Sharing the Love – 2012 Specialty Coffee Expo

Portland's sunshine on a morning jog

I’ve enjoyed more than a few trips to Portland, Oregon over the years, but this trip might have been my favorite. I’ll secretly admit it’s likely because the smell of coffee may have actually drowned out the smell of other familiar Portland odors, including patchouli, rain, & sweaters that haven’t been washed in days.

Ok, ok, Portland, I’m sorry. You really are hip, fun, and, quite honestly, accepting of everything and anyone, including the random collection of thousands that landed on your doorstep for the Specialty Coffee Expo last week.

Sparkly shiny coffee things - Espresso machine from Nuova Simonelli

Between sips of coffee and beer (my goal being to enjoy over the day in that order), it’s an event every year that I love attending. The sparkly, shiny coffee gear displayed and touchable on the show floor alone is enough to make a coffee lover explode with over-caffeinated joy. But the experience is much more than gear.

Hario syphon brewer. Shiny, sparkly, and flaming!

The specialty coffee world is really cool in a way that’s not common of other industries. There’s a genuine motivation to share knowledge and experience to make everyone better. Even though coffee is a huge industry, the specialty world seems to play like a tight family, motivating everyone from the coffee grower to the roaster to the barista to be the best they can be at their craft. Cue the group hug here.

The whole event is about producing an amazing experience in that final cup that we all love to sip. Classes, lectures, events, and products, plus people in the supply chain from growers, to importers, to roasters, to café owners mingle together to learn and share.

Opening night included a speech by the president of Honduras (wait, what?) gushing about the pride his country has in sharing its coffees with the world, to a latte art “throw down” of baristas going head-to-head with stage-poured drinks. None of it stopped there, of course. This caffeine fueled weekend included numerous events featuring liquids by Portland’s best breweries and distilleries, blow-up-suit sumo wrestling, Portland’s famous food trucks, and very little sleep.

Green Coffee Grading - learning what we don't want in Specialty Coffee

Attention to the daytime classes was thankfully fueled by the Barista Guild coffee bar – a free to sip-as-much-as-you-wish coffee stand in the middle of the show that featured different coffees brewed by some of the best baristas in the country. Anyone could sit to watch the U.S. Barista, Taster, or Brewer competitions, or taste the Coffees of the Year, just to name a few side-shows happening that this 3 ring circus of coffee.

Cupping Course - you haven't lived until you hear a room of 40 slurp and spit

Only one painful memory lingers between the fun and learning, which I soon hope to erase: I found myself trapped in a 3 hour course on coffee decaffeination, with nothing in the room but decaf. Not that decaf isn’t lovely, mind you, but the timing was terrible for me and my partially hung-over, sleep-deprived self. I got through the class, test and all, but I’m going to hold that grudge for a while.

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Holiday Socks and Mountain Tops

There I sat, coffee in hand, my not-to-be-worn-in public 80s fleece socks on my feet, and fantastic morning hair. My headache was thanks to last night’s disproportionate mix of hot cocoa and rum, and too many dips into the bowl of gingerbread house “decorations”.

Rounding out the morning scene was my husband, enjoying his coffee next to me, while we taunted our tweenage son who was trying to pinpoint the much anticipated electronic device that he was really praying the man in a red suit had delivered. In about 30 minutes we’d all be heading off for our Christmas morning ski runs– a tradition in our family.

Gliding up the chairlift for our first run of the day, this hit me in oddly cool way –I realized at that exact moment that all across the country, people were enjoying their morning cup of Lizzy’s.

I’m pretty sure at least one other person was sipping their latte wearing some freaky 80s socks or PJ bottoms that are never allowed to be seen in public. I pictured a family that was up WAY too early, thanks only to their extra spunky 5 year old twin girls, and the grandpa who lingered in the kitchen, strategizing how to sneak another piece of bacon that his wife now forbids him to eat.

Of course I also pictured all the custom coffee labels that were being opened as gifts, and imagined all the people who would be sipping our coffees for the first time.

Yes, I had you all sipping your coffees in your frosted holiday postcard scenes….

A few days later, this picture landed in my email in box.

Rob Landis, enjoying his morning cup of Lizzy's while climbing Aconcagua "Some things are just too important to compromise on."

Not only did it make me feel like a big sandbagger for using my home espresso machine to make my coffee, but it also drew my attention to the fact that on Christmas morning I was actually getting a motor driven ride UP the mountain, which made me a double sandbagger.

