Category Archives: Coffee Recipes

Coffee: The rule is, there is no rule


I know that sounds like a paradox and I’m sure some of my followers are like “what is he talking about” For many years, Lameen, that’s my real name – has been saying adhere to the golden rules – measurement, temperature and volume, to name a few. BUT, the main reason I’m writing this, is that occasionally I’ve strutted into a place to dictate how my coffee should be made, and on more than one occasion this year, I’ve been pleasantly stunned by coffee served to me without the rules I hold dear.

Don’t teach an old dog new tricks with Espresso

That’s the pic at the top of the blog. So, after not having espresso for about 5 days, I strutted into the airport lounge and spotting an espresso machine, asked for one naturally. As soon as the barista started making the espresso, I said “la!” i.e. no in Arabic and asked if I could make it. So, I clean the very filthy group head, flush it and ask for the coffee. To my horror, it’s pre-ground espresso, stored in a drawer and although there’s air condition inside, it’s like 40C outside. For a coffee geek like me, my mind is “oh no the moisture, the crazy unstable temperature will affect the coffee, which has already been pre-ground and for how long has it been pre-ground”. Resigned, I’m like, okay, here’s how to tamp. I attempt to tamp with wait for it,  the bottom of the glass, because the tamper is not large enough to cover the porta filter “aargh!” – this means that although some of the coffee will be pressed, the coffee on the border will not. OK!, so I now attempt to make an espresso – flush the group head and place my porta filter inside the group head and brew – what a disaster – the coffee is all over the place and the coffee resembles…. I’d rather pass.

The barista and his colleagues detecting deep disappointment on my face, then resorts to pull an espresso for me – I watch him and the only thing he does differently, which makes me feel happy, is that he cleans and flushes the grouphead before he pulls the shot and guess what – it looked a lot better than my attempt. So, how did he break the rules;

  • he used pre-ground espresso, as opposed to grinding on the spot
  • he didn’t measure the coffee, as opposed to using about 18-22 g for a double
  • he didn’t really tamp, as opposed to the rule of 30 pounds of pressure
  • the espresso machine was really hot – I’d guess close to 100C, as opposed to about 93-94.5 C

And that’s what I could see. So how did it taste. Not bad and above my expectations given the rule breakers. So, to conclude, the rules were broken but a decent shot ensured.

 

Never buy pre-ground coffee

Okay, on this occasion, the coffee was bought for me. Whenever my colleagues travel and buy coffee, they bring it back for me to brew and serve them, which I try and do every Friday when I’m not busy – a rare scenario of late. If ever they ask me “whole beans or ground” I always answer, “whole beans”. On this occasion, a colleague brought me this bag from Kenya, apologising for having not brought back beans. I casually looked at the bag, Java House , Kenyan AA arabica, which looked well presented and was even more taken aback by the tasting notes of grapefruit, blackcurrant and lively. Again, sceptical I brewed it using my french press recipe of 60g to one litre of 95C water. Wow! guess what? There was a bloom on top of the coffee (a sign of fairly fresh coffee) and more importantly of all, I tasted a grapefruit acidity with a hint of blackcurrant. 


Okay, so that rule was broken.

 

Espresso is always brewed at 9 bar pressure for about 22-25 seconds

So, just this week, after Ramadan, I headed to my fave cafe in Vienna, Balthasar to check out their new espresso machine a Slayer Espresso machine. Otto, the owner, had been telling me for months that it was coming and he was so excited. In fact when I met him on Wednesday, I should have interviewed him as he relayed to me for about 4 minutes what the slayer could do. The gist was that you can brew at different bar pressures and for as long as you want, so I ordered a fruity espresso. In short to get a fruity espresso, it is brewed at 3, then 9 and then 3 bars of pressure over about a minute !!! what ? Usually, espresso is brewed at 9 bars of pressure for about 22-25 seconds with about 18-22 grammes of freshly ground coffee yielding about 25-30ml of espresso.

