Monday, July 30, 2012

Making coffee - the process has changed, but not the ingredients

We loved this vintage post, a 1961 educational film about coffee-making methods from around the world.
At its heart is this simple message:
How, then, do we make the perfect cup of coffee to our taste? Success lies in a single word: Care. Three simple ingredients go into the brewing process: water, coffee, time. Care will produce a perfect result every time.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How do you like your coffee?

It's a simple question, and yet how often do you get served a coffee which is more to the barista's liking than yours?
Too hot, too cold or even worse, you have to meet certain 'standards', as set by the barista.

This article from the Sydney Morning Herald, Pour diddums . . . you'll get your coffee how we like it, struck a chord with us - for all the wrong reasons.
It gives examples of precious behaviour from Sydney cafes including one in Lilyfield, which has "DIY sugar".
The fear and loathing is not confined to Lilyfield. Elsewhere across Sydney, purist baristas have declared war on skim milk, large cups, Equal, extra hot and other accoutrements they say taint the perfect cup. Bar Italia in Leichardt is famous for its ''No soy, no skim'' stand. Customers have been known to storm out of Barefoot Coffee Traders in Manly which won't do decaf or large cups. Kafenio Cafe in Cronulla declares: ''No skim or babycinos … Don't even ask!''
We haven't even tried to understand this attitude.
We love our coffees, we're proud of the variety of flavours and unique single origins we have been able to introduce to so many new palates.
Ideally, we would like to serve our coffees a couple of degrees cooler, to bring out the flavours more. But we're realists - we know our customers are on the go, heading to work or sport; they want their cup to retain its heat on their drive in.
Does our coffee need four sugars? Three shots of caramel? No, but who are we to decide for others?
''I'm passionately frustrated. I mean, it's a coffee, not a dessert.
''We're not going to tell everyone off, but is the customer always right?''
We're going to go with yes.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Monsooned coffee is proof that some times the usual way, is not the best way.

So how did this 'faulty' coffee become such a star?

In the 1800s, when Indian was under British colonial rule, coffee was shipped back to England on tall sailing ships.
The journey was long, rounding the southern cape of Africa, and during the journey the coffee was exposed to the elements of the ship and the monsoonal conditions.
The result was what was considered at first a fault in the coffee - the beans swelled, they changed colour and the flavours changed.
But the flavour was much sought after; a smoother, more pleasant taste, low in acidity, making a pleasant change for the palates used to beans from northern Africa and South America.
As shipping speeds improved, the monsooning process was lost, but the hunger for the tastes it produced did not.

So the farmers on the Western coast of India developed more sophisticated and controlled ways of replicating the monsooning process.
After the coffee berries are picked, they are sundried and sorted according to quality, before being stored for the monsoon season.
Monsooned coffee beans
note the larger than usual size and the pale, golden colour
Over a three to four month process (about June through to September) the beans are laid out on the floors of monsooning sheds which are open to the elements. The beans are continually raked over, spread out, and mixed as they absorb up to 50 per cent more moisture than other comparable beans. They swell and change colour to a pale, almost golden yellow, compared to the dark green of most other processed coffee beans.

Finally the beans are sorted again, to separate those which have monsooned perfectly, and those which have developed faults through this tricky process.

Because of the extra moisture, the resulting coffee is very low in acidity. The process itself gives unique flavours, with predominant tastes of chocolate, spice and nuts.
And all because the ships to market took so long to make the journey.

For us it raises the question, what other deviations from the mainstream can deliver superior results?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A song about coffee

Like. A song about coffee, "My Sober", sung by Ashton Kutcher and Scout Willis.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Which grinder should I buy?

Blade vs burr, doser vs doserless. What sort of grinder should you buy? What is the best grinder?

The spice 'grinder'
We've been asked variations on the above questions for some time, and the short answer is - it depends.
But here are a few simple considerations we emailed to a customer recently. We are particularly keen for feedback from people who have used the grinders below.

Depending on budget, here’s a few.

To start, avoid blade ‘grinders’ (really, they are only good in the kitchen as spice choppers - and for that they do a good job). But for coffee, they are a waste of money and won’t do the job, particularly for an espresso machine.

Sunbeam cafe series
Starting from the cheapest, there is the Sunbeam. They have two, an EM0450 ($139) and a Café Series EM0480 ($199). They both have conical burrs. Conical burrs in simple terms are less likely to scorch the coffee when grinding, while giving an accurate, consistent grind.
What is the difference between the two?
Frankly, no idea. The specifications on the Sunbeam website look the same, but we can speak for the Café series; a friend has had one for a while, and we bought one for our shop, Mug Shots Espresso, for freshly ground decaf.
We can get an excellent extraction using our commercial San Marino 3 group machine, so that says something for the little Sunbeam.

Iberital Challenge
Next up, the Iberital Challenge, about $320. It has similar burrs to the Sunbeam,  but with a more substantial motor. The upside is it can be endlessly adjusted, to finely calibrate the grinder to get the best extraction from your machine. The downside is it can be finely calibrated, and sometimes you feel like you’re just endlessly adjusting it. We had one at home and I got a few good years out of it.
Rancilio Rocky (with doser)

Top of the range is the Rancilio Rocky. Of our three grinders in the shop, we have a commercial Rancilio grinder (as well as a Boema, and the Sunbeam listed above). We have a few friends who have the Rocky and swear by them. It’s regarded as one of, if not the top grinder for home use. But to be honest, $540 is a lot of money, and we wouldn’t be able to get one past the finance committee at home.
That said, we actually do have one at home, but in our defence we bought it second hand off a friend for half price. We also got one with a doser on it (similar to a commercial grinder) and we like it for its ability to give a consistent amount of coffee and a consistent shot.

At the end of the day, any of the grinders above will give an excellent result.
The other big debate is doser vs non-doser: that comes down to a consistent amount of coffee vs mess and wastage. A personal choice with no impact on most home setups.
Our last two grinders at home have had dosers, for the ability to give a consistent shot. And of course the shop grinders have dosers too.
That said, it's not essential, so it really does come down to a question of mess and choice. For the neat freaks, go for the non-doser.

We're always happy to answer questions from our customers about the gear they're using. So contact us.