9 places to drink coffee in London in 2022

Drinking Coffee in London

Last month I had the pleasure of my palate and my inquisitiveness to visit London and naturally took the opportunity to visit as many cafes as I could, whilst visiting some tried and tested ones too in the process. Despite having scorching temperatures with the hottest day ever recorded in London at 40C, I wasn’t discouraged on drinking my coffee hot nevertheless. One proviso – I was in around the West End a lot, so most of these cafes are near Oxford Street. So here we go.

Omotesando, 8 Newman Street, off Oxford Street (new)

Famous in Japan and not with an outlet in London, Omotesando has a very Japanese minimalist design. As you enter you are greeted with their loge in a kind of lobby space before you turn right into the cafe, decorated with wood and clean lines, decked with a La Marzocco Strada espresso machine. The coffee is more on the darkly roasted style, so probably best with milk, which is what I had – a flat white.

Hints of chocolate and caramel if my taste buds memory serves me well.

Workshop, St Christopher’s Place, off Oxford Street (classic)

I’ve been here many times since they opened several years ago and on this very hot day – it was 38C, I knew I needed “hot” coffee after wandering the streets of London looking for a birthday card for my mum (hint: it is now very difficult to buy a physical birthday card in London). I opted for a filter cup using Ethiopian beans as I wanted something fruity to refuel my body before my search. To be honest the barista wasn’t very attentive – perhaps he was suffering from the heat but luckily I knew that the coffee would be roasted and their non-committed method – using the toddy, wouldn’t extract too much effort in preparing my delicious tasting coffee.

Blank Street, Charlotte Street, off Oxford Street (new)

A taste of Brooklyn, NYC in London is how I would start this report. In short, Blank Street are quite famous in New York and have landed in London in a big way, with plans to open a few shops – they have a few in London already and I later found out that my son’s friend works for them. I was drawn to the colours of the brand I must confess and upon entering and not spotting a manual espresso machine I was about to leave, when the very friendly barista offered to serve me. After sharing that I was thinking of not ordering because of my snobbish preference for manually brewed coffee, he convinced me to try an espresso on their unique automatic machine for FREE – how could I say no.

I must confess this is probably the best looking and tasting espresso I have had on an automatic machine. I’m guessing they manually pour their milk and they have a few healthy options on their menu to tempt the trendy healthy types to make this their main to-go.

Kaffeine, Great Titchfield Street, off Oxford Street (classic)

A classic mainstay on the London specialty coffee scene, Kaffeine won best European coffee shop during their honeymoon years. Nevertheless , they still serve Squaremile coffee and prepare coffee properly. Again. it was a very busy hot day – this was the 40C day and we no air conditioner in cafes in London generally, the staff were a bit frazzled, making me a bit nervous when I placed my order for a cortado.

Glad that the heat and the business of the cafe didn’t disappoint and I’m glad that I satisfied my coffee craving that day here.

Kiss the Hippo, Canal Square, near Kings Cross (new)

Moving away from the West End now as our daughter wanted to show us another “happening” enclave in London, Canal Square in Kings Cross is an enclave of restaurants, a food market serving exotic foods and the future home of FaceBook HQ, London. On our way to discovering, I spotted this little pop-up cafe and instantly noticed the name, which I have known for a few years now. I went for a cortado – it was 37C

Nice and creamy with hints of milk chocolate and recommended if you are visiting Kings Cross, which also has Caravan – see next post.

Caravan, Granary Square, (classic)

I must confess, I didn’t have coffee here as I had just had coffee at kiss the hippo but nevertheless having coffee here will not disappoint. They have a huge space which incorporates a roastery (the inspiration for many coffee shops in London and beyond) a full restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. We had brunch and then I went in to look around and bought two bags of coffee (see previous post for my experience ).

Highly recommended for specialty coffee and dining, plus they have a great online store (I ordered many times when I lived in Europe).

Lantana, 13 Charlotte Street, off Goodge Street and near Oxford Street (classic)

Another one of London’s mainstay in the speciality coffee scene but one I never visited due to logistical reasons. They are famous for their breakfast and brunches and of course Aussie style coffees. This was literally my last experience on speciality coffee in London on my trip. As it was a nice summer’s day, we sat outside but inside is very cosy and I can imagine queues forming on a cold and windy day, as I had initially wanted to come here for breakfast but that’s another story. I decided to order a coffee and cake.

