What Size Cappuccino Would You Like?

March 30, 2010

image During my market research phase of developing Echo Coffee, I explored many of the various coffee shops throughout the greater Phoenix area.  In my travels, I invariably ordered a cappuccino as my “test” drink of choice.  The cappuccino is such a wonderful drink (my personal favorite coffee drink), and how it is made tells a great deal about the shop, the quality of the barista, and the quality of the espresso used within the cappuccino.

A traditional cappuccino has a very exacting recipe composed of 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 foam.  Variations of the cappuccino are typically described as wet or dry, which helps to convey whether you want more or less foam than the traditional recipe calls for.  Accordingly, a 2 ounce double shot of espresso, plus 2 ounces of steamed milk, plus 2 ounces of foam results in a 6 oz cappuccino.  Wet or dry, the total volume is still 6 ounces, but the wet cappuccino has perhaps 3 ounces of milk, with 1 ounce or less of foam (most cappuccinos with latte art would accurately be described as wet).

The good coffee shops in town almost all serve a cappuccino in a ceramic or porcelain cup, and the best shops do so without asking.  Those shops simply assume a cappuccino drinker will want their drink in a “real” cup, fitting with this traditional drink.

So, when I enter a coffee shop to order a cappuccino, and get as a response, “What size would you like?”, I’m immediately confused.  Other than 6 ounces, what size could there possibly be?  Do they serve 3 oz cappuccinos?  Do they serve 9 ounce cappuccinos?  Both would be very odd.  As I stand with a puzzled look on my face, I’m often shown 8 oz, 12 oz, and 16 oz paper cups.  At this point I become reasonably sure that what the barista is planning on making is a latte, and perhaps planning to add some extra foam to the top.  (Thinking about the recipe, contemplate for a moment a 16 oz cappuccino…that’s over 5 ounces of espresso, or a quintuple shot!)

Invariably, I start looking around the shop for real cups, and if I see them, point and say, “the size that comes in that small cup”.  Hopefully I see 6 or 8 ounce cups on top of the espresso machine, which I’m pointing to.  Sadly, those cups are rarely used, but these baristas do seem to perk up a bit when you point them out and they realize they get a chance to use something they almost forget they have in the store.

Getting to the point, I highlight this particular question to provide a bit more insight into Echo Coffee’s trend toward traditionalism.  A cappuccino at Echo Coffee will come in only one size: 6 ounces.  We will be happy to make it wet or dry, although dry will be the standard. In tomorrow’s post, I’ll discuss the Echo Coffee latte.

Now Hiring at Echo Coffee

March 29, 2010


Have a passion for great coffee and food?

Echo Coffee is looking to fill all positions opening Mid April for all shifts (7a -10p).

Pastry Chef/Cooks

    Employment will be contingent upon successfully passing of a criminal back ground check and drug test.

    Send your resume and cover letter to info at echocoffee dot com. Feel free to call 480-422-4081 with questions.

    Applicants are strongly encouraged to read this blog (, and become familiar with our business philosophy.

    Great Coffee Needs Great Water

    March 25, 2010

    SpectraPureIn Arizona, we are fortunate to have had great leaders in our past, like Barry Goldwater, with the vision to assure us of the water we need to grow and prosper.  Unfortunately, the Central Arizona Project (CAP) system results in water quality that is safe to drink, if not enjoyable to drink. In some parts of the valley, the sulfur smell coming from tap water is almost intolerable. Scottsdale has better than average water, but it still contains a great deal of Sulfur and Chlorine, along with other undesirable flavors.

    Accordingly, it is very important that the water we use at Echo Coffee be as good as we can possibly make it. Enter SpectraPure. SpectraPure is literally a world leader in developing quality water systems for use in aquariums, laboratories, and fortunately for us, coffee shops.

    Getting to know Charles Mitsis, the President of SpectraPure, his passion for quality coffee started in 1979, when he drank his first truly good tasting cup of coffee from a shop in Palo Alto. Charles knew good water was important, and has been working on his systems ever since. For Echo Coffee, the fact that SpectraPure is based right here in Tempe fits perfectly with our desire to support locally, first.

