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Baratza Vario-W Review.

I’ve had my Baratza Vario-W for almost a month now, and have used it in multiple situations, from my Coffee Ambushes to Whole Foods demos, using it in a coffee shop, to using it in the Batdorf Brewing Lab. I’ve put it through it’s paces, and I can tell you it really is a revolutionary product, and I have to say it’s become a vital part of my manual brewing set-up. So, let’s take a look at it.

If you’re not familiar with it, the Baratza Vario-W, previously named the Vario-E, is a Vario grinder with a built-in scale, so it grinds a specific weight each time. You can program it for whatever weight you’re looking for, hit the Start/Stop button, and it gives you that specific weight every time. It’s that simple, but the first grinder on the market to incorporate a built-in scale. It seems like just yesterday I was happily using my Vario, but having to measure out my doses on a scale into metal cups before using. Using the Vario at some of these events I’ve been hosting at our Roastery, we’ve been having upwards of 100 people or more, and I’ve been measuring out pre-weighed doses in advance of 30 or more.

But with the Vario-W, that step is completely eliminated. And it seems pretty accurate each time in terms of weight. Load the hopper in the bottom, make sure it’s tared out, hit the button you’ve programmed with the weight you’re looking for, hit Start/Stop, and you’re done. It really is that easy. This saves me time, and is again, perfectly consistent over and over. I’ve watched the scale amount each time, and it seems to be spot on every time. The scale is built into the bottom of the grinder, the hopper sits just on top of it, it doesn’t have any other parts different than the regular Vario. It still has the amazing macro and micro adjustments I’ve come to love from the Vario. My time is 5 seconds faster than I’m looking for? No problem, one quick adjustment to the micro side on the left, and I dial it in with ease. The adjustment system on the Vario is very easy, and very accurate.

I’ve said it before, the Baratza Vario is the best “Pro-sumer” grinder on the market, and the Vario-W has easily taken it’s place, taking advantage of the best pluses of the Vario, (the amazing adjustment system, the Mahlkonig ceramic burrs, the ease of programming), and adding the convenience of a built-in scale for dosing. It’s easy to use, consistent, and Baratza’s service is second to none. I will again, be using the Vario for my Brewers Cup competition prep and during competition, and proudly. The Baratza Vario-W is available now, and I highly recommend this grinder for all baristas and smaller shops doing manual brewing programs.

Iced Coffee Ambush! Scout like Girl, Mob like Mafia.

Today, I had a meeting scheduled with Dave, the founder of Scoutmob, to give a lesson on how to better use the Clever Dripper. I also found out we just started roasting our new Kenya Fairview Estate coffee yesterday. So, I thought how cool would it be to make iced coffee for everyone, since I’m already going to be at Scoutmob HQ? So, with new Kenya, my whole Coffee Ambush kit in hand, I headed in to see some of my favorite people in all of Atlanta, Team Scoutmob. Did I mention how much I love all these folks??

So, as soon as I started, people started gathering, and like moths to the light, they came in droves lured in by the smell of fresh coffee being brewed. I went over the Clever method thoroughly with Dave, and the others, and started with the iced coffees. And I brewed. And I brewed. And I brewed. And I brewed some more. Until the whole Scoutmob crew had iced coffee in their mobster hands. And it was delicious. Like a nice fruit tea, grapefruit and mango. Perfect for this ridiculous hot day in the ATL. There were lots of compliments on the flavor. And there were smiles and high-fives all around.

When I was finally done, I packed up all my stuff into the Coffee Ambush superkit, and everyone said bye to me by name as I left, told me they appreciated it. And I got in my car, and said these words, “Man, I love my job.” With a big smile on my face. I came. I saw. I brewed. I conquered. Viva La Scoutmob. Viva La Batdorf & Bronson.

(if you don’t know what Scoutmob is, I demand you head to www.scoutmob.com right now, this very instant. Join the mob.)

What Is A Coffee Ambush?

I did my second Coffee Ambush this past Monday at the amazing Fox Theater for their office, and recently posted up the video here: http://vimeo.com/26293451. Lots of folks have asked me since then what they were, and what was the objective, so I thought I’d take a second and let you know.

