Freese Coffee Co.

Renovation at Freese Coffee Co.

I’ve been dreaming of having my own retail space for quite some time now. Exactly a month a I finally signed the lease for one – aptly located on Freesenkatu – Freese Street – in Etu-Töölö, Central Helsinki.

At Freese Coffee Company’s first location we aim to help our customers to understand coffee better so that they could enjoy it more – both at our tiny weekend-only coffee bar as well as at home.

Window at Freese Coffee Co.

Inspired by my WBC journey to Melbourne and back home via Tokyo we are planning to grind all the coffees on a filter grind and brew them through espresso machine – yes, both filter coffee and espresso. There’s great theoretical background behind this way of brewing and it only starts to make sense when you actually taste the coffee.

Follow the progress of Freese Coffee Co. here on Tumblr and on Facebook. I’m planning to share some of the ideas, ideology and results in this blog. It’s going to be really great to finally have a sandbox of my own, to test all kinds of silly ideas.

Hope to see you there. We serve our first coffees on Sunday next week, August 18.

Bar at Freese Coffee Co.

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From Origin to Extinction

Did you know that Robusta, Coffea Canephora, is actually the other parent of Arabica (Coffea arabica)? Or that there is a coffee species that’s fruit is meant to be dispersed by water rather than by animals?

Neither did I before researcher Aaron Davis’ fantastic talk at the Speciality Coffee Association of America’s (SCAA) Symposium, held in Boston this April. He talks about his work researching coffee species and discovering new ones in Madagascar and elsewhere – yet this compelling and engaging talk could be straight from the stage of a TED conference. I highly recommend watching this as well as other Symposium talks.


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Thank You

I feel that I’m obliged to start by thanking all the lovely, fantastic people who made my journey to Melbourne possible and in my opinion rather successful. I placed 19th out of 53 competitors, 25 points from the semifinals and I’m pretty happy with that. My first goal was to make it into the top 20 (easily) but the big goal – semifinals – is left for next time. More in depth post follows.


These people made me push harder and keep going when I was losing my faith in this silly competition. They didn’t walk out of the door when I was tired, stressed, bossy and / or wondering what’s the point of this whole thing. Helping me doing the dishes after another late night of practicing, followed by ridiculously early start, just getting myself to Melbourne would have been impossible without these substantial efforts.

These names are in no particular order (except for one) – all this help I consider invaluable. Thank you…

Tim Wendelboe for roasting and sponsoring me with such a fantastic coffee from Sitio Canaa in Brazil. I’ve really enjoyed this opportunity to work and taste coffee with someone who I consider my greatest role model and source of inspiration in coffee. Also, thank you for being so supportive and polishing my cups for the re-run (due to a technical problem I did my routine twice the same day). It really gave me the energy I needed.

Milla Vainikainen, Hanna Huhtonen and Isa Verschraegen for making it happen. The last two days before the competition my coffee wasn’t tasting as good as I wanted it to, we were still missing items and my signature ingredients didn’t really work as hoped. To be honest, at this point I was fairly stressed. However,  these extraordinary ladies spent hours and hours (Milla her only two days off that week) watching my practice runs, cleaning up, polishing, setting up my cart and then cleaning up again. Just as we thought it was all over and had packed everything back to suitcases I told them that we are going to do the whole thing again. After 10 seconds of disbelief they were making it happen again, so that I could focus just in the coffee and presentation.

The Team

Fatim Diarra for yelling at me when I was in need of that. Fatim was enormous help in putting my routine together, stripping it down and making sure I enjoyed the competition. I’m pretty confident that without her I would not have won the national barista competition back in February.

Talor Browne for being such an unbelievably energetic person and skilled barista. She believed in me, helped me making the coffee taste as it was supposed to and just inspiring me by her presence.

Sasu Laukkonen for finding the time in his ridiculously fully booked diary to help me out with my signature drink. I’m a huge fan of his approach to seasonality and with his help we created a drink that I was both happy and confident serving (in the end we did work out the ingredients). It tasted great and created an interesting link between Finland and Brazil.

Kiril Shaginov for fixing me training space in Melbourne. Without your help this project would have most likely had a disastrous ending.

