Monthly Archives: March 2009

A Day of Triple Espressos….. Hmmm !

I was on my travels again, which usually means in most cases, no espressos for at least a week. So, you won’t be surprised to learn, if you have been an avid reader of my blog, that as I had the opportunity to pass through London for the day on my way back to Vienna, I made a beeline (an English slang for “going straight/directly for…”) for Flat White in Soho. I bust inside, gasping for a flat white of course and thought, “I really need espresso”, so I ordered a triple espresso flat white, made with a bottomless portafilter. The barista looked impressed and went to work and as there was no queue at 10am on a Friday morning, I didn’t have to wait long. I got my camera out so that I can share the experience with you, at least a pic.

 

Caution: Triple Espresso Flat White

Caution: Triple Espresso Flat White

Before heading out, I snapped up a couple of bags of coffee beans (Flat White blend made by Square Mile Roasters of course) – what else can you ask for when you visit a cafe, triple espresso and some good bag of beans to take home – more about tasting these in the next post God willing.  

OK ! so the title of this post is “A Day of Triple Espressos….Hmmm !”, so I’m not finished, however, there was an exception, and that was on my visit to Milk Bar (Flat White number two). Well ! I had to have another espresso (actually a double ristretto) after snacking on a delicious roasted falafel sandwich from my favourite sandwich shop in London, Pret-a-manger. I digress, but I headed to Milk Bar, had a chat with the supervisor, Max, about the lovely black La Marzocco FB70 espresso machine and the grinders (tekky talk), ordered an espresso and walked round the back to take a pic of the other barista pouring a latte.

Anyway, whilst talking to Max, he told me that there was a new Fernandez & Wells coffee shop, around the corner at St. Anne’s Court, so I was off, at least to look. St. Anne’s Court is in Soho, sandwiched between Wardour Street and Dean Street on a little pedestrian alley way.

Initially, I just went in to chat and see the new concept – Italian style, without chairs and a minimal coffee menu – but I was intrigued when I saw the menu board and said “What is a Stumpy ?” “it’s like a triple espresso mini macchiato…” Well ! I had just had an espresso at Milk Bar, so I decided to break my “no-milk espresso drinks in the afternoon rule” and went for one, or should I say three. BUT, hang on a minute – it’s actually not a triple espresso, but a triple ristretto – Wow! and if you look carefully at the board, all espresso drinks at this new shop are triple ristretto – now that’s what I call an espresso lovers dream. Anyway the Stumpy was nice, worth a try.

Still on a tekky drive, I was lucky to meet with Jorge Fernandez himself – one half of the Fernandez and Wells company. Jorge is really into his coffee and he shared with me that they were trying out a new Monmouth Guatemala espresso blend for 2 weeks at the new shop, took me round to the back of the Synesso Cyncra machine and pulled another triple ristretto. There was tons of crema, but being a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to pictures, my small digital camera (my D60 was at home) couldn’t handle the light, so I just snapped the extraction instead.

After 68 grammes of fresh coffee (i.e 1 triple shot of 21 grammes, 1 Fernandez and Wells triple shot of 33 grammes and 1 double shot of 14 grammes) I went straight to the airport, before I got carried away on more caffeine and instead fly to Vienna on Caffeine Air. In any case, I am so glad that there is another new quality cafe in Soho/London and please visit when you get the chance.


An African and an Ukrainian

One day an African and an Ukrainian walked into a cafe and asked the local barista for one African coffee and one Ukrainian coffee. The barista said “What ?…”. Got ya ! OK ! this isn’t a story about an African and a Ukrainian drinking coffee at a cafe, but just my catchy title for two coffee recipes for you try.

