1 more thing about Serra do Bone @ Home

Serra do Bone Naked by Lameen
Serra do Bone Naked a photo by Lameen on Flickr.

I could easily have updated my last post but decided not to. In any case, JUST ONE MORE THING ABOUT Serra do Bone @ Home, which really applies to making coffee at home. I have to confess, all those years that I was making coffee at home I never measured the weight of my coffee before putting it through the grinder and extracting espresso. There are many reasons for this, which in a nutshell can be described as, that I just assumed that as long as I ground enough to fill the double basket and as long as I got about 25ml espresso in 22-25 seconds and there were nice tasting notes at the end, Voila ! it was right. Well ! WRONG – well ! that’s a bit harsh – not exactly true is closer to the final judgement. WHY ? Here we go…

1. Too much coffee doesn’t mean a better taste: We often assume that the more coffee you get into the porta filter the stronger the coffee and hence the taste. This isn’t true. Sure you may get more coffee and perhaps more caffeine, BUT not a better taste, because we now know that the coffee can taste better with lower weights, especially milk-based espresso, i.e. cappuccinos.

2. How much coffee should we use ? There’s a sort of standard agreement that espresso is made using 7 grammes of coffee, and so a double shot, should be 14 grammes, right ? Well ! not exactly. There are many parameters that affect the taste and now, some say between 18-22 grammes. So, initially I thought that at escape caffe, we would go for 20-22 grammes of coffee, so that all that milk would not drown out the taste of the coffee. However, after about a few weeks and consulting with my roaster, we realized that by reducing the weight to just under 20 grammes, we could get a better taste profile.

3. What’s the right grind ? Higher weights of coffee can mask/hide the right grind for the coffee you are using, HOW ? If you use a lot of coffee, you have to grind coarser to make sure it goes through the portafilter, because remember, that the finer the grind, the harder it would be to get through the portafilter when extracting espresso. Still with me ? BUT, if we use less coffee, we don’t have to grind so coarse. I noticed that when we were grinding the coffee, we had lots of clumps of coffee, which meant we were grinding lots and the heat of the grinder (which are programmed) was making the coffee clump together. So when we reduced the weight of the coffee to about 19 grammes, we didn’t see so much “clumping”.

All the above arguements have been discussed at great length on twitter by experts such as James Hoffman (aka Jim Seven blog), Mark Prince (aka Coffeegeek) and Intelligentsia from which I have learnt a lot about weight profiles. So, you’ll see that people weigh the beans before grinding, weigh the actual extraction liquid, across different temperatures and times and then get a ratio. In summary, you can get different taste profiles depending on the weight, time and temperature – Complicated ? Well ! yes it is, but who said that “real” espresso was easy.

One final thing is pre-infusion – a big word, but it really means that you run water through the group head before extracting your espresso – without portafilter of course. What does this do ? Well for my home espresso machine, which doesn’t have a PID (temperature control mechanism), it will lower the temperature and should make it ready for extraction – that’s the theory at least, but it’s been working for me at home, so complaints there.

OK ! so finally, when I made serra do bone at home, what did I do ? Apart from following the rules, I kinda measured the beans before extraction (I use my eyes because of experience at the caffe), pre-infuse for 5 seconds to lower the temperature to below 94C and extract in about 23 seconds and there’s definitely a difference in taste.

The first thing is more body in the coffee, but strangely enough a good taste profile, even though the beans were roasted over 22 days ago (we don’t serve coffee using beans roasted over 21 days ago, so I bring old beans home).

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 Best Coffee of 2010

I know it’s late BUT I’ve got to let you know about my best coffee of 2010 because it will just be unforgivable if I didn’t. So what was it ? It was, CAPAO CHAPADA DIAMANTINA or Capao for short. It hails from Brazil, was roasted by Square Mile Coffee Roasters in London. It’s primary taste notes were described as toffee, cocoa, hazelnut with a slight vanilla finish. There, they got me – whilst it’s almost normal to find taste profiles along the lines of toffee, caramel, hazelnut, almond, cocoa, chocolate, it’s very rare to find vanilla. Trust me, I’ve tried. Square Mile even went the extra mile to tempt me “it’s like snickers in a cup”. Snickers being the chocolate bar with a peanut nougat base, topped with peanuts and caramel and wrapped in milk chocolate. Now ! tell me that isn’t tempting.

