Archive for April, 2008

Colorado is really big.

March 12, 2008

Logs and Figures

Wednesday morning started out before the sunrise. A sweet breakfast with Kate while the rest of the house slept soundly and we were out the door. Eastern Colorado rambled on and on and on. Here are some snippets from the morning:

6:30 am Leave Boulder

10:18 am Mel spots tumbleweed on I-76.

Colorado Continues

11:21 am (After 5 hours of driving) we enter Nebraska!

2:31 pm Still in Nebraska. Sara yells: “Woah,Woah Woah! Llamas!”


3:00 pm We arrived in Kearney, Nebraska for lunch and an afternoon coffee at Barista’s Daily Grind. We saw champion barista Ryan Denhardt’s many medals and awards. Impressive! Unfortunately he was hanging out in Omaha while we were in Kearney, but we had many other friendly faces to make us feel at home.

road pictures....

6-ish – We arrive in Omaha and spend the night with Aubry, Melanie’s friend from her study abroad in Namiba.

-Melanie and Sara Rose

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March 11, 2008

A delicious perk of the road trip is that we get to reconnect with old friends all over the country. Travis is one of those people. Travis and his family live just south of Denver so we decided to spend a night with our almost long-lost friend. Travis and his wife Liz are the proud parents of two entirely edible boys, Issac and Caleb. We woke up on the 11th to Issac climbing running into our room: “Wakie-Wakie! Eggs and Bakie!”. Now, under any normal circumstances Melanie would have growled darkly and round-house kicked anything making that much noise that early. But, because it was a sweet high-voiced certain round-faced little boy, Melanie’s heart jumped out of her chest, poured rainbows and pink bunnies in the air and melted into a puddle in Issac’s palm. “Hi, girls!” And it was off to the Kitchen for breakfast.

While Sara helped Issac get breakfast ready…

Melanie snuck upstairs to get Caleb ready for breakfast…

Ok, I confess, I ate every single one of those fat little baby toes.  I blew rasperries in his belly, and was completley mushy-gushy-baby-noises-silly-faces-absolutely-enamored-with-this-9month-old.”

After breakfast Issac decided to show us his newest trick….

He can Wink!

Issac went to School and we convinced Travis to take the day off work and take his youngest son to the Denver Art Museum.

And now….for the moment you have all been waiting for….We reveal…the BEST CAPPUCCINO of CoffeeInAction: Road Trip 2008…..(drum roll please)…..

The award goes to….the cafe on the second floor of the Denver Art Museum. Yes, we were surprised too – museums are not known for their high quality coffee but Novo Coffee operates the cafe and Hanna, the barista, simply blew us away with her double cap and awesome stripped socks. (No pictures allowed in the museum – sadface.)

We finished our SUPURB cap and said good by to Sir Roundface McGigglepants and his father. It was time to head to Allegro.

Allegro was the biggest coffee roaster we were going to see on this trip, and this fact alone peaked our interest. We wanted to see how a larger wholesale company operated (and see the big machines, heh, heh, heh). Most people who know of Allegro know it because they are the primary roaster for Whole Foods Markets.

Holly met us in the large comfortable first floor cafe, where she introduced us to Laura Bullock who gave us a tour of the facility.

Allegro is a company interested in social responsibility and environmental sustainability.  Their main faciltiy in Colorado is 100% wind powered.  Their website explains more about their buying practices and their business philosophy.  You can check out their “Socially Responsible Score Card” here

We spent most of our time milling around in the Cupping Lab. Apparently word of our visit got around the office because over the next hours almost everyone in house, from Allego President, Chris Thorns to the entire marketing staff (Hi Mike, Tara, Jeff, Heather, Holly, and Laura!) came down to say Hi and chit-chat with the “Coffee girls”.

Heather Zapletal, the Director of Sales, started to set up for a “scent” training, with hundreds of small bottles each filled with a different scent. We all got to try our hand at guessing the smells – its really hard to tell “browning sugar” from “caramel”; there was even “earth” smell (which Sara identified as beets) and “basmati rice”.

We ended the night back at our beloved Kate’s house and hit the hey early because our morning would come too soon.

-Melanie and Sara Rose.

