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This is an older post that I just found from 2003.  Since there, I think Les has moved to Boise ID and hasn’t been as active in wood turning or at least not to create tampers for sale.  Nonetheless, the site is still up here.

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When I got a new espresso machine that used a different sized filter, I realized that a new tamper was in order. The function of a coffee tamper is simply to more evenly distribute the coffee grinds into a filter and pack the espresso into a puck.

Some argue that a tamper must be perfectly sized, of a specific shape, material, and weight, blah blah blah…for the production of a fine espresso. Realistically, any fairly flat object that will fit into the filter basket will work. I’ve used cheap plastic tampers that come with machines, the bottom of cups and bottles, etc. However, I find that using a device created expressly for the job of tamping coffee adds to the enjoyment of preparing my favourite beverage.

There are a lot of tampers out there, and you can even find some tamper reviews on Coffee Geek. The variety span from the formentioned cheap plastic ones to very expensive models made from exotic metals and woods. Of the popular models, I have used (and quite like) the Reg Barber Coffee Tampers made in British Columbia, Canada. Reg will customize your tamper by laser engraving anything you like on the tamper’s 25 mm Delron (plastic) top. These are great tampers and are the de facto standard for professional baristas.

However, because the ritual of making espresso at home is so near and dear to my heart, I wanted something even more special and more customized. Actually, the truth be told, I was only half-heartly looking at tampers. That is until Prabhakar, my buddy in espresso fanaticism, pointed me to Les Albjerg’s Thor Tampers website.

A quick e-mail put me in contact with Les. He is a wood turner in Roseburg, Oregon that is also a big fan of home espresso and home roasting. Les uses both commonly available and more exotic woods to turn out beautiful pieces of art that just happen to be used as coffee tampers.

After a through look around on the website, I told Les that I wanted something nice to look at but also a tamper can be put to hard use daily. I like to tamp my slightly coarser espresso grind hard and tap the grinds from the edge of the filter basket with my tampers.

When I asked about Ironwood (a dark brown African heart wood that sinks in water), Les told me that while extremely hard, the wood is also brittle and doesn’t take well to being banged against portafilters. Les suggested his “Barista Basher” model which is being used daily by professional baristas. What he does with this model is incorporate a small antique silver coin in the top of the tamper to tap the portafilter with. Hmmm…a further opportunity to customize the tamper. Interesting! (muhahahahahaha…diabolical laugh of a mad man!).

Of the woods that he had available, I chose the Ironwood with a contrasting coloured top in Amboyna (Pterocarpus Indicus — an exotic burl wood from the jungles of Southeast Asia). To cap this, I sent Les a french 5 franc coin (pre-Euro) from a memorable trip to Europe that my wife and I took shortly after being married.

The result can be seen in the photos below. Les Arlbjerg is an excellent bloke to deal with and I can recommend him without any reservation for his finely crafted product as well as his excellent customer service. Drop him a note and let him know that I sent you…

This is a gorgeous shot. The barista is used some nice advanced Pavoni techniques here. Note that he:
– Pre-warms the shot glass using the steam wand
– Pulls the handle up just under the area where the water fills BEFORE locking in the portafilter handle in gently
– Pushes down the handle in the pre-infusion until it reaches a bit of resistance but raises it again before doing a full pull.

Also notice how much pressure he has to exert while pulling the shot. This is how it is supposed to be. If you are pulling a shot with no resistance, you’ll need to work on a combination of grinding finer and tamping a bit harder.

Cafe con galleta

Image via Wikipedia

A new research have revealed that four cups of coffee a day can more than halve the risk of gout in women.

Researchers found that women who drink that amount or more were 57 per cent less likely to suffer from a gout attack than those who drank none.

Two to four cups lowered the chances of gout by about 22 per cent but one a day only by three per cent.

Researchers from Boston University and Harvard Medical School conducted a long-term study of almost 90,000 female nurses in the U.S.

They tracked the nurses over a 26-year period, monitoring their health and dietary habits.

During that time almost 900 of the nurses developed gout.

When researchers analysed their beverage intake they found those consuming-large amounts of coffee over a long period of time were least prone.

The reason for this is unknown, however, one theory is that it can lead to lower insulin levels in the blood.

“Long-term coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of gout in women,” the Daily Mail quoted the researchers as saying.

The findings support the results of similar research, published in 2007, which showed that coffee appeared to protect both men and women against gout.

Some studies point to gout as an early warning sign of heart disease.

Researchers have found middle-aged men with the ailment tend to have higher blood pressure, raised cholesterol and diabetes.

The findings appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

via 4 cups of coffee a day keeps gout at bay – The Times of India.

Here’s a great Triamisu recipe that I just tried and it works great!  Enjoy!

High-impact tiramisu

Makes: 12 servings

8 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

1 package (24) ladyfingers

3/4 cup cold espresso

2 tablespoons each: brandy, sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 Mix: Stir together zabaglione (recipe below) and pastry cream (below) in a bowl. Fold in whipped cream (below). Fold in mascarpone. Chill.

2 Layer: Arrange 12 ladyfingers in a single layer in a 9-by-9-inch pan. Mix espresso, brandy and sugar in a bowl. Brush ladyfingers with half espresso mixture. Smooth on half the cream. Arrange a second layer of 12 ladyfingers. Brush with remaining espresso. Smooth on remaining cream. Dust with cocoa powder. Cover tightly and chill 1-3 days.

