Whenever there are exotic coffees around, I like to get over and try them. Regular readers will be familiar with my trips to Store Street Espresso to try their regular international guests. Recently, they have been providing me with the Nordic masterfulness of Koppi and the Coffee Collective, but this (as far as I know) is the first time they have had a guest coffee coming in from outside of Europe. There are reasons why London has to be satisfied with UK and European coffees: cost of importing is a big one, but there is also a danger to the quality of the coffee. In short, it takes cahones to import coffees from, say, Detroit where Anthology coffee started.

Anthology began as a one-man band, making coffee for wholesale. After this initial boost, it picked up pace and Anthology began expanding into pop-up shops around Detroit. There are plans to open up a permanent shop soon, but these guys are really the definition of a small-batch company. All the coffees produced are single-origin, regardless of whether they are for espresso or filter. What’s important to them is getting as close to the flavour of the bean as possible. That means no blends, even for espresso. There’s a lot of passion going on here, and impressive that such a company can develop. Josh, the founder, replying to my email asking for more details about them spent a couple of lines on Anthology’s history, and a couple of dozen lines on the coffee! The caffeine runs deep.

DSCF3844The Anthology coffee Store Street are showcasing is an Ethiopian Kochere. Notes of black tea, and a strong marmaladey finish. It was a surprisingly bold flavour for a washed coffee through a pourover. I really enjoyed the originality of this coffee, and it makes me really excited to try some more of Anthology’s produce. The full mouthfeel was extremely morish and so I felt like this was a pretty good representation of the raw coffee, which was refreshing as sometimes washed coffees can feel a bit over-processed. The Ethiopian Kochere at Store Street is also available there as an espresso and cold brew. The cold brew is new at Store Street, but tastes beautiful (pic of cold brew). Many say that coffee tastes its most natural when it is cold, and the character of a filter often changes as it cools down. The Kochere tasted very bright as a cold brew, and was delightfully refreshing. Served in a beer bottle, and over ice, it really felt like it was a drink that was designed to be consumed ice-cold.

Notes

Store Street Espresso
@StoreStEspresso
Anthology Coffee
@AnthologyCoffee

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Most apps I have used focus on London, and do it really well. They are mostly comprehensive and easy to use, perfect for the coffee enthusiast who’s fortunate enough to live in London. CoffeeGuru is not like these apps, as it has tried to extend its reach to the whole of the UK – and not just the UK. CoffeeGuru attempts to list all direct trade, speciality coffee shops in the UK, Ireland, the US and Canada! Quite ambitious, and obviously there’s no way I can describe its comprehensiveness given the scope of the app. However, the first thing to say is that it picks up many of the good coffee shops I know in small-town areas. It achieves this through a strong user-recommendation system which allows people to upload their local coffee shops. This is a dream for people outside of London, or people travelling, because they would previously have had to go through websites to get this information.

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The user interface, though, is rather lacking. It almost looks like it’s unfinished. The design is crude in some ways, and the coffee-shop search is lacking in the kind of fluidity that one gets from more shiny and opulent apps. In a way this is disappointing, but it kind of adds something to the edginess of the app. This might not be to everyone’s tastes, but what this app provides is something fundamentally different to the other apps on the market. It feels like it’s been designed for no-nonsense baristas. There are a few features that back this up, and make it a real alternative, despite its simple UI.

Firstly, it has the SCAA flavour wheel embedded for whenever you need it. This means that tasting coffees or cupping coffees can be joined by this app. It’s a simple touch, but well worth having for a serious barista. Next, there is an (incomplete) list of direct trade roasters, each with some information on the roaster. I was particularly interested in this as I know very little about roasters in the US and Canada, so if I see one on a guest roast in a coffee shop, I can check up on them before I decide to try. Lastly, anybody serious about coffee wants to know where they can get good coffee when they’re outside of London (or outside of the UK), this app provides a seriously needed service by including more coffee shops than just what can be found in London.

As a result, I think this app feels primarily like a tool. A tool that has been designed to provide alternatives to the other coffee apps. In that sense, it’s definitely worth the £1.49 simply because it fills some gaps that baristas and coffee geeks will find handy and can’t be found anywhere else. The UI could definitely be better, and so could the search function, but where most of the UK apps designed for coffee do exactly the same thing, the CoffeeGuru app is refreshingly unique.

The @CoffeeGuruApp is £1.49 in iTunes and can be found here.

Most of my blogs are about other people behind the bar. But on Saturday I had cause to actually brew some coffee myself. Browns’ Coffeehouse hosted an evening event between 6 and 9 showcasing some great beers, provided by the Bottle Shop, and some amazing coffee. The coffee served was filter only, and there was certainly a worry that the complexities of the coffee, and the fact that there was a ‘no milk no sugar’ embargo in place, would not be fully appreciated.

