So how much do you love your #coffee dream? 🤔 Here’s a quick 🎥 #video, where I share my thoughts and daily routine when I had a cafe 11 years ago in Cape Town, South Africa.
In summary, when you have a dream, go for it as you might learn a few things about your life and aspirations and even lose weight – well I stood up for about 5-6 hours a day serving customers and chatting too. Plus, and I hesitate to add, I’m not a biologist BUT I think the excitement of running your cafe or chasing your dream might have a positive impact on your physical, mental and spiritual health too.
Before I go and perhaps I’m getting a bit philosophical here, I sincerely believe that when you chase your dreams, not forgetting the stress of getting customers, the enjoyment will out last the pain points. In fact 4 years after I sold my cafe I was still on a high of chasing my dreams. I’m not sure why BUT perhaps a study needs to be done. As I quest for another coffee dream, this euphoria feeling I must say is addictive but in a good way.
About 10 years ago, I packed up from Europe and headed to Cape Town, South Africa to set up a cafe, one of my dreams. There are many lessons I learnt on that journey but here I wanted to share with you in a short video the 3 lessons I learnt, which can be applicable for all you aspiring entrepreneurs.
It’s one of those questions purist ponder on. Why? Because taste is king. If anything gets in the way of diluting that taste experience then get rid of it. However I think we should employ a middle ground. If something gets in the way of taste let’s try and understand it and make it better. So here are the steps to great #latteart milk based drinks;
Make great #espresso,
Froth great microfoam (the frothed milk with tiny bubbles you cannot really see)
A good latte artist ( I didn’t say a good barista for obvious reasons).
Easy? Well, a Purist may have another opinion. Does the bitter crema on top of great espresso affect the first taste?
Sometimes you can have a great cappuccino, latte or flat white with bad looking latte art (I confess). A middle ground would be to mix the espresso beforehand or what my previous barista used to do, pour a little bit of milk, stir it with the crema and continue pouring your latte art.
Before signing off, you should know that in marketing people fall in love with what they see first, so sight, smell and taste could influence your taste experience.
So, what do you see ? A well prepared espresso by moi ? Well! To the best of my knowledge, ability and experience
A good picture of an espresso ?
Well, almost but sometimes it’s not about looks, sorry guys and gals who spend time perfecting their looks and espresso shots, BUT ultimately it’s about taste. I’m passionate about the “real” deal. So many times I taste stuff, especially cakes, that look fabulous, but when you bite into it, you’re like screaming, Why!!!!!!!! I prefer something to taste better than it looks, but of course the ultimate culinary experience is for something to look and taste great simultaneously.
So, how about what you don’t see where were we… what do you see….
Great beans and roast ? A bit difficult
BUT! Let’s build on that last point.
First up the facts. It’s an espresso blend, called LIKMI (lick me), roasted by Jo Wechlesberger, of Vienna School of Coffee Master Roaster extraordinaire, to get an espresso roast so delicious and sweet, that you just want to….. yep. you guessed it, “lick it”. In it, are coffees from Brazil and Rwanda with a roast profile of dried fruits, molasses – see the bag below.
Secondly, we know that it’s just not about the beans and roast profile – if it was, anyone could learn how to roast coffee like a pro, and we know that’s not true, if not, I’ll be on the waiting list to do so pronto. It’s takes guts, experience and something you can’t buy, a gift or skill – God given and some may argue on that point.
But, that’s not all. When I went in to buy this special coffee, Jo told me that she had started using burlap bags to pack her coffee and had noticed that it seemed to preserve the coffee taste for longer and of course it is also better for the environment.
So, upon buying the coffee, I raised concern saying”it was roasted about a month ago, are you sure its fresh enough for espresso?” Of course, she said. So, when I got home, and pulled my first shot, I was pleasantly surprised, but more so, after another few days of pulling shots, I realised that the coffee still tasted great, sweet and caramel like. I DRANK THIS COFFEE IN MARCH 2014.
With milk (excuse my latte art), it was really sweet – caramel and raisin sweet, yummy.
