - Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Heels hurt but look great, that dress keeps flipping up but it’s flattering, and that jacket is cool but has an illogical number of zippers. Fashion is beauty, but not always functional. Look at the current trends for this spring [fashionising]:: jumpsuits kitten-heels Cat-Eyed sunglasses So this season we potentially have a chance to see people with small heels, pointy glasses, and wearing outfits that essentially have the shirts attached to the pants. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="223" caption="As good looking as jumpsuits are, I can only imagine they would make restroom visits difficult."][/caption] Fashion is great when it is beautiful, and it is timeless when it is beautiful and functional. It is why a good pair of jeans will always be in everyone’s closet. It is why Portola's coffee mugs are at the top of coffee fashion. 75% of taste is based on smell. So when you base most of your gustatory enjoyment on the way something hits your nose... It makes sense to have coffee cups that help your nose smell some coffee. Enter Offero Coffee Mugs. Its soft edges and sloped rim are beautiful to look at. It shows off the steaming cup of coffee in a way that makes the whole thing look like its in constant motion. But more importantly is how it shows off the other features of coffee. Just like how a decent pair of Madison Harding 'Casey' espadrilles can show off the wearer’s legs and beach-loving attitude [holly in heels], this cup can finally show off the gentle aroma of the liquid in the cup. Normally tasters place their hand over the edge of a cup to help hold in the smell, but now this sloped rim does that for you. It is basically a built-in artificial hand to shield the aroma, and it is cheaper than hiring someone else to do the same job for you (and less awkward). So when you are wondering if you should be buying a pair of Michael Kors 'Xaria' or if you should try on a pair of Corso Como's 'Palmoar' platforms don't forget that good looking things can be functional as well.
Fashion, shopping and coffee.... What are you doing may 12th?
Check out Locale Magazine’s fashion show at the OC Mart Mix. We’ll be there. What’s your excuse?
Portola Coffee Lab - Wednesday, May 11, 2011