Review: La Colombe Torrefaction Nizza Espresso Blend (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

This is the second bag of La Colombe coffee that I’ve had in recent months, and this was the reason I wanted to order from them in the first place: I had heard that this company is known for their espresso. If you read my other La Colombe review, you know that I was a little taken aback that the coffee I received wasn’t roasted to order. The same was true for this bag. Mind you, the coffee wasn’t OLD… just not as fresh as it could have been.

When I buy coffee, I follow two general rules as best as I can:

  1. Don’t buy coffee that is more than a week old.
  2. Don’t buy coffee that doesn’t have a roast date on the packaging.

I ordered my coffee on February 7, and received both bags on February 11. This bag of Nizza was labeled, “Best by April 3, 2016.” Uh oh. No roast date??? A “best by” date can mean just about anything!! However, I did a little digging on Google and determined that La Colombe uses a two-month window to determine “best by” dates, which means that this bag of coffee was roasted on February 3. Still not roasted to order, but I probably would have waited a week to crack open a bag of espresso anyway, so it worked out. I slightly resent feeling like I HAVE to open a bag immediately though.

Whole bean: Medium roast, no oil sheen on the beans. Good sign so far.

It took me 4 passes before I had dialed in the grind and dosage enough to get what I considered to be a decent double espresso shot, and I kept experimenting for another 6 (not all in the same day!). I am not an expert on Italian-style espresso, as I’ve only had it a handful of times at cafes, but this blend tastes much like what I would expect from an Italian-style espresso: dark, rich, with notes of caramel and dark chocolate and a pleasantly bitter aftertaste. It made for some beautiful-looking shots, with loads of crema and very attractive mottling. At its best, it reminded me of a Milky Way candy bar.

Favorite parameters for this blend: 17 g in, 34 g out, 200 degrees F, 24 second extraction.

With milk: I think this is where this espresso blend really shines. The nutty, caramelly notes in the coffee stand up extremely well in a cappuccino, latte, etc., and made for a pretty decadent drink.

Summary: If you’re looking for a classic-tasting espresso roast, I think this would be right up your alley. Personally, I drink more straight shots vs. milk drinks, and I prefer American-style espresso that has a bit more flavor complexity, but this is a crowd-pleasing espresso blend that would be an ideal cafe workhorse and a good template for adding additional flavors if you’re into that sort of thing. I can’t speak for if it’s actually good for two months like the “best by” date claims (I try and drink all my coffee within 2-3 weeks of roasting!), but in the week or so that I experimented with it at home, I got good results.

From the roaster: Nutty, caramel, renowned

La Colombe Torrefaction Nizza Espresso Blend

Review: Contigo Autoseal West Loop Stainless Steel Travel Mug

I was lucky enough to be treated to not one, but TWO new coffee travel mugs for Christmas. I had previously shopped for travel mugs by looking at Amazon reviews, but as often happens, reading all of the reviews paralyzed me and I was unable to decide between the Zojirushi and the Contigo mugs. As fate would have it, those are the two that I received!

The Contigo mug I have is the 16-oz size, which is perfect for me, as I rarely drink more than 12 oz of coffee at one time. This tumbler seems well-designed for on-the-go consumption; it fits well in my car’s cupholder, and it is intended for one-handed operation. To drink, you simply pick it up and press the large rectangular button to release the flow of coffee as you drink. When you are finished, you simply let go of the button and it seals shut to prevent leaks and spills. Easy.

What I was most interested in was this Contigo’s heat retention abilities. After brewing my coffee, I poured it into the Contigo and took its temperature (177 degrees F). I then screwed the cap on and left it to sit for a while.