The Coffee Ambush is where I go into a business, to the surprise of everyone except the one person I organize it with, and I brew coffee for them with the Clever Dripper for the morning. I created the Coffee Ambush as a way to do three things:

1. To get delicious Batdorf & Bronson Coffee in the mouths of lots more people. We roast some dang good coffee, and I want more and more people to see how tasty it is, especially in comparison to the fast food coffee most of them drink.

2. To introduce a lot more folks to what specialty coffee is, and show how much better it can be.

3. To have fun, getting out in the community and meeting a lot of great people who love coffee, and to show them how cool brewing coffee at home can be.

So far, it’s been greatly successful on all fronts, and it’s been very cool. I have many more planned and on the calendar, and there’s some really cool ones coming up. My first one was with my friends at Scoutmob, and they had as much fun as I did. The second one was, again, at The Fox Theater, and it was great, too. Lots of different people, different age groups, you name it. Many of the people I served at The Fox said they had never been able to drink black coffee by itself before, and that’s part of the point. And it’s so easy to do.

I’m going to tell you how to do it, because I believe we in coffee industry have a great opportunity to introduce specialty coffee through this. It’s important that it comes from a roaster, who’s in that community. Because roasters are a part of that community, and they want to be more engaged, and their customers want to be more engaged with them. I think anything else could seem more like a sales pitch, and mine never come off as such.

1. Identify local businesses/companies/start-ups that have a cool social media presence. The reason is, but typically their offices are more laid-back, and would be more willing to let you come. Scoutmob was a great example. Identify other local businesses you think would love to have you come and be barista for a morning.

2. Contact the office manager, or maybe even their social media specialist. Tell them your idea, and your objective, why you want to do it. Tell them you need nothing from them except an electric outlet.

3. Organize it, put it on the calendar, don’t publicize it.

4. Show up with all your gear and coffee. I bring everything I need. Hot water kettle, trash can, three scales, three Clever Dripper, three servers, cups, water sometimes, extension cord, filters, Baratza Vario grinder and coffee. I have a nice bag I put everything in.

5. Brew coffee for folks, sharing your passion for good coffee and community. Get to know them, what they do, etc.

6. Once done, clean your stuff up, leaving no trail, and thank them.

7. Once back, shoot an email to thank them again. Tweet it out. Thank them via Twitter, talk them up. They deserve it!

8. If you’ve videoed it, Put together the video, post it up. (Here’s the one I did for Scoutmob, edited on my iPhone with iMovie, and a little long: http://vimeo.com/25164765)

9. Enjoy what you’ve done.

So, there you have it. The Coffee Ambush. I can’t wait to do more and more of these. This reminds me of years ago, Ric Rhinehart was speaking to us at the SCAA Leadership Summit, and he asked the question: “How many of you roasters see your end customers everyday face to face, talk with them?” And very few did. Then, he asked, “Baristas, how many of you see and talk to your end customers everyday?” And of course, all did. This is a great way for roasters to communicate directly to their end customers who they are, what they do, and how good the coffee is. I was introduced at a recent event as a “Coffee Evangelist”, and I have to say I take that as a big compliment. May we all go out and evangelize in the name of good coffee where we are.

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So far, we’ve done Coffee Ambushes all over the country, with the bulk of them obviously being in the Atlanta area. We’ve done really cool ones like Adult Swim, MailChimp, Coca-Cola, PopCap Games and more, and yet there was one Ambush that I wanted to do more than all the others, and that was The Cartoon Network. It’s also been the most difficult one to schedule, too, from a logistics perspective. So, you can imagine, it was the most rewarding one to do, and I was glad to be there yesterday with the team I assembled from all over Atlanta to make it happen. Yesterday, we Ambushed the Digital floor, which includes Digital, Enterprises, Marketing and Research, and next week, we head up a floor to Creative. 

Assisting me with this Ambush was: Chandler Rentz, trainer for Batdorf & Bronson; Jonathan Pascual, owner of Taproom Coffee (a new coffee/beer shop in Kirkwood opening up this Spring); Greg Gamewell, barista at the Ponce City Dancing Goats shop; Rob Adair, barista at Copper Coin in Woodstock; and Amanda Diegel, a friend who I met through a Coffee 101, and she took most photos and videos. The coffee I used was Batdorf & Bronson’s Nicaragua Finca Santa Gema Natural, which was delicious all morning long, and all who came LOVED it. 