Why? Well, this picture was taken on the route up Acongogua. For those of us needing a nudge on our 5th grade geography, that is the highest peak in the Americas. Yes, sissy friends, that’s 22,841 feet of mountain in Argentina, all of which Rob Landis and his friends climbed over the holidays.

December 26th at an elevation of 19,100 feet, Rob enjoyed his morning cup of Lizzy’s, as he’d been doing every morning of his climb.

His friends on the trip looked at him oddly when he first unveiled his 12 oz bag of coffee, as they were a little stumped. What kind of mountain dude ever packs an ounce more than necessary! Maybe all those years of mountain adventure had finally pushed him to the side of crazy. Or, maybe just the opposite happened.

When his climbing mates asked him in disbelief, “You brought coffee?”
Rob’s reply to them simply says it all. “You didn’t?”

Rob, you definitely took the prize for best holiday sipping moment.

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Best of the Year 2011 Photo Contest Winners

What a fun year of pictures it’s been! Frosting covered babies, to dogs on swings and talented balancing acts – why not!?

We have to give a big shout to all the cool photographers who have shared a sliver of their lives with us on the coffee labels this year. Not every picture we receive is lucky enough to make it to the coffee labels (boo hoo) but it really is the best part of every month when we get to unveil the new month’s collection of winning pictures on our coffees.

Nothing makes us more happy than hearing that a cup of our coffee made someone’s day great. The coolest part is that our photographers are right there with us, in kitchens across the country, bringing a little giggle to everyone who gets a bag of Lizzy’s Fresh Coffee. That just rocks.

At year’s end, we leave it up to all our customers and photographers, and their friends and family to vote for the favorite cover shots from the year’s featured pictures. As a last goodbye to the year, these best of the best pictures are on the coffees one last time during the month of December.

So, without further ado, here are the winners you’ve voted Best of the Year for 2011. Congratulations!

Photo: Tara Reifenheiser
Now get out of bed and let's go play!

Photo: Joy Elizabeth Effie
She's been training for this day.

Photo: Waisan Cho
If only my tongue were just one-more-inch...

Photo: Joy Elizabeth Effee
What, mom, you GAVE me the cake.

Photo: Joy Elizabeth Effie
Uhg, these makeup artists just don't know how to get my gloss right.

Photo: Marco Martinez
Swinging with some serious style

++++++++++++ All winning photographers, plus 3 lucky voters have won a coffee gift box of 2 oz coffees, featuring each winning label, and a Lizzy’s mug.

Do you want to enter one of your pictures for a chance to be featured on our coffee in 2012? Do it here: Lizzy’s Fresh Coffee Label Contest

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Best of the Year Label Contest 2011

VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPHERS NOW! VOTING ENDS SUNDAY 11/27/11
6 best pictures from 2011, and 3 random voters win!

VOTE NOW

*****Contest voting works with Firefox and Goggle Chrome*****

11 months of cheeky, and YOU are picking your favorites to win best of the year.

Who wins?
6 photographers (one for each coffee), and 3 voters, picked at random.

The prize?
Freshly roasted Lizzy’s Fresh Coffee gift boxes featuring all 6 winning labels on 2 oz coffees, plus a Lizzy’s porcelain mug.

How to vote for one or more of your favorites:
Click on any picture you’d like to vote for. At the bottom of the picture’s page, give it 1-5 star rating and click “send”. Each “star” counts as one vote, so you can give up to 5 votes for a pic. Return to the contest list to vote for your next choice. Continue in this manner until done making picks.

IMPORTANT!! After you vote you’ll receive a vote confirmation email for each vote you cast to your email inbox. Watch closely-these may go to your spam folder! All you have to do is click the link in the email to confirm your votes – now your votes are officially cast. (Emails come from The Fresh Ride “blog@thefreshride.com”)

VOTE NOW

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The Matchmaker, 8 Tips for Finding Your Coffee Soul Mate

Lately I’ve been watching episodes of a newly discovered show for me called Millionaire Matchmaker. I’m not particularly proud of this, but I just can’t look away from the collection of over-tanned dudes with crazy white teeth attempting to make love connections with the wear-a-party-dress-everywhere-they-go girly girls.

