Category: coffee

Steeped coffee from Santa Cruz – what’s new.

Podcast – Talking steeped coffee with Josh Wilbur of Steeped Coffee – Santa Cruz, California –

We spoke with Josh Wilbur, brainchild behind the “Steeped Coffee” concept just out of beautiful Santa Cruz California.

Hey. People love coffee. I love coffee and have been talking about it for over 20 years

Just when I think I have run out of things to talk about, something interesting comes down the pipe.

And that is Steeped Coffee.

Steeped Coffee has just launched, arguably, the easiest way to make a great cup of coffee with their fully compostable single-serve bags.

Steeped Bags replace the need for wasteful pods, expensive machines, and time-consuming homebrewing equipment. And for the first time, this new brewing method combines the quality and ethics of specialty coffee with the convenience of a single serving. Not only that but the packaging is Earth friendly too! Wait, what?

My lab mates and I tried some free samples of the Steeped coffee product recently – simply following the dead simple instructions – Hey, if you can make a cup of tea you can make a darn fine cup of coffee. As the press info goes: “Each portion is delivered in a fully compostable nitro sealed packet for freshness, essentially halting the coffee’s aging process so it’s like it was ground within moments.” And we found this to be true. Just ground freshness in an envelope.

As Josh pointed out in our audio interview: “Sometimes simplicity is the most difficult thing to achieve. I came up with this idea 7 years ago—knowing that there should be an easier way to make great coffee. When I first started it was just coffee in a tea bag,” said Josh Wilbur, CEO and Founder. “There’s a reason this hasn’t been done before. We had to innovate to account for a number of factors such as sourcing ethical and quality beans, getting the right grind size and density, maintaining the freshness of ground coffee, controlling the water permeability of the filter, and making sure everything we do is environmentally sustainable. Turns out there were a lot of challenges to overcome to make something this simple work.”

Whoa. We love it when a plan comes together.

In our lab at the University of Victoria, we enjoy great coffee every day. We grind and brew for Hario V60 brews as well as Newco pro drip brewers. In a pinch it would be nice to have a slightly faster process that we can count on in a pinch – and have a clear conscience too! We have reviewed numerous “instant brew” type machines with PODS and such that are a blight on the environment. Steeped Coffee has thought it through and brought us something that we can live with. And a product that tastes good. Stay tuned!

For more information, visit Steeped Coffee online.

Podcast – If you cannot see the HTML audio player above, click here for the mp3 download.

The Nespresso Inissia pod system and the convenience of now

I get many offers of coffee machines to test in exchange for a review – or a machine in exchange from one of the many online companies offering a selection of coffee products.

The folks at New York City and Berlin based were good enough to send a very significant supply of coffee samples and arrange for an Inissia machine to test them on and for me to keep, cherish and redistribute however I saw fit. Great deal.

So – my review of the Innisia is over here – and it is worth a spin before proceeding with the rest of these follow up observations.

OK – here is the big upside of Nespresso pod coffee. It is convenient and fast. It reduces the planning for coffee to a push of a single button. Feel like coffee? Get out some pods and fill and power up the machine. There is little more than a minute and a half of waiting while the unit heats up. I like to heat up my cups before I start brewing shots from the Nespresso so that might take a few more moments of your time. So, if you are absolutely and positively in a hurry and have to have your coffee right now, this might be the way to go.

The quality of the Nespresso coffee pods is good, annoying good in some ways when you compare it to other methods of brewing. From a technical stand point, there is not quite enough coffee in each pod to balance the mount of water that the Nespresso pushes through. I noticed that the Gourmesso pods contained slightly less coffee (or the pods were a touch smaller) and the quality of the coffee was not quite up to the level of the Nespresso pods. The Gourmesso pods are also cheaper – and I think at last check, a Nespresso pod is well over a buck a pop. And for you convenience lovers, that adds up fast! We had some friends over last night for some wine and coffee (brewed on our patio out of doors!) and they claimed to be Nespresso lovers for a few months until the costs for the pods started to rack up.

They noted that they were averaging $200 (Canadian) a month on pods – they are both coffee drinkers. They were brewing several double shots in the morning and afternoon and quickly added up to lots of pods.
The Nespresso (and Gourmesso) pods are only available online (or in Nespresso boutique stores in large Urban cities) so the costs and shipping start to add up fast. My whole bean coffee habit when consuming the same amount of coffee (brewed as gravity drip) is less than 1/2 this amount and I serve an average of 2-4 cups a day to 2 to 4 people every day of the week!