The evening exceeded our wildest expectations. Not only did no one ask for milk or sugar in their coffee, people were fully engaged and enthusiastic when it came to hearing about the different processes of the coffees and how they were made. Seeing so much passion for black gold outside of London was truly inspiring. The beer tasting gave an interesting dimension to the event, and made it feel informal and chilled out. A link between the two was achieved by serving a pairing between a chocolate porter and a shot of espresso, designed to be sipped alternately to enhance the flavours of each. And it was busy, not just for a little while, but for all three hours, with people alternating between coffee and beer, treating the two as interchangeable (coffee is the new alcohol!).

The coffee layout was 3 baristas, serving 3 coffees in 3 different brew methods. Chemex, aeropress and V60. This gave people the opportunity to try very different coffees through the equipment that made them the most interesting. Josh, the owner of Browns, was brewing an Origin Finca Potosi through Chemex, whilst Thom, head barista, made Workshop‘s unique Finca Tamana (which, with this recipe, tastes unquestionably like tomato soup). Finally, I was using Caravan‘s Dumerso Yirgacheffe – used by the 2013 UK Barista Championship 3rd placer, Estelle Bright – in the V60 to make a creamy-strawberry mix of subtle flavours.

These had a brilliant reception, and I was thrilled to hear, many-a-time, people say, “I never knew coffee could taste like this!” To see a coffee shop so busy after 6, outside of London, was really an experience of which to be part. I don’t think Browns will be abandoning their espresso-based coffee any time soon, but it suggests a trend that change in coffee is capable of happening outside the square mile.

Notes
Browns’ Coffeehouse
Bottle Shop
@BrownsCoffeehse (@thomburrows – head barista)
@bottle_shop
@CaravanRoastery
@OriginCoffee
@WorkshopCoffee

Last night I was lucky enough to be in London for a free event at Look Mum No Hands, celebrating coffee and cycling. There’s a great crossover in the Venn diagram for ‘coffee people’ and ‘cycling people’ and so it seems like a natural partnership for a series of talks. Being a geek and a fan of lectures about all subjects, the opportunity to be in a whole room of people being generally geeky about a general selection of things seemed too good to pass up. The event was hosted at Look Mum No Hands, and organised by CycleFit (my gratitude to both!).

 

I’m going to be woefully unfair and give far too little space to the cycling portion of the evening (this blog isn’t ‘no bicycle left behind’ after all!). The talks were given by James Hewitt and Phil Cavell, very passionate and knowledgeable people who work at CycleFit. These talks ranged from the techie – where an assistant cycled whilst the pressure on the saddle was being relayed to the projector, allowing the audience to see how different shaped saddles suit different riding styles – to the visceral: including a heated discussion with audience members about the utility (versus the sentimentality) of steel as a material for bikes. Very interesting, even for only an amateur cyclist like myself. It was so refreshing to see people with the kind of passion I have for coffee, but around a different centre (i.e. cycling).

But anyway: to the coffee! The first speech was by Stephen Leighton of Has Bean, well known for his profile in the coffee community. He gave an interesting talk about the different ways of buying coffee in from other countries. The three ways he spoke of were using an importer, using an exporter and direct trading. Commonly held is the idea that direct trade is the holy grail of coffee buying, and the other two are ‘evil’ in greater or lesser degrees. Stephen’s point was that these methods are not intrinsically good or bad, but rather they can be made good or made bad dependent on the circumstances. He gave a list of examples where each of these methods had been good for Has Bean, and also good for the farms; but also an example where the method had been bad for the farm or for Has Bean. I think his talk was accentuated too by the knowledge that last year Has Bean got seriously burned by taking the direct trade route, and so it was interesting to hear Stephen’s nuanced discussion of the pros and cons of different methods of import.

The next coffee oriented speech was by a chap called Dan Webb. He’s the owner and head roaster of Crediton Coffee in Devon. They specialise in something that is increasingly rare: in-store roasting. However, Dan explained, this had been problematic from an environmental point of view: the roaster pollutes (and not in the good coffee smell way). The clean-up of this involved installing a carbon filter and electrostatic precipitator, basically a way of filtering the air. The technology is at the forefront, and far exceeds the amount of carbon they are actually producing in case they ever need to expand. The technical nature of this talk was certainly a good level, and I learnt things about the environmental output of a roaster that I didn’t know before. It was also good to hear a roaster putting ecology first: Crediton use enviro-packaging to further limit their impact.