First up, for the African coffee, I am assuming that you know how to make good French Press coffee, that should be fairly strong, made ideally with African arabica coffee beans like from Kenyan Peaberry, Tanzanian Mocca or Ethiopian Sidamo. Second, I am assuming that you know what evaporated milk is – for those of you who don’t know, then you haven’t been to Africa then. Basically, because traditionally it is hard to store what we in Europe or America call fresh milk in refrigerated conditions, evaporated milk or “tinned milk” is what you will find easily in Africa. It is a concoction devised from boiling about 1 litre of milk until it reduces by half until a thick yellow, syrupy and creamy texture exists. This milk is a bit similar to double cream but is richer and much sweeter. However, it is lovely with coffee or tea and in most of Africa the joke is “are you having coffee or tea with your milk” because people tend to pour quite a bit of it into their coffee. Ironically, this milk, which comes in a small tin (160ml), is made primarily in two Western countries, the Netherlands, who make Peak evaporated milk and the USA, who make Carnation evaporated milk, so it won’t be hard for you to find it in your regular supermarket, as sometimes it can be used to make toffee. So, with the absence of milk frothing devices and thick fresh double cream and you still want milky coffee in the morning, this is it if you are in Africa and I must say up front, it is more popular in West Africa.

It produces a rich taste, but try it when you want to spoil yourself as it is quite rich. 

 

For the Ukrainian coffee, I cannot take credit for this concoction as one of my colleagues, who is from Ukraine told me about this recipe, which apparently is drunk very regularly in Ukraine. A word of warning, it is quite strong and perhaps after I tasted it for the first time, I can understand why they might drink this type of coffee in a cold environment. It’s actually very simple and probably falls into an idea rather than a recipe. Again, just make good French Press coffee, but before pouring the coffee in, place one bit of slighty broken minty chocolate at the bottom of the cup like “After Eight”. You may need to break it gently, so that the white minty bit inside the dark chocolate sheet just oozes out.

After that just pour the coffee inside and enjoy. It is quite strong and a small cup might suffice.

Enjoy !


Spilling the Beans

Spilling the beans – that’s right – I want to “spill” the beans on some coffee bean secrets, known to the experts but not to us minions (i.e those who do not know) but of course until now.

First, don’t be deceived by size – size matters but not in the way you think – La Rosa Costa Rica beans are advertised as low in acidity and are tiny in relation to your normal coffee bean, BUT I was puzzled, when I grounded these beans using the same timer setting on my coffee grinder when more coffee came out.

Usually with normal beans, I have to grind two and half times, but with this bean, two times was more than enough. Still puzzled, I tried crushing the beans between my finger tips and found it a bit tough – it was dense all the way through, which means that there was no air – the beans were “full of beans”, tee hee..

Second, still on size, smaller beans like the La Rosa above actually have lower acidity and surprise, surprise, these beans were tagged as “low acidity”. Now in coffee, acidity is actually what you are looking for and these are typical of much prized Central American and Kenyan coffee beans. So, in summary, smaller beans usually have a lower acidity than bigger ones, but of course, there are exceptions.

Third, coffee beans even from the same farm don’t necessarily have to be the same size – WHAT !!! Yes ! I just found this out when I bought Los Luchadores Pacamara beans from El Salvador, roasted by Square Mile Coffee Roasters of London.

I was studying the beans like one does before they grind them and thought, “that’s odd, why are some beans bigger than others ? Have they mixed another set of beans with what I ordered – that’s it I’m calling them to sort this out…”. So I quizzed the roaster, Anette from Square Mile Coffee, and she explained to me that this is normal and one way to test this, is to actually painstakingly separate the larger beans from the smaller ones and take a tasting test – they will taste the same. As she is a WBC Judge, who am I to argue, but to learn.

Fourth, and perhaps not that exciting for some of you caffeine junkies, is that when making coffee that needs a longer contact with water, like filter coffee (4 minutes and more) or French Press (4 minutes), you should ideally get a stronger coffee so that you get the real taste, rather then a watered down one. I also have to point out for those of you who have not visited the main website – shame on you – that the longer the bean has contact with water the higher the caffeine content. What does this mean ? Making coffee using a cafetiere/French press or a filter system means more caffeine than for instance making espresso. I just wanted to mention this again, because whenever people see you drinking espresso, they always say “isn’t that really strong ?” But of course I am always glad to explain that it isn’t and they look at me like “really ! are you really into coffee ?” Only if they knew.

Beans, beans, beans – there’s so much more to know about you.


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