Eduin – Colombian Microlot: Our Newest Roast

Here at Achilles Coffee Roasters, we are constantly searching for the world’s best coffee beans. Often times that means working with independent farmers and co-ops in areas that are a little off the beaten path. It’s this dedication to quality that led us to find Eduin and his Microlot coffee beans.

What is a Microlot?

One of the best ways to describe a microlot is by using an analogy of an apple orchard. Imagine that you’re growing apples and most trees are producing great tasting apples, but one spot on your farm produces apples that taste even better. These apples are juicier, crispier, and it’s very easy to notice how much better these apples are from the others. So you fence off these apples and start giving them special attention to grow even tastier than before. Now these apples not only taste better, but they can also be sold at a premium to special buyers.

That is the basic idea of coffee microlots. A microlot is not just a small lot of coffee. The term also implies that there has been research and experimentation by the farmer or co-op into producing a coffee with exceptional characteristics.

About Eduin & His Farm

Eduin is an ambitious, modest coffee farmer native to the Herrera community, a very isolated area of southern Tolima. The area is one of the more impoverished of Colombia, due to its violent history of insurgent and criminal armed groups that continues even today.

Eduin on his farm in Colombia

Though his farm consists of 1.5 hectares, he is determined to make the small amount of coffee he produces as good as possible. Eduin has a young, growing family, and sees specialty coffee as the way to provide with only a tiny piece of land.

Coffee Growing on Eduin's Farm
Eduin’s Coffee Growing

For Eduin, the risky bet has paid off and allowed him to achieve specialty cup quality even with his limited on-farm infrastructure. Since December 2017, Eduin has been earning nearly twice the Colombian commodity price for his coffee by working with roasters like us.

About the Roast

For this coffee, we decided to do a roast that is between light and medium. This allows all of the bright flavors of a light roast to shine through while still maintaining a deeper base of a medium roast. The tasting notes are Strawberry Jam, Brown Sugar, and it has a Citrus Acidity.

Eduin’s roast is now available online and in-store so you can try the microlot difference for yourself.

The History of the Latte

Traditional Latte Art
A Latte with Latte Art

Whether you call it a caffe latte, cafe au lait, or cafe con leche, the Latte is a drink that has stood the test of time. It has become one of the quintessential drinks of the modern coffee shop, but how did it get there? The history of the latte is a long and fascinating tale with as many layers as the art that traditionally tops them.

First, let’s begin with what is a latte? The modern latte is a combination of, typically, a double shot of espresso mixed with steamed milk. They can be made hot or iced and come in a variety of flavors. It is a simple, delicious drink that fuels many people around the world each morning. What we now know as a latte would confuse many of its original drinkers.

Early History of the Latte

Europeans have been mixing coffee and milk since at least the 17th Century. The term “caffe e latte” was first used by William Dean Howells in his 1867 essay “Italian Journeys”. At this point in history, coffee is starting to become a worldwide sensation, but the brewing methods were still very primitive as espresso machines had not been invented yet.

The Invention of Espresso

To understand what they were drinking, let’s look at a brief history of the espresso machine. Italian coffeemaker Illy defines authentic espresso as, “A jet of hot water at 190°-200°F passes under a pressure of nine of more atmospheres through a .25 oz cake-like layer of ground and tamped coffee.” The first patented espresso machine dates back to 1884, but this machine was only able to create a pressure of 1.5 atmospheres. 

Although there were many improvements made over the years, this issue would not be solved until the 1940s. Milanese cafe owner Achille Gaggia changed the game by adding a spring-piston lever to be operated by the barista. This is where the phrase “pulling a shot” originated and is still widely used today though the levers have been abandoned. This also lead to the discovery of crema. Consumers were initially suspicious of the “scum” floating on top of their coffee until Gaggia began marketing it as “caffe creme”, suggesting that the coffee could produce its own cream because of its high quality. There were a few more innovations over the years, but nothing that would impact the drink on such a massive level for a few decades. 

Espresso with Natural Crema
A Freshly “Pulled” Espresso Shot with Rich Crema

The Reinvention of the Latte

Steam wands had been added to espresso machines as early as 1903, but they had just been used to heat and create texture in the milk. In the 1980s, baristas from Seattle, Washington began to “paint” with the highly textured milk and create art to top the drinks. Over time these designs were popularized and spread throughout the world. It is now common practice to finish any steamed drink with latte art.

