Friday, 22 April 2011

My first Aeropress

Maybe it's to be expected... you get a new coffee toy, try it out, it takes rubbish. You try a few times more, watch a few youtube vids, and eventually it tastes good. Having tried my aeropress for the first time today, I'm still in the rubbish camp. I think, as usual, grind is the problem. Will try a few more settings, watch a few more vids, and cross fingers. Everyone says aeropress is great, so I'm not worried. And there's something vaguely satisfying about pressing down the plunger, even if the coffee ends up down the sink.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Is This The End Of Probe Thermometers?

I was reading and saw a post about TempTags now being sold in the UK, after a successful period in Australia. The idea is they are more precise, hygienic and consistent than standard probe thermometers for steaming milk - so you milk is better, with less chance of burning etc.

I'm always a tough sell when it comes to new products that claim to be better, so Glenn from 5M Coffee sent me a sample in the post, and I decided to do a test by steaming some milk using a TempTag and all three of my probes (freshly calibrated for accuracy), in the same jug at the same time.

Here's a short vid of the results. In summary, after being initially sceptical about the need for an alternative to probe thermometers, or indeed their claims to be more precise, consistent and hygienic, I've been won over. My own tests revealed inconsistent readings across the different probes I have been using (I threw one probe away immediately!), and I also love the convenience of TempTags. No more calibration, less washing, infact it's a bit like that shampoo commercial..."Now I just Steam And Go!". A future area for product improvement that would be good for trainee baristas might be adding a second colour zone for when the milk temperature hits 100F, when stretching the milk should be stopped.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Can we make it easier for customers?

Here's a post from a coffee roaster's blog, describing a coffee he has just roasted.
Cranberry, orange zest, clean, soft body, sweet butter and popcorn fragrance. This is a very subtly complex coffee. The aromatics are dense with sharp fruit and nut, however, the cup tends to be quite soft.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not out to be negative, but when an average man/woman comes across someone describing coffee in this way, there is no way on earth they can relate to it. It intimidates them. It even annoys some people (how on earth can the cup be soft?). Importantly, it pushes them away from speciality coffee, right into the arms of high street chain selling coffee that is crap, but at least it's not confusing.

Some people think that's fine. Let's keep good coffee for those who want to learn, they might say. But personally I don't want good coffee to be niche. I want it to the norm.

OK, we need terminology within the coffee industry to enable coffee afficionados to communicate with each other effectively. But we also need to help customers enjoy better coffee in a way that they can understand and embrace. It doesn't mean dumbing down, it means clever communication.

Just a thought!

Hario V60 (02). My second try.

Brew Method: Pour Over
Brew Tool: Hario V60 (02)
Date: 16 April 2011

I'm hoping to spend some time with the experts at Artisan Roast in Glasgow. They have something called The Super V60 Club and it will really help me get a handle on tasting, brewing, describing flavours/aromas etc. In advance of that, here's an early crack at making coffee using the Hario V60. It wasn't elegant, and coffeegeeks will probably call it shambolic at best! But I'm not afraid of doing it wrong. There's no such thing as a 'natural' when it comes to this sort of thing :)

Follow up: As the water was flowing through too slowly on grinder setting 22 I changed it to 28 and tried again. The grinds were notably larger. Good news was that the grinds did start to bloom during pre-infusion, which they hadn't with the finer grind. Bad new is, this time I got 9oz (about 260ml) in only 2 minutes, so it was underextracted and had a slightly thin quality to it, both taste-wise and visually. Next time I'll split the difference on the grinder setting.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Lesson one: Mother knows best....maybe not.

Today my mother told me how happy she was to find a new coffee. 
"Brilliant!", I said.  But I spoke too soon. 
"Yes", she continued. Its a little packet of dry stuff that has one cup of coffee AND the milk AND the sugar already in it.  Just add water.  It tastes great.  I got 40 packets for £2!" she beamed.
Where do I go from there?

Friday, 15 April 2011

Hello from here at the starting line.

It's Day 1 of my journey, and before I get started here's a big thanks to you for joining me here!  Whether you're already a self-confessed 'coffeegeek' or, like me, someone who until now hasn't had much to do with the stuff, I hope you'll enjoy reading of my fun and frustrations whilst learning about coffee.

"What's he going on about? Just pour the boiling water on the brown powder from the jar!" I hear some of you say.  Well the thing is, I bought a home espresso machine a few weeks ago and since then it has become obvious to me that there's a massive coffee thing going on in the world and that I and the majority of people in my country (UK) just don't have a clue about it!  Some of us think we do, because we regularly buy the latest caramel latte from Costa Coffee or Pepperment Mocha Frappuccino from Starbucks.  But when it comes to coffee, well...we're a nation of tea drinkers and proud of it.

That would be ok if it weren't for the fact that the world is also changing, and quickly.  You know filter coffee? You know - the horrible black stuff that sits on the hotplate for hours in cheap cafes?  Well, it turns out that filter coffee is making a comeback - and this time it means business.  "Pah!", you say.  "Never!".  Maybe you're right.  Nobody knows yet.  But the coffegeeks and stockbrokers say it will.  And guess what? Starbucks have started pushing their new filter coffee range.  That says a lot.

At the top of the page are some pictures of coffee brewing devices - some weird and wonderful little tools there, eh?  Here's my plan.  I'm going to be messing about with as many of them as I can, trying to make the perfect coffee.  This is me trying to learn something to the best of my ability.  To be more than a Barista... a Barista Eccezionale if you like.

But let's take a step back... my starting position is Barista Rubbisho!  This is going to involve time, mistakes, and a lot of caffeine buzz!  I don't have all these devices yet.  And learning how to use them isn't as simple as putting water and ground beans in and waiting a few minutes.  These things can make truly awful coffee if it's done wrong, and its a lot easier to do it wrong than to do it right.  But therein lies the 'Coffee Lab' aspect of this blog.  Through a process of education, experiment and experience, hopefully I'll eventually reach my goal.  Or at least somewhere near it.

Wish me luck!