 So, what has changed ? The whole game with this type of espresso machine – the rule is, there is no rule, because you can now brew espresso how you like, like a recipe ordered to your preference “fruity, nutty, low acidity, high acidity….?” carry on.


 A really fruity cup with over medium acidity.

 

Just one more thing

Well! I’ve got to redeem myself somehow – we can’t just give up on the rules, ion not there’ll be anarchy.

So, as a prelude to my first experience, way back in January this year. I ordered a cappuccino at a top hotel in Zimbabwe (Meikles) because I spotted a La Marzocco GB5 machine, BUT. Watching the barista, I saw he used pre-ground espresso coffee, didn’t flush the group head, didn’t clean the group head, didn’t tamp with any real pressure, didn’t measure the coffee systematically, frothed a foam mountain and didn’t appreciate the kind of machine he was using. So, I stepped in and he was so willing to learn but on this occasion I didn’t touch the machine – I just guided him from across the counter. In the end, I got a good cup, with thick crema and although no latte art was present, it was along the lines.

 

To top it off, the barista was excited by what he had just learned, he was going to access youtube to learn more skills and watch latte art being poured. Yay! a job well done.

So, yes sometimes the rules can be broken and you may succeed but in general, adhere to and know the rules before you tamper (sic) with them.

 


Making Espresso: Take 2, The Serious Edit

  
Ok, so, let’s go into more detail on making espresso – let’s slow it down and take it step by step. For this, I’m going back to the origins of espresso. As espresso is an Italian mainstay, let’s check out what they say about making espresso. In summary, the Italians refer to  the 5 Ms when making espresso –

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)

So, for me this means…

Mescla – I’m using an espresso blend from a recent Colombia Cup of Excellence lot, so it’s expensive, but the most important point is that it should be a coffee roasted for brewing espresso. Some professionals, brew using different blends, but for the vast majority, an espresso blend is used.

Machina – I’m using my newish espresso prosumer (a merge between professional and consumer) machine, a Profitec700, dual boiler machine with a rotary pump and a PID (i.e. I can change the temperature of the espresso boiler) and a whole lot more, but let’s say it costs more than $2,000.

Machinadosatore – I’m using a top of the range prosumer espresso grinder, a Macap M4D, yes, a grinder just for espresso

Mesura – I’m using approximately 18 grammes of freshly ground coffee for a double espresso. Most experts recommend always brewing a double shot – a single just doesn’t taste the same.

Mano – Well, mine of course – I will never participate in a Barista competition, but I’ve been making espresso, practically almost everyday since 2007, so I think I have a good idea how to make espresso.

Next, the process;

  1. Make sure your espresso machine is warm enough – mine’s is set to 93C and takes about 7 minutes to warm up.
  2. Pour your beans into the bean hopper of your espresso grinder and grind away.
  3. Make sure the setting is correct, whereby previously you checked that when you grind the beans, approximately 45ml of coffee comes out in 20-28 seconds – if it doesn’t, then keep playing around, trying not to waste too much coffee.
  4. Grind your beans right into the portafilter
  5. Flatten the ground coffee. Tamp with about 30 pounds or pressure
  6. Let water run through the espresso machine for about 5-9 seconds
  7. Then place into the portafilter into brew holder
  8. Extract your espresso
  9. And hopefully what comes out, is espresso. Too watery and coming out after 2 seconds, the grind is too loose, tighten it, so that if your grinder is set on 8, move it closer to 7, like on mine and try again
  10. If the coffee starts coming out after 10 seconds, the grind is too fine and coffee will be over extracted, bitterness.
  11. So keep playing around until you get that sweet spot – I must confess it is a lot of hit and miss, and can be quite expensive, excluding the cost of the machine and grinder (together over Euro2,000), but the beans, especially if you’re like me and buy really expensive stuff.