Suffice to say, it was a successful first Cartoon Network Ambush, and we’re looking forward to heading back next week for Round 2!

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Coffee Ambush- Vi Marketing and Branding. Oklahoma City, OK!

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This morning, I Coffee Ambushed our good friends at MailChimp. Based in Atlanta, they’ve been customers of Batdorf & Bronson for years, and we’ve been a customer of theirs, as well. You’d actually be surprised to hear that their office actually goes through more than 20 pounds of coffee a week there! That’s a lot of caffeinated MailChimpers! Today, I got to teach their staff how they could better brew coffee at home using the Clever Dripper, as well as how to make the best iced coffees at home. It was a great time, and ended watching their annual foosball tournament on their rooftop deck overlooking the beautiful Atlanta skyline! We Heart MailChimp!

Special thanks to James Staubes for arranging it, and to Garrett Kuk for the great video and photo work, as well as Batdorf Atlanta Head Roaster Aaron Shively for roasting up a delicious new crop Brazil!

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Coffee Ambush- @engauge

Today’s Coffee Ambush led me to engauge, one of the country’s largest independent advertising agencies, covering all areas from social media to promotion design and print media. I’ve met lots of people from engauge through Tweetups and other social media events, and I’ve always found them to be super cool folks. And meeting them, making coffee for them all morning, proved that to be even more true. Awesome people, incredible coffee lovers.

This morning I had additional video/photo help from Dut Goodman, who’s a great barista in his own right, and is the newest addition to our Dancing Goats Coffee Bar team in Decatur, having come from working in coffee in Athens.

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Today’s Coffee Ambush? Vitrue, a large social media management company with an office here in Atlanta. They manage social media for such large companies as Ford, Kellogg’s, McDonalds, Proctor & Gamble, Best Buy, heck most of the large companies you can think of. They are a really cool, cutting edge company, with a real laid back office environment that lends itself well to a Coffee Ambush.

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I was set-up in their breakroom/kitchen/hang out area, and had a nice full table to myself near where they brew coffee on a Bunn pourover unit, which they just bought. When I first got there, I noticed a few things. First, an Aeropress on a shelf just below the coffee, which I thought was awesome. Over next to it, was their coffee of choice, and a great reason for the Coffee Ambush,  a bag of preground Dunkin Donuts coffee. I love it that I was able to go in and show them a different quality level coffee, knowing what they were used to.

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When I first arrived, no one was expecting me. Actually, the gal who set it up didn’t make it in today, so literally, it was a total ambush for everyone! Awesome! Laura did an awesome job of getting me a place, and started passing the word along to the office. Before I knew it, the whole area was packed, and stayed that way till I ran out of coffee. Lots of great people who just found out about from their co-workers in the moment. Lots of great questions on how to better brew coffee at their homes, questions about brewing devices, questions about how to store coffee, you name it, I was able to answer them all for them. Such a fun time, and educational for them!

And the coffee was banging this morning. Tasted like straight citrus and marmalade. I heard lots of people mentioning they could taste the citrus taste, and you can hear a guy in the video talking about it. As normal, I had quite a few people tell me that they had never been able to drink black coffee before that cup, and that’s what these are all about. They’re about opening up a whole new world of coffee to the masses. They’re about showing what the potential of coffee could be. And I really feel they do a great job of accomplishing that. And it’s great connecting with so many great people who are fans of Batdorf & Bronson and Dancing Goats. Many don’t realize we roast here in Atlanta, so from that standpoint, it’s great as well.

After every one I do, I get this feeling inside like I’m really accomplishing something, like I’m really making a difference. And I’ll keep doing them. I have several more planned, and am going to think on the next companies I’ll ambush after that. Meanwhile, my new friends at Vitrue have begged me to come back, and I’ll be working to put another date on the calendar to see them again. Team Coffee FTW!

You can read more about Vitrue, and what they do here: www.vitrue.com