So, what’s this post about – if I’ve lost you in all my jargon
The picture at the top is an espresso shot following all the rules but using coffee that was roasted over a month ago and still with a great taste (I usually don’t use espresso blends over 2 weeks old) – it’s the first time on this blog that I’ve shown a picture of an espresso shot using coffee roasted over a month ago.
So, once you’ve mastered the skill of roasting, taking care of your beans by packing them in environmental friendly packaging could preserve the taste and your reputation far and beyond, especially if you are in the online coffee selling business. It also helps if you have a roast profile that’s sweet like dried fruits, which tend to develop into complex tastes profiles, giving you the joy that different cups will give you different tastes.
You’ve got a few hours to spend in the Mother City (so called, because being a seaside city, the pun is that it takes 9 months to get anything done here) and you want something good to eat and of course some coffee too, so here’s my tip, from my previous abode of 2.5 years.
For breakfast, you’ve got to try DEAR ME, situated on 165 Long Market Street, just off the main artery of the CBD, Long Street. They’ve got a cool decor, an award winning chef, a good and cheerful barista, home made condiments in a well stocked pantry and a commitment to sourcing top ingredients, as witnessed on their menu, so why not go. I was kind of spoilt for choice on looking through the menu – there was Turkish Eggs, Truffled Scramble Eggs, Eggs Benedict and more, so I just asked the chef, Vanessa Marx, and she recommended the Eggs Benedict with smoked trout…
and yes, it looks and tasted delicious – a great choice to warm up my tummy as it was a cloudy and cold day in CT (that’s what the locals call Cape Town). After having a chat with the cheerful barista, Nash, of course, I went for a Cortado – the signature drink of Espresso Lab, where they get their coffee from.
It may seem strange but although I’ve known about Dear Me for ages – they opened about a year after I opened Escape Caffe, I never had the luxury of time to eat there as they only open on Monday to Fridays from 8am to 3:30pm, but I kind of knew that on my 24 hour visit thus time around, I wasn’t going to miss out, so here.
No for lunch and keeping it simple with another eatery that stays true to classical well-sourced ingredients, I tried Birds Boutique Cafe and no! it has nothing to do with birds. The name has been kept by the new owner as the previous ones, hailing from nearby Namibia, have left and had a thing with birds, even serving you on crockery painted with birds, etc. anyway, again, I was looking for somewhere that wouldn’t disappoint and soaking up the very relaxed decor with wooden benches and an exposed and lively but not noisy kitchen, I went for the specials of the day – sweet potato soup and a cute feta and tomato quiche.
For a stop over, knowing that you will be flying for over 11 hours (journey time from CT to London) later in the evening, a light well prepared quiche does the job for me. You don’t want anything too heavy, but just right, using fresh ingredients served in a relaxed atmosphere, where you can catch up using their free wi-fi and relax. So, whether you’ve got days or hours to burn in CT, I recommend stopping over at Bird Boutique Cafe on 127 Bree Street for a quick, light and well prepared lunch.
Well, to finish off, and as you know, coffee has to play a role, so where better than the self-styled and hyped up, Truth Coffee, situated at their “HQ” on 36 Buitenkant Street. They proudly boast that they were called “the best coffee shop in the World” by a recent Condenast Traveller writer. OK! I have my reservations about this as I think being called the best depends on what drives you to drink coffee in the first place. That said, it may be one of the mosh unusual places to drink coffee anywhere in the World. Co-owned and the brainchild of David Donde, who, if you’ve been reading my blog since 2007, was behind the first artisan coffee roaster in Africa at Origins, also in CT. In any case the new “Truth Coffee” looks like no money was spared in turning this old warehouse into a steam punk haven for coffee, together with staff uniforms – expect waitresses to be dressed in shorts, leather waistcoats and natural afros and waiters to have top hats, with feathers protruding and all that fanfare.
The back of the cafe is like a warehouse dominated by a massive coffee roaster – perhaps a 60kg version with coffee bags strewn all over, whilst the front of the cafe has baroque style dark leather couches and two or was it three espresso machines.