I must confess I sent my first cortado back as I didn’t like the infusion between the milk and espresso, but the second one was worth the fussiness.

Kafi Cafe inside LUSH, Oxford Street (new)

I heard about this cafe when scrolling through HasBean instagram feed and was shocked to know that there was actually speciality coffee shop on Oxford Street itself (the rents are crazy). In short, HasBean is one of the most respected coffee roasters in England, haling from the very northern part, Huddersfield so I was excited to taste their coffees after several years (I used to order online several years ago). Located on the first floor of LUSH – a very smelly soap shop – you will be greeted at the top of the stirs with an array of coffee to your left and a lime green Black Eagle espresso machine. I ordered a cortado as usual (this is the main coffee I order if I’m craving milk based but want a higher proportion of coffee in the afternoon).

Nice cup of coffee using Ethiopian beans with hints of fruit and caramel. Kafi actually have a bigger shop located a few minutes away at 20 Cleveland Street. Highly recommended.

Grind at Soho, 19 Beak Street, off Carnaby Street (classic)

I’ve been here many times when I’ve been in the area craving specialty coffee and so this time was the same. Again I went for a cortado or as it a short cortado

The barista wasn’t the friendliest – I’m not sure if Brexit and the service based industry is doing well with grumpy baristi and n general service staff. I digress but back to the coffee. Yes it was nice and once the barista saw that I was enjoying it, she was a bit more receptive, asking what I thought. Luckily for me I prioritise substance over fluffiness.

In summary, you will be spoilt for choice when you visit London, which host tons of specialty coffee shops. They may not be the friendliest, as I have become accustomed to very friendly baristi customer service in cafes in Dubai but they will be passionate about preparing your cup of coffee – just don’t film them without permission nor expect to chat with them about the coffee and more.

I’m Drinking the Sweetest Filter Coffee I ever had

I just got back from London and bought a few coffee bags from some London coffee roasters and first up on the filter was for Caravan Coffee Roasters. I selected a natural from Guatemala from their filter selection because I always find naturals more intriguing and especially more so from Central America, as naturals are quite rare from this part of the coffee growing world.

I brewed La Nueva Natural Guatemala on the Hario V60 as I have missed… yes, I had missed brewing coffee on a V60 for two weeks. Using a menu of

  • 15.3 g freshly ground coffee on my Wilfa Grinder
  • 94C on my fellow EKG kettle
  • First pour of 43ml
  • Wait for 40 seconds
  • Second pour all the way to 227ml of water

I decided to serve myself using a glass cup as opposed to a ceramic. I guess I thought I’d like to accentuate the sweetness of this cup as much as possible and yes I was comely taken aback.

My first sip just blew my taste buds away with the poignant sweetness, almost white sugar like, with hints of caramel. It was so sweet that I was just sitting down for a few seconds wandering if I had added something to the cup by mistake.

The bag mentions taste notes of brioche ( the classic sweet French bread, using lots of eggs and butter with sugar), flaked almonds and blueberry.

For me,

🔵 it was more like a sweeter berry (blueberries aren’t that sweet)

🔵 white sugar with hints of caramel 😋

On the second day, I served myself the coffee in a ceramic cup, and then the notes were more balanced, with cane type sugar and darker berries … perhaps blueberry 🫐

If you’re in the UK, I strongly encourage you to order this one of a kind sweet coffee (link above) as Caravan usually offer free delivery for orders over GBP20 and deliver very fast, based on when the UK was in the EU and I used to order to Vienna.

Can drinking coffee make you live longer?

Aha!

In summary, the researchers analyzed demographic, lifestyle and dietary information collected from more than 170,000 people between the ages of 37 and 73 over a median follow-up period of 7 years.