    Echo Coffee will be using a 1000 gallon per day, “Commercial Coffee Lovers”, reverse osmosis water system from SpectraPure that has been designed to supply the water volume we need, be great tasting, safe for our brewing equipment, and limit waste water inherent in the RO process. We are pleased to be working with SpectraPure, and think you will be pleased with the water.  If the mood strikes, ask for a plain glass of water and taste it for yourself. We think you will also be pleased.

    Echo Coffee Philosophy: Organic

    March 24, 2010

    green-coffeeRounding out our short 3 part series regarding what the Echo Coffee tagline means, we hit upon the last word in the tag line: Organic.  For coffee, this is both easy and difficult.  The vast majority of specialty coffees in the world are organically grown.  The relatively poor farmers growing the coffee simply do not have access to pesticides and fertilizers that modern farmers use to push production.

    That noted, a relative few number of farms have been certified as organic.  For that reason, we won’t actually market all of our coffees as organic, even though we believe they all are in fact organic.  Some will be certified.  Some won’t.  As we grow, and get the opportunity to take visits to our favorite farms, we hope to influence how many farms are certified organic, so that those farms can benefit from the slight price increase they yield from the certification.

    Beyond coffee, naturally all of the milk will be organic.  Milk is by far the largest cost item for a coffee shop.  Choosing to serve organic milk will more than double the cost of this component of a cappuccino or latte.  But we find that organic milk behaves very differently under steam, as it seems to have more proteins, thus stretches better, and yields a sweeter micro foam than does non-organic milk.  Using each product side-by-side it’s startling to see and taste the difference.

    For pastries and other baked items, naturally we’ll use organic flour and sugar, as well as any other organic ingredients that we are able to regularly source.

    Going beyond the ingredients within food, though, we expand our meaning of organic to also include recycling and limited post-consumer waste.  We deplore that the coffee industry has largely degraded into a business of serving coffee in paper (or even worse Styrofoam) cups.  The small paper residue in each cup, the taste of plastic from the lid, is all very displeasing.  Yet for some reason, paper cups are the norm, not the exception.

    At Echo Coffee you will get your hot drinks delivered to you in a preheated, porcelain cup, whenever you have a few minutes to stay in the shop and enjoy it.  We know sometimes you must “grab and go”, but when the opportunity arises, we hope you’ll take a couple of minutes to sit down, and enjoy the best coffee in Arizona from the best cup.  In doing so, you’ll have the best coffee experience you can, and we’ll each do our little part to reduce post-consumer waste.

    Organic ingredients and porcelain cups are just the first of many steps we are taking toward our environmentally friendly stance, but hopefully this gives you a feel for what we mean when we say Organic.

    Echo Coffee Philosophy: Local

    March 23, 2010

    local-target Today, we’ll describe what Local means to Echo Coffee.  This is the simplest, but with the advent of the internet, possibly the hardest tenet to abide by.  Whenever possible, support locally first. By working locally, we expect that opportunities will exist for supplier and consumer to benefit in ways far greater than simply the exchange of goods and services.

    For green coffee, we exemplify this by working with Cortez Coffee in Tempe.  We could have worked with Royal Coffee in the Bay Area or Cafe Imports in St Paul.  Both great companies that each do business exactly the way we like our partners to work.  But being out of state, we wouldn’t have that personal relationship that you can only get when the relationship is cemented with a smile and a hand shake.

    But Local means more than just sourcing from local suppliers.  It also means working locally to support and cultivate a tradition of excellent coffee.  We believe coffee can be great, and we want to promote and educate our local community what goes into making great coffee.  You may not have the resources to make great coffee yourself at home, but when you come into Echo Coffee, we’ll be glad to share with you what we do.  From the beans to the brewing methods, there won’t be anything we do that will be a secret from our community.

    In the early 1990’s, the coffee scene in Arizona was dominated by Coffee Plantation, a locally owned and operated company.  For reasons of their own, the original owners chose to sell, which opened the door for Starbucks to gain entry into the Phoenix coffee market, which it dominates today.  Now Dunkin Donuts is working hard to gain a foothold.  We firmly believe, however, that a locally owned and operated coffee shop can provide the best product and service.