Chris Kolbu, the most honest judge I know. I was more nervous presenting my routine to him than to the judges on the WBC stage. Thank you for the feedback, other help and sausage roll courier service before the second run. Photos featured here are taken by him.


Lauri Pipinen for borrowing all kinds of equipment I wanted to try out. His coffee bar in Helsinki, Good Life Coffee, is literally 50 metres from where I was training. When something wasn’t working out I would go to GLC, have a cup of filter coffee with a chat and return back to work with clearer mind.

Samuli Ronkanen for taking the best portrait in this year’s WBC competitor introduction (have a look here!)

Paul Haddon, my barista buddy in Melbourne, for acquiring stuff that I needed and driving me around the city.

All my friends who I haven’t spent enough time this spring. Thanks for the support. A few even set up a WBC studio in the middle of the night!

All my sponsors and partners who have supported this journey to the World’s. It would not have been possible without your financial or tangible support.

My parents and brother Pekka (who too will be a Finnish barista champion one day) for their incredible support and enthusiasm. I would have never made it to Melbourne without breaking a single cup or glass without my mother’s exceptional packaging skills.

Finally, the one exception. I must apologize and thank my incredible girlfriend Erika who’s been through more than anyone else during not just this but also two previous years of competing. These competitions have stolen considerable amount of my time and thoughts. Thank you for continuously supporting me, we’ve made it pretty far together. Thank you.

After two and half weeks of travelling I’m writing this in Tokyo, having slept an hour last night. I know missing many names here and lists like these are by definition incomplete. So please don’t be offended – we both know that your help was highly appreciated.

Once again – thank you all. Till next time…

No worries, Daft Punk is on

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Project Melbourne – the Coffee

In this series I’m going to feature people helping me on my way to Melbourne for the WBC. It’s not like I’m preparing alone. Barista competitions are a team sport. This is my way of expressing my appreciation for these lovely folks.

Finnish Barista Cup 2013

Let’s start from where it all begins from – the coffee. In the beginning I had a pretty good idea what kind of coffee I would like to use in the WBC. To start with it had to be in season. Freshness of the green coffee has become pretty important to me lately. I wanted a coffee that’s very sweet, balanced and has a well integrated and interesting acidity. Also, it had to be something slightly unusual.

Without tasting I was almost certain that this Red Bourbon from Sitio Canaa, roasted and sourced by Tim Wendelboe in Oslo, would be exactly the coffee I was looking for – and it was. The coffee is produced by brothers Joao Hamilton and Ivan Dos Santos together with my good friend Felipe Croce from Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza in the state of Sao Paulo in Brazil. These guys produce the some of the very best Brazilian coffees I’ve tried. It’s a coffee that I’m very proud to serve.

Coffee is actually the seed of the coffee plant. When the cherry is picked something has to be done to get the seed, the bean out. The easiest way to do this is to lay the coffee on cement patios for some days to dry in the sun. Just like when producing raisins, the pulp dries and is removed mechanically. However, this way the coffee dries too quickly and unevenly and the sugary pulp can start to ferment. To put it short - often this method doesn’t produce great tasting coffee.

Sitio Canaa espresso

Felipe has done tremendous job experimenting with different processing methods and techniques and this coffee represents the new generation of these Brazilian natural (sun dried) processed coffees. As a result of meticulous processing and slow drying on raised beds (better than patios) it’s definitely one of the the cleanest naturals I’ve tried, with none of those ferment-y flavors. I also believe that this slow, even drying gives the raw, green coffee longer shelf life –  this lot was harvested in late August last year yet it’s still tasting very fresh and vibrant. You can read more about the coffee here.

My first encounter with Tim Wendelboe was at the WBC in London in June 2010. After a while he noticed some kid following him around the event and finally stopped and asked what I was after. He had about 40 seconds to chat with me before his next meeting that happened to be with Felipe and his father Marcos Croce – what a coincidence. Later I’ve learnt that Wendelboe is not just a great roaster but also a pioneer in green coffee sourcing and improving coffee quality at the farm. At times, in the night of Nairobi, Tim also pioneers the dance floor with his Norwegian moves that are as clean and light as his roasts. What a true inspiration around the clock.