As mentioned on my website (see bio) , coffee has a lot of #antioxidants, which can prevent or delay cell damage, as confirmed by Dr Goldberg. In the article, Beth Czerwony, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition in Ohio, added that #antioxidants can help break down free radicals that cause damage to cells. She added that

“Over time, a buildup of free radicals can increase inflammation in the body, which can cause plaque formation related to heart disease, she said, so dietitians recommend consuming foods and beverages that are rich in antioxidants.”

New York Times Article

The study mentions that the main threshold is 3-4 cups of coffee per day. I usually drink 3 cups, one per meal.

Obviously caramel lattes that contain a reportedly 25g of sugar don’t qualify 🥺 and I’d like to add that drinking good coffee well prepared would probably help too.

I’ve been trying to get my wife to drink coffee for 17 years and she recently started having one small cup a day when I launched my coffee escapecaffe now available here . Here’s to a longer healthier life with great #coffee God willing. 😊
.

A New Coffee Shop in Dubai Mall: Hoof

Welcome

It seems like things just seem to get better with specialty coffee in Dubai. Back in 2020, during the height of the pandemic, people were asking me why I was moving to Dubai. Now, if I had said I was moving for the coffee, they would have laughed… but fast forward to 2022 and this could have been quite a credible decision.

I recall a few years ago I had a sort of “best coffee in a mall” award, which started with Caffe Del Doge in Cairo in 2008 (yes, 14 years ago) and which was subsequently won by cafes in Dubai, firstly with Common Ground, Mall of the Emirates. In fact my last post was a great contender, with not just a coffee shop but a roastery too. So, here we are with another contender, a coffee shop located in the largest shopping mall in the World, Dubai Mall.

Recently opened in Dubai Mall is Hoof, located in the very fancy Fashion Avenue on the top floor of Dubai Mall. A digression – Fashion Avenue is the part of Dubai Mall that has all the high end fashion designers like Dior, Gucci, Rolex, Prada, Cartier and Hermes just in case you want some guide posts.

Back to the coffee – I heard about Hoof whilst scanning through instagram during my trip to Marrakech and although I knew it was opening I didn’t even know it was live. So the very next day, after I arrived back in Dubai, I went to try it out and shamelessly I have to confess, I went thrice in 10 days. After all it is just around the corner from where I live.

As you enter, it is like an escape as the decor reminds me of a cave with what even looks like cave material – whatever that means – but it means stone. You can tell by the aesthetics that a lot of thought was given into designing this space, with the selection of the wood for the furniture, the arrangement of the place and the ambience. Their espresso machine is a Black Eagle and they usually play jazz.

They have a very minimalist look with a menu to go with it too. A small selection of breakfast items, served all day, together with desserts, puddings (very British ) and of course coffee, hailing from Sharjah’s premier roaster, Archers – known for sourcing fine coffees. For filter you can select a coffee scoring at 88-89 (very good) or 90+ (excellent) with a price variation of $8 to $16. On my first visit, I tried their 88+ coffees (Rwanda I think)

Beautifully served with attention to detail

On my second trip, I went for breakfast with a friend and I had their shakshouka, (eggs cooked in a tomato stew) which I rarely order, as my wife loves me making this for her almost every Saturday but this was just right – not too watery, and delicately flavoured.

I started this with their cortado. Usually when I go out in the morning, I have my coffee first but at home it is always after my meal.

The rabbit latteart

On my last visit, my wife and I went for dessert and I had the coconut pudding and she the chocolate fondant, which I see was very popular. Naturally, I finished it off with some filter coffee.

Hoof is a real “cove” of a place, where you can drink coffee like an ESCAPIST, so when you are visiting Dubai Mall and want to escape from the hustle and bustle of the shoppers, head over to the Fashion Avenue third level and visit Hoof and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Before I sign off, we asked why the name Hoof, and we were told that the owner loves horses and hence the “hoof” of the horse. I hope his horses appreciate this gesture.

Have you ever been to a Coffee Roastery in a Mall?

Well, the answer for me is YES… and perhaps I should add, only in Dubai.

Just last week, I was meeting a friend at the Galleria Mall in al Barsha, Dubai (the neighbourhood behind the Mall of the Emirates – the one with the ski slope) and upon entering I saw a coffee shop, La Gente.

