Tag Archives: flat white

My Fave Cafe in Vienna: Balthasar

Balthasar Espresso

Balthasar Espresso

It seems that all good things come to those who wait and sometimes they kind of creep up on you. So, one fine sunny day in Vienna, after a fine lunch, I was rushing again and what did I notice, a La Marzocco Strada to my right in a shop – of course I stopped, walked in, saw a friendly guy behind the brew bar and state of the art espresso machine and said “wow! is this a new place…. you’ve got a La Marzocco Strada machine… erm… I’ll be back” And sure I was in 10 minutes and ever since then, several times, taking colleagues, the wife, the daughter, the son and more.

Balthasar Entry

It also helps that Balthasar, is about 15 minutes walk from where I live and about 10 minutes on the underground (in Vienna it’s called the u-bahn) from where I work, so very easy access.

So, what else is there to know about Balthasar apart from the flashy machine.

Well, it’s run by Otto Bayer, a very friendly guy, whose family have been in the catering business for over a century, who gets his coffee from a specialist coffee roaster in Germany, who sources coffee “directly” and often visits the farmers themselves.

side view

 

On one occasion coffee from the long mile coffee project in Burundi was on offer. In any case, all the gadgets are here, two Mazzer grinders, cold brew system,

Cold Brew - great for a hot day

Cold Brew – great for a hot day

 

V60 brew bar and semi-retired La Marzocco G3 (Otto trained on it, but as he spends all his time in his cafe, it might as well be in the cafe.

On offer also are cakes, brownies and some savouries, as well as tea and Otto’s other speciality, wine – he loves the relationship between wine and coffee and of course the tasting experience of both.

brownies

His customers usually order a coffee and then a glass of wine afterwards. Balthasar has been opened for a few months and is decked out with new age furniture like Kartel and palettes, topped with magazines and low hanging light bulbs.

hanging out

You can also buy coffee and gadgets like V60, the filters, aeropress and other bits. The good thing is that it’s opened from 7:30am to 7pm everyday except Sundays, so visiting on Saturday are great even Otto though must be exhausted but he really loves his job and his cafe.

The coffee menu is not extensive but to the point like the top end cafes in London – cappuccino, flat white, espresso and cafe latte

Americano

and a new way of brewing an Americano – brewed for 45 seconds on 5 bar of pressure.

Balthasar Flat White

Balthasar Flat White

So, what else, just go visit and you won’t be disappointed.

Balthasar

Praterstrasse 38

Vienna 1020

http://www.balthasar.at

 


A Flat White, An Espresso and An Espresso Macchiato in London

As some of you know, my real job, working for one of the United Nations (UN) Agencies, gives me the opportunity to visit different parts of the World a few times a year, and usually I’m lucky enough to connect through London, which means a day visiting cafes and shopping. So, just last week (21 April 2014), I was in London again and decided to try a couple of different cafes that I had never been before, so here goes a summary of my experience.

A Flat White

A Flat White

A Flat White

Nominated for the 2013 European Coffee Shop of the year, I had to visit New Row Coffee, located on 24 New Row, London, WC2N 4LA, in the Covent Garden neighbourhood. It was a bit of a trek from nearby Leicester Square underground station, as I was dragging my hand luggage, but it was worth the wait. I was early enough to avoid any queues, gape at the array of delicious cakes on show, but sadly I had just stuffed myself with food at the BA arrival lounge and can’t wait to visit again to taste some of these treats.

 

Treats @ New Row Coffee

Treats @ New Row Coffee

Anyway, back to the coffee. Their espresso blend hails from Union Roasted and unlike most of the reputable coffee shops in London, have a darker roast. I ordered a flat white as I hadn’t had an espresso milk based drink for a week.

It had hints of caramel, which turned out to be more pronounced for at least 30 minutes after I left the shop, developing into dark cocoa and toffee syrup, YUM! especially on a brisk Friday morning manouevring through the theatre land of London. So, if you visit London and happen to be in the theatre district and need a great coffee fix before your show and prior to eating out, where most probably they won’t serve great coffee, then check our New Row Coffee.

