Category Archives: Coffee Recipes

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…….

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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 !


Serra do Bone @ home

Serra do bone @ home by Lameen
Serra do bone @ home a photo by Lameen on Flickr.

Serra do bone @ home… why ? It’s our number one coffee at Escape Caffe, but always wanting to test parametres, I decided to take some spare beans home to use on my Isomac espresso machine and lets say, not as expensive conical grinder at home. After all, it was at home that I honed my barista skills, studying the bean and writing about different coffees and roaster profiles. At Escape Caffe, we have a La Marzocco 3 group Linea with a built in PID set at 93.6C and we use the becoming popular Anfim Super Camiano grinders – machines way superior to what I have at home, BUT nevertheless I’m thrown back to what Mark Prince (Coffeegeek extraordinaire for those who don’t know) said about preparing espresso “if you follow the rules, you can make a really good espresso at home using a great home grinder and semi-pro espresso machine” (not exact quote but along those lines). In any case, if you follow the rules, you can make better espresso based drinks at home than the vast majority of cafes in the World. I’m not going to get dragged down into the detail of the rules, but in summary they are (i) fairly freshly roasted arabica coffee beans, i.e. within 10-20 days (ii) a decent burr grinder, costing at least US$250 (iii) a semi-pro espresso machine with E61 group head, with lots of brass and heavy metal – this will cost around US$600 (iv) ability to tamp at around 30 pounds of pressure and (v) a very good idea of how to be a home barista, so that you know for example what grind to use so that you get about 25ml of espresso in 25 seconds when you extract coffee, etc, etc.

OK ! so how was Serra do Bone at home ? Pretty nice but with different taste profiles. First up, a bit about the bean – it’s an organic arabica coffee bean, winner of the Cup of Excellence in Brazil, used by Intelligentsia as their organic espresso, displaying taste profiles such as candied apple, cocoa, raspberry, cherry with a medium body and soft acidity. Secondly, don’t be misled by all the taste notes as you are unlikely to taste everything in one cup, because different brewing techniques, as well as temperature and moisture affect the eventual taste of the coffee, but that’s another blog. So in summary, was I disappointed ? NO ! because I stuck to the hard and fast rules. So, at the caffe, we kind of pick up the cherry cocoa elements and when mixed with milk, you get a chocolate berry taste with a hint of caramel, but at home I got a sweeter cocoa caramel taste, which is still very yummy. One reason for the slight difference could be environment, a hihger brewing temperature as my Isomac doesn’t have a PID, as well as the obvious, my Isomac is no La Marzocco, BUT if we follow the “rules” the main taste parameters remain the same. I would love to run a home barista course one of these days, so that people don’t get scared by the prospect of investing in a decent espresso machine and good grinder.

So Serra do Bone at home last week got me to practice my latte art skills, as well as sample a very tasty coffee, and get a good pic of my cappuccino, YUM !

Before I go, apologises for the long delay in blogging – I promise to be more frequent in 2011 – also this is officially my 100th post, yipee !


My New Toy: The Hario V60

From the title, it sounds like I bought some sort of fast car or psychedelic machine, but as this is a blog about coffee, the Hario V60 is a piece of art but relates to coffee. It’s developed by a Japanese company and is a different form of coffee brewing. I’ve actually seen many similar devices before but did not really know what it was for, but after skimming through many websites, of which square mile coffee roasters (London), was one, there’s been a lot of buzz about the Hario version, with a cool name, the V60. In summary, it’s a simple brew method, but the Hario V60 design, won a Good Design award and actually does makes the coffee taste different. It’s more apt for precious coffees, which will enable you to taste the more fruity and subtle cocoa elements in well roasted coffee. So, you can imagine my delight when I walked into espresso lab in Cape Town and saw a batch of them now available. I thought about it for a week and then I was sold, and bought some Ethiopian Guji Sidamo to accompany my first experience. So, here’s a detailed account of how to brew. You need (i) scales to weigh the coffee (ii) your V60 (iii) unbleached filter paper (iv) a warm glass or carafe to let the coffee to filter into (v) a good grinder (vi) a kettle to boil the water and (vii) great coffee.

1. Whilst your water is boiling, weigh about 22g of arabica beans and pour into your grinder. Once the water is boiled, grind your beans on a setting above a moka grind setting – so not was fine as espresso and not as coarse as French Press; Pour into the filter paper, which should already be inside the V60

2. Measure out your hot water to about 280ml and pour in a circular motion onto the ground coffee – you should see a bloom

3. It should take about 2 – 3 minutes to brew through, by which time you should have about 280ml freshly brewed coffee

4. At the end, the V60 should look like this after the brewing process is complete

The above is just a guideline, but play around with the method if you get one. Enjoy the experience – the coffee should be light and easier to drink than a French Press. For the Ethiopian Guji I got berry and cocoa lingering tastes. I’ve just bought the organic Brazilian Sao Pedro. I’v been captivated by this method of brewing coffee and have to apologize to my lovely Bodum Columbia French Press, which hasn’t been used in about 2 weeks.