La Gente Dubai

Always the sceptical coffee snob, I decided to pop my head in, where I saw a Synesso machine to my right, lots of roasted coffee in retail bags, coupled with their black and grey marble interior. On the left they have seating on high tables but they also have seats outside the coffee shop. I then walked further in and spotted this….

Probat 12kg

A Probat (think, Mercedes of coffee roasters and yes, it’s made in Germany). Impressed I promptly asked “do you actually roast coffee in this machine in this mall?” and they replied “yes sir”. So, I thought “I can’t really come in here, quiz them and not order coffee”. So as soon as my friend joined me, we went for it together with some cakes… blueberry, ummm!.

First up, they have a variety of coffee on order. For espresso, they had a Brazil, which my friend took and then I asked them for their house blend… Brazil, Ethiopia and Costa Rica… aha! now this might not seem exciting to you BUT for me it was, why ?

Lets rewind to 2008-2009 – this was the era of espresso blends – the time before single origin was even thought off for espresso.

so, fast forward to 2022 and the main reasons why I was excited by this blend is because this exact combination was indeed the flavour of the years back then, because you used

Brazil for body, crema and chocolate and nut

Costa Rica for acidity

Ethiopia for fruitiness

so, now guess what I ordered …

A cortado using their house blend of course, with some kind of seahorse on the latte art design.

Yes, it was flavourful as I got to sample a mirage of fruit, medium acidity and hints of almond and dark chocolate.

If I’m ever at that end of Dubai again, I’ll try their filter blend options, for which they were offering three options.. see below

La Gente brew bar

Apparently they have three branches, Galleria Mall, where I went, Eden House and Motorworks.

I was at Bacha Coffee, Marrakech

The drink of the escapist

I often refer to coffee as the DRINK OF THE ESCAPIST because it’s a drink that you can drink almost anywhere in the World BUT more so, it inspires you for adventure, where you visit a new city and want to learn about their coffee history to. So, here I was in Marrakech, just last week and after painstakingly looking for specialty coffee, I found this recommendation in the Timeout guide to 16 things to do in Marrakech.

La Mamounia – a beautiful hotel

As a coffee snob (what my family call me), I was a bit sceptical – after all Morocco café culture ironically literally orbits around Moroccan mint green tea. Yes, there are many places calling themselves cafes, but don’t expect to be served wonderful coffee that delights your taste buds – trust me, just order tea. Nevertheless, there was one exception, BACHA Coffee, situated in the the spectacular Dar el Bacha Palace, which means “house of the Pasha”. A place steeped in coffee history, built in 1910, where dignitaries such as Winston Churchill and Frank Roosevelt (past leaders of the UK and America for history agnostics) and even the famous Charlie Chaplin used to meet to drink…. Coffee and discuss ideas – the drink of the escapist and idealists.

In any case, after the second world war it was closed and only reopened in 2019 after years of restoration. It has now reclaimed its place as a stalwart of Marrakech attractions. To enter the palace, you have to pay 10 Moroccan dirham (I hear complaints) but this is only $1.

The entrance to the palace

As you make your way through the palace, feel free to take pictures like I did, you will eventually get to the café, situated in the left-hand corner. Prior to entering, you will notice a coffee room, with walls lined with 40+ selection of coffee from around the world comprising of single origins, blends and new coffee growing countries (I.e., Rwanda) for you to buy as well as other luxury items.

Choose one

A word of advice, go into the reception of the coffee shop and reserve a table first as there will be a waiting list if you go in the kid-afternoon. After which, wander around the palace. I didn’t do that and was told I may have to wait for about 30-40 minutes (I don’t remember ever queuing for coffee in any city before). Luckily, I didn’t have to wait too long as I met a fellow coffee geek, Abigail (world traveler) who offered to share her table with me. She then entrusted me to order coffee as she could detect my coffee geekiness.

You’ll also be spoilt for choice inside with a full menu, delectable cakes and over 40 coffees to choose from in a classic French colonial setting BUT don’t expect any caffe lattes or cappuccinos here, as all coffees are pour over, served in a very generous decanter – enough for 3 cups at least. I ordered lemon cake and coffees from Yemen and Rwanda.