An Espresso

When you’ve only got a few hours in London to drink coffee and shop (my new past time, but one of my previous career dream was to be a fashion designer for men’s clothes), then you know that you may be pushed for time to sit down and divulge your taste buds in London’s exciting and very diverse culinary delights. So, when I entered Foxcroft and Ginger at 3 Berwick Street, Soho, London W1F 0DR, off Oxford Street in the West End, I initially wanted to have a quick lunch, but looking at my time, just after 2pm, knowing I had to be at Heathrow Airport at 5pm, I decided a delectable lemon syrup cake and of course a double espresso.

An Espresso

An Espresso

It took longer than I expected, almost 10 minutes before my cake and coffee, so I didn’t waste time “being Italian” gulping my cake down (sugar rush to help speed around the shops) and an espresso (because I like coffee). Now back to that “Italian” thing. An espresso – this was probably the best “Italian” style espresso I’ve had, like how they should make espresso in Italian restaurants and why do I say this ? Because, it looked like a typical Italian espresso, using darkly roasted beans but on this occasion, the espresso had the right consistency of crema and had a sumptuous nutty syrup taste, which lasted long after I had left the shop – not bitter at all and a right digestive and pick me up for the afternoon, well done Foxcroft and Ginger. On the location, don’t get intimidated as the shop is located on a busy vegetable and fruit market part of Berwick Street, not far from a few famous restaurants like Polpette (an up and coming Italian restaurant) and famous restauranteur, Alan Yau’s Yauatcha. The good thing is that they are opened until 10pm every night, except Sunday and Monday, so again if you have a great meal in the area and want to finish with a great espresso, visit Foxcroft and Ginger.

 

An Espresso Macchiato

I was rushing to the airport and thought, I’ve got to make a stop at my favourite coffee shop in West End London, Workshop Coffee, located at 75 Wigmore Street, around the corner from the World famous Selfridges Department Store. I thought, would I prefer to get to the airport 2 hours before departure, as opposed to visiting Workshop, drinking coffee and buying a bag of expertly roasted coffee too – hmm ! well, you guessed – of course coffee won. I was truly rewarded with probably the best espresso macchiato I’ve ever had, wow.

An Espresso Macchiato

An Espresso Macchiato

a little heart that packs a punch – silky, syrupy, buttery sweet caramel, toffee macchiato – the milk was just little enough to lift the other elements front he espresso. An of course I got a bag of coffee too.

That was me done for the day. Three great coffees at 3 must-visit coffee shops in London.


London Coffee Scene 2011: Summary, PART II

 The West End (Covent Garden, Soho, Fitzrovia)

And we start with the place with the best gadget, Yep ! the La Marzocco Strada OR Notes Music & Coffee, located at 31 St Martin’s Lane, Covent Garden, almost opposite Trafalgar Square from the Charing Cross End (Londoners will know where I mean). I’d heard that there was a cafe which had been first off the mark to buy and install the most up to date and probably most expensive espresso machine in the World when reading through my tweeter feeds, so a mental note was made to head down here for coffee. Not being a totally mad gadget man in general, but when it comes to coffee, I’m a victim, so after having being treated to lunch on a sunny day at Jamie Oliver’s Italian Restaurant in Covent Garden by my brother, we headed down the road to Notes Music & Coffee. From the outside, you are tempted by the lovely array of sandwiches and cakes, BUT I knew that I was here for one thing, an espresso on a Strada machine. Doesn’t it look beautiful…

Josh, the barista, was busy and introducing myself briefly, I asked if I could take a picture of this lovely machine….. Warning ! coffee geek inside. So, I snapped away and then obviously asked for a Strada made espresso, which he made, using Square Miles’s Capao, extracted at 93 C – a bit bright for me with such a bean, which I believe is best extracted at a higher temp to highlight the nutty caramel toffee flavours. From one coffee expert to a geek, Josh kindly declined to accept payment. There ! I had had my first LM Strada coffee, yipee !

Flat White & Milk Bar, Soho

Well ! How could I not resist, another almost “must-go destination” for coffee in London, Flat White – where it all began (for me in any case). Needless to say, I had a flat white and I was very pleasantly surprised to see that Cameron, owner and barsita, was still pouring latte art, about 5 years since opening – now ! how’s that for consistency and commitment. A note to the pretenders – the major downfall of start ups, is a lack of consistency and for charming brands, the invisibility of the owner/charismatic face of the biz. Thumbs up to Cameron. Still on that consistency thing, Flat White, still serve take away flatties with a latte heart

And yes, it was still delicious and yes, Flat White are the only cafe that Sqaure Mile Coffee create a blend for.