However, I’m not that shallow to fall for looks alone or in this case, taste profiles. So what did it really taste like and why did I really like it that I gave it the high accolade of “COFFEE OF THE YEAR”.

So, what did it taste like as an espresso….

Oh my God !

And as a Cappuccino….

This isn’t real

and as Americano…… This can’t be happening to me

and finally, in a French Press…. OK ! you’ve got to be kidding right.

You know what they say “somethings are better left unsaid” OR “few words have the impact of thousands “. OK ! the last one is slightly made up, but you can quote me on that.

In summary, let’s just say this coffee was inspirational. Even my barista at Escape Caffe, poured his best latte art so far.

Capao Heart Close

As a cappuccino, it was the best experience – creamy and buttery (the latter a square mile signature), toffee like, cocoa all over my mouth, finishing off with vanilla.

As an espresso, nice body (and looks too) with toffee and hazelnut to the fore, just wrapping around your tongue and delghting your stomach.

As an Americano, there was almost full body crema and similar tastes experienced in the espresso were enhanced with toffee and caramel dominating.

The final taste test was in a French Press, but before that one proviso for those less gifted. Usually, coffee that is made with such vigour using the espresso machine, just doesn’t cut it when extracted using more subtle methods like the French Press, but not in this case. The taste was still amazing “vanilla and cocoa with a hint of berry in the finish and lingering way past 30 minutes”.

So, in summary again, this coffee was not only great, or should I say fantastic in taste, but very versatile across many ways of drinking it.

So sad to see it go, but I pray it comes back in 2011. Well done Square Mile for getting it and roasting it just perfectly for me.

A Gift from…..

I must say, this will be my freshest blog to date, as this pic was taken this morning and as you know in the mornings it’s always an espresso based milk drink – today’s was a flattie or flat white (for those who don’t know, it’s an Australian version of a cappuccino made in a 150ml cup as opposed to the usual 225ml version).

So ! why is this a gift ? Because this special coffee was roasted by the Danish speciality coffee roasters, Coffee Collective. This is currently their espresso blend, made up using 60% Brazilian Daterra, 20% Guatemalan Finca Vista and 20% Kenyan Kiawamururu arabica beans. It’s described as a sweet and caramelly (is there such a word?) espresso. Coffee Collective are really serious about coffee, made up of people who are world champion tasters and a former WBC Champ. They work very closely with farms and are passionate about getting seasonal coffees too, offering coffees freshly roasted to buy through the internet. BUT I didn’t order it, it was a gift from Renato, coffee roaster at EspressoLab, Cape Town, generous soul he is. When I went in last week for a cortado, he offered to give me some coffee to take home free of charge. Leaning over I saw that the bag was brightly covered with the coffee collective logo to see more, visit their website (link at the bottom of this post). So what was the coffee like ? Actually, when I first tried it last week, I thought “it’s a bit fresh and I didn’t really get a good pour), so I rested it for another week and decided that today was the DAY and what a wonderful surprise. OK ! there was a bit of a struggle at first…

And I thought “urrghhh !” I’ve wasted this precious coffee, because I got about enough coffee for 4 espressos or for me, two doppios. As it trickled in, it began to get a bit light, which usually means weakish crema is on the way.

However, as this was a gift, it’s like God changed all the parameters because as soon as I blended it with well frothed milk, Wow ! I detected that dark chocolate, medium acidity, well balanced and sweet smooth finish. I was so pleasantly surprised that I got inspirational and tried this shot out, which is my favourite pic of the mo.

My portion is finished but if you’re in Europe, I strongly advise you to try and order as much of this as possible. See http://www.coffeecollective.dk/index.htm for more and well done Coffee Collective for a really memorable espresso blend.