The final coffee talk was by James Hoffman, WBC 2007 champ and owner of Square Mile, and general ambassador for the UK speciality coffee industry. His talk ‘the Hidden World of Well-Brewed Coffee’ was well pitched: everybody could take something from it, so long as they liked drinking coffee. James enthusiastically persisted that ‘making good coffee was easy’, something I thoroughly agree with, but that we need to give consideration to the things going into the coffee. First, he asked, “who owns a pepper grinder?”. Everybody owns a pepper grinder! “Who owns a coffee grinder?” And far fewer people raised their hands. A grinder is essential for well-brewed coffee; and a burr grinder even better. Second, water forms the vast, vast majority of the coffee, and yet our tap water that we use everyday is full of impurities, and dissolved solids that can alter the flavour. Filtration in coffee shops is a huge investment, but without this investment, the espresso machine would clog up within weeks from all the impurities within the water. “Water is the enemy.” At home, a filtration system is hardly plausible, but a Brita filter is an easy way to improve your coffee. Bottled water, even better, though there are still solids that affect the coffee. Lastly, there’s the actual coffee itself, and how you’re brewing it. Only the first 20% of the coffee is tasty, after that bitter flavours start coming out. If your coffee is too bitter, it’s possible that you put too much coffee in, but, more likely, you’re getting more than the first 20% of the coffee out. To combat this, grind a little coarser, and you will extract less bad flavour from the coffee, getting you closer to that 20% mark. Similarly, if your coffee is under-extracted, just grind a little finer next time. This, James maintains, will improve your everyday experience of coffee and allow the beans of speciality roasters to taste as good as they should.

Notes
@CycleFitUK
@1ookmumnohands
@jimseven
@CreditonCoffee
@hasbean

There’s a real trend at the moment towards guesting international roasters. Coffee shops across London are showcasing coffees from all across the world next to their standard roasters. And they definitely should be providing this, as some great coffee is being roasted outside of the UK and it would otherwise be difficult to get hold of without the coffee shops acting as importers. What has really been a hit is the best of the Scandinavian roasters. The culture in Scandinavia is strong, and these countries have a great modernising attitude towards speciality coffee. Previously I have taken a look at the Coffee Collective, from Denmark, this time I was able to taste some Koppi.

 

Koppi was founded by two Swedish barista champs, Anne Lunell and Charles Nystrand, and is one of the pillars of Scandinavian coffee. The coffee I tried, a Honduras Los Pinos, prepared by the top baristas at Store Street espresso, was a great example of filter I have tried before from Koppi. A characteristically fresh and clean flavour, more towards the dry fruit flavour, this coffee was very subtle and light on the tongue (previous Koppis I’ve had have struck me as apple-y). It left me with the distinct aftertaste of a grassy field. The taste is consistent through the cup, and did not change greatly as it cools. As a gross generalisation, I would say that this coffee is quite indicative of a Scandinavian feel: light and nuanced, resulting from a tendency towards fully washed beans.

Notes
Koppi
@koppi_anne
Store Street Espresso
@storestespresso

L'accademia di Cimbali

Pressure-profiled espresso

On this blog, I always try and write about issues in speciality coffee in a way that your everyday, engaged coffee drinker gets. I want these things to excite them as much as they excite me. Partly that’s to do with my writing, but mostly it’s to do with what I write about. The following post may be boring to many, but I think it’s important. I call it a dummy’s guide, not because it is for dummies, but because it’s aimed at people who don’t use espresso machines regularly. Like myself. This is the product of secondary research rather than my own experience.

So, why is pressure profiling ‘exciting’? When you pull an espresso, water is pumped through at a certain pressure, determined by how much force is exerted to push the water through the coffee. This pressure is typically around 9 bars, and this will pull you a perfectly acceptable espresso. But, consider this, if water is allowed to go through at a slower pace, will that change the flavour? It works on the same principle as leaving your cafetiere/aeropress brewing for longer. Though of course just letting the water trickle down has its own disadvantages.

Pressure profiling allows you to control this factor. In particular, pressure profiling allows you to alter the beginning and end of the extraction to give an even flavour. In the middle, particularly when the coffee is still relatively flavourful, you want the pressure to be high. This allows for the best quality flavour to come through. The end of the extraction can then be levelled out so that whatever flavour DSCF3787left in the coffee is drawn out slowly and not given too much prominence. By the end of the extraction most of the good flavour has gone.

Of course, that’s just one type of journey profiling allows. I was shown a whole set of graphs of how pressure changed over time, and what impact this would have on the taste of the espresso I was drinking. There is debate over whether profiling can actually change that much about the flavour. This is compounded by it being notoriously difficult to test. A thought for the barista, sitting experimenting with espresso, not sure if the flavour has changed because of the dose amount, the temperature of the water, the coarseness of the grind, environmental factors OR the pressure profile. And then there’s tastebud fatigue on top of all that.

How is the pressure controlled? More and more espresso machines are being built with pressure profiling as a feature. Some of this is manual, and controlled with levers, and others are automatic, and controlled electronically.

