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Archive for the category “Coffee Knowledge”

London Coffee Festival 2013

It’s rapidly coming to that time of year when the London Coffee Festival occurs.

A celebration of all things coffee – specialty and otherwise –  in the heart of Shoreditch, this annual four day festival is becoming a must-do for London coffee lovers.

At the heart of this long weekend lies the UK Barista Champs. The winner will represent the UK at the World Champs, in Melbourne this year. Last year’s UK champ, Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood placed sixth in the world.

But this is not just about a competition. This is about trying new coffees and methods to prepare them. Of discovering why a latte is a latte and what makes a flat white flat. This is about copious cups of coffee and platefuls of glorious food to accompany the black gold.  And it’s about catching up with your friends to chat.

So grab your mates and some tickets and get yourselves down to The Old Truman Brewery in Shoreditch for April’s London Coffee Festival.

What: The London Coffee Festival

When: 25-28 April, 2013

Where: Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London.

Website: London Coffee Festival

latte art


The secret to good coffee

There’s lots of discussion as to what to look for as indicators of good coffee in any given cafe.

Latte art is often cited and it’s true that good latte art is one of a few indicators that your barista cares about their craft… and your taste buds. It’s hard to get good latte art from poorly foamed milk.

Coffee with tulip

A flat white with latte art

Yet you could also say that it means the barista just knows how to make good espresso milk.

The presence of good crema is also often mentioned. A well-extracted espresso does create a good crema, it’s true… but have you ever tried tasting the crema by itself? Not the tastiest part of an espresso by a long shot.

I’ve been working in the Specialty Coffee industry for five months now (And a consumer of specialty coffee for at least fifteen years). In those five months I’ve noticed one factor that ties in all my favourite cafes… all my favourite baristas, really.

Just one secret to good coffee…

The baristas taste their own coffee.

They tinker with grinders and water ratios throughout the day, chasing that mythological beast: the perfect coffee.

They don’t just set up in the morning. They stay alert for ambient temperature changes, oil build-up in the portafilters, increase in hourly custom (grinders heat up the more they are used).

They question whether the espresso has become too sour or too bitter and adjust accordingly. They monitor the steamed milk temperature and ensure the steaming wand is purged and cleaned after every use. They constantly clean work areas with dedicated cloths: one for the wand, one for the machine and one for the portafilter – and never cross-contaminate.

But above all, they taste their own creations. They understand the profile of a particular espresso blend or bean and chase it all day.

When was the last time you saw your local barista taste their own coffee?

Espresso Joe and making good coffee at home

Remember the Seventies? If you don’t, you were either using too many illicit substances or you need to talk with your parents.

The Seventies were all about filter coffee –  and ever since then, filter coffee has had a bad rap: bitter, scalding coffee that sat on a warmer for hours. Not a pleasant memory.

Yet filter coffee need not be that way. A small financial investment can bring about some exceptional results for the home coffee maker and it won’t break the bank in the way that a decent home espresso machine will.

Making great coffee at home is simple with a little bit of practice and some basic equipment.

The Coffee

With the number of coffee roasters in the UK growing quickly, there’s no excuse for poor grade, pre-ground supermarket vacuum packs. Check out these roasters:

Filter coffee pot for one

Hario V60

Filtering Equipment

The cafetierre or plunger is perhaps the best known and the siphon has arguably the biggest wow factor but for me, the Japanese Hario V60 produces the most exciting cup of coffee. It’s basically a funnel with a filt

er paper in it. The funnel is designed to help extract the best of  the beans – but that’s a different article.

Grinding Coffee

True story: whole beans ground for immediate use will give a better cup of coffee than pre-ground. Coffee quickly deteriorates as soon as it’s been ground. The roasting process begins a massive chemical change to get the beans to their peak. Exposure to air rapidly takes them past that optimum. Grind as you need.

If possible, invest in a burr grinder. Grinders with cutting blades do not produce a uniform sized grind. This is really important to help recreate the best cup of coffee you have ever made. Water needs to flow through the grinds at a constant rate. It also pays to note how coarse/fine you ground your coffee beans.


Pull out a pair of scales to measure your coffee and people will accuse you of being a coffee geek but again, it means that tomorrow, you can recreate today’s amazing cup of coffee. Here’s a starting guide:

About 65g of beans for every litre of water.

A set of digital scales with 1g gradations will mean accurate and recreatable measurements. So that means 16g for a 250ml cup. The scales are also great for measuring water – 1000ml =1000g. (Price note: good coffee beans are around £8 for 250g. That works out at 53p per cup – if I’ve got the maths right.)

Making your coffee

So in the case of the Hario V60 it means the scales can measure 16g of beans and then be reset to zero after your cup, funnel and coffee have been placed on them. Wet the filter to help rid it of any paper taint and make sure this water is poured away. Pour on some near-boiling water  – about 50g worth – wait forty-five seconds and then start pouring in swirling motions. Once the scales reach 250g you have a decent cup of coffee in the making. Play around with the coarseness of the grind to suit to your taste and the beans used.

For further explanation on the V60 method turn to YouTube. There is a plethora of videos to help you on your way – each one with slight variations in method.

Filter coffee: sexy, not naff.

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