I’m Drinking a Grand Reserve Coffee

Yes ! A Grand Reserve coffee – a speciality from top coffee grower, Aida Battle, supposed to be a special blend of coffees from her farm in El Salvador. Fruity and intense, yet complex and medium balanced on the acidity. Have I lost you ? If you’re an expert, then you probably want more, but I’ll just keep it simple for now. This particular batch was roasted by top roasters, Square Mile Coffee Roasters (SMCR) no less and if you have been an avid reader of my blog, you’ll know that I used to be a regular customer of SMCR -that is until I moved to Cape Town. So, how did I get my hands on this special coffee ? Only God could have made this possible but here’s the story behind it. I walk into one of my favourite cafes in Cape Town, Espresso Lab in Woodstock, get chatting to owner/roaster, Renato and spot the famous label bag on the shelf and asked how he managed to get a bag down here in Cape Town – “ordered through the internet of course”. But having read about the coffee on SMCR website a few weeks bag, I knew that it was really special with a real special price too, at about £22 (or $33 or 242 Rands) per 350g bag. Probably spotting the delight in my eye, Renato offered me a precious 40g free of charge, enough to make one French Press and one double espresso portions – thank you God.

You can’t imagine the excitement when I got home – I read about this coffee, grown by one of the top coffee growers in the World, roasted by one of the best coffee roasters in the World, unable to order it all the way from London because of the costs and here it was in my kitchen, ready to be prepared the way I love coffee, French Press and double espresso. OK ! Let’s get to work but be warned, as this is so special, I was inspired to focus on trying to capture the coffee as best as I could on photo, so that I could share the experience with you. I’ve already described the taste profile at the top of this blog, so don’t expect too much emphasis on taste profile, just enjoy the pics and dream.

First up, Le French Press. OK ! with this type of preparation, the fruity elements tend to dominate – very balanced as an afternoon cup after a light lunch, going down smoothly.

I was tempted to just drink the coffee as a double espresso to really experience it as a concentrate but there was a part of me saying “what would it be like with milk?” So, I went for a Cortado – a what ? It’s currently my favourite milk based drink, a Spanish version of a cappuccino, but with less milk, so you use about the same portions of milk as espresso, using a 150ml cup – so strictly speaking, a double shot espresso at about 50-55ml with 50ml frothed milk, which would have a foam of about 20%.

Doesn’t it look yummy and inspirational ? with this type of extraction and preparation, I found the Grand Reserve not too acidic with a soft touch of milk chocolate coming through the milk. I wish I had done this blog sooner when the coffee was readily available and then I could have said buy it now from Square Mile Coffee Roasters but I just googled it and I think Sweet Maria’s in the USA roast it too, so if you are reading this in the US, try and get it before it runs out. Until then, dream and if it’s out again, I’ll try and let you know somehow.

Coffee Roasters: Deluxe Coffeeworks, Cape Town

I’ve decided to add a new category as I launch myself into the Cape Town and South Africa coffee scene, to be called “Coffee Roasters”. I was thinking, if you are new to a new city and are really craving not only good coffee, but somewhere to buy good coffee, it can be stomach wrenching – I am speaking from experience in my new home city of Cape Town. So, imagine my joy in late December, when the bags of coffee I carried over from Europe had run out and I stumbled across a shop, wreaking with the smell of freshly roasted coffee. Of course I walked in, spotting a coffee roaster tucked into the back and someone behind a coffee bar offering me free coffee to taste, “God relieved me of my distress”. Where was I ? Deluxe Coffeeworks. Well ! actually I have been thinking, but I have never asked, where did that name come from and I thought about breaking the name into a phrase ” Deluxe coffee works” Get it ? Well ! Good coffee works, but bad doesn’t. OK, I’m digressing. So, who are they ? Currently there’s Carl, Nick and Judd. Judd, originally from New Zealand, was also trained there at Cafe Supreme and from what he is doing in this new establishment, he obviously learnt well. They’ve only been up and running since 2009 and already have a following and a growing client base amongst some top cafes and restaurants in Cape Town. Their plan is to focus entirely on wholesale coffee sales but lucky for us, you can pop into their roastery cum shop on Church Street, which is very centrally located and they would gladly serve you any espresso based drink at a fantastic price.