I keep coming back to watch it again, though, because in between the ridiculous, and past the outward appearances, a fair percent of these love-hungry people really are very intelligent, diverse, and downright good people. I find myself cheering for the good guy, telling the smart got-it-all-together chick to move on, and wondering how this clearly lovable man hasn’t found a partner in life yet.

Sit tight, because I’m not about to talk endlessly about the Bravo network, but I totally relate to the challenge the matchmaker faces with each match she attempts to make for her love-hunting clients. When she begins her matchmaking, she always asks the client what they’re searching for in a mate, and they usually answer with a super broad reply like “I like brunettes”.

She grimaces, and then starts surgically extracting more information about their likes, dislikes, and past failures to reach some basic direction to the kind of mate she might find for them.

I totally get the job she has to do. I know I’m not a bedazzled L.A. matchmaker, but not unlike her job, I have to make sense out of the vague, and guide people to their love matches.

My reality TV show? The Coffee Bean Matchmaker – Going on nothing but “I like Colombian”, or “I like a dark roast”, then taking clients from an unsatisfied past with coffee into their newly evolved relationship with the bean.

Are you trying to find your coffee soul mate? Here are a few tips for you to help your matchmaker get you what you’re searching for the next time you visit your favorite coffee roaster.

1. Quality counts. Yep, if you’re searching for an intelligent, loving, athletic, and complex mate, you’re not likely going to find that person at your local Booze-n-Pole at 2 a.m. It’s certainly possible, but let’s agree – not likely. If you’re looking for quality coffee, start with a roaster that roasts quality product.

2. Coffees have endless profiles. Like people, no two coffees are identical. Saying “I like Colombian” is the equivalent of saying “I like Colombian women”. What’s more helpful? Talk about what you liked or disliked about the last Colombian you tried (coffee that is). Describe some of what you tasted, or how it tasted brewed in your French press. A little more information will help the roaster read between the lines.

3. Ask for help. Know that your roaster can send you home with a great coffee in hand, but you can still mess up the relationship big time by using a bad quality grinder, brewer, or random bad habit that will send you to divorce court before the second date. Ask your roaster for grinding, brewing and storing tips to help you score a home run.

4. Don’t assume. If you got dumped by your lady friend, and decided to date her sister in hopes that she’d be exactly the same person, you’re on the wrong track. Just like siblings, a coffee from the same growing region might offer similar qualities, but might not meet your expectations. Even the exact same coffee, from the exact same farmer, the next harvest season can taste different. Weather conditions, harvest timing, and coffee processing can all affect the final result.

5. You have the right to expect consistency. Yep, if you fall in love with her fun jokes, bright personality, and loving attention, you don’t want to wake up to bridezilla six months from now. Just the same, a coffee roaster’s blends, although constantly evolving with changing harvests or availability, should always land where expected in terms of what is delivered in your cup. A roaster producing signature blends will tweak them with careful tasting and testing to keep the similar experience on track over the seasons. A single origin from the same lot should stay consistent with each fresh batch during the limited months it’s available, but likely expect changes when the new harvest arrives the next year.

6. Get to know her background. I don’t believe that a person should be judged by her family, but the reality is that what goes on behind the scenes of a roasterie are things you can ask about. What is the roaster’s experience level? What kind of ongoing training do they do? What kind of roasting system is used? Is the roaster’s process certified organic? If you like what you’re sipping, then maybe none of this matters, but when wooing a new mate these things help paint a more complete picture about what can be expected as your relationship grows.

7. How old is she? Yes, it might be rude to ask a woman’s age, but if you wanna have some little ones running around your house in the coming years, you’ll probably want to know how that biological clock is doing. Coffee is no exception. Ask its age every time, and only go for the fresh stuff. It should be right there in front of you on the bag or roasterie bin. If it’s not, don’t date.

8. Finally, don’t be afraid to play the field. Those willing to try new things will often be rewarded most. Coffee origins, blends, and roast degrees will all contribute to the flavor in your cup, so try to find the coffee personality that makes you giggle most. This includes brew methods. Be open to drip, pour over, press or espresso if you have the chance to explore. Some will find their true love and form a committed relationship, while others may prefer switching it up all the time. Whatever your style, coffee is totally cool either way.

Most of all, have fun, and happy dating…uhh….errr….sipping.

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Snapshooter Profile October

Check out our latest featured photographer! Greg Ha won our October “Sunriser” label spot, and it looks like all those hours in the photo lab as a kid have paid off…at least this month!