Pouring coffee

I find that you can never go wrong with coffee from Rwanda – it was fruity, with medium acidity, whilst the Yemeni coffee got better as it cooled down with hints of berries and chocolate.

The interior

After relaxing for about 1-2 hours, I went to the coffee shop to buy the Yemeni coffee, because it is quite rare. I miscalculated or misheard the shop attendant and when he presented the bill of US$85 for 250g, I was a bit shocked, but proceeded in any case. I added unbleached V60 filter bags, as it will supposedly give me a cleaner unadulterated taste.

Would I go back ? Yes of course, probably for a meal and of course more coffee when I visit Marrakech again.

Highly recommended for coffee enthusiasts and novices alike, who want to drink coffee like an escapist in a Palace like setting.

Visit their website to learn more and if you can’t make it to Marrakech, you can visit their other shops in Paris and Singapore or order online.

The Best Smelling Cortado I ever had

As soon as Ramadhan finished in May 2022, I rushed to meet a friend at one of my fave cafes in Dubai, Qahwaty at the Dubai International Financial Centre (known as DIFC), which hosts as many international companies you can think off. As I waited for a friend, the head barista , Dhani, hailing from Indonesia asked me what I thought about my cortado and I replied that it was fine. Unimpressed with my answer, I think, he then asked me what I love to taste in espresso based coffee with milk and I said… “well balanced, low-to-medium acidity, not too much fruit, hints of nuts and spices like vanilla (actually like my blend) and then he said, “okay I’m going to prepare something for you”

As I waited and sipped my cortado, he presented this…

Upon raising the cup to my mouth, I was hit by the smell of tropical fruits like mango and banana (now, these are one of my five favourite fruits – the rest are pineapple, strawberries and pear, in case you were wondering). Okay I digress.

BUT did you know that 80% of our taste buds come from our sense of smell ? If you don’t believe me, just google it here. It’s what I also learnt when I did the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Sensory Skills course in June last year.

So, you can imagine the anticipation of my taste buds when I smelt this tropical nirvana. As I tasted the coffee, I detected hints of pineapple acidity and although the coffee smelt like a topical paradise, the taste was a lot more subdued – I can’t imagine a banana, mango coffee milkshake with hot milk….

BUT I was not disappointed, as I rejected my earlier cortado in favour of this myriad of flavours in a cup. Wow, wow, wow – said thrice for excitement.

Of course I questioned Dhani about what he did as he was delighted with my response. In short he created a blend of coffee on the spot using Colombian coffee and Brazil from two different roasters based in Dubai.

Wow!

I just thank God for this experience which I won’t forget for the rest of my life.

Indeed the best smelling milk based espresso drink I have ever had. Here it is one more time

If you are ever in the DIFC area, look out for them – a small coffee shop located outside the gate village, first floor, in front off the Ritz Carlton, opposite Wild and Moon and not too far from ICD Brookfield.

Dubai Coffee Pioneers: Mokha 1450

Mokha 1450, Palm Jumeirah

I’m blessed to live in a vibrant city that thrives on specialty coffee, not to mention, constant sunshine, beaches, great food that will make a foodie tire themselves out and an eclectic mix of cultures – a true city of the 21stcentury. For me, it’s been wonderful since I moved here in September 2020. Nevertheless, with the ever-growing coffee culture witnessed by almost a monthly opening of a new coffee shop, it’s easy to forget the ones who started the journey and paved the way, so here we are, Mokha 1450.

You may have heard me mention the name before as I did an experiment to debunk the myth of freshly roasted coffee last year and needless to say, a rare coffee, an Ethiopian Geisha, won my test, whereby a coffee roasted months before tasted even better when brewed using a Hario V60. This coffee was sourced by Mokha 1450.

Initially located at Wasl Road but now with a branch on the famous Palm Jumeriah – yes the man-made island shaped like a palm tree in the middle of the Arabian sea off Dubai’s coastline – now you see why Dubai has a lot to offer, indeed a city of dreams, BUT back to coffee….

