Photo Menu: Pilot Coffee Roasters

Last week, Toronto based Pilot Coffee Roasters, was introduced to the Seattle community at the La Marzocco Cafe. Pilot’s vision is simple, “to roast great coffee and work with great people to do it.”  Nat Fried, Head of Accounts and Eric Mahovlich, Head Barista at Pilot’s Tasting Bar were tasked with the job of reproducing the taste and feel of their Toronto cafes here in Seattle. Both spent several days working with our team and meeting our guests. We can easily say they are some of the “great people” who are carrying out Pilot’s vision and are grateful for their hard work. Pilot’s menu will fuel us through the holidays and into the new year. As a Canadian company, they know what it takes to keep folks warm and happy and we’re confident their menu will do just that! Read along for the highlights.

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Pilot’s menu follows a “build your own” format with three coffee options:

First, Anthem. Guided by balance and sweetness when creating this blend, Anthem has notes of cherry and chocolate.  Second, the Guatemala Catalan de las Mercedes, or “Gesha – Black Honey” is a limited edition single origin by producer Nicholas Hammond that is honey processed, which leaves a heavy sweetness with delicate floral notes and a clean mouthfeel. Finally, the Costa Rica Sumava de Lourdes is a single origin by producer Francisco Mena that is silky with notes of fig and milk chocolate. Pilot also provides a coffee for those who can’t do caffeine: Catalyst. Using Swiss Water Process, this coffee is naturally decaffeinated but still provides a smooth drink with notes of caramel and chocolate.

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Once guests decide on a coffee, they can decide on which method they would like it to be brewed. Options include straight espresso, espresso with steamed milk or water, and pourover.

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When tasked with bringing Pilot to Seattle, Nat Fried wanted to create a series of drinks that would take our guests on a sensory journey across Canada. He created four Coffee Cocktails to be served through the residency. These cocktails will be prepared to order for cafe guests along the back bar:

The East. Coffee is brewed using the pourover method and is permeated with cascara smoke while brewing. Meanwhile a “seafoam” of housemade blueberry simple syrup, pure maple syrup and sea salt is created using an immersion blender. This is then scooped onto the brewed coffee creating a sweet and salty, warm and cold representation of the Eastern Canadian provinces.

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The Central. Combines coffee brewed via Aeropress, barrel-aged bitters, apple and cinnamon simple syrup and ice, and is finished with a twist of orange zest.

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The Prairie. A cappuccino that begins with a shot of espresso brewed over wildflower honey. Molasses bitters are then added to milk and the two are steamed together and poured into the espresso. The drink is served in a 6 oz mug with a small glass of the steamed molasses milk and a sample of the wildflower honey on the side.

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The West–or Cranberry Espresso Sour. Combines a double shot of espresso, demerara syrup, pure cranberry juice and egg whites into a cocktail shaker which is then precisely shaken and strained into a coupe glass and topped with finely ground espresso.

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Pilot’s menu also includes a selection of teas from Sloane Fine Tea Merchants. Guests can choose from their Signature Black, Classic Green or Citron Chamomile.

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Finally, Pilot’s Hot Chocolate, made using Soul Chocolate ganache, is smooth, buttery and sure to put anyone in a festive mood.

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Pilot will be in residence until January 9th. To see Pilot’s full menu head here and be sure to follow along this month on our cafe Instagram and Twitter!

Is Grind Particle Size the Elephant in the Room?

With the proliferation of new or revitalized coffee (e.g. pourover, vac pots, Chemex, press pot, etc.) and espresso (soft preinfusion, pressure manipulation) brew methods, one can now enjoy a wide array of taste profiles on the same coffee prepared in different ways. In conjunction with innovations in green coffee supply chain, this is even more relevant. However, there appears to be a lack of standardized preparation methodologies and standardized assessments (both qualitative and quantitative) for these popular brewing methods. This has led to a wide degree of differences among common industry practices and resulting cup qualities.  One of these variables is grind particle size.

For whatever reason, coffee grind particle size has not been “as” fiercely discussed in the spotlight as many other topics e.g. PID, much less a common conclusion. Yet, appropriate grind size can be the limiting factor to a quality beverage. There are no grind size standards or protocol for various brew methods set forth by leading industry groups (though there is a brief grind size specification on SCAA’s cupping protocol). Worst of all, the grind size markings on any grinder are inconsistent (grinders among same brand or even in the same model), non-standardized, and non-transferable. Further, the markings become even less relevant as the burrs wear down over its lifespan.

There are Rotaps and other sieve shakers available for the purpose of grind particle size and distribution analysis. Unfortunately, they are inherently expensive, bulky/heavy, and prohibitive in wider adoption (they’re meant for labs).