    Local also means supporting our local community.  Most immediately, Echo Coffee is sponsoring RE BarCamp Phoenix on April 7, providing coffee for several hundred Realtors that are gathering to learn more about social media.

    To summarize, we place a very high value on working locally first, even when it takes more effort.  Even when it costs more money.  We find the other benefits simply outweigh those costs.

    Echo Coffee Philosophy: Fresh

    March 22, 2010

    image With opening day around the corner, it’s time we started to describe just what is Echo Coffee, other than the undoubtedly obvious: a coffee shop.  The tag line reads, “Fresh. Local. Organic” and so today starts a short series describing what those three words mean to us, starting today with Fresh.

    Plain and simple, the word fresh means that everything we serve is made fresh to order.  The word fresh gets used a great deal in the coffee industry, but today we’ll get very specific about what we mean by fresh.

    For the best tasting coffee, it all starts with fresh roasted beans.  With a relatively small roaster, we will be forced to roast almost every day to keep adequate supply, yet never worry that beans are sitting around, getting stale.  For espresso, it tastes best about 3 days after roasting, and by 10 days after roasting has lost significant flavor.  For drip coffee a 4 day rest is best, but again, by 10 days out of the roaster, flavor has degraded substantially.  This contrasts strongly with super market coffees, which are often labeled with a freshness date of one year from roasting.  The resting period for fresh roasted coffee is needed to allow carbon dioxide, generated during the roasting process and trapped inside the hard shell of the bean, to escape the bean.  That carbon dioxide adds a significant “brightness” to the taste that relaxes after it has had a chance to rest.  It’s interesting that for coffee, it is possible for something to be too fresh.

    A shot of espresso is very rarely pulled before it was ordered, but when were the beans ground that were used for that shot?  If you don’t hear a grinder turning after your order is placed, it’s likely the beans were ground a while back.  Ground coffee beans sitting for just 5 minutes have lost a substantial amount of their flavor potential due to the oils within the bean evaporating rapidly once the beans are ground.  Before grinding, the hard shell of the coffee bean protects the oils from evaporating, but after grinding, they are free to release into the air.  So, grinding fresh is a significant step toward pulling a great tasting shot of espresso.

    Likewise, we won’t brew drip coffee before you order it.  All of our drip coffee served in the shop will be made to order, either as a pour over, french press, or Americano.  And once again, the beans for each cup will be ground fresh for that cup.  Drip coffee that was brewed into an air pot is reasonably fresh for about 30 minutes, if the air pot uses all stainless steel construction.  But brewing into air pots often yields significant waste, which leads many shops to let the coffee sit longer than 30 minutes (most often timers are set for an hour).  The best way to avoid the temptation to let coffee sit longer than it should, is to never brew into an air pot to begin with.  So we won’t.

    Along with coffee, we will also offer pastries, sandwiches, and salads.  These items will all be made fresh, right in the shop.  When they are in season, we’ll source the freshest fruits and vegetables we possibly can and adjust the menu throughout the year to take advantage of seasonal freshness.  Sourcing fresh means we will need additional suppliers, which will create greater supply chain challenges and increase production costs, but that won’t deter us from making every item on the menu as fresh as possible.

    Photo credit: S.Su

    Updated: When will Echo Coffee open?

    March 17, 2010

    As you can see here, construction is moving right along for Echo Coffee at 68th Street & Thomas. All of the plumbing, electrical, mechanical (AC) rough-ins are complete.  Drywall has been hung, and by the end of the weekend, tape and texture will be done.

    Next week we will paint, followed by cabinets, counters, and finish trim for electrical and plumbing.

    The contractors are really working hard to get this complete in short order, and I visit nearly every day to deal with any potential problems and answer questions before those questions become issues.

    Because Echo Coffee is sponsoring RE BarCamp Phoenix on April 9th, that is the date all of the contractors are working toward to enable us to support that event.

    As is common, we will have a soft opening, followed up a week or two later with a grand opening, once we feel all of the processes are suitable for high volume.

    So my current answer to when is April 9th, though April 10th will probably be the first “doors open” day.