Cortado at Wasl Branch

The origin of the name traces back to Arabia itself, Mokha being the seaport in Yemen that started trading coffee back in….. 1450 – get the hint. So, Garfield Kerr, the owner, I presume wanted to launch his coffee shop in homage to the first city of coffee. However, that wasn’t enough, as Garfield with roots in Jamaica, ensued that his was the first company in the UAE to import Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee from Jamaica’s Coffee Industry Board (now known by its new acronym JACRA). In this connection, Mokha 1450 have always sourced “rare and exceptional” coffees – this terminology features on their coffee bags. In fact during the EXPO2020 from October 2021 to March 2022, Mokha 1450 served the most expensive coffee there as Jamacia Blue Mountain coffee is usually if not the most expensive, one of them.

Wasl branch, San Remo machine

Mokha 1450 is called a boutique in that their service is akin to being served in a fashion boutique – attention to the coffee but more so to the customer.

Preparing my cortado

At their Palm Jumeirah branch, upon entering, you are given a menu that explains all the coffees on offer and if you are serious about coffee like me, you may take a while to go over the menu before placing your order. After which, they will offer further explanation if needed. At this branch, as they have more space, they will also prepare the coffee in front of you, just like in a boutique they will bring out the best clothes and explain the product, so too here.

Here we are

I’ve been thrice, twice to the Palm Jumeirah branch and once to the Wasl branch. On my second visit to Palm, we met with Garfield and he offered us another delectable coffee – see below.

At the first World of Coffee event, Mokha 1450 experimented with serving you espresso in an iced cup – the coffee cup was placed in a freezer and they pulled the espresso shot into the freezing cup – the idea was to display a different array of flavours, more on highlighting the acidity. 

So, why go? Well, if you love coffee and want to be served with attention to details by courteous staff and want to take your taste buds on a whirl, then visit. I must add that they have a delicious of array of cakes at their Palm branch and wife always orders the carrot cake, not to share…. Ha!

Visit them and read more on their website

My Espresso Machine

Profitec 700

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ll probably know that I start my day of with a daily cappuccino, which means that I need to start with a great espresso, which means that a great espresso machine is a must – after all, this is from coffee with love and with anything in life, if you don’t invest time and money (sometimes), you won’t get anything serious and long lasting back in return, so back to coffee.

Daily cappuccino

The journey to a great espresso machine

When I was on the lookout for an espresso machine a few years back, after my Isomac went bust, I did a lot of research and decided that within my budget, I would buy a Rocket R58, which was available at one espresso shop in Vienna, where I lived back in 2014. 

So, I made my way to the shop, funnily called Taste It, fully determined to walk away with a new espresso machine, having not had espresso coffee for about 2 weeks. I walked in and proudly announced my intentions, which I thought would bring a smile to the retailer – we are after all talking about a machine that would cost around EUR2,000 (AED8,000). I expressed that I wanted a machine that I wouldn’t have to replace for several years and that I felt that the Rocket R58 fitted my desires in this sense.

After walking over to the machine and showing me what I had only previously seen on websites, the retailer turned to me and said it was sold out and wouldn’t be available for about 1-2 months. I asked why and he mentioned China’s thirst for espresso had meant that the manufacturer, who made about 200 every month, sent about 1-2 to Vienna and the remaining to China. Before I burst out into tears like a child at a candy store being told you can look at the sweets but you can’t have any, the owner of the shop walked over to me and offered me a deal on a machine he believed was better than the Rocket R58.

Initially sceptical for 2 reasons – why is he trying to sell me a more expensive machine and why is he selling me a German machine (most are made in Italy). After carefully explaining some of the aesthetics of this new machine, I was tempted. To sweeten the offer he offered me a new espresso grinder, the Macap M4D – an electric grinder on demand machine and told me I could have the machine in 2-3 days, mentioning that I could return it in one month if I didn’t like it. BAM, I was sold or should I say, “sold to the lover of espresso”. He offered me some sort of brewing lesson but after my friend who accompanied me told him I used to own a coffee shop using a La Marzocco Linea 3 group, a few years back, he said I didn’t need it. Well ! I would hope so, after all I had already been writing about coffee for well over 10 years.

