Category Archives: Coffee Tools

I was at Ratios Coffee, Sharjah, UAE


I know, back in the UAE again – I can’t help it, if Emirates offer the most competitive routes to the countries I travel in Africa, at least currently, and let’s face it, A 48 hour stopover in Dubai is too tempting to pass off. Okay, so sifting through Instagram, my eyes were caught by the introduction of the UAEs first or at least one of the first Synesso espresso machine at a shop in Sharjah – the next emirate to Dubai. So, when I visited just last week and I was tole we had to attend a wedding feast in Sharjah, I quickly opened up Instagram to try and find out which cafe it was, so that I won’t miss the opportunity to check out another specialty cafe. By chance, I actually found them through another committed coffee geek centre, Speciality Batch, (Espresso Lab, Hundred Wellness Centre, Dubai) whom I’ve never visited, but who seem to have the exclusive rights to Synesso in the UAE.

After stuffing my self with all kinds of food, I encouraged my friend, another keen coffee guy, to search and try out Ratios coffee. After driving around for close to 30 minutes – committed – we found the shop, which is like a goldmine in terms of speciality coffee in this region.
Overlooking the Sharjah Creek by an area called the Corniche, connecting both Souq Al Arsah and Souq Saqr, Ratio prides itself on keeping things simple. It works with speciality micro-coffee roasters from the region, which in this case is Speciality Batch, located in Dubai.

Khalid Faisal Al Qassemi, Vice Chairman of Al Qasimi Group and Owner of Ratios, said: “We opened Ratios to offer our guests perfectly brewed coffee unlike what is served in branded shops amidst a vibrant atmosphere and supported with exceptional customer service (source: Khaleej Times)

and I can’t complain about that…. although it was busy, you could tel that when busy, there’s a really relaxed vibe here, the kind you find in your typical neighbourhood cafe in New York or London.

Upon entering, it’s quite obvious that coffee is the champ here – okay they’ve got some sandwiches, pastries and sweets on display but the coffee stuff outweighs the others; there’s an uber boiler, a chemex, bags of specialty batch coffee everywhere, other coffee tools and of course the Synesso in customised colours.


I decided to place an order for a piccolo – a mini-latte but stronger in terms of coffee – double shot coffee with a lot less milk, because the drink is made in a 120ml cup.


I couldn’t however resist the cheesecake topped chocolate brownie – forgive me, but there wasn’t any dessert at the wedding, so I was craving something sweet and wow! Nothing like a great dessert to accompany a great coffee.
I took pics and sent them to my daughter to taunt her – it worked – “daddy can you please bring me a slice” Erm! not sure how that will work on a 5 hour flight.


The barista, Ronald, is really into his latte art, very easy to talk to and give advice.


On the latter, before leaving for Dubai, Ronald asked us to check out Cremolata, located in the University City of Sharjah, apparently awarded the best gelato in the Middle East but more importantly for me, they serve coffee from another new and top micro-roaster, gold box – another place to check sometime soon insha’allah. On this occasion we had an espresso – medium acidity and smooth, with hints of caramel.


So, if you’re tired of Dubai and wants o explore another Emirate not too far away, I highly recommend Ratios Coffee. If you can’t ask make it before Ramadhan, i.e. before 6 June, then check them out after and cool off with some gelato at Cremolata too, who also have a branch in Dubai.For more, see ratioscoffee


Thanks @ Hackney Coffee Company for a Friendly Coffee

  

 Thanks to Jon Penn, co-founder of Hackney Coffee Company, located on 499 Hackney Road, London for reaching out to me through Instagram and sending me a bag of delicious Nicaragua Nuevo Segouia Catuai, natural dried arabica coffee.

About the coffee, the taste profile is advertised as rum, raisin and cascara tea. I can’t say for sure that I picked up those exact profiles, except for the cascara tea, when I tested it cold, leaving the coffee fro about 20 minutes. What I picked up was dried berries, like cherry, a fruity burst, medium acidity, well balanced and on calling dark chocolate.