The big downside outside of the cost of pods is the waste that is generated – but slowly there are recycling stations that are taking the spent pods – which often contain plastic, paper and foil in one unit — kind of difficult to process. Pod systems are quite the rage right now and the environment is having a bad time with all the waste materials and it could be years before the planet catches up to it all.

The Nespresso machines themselves tend to not be that expensive and they are not that complex – and they are wickedly convenient… but that comes with a cost that you have to weigh out. Do the math ahead of time and if you think you can live with the extra cost, then go ahead.

Personally, I like my gravity drip methods, my Hario filter holders, paper, grinder, kettle and scale. It’s hipster and tasty and easier on my pocket book and my conscience. For the Coffeecrew blog and website, I am Colin Newell in Victoria B.C. Canada.

Barista Bible author Cristine Cottrell on the subject of Aussie coffee

Click here for audio file if you cannot see flash player above.

When I started writing about and reviewing coffee shops and cafe culture in the mid-1990’s I always dreamed of writing the ultimate coffee book or complete (as I saw it) history of coffee culture in North America. And although I have kept at a blog and a website on the subject of cafe culture for 20 years now, I have yet to write the book. And in my travels all those years I have met every manner of coffee expert and niche professional – you know, someone who knows espresso inside and out or someone who knows how to build a successful chain of coffee shops or someone who has invented an amazing brewing device or coffee gadget… but I have never met anyone who had that perfect grasp of the entire picture – you know, the person who could write such a book or guide.

Well when Christine Cottrell and her husband Paul came to town (after their tour of the Western states and a visit to SCAA 2015 in April) I thought to myself, OK, I am going to get to meet up with another of the industries leaders in one area or another of specialty coffee. Which in itself is awesome – but I was not expecting to meet that person that was actually creating that definitive guide to all things coffee!

And after a day with Christine and Paul, I had a new perspective and reinvigoration in my own coffee passion.

So, who is Christine Cottrell and what has she done? Well, Christine connects with baristas and coffee experts around the world finding out everything there is to know about global cafe and coffee culture and where the heck it is going.

With over 20 years of experience, herself, in teaching and working in the hospitality industry, Christine created The Coffee Education Network and has helped thousands up their game in specialty coffee with her complete series of training manuals and guides – the flagship being the Barista Bible.

It was in 2009 that the first 10 publications were made available to the Australian marketplace, and they were so warmly received that an international release took place in London, England in 2010 at an international coffee conference. Her guide, the Barista Bible is about simply everything coffee – but there is so much more to it. Her supplementary guides include troubleshooting for the cafe owner and barista, the dialog of the cafe, an up to date dictionary on 21st Centuries emerging coffee lexicon and a complete recipe or menu guide for the modern cafe.

Christine and her husband Paul are clearly on something of a global mission to educate consumers and raise cafe culture (through education and instilling passion in cafe owners) to an entirely new level.

Their motto appears to be “The pursuit of excellence” in Australia and their dedication to a better cup of coffee has, in no small part, pushed Australia to the leading edge in the global quest for cafe quality domination. It was an honour to spend a day with Christine and Paul and I make no bones about it – my own passion level in the World of specialty coffee needed an infusion – and it got one serious one indeed!

Christine’s work is available over on her website at

All you need is now – Living in Victoria – Beer Coffee Battle Royal

Andrea and I spoke with Veronica, creative and business partner at the new Second Crack Coffee on Bridge Street. Between sips of excellent single origin Ethiopian coffee freshly roasted on their Deidrich Roaster and nibbles on a delicious Empire Doughnut, we talked about how Veronica, Aaron and their young one made their way to Victoria. They came via Sweden and via Thailand.

Which begs the question. Why Victoria? Why here? Why now?

Well, guess what? Victoria B.C. Canada is currently ground zero for some of the best coffee in North America, a beer culture that is burning hotter than the engines on an Atlas rocket, a level of culinary competency never seen in our city before and an environment that is 2 and 1/2 seasons long: No snow. No ice. Continuous good times. It would be inaccurate to say that Victoria never sleeps and that the fun runs 24 hours a day… because it doesn’t. It sleeps alright. Upwards of 8 – 10 hours every day… So it can give you another 14 hours of awesome.