I’m so excited yet humbled to be able to work with somebody I’ve admired since I started in coffee.  Also, his fantastic team at the roastery, including my lovely friend Talor Browne, have done tremendous job handling the logistics (getting coffee from Norway to Finland is so, so much more difficult than one might imagine) and being general support team. Thank you for supplying me with such a beautiful coffee. Let’s hope that Melbourne will enjoy it as much as we do.

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It’s already been two and half busy months since the Finnish Barista Championships. Close to midnight on the 16th of May I’ll be boarding a plane towards Melbourne via Singapore alone but accompanied by some fantastic coffee (more about that soon), fragile Finnish ceramics and glassware and those few ingredients that I’m allowed to enter Australia with. It’s going to be an exciting trip.

The primary reason why I do compete in barista competitions is learning. Just by competing I’ve learned so much. Now that I happened to win I’ve been encountered with so many more chances to learn so much more. It’s been fantastic. In March I spent almost a week in London with my girlfriend, seeing (coffee) friends and touring coffee shops. Learning, tasting, chatting, getting inspired.

Last Monday, on a very unfortunate and sad day I left Boston where I had been attending the Speciality Coffee Association of America’s annual Symposium, an expensive TED-like event that definitely was worth the trip. After the Symposium I spent the rest of the week practicing industrial espionage at the United States Barista Competition, seeing who I’ll be up against up to. Before Boston I had a quick few days to wonder around New York.

Here’s a few photos from my recent travels.

Dunne Frankowski coffee bar

Look Mum No Hands

Workshop Coffee

Ozone Coffee Roasters

Association Coffee

Lunch at the Corner Room

Short rib nuggets at Hawksmoor.

Dusk over Long Island


Blue Bottle

Linea PB

USBC top 6

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Best Coffee in Helsinki

Show Best Coffee in Helsinki on larger map

Here’s my guide for the best coffee in Helsinki. This time I didn’t grade them in any way – they all have great coffee and are worth the visit for other reasons too. One interesting detail that I noticed while writing this was that almost every shops uses AeroPress for brewing coffee by cup. So, go out there and tell me which shop does it best!

For high resolution photos visit my Flickr.

                Good Life Coffee

Lauri, Sam and Corey at Good Life Coffee

Things are happening in Kallio, an up-and-coming district in Helsinki that was previously more of a working class area better known for its dozens of shady bars. The most recent reason to make your way on top of the Rock (as Kallio translates from Finnish) is Good Life Coffee, a coffee bar and a shop.

Impressive shelf of goodness

Card from a regular

 That’s where I am currently writing this article, enjoying a great cup of Johan & Nyström’s new natural processed coffee from Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza in Brazil. The man behind this coffee spot is Lauri Pipinen, Finnish Barista Champion 2011 and a very good friend of mine.

The Good Life Coffee estate

Stepping inside Good Life is like stepping in Pipinen’s living room. I love the welcoming atmosphere and lack of pretentiousness. There’s a second-hand table by one of the grand old men of Finnish Design (Ilmari Tapiovaara), LP-player spinning tunes in the corner and La Marzocco Linea humming and purring while doing what it does best (brewing tasty espresso). No-nonsense would be a fitting description for Good Life Coffee – great coffees from a variety of roasters in Finland and abroad, brewed on AeroPress one cup at a time and served with a smile.

Owner Lauri Pipinen behind the machine

Address: Kolmas Linja 17

Opening hours:

MON 7:45-16:00
TUE – FRI 7:45-18:00
SAT 10:00 – 16:00 SUN CLOSED

                 Johan & Nyström

Filling a beautiful old red brick warehouse right on the waterfront, Johan & Nyström has both the coffee and esthetic sides fixed. In the summer the terrace provides unrivaled views to the sea while cyclists and not-too-big groups of tourists pass by. Not the worst setting to enjoy a cup of coffee brewed on V60.

Johan & Nyström from the outside

Pasi Kokko is a photographer turned barista who now focuses his efforts on instagramming his progress in latte art instead of shooting editorials for fashion magazines. I’m glad it turned this way – otherwise we couldn’t enjoy his cheerful and positive presence behind the bar, running the cafe operations for this Swedish roastery.

Pasi Kokko

Treats and delicacies, some of them produced within the ”raw food” specifications, go well with the few daily changing coffee options. This shop is well worth the little walk or tram ride from the city centre.