Name: Greg Ha, MD
Home Town: Bend, OR

What’s your story? When I was in high school my siblings and I built a black and white photo lab inside our house. I spent many hours there thinking that maybe someday I would be a professional photographer for a magazine like National Geographic. I never got that good at photography, but I do still love taking pictures.

What’s your favorite thing to photograph?
My favorite thing to photograph by far is my daughter Samantha. She has taught me that you have to take a lot of photographs to get one good photograph.

Greg's winning Sunriser picture

What would you say to someone else about the Lizzy’s Fresh Label contest?
I would encourage anyone to enter the Fresh Label Contest. Fun for the coffee lover and photographer in all of us.

Oh yes, what’s your favorite way to drink your coffee?
My favorite way to drink my coffee is not necessarily the way I make my coffee. Although I love my french press and newly acquired vacuum pot, it’s having the time for each step when making my coffee. Weighing the beans, grinding the beans, pressing the pot, and drinking it without having to rush out the door.

Where can our readers see more of your photography? No blog, website, or Flickr page, but maybe I’ll just have to enter the contest again!
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Do you have the perfect shot for one of the Lizzy’s Fresh Coffee labels? Submit it for a chance to win the cover of one of our coffees a free month of coffee! Go to www.lizzysfreshcoffee.com to submit online now.

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Snapshooter Profile August

Check out our latest featured photographer! Marco Martinez’s snapshot won the August “Swinger” coffee label, and we love his perspective on the long relationship of coffee+art.

Name: Marco A. Martínez
Home Town: White Bear Lake, MN

What’s your story? Are you a pro-photographer, or a weekend snapshooter, or something in between? I’ve been into photography for a few years now. I started when my oldest son was born out of the need to document his life, from the banal to the extraordinary, recording every milestone and accomplishment. Along the way, I immersed myself more into photography, reading and experimenting with this new medium (I used to write quite often) of expression. It has been a very rewarding experience that has touched all aspects of my life. Photography has become a lifelong pursuit.

What’s your favorite thing to photograph?
I love taking portraits. There is much to learn about people in general when you take their portrait: you strive to make a connection with those you photograph, to learn something special and unique about them. I “specialize” in child photography because, well, my two children have been my main subjects. I also do macro photography on occasion.

Marco's Winning "Swinger" Label

What would you say to someone else about the Lizzy’s Fresh Label contest?
That it is a very unique way to bring two awesome things together: great coffee and photography. I’m reminded how many coffee shops support artists and their art work. One can walk into almost any coffee shop and appreciate the work of local artists: paintings, photographs, and other crafts. And what about Open Mic! So, the Fresh Label contest, in essence, continues this long relationship between artisan coffee and the arts. In both places you find the same thing: passion.

Oh yes, what’s your favorite way to drink your coffee?
Dark. And bitter.

Where can our readers see more of your photography? My Flickr Photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/marco_a_m/ or my JPG Profile http://jpgmag.com/people/MarcoA.

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Do you have the perfect shot for one of the Lizzy’s Fresh Coffee labels? Submit it for a chance to win the cover of one of our coffees a free month of coffee! Go to http://www.lizzysfreshcoffee.com/molaphco.html to submit online now.

Snapshooter Profile May

Check out our latest featured photographer! Joy Elizabeth Effie’s snapshot won the May “B*Day” coffee label, and she admits to a photography obsession.

Name: Joy Elizabeth Effie
Home Town: La Mesa, California

What’s your story? Are you a pro-photographer, or a weekend snapshooter, or something in between? Definitely, “something in between”. I’ve always loved photography & taken many photos, but it wasn’t until the world of digital that my interest became an obsession.

What’s your favorite thing to photograph?
Besides my children, which are my greatest inspiration, I would say portraits or candids where I like to capture emotion or a sparkle in others!

Joy Elizabeth's winning "B*Day" snapshot

What would you say to someone else about the Lizzy’s Fresh Label contest?
It’s an honor to be chosen for the label, but once I tasted Lizzy’s coffee, I really felt like a winner for how great it tastes! Plus, my daughter turned 7 this May which was the same month that her 1 year old birthday cake photo was chosen so, the timing was awesome & bragging rights have been pretty cool, too!

Oh yes, what’s your favorite way to drink your coffee?
Besides brewed with cinnamon & a splash of cream, a simple pleasure I greatly appreciate is that first sip in the morning as I sit at the computer to read the news, catch up on Facebook & Flickr, then post-process my photos … a delightful combination! An additional treat I occasionally indulge in is that of an afternoon pick-me-up blended Frap. Mmm … delish!

