Allegria Espresso Bar

Espresso Coffee: The Science of Quality
August 18, 2007, 9:47 pm
Filed under: Books

So I finally got my hands on Illy and Viani’s book “Espresso Coffee” (thanks Peter) and must admit that this thing is dense. It’s quite the textbook, but I look forward to giving it a go. It will certainly give the espresso geek in me a run through. Once I finish, and I do mean to finish, I’ll post a thought or two. In the meantime, here’s an Amazon link to the book for anyone not familiar: Espresso Coffee. The book’s smaller than I imagined. For such a high price, I just thought it would be bigger (8.6 x 5.7 x 1 inches).


Eight oz. paper cup heart swirl…
August 14, 2007, 10:28 am
Filed under: Latte Art

I won’t normally post my latte art just because I think it’s no good, but this one I’m a bit proud of.  It could be better though. They can always be better.

Heart Swirl

James Hoffmann – What a difference a few years make…
August 9, 2007, 10:50 am
Filed under: Competition, WBC

Just reading passed blog entries from James Hoffmann, the 2007 World Barista Champion, and found this:

Coffee Sabayon 

October 23rd, 2004 by kingseven

Spent some time in the ICO library digging through some old texts with some very unusual recipes. A few were in french so I need to get them translated. There are also a few good ideas for signature drinks. Those I don’t use I will probably send in to Grind Magazine or something.
The library are willing to have me back any time – which is nice. I never realised there are so many periodicals written on coffee. Saves me subscribing to Fresh Cup anyway!

Starting to practise in earnest for competition today. Trying to work out times and the like. I haven’t done it before for fear that I am too rubbish!”

Self-doubt to undeniable recognition.

Edit: As James pointed out in his comment, he has since moved his blog to, so for anyone looking for recent entries, go there – it’s quite enjoyable to read. 

St. Paul’s Espresso
August 7, 2007, 10:23 am
Filed under: Black Sheep Coffee Cafe, Kopplin's Coffee, St. Paul, Trip, Twin Cities

The short version – Black Sheep Coffee Cafe and Kopplin’s Coffee are great.

The long version – Three years ago, St. Paul (and Minneapolis for that matter) had no exceptional coffee destinations. The coffee landscape was more suburban strip mall than metropolitan trendsetter. It was Caribou Coffee, Starbucks, and Dunn Brothers – the coffee equivalent of Anthony Bourdain’s restaurant-culture ridiculing phrase: “TGI McFunster’s.” A rambling chorus of questions always came to mind when I looked at the area: where were the coffee fanatics? why was no one crying for something better? did no one care about rich espresso and velvety capps? how could this be? I bemoaned (yes, bemoaned) the coffee desert that was the Twin Cities.

But it’s different now. There are two coffee shops that need, and deserve, mentioning. Opening up within six months of each other and both less than a few years old, Black Sheep Coffee Cafe and Kopplin’s Coffee (located in South St. Paul and St. Paul respectively) have brought knowledge and passion to the Twin Cities masses.

I visited them on a recent day trip. Over did it with the espresso (ten shots, plus a little milk, in roughly 1.5 hours on an empty stomach. Either I’m a die-hard espresso geek or an idiot), but I’m fine after a recovery period and can still think fondly of the time spent in their company. 

Peter Middlecamp (Black Sheep Coffee Cafe) graciously took time out of his day to make several drinks including his signature drink that he made at the USBC 2007 Finals. He was a first time competitor and is one to watch in the upcoming years, so to have the opportunity to drink his espresso, cappuccinos, and lattes was a treat. He has two espresso blends: one for milk drinks, one for straight espressos. They both taste fantastic. The Espresso Reserve from Paradise Roasters is quite acidic, but imagine green apple acidic, not lemon. So good, and honestly, one of the best shots I’ve ever had.

I would be happy if St. Paul only had Black Sheep, but there’s also Kopplin’s – a place that takes its origin coffees very serious. They have two Clover machines, which says they’re more passionate about origin coffee than you’ll ever be. But that doesn’t mean you should feel intimidated or can’t appreciate what they offer.

Yet, even with those machines displayed prominently at the front of the bar, I resisted their allure. I wasn’t there for Clover coffee. I was on an espresso binge and went with a cappuccino and a single. The cappuccino was nice and creamy, and while I drank it, the barista (I’m ashamed to say I’ve forgotten his name) pulled several shots, adjusting the grind until he found it just right, before offering me my espresso. It was worth the effort, and anyone who is willing to dump shots in order to give the best pull possible has garnered my attention and appreciation for a long time.

I also visited A Fine Grind on a friend’s recommendation, but I realized that Friend was trying to hurt me when I took five steps into AFG and saw a fully-automatic espresso machine. I called an end to the day right there.

Visit Black Sheep and Kopplin’s people of the Twin Cities, because if on my next return I hear that business could be better, I’ll be severely disappointed in all of you.