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 People of the Internet: We like you.  And we like talking with you.  Somtimes on this blog we get to dialogue back and forth with our readers.  Sometimes, as with the Class on Fire, we decide the conversation is so good we want to move it to the public arena and make it a post of its very own.

Below is a comment from Person of the Internet: Jason.  His comment hit on one of the major topics of debate in the coffee world.  Does “aware” coffee taste as good as other coffees? Below is Jason’s question as well as a response from both Sara and Melanie – so three voices in all.  While the questions are posed in response to Jason – we really are asking you, the consumers and blog readers for your thoughts.

Jason – Thanks for your poignent question and for sparking this discussion. 

Jason Says:

 “Just wondering….. I’ve read about your adventures and the seemingly endless search for “eco-friendly” coffees and proprietors of such beverages, but…I was just wondering if anywhere in your journey you were actually going to do your tastebuds a favor and seek out some gooooood coffee and actually share that information with the world. This information would be just as valuable as know the recycling practices of said places. I myself am not interested in spending my hard earned dollars on an inferior product simply because the seller pushes hype and marketing over quality. I’m certain that there are plenty of places that place value on providing a great product along with being socially responsible. Maybe in the future you could also provide an evaluation of beverages consumed… I think you could.”

Sara Says:

“Hi Jay

Thanks for reading our blog!  We have been searching for eco-friendly coffees and businesses that think about the environment and the people impacted along the way, and we have had an amazing trip. 

Some of the coffee we have had has been amazingly delicious, while some of the coffee has been sub-par.  I  feel the exact same way you do about quality coffee…that is partially why we have dedicated all this time to seeking out coffee.   As well as tasting better, higher quality coffee can help people become more aware of what they are drinking. 

I would love to know more about your thoughts on marketing and hype in the eco-friendly coffee world.  We have seen a lot of instances where a business said one thing but did another, etc…
As for our blog, we decided to keep a positive spin in our writing.  We are not out there to criticize people or tell them how to run their own business.  The knowledge we want to share is about responsible consumerism.  We have also found that what tastes good to one might not taste good to another.  What do you think?”

Melanie Says:

“Hey Jason. You can see by the fact that we both are compelled to respond that you are asking an essential question. 

My thought is to challenge a different assumption (not saying that you have this belief, just that we encountered it a lot):
If coffee is eco/people friendly, does it necessarily mean that its not high quality?  In my opinion the two are not mutually exclusive.  On our trip we had some amazing coffees and some pretty not-so-amazing coffees in both the “aware” and “conventional” categories.

Three people we met on the trip offered what I find to be great perspectives on this matter: (who all supply delicious coffee)

1) From Global Village coffee (Chapel Hill, NC) –   You have two tomatoes: one grown on a large farm using pesticides, chemical fertilizers and mechanical planting process.  The other from a local farm, organically produced, sun ripened, hand picked – which do you choose? 

Many people would choose the one from the organic farm – the assumption being that its redder in color, smaller in size and will probably be juicer and taste better.  Why do we not use the same thought process when it comes to coffee? 

From what I understand of the coffee farming process (which is still small), it takes more effort and attention to grow the coffee plants organically or in an environmentally friendly way.  Wouldn’t that extra love enhance the taste of the coffee? Or to put it another way – how would producin organic or “aware” coffee hurt  the coffee? 

2) From Higher Grounds (Leeds, AL) and echoed by Cuvee Coffee (Spring, TX) – These folks said their ideal would be to have all coffee produced with social and environmental awareness and then let the quality of coffee be the factor that determines which companies succeed. 

I also want to second Sara’s question – is fairly traded, enviro/people friendly coffee hype, marketing, a personal purchasing philosophy, a trend, a way of life, or all of the above and more?  Why do you choose, or choose not, to buy products that have a certification or that you know were sourced responsibly?

Lastly,  in any community you have a choice about how to contribute;  we choose to contribute to the coffee community by highlighting the positive and good people and coffees that we come across.  Bad press is just not our style.  If we have a cup that’s bad, we simply don’t mention it.  If the cup is amazing, we usually say so.  (But, just because we don’t say something about the coffee at a particular place, it does not mean the coffee is bad.)  In our lives and on this blog we try to keep our attention on the good, the beautiful, and the hopeful.

 Thanks for reading – comment at will.

-Melanie and Sara Rose

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A quick update.