10:00 am – 177 F
10:30 am – 158 (plenty hot!)
10:45 am – 151 (quite warm)
11:00 am – 146 (still quite warm)
11:15 am – 141 (still plenty drinkable)
11:30 am – 133 (approaching lukewarm)

This mug gave me slightly over an hour of drinkability before the coffee got too cold for me to enjoy it. I think this is plenty for me, as I don’t usually take longer than 15-20 minutes on a cup! However, if I wanted to make hot coffee in the morning and enjoy it several hours later, I don’t think this particular mug will fit the bill. The mug touts its ability to keep coffee “hot” for up to 5 hours, but under real-world use, I’d say you’ve got a drinkability window of about an hour and fifteen minutes. Perhaps if you preheat the carafe with boiling water prior to pouring in the coffee, it will remain hot longer (feel free to try this and let me know!), but this is an extra step that I can’t see myself doing, since the chances of me waiting hours to drink freshly-brewed coffee are typically slim to none. I mean, let’s be real!

I also experimented with brewing directly into the Contigo carafe with my Hario V60. I think if I was VERY careful, it would work, but my ceramic Hario was definitely heavier than the Contigo, and the whole setup felt very precarious. I will stick to brewing in a separate vessel and pouring the coffee in afterward.

Summary: If you’re looking for an attractive travel mug that you can use easily while driving, and you intend your drink your coffee immediately after brewing, this Contigo will be a good choice for you. It’s easy to clean (the lid is top-rack dishwasher safe), reasonably priced, and comes in several fun colors.

Contigo Autoseal 16-oz Travel Mug on Amazon

The best spam comments, part 2 (September 2015-February 2016)

More fun times with spam! I couldn’t make this up if I tried, people. If you missed Part 1, check it out here.

He’s obviously an extremely gifted runner. I’m excited to see injury. A totalof 171 MMA matches involving 220 different fighters occurred during the study period. There necessary. It’s not. 

Sadist.

However, there are a few men who simply choose to wear a straightforward tattoo on his or her neck. Hummingbird tattoos sneaking through low-cut jeans is both mysterious and tempting.

You can get any sort of ink that you want, I’m not judging. But, if someone asks you, “hey, where did you get the idea for your tattoo?” and you reply, “a spam comment,” it might be best to rethink your life choices.

So ice creams, cookies, deep frozen meals is no way allow.

WHAT KIND OF LIFE IS THIS PERSON ADVOCATING

Howdy! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this site? I’m getting tired of WordPress because I’ve had problems with hackers and I’m looking at alternatives for another platform. I would be awesome…

(I use WordPress)

Yesterday, while I was at work, my cousin stole my apple ipad and tested to see if it can survive a 40 foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My apple ipad is now broken and she has 83 views.

Your cousin is an evil genius.

Hi, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam feedback? If so how do you reduce it, any plugin or anything you can recommend? I get so much lately it’s driving me mad so any assistance i…

oh the irony…

Did I not always see some hard fiber in her nature? Did I not, even at the time when I was proud to obey her behest, feel that it was surely a poor love which could drive a lover to his death or the danger of it? Did I not, in my truest thoughts, always recurring and always dismissed, see past the beauty of the face, and, peering into the soul, discern the twin shadows of selfishness and of fickleness glooming at the back of it? Did she love the heroic and the spectacular for its own noble sake, or was it for the glory which might, without effort or sacrifice, be reflected upon herself? Or are these thoughts the vain wisdom which comes after the event? 

I ran this through “I Write Like,” and it appears Arthur Conan Doyle is a blog reader!

Today, I went to the beach front with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside a…

Imagine how the hermit crab felt!

Do NOT under any circumstances have bra straps showing unless you want to make it in to the white trash wedding category.

Okay, Snobby McJudgerson. Your invitation is getting lost in the mail.

Could it be just me or does it look as if like a few of the remarks appear like written by brain dead individuals? 

I just can’t keep a straight face sometimes while reading these.

Thanks for helping out, great information. “Considering how dangerous everything is, nothing is really very frightening.” by Gertrude Stein.

Oooh, philosophy in my spam? I’ll take a second helping, please!

Only a smiling visitant here to share the love (:, btw outstanding style and design .

This is rather sweet. Thanks! Who knew spam could be so positive?

