What Kind of Coffee Do We Have?

June 20, 2010

Green and roasted coffee at Echo CoffeeWhen you visit the shop, you’ll notice that we don’t have a sign board that indicates the types of coffees that we offer.  This is by design, as we would prefer to have a discussion about what coffee flavors you like, and then marry those flavor preferences with the coffees we offer.  I’ve often wondered how useful it is to read, “today’s special brew: Guatemala”, as if every Guatemalan coffee tastes the same and every customer knows exactly what a Guatemalan coffee should taste like.  Certainly neither of those expectations can be true, so we use a different approach.

However, this blog gives us a viable platform to discuss the coffees that we currently offer.  To start, we roast 6 different coffees for sale at Echo Coffee. Each coffee/roast has a drink it was specifically designed and developed for, however, we will gladly alter the default choice for customers seeking a different flavor profile.

For drip coffee drinkers, the default choice is our Titus Blend. For the Titus blend, my #1 goal is drinkability. The coffee should be easy and pleasing to drink, and drinking one cup should make you want to drink a second cup (whether you need a second cup or not…that’s a different story). In developing the blend, I sought a balance between acidity and sweetness, with a slight slant toward sweetness, particularly chocolate notes. Currently, the Titus Blend is composed of beans from Kenya, Brazil, and El Salvador. However, the coffee origins in the blend will change throughout the season (the blend has already changed three times, since it was developed, due to origin coffees that are no longer available). Regardless of seasonality, I will do our very best to maintain a consistent flavor profile for the Titus Blend.

Unroasted (green) Kenyan CoffeeFor iced coffee drinkers, the default choice is a single origin Cameroon Boyo.  This coffee is certified 100% organic, and features a bright, citrus fruity taste, which I find refreshing for an iced coffee.  We brew it hot at double strength, then cool it, so that it isn’t diluted or weak when poured over iced.  Some people prefer this coffee hot, and it is available upon request as a drip coffee.

For straight espresso, macchiato, and cappuccino drinkers, the default choice is a single origin El Salvador Bourbon.  This amazing coffee is so round, complete, and complex it belies the fact that it is a single origin coffee.  The crema is sweet and thick, like chocolate butter, yet it presents a wonderful brightness and berry fruit flavor as well.

For latte drinkers, the default choice is our Titus Blend, roasted for espresso.  The Titus Blend shines in a latte, as the sweet, rich flavors are able to combine with the additional milk in a latte, and create a drink that seems disappear before you realize it.  As an espresso, the Titus Blend does tip more toward a sweet tooth lover’s drink, and for some it may be too sweet.  If you find the Titus Blend is too sweet in your latte, the El Salvador makes an excellent latte, while backing down the sweetness.  Likewise, some straight espresso and/or cappuccino drinkers find the Titus Blend to be their espresso of choice.  Either way, we’ll be happy to make your drink your way.

Roasted Cameroon Boyo CoffeeFor decaf drinkers, we offer a very good decaf from Brazil for both drip and espresso.  The very nature of decaf coffee means that it cannot have as complex and rich a flavor profile as a regular coffee, but we have found a decaf that seems to belie that common expectation.  Most decaf drinkers are amazed that, “it doesn’t taste like decaf.”  The flavor profile is a bit brighter and more acidic than the Titus or El Salvdor, while maintaining good body.  If you are in the mood for coffee, but don’t want the caffeine, it’s a worthy choice.

Finally, we offer the El Salvador Bourbon, in a lighter roast for drip coffee.  For those coffee purists seeking a wonderful single origin coffee, or those drip coffee drinkers that may find the Titus Blend just a little too sweet, this is an excellent choice.

Organic Milk at Echo Coffee

June 13, 2010

Organic milks used at Echo CoffeeFor any coffee drink, there are at least 2, but quite often 3 important ingredients.  The first, is the coffee.  We roast our coffee in the shop, using only the finest 100% arabica beans, from countries like Kenya, Brazil, and El Salvador.  The second ingredient is water.  Our water is filtered to remove all of the chlorine and other poor tasting components which are provided by the wonderful city of Scottsdale water supply.  The third ingredient, in one form or another, is milk.

For a latte or cappuccino, milk will be the #1 ingredient by volume, and as we serve a great number of lattes and cappuccinos, using great milk is paramount to having a great drink.  I taste tested and steam tasted nearly every milk commercially available in the Phoenix area, seeking a milk that responded well under steam and also tasted great.  In my tests, organic milks behaved significantly better under steam.  They stretched easier, and were easier to produce quality micro foam.  Quality micro foam is important, when latte art is desired, which we always desire.  I don’t know why organic milks steam better, but I can only surmise that organic milks have higher protein content, because it is the protein that makes micro foam possible.

