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

Dubai Coffee Faves 1: Typica

So, this is the final part of my series on my fave coffee spots in Dubai and I finish with a bang @typica.uae run by @coffee_limitless (aka Michaela) two times #uaebaristachampion (2018 and just last week 2021) not to mention she got into the semi finals of the recently held @specialtycoffeeassociation #wbc2021 in Milan 👍🏽 Sure, you can be served great #coffee sourced from very special farms across the world 🌍 and I usually opt for a special filter brew but if there’s one drink I’ll recommend, 😌 it’s the champion 🏆 aptly named as the winning drink Michaela served when she won the uae barista trophy in 2018. If you scroll to the second page of this post, one of her barista @hartgomezatienza explains the drink in detail but in short it’s a whirl of flavors in your mouth from pronounced orange to watermelon and a hint of coffee cream, literally a party 💃🏽 in my mouth.

If that’s not enough, as I was about to leave @jason_galinea . told me that they still have some of the beans (Mandela) used by Michaela at the WBC & I was like wow, 😮 I’m away but I pray upon my return Inshallah I’ll taste it before it runs 🏃🏾 out. My only competition are the Dubai based coffee geeks like @sanaveed90 reading this.

Thanks to the team for another wonderful experience.
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dubaicoffee #coffeechampions #coffeeheroes #worldbaristachampionship2021 #specialtycoffee #filtercoffee #coffeevideos #coffeeexperience #coffeeexpert #coffeeblogs #lameenabdulmalik #worldofcoffee #coffeeintheemirates #worldbaristachampionship #coffeelover #coffeeaddict #coffeeshop #coffeedesign

Why coffee tastes better with latte art

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;

  1. Make great #espresso,
  2. Froth great microfoam (the frothed milk with tiny bubbles you cannot really see)
  3. 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.

Do you love latte art in your coffee?

 

I was at NightJar Coffee, Dubai

Lucky me…. really. I was in Dubai in mid-March, just before the lock down, flight bans, quarantine and more and just got back to Vienna on the last couple of flights until July 2020.

Back to lucky me…. I was actually in Dubai to investigate the possibility of moving there to set up a business/life coaching consultancy, which would also involve… you guessed it… working as a coffeepreneur. In any case, I was talking to Yashood, head barista of %Arabica on the Dubai cafe culture, specifically on the explosive coffee roasting trend and he recommended that I check out a newish joint, Night Jar – located in the trendy arty district, called Alserkal Avenue. I must admit that during our family vacation in July 2019, we visited Alserkal Avenue to check out a chocolate cafe/factory and I walked by Night Jar, but it looked closed, so I never ventured in.

LUCKY ME… because even with just one week in Dubai during these tough times, I was still able to discover and experience great coffee in Dubai.

Night Jar is located at Unit G62 Alserkal Avenue Al Quoz Industrial 1, close to the main entrance and you could easily miss it,  as the exterior is darkish with glass doors and their logo on top. As you walk in, there are rows of coffees on the right hand side for you to buy,

If you look slightly to your left, you’ll see a tiny hallway feature that looks closed to all but staff (I found out later that this passage leads to the roasting area, equipped with a Geisen coffee roaster). As you look further to your left, you’ll see the brew bar and delicious looking cakes on display. They have a BlackEagle espresso machine –

Being inquisitive, I asked about their roaster and was introduced to Chad from Cape Town, who previously worked for Truth Coffee for 5 years (an insight – when I moved to Cape Town in 2009 my initial plan was to launch Truth Coffee with David Donde but I felt that my heart was somewhere else – a lesson for anyone chasing their goals, which I also write about daily on Instagram as honestmanagement) – Nevertheless, what a coincidence, that I walk into a cafe in Dubai and the roaster used to work for a place I almost started out at. In any case during our brief chat, I could tell that Chad is a no nonsense kind of coffee guy – focused on sourcing and roasting the best with an innovative edge. He recommended that I try an espresso of their Colombian coffee, which was about to finish

I must confess it was one of the best espresso I’ve had in a cafe for a while – well balanced between acidity and fruity undertones and smooth to drink.

I couldn’t agree more.😋

However, I definitely needed to buy their coffees – Chad suggested their Rwandan coffee for espresso and the Kenyan for filter, which he very kindly refused for me to pay.

I was also tempted to buy a slice of cake, but we had just had one at Tom&Serg around the corner – my daughter was slightly upset as she said “daddy, we could have had these nice cakes here…” next time God willing.