Johan & Nyström

Johan & Nyström

Address: Kanavaranta 7

Opening hours:
MON – FRI 9:00 – 18:00
SAT 10:00 – 17:00 SUN 10:00 – 17:00



Two years after setting up his first cafe, the very popular La Torrefazione, Jens Hampf opened Fratello in the newly renovated Kluuvi shopping centre in central Helsinki in 2011. The concept is similar: great coffee, Italian-inspired lunch, sandwiches, pastries, wine and beer.

Syphon graffiti in Fratello

Featuring the only syphon bar in Helsinki, Fratello has been in the forefront of bringing tasty, well-brewed filter coffee to the people, showing that black coffee can actually taste fantastic. You can choose from several single estate coffees roasted by Kaffa Roastery and occasionally sample treats from guest roasters, often foreign ones. Lately they’ve been brewing lovely coffee from Koppi in Helsingborg, Sweden.

Viivi Ahtiainen concentrating on my brew

Address: Yliopistonkatu 6, Kluuvi Shopping Centre

Opening hours: 

MON – FRI 7:30 – 20:00,
SAT 10:00 – 18:00 
SUN 12:00 – 18:00

                La Torrefazione

When it opened in September 2009 La Torrefazione was the first and only cafe in Helsinki to serve freshly roasted speciality coffee. I’ve counted having had at least 100 espressos there during the first autumn.

Located on the second floor on the busiest shopping street in Helsinki, La Torrefazione has proved that there is demand for quality coffee in this city. During lunch and after work hours it can be difficult to find a free seat. Serving two different espressos and changing filter coffees roasted by Kaffa Roastery, La Torrefazione also roasts some coffee in house on their Turkish-made Toper roaster (hence the Italian name for ”roastery”).

Address: Aleksanterinkatu 50, 2nd floor

Opening hours: 

MON – FRI 07:30 – 20:00,
SAT 09:00 – 19:00, SUN 10:00 – 18:30

               Kaffa Roastery

Where it's at

In my opinion Kaffa Roastery has been and still is the pioneering quality focused roastery in Finland. Many larger and older establishments have changed their coffee from the bulk stuff to freshly roasted craft coffee. It’s also where I started my coffee career some 3,5 years ago, when the roastery was still in Tuusula 25 kilometres from Helsinki.

Kaffa Roastery

Three years ago Kaffa moved to the trendy Punavuori neighborhood in central Helsinki. Besides the roastery there’s also a coffee bar, serving espresso and filter coffee roasted right behind the glass doors.

AeroPress brewing

Address: Pursimiehenkatu 29 A, behind Moko Market

Opening hours:  

MON – FRI: 7:45 – 18:00
SAT: 10:00 – 16:00

                 Kahvila Sävy

Kahvila Sävy

Run by Kaisa and Mikko Sarén, a husband and wife team, Kahvila Sävy is cheering up the coffee scene in Helsinki by serving excellent coffees supplied by Turun Kahvipaahtimo. Juhani Haahti, the solo operator of this true micro roastery, browns his beans in Turku, the old capital about 100 km west from Helsinki.

Kahvila Sävy

Last May Sävy moved to a larger space not far from the original one. Filter coffee is available both as batch brewed (fresh and tasty) or through AeroPress. After taking these photos they’ve changed the La Marzocco espresso machine in a lever one.

Kahvila Sävy

Mikko Sarén, co-owner of Kahvila Sävy

Address: Aleksis Kiven katu 12

Opening hours:
MON – THU 7:30 – 18:00
FRI 7:30 – 17:00
SAT 10:00 – 16:00

                Helsinki Coffee Roastery

Helsingin Kahvipaahtimo

Helsingin KahvipaahtimoHelsinki Coffee Roastery, as it translates from Finnish, has a very unique atmosphere. The old garage space hosting both the roastery and cafe has an unrefined, almost raw character. It’s filled with old, second-hand furniture, equipment and details yet everything is effortlessly blending with the new shiny machinery.

Helsingin Kahvipaahtimo

Ulrika labelling coffee bags

Owner Benjamin Andberg is running the roastery with Ulrika Hannula, the grand young lady of coffee in Finland. I knew that coffee was what I wanted to do after attending a half-a-day barista course led by her four years ago. It’s great to see them running this small operation together.

