Lunch Service ends September 28

turkey-and-brieEcho has been in business for over four years now, and throughout that time, we have offered lunch from 11am-3pm. Unfortunately, the economics of offering lunch have never been favorable, and regretfully, Sunday, September 28th, 2014 will be the last day that we offer lunch.

This means, that on Monday, September 29th, we will no longer offer the sandwiches and salads on our lunch menu. We will still have coffee, tea, and pastries. We will still be making our vegetable quiche. We will still offer yogurt w/ house made granola. But we will no longer have sandwiches or salads.

I know for a few people, this will be disappointing. It’s certainly disappointing for me as well. I hope those that are disappointed understand it’s not a decision I am making lightly. Rather, it’s a decision based on 4 years of data in both costs and sales for this portion of the menu. To give the simplest numbers, a typical lunch service for Echo has approximately 10 lunch item sales. Those 10 sales have never paid for the additional labor costs, food costs, and food waste, associated with that portion of the menu, and thus I think most people can now “do the math” and see this is really not an effective part of the business.

Echo certainly has days and sometimes even weeks where the lunch menu makes sense as a part of the business (we break even around 20 sales). But the vast majority of days and weeks it doesn’t make business sense, and thus I am compelled to end this grand experiment.

Looking forward, I think lunch (or food service in general) could have worked at Echo Coffee, had both the kitchen and the dining room been larger. In looking at reasons why lunch doesn’t work, part of the reason is that people do not feel confident they can come to Echo for lunch and find a place to sit. By 10am, most days, Echo’s dining room is fairly crowded. As well, the smaller kitchen means that our lunch service is limited in the types of sandwiches we can produce as well as how quickly we can satisfy rushes since its a 1 person space.

Should there ever be a second location for Echo Coffee, I’ll consider these factors carefully in my space planning.  For this location, due to parking load calculations by the city of Scottsdale, the dining room is already the largest we are allowed to have.  It’s also why I never considered expanding the shop “back in the day”, before the bike shop was built.

Results: Winter Barista Jam 2011

Steve Belt and Walter the Bus

If you missed Saturday night’s Barista Jam, you missed out on a great time on so many levels.  First, the turn out was awesome.  We had the biggest turn out I have seen at a Barista Jam ever.  My sincere thanks to all of the fans and amazing customer’s of Echo Coffee.  Everyone I talked to had a great time, with most people staying all the way to the end of the competition.  As well, Walter the Bus was a HUGE hit.  If you missed the chance to get a picture of yourself standing next to Walter, or hear the awesome sound system, or see the cool laser lights, you owe it to yourself to seek him out in the future, because quite frankly, Walter is cool.

As for the competition, I think we saw the best demonstration of skill I’ve seen yet in the Phoenix area.  We had 12 competitors, and by and large, they were pouring some amazing drinks (with no etchings in sight).   The best in the business were pouring tulips left and right, which had the judges splitting hairs to declare a victor.

The top 4 competitors  poured off in a head-to-head playoff, with Jason Calhoon (formerly of Bookmans) taking home first prize of a custom tamper and knockbox from Espresso Parts.  Adriana from Press Coffee took second prize and walked away with two tickets to the new super luxury iPic Theaters in North Scottsdale.  Third place and a stainless steel Bodum french press went to Alex also from Press Coffee.

Latte Art from Winter Barista Jam 2011

Congratulations and thanks to all of the competitors for sharing their amazing talent with us.  Special thanks to John from Coffee Reserve for donating the iPic Tickets and agreeing to be a judge; Ron from Cortez Coffee for donating coffee, a Starbucks Gift card, and agreeing to be a judge; and most especially Kirk for bringing Walter the Bus, donating the beer, and agreeing to be a judge.

FYI, we plan to hold our summer Barista Jam in August, so if your schedule didn’t allow you to attend this one, we hope you’ll be available then.

Barista Jam 2011 at Echo Coffee

Echo Coffee will be hosting it’s second Barista Jam on February 19th, 2011, from 7pm – 10pm.  Co-sponsored by Walter the Bus and Cortez Coffee, this is an event you simply will not want to miss.  For details, check out the event page at: Echo Coffee Barista Jam 2011.

What Kind of Coffee Do We Have?

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

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.

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