Monday March 10, 2008

Logs and Figures
5:49 PM Suzie hits 5,000 miles!
Coffee/Espresso drink: 150
Related bathroom breaks: 145

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March 10, 2008

A few days away from coffee coffee coffee at every turn and we were ready to rejuvenate CoffeeInAction in action. Our first stop was Ozo Coffee Company on Arapahoe Ave. Drip coffee in pint glasses was a neat spin on the traditional mug (although a little hot on the hands). Sipping our delicious drinks and creating an office space took up about an hour, when the owner was able to sit and chat.

We were introduced to the Baristas as well as the hand-lever espresso machine in the shop. Woah! Our Fort Collins host had been talking about hand-lever espresso machines, but we had never heard of such a thing. What a treat we found in Ozo. Are you ready for some technical stuff? Here is Sara’s best explanation:

Pulling a lever allows a certain amount of water to fill a chamber. A spring causes the lever to pull back to its original position, pushing the piston down and creating the appropriate pressure (9 atmospheres for espresso) to push the water through the espresso, through the portafilter, and into the shot glass or ceramic cup. The barista can control the speed at which the lever goes back to its original position, therefore controlling how fast the piston is allowed to push down on the espresso. What control! What science! What art! See below for more information on these machines.

Pulling the lever, watching as the chamber fills with water.l

Observing espresso in action... ...and the beautiful nectar has arrived!

A very fascinating fact is these crema creating contraptions only need a power source to heat up water. With our limited knowledge of engineering, Melanie and Sara discussed the possibility of providing an alternative energy source to heat this water. We envisioned solar powered espresso shops all over the world! A friend suggested a hand cranked power source. After some discussion we agreed – hand cranked power would probably be great for a home machine like the one pictures above. However, for commercial machines (see picture of Sara pulling an espresso shot) this would be way too time consuming. Here is a call to engineers and inventors (Arthur, are you out there?): how could a commercial spring piston lever machine (apologies for the lack of descriptions and details here…we could not find them) be powered in a way that leaves a small carbon footprint?

Another appealing idea is that espresso can be an art form. Automatic machines, like ones used at certain corporate coffee shops, do nothing for the individual flavor profiles of one espresso over another. They do not allow the barista any control or influence on the drink. Yes, this is great if you want efficiency, standardization, and quantity. This is NOT great if you are looking for excellence and quality. The hand lever machines mentioned give the barista complete control to make the most delicious espresso, as long as she/he has proper training and experience.

Since we are experts on neither physics nor espresso machines, here is an excerpt from a great website all interested in coffee should be aware of: CoffeeGeek.com. If not interested, keep scrolling down.


A spring piston lever espresso machine is a “manual” espresso machine; that is, you, the user, provide the pressure needed to brew the espresso. These machines are different from normal piston lever machines in that instead of directly applying the pressure to water, the force of your arm is used to cock an internal spring inside the machines’ grouphead. Once you release the lever, the spring pushes water through the bed of coffee at a steady, high pressure (approximately 8 to 9 BAR). Spring piston lever machines are capable of producing the best espresso possible when used by a seasoned veteran, by nature of the constant pressure they provide (as compared to the pulsing action of rotary or vibratory pumps).

Machines in this class feature two different types of boilers. Dual switch machines maintain the boiler at brewing temperatures. Single switch machines maintain the boiler at steaming temperatures, but a heat sink design in the grouphead and the tubing between machine and grouphead reduce the temperature of the water that eventually is used to brew. The advantage of a single switch machine is that they can steam and brew at the same time. The disadvantage is that the machines can deliver brewing water that is too hot.


The afternoon continued with a stop at Folsom St. Coffee; a venue truly committed to sustainable practices, which CoffeeInAction always loves to see.

We were directed to Moto Modern Markets (MoMoMa) by our friend Brian, which happened to be right across the street from Folsom St. Coffee. A recently converted gas station and garage now sells domestic fuel gas outside, organic and natural convenience food in the garage, and specialty coffee by the cashier. Creator and owner Michael Marsilio told us about the responsible practices of his business.

Boulder was certainly presenting an aware business culture.

-Sara Rose and Melanie

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A friend sent over this link.  Truly mind-boggling.


 Most specifically to this blog, make sure you take a look at the paper cup one.  However, they are all fascinating and hopefully illuminating.

 Sara Rose

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