Rock Star in the House!

Hanging out with the peeps

If you’ve ever been in the presence of someone who’s truly great at what they do, it can be remarkable. Greats come in all forms. Some greats let their egos ride shotgun, and others glide with calm humility and a humble tone to their achievements. This week I had the pleasure of working side by side with the latter.

When reading the coffee resume of Sammy Piccolo, it’s almost impossible to avoid hearing the announcer, seeing the crazed entrance lights and picturing the screaming fans in your head. A successful coffee business founder, Canadian national barista champion, and world class competitor in the coffee world…and absolutely none of that comes through his welcoming handshake, warm greeting, and offer to make you any coffee you’d like.

Last Wednesday at my store Sammy became our guest barista, and wowed the crowd with his insane latte art, practically pouring each cup with his eyes closed. Yes, I’m still at that phase where I can’t pour and speak at the same time, not to mention remove one of my senses entirely, so call me impressed for sure.

We cracked open some of the simplest and best brewing equipment too, proving that you don’t have to go broke to enjoy a delicious cup of coffee.

Sammy talks about steaming milk

Truly the best part of the day was watching my customers stream in the door, bringing friends, enjoying their coffees, laughing, sharing and learning. I’ve said it before, but it’s too true….Coffee just brings people together. It’s so joyful, so fun, and just about as simple as it gets. Thanks Sammy for hanging out with us here in Ketchum Idaho! You’re welcome back any time.

Coffe (martinis) bring people together...hey it was after 5!

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To Freeze?

Where to store these little jewels?

Where to store these little jewels?

“Should I store my coffee in the freezer?”
Without a doubt, this is the most frequently asked question I get from customers, so here it is….the unfrozen answer…..

Picture this…..There you are at the bakery. You point to the clerk…”I’d like one of those, and one of those, and one of those.” Just baked, and still just room temperature you run home to throw the perfectly delicious raspberry almond, peach, and strawberry pastries into the freezer so they will stay “fresh” for your afternoon coffee party with friends. You go to the freezer 6 hours later to pull your pastries out to thaw in time for your guests’ arrival. Not only are they hard as a rock, but they now smell like the Dino-Nuggets and fish sticks wedged deep in the freezer 18 months ago. You pretend like this doesn’t bother you, and let the baked goods thaw at room temperature, only to find that when finally thawed, the flaky crust, and chewy center, and fresh fruit have been turned into a soggy, flat and sad excuse for the once amazing baked goods you purchased earlier that day. Sure they still taste pastry-like, but you’ve moved them from a “10” to a “6” at best. Your friends officially think you suck, and would like never to be invited for afternoon coffee at your house again.

So what the does that have to do with coffee besides the fact that it’s coffee hour? Everything. If you are going to buy freshly roasted coffee (I mean freshly roasted, like in the past 1-3 days), and you’re going to be able to drink what you’ve purchased over the next 8-13 days, don’t put it in the freezer. Yes, a pastry’s freshness window is really only about 12 hours, whereas coffee is about 2 weeks, so adjust your imagination accordingly. If you can drink the coffee you have purchased during its freshness window, simply store in an airtight, opaque container and normal room temperature. Enjoy it every day until it’s gone. If your coffee came in a foil coffee bag with a one way degassing valve on it, and can be closed well, that’s also a great way to store it.

If you can’t drink the fresh coffee you’ve purchased within the 2 week freshness window, then here are your options. (Pay attention…none of this matters one bit if you’ve purchased old coffee already.)
1. Don’t care, and know that your coffee’s flavor will deteriorate during the time it takes you to drink it. Keep it all stored at room temp in an airtight container.
2. Try to make it better, and take the portion that you can’t drink in 2 weeks and store it in your freezer in an airtight, opaque container. Enjoy the fresh portion you’ve kept out at room temperature until it’s gone. Once your room-temperature stores have depleted, remove your frozen portion from the freezer, and store and use at room temperature from then on. Know that your frozen coffee’s flavor will be less amazing than the freshly -roasted-never-frozen-version of itself. Don’t expect your coffee to hold on in the freezer for longer than a month.

The most important thing to realize is that making a hybrid version of the above is a terrible idea.….thinking that by just KEEPING your coffee in the freezer day after day, that it will stay better. Not true! We all know that anything we freeze changes in texture and taste. Loaf of bread? That Marlin you caught in Cabo last fall? You get the point.

Think of it this way. You’re a young 15 year old girl has just discovered makeup (ok, hang with me here). You ever-so-slightly apply some mascara and eyeshadow to your eyes to highlight their green color, then brush a little lip gloss onto your perfect little lips to brighten your amazing smile. You go out on a date looking this way, and you’re georgeous. The world acknowledges your undeniable beauty and radiance, and compliments come from every angle. The next day, still enjoying yesterday’s compliments, you think to yourself “if some makeup was that awesome, then I’ll, like, just put more on, and everyone will think I’m INCREDIBLE!”