Another accessible guide to profiling can be found here. If you want to read more on this fascinating subject, James Hoffman’s complex but comprehensive thoughts can be found here (basic) and here (not basic).

Highlights
Ozone Coffee Roasters
Alchemy frozen Cascara
L’Accademia di Cimbali

 

The annual London Coffee Festival is the culmination of the charity-driven UK Coffee Week, a celebration of coffee. It’s not just speciality coffee and, unfortunately, there aren’t huge amounts of independents there. It is, at its heart, a trade show and so for every coffee stand, there are a few tea, chocolate or beer stands accompanying it. The Festival takes place in the upstairs of the Truman Brewery in the depths of, now hipsterfied, Brick Lane. It really is a perfect setting for this, though the people lining the bar, listening to a live singer/songwriter are distinctly fashionista rather than hipster. It’s another sign of coffee becoming more than a cultural niche.

There was so much going on that I will just focus on the speciality side of the festival. In particular, the roasters that had stands there. This was not, by any means, the biggest London roasters, though they are playing a part in taking control of the brew bar at various points this weekend. One of the most interesting chats I had was with the people at Volcano Coffee Works, who were putting their coffee through some Rocket Espresso machines. Volcano are an up-and-coming roaster in West Dulwich, who are new to the scene, but making strides. The espresso they made was a very consistent taste, drinkable from start to finish, with smooth floral after-notes. Their barista informed me that they supply a lot to bars and restaurants that take coffee seriously, as well as some coffee shops around London.

The Festival had an entire room dedicated to makedecentcoffee.com, a company that demonstrates how it’s possible to brew great filter coffee at home, an idea that I always try to push. They had several members of staff making Chemex, Cafetiere, V60 and Aeropress for people who could come along and see how easy it is. Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed with the coffee itself, and I really felt that this would have benefitted from good beans. Everything was measured and timed properly, but the coffee lacked any flavour. If anything, this would achieve the reverse of what it intended, with people going away and thinking that it was impossible to make coffee to the same standard as you can get in a coffee shop.

Allpress Coffee started in New Zealand 25 years ago, and then spread to Australia. Their antipodean way of making great espresso blend has recently made a foray into London, with a new UK Allpress opening in Shoreditch. They are attracting a whole lot of wholesale. The barista pulled a shot of espresso to try. It was quite characteristic of Allpress, not for the fainthearted. A sweet, but bold taste that calmed down as it got cooler. The Allpress space was a cool, laid back area where you could chill out on a sofa for a bit. Not that I could sit down after so much caffeine.

Several important trade exhibitors were there, including La Marzocco (the industry-standard espresso machine) and Marco, who make boilers. Their most ground-breaking product is the Uberboiler that provides the barista with all the tools they need to make the perfect filter coffee. Hario importers, Brewed by Hand, had a massive selection of cool brewing tools, ranging from V60s to some bizarre looking siphons. Also, industry-leader Coffee Hit were selling anything tea or coffee related. La Cimbali were also there, but not in a trade capacity. Their stand was designed to show how espresso machines have changed over the last 80 years as pressure profiling has changed. The ability for an espresso machine to control how long the coffee is left to soak before the pressure starts pushing through can have a huge impact on how watery the taste is. Modern technology has enabled much more control and understanding of how pressure can affect espresso.

The Alchemy stand was serving both espresso and cascara (a tea made from the cherries of the coffee seeds). Alchemy roast great coffee but also pride themselves on experimenting. To this end, I was served a cascara, which provided a huge caffeine hit, and then I was given what can only be described as a slushy. It was cascara that had been put into a slushy machine, and mixed with a touch of elderflower. The effect was remarkable: caffeinated slushy. Cascara has a good deal of caffeine in, so the buzz was real, but it was from something textured like a solero!

However, the real pinnacle was the coffee that Ozone served up. Two excellent filter coffees, brewed to perfection. One was balanced and spiced, whilst the other was floral and just exquisite. The complexity of the latter coffee was beyond belief and unlike any coffee I’ve ever had. I’ve not yet written about Ozone coffee in full, but after this experience I will be. Ozone had a really cool bar at the festival, where they were serving both brews and espresso. This was definitely the most enjoyable coffee I had that night, though my preference for filter my have skewed this! Despite the commercialness of the Festival, there are some real gems to seek out, and either way it’s a fun event with loads of free stuff to be had and new companies to discover.

The London Coffee Festival is open this weekend and tickets can be bought on the door. If you’re around today or tomorrow, be sure to check out the True Artisan Bar, which has some of the best roasters in London pouring espressos. Also, the UKBCs are on, where you can see baristas from around the country fight it out to be crowned the UK Barista Champion.