Coffee: If you have ever read my reasonably comprehensive list on what the city has to offer in the coffee department, you will know this: We cater to all tastes. We have an inexhaustible supply of freshly roasted single origin coffees and enough espresso coffee to keep and entire city on edge. We’ve got World class baristas on top of their game. We have more cafes per capita than most North American city – slightly behind (but not far) Portland and Seattle Washington. If there is a hip method of brewing coffee in Victoria, it’s here and it’s done really, really well.

Beer: In Victoria’s burgeoning community of brew lovers, our bearded and plaid clad dudes and stylish hipster damsels are a fashion show all to themselves. And the beer itself, well it flows into this city like an effervescent torrent that quenches an ever increasing thirst for unique and classic flavours. And we love it. I have been drinking beer since 1980 and I have never seen anything like this before. It’s amazing.

Food: There is nothing you can tune in on the Food Channel or experience in any four star restaurant in New York or Paris that you cannot get on some level here. Sure, Victoria food culture is something of an amalgam of styles – and there is nothing that is definitively “here” – But… we do a lot of styles really well. With the rise of awareness of sustainability and the 100 mile menu, we are seeing more fresh food, more authentic slow food being done really, really, really well. It’s exciting. It’s engaging and there is enough World quality food to keep you busy for months on end.

So. If you ever wonder why anyone would make their way from the four corners of the globe to come here, it is because it is great. So, if you live here, take a look around in the here and the now. Find your moment. This place is glorious and is totally “now”. Get into it. Check it out. It’s red hot and getting hotter.

All you need is now.

Colin is a Victoria resident and coffee culture writer. Always looking for the best cups and the best plates, Colin checks out them all – so you won’t be disappointed.

20 years in coffee – part 1

It is easy enough to get lost in the 140 character World of twitter where the quest is to be as funny or as informative as you can within some very strict guidelines. Problem is, one can spend way too much time just thinking about shrinking yourself down into this very small world.

Facebook is the same. One starts to think very small. It is like the social media universe is built to cater to the short attention span.

In the real world around us and above us there is no limit. There is no limit to what you can hear, see, small and taste. In the 20 years or so that I have been writing about coffee culture in Canada, I’ve seen it all, sipped it all and met every kind of coffee drinker. And yet I feel like I have just started to scratch the surface.

The exploration of the World around you (and in my case, the coffee World) is all about the people: Meeting them, talking to them, getting their unique perspective – taking it all in and taking away something new… adding to our own collective of knowledge.

In this my first chapter of a coffee journey lasting 20 years I start with today – about how random chance contacts with the people within and without the coffee world shape my perception of the world around me.

Today my coffee break routine was altered by the fact that I had forgotten to bring in a bag of coffee beans to prep in my lab for my fellow techs at 10 AM. I actually had to buy some brewed coffee. So I went to one of the most reliable joints on campus, the Finnerty Express. The Finnerty has been open for more than 20 years. It has been my go to place, either to hang out with friends and colleagues or to take a break from the fast paced World of IT. I celebrate that thing we call Coffee Break!

The Finnerty Express, over the years, has always featured the most passionate and cheerful of coffee people you could meet. After all these years, I think of the staff and crew at the Finnerty as my family.

Today we had a visit from the good people at Salt Spring Coffee – I chatted with one of the sales reps, Deb Franz, on the subject of coffee culture and their fresh new product: Cold Brew coffee.

I have always been a skeptic about changing the formula of a good thing – that is brewing coffee without hot water… I mean, how does that work. Anyway, SS Coffee has perfected the cold brew process by using quality coffee with the 15 hour steeping that cold brew requires and then bottling the “brew” when it is at its peak flavor. Now here is an additional kicker: Cold brew coffee has around 15% (or more) caffeine by volume and when you factor in the reality that the human body absorbs caffeine significantly faster when ingested from a cold beverage, you have the recipe for a stimulating and refreshing beverage.

Deb Franz brings to the coffee World an enthusiasm and passion for the bean and a desire to join the rest of us coffee lovers on this journey. A lifelong journey of exploration of the caffeinated beverage. Thank you for taking the time to chat Deb!

So: Cold brew coffee… a big thumbs up. Cold and refreshing right out of the bottle. And very peppy! I shared a bottle with 3 or 4 of my colleagues… even a non coffee drinker! Would I buy it again? Definitely.

