Monthly Archives: July 2008

I’m Drinking…..

I guess I’ve missed my self-imposed target of writing a post (or blogging) at least once a week to keep this blog as fresh as possible but, it’s been quite a bit hectic at work. Anyway, back to work on coffee.

I’m DRINKING….. Organic Bolivian beans, recently bought from my current favourite place to buy fresh coffee, Alt Wien, off the Naschmarkt in central Vienna (Austria). It’s quite aromatic and once extracted is lightish in colour compared to what I’m used to for espresso. Although it smells sweetish, it has a light sour taste that kind of hits you after a few sips.Bolivian Espresso 

Nevertheless, I find that it compliments milk based drinks well, provided of course that the milk has been properly frothed to bring out the sweetish milk elements and not the burn your mouth bubbly stuff we still suffer from in most cafes. I recently served this coffee to some friends that came over for dinner and although one thought it strong after dinner, the other was very complimentary with a puzzled expression, wondering how he would be able to drink coffee again in a cafe in Vienna after the double espresso I served him. Well I guess it was worth spending hundreds of Euros then if I get that kind of compliment. I also tested the coffee using the French Press method, which was nice for the afternoon – pleasant and light, which held its taste in my new Bodum Columbia pot for a few hours. As you should know me by now, I love variety in food and drink, so my weekly trips to Alt Wien naturally involve me buying more than one type of coffee. I think I’m going to have to change that routine to twice a week but with a larger purchase of coffee, perhaps 500g bags, because I’ve recently noticed that I am finishing 250g all by myself in under one week.

Anyway I digress, Alt Wien have recently introduced a new Malawian Arabica, with a very African name, Malawian Mzuzu. I just finished my Bolivian coffee last night and was able to try the Malawian this morning as a cappuccino, so my thoughts should be fresh. I find this coffee good for holding its taste with milk based drinks. It has a bit of a bold taste that holds its own so to speak and can be characterised with a chocolate tone and an intense taste.Malawian Mzuzu 

So, as you can see above, I prefer it with milk as a cappuccino or as an espresso macchiato. In using the French Press method, it is quite bold and good as a digestive after a heavy lunch or to boost you up in the morning.

However, I’ve saved the best for last. I must admit and perhaps I will loose credibility for this, but I’ve never been impressed with Kenyan coffee. That was until about a few weeks ago when Reinhold of Espresso Solutions (see blog on La Marzocco GB5) returned from the WBC in Copenhagen and gave me a 200g bag of freshly roasted Kenyan AA beans, roasted by none other than the famous American coffee roasters and cafe, Stumptown (see http://stumptowncoffee.com/) – they started in Portland, Oregon and are now famous amongst coffee connoisseurs. Investigating their website, I see that this Kenyan AA is properly called Kenya Gatina Peaberry. OK ! Time for some coffee facts – a typical Kenyan peaberry is a type of coffee that unusually has one beans inside the cherry fruit as opposed to the normal two. OK ! Back to the coffee – the first thing I noticed was the “Wow” factor in the aroma – even my 6 year old son was like “that smells really nice Daddy..” You can imagine – I just couldn’t wait to try it out and I was not disappointed – If I was to give an award of best coffee that I have prepared this year, it would be for this – I drank this coffee almost one month ago and I can still remember the feeling, that’s how good it was.  Anyway, it had a fruity and smooth mouthfeel and was wonderful as an espresso. You’ve got to have two cups, because one is not enough…Kenyan Espressos

I also loved the colour – it just seemed “just right”. Needless to say I was sad when it was finished. If I could order from Stumptown, I would, but naturally they only ship in the US, so all those lucky American reading this blog who have not heard of Stumptown, check their website out and spoil yourself by ordering some coffee from them (I’m adding them to my blogroll)  They are not paying me to do this, but when you come across some good stuff, it’s good to share the knowledge.

Delicious !


A New Way to Measure Coffee

Actually ! this happened by mistake but nevertheless it was an intriguing find. I came up with an image of photographying coffee beans inside a portafilter holder and thought wow ! that looks lovely – the hard steel metal look contrasting nicely with lovely dark brown freshly roasted Indian Malabar Monsooned coffee beans, belowWaiting for the Grind 

However, as I was just about to make coffee, surprise ! surprise ! I thought let me throw the beans from my photo shoot into the grinder and voila ! or should I link Italian to my double espresso offering and say Prego (as in ready to be served) the coffee beans were exactly the same quantity I needed to make my afternoon dose of Doppio (double espresso in English).Beans in filter  

Take caution ! make sure that your portafilter holder, which should always sit inside the machine nice and hot for the next shot is dry, if not you will wet the beans and extract some precious locked up flavour – and also make sure you put the beans quickly into the coffee grinder as you don’t want any unnecessary heat on your coffee beans. I’m not sure if I am the first to discover this and I am probably not, but I thought wow ! what a great find, especially as if you don’t have a doser on your coffee machine that tells you how much to grind for a single or double espresso. BW bean filter 

This “new” method can be helpful if you are always having to guess how much to pour from bag into grinder and usually fall short or grind too much, which if you are a purist like me, will go to waste as I don’t save already ground coffee for another espresso, unless I am pulling another shot within a few seconds. Some experts say that the taste of the coffee begins to go after 12 seconds of grinding – so hurry up and try this out. 