Nope. Wrong. Now you look like a hooker, and not the “good” kind. Don’t turn your coffee into a street walking train wreck by keeping it stored in the freezer. (You know who you are…you have that half-sealed bag sitting in there right now. Every day it goes in and out of the freezer, forms condensation on the beans, picks up the freezer’s odors, and breaks down the fantastic flavor and aroma characteristics to the point where your coffee just tastes like the old ice cubes on the top shelf behind the sad frozen open bag of broccoli).

The best world scenario is to buy only what you need for 2 weeks, get it fresh, treat it with respect, and enjoy it until it’s gone. Then, buy more fresh coffee and do it all over again. Think of the freezer as an emergency situation that’s only brought in when you get invited on a sudden beach vacation to Baja. When you get back, you’ll still be basking in your sun-tanned look and post Tequila fogginess, so you have a few days to burn up the frozen stuff before your brain kicks in to reality and tells you it’s time to buy more fresh coffee.

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Snapshooter Profile December

Check out this month’s featured photographer, Michael Bryan….

Photographer Name: Michael Bryan
Home Town: Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Michael Bryan_06-2009

Michaels of 3 winning snapshots voted by our customers

Michaels of 3 winning snapshots voted by our customers

Would you say you’re a snapshot taker, or a pro, or something in between?
I would say I am somewhere between a serious amateur and a pro.

What kinds of pictures do you enjoy taking?
I really enjoy shooting macro’s, especially of flowers, but I am expanding my horizons a bit and starting to do more landscape shots. My photos can be seen on Flickr at mbryan777. In fact my Lizzy’s Fresh Coffee label is featured there.

Have you had a chance to share your fame, or your coffee with others?
I’ve been sending bags of Lizzy’s coffee to friends and family and they like it!

And last but not least…how do you take your coffee?
I like my coffee strong, so I grind it fine. Then I add a bit of hazelnut creamer.

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Who Invited the Russian Judge?

I am the Russian Judge. It’s possible I’ve been bribed by Don Carlos, or the little girl I call the Candy Lord (she’s mastered the art of manipulation using her endless supplies of hard candies). I can be bought, and I know nothing of what I speak. I could hold up a “10” when all the other judges are holding a “6”. Just stand back and be ready to gasp at the results….

Breathing a big sigh of relief I woke up from this morning reality TV dream and got my bearings. It was day 2 in Monserrate, Colombia, and I was there to judge 59 coffee farmers’ hard work with a sniff, a slurp, and a pencil. The top 5 winners would take home cash prizes, and enjoy extra per-pound profits as a result, not to mention earn the respect and envy of every neighbor on the coffee growing hill top. That’s a lot of pressure, and the hopes and dreams of these coffee farmers were waiting on the judgment of 9 people, one being me.

My dream wasn’t far off, because among the room of judges were experienced Q Graders, coffee roasters with several years’ experience, and coffee industry professionals who’ve collectively slurped and spit more coffee than I’ve roasted in my career.

So here’s the gig: “Cupping” is the act of “tasting” coffee. There is a strict protocol to create an equal playing field for the coffees to compete. All must have been roasted the same way, ground the same, measured to precisely 12 grams, brew using water at 203 degrees for exactly 4 minutes, and then be tasted on characteristics ranging from aroma to acidity to body to aftertaste, among others. Scores are tallied and compiled to widdle these 59 coffees down to the top 10 on the final day for a showdown between the best.

I tentatively dipped my spoon into the first cup of joe for a slurp. Nope, it’s not a dainty act. It’s a big airy suck of wind that sprays the coffee into your mouth in order to expose all the flavors the coffee has to offer. A quick swish and the coffee is spit into my personal little spit-cup. Within that mini-moment, I’m supposed to get my head around that coffee. Does it taste like mango dancing in the sunlight of a lemon field laced with a cashew velvet? It was up to me to decide.

At first it was really really hard, and although I wasn’t completely off base, I felt like my assessments were contrived and unnatural. I talked with the others as they all gave me tips on what “body” really felt like, on what number to assign “aroma” and how to detect what really was a “nuttiness”. I was really trying to pick apart every bit of the coffee and mechanically decipher its features and benefits (the downfall of being a boxes and squares kind of gal). I quickly realized this just wasn’t going to work for me, and began wondering where the bribers were hiding because I was pretty sure my vote could be bought at that point.