I actually finished my London tour, hours before my flight back to Cape Town with a visit to Flat White’s sister (why don;t they say brother ?) shop, Milk Bar on Bateman Street in Soho, where I had a fantastic espresso experience. I mean, who takes 5-7 minutes to make you an espresso ? The chief barista (I forgot his name, shame on me) at Milk Bar does, especially if he sees someone come into the cafe, order espresso and then ask him how long he’s doing the pre-infusion for, whilst admiring the Robur E Mazzer Grinder (the daddy of all daddy grinders). The first shot, which he didn’t want me to drink, went right through my tongue like a rocket, with a nutty like taste and the second, kind off filled my mouth, wrapping itself around the edge of my tongue and then coming back in – wow ! No pic, as I was struggling with last minute shopping, but nevertheless, a great culinary experience.

Kaffeine, 66 Great Titchfield Street, Fitzrovia

Last but not least, it was a trip I had been planning even before I packed my suitcases for my trip, a trip to Kaffeine, 66 Great Titchfield Street, London W1, winner of Europe’s best independent coffee shop and more recently, winner of Britain’s best sandwich and coffee shop.

I think I should mention this up front as it’s been on my mind but what is with Aussies and coffee and why are they ruling the London coffee scene ? I can only stand by and admire and wish they would come to Cape Town and help me out with converting the masses to a great brew, but lucky London. OK ! I digress, we are at Kaffeine, my first priority on my last leg in London, which I visited on Saturday morning in the area known in London as Fitzrovia, which means the space in between Regent’s Park and Oxford Street, parallel to Great Portland Street – a quick geography lesson for non-Londoners.

I really loved the simplicity and yet high quality finish of Kaffeine, which incidentally is small and cozy and was quiet when we arrived around 11am, but I was told on a normal day, 570 cups are the norm and on a quiet day, 200+ (Oh London ! should I have opened my cafe in you ?). As you enter Kaffeine, you are tempted by delights like strawberry friands (another great Aussie invention) and yes I was tempted and asked for one to go with my flat white.

I brought an old University friend with me and asked him to try a cappuccino – “wow ! coffee can taste like this, now I know why you are so crazy about coffee Lameen” was his reply after his first sip.

Kaffeine have a Synesso Cyncra, use a Robur E (but of course) and Square Mile Coffee and are led by top barista Cathy, who kindly gave us complimentary coffees, spotting the coffee geek in me. The staff were very attentive and one promised to visit Cape Town very soon – so watch this space if he does, as I might offer him a temp job, before he heads back to London. Go Kaffeine Go and well done on all your achievements. Can’t wait to visit again.

And there you have it….

That’s all I can say and well done London, Londoners for appreciating great coffee and I’m sorry, but I have to say this, Aussies for helping out with the quality, et al.


London Stopover: A Flat White & A Double Espresso

The final leg of our journey was in London and as soon as I could, I rushed over to Flat White Cafe in Soho, flying through the door and spotting Cameron, the main owner of Flat White, I practically belted out, “A flat white please…” For me, it was like – I haven’t had really good coffee for almost 2 weeks and I need it now and wow ! wasn’t it worth waiting for – almost too good looking to drink.

A flat white @ Flat White, Soho (London)

A flat white @ Flat White, Soho (London)

A beautifully poured “rosetta” on my flat white. Even Cameron was impressed by the very kind lady who poured this beautiful rosetta (I’m so embarrassed I didn’t get her name so that I could have mentioned it on this post, sorry !), and here it is one more time, up close and personal, so that you can almost taste it.

After my “flat white experience”, I rushed off to have a quick lunch and of course I needed a good espresso to finish off my lunch experience and no place better than Milk Bar (Flat White’s second shop), still in Soho. As there wasn’t much time to catch our flight, I ordered a double espresso in 25C heat outside, took a picture to share the experience and gulped it down.

To finish off, I took a picture of their custom made Black La Marzocco FB70 espresso machine. What a nice stop over in London to satisfy my espresso cravings.