Espresso machine

So, what espresso machine did I buy and have owned for almost 8 years now? (time flies when you’re brewing great espresso on a great machine) Here’s a snapshot from the manufacturer’s website – 

  • Dual boiler
  • PID-display for the individual temperature adjustment of both boilers
  • PID-display indicates the brewing time in seconds
  • E61 brew-group
  • Rotary pump (it means that when you brew espresso, the noise isn’t loud)
  • Wear-free rotary valves
  • High-end steam and hot water wands
  • Boiler and pump pressure gauges
  • Stainless steel boiler with 0.75 liter volume for espresso preparation
  • Steam and hot water boiler in stainless steel with a 2.0 litre volume
  • Steam boiler with separate on/off switch
  • Boiler insulation

In short, I wanted a dual boiler rotary pump machine with PID. A dual boiler means that I have a separate boiler for espresso and one for steaming milk.

Steam wand

Technically a PID means Proportional-Integral-Derivative but this really means you can control the temperature of the boiler. So, if you want to brew your espresso at 92-93C, ie. fruitier, more acidity, you can and if you want to brew it at 95C, more chocolatey/nuts, you can, of course depending on other variables like roast profile, water texture, acidity in the water, brew pressures, etc, but it helps.

On rotary pump; generally it is a lot quieter and from what I was told, would last longer than a vibration pump – in fact that’s what happened with my old machine, the vibration pump was kaput (German for spoilt). 

Also, the machine had brass and copper parts inside, which help to preserve heat and the outside is made with stainless steel, which last longer than normal steel.

So, I bought a Profitec Pro 700, which is a German made prosumer machine – suitable for consumers with a professional bias, I guess. It’s their top of the range machine with all the pro cons but they now offer other variations, Pro 600, Pro 500 and very recently a Pro 400 and it’s baby, Pro 300.

Pro 700

What was the price you may still be asking… well let’s say that I didn’t tell my wife for a few years, But let’s say I saved about EUR400. 

After the purchase

I must confess, the first few days back then were a bit painstaking and a word of advice – you will encounter this with any new machine. I was used to ordering coffee from some of the best coffee roasters in the World but the coffee I was given to start from the shop, albeit good to look at, was not up there on the taste notes. I found that the specialty coffee I was used to, was not pulling as good and at one point longed for my old machine, which I was so used to. I thought simple is sometimes just best. 

However, before you gasp in horror and bring out the tissues, you’d be happy to know that as I got more used to the machine and the grinder settings, as well as the ability to adjust the brew pressure to between 9 and 11, the espresso began to improve.

First time

One thing straight up that was much better was definitely the ease of steaming milk – it was bliss compared to my old machine – no regrets there. I caught myself in the typical dilemma of good micro foam for latte art poured on top of sub-standard espresso – I was close to depresso on most shots during the first few months. But things changed, if not I wouldn’t be writing this and I no longer regret my purchase, yay! After all it’s been 8 years with this machine baby.

Brewing espresso

After I bought the machine, I did some more research and Profitec have expanded, offering their products in the US especially, where if you visit youtube, you can learn how to use the machine and study what it’s made off. Their new model is also on offer in the UAE too. I have pimped my machine though, using La Marzocco portafilter holders.

Espresso love

So, if you are in the market for a new espresso machine that you want to last for 10+ years and don’t want to pay $5,000, check this brand out and no, I don’t get any kind of sponsorship from them.

THREE CAUTIONS 

COST

Espresso is the most expensive way of making coffee and even world experts like James Hoffmann have said that they don’t even own one – that’s fine if you own a world-renowned coffee roasting company, Square Mile Coffee, so I guess he can go to work and pull as many shots as he likes. You must love espresso because if you are going to spend this type of money, then please use the machine at least once a day. Better if you have more people in your house that love espresso-based drinks, then it would be cheaper than drinking coffee outside your home. 

TIME & WASTE

It follows too, that making espresso is also expensive in terms of wasting coffee to get the right grind when you buy different coffees, not to mention the change in temperature and more. But also time. Sometimes it can take a few minutes to make an espresso. For me, it’s a part of my daily ritual in the morning, so I don’t rush it. 