It definitely has a buzz and was unusually packed for a Friday afternoon – trust me, eateries are not packed anywhere in CT on a Friday afternoon, whether its winter (too cold to go out) or summer (hey dude, where’s the beach?). Now, to the coffee – as it was after lunch and I had literally 20 minutes before my ride to the airport – naturally went for an espresso to test the barista skills.
an espresso well-prepared with fruity notes underlying your tongue but and I have to say this, that relatively speaking (yes, I’m an economist) at R25 this is probably the most expensive espresso I’ve paid for in a cafe – you expect this at a restaurant but not at a cafe. Would I recommend another visit ? Yes, in that you’ve got to see it to believe it, but brace yourself for an expensive coffee experience, but nevertheless an experience… well done David Donde for adding another uniqueness to Cape Town.
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.
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.
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… 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 !
First up, I must announce on my blog, for all those non-coffee geeks, who don’t know already, that the World Barista Champion is Mike Phillips of Intelligentsia Coffee. Intelligentsia Coffee is actually becoming world famous amongst the coffee world and so it won’t be that much of a surprise that they are able to churn out a world class barista. You can view more about Intelligentsia on my blog roll, or follow mike phillips on twitter on 1shotfortheroad – cool name.
OK ! so as we’ve just been elongated with the technical terms of coffee at the WBC, I thought it apt to tackle the technicalities of the so called “what is an Italian Latte ?” debate. It’s actually a very contentious issue and on many forums, pages and pages have been written about what exactly is a latte. Let’s start from the basics. Caffe is Italian for coffee and Latte is Italian for… wait for it…. MILK. So strictly speaking, a caffe latte is coffee with milk. BUT, what sort of milk and what sort of coffee. Have a I lost you ? Stay with me. OK ! we know that most coffee drank in Italy, is espresso based, so that was easy wasn’t it ? We’ve got the coffee out of the way and now for the difficult bit, what sort of milk. We now have 3 types of milk, (i) heated milk, which you can just pour into a small pot and take of the heat when steam appears, or if you have a microwave, pop in for between 30-60 seconds, (ii) steamed milk, which ideally should display lots of steam when heated or if you are lucky enough to have a proper espresso machine, one in which you steam before it froths or if we are going to be technical place the steam wand right into the milk jug as far as it will go, and steam – it will heat up very quickly and you shouldn’t see any bubbles at all. (iii) frothed milk – what we all crave, because if done properly, it should be silky smooth and sweetish, with a wrap around your mouth texture – if you have never had this experience, then the barista that is making your drink, needs to be re-trained or you need to practice more, but this post isn’t about frothing milk, sorry !
So for Italian Latte, I have to be the bearer of bad news and commit myself to say, there should be no frothed milk, boo hoo ! The pic at the top of this post is one made using frothed milk and so it is an imposter. So, that’s right, what a great majority of cafes serve as a caffe latte isn’t a caffe latte, because it is covered with frothed milk. If you have time and money to waste, but are passionate about not getting conned, order a large cappuccino and a caffe latte at your “regular” coffee shop and try and tell what the difference is – good luck and let me know.
OK ! Back to the milk stuff. The first type of milk, heated, is what you should really have in the French version, cafe au lait – OK ! for those who don’t know French and coffee terms, coffee (using the French Press) with milk. So, the second version, steamed milk, should ideally be used for the Italian caffe latte. How do you know if it is steamed and not heated ? Steamed milk should have a trickle of “body”. See below, that little white line on the top.
If you are really passionate, after your drink, check out the inside. It should look a bit like this, Why ?
Well ! that bit of dark cream, is the crema from a well prepared espresso, a double in this case, which interacted with the steamed milk, giving it a bit of a “body” or thick skin. If there was frothed milk, it will still be there, thick as ever. If it was just heated milk, it would wash away your crema and hence the evidence. I’m not mad, but just so you know, this is how the Italian measure their coffees afterwards, by looking inside after it has been drunk. All together now, mad coffee freak….. Hope you learned something, Take care and check those caffe lattes.