Ciao !


I’m Drinking….

Flat White and Finca Kilimanjaro coffees, roasted by Square Mile Coffee Roasters of London. This is like part 2 of my previous post as on my visit to Flat White, Soho in London, I picked up these two bags to take home with me. I had already tried the Flat White version when I was in London in December 2008, but I was really drawn to the Finca Kilimanjaro, as I had read about this on Square Mile’s website and was really intrigued about how a Kenyan peaberry tree, planted in El Salvador, would taste- it’s called a Bourbon and Kenyan Varietal and Square Mile seem to pack their really special coffees in these nice white bags. I thought “that’s really original, taking a coffee plant from one country and planting it in another to get a really good mix of soils, air, etc… for a coffee”. Apparently, the lady who thought this up, Aida Batle, is famous for this and is one of the World’s renowned coffee growers, so who am I to question her logic.

So, what does it taste like ? Fruity, spicy, earthy, sweetish and with a “real” coffee aroma is what comes to mind, or should I say to my tongue. I didn’t try this as an espresso, as I just didn’t think these type of characteristics together with the Kenyan mix would work as an espresso, so it was the French Press or Cafetiere for me, where I definitely had no regrets – a truly beautiful cup indeed. I also give it my “very versatile” coffee award in that although it was roasted on 9 March 2009, three weeks afterwards it was still tasting nice and not bland. This coffee is offered for a limited period only, so log onto Square Mile’s website (their website is on my blog roll) and buy a 350g bag quick.

For the Flat White coffee blend, I still think this works better with properly frothed milk with its chocolate undertones and of course every morning was like a throw back to Flat White in London. With all this inspiration from my triple ristretto day in London, I tried out some of my latte art skills, extracting a double ristretto for my morning cup – still wanting with the latte art, but I thought looked nice in my “love” cappuccino cup, so I sign off with this pic to wish you “from coffee with love”,

Ciao !


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.


Bean There – New Coffee Shops in London

When my mum offered to take the family to London for a week during the Xmas period I thought “Great, one week away in good old London” and then I thought “Hey ! now I can check those coffee shops that I missed in London last summer”. So to start of the “New” Year, I guess it is apt that I start of with “New” coffee shops in my favourite coffee city, London.

MILK BAR, 3 BATEMAN STREET, SOHO

So, as promised in my post of 17 October 2008, this time I found the new Flat White coffee shop, called the Milk Bar, located on 3 Bateman Street and also in Soho.  

Milk Bar is on a busy street in Soho and it has a bit of a different vibe to Flat White. For one, it seems like there’s a little bit more space, which doesn’t make it as cult and cosy as the original Flat White. They also offer cakes and snacks and naturally the star of the shop, the customized black La Marzocco is centre stage almost right in front of you when you enter the shop like a display. There are some seats outside the shop. Milk Bar has a bit of a psychedelic feel to it and I think that is what inspired me to add this psychedelic tint to this freshly poured Flat White, which I had to order naturally being in Flat White’s second shop.  

BAR ITALIA, FRITH STREET, SOHO

Not too far from Milk Bar is one of Soho’s landmark drinking establishments, Bar Italia, located on Frith Street.

Bar Italia is appealing to its followers not only because when you enter you think you are in Italy with tiled floors, manual lever ancient espresso machine, 1960’s style ring register and that continental feel but because it is one of very few coffee bars that is open 24 hours a day – “Now how cool is that ?” (one of my wife’s famous quotes). It is kind of assuring that if you are out late in central London and really want some good tasting Italian espresso, then you can find a coffee shop open all hours, where you can get one. So going with the flow being in a little bit of Italy in downtown London, I ordered an espresso naturally.

It had a very Italian taste and I’m guessing that the coffee beans had both arabica and robusta in them, just like the Italians like. In any case, my visit in the afternoon was quick and Bar Italia was quite empty compared to the last time I walked past it, when I walked on by because the crowds were spilling onto the street.