(And yes, this was definitely spam, unless you think hotsexxxyladeez4u@mypants.com is a real email address.)

I loved as much as you will receive carried out right here.
The sketch is attractive, your authored subject matter stylish.
nonetheless, you command get bought an impatience over that you wish be delivering the following.
unwell unquestionably come more formerly again as exactly the same
nearly very often inside case you shield this increase.

If I put both hands flat on my temples and squish my head as hard as I can, I can ALMOST make my brain make sense of this word salad.

“One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” by Andre Gide.

More of this kind of spam, please!!! I actually had not heard this quote before and I rather like it.

What i don’t realize is in reality how you’re not really much more smartly-liked than you might be now. You’re very intelligent. You know thus considerably with regards to this topic, made me personally consider it from numerous numerous angles. Its like men and women aren’t involved until it is one thing to accomplish with Girl gaga! Your own stuffs excellent. Always deal with it up!

Girl gaga? Is that like Lady Gaga as an adolescent?

“The basis of optimism is sheer terror.” by Oscar Wilde.

I FREAKING LOVE OSCAR WILDE!!!!

I do believe all the ideas you’ve introduced on your post.
They are very convincing and will certainly work.
Still, the posts are too brief for starters. May just you
please extend them a bit from next time? Thanks for the post.

You know how I can tell you haven’t actually read my writing? You think my posts are “too brief.” Haha!

You can simultaneously North and South Carolina.

WHAT?

You wish to increase your followers and community, spamming people is not the method it, end of story. 

I love how self-aware these spammers are….

I always spent my half an hour to read this web site’s articles or reviews all the time along with a mug of coffee.

Perfect!

Listed here are some easy suggestions that can assist you in your solution to running a blog mastery:

(nothing listed underneath)

I’m gonna watch out for brussels.

Out, damned sprout! Out, I say!

the pepperoni will move inside the crust of the pizza.

Sounds like the sort of phrase used in covert ops. Sorry I intercepted the message.

In order to write the proper grammetical reply it is advisable to wear the jersey from game

I’m picturing two writers duking it out in football jerseys. Vonnegut vs. Heller. Austen vs. Bronte. Fitzgerald v. Hemingway. Let’s get ready to rummmmmmble!!!

If you’re still on the fence: grab your favorite earphones, head down to a Best Buy and ask to plug them into a Zune then an iPod and see which one sounds better to you, and which interface makes you smile more. Then you’ll know which is right for you.

I don’t know which I find funnier: the memory of a time when Zune vs. iPod was actually a thing, or the idea of actually getting assistance from an employee at a Best Buy.

Part 3 will post in another 6 months!

Review: La Colombe Coffee Roasters Colombia San Roque (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

If you’ve heard of the show Dangerous Grounds on the Travel Channel, you might already be familiar with Todd Carmichael, one of the men behind La Colombe Coffee Roasters. I admit, I have never seen the show, so I went into this tasting almost completely blind. The only real association I had with La Colombe was that I remembered hearing after David Bowie’s passing that he would regularly visit one of their NYC locations and order a double macchiato. La Colombe doesn’t have any locations where I live (they’re based primarily on the East Coast and in Chicago), so I opted to order a couple of bags from them online.

Now, when I order online, I am accustomed to ordering on a Sunday or first thing Monday morning, so that my order will be in the queue for Monday roasting and will be shipped within a day or two after it’s roasted, to arrive by Wednesday or Thursday. I did exactly this for this particular order, ordering on Sunday February 7. The next day, I got an email saying that my order was being prepared for shipment, but to allow an extra 24-48 hours for any orders containing single origins, as those are roasted to order. This raised alarm bells in my head, because the clear implication was that anything that wasn’t a single origin would NOT be roasted to order. Strike one?

