A Coffee Recipe – New Age Cappy

I haven’t really ventured into sharing any type of recipe on this blog yet, because I assume that all those visiting have read through the main website (wishful thinking) or are pros. So in order to stop embarrassing myself and having a barrage of criticism, which would be good for raising the profile of my blog, I’ve avoided this, of course until now, so I’m taking the plunge from this day forth…. wish me luck.

In most cafes, whenever you get served a cappuccino there is always a tendency to sprinkle chocolate powder on top of an exaggerated dense air foam. However, in the top cafes, where they know what they are doing, they avoid these type of gimmicks and just give you the real stuff, espresso and well frothed milk, without heaps of foam. So one day I was thinking, if I had a cafe (one of my dreams) and wanted my customers to still get their kick of chocolate sprinkled cappuccino, how would I serve it. This may not be original, but then I thought, “I wonder if I sprinkle some chocolate powder on top of my espresso before I poured my micro-foam frothed milk on top” and so that is exactly what I did last Sunday, so here is what I call “New Age Cappy“.

New Age Cappy
New Age Cappy

New Age because it relates to serving coffee well and Cappy, well as a short trendy name for Cappuccino of course.

Step One: Make sure you extract a thick crema espresso, because when you sprinkle the hot chocolate powder on top, it will have to sit quite comfortable on top without a threat of falling through the crema cloud to the bottom of the cup.

Step Two: Froth your milk properly so that you have micro-foam qualities if not as soon as you pour the frothed milk on top, it will just move the chocolate powder away to the side of the cup with no real design to impress your friends…. hmmm ! Again, I am assuming that you have been practising milk frothing techniques for over two years like me or are a trained pro.

Step Three: Pour the frothed milk into the cup, tilting the cup slightly and making sure the beginning of the pour goes below the crema cloud, before finishing off over the top. I can’t show a picture of this, as I only have two hands and didn’t trust my daughter with my $750 camera, but I plan to do a short video on this God willing sometime in the future. What you should get in any case at the end, is nicely poured cappuccino but with the chocolate sprinkles sitting on top, meshed into the coffee and the frothed milk, so that every sip will end up being unique no less. The final version should look like the picture at the top, but just to give  you a closer look, see this one up close and personal.

 

New Age Cappy Close
New Age Cappy Close

You see, it wasn’t that difficult after all. I don’t have a patent on this, but if you try this after reading my blog, think of me and tell your customers about my blog – that will do.

Ciao and have nice weekend.

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 !

New Theme, New Dream..

I’m in the middle of trying to change the look of my blog and luckily the guy who sits a floor above me at work was really helpful and assisted me in trying to load up this new more coffee-like theme – I hope you like it ? But as I get used to this, I’d like to leave my latest favourite pic with you, called Espresso Dream, so until my soon to be posted next blog, dream of espresso……

 

Latte Love – My Latte Art Heart

I just wanted to share another one of my favourite pics with you, taken in a LOVE coffee mug bought by my wife pour moi.

 Latte Love

As you can see, I’ve been practising my “latte art” and although I haven’t progressed to rosettas and big hearts, this is my second success with a little heart, so wish me luck every mornings when I practise my latte art and end up rushing to work and getting in just in time. Wishing you a latte love morning, ciao.

Star Anise Cappuccino

Star Anise Cappuccino

I call this Haute Couture Cappuccino, because as you sip the cappuccino, the proximity of the star anise to your nose sends a lovely smell up your nose into your taste buds without you actually drinking the star anise itself. One for my cafe if I ever open one God willing. Also, I made this silky smooth frothed milk using a Bodum milk frother for all those who doubt you can’t get microfoam with a basic milk frother. Enjoy the pic.

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