ANDRONICAS WORLD OF COFFEE, HARRODS, KNIGHTSBRIDGE

For my next stop, you will have to take a taxi (if you are in a hurry and can afford one) or jump on the Tube (London’s underground rail network system) and head for probably London’s most famous department store, Harrods.  Ok ! for those who know Harrods, it is located in the most prestigious and expensive part of London and probably the UK, and Harrods is not a cheap store either. In any case, I was drawn here because during my attendance at Caffe Culture, May 2008 (see my post of 30 May 2008) I spotted a Mirage La Marzocco machine owned by a coffee roasting company called Andronicas World of Coffee. I was duly informed by the owners that they were located in Harrods (confirmed by a blog post in coffeegeek.com) and as the Exhibitors gave me a voucher for a free espresso at Andronicas, I thought on my next trip to London, I’ll try out their cafe at Harrods. I’ve been trying ever since, until now in the middle of the shopping frenzy that is London in late December, I dragged my 7 year old son to Harrods with a promise to visit the toy shop there.

Andronicas is located on the 4th floor of Harrods, set in a pristine environment that inspries you to relax and take it easy. They’ve got lots of coffee stuff around their seating are like cafetieres, coffee cups and this antique looking mini-espresso machine, which I couldn’t resist taking a picture off.

Being late afternoon, I ordered an espresso macchiato from the barista.

The owner was otherwise occupied and I was dying to chat to him about the shop. As soon as he finished, I quickly grabbed his attention and started talking to him about Caffe Culture and the shop. Being a true gentleman and noticing that I kept on instructing my son to behave and sit down, he offered to make him a hot chocolate in an espresso cup to calm him down, at least until he finshed it. I liked the macchiato and promptly asked the owner what part of the World they were from, but as it was their special 1849 blend and I wasn’t known to them (I could have been a secret coffee blend spy), I was just told that it is made up of 4 of the World’s finest coffees. In any case, I was delighted to detect two types of tastes in my mouth, one at the tip and the other at the back. Nice coffee. I tried to buy some bags of this special 1849 blend but being unique, Andronicas let you buy the raw green beans and choose from one of 5 different roasting blends, which takes around 25 minutes to roast. You can choose between light to burnt dark roast and I am guessing they would advise you which roast goes best with which bean, see below;

Now ! that’s really unique and if I had a specialist coffee shop I would follow this example. Sadly, because I was in a rush and had to take my son to the toy department I missed out on this opportunity, Ahhhhh ! However, I was informed that as Andronica have been supplying freshly roasted coffee to Harrods for over 20 years, I could get some coffee downstairs in the famous Harrods food hall. I rushed down there but the special 1849 blend was naturally sold out, so I bought two other varieties (more of that in my next post God willing).

For more on Andronicas, see 

http://www.andronicasworldofcoffee.com/

and if you can, I strongly recommend ordering their coffee (they might ship outside UK – I’ll check God willing and let you know) a visit and would like to confirm that Harrods is the best department store that I have been to, to buy freshly roasted coffee, because their coffee is roasted by serious experts and people committed to quality, who ensure that Harrods receive freshly roasted coffee twice a week in order to maintain the quality and of course their reputation.


The Naked Portafilter

I just can’t go out like this and I’m ashamed to say that it is almost the last day of 2008 – my first full calendar year of blogging – and I have not posted a blog on my number one discovery of the year, the Naked or Bottomless Portafilter holder, You what ? You may say, but take a look below and don’t be shy to ask, if you are a novice of course, what is this ?

 

OK ! I’m going to make this quick and as exciting as possible because although this looks straight forward, it can be quite complicated explaining what this tool of tools is. Luckily for you, I’ve ploughed through a few articles, blogs and discussions to try and summarize what this little invention is all about. Traditionally, you have the normal portafilter holder, with two spouts (for making 2 espressos at once) or one spout (for making one espresso at a time). Anyway one day, someone wanted to know, what goes on if there are no spouts and you can see right through, hence the terminology, “naked” or if you go with the more simplistic terminology, bottomless. In this way, you can see how the coffee begins to come out through the little spore holes in the filter and approximately how many seconds the coffee beings to emerge at what bar/pressure level to make the exact quantity – Are you still with me ? I hope so, because I cannot make it more simple than that. In any case, the next step was to cut off the spouts, so that you have two types of portafilters like below.