My order arrived Thursday, February 11. So far, so good. However, when I inspected this bag of Colombian beans, it had a sticker that stated the beans were roasted on February 4. What?! So, I got pre-roasted beans, when they claimed that all single-origin orders were roasted to order? Even the best psychics in the world could not have predicted that I would be placing an order 3 days before I actually did it. The other bag I ordered also had some freshness issues, which I will discuss in more detail when I write that review. Some people might not think it’s a big deal to get week-old coffee… after all, it’s still pretty fresh! But, I have never had this problem before when ordering directly from a roaster so I was pretty shocked that a company as well-known as La Colombe would do this. Strike two.

Whole bean: Smelled like chocolate and Coca-Cola. Seriously sweet and syrupy.

French press: Very smooth on the tongue – plush and velvety texture. There was a little zing on the finish like orange zest.

Chemex: Ooof. I like coffees that are naturally sweet (to clarify, I never add sugar), but I think I have finally found a coffee + brew method that is just TOO sweet for me. This smelled like chocolate-covered cherries and tasted like someone blended chocolate syrup into a Cherry Coke. I could not drink this.

AeroPress: Consumed straight as a concentrate, this was smooth and pleasant. Rich flavor with a nice bright acidity on the finish that kept it from tasting overly cloying or sweet (like the Chemex rendition). Chocolaty flavor.

V60: Light and acidic cup with a floral finish.

Summary: Overall, it’s not a life-changing or groundbreaking cup of coffee, but it’s reasonably pleasant when NOT brewed in a Chemex (unless you love chocolate-cherry cordials, then you’ll LOVE the Chemex version of this coffee). Once I finished the tasting and looked at the tasting notes on the bag, I noted that I was pretty spot on — people, these guys aren’t playing around; you’d best believe what they say in the tasting notes. La Colombe does get a demerit from me for sending me pre-roasted beans, though.

From the roaster: Clementines, Cherry Cola, Chocolate

La Colombe Coffee Roasters Colombia San Roque

Review: Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Guatemala Xejuyu Chimaltenango (Dallas, Texas)

Considering the fact that Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters is based in Dallas, I suppose it’s a bit ironic that I picked up this bag in Tyler at the same time that I got the bag of Porch Culture Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Natural, but hey, when fresh coffee calls, I answer!

Whole bean: Aromas of butter, kelp, and plum. The kelp note was especially surprising to me – it was like a whiff of nori sheets, as if I was about to make sushi rolls. Once ground, the beans smelled sweeter and had a tart stone fruit character to them.

V60: I made this twice; the first extraction, at 3:00, was bitter on the front but improved slightly as it cooled. There was a lot of flavor in this coffee – vanilla, plus the butter, kelp, and plum I smelled earlier. However, it was still too bitter for my taste. The second extraction, at 2:45, was better but still did not result in a cup that I would deem sweet.

AeroPress: Not bad. A little perky/piquant of a brew. I drank this without adding water, and it was okay – I didn’t really feel like diluting this would have improved it, but the acidity was tempered when I drank it along with my breakfast.

Chemex: Big difference! At 3:50 extraction, this brew method resulted in a smooth and sweet cup of coffee that was reminiscent of Nilla wafers.

French press: Also resulted in a smooth and sweet cup, which tasted like vanilla pudding. Luscious.

Summary: I felt this coffee was the most delicious when brewed in the Chemex. It was also good in a French press, but it was just starting to push the boundaries of decadence for my taste!

From the roaster: Baked apple, vanilla

Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters Guatemala Xejuyu Chimaltenango

(I forgot to snap a picture of the bag before I threw it away, so this MoMa mug will have to do!)

“…listen to the colour of your dream…”

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of being an extra with the Dallas Symphony in their collaboration with Classical Mystery Tour, a Beatles cover band that performs with symphony orchestras around the U. S. I have played this gig before with other orchestras, probably 4 or 5 times, so it would have been easy to write this off as “just another gig,” but as a Beatles fan, this is always a fun program for me to be involved with. However, coming just a couple of days after the passing of George Martin, this particular run of concerts had a particular poignancy about them.