More about NightJar – they source micro and nano lots, so their specialty coffee offering is really special as you might taste something incredible one day that may not be available the next – so buy the bag whilst you can. Their interior is L shaped, cosy and intimate – they also offer food and their menu looks great, I mean stuff like pulled ox benedict, Nigeria love rice, NZ meatballs, veggie specials and more – yum! so next time, I plan to make a meal of it (coffee, lunch and dessert) God willing. They offer nitro coffee, which is a sort of cold brew coffee charged with nitrogen to give it a rich, creamy head, similar to nitro draft beer like Guinness – in fact at Nightjar, the brew heads for nitro coffee look like how beer is dispensed but being Dubai, there’s no beer here.

Before I sign off, I have mention that I really love their fun theme on their packaging.

Very innovative.

I plan to meet their owner, who hails from New Zealand and who coincidentally again, is known by one of my contacts in Dubai.

When the quarantine is out, I strongly advise any serious coffee nerd to visit Nightjar in Dubai – until then they are selling their coffees online – lucky Dubanites (is that a word?) visit them here right now to order https://nightjar.coffee

 

The Tasting Files: Coffee from a Tin


Sometimes you get so used to something, you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone and drinking good coffee is no exception. So, I was thinking “does all good coffee taste the same” and dare I say it “good coffee tastes the same”. So, when I miscalculated my coffee ordering and buying regime, I popped into a shop and thought, may be I should try this coffee from a tin again that people (non-coffee connoisseurs) are always saying to me, “you should try this”, so I picked up coffee from a tin, aka Illy coffee. 


Before I share my experience, it must be said that I used to buy Illy coffee many years ago, both the espresso and filter versions. So how was my experience after about 9 years;

First up, the packaging is nice – it’s like a nice thing to give away as a present or decorate your kitchen with.

Second, once you open the tin for the first time, I have to confess, the aroma is actually breath taking – it kind of takes you back to a cafe in Italy – it’s literally “Italian caffe culture in a tin”.

Third, it looks good. By this, I mean the crema is reddish brown, which means that a properly extracted espresso will look great and a well crafted cappuccino will look good because it will be easy to pour properly frothed milk to make lovely looking patterns with a great contrast of dark reddish cream and silky white milk.


Fourthly, it is not that difficult to extract a perfect espresso. The Illy blend of apparently 9 coffees from around the World, mainly Brazil, is not complicated and for consistency sake, you won’t have to make any major adjustments to the grinder as the coffee gets older.


Now, how about the most important part… the taste. For the sake of not being sued, the taste won’t make your taste buds sing if like me, you have been used to ordering coffee from the top micro coffee roasters in the World – there you go, I missed my regular coffee roasters stash.

Illy coffee will smell nice, pull easily, look great as an espresso and a cappuccino but may not taste nice – no pun intended here.

As usual, I don’t regret things nor experiences as they only add to life’s experiences. I’m grateful for the experience of tasting Illy coffee again after so many years, using a great espresso machine.

Coffee: The rule is, there is no rule


I know that sounds like a paradox and I’m sure some of my followers are like “what is he talking about” For many years, Lameen, that’s my real name – has been saying adhere to the golden rules – measurement, temperature and volume, to name a few. BUT, the main reason I’m writing this, is that occasionally I’ve strutted into a place to dictate how my coffee should be made, and on more than one occasion this year, I’ve been pleasantly stunned by coffee served to me without the rules I hold dear.

Don’t teach an old dog new tricks with Espresso

That’s the pic at the top of the blog. So, after not having espresso for about 5 days, I strutted into the airport lounge and spotting an espresso machine, asked for one naturally. As soon as the barista started making the espresso, I said “la!” i.e. no in Arabic and asked if I could make it. So, I clean the very filthy group head, flush it and ask for the coffee. To my horror, it’s pre-ground espresso, stored in a drawer and although there’s air condition inside, it’s like 40C outside. For a coffee geek like me, my mind is “oh no the moisture, the crazy unstable temperature will affect the coffee, which has already been pre-ground and for how long has it been pre-ground”. Resigned, I’m like, okay, here’s how to tamp. I attempt to tamp with wait for it,  the bottom of the glass, because the tamper is not large enough to cover the porta filter “aargh!” – this means that although some of the coffee will be pressed, the coffee on the border will not. OK!, so I now attempt to make an espresso – flush the group head and place my porta filter inside the group head and brew – what a disaster – the coffee is all over the place and the coffee resembles…. I’d rather pass.