Another result of great micro foam, is that the milk will taste sweeter than poorly steamed milk, or just heated milk.  Here again, the protein is important, as some of the protein will break apart into sugar, which provides a sweeter tasting milk.

Of the commercially available organic milks, my favorite milk is from Lucerne, and is branded as O Organics.  This brand is available at Safeway, and is commonly referred to as their house brand, although O Organics items are available at other stores.  Because our refrigeration space is somewhat limited, I shop nearly every day at Safeway, picking up approximately 10 gallons of milk, along with organic bananas and apples.

By default, a latte will be made with 2% milk, while a cappuccino or macchiato will be made with whole milk.  However, we know that won’t work for everyone, so we also offer skim milk, soy milk, almond milk, and rice milk.  Aside from the almond milk, all of our milks are certified organic.  The almond milk was selected because it is soy and lactose free.  Any of these milks can be used for any drink, and upon request, we’ll be happy to provide a creamer with them for drip coffee as well.

Speaking of drip coffee, we provide O Organics organic half and half at the creamer bar in a thermos.  People are often surprised when we tell them that even the half and half is organic (I suspect they are surprised because they know how expensive organic half and half is).  We don’t sell you short at Echo Coffee and when we say it’s organic, we mean it’s organic.

Ignite Phoenix Viewing Party

June 10, 2010

Ignite PhoenixFriday, June 11th, Ignite Phoenix #7 will be taking place at the Phoenix Art Museum in downtown Phoenix. The event is sold out, so if you don’t have tickets but are wishing you could attend we have an alternative for you, particularly if you are in Scottsdale: Come over to the shop and watch the live stream of Ignite Phoenix #7 at our own live stream party. The first presentation kicks off at 6pm, but you might want to get here early for a good seat.

I imagine most of you haven’t heard of Ignite Phoenix, and you may be asking, “What’s the big deal?” or “What is Ignite Phoenix?“  For many people, Ignite Phoenix is just a fun event to hang out for a few hours and potentially be inspired to try something new.  However, for me personally, Ignite Phoenix holds a special place in my passion center, because it was watching the very first Ignite Phoenix via live stream that sparked my interest in creating Echo Coffee. For more about that story check out this post on Ignite Phoenix’s site.

Suffice it to say, however, if you enjoy being inspired by the many diversified passions from people in the Phoenix area, attending or viewing an Ignite Phoenix event is probably just what you need.

See you here.

Music to My Ears

June 9, 2010

As the shop begins to settle in here in South Scottsdale, a joyful trend has begun to develop with customers that have been here a few times. After they place their order they immediately say,”For Here”. For example, “I’ll have a cappuccino, for here.” Or, “I’ll have an iced latte, for here.”

We hope that one of those reasons is the yummy 100% organic shortbread cookies you get when a hot espresso drink is for here, but we think another good reason is our Cremaware.

Cups and glasses (cremaware) at Echo CoffeeHere you can see a photo of all the cups and glasses we use for the drinks at Echo Coffee. The smallest cup is the 2 ounce demitasse for espresso and macchiato. Then there’s the 6 ounce cappuccino cup, followed by the 12 and 16 ounce latte cup. Naturally, each has a saucer. All of these cups are porcelain. For drip coffee we have the 12 and 16 ounce cups in ceramic. And finally for cold drinks we use the clear bar glasses in 16 and 20 ounce sizes.

With the number of drinks we serve “for here”, it does mean we wash a lot of dishes.  But that’s the way we prefer it, because we know that’s the way you would prefer it.  I mean, who would really want their coffee or cappuccino in a paper cup?  But for some reason, that has become the standard, not the exception.  At Echo Coffee we want to change the standard.  So the next time you stop in, we hope you have a few minutes to sit and enjoy your coffee, so that you can say, “For here”.  It’s music to my ears.

It’s the Little Things

June 7, 2010

The difference between good and great is often measured by the care and attention we pay to the little things. We could serve good coffee at Echo Coffee, but we want to serve great coffee. So we start with very high quality green coffee, take care to roast each batch to perfection, brew each cup individually, and serve it at it’s freshest point. Each of these steps individually help make a good cup of coffee, but together make it great.

Over the last few days, our Scottsdale shop suffered from periodic losses in power. Initially I thought APS might be having supply problems as a result of the sudden spike in temperatures. But as the problem turned chronic I began to suspect something other than power supply from APS was to blame. After a nearly hour long power outage Sunday night, I placed a call to my electrical contractor and they had someone out first thing Monday morning. He didn’t find anything wrong and suggested APS may be able to help.

I called APS and they had someone out by 10:30am (in less than 2 hrs), which amazed me. The APS guy immediately witnessed a micro outage (the lights blinked off and on) when he arrived, which was convenient, if not good for equipment or business. Fifteen minutes later a second outage was “heard” at the main service panel for the building, which indicated some type of faulty connection, as you should never hear electricity traveling along a wire.  At this point, we didn’t know what was wrong, but we certainly had APS’ attention.