La Marzocco GB5

I’ve decided to add another category to my blog, aptly named “Coffee tools” in anticipation that there are some readers of my blog that just want to know about the stuff needed to make coffee. Anyway, what better tool to start with than a La Marzocco coffee machine. I’m not really going to go too technical here because I only feel comfortable sharing stuff that I really understand and as I didn’t major/study in-depth any sciences especially engineering, I’m not going to bore you with stuff that  you will need a dictionary to understand. OK ! La Marzocco espresso machines are generally what top baristas believe to be the best machines for making espresso and espresso based drinks. Their machines are used at the World Barista Championships to determine who is the best barista in the World. Of course, there are many good espresso machines like the Synesso Cyncra, which coincidentally is designed by a former La Marzocco engineer. There are other machines and of course many opinions but, the consensus is on La Marzocco.

In any case, I had the opportunity to meet with La Marzocco’s main rep in Austria, based in Vienna. It is run by Mr Reinhold Fliedl who supplies coffee machines and other stuff under the name Espresso Solutions. I had already met Reinhold when I bought a La Marzocco bottomless filter-holder and so this was our second meeting. His company was on the other side of Vienna and I took the opportunity to get a half day off from work on a Monday morning – more sleep for me. Anyway Reinhold is a really nice guy and he really knows his stuff when it comes to espresso, coffee, coffee machines and coffee grinders – he owns a La Marzocco GS3 – the only espresso machine suitable for the home made by La Marzocco and costing about 4,000 Euros ($6,000). I learned a lot from him as I was also looking to buy a new coffee grinder too and he talked to me about his two-group head La Marzocco GB5 (one of the best machines made by La Marzocco), which looks really nice.

 LM GB5

I snapped away and also got a really great shot of him pouring some latte art in his Alessi milk jug, after he had showed me briefly how to froth milk on the GB5. Actually, this is one of my best shots yet, judged by the number of the views on my flickr account

 Great Shot Pour

He did a few practice runs on different types of coffee for espresso.

 GB5 Espressos

A couple of cappuccinos later and an espresso, I was coffeed-up for a few hours and we got talking about beans, roasting and grinders, as well as the poor state of affairs in Vienna with regards to getting really good espresso and espresso based drinks. Reinhold was so serious about this that when we met in mid-June, he was planning a trip to the World Barista Championships in Copenhagen to register through examinations to become an Speciality Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE) trainer. I can gladly report that he passed and he is now one of only three in Austria. A coffee school is planned, which I hope to attend God willing if it is set up very soon.

Despite my intro about technical stuff, I cannot end this post just with pictures – I’ve got to delve into some of the tekky stuff and so here goes. I was shown the inside of the GB5, which displays La Marzocco’s unique dual boiler mechanism, which means, and I quote from La Marzocco ” the GB/5 ensures maximum temperature stability for coffee brewing, with electronic monitoring of all the machine functions” –  in simple language, this means that the temperature for preparing coffee is always maintained at the ideal levels of between 90-93 C for extracting espresso. This is what I understand the now famous Proportional Integrative Derivative (PID) system is, which monitors temperature to all group heads. So for example, as we know, temperature is key in coffee preparation and a 1-2 C variation in temperature can affect the taste of an espresso, where you can loose out on high citrus tones for example in a type of coffee. Also, in lesser technology machines, the more you extract coffee, the less the temperature gets, whereby you begin extracting espresso at 87C, which could mean that the coffee will be a bit bitter on all group heads. However, with the technology on the GB5, the temperature is automatically adjusted for each group head and maintained at the desired level – now isn’t that cool. There’s also one other bonus – there’s a light under the main control unit, which means that if you have one of those dark looking interior cafes, the machine lights up to show where all the action is, just above the brewing heads. Of course, this type of machine is for those serious about their coffee and serving the best, but I believe it’s worth it whatever the price. Of course, all the other variables have to be right too, like the right grind, the type of grinder, the quality of the bean, in summary the 5 Ms – (Mescla (coffee type or blend), Machina (the type of coffee machine), Machinadosatore (the grinder that grinds the coffee), Mesura (the grammes of coffee used per espresso shot) and Mano (the hand of the barista) – now make sure you learn these as I might test you on it next time…. hmmmm !. In any case it was a pleasant trip and I learned so much. Perhaps next time I can try the machine out. If you live in Austria or Germany check out Reinhold’s website/e-shop on www.espressolutions.at