Intellectually, I know there was a time in history before the Beatles and that there are millions of people that died never having heard their songs. There was a time in history before Beethoven as well! But emotionally, it is nearly impossible for me to fathom an existence without the music of the Beatles. These songs have woven their way into the fabric of our society in innumerable ways and they connect everyone who has heard and loved this music to each other. I feel like you could go practically anywhere in the world today, and start singing to a complete stranger: “Hey Jude, don’t make it bad…” and they would finish the lyric for you (well, unless they were shy about singing or they decide to call security!).

They’re Beatles lyrics, aren’t they?”
I don’t know, sorry.”
Of course you do! Everybody’s born knowing all the Beatles lyrics instinctively. They’re passed into the fetus subconsciously along with all the amniotic stuff. Fact, they should be called “The Fetals.”

–James and Helen, Sliding Doors

I was born at the tail end of 1979, so I have never known a time when the Beatles didn’t exist. I delved deep into the Beatles catalog while in college (being the nerd that I am, I took a course on the Beatles and their impact on history), but I knew many of their songs already before that point, somehow. These songs have become part of my DNA over the years; the lyrics are firmly embedded in my long-term memory. So, it was a blissful sensation to sit back during the concerts and hear the audience singing along, because I could tell that this music was just as important (if not even MORE important) to them as it was to me! It was unbelievably hard not to sing along with every tune (when I wasn’t busy playing flute/piccolo).

Golden slumbers fill your eyes
Smiles await you when you rise
Sleep pretty darling, do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby.

–Beatles, “Golden Slumbers”

The Beatles song that holds the most emotion for me is Golden Slumbers. I have had one pet in my life, a beautiful rescue Corgi named Penny. Her time with our family was much too short (only about 18 months) before she passed from cancer, but one of her favorite things to do with me was to ride in the car, and I would sing to her as I drove. Silly songs, mostly, but she seemed to like it. When she got sick and we had to make the heartbreaking decision to put her to sleep, I vowed to myself that I’d sing to her as I said goodbye, to be sure there was something familiar for her to hang onto as she made her final journey. I was barely able to do it, as I was crying while holding her, but those words gave my heart a voice in that moment that I couldn’t express any other way. This song always takes me back to that moment and I have fought back tears more than once in performances where this song appears on the setlist, but it’s also a comfort that in this small way, I can call her memory back to me any time I want.

For this and many other reasons, I can’t be blasé or complacent about the music of the Beatles. Music of all kinds is so meaningful to so many people that it’s my responsibility as a performer to always give 100% of my effort and heart to a gig. Everything I play is potentially someone’s favorite song/piece ever. Everything I play could potentially mean something very special to someone listening. There is no unimportant music. It’s something that I think the people involved in putting the Classical Mystery Tour concerts together understand instinctively, and even if I wasn’t a Beatlemaniac, I think I would be inspired to give my best to these concerts because that’s what these guys do, time and time again.

The concerts closed with a rip-roaring, adrenaline-filled version of Twist and Shout, and the rumors are true… I did in fact get up out of my chair and dance at the front of the stage at the Meyerson Symphony Center. People that know me in real life were pretty shocked, because I do NOT give off the impression that I would be the kind of person to do this (introvert, bookish, etc.). However, I did it for a few reasons: 1) There was a lovely lady in the violin section that started dancing, and what fun is it to dance alone? I decided to join her. 2) This music just makes you want to dance!! 3) As I’m getting older, I care less about I look to other people. I’m not a good dancer, and I certainly could have stayed seated and secretly wished to myself that I had the gumption to get up, but I figured, I’ve never been “cool,” so why try and start now? I may as well embrace my inner dork and go for it. I would rather regret doing things versus regretting not trying.

The Beatles themselves are not immortal, but this music, with its life-affirming character, will live forever in history and in the hearts and minds of all of those lucky enough to be alive to experience it, whether live or on record. How lucky we are to be alive in a world where this music is such a universal truth!