   
  My colleague, an expert wine taster actually described it as a

Friendly coffee

By that, he meant, well balanced, pleasant to drink, raspberries, medium acidity and well balanced.

A pleasant cup.

On brewing method, I tried it out using an aeropress, but I must confess I loved it better using a Hario V60. This is where I was able to pick up a high tasting notes. In fact I liked this coffee so much, that I visited their website to try and order it, but form what I gather, they don’t have an online shop yet.

  
so, if ya down in East London, go grab a cuppa at Hackney Coffee Company, mate – sorry couldn’t help myself in putting a typical cockney accent.


I was @ Kaffeine II


Lucky me, it seems like I just travel the World visiting cafes and sampling good coffees, BUT, it’s really not like that, trust me. It’s just that whenever I get the opportunity to try something out involving the bean and new cafes, then I try and make the effort. So, I’ve got 7 hours in London on a beautiful war spring day in London and if you know my coffee fix programme, that means at least 2 cafes have to be visited in between my other passion, men’s fashion and food. So, my final stop this time, was literally like “saving the best for last”. Just opened in 2015, is the London renowned Kaffeine, who won best cafe in Europe a few years back – see my first post on them here. In any case, after all these years, they’ve now opened another shop, a lot closer to the shopping nirvana of Oxford Street, near the Tottenham Court Road End/Soho on 15 Eastcastle Street to be precise.


The first thing you notice is that it’s bigger than the first one – famous for great coffee, light bites and delicate sweet offerings, the first shop was always jam packed and you literally wanted to get in, drink up and get out, unless it was a Saturday morning – so here we have space, space for books, gadgets and coffee on sale, notably Square Mile Coffee Roasters, whom Kaffeine have been very loyal since their inception). The offerings are the same – deliciously named sandwiches, light bites and sweet treats – I was tempted by the latter… and of course great coffee, prepared with care, but wait for it, there’s more…
I unusually ordered a piccolo (similar to an espresso macchiato but with more milk and latte art). Sat down and went through the recent coffee books by James Hoffman and Anette Moldvaer of Square Mile Coffee Roasters.


Took some pics, ate my sweet treat and drank my coffee, but wait, what’s that in the corner – what kind of espresso machine is that ?

Ever curious, I walked over to the barista and he was so keen that someone came up to him to ask about the machine that he gave me a very quick run down and I must say, I don’t think his colleagues appreciated it (hope he doesn’t get into trouble). In any case I recognised the machine from the Vienna screen showing of “a film about coffee”, the Nuova Simoneli Black Eagle VA388. After some brief reading, the machine was designed in collaboration with James Hoffmann and as stated on the Nuova Simoneli website, it’s the first espresso machine to have;

both “T3” and “Gravimetric” technologies. The first ensures thermal stability, the second always provides the right amount of coffee in the cup. The combination of these two technologies means the barista can ensure a consistently excellent espresso, personalized by enhancing the features and aromas of each type of coffee

The gravimetric one really got me – the ability of the machine to weigh the coffee and extract the right brew weight all in one – Wow! that is really taking it to the future and it comes as no surprise that this espresso machine is the most expensive in the World, as the barista proudly told me.


So, in summary, Kaffeine have upped the game – they’ve got a new site, nearer to more people, bigger than the first, with an expanded menu and the best espresso machine in the World, so why go, I think you have the answer, GO get your self some great coffee and more.


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/


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 !


Me & My Aeropress

Sometimes, I’m quick to pick up on things and sometimes, I’m not, like when the CD player came out in the 1980’s. Back then and well into the 1990s, I was really into music and even contemplated becoming a DJ (hard to believe for those who know me, but true – i even had a stage name) but I was an ardent vinyl collector and loved the vinyl sound, so, I refused to succumb and buy a CD player, but eventually I gave in. So, I confess being the victim of my own snobbishness, when I first read about the Aerobie AeroPress on coffeegeek.com years back. But on this occasion, I have 2 excuses – the labeling on the original aeropress package advertising it as an espresso maker and the not very favourable review of the aeropress on coffeegeek.com. Of course I was confused, after reading all that stuff about what espresso is and isn’t and then, out comes this plastic looking contraption trying to change the rules. Fast forward, and hey presto, the aeropress is big news the world of coffee over. Hmm ! should I give it another chance ? But, of course, if all the people I respect in coffee are going on and on about it, so I did.