The other bonus of course, is that you can also buy freshly roasted arabica beans to take home with you, packed in organic looking brown bags by the kilo or shiny 250g bags. They can also grind it for you if you prefer and they sell little gadgets like milk frothing jugs and Bialetti’s version of the French Press. The guys at Deluxe Coffeeworks are really easy to talk to and if you’ve got some time to spare, drop in and chat about coffee, Cape Town and life. Naturally, I’ve tried their coffees, which I tend to find is very aromatic. My current favourite is their organic espresso blend,

but their espresso blend is also very nice, blending well with milk and displaying chooclate and nutty tastes.

I’ve currently got one of their experimental blends at home, which is a mixture of Kenyan and Ecuadorian arabic coffee beans. I find it a bit spicy, bordering on licorice in taste and very distinctive as an espresso.

I was also lucky enough to be invited to an espresso tasting session of single origin coffees a few weeks back, which ranged from a very strong Kenyan espresso to easy-to-drink and very mass appealing Guatemalan arabica. So, definitely worth a visit before they completely close their doors to the walking public, but if you’ve got a cafe or restaurant in the Cape Town area, check them out as a possible supplier and they ain’t paying me to say that.

Autumn Espresso… What Now !

This is absolutely disgraceful – 8 weeks without blogging – I hold my head in shame but I do have a great excuse… I’ve moved to Cape Town, one of my favourite foodie city to open a coffee (but of course) and cake/sandwich shop. It’s been challenging trying to settle in without easy access to communication like internet. In any case I’ve been really busy with checking out the coffee and cafe scene and it is quite exciting. However more on that next time, as this is supposed to be about Autumn Espresso.

Yes ! It is a bit strange to talk about autumn, as it’s mid-winter in the northern hemisphere and mid-summer in the southern hemisphere – it’s like 25C outside as I write. So, I guess to compromise for my readers in both hemispheres so that no one gets left out, it is apt that I should talk about a coffee that was roasted and blended to typify the season in between, Autumn of course. OK ! I got this bag of Autumn Espresso during the northern hemisphere season, back in late October/early November but didn’t get the chance to share my experience.

It’s roasted by Square Mile Coffee in London and reminds you of the Autumn mainly because of the roasted hazlenut and caramel and toffee tastes that dominate. There is a hint of chocolate of course, but this comes out more when you make it as an espresso milk based drink like a Cappuccino or Caffe Latte.

Just love the pics of these coffees as I was really getting into studying my digital SLR and playing around with different concepts like Aperture, so that I could use the camera to bring out the best of the coffee, especially as these were taken on wet, windy and cloudy Autumn days. I must confess I cannot remember where the coffees were sourced from, but being a fan of Square Mile since they started in 2008 I can almost say for certain that there was some Central American arabica thrown in, probably from Guatemala and/or Ecuador. You’ll have to wait another 9 months for this to be available again on the market and if you can get your hands on some, go for it.

A Complex Espresso & A Refreshing Coffee

That’s the way I’d like to describe the coffees I got from Espresso Lab, Cape Town, when I visited a few weeks ago. Of course I drank them a while back, but these are just my notes on my experience. Actually, Espresso Lab describe their espresso blend as “a complex blend bringing out blackcurrant licorice and chocolate flavours with a snappy finish”, so I’m just agreeing with them. There’s no doubt it had a complex taste and I really got to taste the chocolate flavours with a snappy finish, but I can’t vouch for the blackcurrant one.

In any case, the espresso blend consists of arabic beans from Brazil, Costa Rica and Ethiopia, so it really is a blend, mixing three different regions. Yes ! Costa Rica is not in South America, but in Central America. For me, it still confirms that I really enjoy an espresso blend when it has Brazilian arabica beans added, so I was pleased with the espresso, when I got it right. And on that last note, I want to go back to the word “complex”. Using all the techniques of making espresso including timing the pour, this coffee rarely followed the rules. Yes ! out of a 250g bag, which equates to about 16 cups of coffee for me (I only drink double espressos and that happens twice a day and I am assuming 15g of coffee per double cup – complex isn’t it ?), and after adjusting for the 30ml of espresso in 25-28 seconds, I only got about 7 good espressos. Of course everytime the pour wasn’t consistent with the rules, I adjusted the settings, then it will work in the morning and not in the afternoon and vice versa, hmmmm ! I guess better luck next time and perhaps a bigger bag of 500g to do lots of tweaking until I get a pour right every other time. So enough of the rambling and on to the other coffee.