and here’s the video…


Making Espresso @ Home: The Video

So, I’ve been asked many times “how do you make ….. coffee” and then when I start explaining and for the who know me, I get kind of all geeky. The next question is “do you have a video on how to make this ?”And of course, I’m like “erm! no!” – looking all embarrassed. So, here’s a time lapse video of how to make espresso, BUT, I’ve got to go over the geeky bits first. What is espresso ? For this I’m going to revise my definition of espresso, which is;

In general, nine grammes of freshly ground Arabica coffee, tamped with 30 pounds or pressure, ground to a precision and brewed around 93-94.5C between 8 and 10 bars of pressure on an espresso machine that allows about 45ml (1.5 US fl ounce) of coffee to drip through into a cup in about 23-25 seconds, resulting in dark coffee with crema on top.

SOUNDS COMPLICATED DOESN’T IT ? The most important thing however, concerns the preparation; such as the type of coffee, the grind and the machine – if any of the essential elements are missing then you won’t get espresso but some mutant of it, which unfortunately you will get in most coffee shops.

So for my video, I used JB’s Kaffee espresso blend, with about 18.5 grammes of coffee for a double espresso, brewed at 93C. Enough talking, watch the vid;


Introducing the Chemex Brewing Method – It Takes All Kinds by Samantha Joyce

Chemex

Some background

The Chemex coffee maker was invented in 1941 and the iconic design remains unchanged today. Made of borosilicate laboratory grade glass, it is a sturdy heatproof vessel. Some coffee makers have plastic or metal parts that react with coffee oils and acids, but this is not the case with glass. For more than 70 years, generations have in turn embraced and ignored this simple coffee-brewing contraption. My Grandma had one, my Mom did not–and now I have one. The Chemex is in vogue again as pour over coffee gains popularity worldwide.

Deceptively Simple

To brew coffee with a Chemex, all you need is the Chemex itself, a Chemex filter, ground coffee and 200F (93C) water. But is it really that simple? This depends on your coffee personality: Are you a Coffee Professor or a Coffee Artist?

The Coffee Professor (more like Lameen)

At heart the coffee professor desires repeatable results like with any scientific experiment. To this end, the professor begins by washing the Chemex with a coffee machine cleaning powder solution and rinses and dries it thoroughly to remove any previous coffee residue. Next, fresh filtered water is placed in a variable temperature gooseneck electric kettle set to 200F (93C). It only takes a few minutes to get to the right temperature and then the kettle shuts off on its own. With the equipment prepped and ready, the professor is ready to brew.

The professor takes a Chemex brand paper filter and inserts it with the triple layer resting against the pour spout channel. The gooseneck kettle is used to wet the paper filter as it rests in place. The filter is then removed, the hot water is discarded and the filter is reverently put back into its place. This serves to pre-heat the glass carafe as well as rinse the paper filter to get rid of any “bland” smells.

Although the Chemex is an affordable brewer (for coffee geeks), the professor will use a burr grinder that costs a lot more than the Chemex. This coffee grinder is calibrated to produce particles that are considered in the ‘fine drip’ coffee range. A kitchen scale is used to measure out 36g of good quality coffee beans, which are then freshly ground prior to the brewing process (remember, coffee begins to loose its optimal taste after a few seconds of grinding). The freshly ground coffee is then placed in the filter. The Chemex, filter and coffee are then placed on the scale and the tare on the scale is set to zero.

With the precise control of the gooseneck kettle, just enough water is dribbled over the ground coffee to moisten it. This allows the coffee to “bloom,” a chemical process where carbon dioxide is released. The fresher the coffee, the more it blooms. After a specific amount of time (30 seconds to 1 minute depending on coffee ideology) the professor moves from pre-infusion to a methodical wetting of the grounds. In a concentric motion, water pours evenly into the Chemex until it is near the top. This cycle is repeated until the scale records 25-30 US fluid ounces (730-800 grammes) of water. From coffee bloom to completion should take no more than 5 minutes. If the coffee drained faster, the grind was too coarse and if the coffee drained too slowly, the grind was too fine. In this manner the professor fine-tunes the Chemex brewing method.