First up, I’m happy that they don’t advertise the aeropress as an espresso maker, but they do have the other claim “the best coffee maker you’ll ever own” (not on the UK packaging, which has pics of James Hoffman and Gwilym Davies). That leads to my second point, “REALLY !!!” the best coffee maker you’ll ever own ?” – well ! that’s if you don’t own a La Marzocco, a Synesso, a Slayer – you get my point. BUT I do have to confess, using the aeropress in my way was a taste opener.

I was really excited when I got my first aeropress, but I have to confess, when I prepared coffee following the instructions in the leaflet, I thought “is that it?”. So, over the last few months, I’ve developed my own way of preparing it, which I find quite delicious, especially for my last cup of coffee of the day. So, how do I do it…

FIRST – Boil the kettle. After which, place the micro filter into the chamber & twist into place and place about 100ml of cold water and let it drip through into a container – I find a 600ml milk frothing jug the best.

SECOND – As soon as the water has boiled, pour up to “4” on the plunger. Let it rest for about 2-3 minutes. You don’t want to use boiling water, but just off the boil. You can check the temperature if you want, but between 85C to 90C is ideal.

THIRD – Measure 20g of coffee and pour into your grinder.

FOURTH – Discard the water that went through your micro filter in STEP 1 above.

FIFTH – Grind your coffee and place into the chamber. I grind slightly finer than for a French Press and not the recommended “espresso grind” on the instructions.

SIXTH – Pour your hottish water into the chamber in a circular motion so that the hot water touches all the freshly ground coffee. You will see a bloom coming to the top (see pic above). COUNT TO 10 SECONDS and press the plunger through the chamber with coffee and hot water gently BUT firmly.

SEVENTH – Enjoy, either with half a spoon of demerara/brown sugar or alone.

WHAT’S DIFFERENT ? I didn’t stir the coffee with the paddle and I didn’t take more than 20 seconds to brew.

WHAT’S THE GENERAL TASTE PROFILE ? a light aroma and taste, clear with medium to low acidity detected on your tongue, natural sweetness, usually with soft citrus and light caramel taste – I’ve just finished one as I write this.

OK! I hear some coffee connoisseurs screaming “how can the brew method alter the acidity ?” Well ! It does, is the simple answer. To test this, I confess that I usually brew using Espresso Lab (Cape Town’s top roaster) beans, where they source top arabica beans (Serra do Bone is Intelligentsia Black Cat Organic) and they roast more to bring out the fruitiness in coffee, as opposed to dark. Fine, but when I went to Prufrock, Gwilym gave me Square Mile Coffee Roaster’s Tanzanian Blackburn Estate coffee and the Bolivian Colonia San Juan 8 Estrellas. On the latter, it was still a light taste, but with the Blackburn Estate (great for a morning cuppa as it was heavier) although it was bolder, it still had that refreshing lightish taste.

I’ve tried the invert process (basically, do it upside down, and place the filter at the end to press through, see below), favoured by Mark Prince of Coffeegeek, but I wasn’t impressed with the taste profile, I got, so I’m still stuck to my way.

BRAG OF THE POST: I was pleasantly surprised to be asked by Gwilym how I prepared my aeropress coffee and after summarizing the above method, I was pleased to learn that we share the same method, yipee.

One more confession from the aeropress is that I find it still brings out a reasonable taste from old beans (i.e. roasted longer than 4 weeks ago). I know this, because although there’s tons of coffee at my caffe (escape caffe), I find myself scouting around my home for coffee and I’ve got to have that aeropress at night, and finding something roasted over month ago, still works in the aeropress for me.

Enjoy !