Sometimes it is said “after struggle comes ease” and so it was with their Rwandan blend. Initially, I bought this to satisfy my daily thirst for “real” coffee when I was in Cape Town, extracting it for French Press in the mornings and evenings, however, without proper scales to measure the exact dosage, I just thought “OK ! not bad”, however, on return to Vienna, I got the scales out and made it in my lovely Bodum Colombia and Wow ! what a difference. Who said tools don’t work ? It definitely did on this occasion because it was such a lovely brew and the one word that instantly came to mind was… “REFRESHING”. On tastes, I got the red berries and fruity flavours, which I think really make French press coffee wonderful for the palate.

Au revoir.

Espresso Cream

No ! that isn’t spelt wrong… it is cream this time and not crema, but you need crema first. Confusing ! I thought so, so let me explain. I was drinking Square Mile Coffee Roasters latest addition “Progresso” I love the way it sounds. It’s like a new espresso drink should be created with that name. In any case, Progresso is advertised as a cremay cup, with lingering sweetness, if brewed properly of course. So, looking into my fridge, I noticed a carton of full cream inside and thought “I’ve never tried espresso with cream before, well there’s always a first time”. The main reason for this of course, is that I thought “how can someone destroy an espresso by putting cream inside” and the very thought cold easily make me scream, BUT on this occasion, my culinary curiosity got the better of me, because I thought cream added to sweet things usually enhances it. So first up, extract a beautiful espresso with a good dose of crema visible on top like below;

Then of course, just pour a little bit of cream on top, but it should be enough to make the drink rise just a little bit – say about 2 teaspoons worth.

In the picture below, this is more evident, as I used an espresso shot glass, which when extracting a single espresso should rise to the line, but there was enough cream to just push it above the line.

This adventure just wasn’t about the taste, but about the art of coffee, because I really wanted to see how the colours would display with a shot of cream poured inside an espresso crema – would the crema disappear, or would it rise to the top like real cream is supposed to, and so there was a bit of the scientific too. Just look at all those colours.

On taste, I was correct, the sweetness in the espresso was enhanced, making it a truly tasty experience. So next time, break with the conventional and try something different. Is this progress with drinking espresso ? I don’t know but just one more time, say PROGRESSO like an Italian would.

Ciao, Espresso Cream Crema……

I’m Drinking a Berry Nice Coffee

No! this isn’t spelt wrong. This really is a berry, berry nice coffee. The origin, from Kenya, with the name Ngunguru – don’t get your tongue twisted. If you’re a fan of my blog, then you’ll know that I actually first encountered this coffee back in April, when I got a free bag from Stumptown Coffee Roasters. However, when I saw this coffee for sale on Square Mile Coffee Roasters website, I thought “why not, let me try this again” and promptly ordered it again. However, the second time around and hats off (well done) to the roasters at Square Mile Coffee Roasters because when I extracted this coffee using a French Press, I got to smell as well as taste different tones that I didn’t experience the first time. At first, I thought, this is strange – am I really smelling a fruity coffee with berry tones and rosehip…. ??? Yes ! I think I am and to verify this, I invited colleagues into my room, which was filled with a very unusual aroma – fruity coffee ad they almost started smiling, whilst I was just laughing – I mean how can coffee be so overwhelmed with fruit that it overtakes the strong coffee aroma that we know coffee has.

So, here it is a truly fruity cup of coffee. Wonderful fruity aroma, light in taste, slightly tart/citrus in taste – a really good coffee in the afternoon and to share with friends. Trust me, you’ve got to try this coffee out and well done Square Mile Coffee Roasters for roasting this coffee so well that it brought out these wonderful tastes. What would you expect from a world renowned coffee roaster and a former WBC Champion duo.

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