The Coffee Artist (Samantha – the writer)

The coffee artist knows inherently what it takes to make a good cup of coffee through trial and error or through muscle memory over time. My mom called this type of estimation, “eyeballing it.” I fall squarely into this camp. I do not have the perfect coffee brewing equipment; I make do with what I have in the kitchen.

My kettle is heavy and hard to pour – It was a wedding gift. I boil the water and then pour it into a glass measuring cup that has an okay pour spout. I pre-wet the filter (barely) and then swirl and unceremoniously dump the hot water from the carafe. That is my nod to the pre-warm, pre-rinse, residue removal phase. I have a standard coffee scoop and I use 5 or 6 of those. My coffee is delicious and locally roasted with the roast date printed on the bag and since I do not yet own a burr grinder I buy it pre-ground.

The coffee smells so delicious in the Chemex that I cannot wait for it to bloom. I pause for maybe 10 seconds to admire the pretty brownie cake-like surface and then continue to pour until it fills the Chemex to the top. As it drains out, I add more hot water until the level of coffee in the carafe reaches the bottom of the wooden collar. Then I compost the filter and spent grounds. While I enjoy the brew process, my desire is to fill a mug with delicious freshly brewed coffee as soon as possible. If I took a few shortcuts along the way, is mine better/worse/different than the coffee professor’s exacting methods?

Vive La Difference!

I think there is room for many coffee brewing styles in this world. When I go to a pour over bar I appreciate that they brew with accuracy and the goal is to attain an enjoyable and repeatable cup of coffee. Now that you know about the Chemex method of coffee brewing, you are welcome in either camp, just don’t forget to bring fresh coffee.

This article, with very slight editing by moi (Lameen) was produced by Samatha Joyce, a writer for seattle coffee gear – http://www.seattlecoffeegear.com/


I’m Blending….

I'm Blending: The Beans by Lameen
I’m Blending: The Beans a photo by Lameen on Flickr.

I’m blending, yipee ! But what exactly does that mean ? In summary, it means that I’ve got my experimental hat on again. Having changed my coffee bean roaster at my caffe, Escape Caffe, I’ve started sourcing beans from another roaster but this time I’m sourcing single estate coffees from different regions of the World. I’m experimenting because part of my character loves change and getting to understand things from the bottom right up. Have I lost you ? It means that I want to understand what makes a good espresso blend. So, I’ve been trying to build up on my basic knowledge of taste profiles.

In general, and I wish to emphasize, GENERAL, most coffee roasters have a formula for blending coffee for espresso preparation, which goes as follows:

A Brazilian for BODY,

a Central American for ACIDITY and an

Ethiopian for natural SWEETNESS.

One of your main goals in blending should always be to get a BALANCE, as you don’t want one coffee taste to dominate. In principle, very high quality or distinctive coffees (lots of black fruit juiciness, acidity and boldness/heaviness) are seldom used in blending for espresso. WHY ? Because they will dominate the blend. Think of it like making a soup/stew – if you cook – you don’t want to put lots of chillies in with subtle tastes like basil, as you will kill the basil taste with hot and fiery chilli. This is one reason why you won’t see Kenyan coffees in espresso blends. I can’t imagine blackberries tasting sweet if exposed to a harsh preparation process.

OK! what do we mean by BODY in the case of Brazilian arabica coffees ? We mean body as in the density of the liquid. IOf you taste/drink lots of good coffee, then you will know that some coffees taste light. Sure, they are both liquids, but orange juice does not have the same texture/body as apple juice.

Now, ACIDITY. I’ve spoken at this at great length before, so won’t go in to it too much, but in summary, it’s detected by the sharpness in taste when you drink coffee, resonate of citrus fruit. So, when you blend, although essential to round off the taste around your tongue, you don’t want it to dominate either, if not it could confuse your tongue with sourness. After all, orange juice and mlik (think of a cappuccino) don’t look nor taste nice together. Personally, I’m not in favour of medium to high acidity in espresso based drinks.