The troubleshooter from APS checked numerous connections at the main panel to the building as well as the transformer outside the building, looking for any faulty wiring.  His assessment was that there was a problem, which an electrical contractor should look at it.  He also suggested that the contractor would need APS to turn off the power at the transformer to diagnose and repair the problem.

I was immediately alarmed.  APS suggested the contractor and the contractor suggested APS.  How would I get APS and an electrical contractor there at the same time?  Then the best news to that point in the morning: the troubleshooter from APS said he would wait until a contractor could arrive.  WOW!  What customer service.

Another call to my electrical contractor was able to get him back to the shop within an hour.  Shortly after he arrived, a second troubleshooter from APS arrived to help the first guy.  Now we had three experienced guys working on the troubling power at Echo Coffee.  Of course, by this time the power was almost completely out within the shop.  The AC had been non-functional for almost an hour, and we still didn’t know exactly what the problem was.  We were unable to make any espresso based drinks, it was 85 degrees inside the shop, and still happy customers came in to the shop, and with smiles continued to support us.  Once again, I’m amazed at the support we receive from the community.  Thank you.

With more of the house service panel disassembled, the guys identified what appeared to be a loose bolt used to connect and transfer power between the 3 bays of the electrical service panel.

It’s difficult to see in this this image, but in the shadow is a bolt and washer identical to the one in the foreground.  That bolt was loose, which resulted in the power loss whenever we started to put a higher load on the system (ie, it’s hot outside, and we need the AC running).

APS turned off the power to the building and the electrical contractor tightened up the bolt.  Alas, power was restored around 12:30pm.  The installation for this equipment was neither the responsibility of APS, nor my electrical contractor, but rather my landlord’s electrical contractor.  It was installed nearly 2 years ago, but with the building sitting empty, and no load on the system, the loose bolt had yet to manifest as a problem.

In this case, the littlest thing was a single loose bolt, and it was potentially ruining my business.

Fortunately, the right people worked together and fixed a small problem that was having a huge impact.  With the bolt tightened, power was restored, and almost 24 hours later, we have yet to have any further power outages.  It’s 75 degrees inside Echo Coffee, and all of the equipment is pulling shots, making coffee, and baking fresh food just as it should be.

So I’m reminded once again, that to be great, we always need to focus on the little things.  A minor grind adjustment can mean the difference between an under-extracted, thin shot of espresso or a great, rich, full shot of espresso.  It doesn’t matter how good the coffee is at origin, how well it was roasted, how perfectly it was tamped, or how stable the brew temperature is, if the grind is out of adjustment, the shot will be bad.  And so it is that we will continue to focus on each of the little things that added together, will help to make us be great.

Lastly, and most importantly, if you happened into Echo Coffee over the last few days, and stuck with us through a less than great experience, thank you very much.  We sincerely appreciate it.

The Lunch Menu at Echo Coffee

June 4, 2010

You may not have noticed, but our entire menu is now available online.  The lunch menu is somewhat descriptive, but I thought I’d take a few words to add some information about the ingredients that make the lunch menu so fabulous.

First, the lunch menu is offered from 11am to 3pm.  Occasionally, we start lunch early, and likewise can sometimes offer things a little bit later, but our lunch menu is prepared by our chef Carylann Wootton, and when she isn’t around, the rest of us are ill prepared to duplicate her amazing skills.

Turkey and Brie sandwich at Echo CoffeeSecond, as you would expect, the items on the lunch menu are made fresh, right here at Echo Coffee.  We don’t buy pre-made sandwiches and salads from a kitchen down the road.  So of course, each sandwich or salad is made fresh to order.  We wouldn’t have it any other way.

A great sandwich naturally starts with great bread.  We sampled a number of breads from local bakeries and by far, Simply Bread was superior.  If you would like a loaf of their amazing bread, they can be found at Old Town Farmer’s Market in Scottsdale.  We use their white bread, wheat bread, focaccia, and french rolls (baguette), which they deliver to us periodically throughout the week.

The meats within our sandwiches are primarily roasted here.  Once again, we sampled standard deli meats, and were not satisfied with the flavor, so we roast our own chicken, turkey, and pork. We were able to find a great salami, pepperoni, and ham (the ham being the most difficult to find).

Asian Chicken salad at Echo CoffeeThe greens for our salad are organic, fresh mixed greens.  We also make our own croûtons and roasted almonds for the salads.

For olive oil, we once again looked to the best and are pleased to be working with Queen Creek Olive Mill.  In the US, there probably isn’t a better olive oil, and it’s right here.

We are continually looking for additional fresh, local suppliers.  If that happens to be you, or someone you know, please stop by, call, or leave a comment.