Coffee grind sizer

Alas, there is the Coffee Grind Sizer. This mini Rotap first made its quiet debut a few years back but, for whatever reason, never made a splash. The beauty of this product are its relative cheap price tag and portability. Exporting refined brewing parameters from the roasting/cupping lab to retail environments can be done with exactness and ease.

To use, pop open the cap and fill it with coffee, then shake it like a rainstick (dancing to music might help). You will end up with coffee grinds separated by size in 5 compartments. Such particle size distribution by weight profile can be used to, for example, compare grinder consistency, burr wear, standardize brew parameters, etc.

More post(s) on usage and applications of the coffee grind sizer will come in the near future. In the meantime, if you have an extra $200, check out one of these and see what you can come up with.

Stumptown Producers Panel

Aleco and famers/exporters from Colombia, Kenya, and Costa Rica sitting across from baristas, shop owners, and consumers. Can the supply chain be any shorter than this?

Over the weekend, Stumptown Coffee Roasters hosted the Producers Panel, a presentation and discussion on the state of the coffee industry on the producers side. For those who have not had the opportunity to visit origin, this was a fantastic way to meet those responsible for their dedication and hard work on the other end of the supply chain. The panel took place at Seattle University, which was followed by a tasting of the coffee represented by the panelists at Stumptown’s nearby cafe & roastery. Coffees were enjoyed on the espresso machine (as single origin espressos), chemex, and pourover.

Even if you have been in the industry for some time (but haven’t visited origin yet), this has to be a sobering experience. In his own words, Ngatia, a coffee farmer from Karatina, Nyeri in Kenya, passionately spoke of how Stumptown and a small handful of other progressive coffee roasters are purchasing their coffees through the “second window” in Kenya’s coffee exchange. This enables him and his coop to receive up to twice as much for their above par quality coffees. Through their collaboration with Stumptown, Ngatia’s coop was able to increase their production by about 40% in the past couple years and is on track to almost double their current level in the coming year.

The farmers were very grateful for such progressive roasters to work with them via the direct trade model, and just as so for this opportunity to visit Portland and Seattle and meet those who enjoy their work. In fact, for most of them, this was their first trip outside of their respective countries.

This event has become an annual tradition at Stumptown. Hopefully, this will also be commonplace at other roasters as well.

What’s Next?

It’s been almost 3 years since Stumptown has opened their beautiful roasting facility and cafes in Seattle. No matter which roaster you work for or which coffee you prefer, it’s undeniable that Stumptown has had a profound influence over Seattle’s coffee scene. Without getting into who’s coffee is better and whatnot, it’s fair to say that everybody has been upping their game for sure. To that, more power to them all.

Stumptown Seattle's Mistral.
Stumptown Seattle’s Mistral.

This brings up an interesting question – with the proliferation of 3rd wave coffee, what’s next? 4th wave? What are the parameters of this next stage of evolution?

With the way things are brewing (bada bing!), direct trade and ultra attentive sourcing will result in brewing methods that highlight such extensive work. These may include single origin espresso and single origin coffees by the cup via various methods e.g. pourover, chemex, press pot, etc. Equipment-wise, this means new coffee brewers and espresso machines that enable greater control over soft preinfusion and pressure profiling. Though there has not been an entire industry consensus on merits or standards of soft preinfusion and pressure profiling (whether on a Mechanical Paddle La Marzocco, Synesso, or Slayer), things are trickling in.

Advanced soft preinfusion (soft preinfusion with pressure manipulation) in its various forms have shown what’s possible to date. It doesn’t necessarily work on all coffees and, in the end, it’s still in the tongue of the beholder. In words, it’s hella debatable! The results have been impressive for us – espressos tend to be much more softer and rounded, without sacrificing its core delicacies e.g. brightness, acidity, etc. Hopefully, as more advanced soft preinfusion machines (Mechanical Paddle La Marzoccos and Slayer) find their way onto coffee bars, a better consensus can result.

However, advanced soft preinfusion is but only an incremental step towards total control a.k.a. true pressure profiling (that is, infinitely variable pressure from zero to your desired maximum brew pressure throughout the extraction process). Whatever the technology (or the lack thereof) that will get an espresso machine there, more power to it. After all, it’s all about what’s in the cup that truly matters. Well, it’s also about reproducibility as well. It’s rather difficult to use either advanced soft preinfusion or pressure profiling to make every espresso shot in a busy cafe. It’s just not practical!

To date, no production machine has been able to truly enable true pressure profiling. To that end, La Marzocco is working on a brand new, true pressure profile machine. A prototype was shown at this year’s SCAA on a down low basis and there’s field tests/feedback going on to get maximum input and feedback from those that will ultimately use it. All we can say is, watch out for it in 2010!

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