Finally, SWEETNESS. Very essential for coffee and to dispel the misconception that coffee is only sweet when you add sugar. However, by sweetness, we don’t mean sugary sweet, but more like natural sweetness, such as the type found predominantly in honey and sometimes elevated in dried fruit like dates, raisins and figs.

So, what are you looking for ? As the coffee roasters rule – and yes they do, as they control what you taste and more often than not, they roast the way they like coffee to taste – you are looking for a coffee that has a nut like character, with a hint of chocolate (and sometimes cocoa, because most people love the cocoa family) with natural sweetness wrapped around your tongue, well balanced and with medium acidity and a lingering finish. Wow ! what a mouthfull, quite literally.

For nuts, think almonds, hazelnuts and macadamia (if you are lucky) and more specifically BRASIL.

For hints of cocoa, toffee, subtle citrus fruitiness, think Central America, like COSTA RICA, GUATEMALA.

For honey like sweetness and sometimes hints of red berries think ETHIOPIA.

If you favour spices like vanilla (hard to get), cinnamon, etc then in general look to the East like INDONESIA, INDIA, PAPUA NEW GUINEA.

BUT, of course, coffee is a lot more complicated than this, so sometimes the basic rules above can be broken by sourcing coffee from a very high quality single estate farm, roasted by a very experienced cupping and roasting master.

I also don’t want to get into the wet-processed and naturally dried process of coffee as these too affect tastes and how you blend, but in general, a lot of top roasters seems to be ignoring naturally dried coffee when blending. Some also use just Central American coffees in their espresso blends. Personally, my ideal espresso would have hints of almonds, vanilla, caramel, buttery toffee, dried figs, medium to low acidity, balance, smoothness and lingering taste. Fussy ? Yes I am. I sometimes get this from drinking Square Mile Coffee Espresso blends and just this morning from Verve Coffee Roasters (my next post God willing).

 

So what did I experiment with ? First up I used a Brasilian for body, a Malawian for bursting chocolate and a Cup of Excellence Guatemalan for acidity, sweetness and for balance. The result, a bit mellow, easy to drink and favoured by most.

Next up, I tried just two coffees, the Brazilian and the Guatemalan COE. The result, bursting with energy, toffee, caramel and customers saying “Wow! what coffee is this, can you get more ?”

And so for my next experiment…….


The Diary of a Moka Pot: The Essence of Italian Caffe Culture

Making Moka Coffee 3 by Lameen
Making Moka Coffee 3 a photo by Lameen on Flickr.

It’s almost 7 years from the day when we first touched down in Rome for a family holiday. Hearing that I liked coffee, my cousin’s Italian husband handed me a Bialetti moka pot and some ground Lavazza coffee, with a short explanation on how to use it. A little skeptical, I tried it on the first morning and was amazed at the taste (Yes ! back then, I only drank expensive instant coffee and/or French Press coffee). For the first few days inside our rented holiday apartment, I only had coffee in the morning, but after the 3rd day, I got used to having it at least twice a day. On departure from Rome, I thanked my cousin’s husband for introducing me to the moka pot.

On arrival back home in Vienna, the craze began – I needed a moka pot and fast. Back then, believe it or not, even in Vienna, Austria, it wasn’t easy to find one and I was kicking myself for having not bought one in Italy before we left. I found out later that Italians never leave Italy without one and I should have followed that concept. In any case, I goggled Bialetti, found their website and was glad to see that they had an on-line sales option. BUT, alas it wasn’t that easy – being frustrated with trying to buy a moka pot on-line, I decided to call them and guess what, their English voice-mail said they were on holiday for August – how can a company go on holiday for August ? In any case, after many lunch hours spent up and down the city of Wien (Vienna in German), I eventually found a 6 cup one. Afternoons at work were not going to be the same, with colleagues popping their head into the mini-kitchen, drawn in by the smell of Italian style coffee (the aroma of making coffee on a moka pot is amazing), wondering what Lameen was doing. Those brave enough, joined me, after all it was six cup moka pot. On that, six cups in Italy, really means six espresso style cups.