The traditional one is below and the bottomless one is above. You will be glad to know that to make your portafilter “naked” or bottomless, you don’t have to get your chainsaw out or find a local mechanic who will really think you are crazy but who will nevertheless take your money – you can order one form the best, La Marzocco, of course. OK ! it might not be that cheap, mine cost about 60 Euros ($75 now), but it will be cheaper in the States and you can get one for about $60, made by another company like Rancillo.

From an academic view point, if we want to scare you off even more and bring in words that remind you of school, like the word “academic”, the bottomless filter is a good training tool. For example, if you can see what is happening from a “naked/exposed” view point, you can correct your mistake and improve your espresso shots. I can’t get away with this, but I’m going to have to go into “Lesson” mode for this tool, so that you really appreciate what I’m trying to share with you, so here goes. 

Assumptions:You are an espresso freak and you know the essentials about making an espresso using a really good grinder and good heavy brass espresso machine (upwards of $500). So you know that you buy relatively fresh beans, grind and then tamp them with 30 pounds of pressure, so that the 30 ml of crema top espresso coffee comes out in about 23-27 seconds. OK ! so you are a coffee geek or coffee snub, that’s settled.

Lesson 1: If you don’t tamp properly or use too little coffee, assuming you are using the correct grind, then some of the coffee will be under less pressure and your espresso cup will fill up more quickly, violating the 23-27 second pour rule for approximately 30ml of coffee. In short, if using the naked portafilter, you will see a blondish type cone pouring into your cup, which will be flowing with bad tasting coffee. Furthermore, the coffee will be spitting from the outside all over the cup and your coffee machine, making a right mess. It’s like the coffee is saying, if you can’t handle me right, then I’m going to spit on you. In any case, the spitting occurs, because the coffee has not been tamped well or is too little in a particluar area of the portafilter and hence the pressure pushes it out with a lot of force. I don’t have a picture of this for you, but trust me, it has happended to me, when I used less than the recommended 14-15 grammes of freshly ground coffee for a double espresso – I was in a rush to get the kids to school. Also, in this spitting scenario, if you attempt to take a picture, you might get coffee all over your lenses.

Lesson 2: If you tamp properly but the grind is too fine, your coffee will take ages to come out and will taste sour/burnt. In this case, using the naked portafilter, you will see that when you get to 18 seconds, drops of honey like espresso begin to pour out – it may look good, but it isn’t going to taste good, trust me and of course you are not going to get 30ml of espresso coffee into your cup between 23-27 seconds, but much less. Again this has happened to me when I got a new bag of coffee and wanted to test for the right grind. Seeing this scenario, I quickly loosened the settings on the grinder to avoid wasting anymore precious coffee.

Lesson 3: If you do everything right, this is what you should see (below)

Now, doesn’t that look lovely ? You can see a few colours here. The darker ones have a higher concentrate of well extracted coffee and you will notice that the coffee seems to be flowing right, without any gushing.

If you are feeling brave, hold a single shot espresso cup carefully over the naked portafilter, making sure you watch the extraction closely so that you don’t burn your hand with free flowing 93C degree coffee and you can also make a ristretto, with should display excellent crema as evident by the dark brown bits, which dominated this cup of ristretto (i.e half a cup of espresso).

Conclusion/Analysis: Using the naked portafilter helps you to (i) estimate very quickly if you have the right grind (ii) improve your tamping technique, especially in making it more even (iii) know very quickly if you used to much coffee or too fine a grind (thick honey drops) and (iv) look good, if you invite your friends to show them a perfect extraction, but practice beforehand.

What Else ?According to some experts, because the extracted coffee comes into less contact with metal, because it basically flows from the portafilter into your cup, you should get a more “purer” taste of coffee. If you notice, there will be very tiny bubbles in your cup.

In any case, I usually use mine when I get a new bag of coffee from a different roaster or a different type of coffee. When I got my naked portafilter, I used it for several weeks, because I just liked the way it flowed into the cup. Serious coffee shops like Origins Coffee Roastingin Cape Town have naked portafilters, like the one below, extracted on their Synesso Cyncra machine.

Also, my favourite coffee shop in London, Flat White have them, as evident by my request for a triple espresso, using a naked filter (see my post of 25 March 2008), but you will have to make a request for it.

My advice, go on experiment and enjoy, HAPPY NEW YEAR !


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