Benjamin Andberg, owner of Helsingin Kahvipaahtimo

Although the cafe is a bit of out the way it’s definitely worth the visit. I’d recommend trying one of the single estate coffees through AeroPress.

Sample roaster

Coffee bags at Helsingin Kahvipaahtimo

Address: Päijänteentie 29

Opening hours:
WED – FRI 7:30 – 17:00
SAT: 10:00 – 16:00

Uspenski cathedral next to Johan & Nyström

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Finnish Barista Champion 2013

Here’s a quick video of my competition routine at the Finnish Barista Championship finals last Saturday. It went pretty well and I won the whole thing – and still can’t really believe that. You can see my reaction in the end of the video. More comprehensive post coming soon!

Finnish Barista Championship 2013 from Kalle Freese on Vimeo.

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Telescope Cafe

Telescope Cafe

For a long time Paris was known for almost everything else but great coffee. Michelin starred restaurants, small bistros, traditional cafés by the Seine occupying half of the sidewalk – few of these Parisian institutions seemed to take great care of their coffee: sourcing freshly roasted quality beans, grinding to order, brewing with clean equipment or proper water.

However, as usual when there’s a clear gap in the market, an opportunity for making people happy by serving them great tasting coffee with a smile, sooner or later someone fills it. Recently it’s been happening in Paris.

Telescope Cafe

Perhaps the most prominent one of this handful of new quality focused coffee shops is Telescope Cafe. Located right behind the Palais-Royale, in the 1st arrondissement in Quartier Japonais that’s mostly known for its Japanese ramen joints, Telescope is nestled on the quiet Rue Villedo.

What used to be a workshop for Armenian carpet maker is now a small cafe with great coffee, some savory and sweet treats served in an amazingly warm and welcoming atmosphere. The duo behind Telescope are Nicolas Clerc and David Flynn. Earlier Clerc worked as a photographer and caught interest in coffee while shooting an coffee article for New York Times. Previously of Le Bal in Paris and many others, Flynn has a solid experience in barista work.

Telescope Cafe

What is striking about Telescope is the warmth and lovely atmosphere right when you walk in – something rather uncommon for Paris. Accommodating less than a dozen people conversations are easily started at Telescope, often with a little introduction by Clerc (who knows almost all of his customers by name).

Filter coffee is a rare sight in Paris. Even harder it is to come by one that’s actually tasting great. Telescope serves beans roasted by Flynn at Cafe Coutume in the 7th district. Filter coffee is brewed through Kalita Wave filter under the watchful dispensing of Über Boiler. For the busy ones there’s also coffee from the tap, excellent and fresh from the Marco batch brewer. The way Flynn roasts their coffee is leaning towards the ”Scandinavian style” – fairly light with quite high acidity and a lot of sweetness and fruitiness, a far cry from the ”French roast”.

Telescope Cafe

Somehow Telescope feels like a hidden gem of modern Paris – one with great coffee, tasty treats, friendly people and amazing hospitality. Hopefully all this will spread further than just Telescope and the few others.

Telescope Cafe

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Nordic Barista Cup 2012

Competing at the Nordic Barista Cup is a milestone for every Nordic barista. Each year national coffee competition champions or runners-up are chosen to form a team for the NBC. Usually that team consists of four baristas but this year there was only three from each Nordic country. Kenya being this year’s focus country, each team was reinforced with a Kenyan counterpart, making working as a team both much more exciting but also slightly more challenging.

I did a little wrap-up on the recent Nordic Barista Cup on the Nordic Coffee Culture blog. Read it here and check out Team Finland’s Champagne-splashing photos on the NBC Flickr stream.

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The Shortest 15 Minutes

It all starts with the coffee. The whole routine and presentation starts by finding the right coffee and getting to know it as well as you can. I started looking for the right coffee about four months before the semi-finals. I would have loved to have a very special, absolutely delicious fresh coffee to compete with. In reality, most times you have to stick with what’s available and what might not be the freshest or best coffee you’ve tried.

I wrote an article about my experiences in barista competitions in the Nordic Coffee Culture blog. Read the rest of it here.

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