AND that folks is the beginning of “From Coffee with Love“. I am a bit puzzled that I haven’t related this story here, because from then on, I went full-on into coffee. I began with a Bialetti Brikka (pictured above), which is a moka pot that produces crema and then I went on to espresso machines and now I have a caffe, Escape Caffe, as you all know.

So, here’s a quick step on using a Moka Pot, my way of course.

Assume you have grinder, good beans and scales (optional in this case) and of course a Moka Pot.

1. Unscrew your moka pot and pour enough cold water into the lower cavity (about 100ml for a 3 cup) until it us just below the steam release device – this is easy – there’s a hole for the outlet inside the bottom of the moka pot.

2. Place the portafilter on top of the cavity containing the water.

3. Grind your coffee on a grind coarser than espresso but not as much as for a French Press. So, for example if you have a grinder that ranges from 1 – 10 with espresso at 2 and French Press at 9/10, grind on 4.

4. Place the ground coffee into the filter holder till it fills it and lightly tamp with your fingers (see below). This is the reason why scales are not essential for this method, because you should not put too little and not too much, just enough to fill the filter. I’m guessing for a 3 cup, about 13 grammes.

5. Screw the top on gently and place onto a hob turned to full, because you want it to boil. A note, Bialetti Moka Pots are made with aluminum because it is the fastest heat conductor – i.e. it takes on more heat than any other metal that we know off so far. This means that the moka pot heats up very quickly. Nowadays, stainless steel ones are made, with a heavy price tag, but good old aluminum is best.

6. First Light – Signs that you did the right thing – a little coffee escaping.

7. It’s coming – yes, the excessive heat and steam building up inside the bottom part of the moka pot, pushes the coffee through the sieve an into the top cavity – the wonders of a simple but effective creation.

8. Whoooshhhhh ! is what you hear and this is what you see when its finished.

You can enjoy black with a little sugar ( I recommend a little for this method) or with cream, yum.

Caution: Don’t place the moka pot anywhere after it has finished, except on a hot plate, as the pot is still very hot. Let it cool down before you wash it by emptying the puck (used coffee) and rinsing out the base and top parts.

The Moka Pot is really simple and when I introduced it to my staff at Escape Caffe, they were amazed by the taste and wanted more. We plan to start selling them soon.

Ciao e buon giorno


The Two Minute Scoop

The 2 Minute Scoop by Lameen
The 2 Minute Scoop a photo by Lameen on Flickr.

What does that mean ? In short, how I make coffee using the French Press/Plunger/bodum Method. After all, it is Bastille Day (French Independence Day) So, I’ll try and keep this to a two-minute read.

1. Get your beans ready, weigh them, 20g and place in your grinder (Yes ! you should freshly grind before each cup for maximum enjoyment)
2. Boil your water and as soon as it is boiled, measure out 260ml.
3. Grind your beans on a coarse setting. If using a Solis Maestro (comme moi) or good quality shop bought one (don’t expect to pay anything less than $100/£70)
4. As soon as your coffee is ground, place into your French Press pot. For my Bodum Columbia, it doesn’t need to be warmed up, as it is double walled, but if you have a glass one place boiling water inside for a minute and rinse it out before placing the ground beans inside.
5. Pour 260ml of the boiling water into the French Press.
6. DON’T TOUCH IT, DON’T STIR IT, JUST LEAVE IT, BUT POUR IN A CIRCULAR MOTION. See the bloom below.

7. Put your timer on for 2 minutes.
8. At the end of 2 minutes, SCOOP the froth or the “French Press Crema” off – Hence the 2 minute scoop”.
9. Place the French Press top on and plunge.
10. Pour out a little and pour into your cup to enjoy.
Ciao, deux minute !