The barista and his colleagues detecting deep disappointment on my face, then resorts to pull an espresso for me – I watch him and the only thing he does differently, which makes me feel happy, is that he cleans and flushes the grouphead before he pulls the shot and guess what – it looked a lot better than my attempt. So, how did he break the rules;

  • he used pre-ground espresso, as opposed to grinding on the spot
  • he didn’t measure the coffee, as opposed to using about 18-22 g for a double
  • he didn’t really tamp, as opposed to the rule of 30 pounds of pressure
  • the espresso machine was really hot – I’d guess close to 100C, as opposed to about 93-94.5 C

And that’s what I could see. So how did it taste. Not bad and above my expectations given the rule breakers. So, to conclude, the rules were broken but a decent shot ensured.

 

Never buy pre-ground coffee

Okay, on this occasion, the coffee was bought for me. Whenever my colleagues travel and buy coffee, they bring it back for me to brew and serve them, which I try and do every Friday when I’m not busy – a rare scenario of late. If ever they ask me “whole beans or ground” I always answer, “whole beans”. On this occasion, a colleague brought me this bag from Kenya, apologising for having not brought back beans. I casually looked at the bag, Java House , Kenyan AA arabica, which looked well presented and was even more taken aback by the tasting notes of grapefruit, blackcurrant and lively. Again, sceptical I brewed it using my french press recipe of 60g to one litre of 95C water. Wow! guess what? There was a bloom on top of the coffee (a sign of fairly fresh coffee) and more importantly of all, I tasted a grapefruit acidity with a hint of blackcurrant. 


Okay, so that rule was broken.

 

Espresso is always brewed at 9 bar pressure for about 22-25 seconds

So, just this week, after Ramadan, I headed to my fave cafe in Vienna, Balthasar to check out their new espresso machine a Slayer Espresso machine. Otto, the owner, had been telling me for months that it was coming and he was so excited. In fact when I met him on Wednesday, I should have interviewed him as he relayed to me for about 4 minutes what the slayer could do. The gist was that you can brew at different bar pressures and for as long as you want, so I ordered a fruity espresso. In short to get a fruity espresso, it is brewed at 3, then 9 and then 3 bars of pressure over about a minute !!! what ? Usually, espresso is brewed at 9 bars of pressure for about 22-25 seconds with about 18-22 grammes of freshly ground coffee yielding about 25-30ml of espresso.

 So, what has changed ? The whole game with this type of espresso machine – the rule is, there is no rule, because you can now brew espresso how you like, like a recipe ordered to your preference “fruity, nutty, low acidity, high acidity….?” carry on.


 A really fruity cup with over medium acidity.

 

Just one more thing

Well! I’ve got to redeem myself somehow – we can’t just give up on the rules, ion not there’ll be anarchy.

So, as a prelude to my first experience, way back in January this year. I ordered a cappuccino at a top hotel in Zimbabwe (Meikles) because I spotted a La Marzocco GB5 machine, BUT. Watching the barista, I saw he used pre-ground espresso coffee, didn’t flush the group head, didn’t clean the group head, didn’t tamp with any real pressure, didn’t measure the coffee systematically, frothed a foam mountain and didn’t appreciate the kind of machine he was using. So, I stepped in and he was so willing to learn but on this occasion I didn’t touch the machine – I just guided him from across the counter. In the end, I got a good cup, with thick crema and although no latte art was present, it was along the lines.

 

To top it off, the barista was excited by what he had just learned, he was going to access youtube to learn more skills and watch latte art being poured. Yay! a job well done.

So, yes sometimes the rules can be broken and you may succeed but in general, adhere to and know the rules before you tamper (sic) with them.

 

Making Espresso @ Home: The Video

So, I’ve been asked many times “how do you make ….. coffee” and then when I start explaining and for the who know me, I get kind of all geeky. The next question is “do you have a video on how to make this ?”And of course, I’m like “erm! no!” – looking all embarrassed. So, here’s a time lapse video of how to make espresso, BUT, I’ve got to go over the geeky bits first. What is espresso ? For this I’m going to revise my definition of espresso, which is;

In general, nine grammes of freshly ground Arabica coffee, tamped with 30 pounds or pressure, ground to a precision and brewed around 93-94.5C between 8 and 10 bars of pressure on an espresso machine that allows about 45ml (1.5 US fl ounce) of coffee to drip through into a cup in about 23-25 seconds, resulting in dark coffee with crema on top.

SOUNDS COMPLICATED DOESN’T IT ? The most important thing however, concerns the preparation; such as the type of coffee, the grind and the machine – if any of the essential elements are missing then you won’t get espresso but some mutant of it, which unfortunately you will get in most coffee shops.

So for my video, I used JB’s Kaffee espresso blend, with about 18.5 grammes of coffee for a double espresso, brewed at 93C. Enough talking, watch the vid;

  

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