Where can our readers see more of your photography? My Flickr Photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/joyelizabeth

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Do you have the perfect shot for one of the Lizzy’s Fresh Coffee labels? Submit it for a chance to win the cover of one of our coffees a free month of coffee! Go to http://www.lizzysfreshcoffee.com/molaphco.html to submit online now.

How to Brew Strong Drip Coffee – 5 Tips

Every day I talk to customers who need a little help picking one of our coffees to brew at home.

To get an idea of what they might like, I ask them if there’s a coffee they’ve tried in the past that they really enjoyed. More than half the time, they reply that they don’t really know….they just know they like “strong” coffee.

Instead of easily pointing them to their coffee soul mate from there, I have to explain that we’re going to be chatting for a minute or two….

Why is that?
Well, “strong” is not a “flavor” – It’s a degree of the brewed intensity of what ends up in the cup. If you think about it…absolutely any flavor can be “strong”, right?

So then flavor preference is the question we’re trying to answer, right? Yes! Here are some examples:
Do you like the flavor of smoke, as in a dark roast, perhaps from Brazil?
Do you like the flavor of fruit, as in the blueberry taste of an Ethiopian Harrar?
Do you like the flavor of well balanced coffee deliciousness….as in a killer coffee blend?

Oooohh, now it makes sense! Flavor is what we’re trying to hone in on when selecting a roasted coffee, and to what intensity we choose to brew the coffee is a decision we can make at home.

Here’s the little fantasy bubble: Think of yourself at the gym (ok, yeah, I said fantasy): When you do squats, you can use the 1lb weights or you could use the 100 lb weights. You’re still doing squats either way, it’s just that with the 1 lb weights you’re doing the Diary of a Wimpy Kid version, and with the 100 lb weights, well, you’re doing the bad-ass version. Coffee brewing is exactly the same!

Flavor you like= type of exercise you pick
Strength you like = how much weight you decide to use in that chosen exercise

Here’s a quick science-dork moment when it comes to brewing drip coffee:
Generally enjoyable brewed drip coffee is around 98.75% water, and about 1.25% coffee. Yeah, I know, shocker! The optimal flavor zone is reached when we dissolve about 18-22% of the particles in coffee (only 30% can even BE dissolved).

OK, ok, here’s what you’ve been waiting for…
“Just Tell Me How to Brew Strong Coffee” explanation for drip brewing:

Step 1: Always make sure you’re using fresh coffee. Hint: Starting with old coffee is the equivalent of starting a ski race without your skis on! You have no hope, dude. If you want a chance at a medal, start with freshly roasted coffee less than 2 weeks from its roasting date.

Step 2: Use the right amount of coffee-to-water ratio, based on your taste. Generally, that’s 1-2 Tablespoons per 6 oz “cup” of coffee. Yes, you’ve got it – those are the little lines and numbers on the side of your brewer’s water tank. By weight, 1T coffee = 7 grams. So 1T per cup would be mild brew-strength, and 2 T per cup would be more intense brew-strength.

Step 3: Grind before brewing using a burr grinder. Coffee loses flavor sooo quickly once ground. I know – for some, the convenience of pre-grinding just can’t be outweighed. You get to decide how much flavor ends up in your cup, after all, so know the facts: Grinding right before brewing =more flavor & aroma in your cup. Blade grinders make “boulders and dust” coffee grounds, while a burr grinder makes a nice uniform grind, and therefore yummier tasting coffee. For drip, you want a medium grind.

Step 4: Brew using fresh, clean filtered water. Water tastes bad? So will your coffee. Last I checked, the strong taste of chlorine wasn’t on the top 10 list. Your machine should brew between 195-205 degrees F. Water colder than that will result in weak tasting coffee, and over that temp will result in a burnt, bitter taste. Brewing should take about 6 minutes for the optimal extraction (remember, you’re trying to dissolve 18-22% of the ground coffee). Be sure you’ve found a brewer that can actually deliver the right temp from start to finish. Hint: Drip brewers are really made to brew for a crowd. If you’re brewing one cup at a time, you’re better off using a pour-over or press pot.

Step 5: Sip and enjoy the best flavor your coffee has to offer with your perfect balance of strength and extraction. Yummy!

Squats anyone?

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