We came back to the cupping table number 2 and I just decided that I was going to block out all the noise and words that I was trying to put to the coffee and just taste. The clouds parted, and I believe the Virgin herself paid me a visit because all of a sudden this coffee cupping pace gained a momentum and ease that could only be matched by a near effortless downhill ski run in fresh powder. I know, cheesy, huh? But really….just the same. If someone would tell you how to ski and describe every angle of the turn from your knees’ degree of bend, to the pressure assigned to each foot, to the intensity of the grip on your pole, you’d crack. Your first turn would end with a faceplant and yardsale. But instead, if you eased up, let go, and just felt the snow and what it needed to provide you a pillow upon which to arc your perfectly glossed boards? Pure Warren Miller ski movie magic baby.

In two and a half days of tasting, some tables were easier than others, but I seemed to be getting it. Even though my descriptions of the coffees lacked more than 3 adjectives, I could say yum, yuck, and so-so to every coffee on the table right at pace with the group. They taught me so much, gave me so much insight, and made me happy that I wasn’t the only one who could accidentally dip my nose into the cup, or choke on a slurp.

The grand finale was on the final round when we discussed our rankings of the coffees at the table. I knew which coffees I liked and wanted to share with my customers, and I knew what I didn’t like. I learned that not everyone has the same favorite, but I also realized that when a coffee was great, it was great. It was such a joy to realize we’d all voted on the winning coffee when all 9 of our hands went up in unison, and I was not, in fact, that crazy Russian Judge at all. Suck that Candy Lord.

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Just a Tiny Giggle

I have a constant running joke going on in my head as I take in the quirks and comedy around me, even in situations that aren’t quirky or comedic, like, say, the Olympics these last 2 weeks. Impressive athletes, every one of them, but isn’t there something just too funny to ignore about the gymnastic dismount salute, or the fact that the US relay team didn’t hold on to a 1.5″ inch stick, as though they’ve had no practice with objects of that shape? Just saying. Continue reading

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Girls from Idaho mostly arent fantastically savvy big city freeway drivers. I can point my mountain bike straight down a trail and hit speeds that might make some people puke, but theres something about bobbing and weaving between 5 lanes of traffic while going well above the 65 mph speed limit that makes me a little uncomfortable. I was on my big adventure to visit my coffee supplier last week, though, so I sucked it up and became best friends with the voice on my $9 per day GPS. If you dont know where youre going and the digital voice inside a plastic box thats plugged into your cigarette lighter can tell you how to get there, listen. She knowsyou dont. Continue reading

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Two Hands, Stupid

Have you ever fallen off a moving treadmill? I did this once. Not that it was actually falling off, but it was more like an attempt to get on the moving apparatus that caused the situation. Its not often that I find myself jogging at the gym on the treadmill. Its something I save for frigid winter days when theres no option to go outside for a little ski or something. Anyway, there I was about 3 minutes into my jog, completely annoyed that I was watching Gun Dog: Bird Hunters on the TV with an out of range remote control in my hand. Bugged by my inability to control my environment, I stepped off the moving treadmill to walk up to the TV to get the thing to change to something more appropriate, like todays Oprah, for example. Should I have asked the man 2 treadmills over if this was ok? Maybe, and this is probably why karma took control in the next moments. Continue reading

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Science or Art?

Flip red switch to on position, temperature control to high, ensure fire extinguisher is nearby. This is how the instructions for my new in-home coffee roaster read. Great, Im going to burn the house down because Im too lame to buy coffee at the store. I decided to stop there and back up about 20 steps. Now that I had the equipment that could actually turn out a decent roast, I needed to match my coffee roasting skills to it. This wasnt cave-girl and the popcorn popper anymore. Continue reading

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The Good Stuff

Certain things in life are saved for those of us who fit into descriptive categories like “artsy fartsy” and “clog wearing”. It would be reasonable to say that I am not a fit for either of these categories, and may be as far away from them as a person can get since I’m mostly amused by rules, process, boxes and squares.

Without offending those who seem to have a knack for colorful dress, or choosing Dutch-inspired safety footwear, I might suggest that the above two categories fit with types who make their own kitchen gadgets from materials grown in their own gardens, or drink breakfast juices from green plants that would send my allergies so far into outer space that I’d need a moon sized Zyrtec to stop the itch that’s taken the place of my eyeballs, or think it’s a good plan to roast their own coffee beans in a “not intended for that purpose” popcorn popper out in their back yards just so they can have fresh coffee every week. Wait, what? Continue reading

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Hair and Cake

That was how it started ( the first post first, starts from the bottom up:)). I was on a big high with the thought of starting and running my own business. The only problem was I didn’t know what I was going to sell. How does a person figure that out? I only knew one thing for sure, and I learned it from the companies I’d worked for in the past. If you’re not authentic, you’re just another company trying to sell stuff. People don’t believe in your stuff if you don’t truly have a connection with what you’re selling. It’s just that simple to me. I had to feel personally connected to what it was that would become the core of my business, and something I loved as much as a family member. This would become my adopted child, and I never wanted to be embarrassed about it in public or have to ask for my money back. Continue reading

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