The latte has seen many changes over the years, but the fundamentals of coffee and milk remain the same. We likely haven’t seen the end of the evolution of the latte. In the age of social media, coffee trends change and spread faster than ever. The only thing we can be sure of is this traditional drink will continue to adapt with the times.

Your Coffee Experience is Design Driven | Coffee Shop Design Trends

Coffee Shop Design Trends

Search ‘coffee shop’ on Instagram or Pinterest and you will discover an eclectic world of design trends. Where we buy and consume our coffee has become an important third place, not only in the U.S. but around the world. The first place is home. The second place is work. The third place is where we relax and find community, the anchors of our society. A recent study found millennials are spending more on coffee than they are saving for the future. No doubt this trend contributes to the growing number of coffee shops opening around the country. As a result, more time spent in the cherished third place.

Every day new people are turned on to the specialty coffee shop experience for the first time. However, it is not a new concept. Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul, is cited as the birthplace of the coffee house in 1555. Even then it was a social center where people, mostly men, would gather to drink coffee, converse, read and listen to music. Almost, 450 years later not much has changed. Well, the customers are more diverse, arguably the coffee is better and the design is as important as the espresso.

Coffee is Design-Driven

It is hard to pinpoint exactly when Specialty coffee shops became design-driven. There was always an emphasis on equipment, but with a minimalist build out. The focus was truly on the coffee. Then there was a pivot around 15 years ago when design took the wheel.

Simplicable defines design as ‘the practice of creating form, function, and experience.’ When coffee shop design adopted this approach a lot changed.

While the funky, bohemian, neighborhood coffee shop with old thrift store couches, bookshelves, magazines and chess boards still exists, it’s third wave specialty coffee cousin evolved and stepped up in a big way.

Coffee Shop Design

In the highly competitive coffee industry, the contemporary design concept rules. The couches have been replaced with stools and stone counters. The corner lamps, replaced by custom made light fixtures hung from high ceilings.

Books have been replaced by laptop computers plugged into a nearby receptacle. In fact, some coffee shops like Ritual Coffee in San Francisco have no receptacles in order to discourage the masses from using the third place as an office.

Open Space Design

Coffee Shop Design Trends Counters High Ceilings.
Less is more in contemporary design, except when it comes to open space. The latest coffee shop design trends place an emphasis on layout design and incorporate the best use of space to create an open relaxed feel. How do you create a big open feel in a 1000 sq ft coffee shop? Seating around the edges leaves the center of the room open. Throw in high ceilings and suddenly 1000 sq ft feels like 2000 sq ft.

Optimizing seating space is crucial and specialty coffee shop design trends reflect it. The four top with one person seated with a laptop is a relic of the past. Counters with stools and the occasional two top can accommodate more bodies with less space.

The Counter as a Gathering Place

In the past, the counter was used for ordering only. Customers ordered, paid, and then likely sat down at a table with hardback chairs. Now, it is not uncommon to find the counter as an island at the center of the coffee shop experience. It resembles a bar where guests can take a seat, have a drink and watch the baristas do their thing.

Tile Design

Tile installations are very hot. The white subway tile backsplash behind the counter was just the beginning. Coffee shop design takes some very interesting directions with tiled walls, counters, and even floors. Creative use of tile size and shape creates a fun atmosphere. As we all spend more time in the third place, design plays a more crucial role.

Equipment Design

Cars are the classic American status symbol. But in the specialty coffee world, the coffee equipment, particularly the espresso machine, communicates the status of the coffee shop. The coffee equipment on the counter plays a huge role in the design of the shop. Walk up to the counter at a new specialty coffee shop and the espresso machine is proudly displayed. Probably a shiny La Marzocco or Synesso machine which can range up to $20k+. That’s right, these machines are the luxury sports cars in the coffee shop world.

Baristas understand the importance of quality equipment. If a specialty coffee shop wants to attract and attain talented baristas the shop needs to be outfitted properly. This includes coffee and espresso grinders and brewers. It goes without saying that quality equipment produces a superior product, but also improves design aesthetic and workflow.

Functional Design

Although there are common themes among coffee shop design trends, ultimately the design should be functional, a response to people’s needs. At the coffee shop, there are three end users, the customer, the barista, and the owner. Design should take into consideration the needs of all users, solve problems and create a better experience.

Flat White vs Cappuccino Do You Know the Difference?

Flat White vs Cappuccino

So, what’s The Difference Between Flat White and Cappuccino? Lately, there has been a lot of talk and debate over two very traditionally different drinks that are slowly becoming very similar.