Zabaglione: Measure 5 egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup sweet Marsala into a bowl. Swirl smooth with an immersion blender. Pour into the top of a double boiler set over medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until hot and thickened, 5 minutes. Pour into a clean bowl. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Cool, cover and chill overnight.

Pastry cream: Measure 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour zest of 1 lemon, 3 egg yolks and 1 cup milk into a heavy-bottom saucepan. Swirl smooth with an immersion blender. Set over low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, adding 1 cup milk, a little at a time, until thick and smooth, 10 minutes. Pour into a bowl. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Cool, cover and chill overnight.

Whipped cream: Whip 2 cups whipping cream, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla to sturdy peaks. Chill.

Provenance: Adapted from David Rosengarten of DavidRosengarten.com. He adapted the recipe from unsung but likely historic Baltimore baker Carminantonio Iannaccone.

via Tiramisu: This fussy version well worth the extra work – chicagotribune.com.

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This is from Giorgio Milos, the 36-year-old is a professor at Illycaffe Universita del Caffe in Trieste, Italy.

Milos is an Italian barista champion who currently lives in New York and will be spending the rest of this year travelling North America representing Illycaffe.

The biggest mistake I’ve seen is an enormous quantity of coffee being used—way too much. I’m talking about 20 to 25 grams of coffee for a single espresso shot! It is like making a mojito with half a mint leaf, one ice cube, a few grains of sugar, and a gallon of rum. Undrinkable!

Espresso made this way—well, it’s not espresso, but I’ll call it that—turns out overly concentrated, and because of that it cannot delight the drinker with the magnificent aromas of toasted bread, chocolate, red fruit, orange, and jasmine flowers that are all present in a high-quality blend.

The beverages I tasted were almost syrups, full-bodied but with a very sour, almost salty taste. I suspect that beans that were roasted too recently played a part. After roasting, beans need a few days to breathe and mature. These too-young beans are a big problem. Also, I’ve visited too many coffee bars that don’t heat cups before serving, and in the process sacrifice flavor and aroma. Or that serve in wet cups, an espresso sin.

An espresso, a real one, requires seven to eight grams of freshly ground coffee roasted two to three days in advance, or preserved using pressurization. The water can’t be too soft, and must not exceed 200 degrees F to avoid burning, nor be lower than 190 F in order to extract all the best aromatic components.

The grind is also fundamental. A too-fine grind can create burnt coffee and extract unpleasantly bitter and woody flavors. This is why so many people describe espresso’s taste as “bitter.” An overly coarse grind doesn’t permit full extraction of certain key elements. The proper, medium grind permits extraction of one ounce of aromatic black liquid in 25 to 30 seconds, the ideal amount of time.

If all these variables are respected (amount of coffee, temperature, time, and volume), along with the right pressure (around nine atmospheric units or 130 psi), you get an opaque, perfumed liquid containing microscopic oil droplets releasing precious coffee aroma, set fully free on your taste buds.

A silky, persistent foam (“crema”) will appear on top, nut brown with red stripes, protecting the liquid underneath for a few minutes—just enough time to hold that ceramic cup in hand, feel the warmth, move it to the lips, and sense those freed aromas in the mouth, where they will combine to create a unique taste experience.

Otherwise known as espresso. A real espresso.

via A Winning Formula for Traditional Espresso – Food – The Atlantic.

A Greek study involved 485 men and women, aged 65 to 100, who live on a small island called Ikaria, in the Aegean Sea, where more than a third of people live to celebrate their 90th birthday.

Coffee Improves Blood Vessel Elasticity

Participants, all of whom had high blood pressure, underwent imaging scans to measure the stiffness of their blood vessels.

Of the total, 33% of participants drank no coffee or less than one cup of coffee a day, 56% drank one to two cups, and 11% drank three or more cups a day.

People who drank one to two cups of coffee a day had about a 25% greater elasticity in their major blood vessels than people who drank less coffee or none at all.

Their blood vessel elasticity was about five times greater than people who drank three or more cups a day.

The analysis took into account factors that can affect blood vessel aging — age, gender, smoking, education, physical activity, body weight, blood pressure, nutritional habits, and diabetes.

The study also showed that people who drank one to two cups of coffee a day were less likely to have diabetes, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, or to be overweight, compared to people who drank more coffee or less coffee, Chrysohoou says.

This study was presented at a medical conference but hasn’t been subjected to the “peer review” process yet.  Other factors in the Greek lifestyle may be responsible for these results.

via Coffee May Combat High Blood Pressure.

This article pretty much reflects what Roger was ranting about a few months ago…

Coffee shops were the retail pioneers of Wi-Fi, flipping the switch to lure customers. But now some owners are pulling the plug. They’re finding that Wi-Fi freeloaders who camp out all day nursing a single cup of coffee are a drain on the bottom line. Others want to preserve a friendly vibe and keep their establishments from turning into “Matrix”-like zombie shacks where people type and don’t talk.

That shift could gather steam now that free Wi-Fi is less of a perk after coffee giant Starbucks stopped charging for it last month.

“There is now a market niche for not having Wi-Fi,” said Bryant Simon, a Temple University history professor and author of “Everything but the Coffee: Learning About America From Starbucks.”

via Coffeehouses unplugging Internet access to reconnect with customers – latimes.com.


In this Suntory Boss coffee commercial, Tommy Lee Jones stars as an alien/elevator guide who is spying on earth.

Bizarre.  Reminds me of Bill Murray’s character in “Lost in Translation