In upcoming chapters I will reflect on two decades of discovery and adventure – and how the journey continues.

Colin Newell is a Victoria resident and coffee expert who has traveled to many corners of coffee World looking for the ultimate cup of coffee… and finding it.

Kick starting a new cup of coffee – on the net

Have you ever noticed the dramatic difference between the delicious coffee you get at a fine coffeehouse and the mediocre coffee you often drink at home when you don’t pay attention to all the critical details?

Click on the photo for the big view!

Amazing coffee is the result when fresh roasted beans are brewed to perfection, with keen attention paid to every step – water quality, grinding, measuring, blooming, heating and steeping… and if you have any energy left over, you get to enjoy the fruits of your effort.

Me, I do it all by hand. I measure the water and the beans and I grind the coffee precisely to fit the method that I am using. But what if there was a coffee machine that would force me to think less about the details and let me concentrate on the great taste of my java jolt?

Inspired by the timeless tradition of handcrafted coffee and modeled after the skills of a well-trained barista, Bruvelo was built to be simple, smart, and to do one thing – extremely well.

Whether you want to easily brew an amazing cup of coffee with a push of a button or want complete control over every detail, Bruvelo will allow you to enjoy fine, handcrafted, pour-over coffee in the comfort of your own home.

But wait! There is more! The Bruvelo is WiFi enabled and you can access it from your smart phone – saving and setting all your favorite preferences – so that great cup of mud is ready to greet you at your door.

So says this exciting new kickstarter project that you can check out over here.

Colin Newell is a long time Victoria resident and coffee expert – when he is not out looking for a better coffee experience, he is looking for better coffee for you!

Daylight Mind Coffee Kona Hawaii launches coffee school

Dr. Shawn Steiman, Chief Science Office at Daylight Mind Coffee – is proud to announce the first sessions of the Coffee School component of this new coffee business in the heart of Kona, Hawaii.

A quote from their About section: “The idea for Daylight Mind was born in the head of one person. However, as new partners joined the party, the challenge of integrating each new personality and vision for the company grew in complexity. Establishing and sticking to an identity, generating a name, and developing a logo has been a rewarding process for us, even when challenging. We value our identity as a company and we’ve found a way to express the passion that drives all of us. We want to share the insight that led us to our name with you.

Daylight Mind News Release PDF

Talking Rockin and Roasting Coffee with Joey Kramer of Aerosmith

Podcast –

We spoke this morning with a man who is very passionate about the coffee bean – and so much so he has decided to do it right… for himself, for the consuming public and the farmers who grow it – and beyond!

And with 40 plus years, under his belt, with the band Aerosmith – a demanding full time job all its own, a very youthful Joey Kramer has managed to visualize, develop, and market a potentially winning concept.

Chatting with Joey today, I quickly realized that he is a team player – not only with his band of brothers but also with all the mechanisms and machinations that make for a successful venture into the fairly cluttered and confusing coffee marketplace. Because, as Joey pointed out, a lot about coffee is in the education and in the awareness.

Years of touring into every nook and cranny of this Rock and Roll hungry planet left Joey with the sense that he needed a better and more accessible cup of coffee. For Mister Kramer, an avid coffee drinker since his early days, his daily caffeine rituals were often interrupted by simply bad coffee in some unexpected places. The only solution (knowing full well what a great cup of coffee tasted like) was to have some part in producing his own personal great cup of coffee… a cup of coffee he could enjoy on the road, at home, and a product he could share with the rest of the World.

The idea for Rockin and Roastin coffee was born.

And, he added, you cannot do it all yourself. He has a great coffee team – and like the boys in the band, everyone has to pull their weight and find their strengths. If you are going to do it right, you need the right people. And with the full schedule of the touring cavalcade that is Aerosmith, he was not always able to get to all the farms and see all the stages of production – that said, he has been hands on on testing, sampling, testing and brewing his trio of great coffees – at this point he has picked 3 of the World’s most beloved origin beans; Ethiopian, Guatemalan and Sumatra coffee – three classics.

Joey and I talked about the importance of understanding the “value chain” of coffee, its path from farm to cup, the delicate nature of the coffee plants and their caretakers – the farmers who also need to receive a fair compensation for their work. Joey Kramer has done his homework – he knows the value of shade grown and organic coffees – being friendly to the environment, growing coffee in a sustainable way and not harming anything in the process.