As the Third wave of coffee is crashing over the world there are a lot of changes being made to classic coffee methods and ideals, from brewing, to technique and the ethics behind the whole coffee experience. We have seen new styles being introduced to coffee for the better half of the last decade. One of the most noticeable changes has come from the many new drinks that involve coffee. Baristas and new coffee shops popping up everywhere are now mixing their coffee with things like tonic water, ice cream and of course milk!

Shot of Espresso Cappuccino Flat WhiteHistory of Flat White and Cappuccino

So lets take a look at two very popular drinks, A flat white and a cappuccino drink. In most third wave coffee shops you’ll find one of these two and or maybe both.


The history of these two drink couldn’t be more different so lets start with the cappuccino. The cappuccino is an age old drink that dates back to the 1900s this drink has been a staple morning drink for many Europeans. The tradition is to have a cappuccino served in a 5-6 oz cup with espresso milk the a semi-thick layer of foam that has been aerated slightly longer to softly lay over the top of the drink. A clear separation between the foam and the espresso.

Flat White

The flat white was first brought to light in the 1980s in Australia and New Zealand. There’s no doubt that the drink draws inspirations from the much older cappuccino but with its own twist. A flat white will more commonly have less foam. In fact the milk will be mirco-foamed for a more silky mixture of milk and espresso. Think of it as a cappuccino sized latte.

There are many baristas alike that have chosen a side saying the Flat white has a stronger flavor with perfect mix of milk and espresso. Others saying that the cappuccino is the drink that best mixes espresso and foamed milk. Sometimes the only difference for some is the vessel that the drink is served in. The more experience you have with either of these drinks you will see a common theme being that the milk is almost always foamed longer for a cappuccino than a flat white.

Next time you go into a specialty coffee shop maybe see for yourself what the differences are between a flat white vs. a cappuccino?

The Growth of Third Wave Coffee

3rd Wave Coffee Expansion

The growth of third wave coffee is an undeniably good thing, both for coffee lovers and coffee shop owners alike. Coffee’s place in our culinary landscape has been cemented as a legitimate culinary experience as opposed to a simple drink we consume in the morning. The 3rd wave created a market for coffee that entrepreneurs all around the country have tapped to make a living doing what they love — roasting, brewing and serving artisanal coffee. Read on to learn about the coffee industry growth.

As the demand for specialty coffee continues to grow and expand, two companies with the biggest ambitions are Philz Coffee and Blue Bottle Coffee. Both hailing from the Bay Area, these two coffee companies started from humble beginnings, as single-location independent cafes.
Coffee Shop Third Wave Coffee Achilles Coffee

The Institutionalization of Third Wave Coffee

The growth of third wave coffee has attracted venture capital investment, with Philz raising over $75mm and Blue Bottle raising over $100mm. This begs the question: what are they going to with all of that money?

For both companies, the answer is simple: grow, grow grow.

Blue Bottle has already opened two cafes in Tokyo, with a third on the way. They’re planning to open cafes in most of the metropolitan areas of Asia, as they’ve been incredibly successful in Tokyo already.

Philz has built 34 locations in the last 15 years of their existence. They’re in San Diego now with a location in Encinitas, La Jolla and Del Mar. This new round of funding sees them trying to add 50 more locations in quick succession. That’s over double the number of locations they built in the last 15 years.

The growth of Third Wave Coffee and the cash infusion these companies received is a rapid accelerator of growth…but it comes at a cost. Many Blue Bottle employees have left the company to start their own independent cafes, citing the “corporate takeover” of the company.

The backlash makes sense — both Blue Bottle and Philz were once small, independent, single-location coffee shops. They attracted employees who loved the company for what it was. It’s no surprise some of them are fleeing after seeing the ambitious growth goals of both of these coffee companies.

Corporate Chains vs. Independent Locally Owned Coffee Shops

For coffee drinkers, there’s a different question to answer: will these companies lose what made them special in the first place?

Is there such a thing as growing “too big” to be taken seriously as a member of the 3rd wave movement? Are we seeing the 4th wave of coffee? At what point do Philz Coffee and Blue Bottle become so ubiquitous and their business processes become so systemized that they’re indistinguishable from the big players like Starbucks or Peet’s?

While you can’t fault a company for wanting to grow, at what point will coffee drinkers turn back to the small independently owned coffee shops to recapture some of the vibe that made Philz and Blue Bottle so popular in the first place? The answer remains to be seen, but with Philz and Blue Bottle locations popping up all over the place, we’ll see soon enough.