What is an Italian Latte ?

First up, I must announce on my blog, for all those non-coffee geeks, who don’t know already, that the World Barista Champion is Mike Phillips of Intelligentsia Coffee. Intelligentsia Coffee is actually becoming world famous amongst the coffee world and so it won’t be that much of a surprise that they are able to churn out a world class barista. You can view more about Intelligentsia on my blog roll, or follow mike phillips on twitter on 1shotfortheroad – cool name.

OK ! so as we’ve just been elongated with the technical terms of coffee at the WBC, I thought it apt to tackle the technicalities of the so called “what is an Italian Latte ?” debate. It’s actually a very contentious issue and on many forums, pages and pages have been written about what exactly is a latte. Let’s start from the basics. Caffe is Italian for coffee and Latte is Italian for… wait for it…. MILK. So strictly speaking, a caffe latte is coffee with milk. BUT, what sort of milk and what sort of coffee. Have a I lost you ? Stay with me. OK ! we know that most coffee drank in Italy, is espresso based, so that was easy wasn’t it ? We’ve got the coffee out of the way and now for the difficult bit, what sort of milk. We now have 3 types of milk, (i) heated milk, which you can just pour into a small pot and take of the heat when steam appears, or if you have a microwave, pop in for between 30-60 seconds, (ii) steamed milk, which ideally should display lots of steam when heated or if you are lucky enough to have a proper espresso machine, one in which you steam before it froths or if we are going to be technical place the steam wand right into the milk jug as far as it will go, and steam – it will heat up very quickly and you shouldn’t see any bubbles at all. (iii) frothed milk – what we all crave, because if done properly, it should be silky smooth and sweetish, with a wrap around your mouth texture – if you have never had this experience, then the barista that is making your drink, needs to be re-trained or you need to practice more, but this post isn’t about frothing milk, sorry !

So for Italian Latte, I have to be the bearer of bad news and commit myself to say, there should be no frothed milk, boo hoo ! The pic at the top of this post is one made using frothed milk and so it is an imposter. So, that’s right, what a great majority of cafes serve as a caffe latte isn’t a caffe latte, because it is covered with frothed milk. If you have time and money to waste, but are passionate about not getting conned, order a large cappuccino and a caffe latte at your “regular” coffee shop and try and tell what the difference is – good luck and let me know.

OK ! Back to the milk stuff. The first type of milk, heated, is what you should really have in the French version, cafe au lait – OK ! for those who don’t know French and coffee terms, coffee (using the French Press) with milk. So, the second version, steamed milk, should ideally be used for the Italian caffe latte. How do you know if it is steamed and not heated ? Steamed milk should have a trickle of “body”. See below, that little white line on the top.

If you are really passionate, after your drink, check out the inside. It should look a bit like this, Why ?

Well ! that bit of dark cream, is the crema from a well prepared espresso, a double in this case, which interacted with the steamed milk, giving it a bit of a “body” or thick skin. If there was frothed milk, it will still be there, thick as ever. If it was just heated milk, it would wash away your crema and hence the evidence. I’m not mad, but just so you know, this is how the Italian measure their coffees afterwards, by looking inside after it has been drunk. All together now, mad coffee freak….. Hope you learned something, Take care and check those caffe lattes.


Cortado, Cortado…

Since I was served this Spanish version of an espresso milk based drink at Espresso Lab (Cape Town) in October 2009, it has become my favourite morning brew. In summary, it is half espresso and half milk/froth, almost like a smaller brother of a cappuccino but packs more punch because there’s more espresso in it, which means you get to taste the coffee more. So, to get a little technical, you’re looking at a 50-60ml double espresso extraction (depending on how many grammes you use) topped with about the same amount of liquid (frothed and steamed milk). It’s much easier if you have a 100-120 ml cup of course, but just play around with it, so that the coffee punches well through the milk. You should also be able to detect some different taste notes coming out such as milk chocolate and hazelnut, which appear to reveal themselves more distinctly when milk is added to the coffee/espresso equation. I’d strongly recommend it for espresso lovers, who don’t want as much milk and froth as you find in a cappuccino nor in a Flat White, but who nevertheless want to taste their espresso blended nicely with hot milk.

The other reason why I like a Cortado, is that I find it much easier to do latte art in a smaller cup – Well ! how else would I be able to share these nice pics with you because if I just talked and didn’t share these tasty pics to inspire you to try it at home, you’d skip my blog. Coffee is about art and science – a wonderful blend of the subjects of our age – OK ! enough of this philosophical dribble, just try this at home. Ciao ! or perhaps on this occasion I should say Adios (for those who don’t know, this is the Spanish way of saying bye bye). Adios Cortado ! until tomorrow morning.