MAINTENANCE

Anything more expensive, means that the maintenance will also be expensive too. So, you need to buy the right gadgets to clean it regularly, use filtered water or a filter to minimise the worst damage, limescale. Read more about cleaning an espresso machine here For me, in the last few years since I bought the machine, it’s been serviced twice, had a few parts changed and a bit more, BUT it’s still worth it.

BUT

If you love espresso coffee and are willing to give it time, then it’s one of the best ways to express your love ❤️ for coffee.

Espresso using my blend

Coterra: A Hidden Dubai Coffee Spot

Always out for a scent (pun intended) of coffee adventure, I asked my fellow coffee geek, Naveed, for this favourite new coffee spots in Dubai and I was presented with two options, and I chose Coterra, located in Umm Ramool, near the airport and closet to me as I had run out of espresso coffee and needed coffee quick – and no, I’m not an addict – I just like or should I say, love coffee. I was even surprised that a coffee shop existed in this part of the bustling city that Dubai is and to be honest, had to check google maps twice to make sure I wasn’t headed in the wrong direction – confession … on my way there, I took the wrong turning.

So, upon arriving you are greeted with this Muriel of colours – in fact it reminds me of something you might find in another part of the World, like in South America. Okay, let’s go in.

Upon entering, it was like a hidden gem indeed. I was greeted with a brew bar to my right accompanied with a complimentary cup of Arabic coffee by, I presume the cafe manager and to my left I spotted not one but two Giesen coffee roasters covered in their brand colours of green of course – I hasten to add, Giesen is a fave with serious coffee roasters.

As I walked further into the cafe to take some pictures, I also noted what looked like a sensory lab… decked with a coffee tasting chart – the wheel of fortune for all coffee sensory nerds.

Already looking impressed, I noticed a gentleman walking up to me and I did this thing that my wife always rolls her eyes – yes, having travelled extensively in Africa, I try and spot accents as a way to connect with people and I instantly picked up head barista, Mickey’s, as being from Kenya. After exchanging greetings (Karibu is welcome in Swahili) adding that I had been to Kenya several times and to the famous Coffee Research Institite in Ruiru, just outside Nairobi, Mickey had this look that if I could read minds, could be summed up as “oh, this guy knows and loves coffee” , so he presented me with a few options for tasting their coffee over my two hour stay.

First up, was a Costa Rican coffee for my daily cortado. I must confess, I was highly skeptical as my previous memories of Costa Rican coffee is that they tend to be on the higher acidity side, not bad for filter but as an espresso, I didn’t really want to drink something that might remind me of orange juice and milk – the two just don’t mix, literally.

Looks good doesn’t it? My skepticism disappeared after the first sip, as my tongue was washed with subtle fruit with hints of caramel and berries, but not over bearing. Of course, I then quizzed Mickey about how he had brewed my coffee, to which he explained the process adopted using their Dalla Corte “zero barista” espresso machine. So, here’s a short diversion for the coffee geeks.

In summary, the espresso machine is built with a Digital Flow Regulation (DFR) using an exclusive and patented technology that allows you to digitally control the quantity of water whilst you extract an espresso – this is important because this is where aromas and flavours are developed. By being able to regulate the flow, you can vary acidity, sweetness and body according to the requests of your customers, leading them toward a new concept of tasting. For just one type of coffee variety, more tastings are possible, different from one another. (courtesy Dalla Corte)

So, what does that mean ? In short Mickey was able to manipulate the coffee and reduce the acidity whilst brewing my coffee, WOW! I love learning new stuff about coffee.

Before I left, I had an espresso on the house and an exquisite Colombian coffee, brewed on the Hario V60.

I was also lucky enough to meet with the pleasant owner, Mohamed, who gave me his card and explained the name behind the brand – CO for coffee and TERRA(latin for land), so “coffee land”. He also mentioned that his partner is from Nepal.

I left with two bags of coffee roasted for espresso, one, their Space Blend and the other, can you believe it? Costa Rican, roasted for espresso.

In short, if you are on the way to the airport and want a quick good tasting coffee before you fly, then make this your last stop. Otherwise, it isn’t that far from downtown Dubai – say 10 minutes drive. As of now I’m still enjoying their coffees.

Coterra are located at 18 9th street, Umm Ramool, Dubai – use google maps

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