Joey admits, “I drink a lot of coffee. Particularly during the creative stages with the band… composing arrangements for new songs…” Coffee is creative fuel, and for Joey Kramer, there is clearly a lot of coffee in his music. I found him exceedingly passionate and easy to talk to.

My next task will be to try some of this bean – and if you want to check them out, I encourage you to head on over to their colorful website

Podcast – If you cannot see the audio player above, click here for the mp3.

2012 Easter Tofino return to food coffee life and love

Tofitian Cafe Internet bar - TofinoAndrea and I have been popping into Tofino since the 90’s – we were married there – at the Middle Beach Lodge… and have been eating and drinking everything ever since.

Many things can be said about Tofino: Wild west coast getaway for storm watching… food lovers paradise (largely true)… Rainforest enclave resistant to over development (most definitely)…

What cannot be said about Tofino and the neighboring area is this: It is a coffee destination. And yes, I know, one cannot say that about many places in Canada – One does not expect leading edge coffee in places like Hinton, Alberta or Gravelhurst, Saskatchewan, but one is always pleased when great coffee appears in out of the way places. My supposition is this: Tofino should have great coffee. It needs to have great coffee. Great coffee belongs here.

But on some level, it seems, the community resists change and it rejects trends that, on the outside, would not appear to potentially harm the spirit of the community.

The food marketplace of Tofino is on an upwards spiral in terms of ingenuity and creativity as outlined here in an earlier blog.

How is the coffee doing circa 2012 first quarter?

Well. It has not changed much. There are no Discovery Coffee’s, Habit’s or Cafe Fantastico’s in Tofino. There is no Stick in the Mud in Tofino. There could be and the potential is so great, the opportunity so palpable and right now. If I did not have a day job and I was a little braver, I would drop what I was doing and dive right in.

Few communities are more ripe for a “great cafe” – like the ones we take for granted in Victoria, Sooke, Cobble Hill, Nanaimo, Vancouver, Seattle, etc… than Tofino, British Columbia.

Now do not get me wrong – I have a soft spot for the present and the future – and the future is somewhere where great Tofino coffee exists – because it is not in the here and now. At present, there are cafes and kiosks that attempt to break that greatness barrier – it just has not happened yet. Sure, by all means call out your favorite places and claim that they are dope. I have been there… and they are not.

This weekend it was at the advice of Anya of Discovery Coffee that I swoop into The Tofitian to check out their espresso shots from the Cimbali espresso machine. Out of the gate I ordered a single. It was served at the bottom of a 8 fluid ounce cup… in the form of a 3 1/2 fluid ounce shot. Observation: If you have espresso on the menu (and you are charging $2 for a single shot, serve a single in a 2 fluid ounce espresso cup.)

The shot was fairly balanced but not brewed at the ideal temperature – and, at it turns out was Lavazza espresso – containing around 15% Robusta. Cool shot. Easy to drink but dull as a butter knife. But wait, The Tofitian serves Discovery Coffee – or so I thought – looking around, I did not see it mentioned anywhere.

I asked “Do you serve Discovery Coffee?”
Barista reply: “It’s an option…” (A very pleasant and informed barista BTW)

I ordered a shot of DISCO, a single… because that is why I was there.
This time, another 2+ fluid ounce shot into a 8 fluid ounce cup. Brewed cool and served tepid. Drat.

Here is the thing: I did not see the words “Discovery Coffee” anywhere in the Tofitian – or “Lavazza served here…” I guess I must have missed the secret handshake or something.

Verdict: The espresso machine at the Tofitian needs to be tweaked, calibrated or moderized. Espresso cups need to be purchased. Labeling needs to be fine tuned.

The Tofitian feels a bit like a shack – it is associated with a Surf wear store that is in a different building in a cluster of rag tag buildings that feel somewhat itinerant. Kind of harsh but that is the deal. The parking lot is rough pot filled gravel – would it be outrageous to pave it to level it some?

Once again, I leave Tofino after an awesome weekend confused, befuddled and frustrated. I ask: Can one deploy a great cafe in a place like Tofino? Yes – but it is not going to be a kiosk or cart. It is going to be a newer building with some environmental controls. There is so much going on here – so much potential – so little of it realized. But there is the future.

Do not take my word for it – jump in with your voice. Hey – people are hitting Tofino constantly – I would love to hear their opinion – and your opinion.