Bored of your vac pot?

•January 30, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Talking about Cona vac pots earlier today reminded me of this post .

5 minute bouillabaisse. Nice. Don’t fancy coffee after though.

Photo: John Sconzo


UKBC – Bristol Heat

•January 19, 2008 • Leave a Comment

At last, a little post on how things went.

None of my worst fears came true – i didn’t freeze up, fall over or forget what i was doing, despite my tamper disappearing mid-set. Being the last entrant for the day probably didn’t help either. The coffee i used was quite a light roast from Finca La Siberia, in El Salvador, a farm run by Rafael Enrique Silva Hoff, brother of Finca La Fany’s Luis Silva. Interestingly, the coffee is grown on the opposite side of the mountain to La Fany, where the weather conditions are somewhat hectic, hence the name Siberia. Unless things were spot on, temperature-wise and dose-wise, then the coffee may not have shined as it should. Unfortunately this was probably the case, together with my nerves, this risky coffee choice was always going to be difficult.

When we first got the coffee in the roastery, profiled and cupped it, we noticed that one of its main attributes was a dry, red fruit/cranberry note which also held up in the espresso, and was nicely muted with milk to make a tasty, chocolaty/sweet cappa.

Sig drink was again based on the cranberry element, where the idea was to augmented that note by topping the espresso with a cool cranberry foam (think macchiato proportions). By adding 0.5% of hy-foamer, a casein based dairy protein, it allows you to whip pretty much any liquid as if it were egg white, and have the result remain pretty heat stable. This is something i really like, but i guess if your not liking the idea of cranberry, then the whole presentation maybe lost on you. Finishing the drink, and to further play on that dry fruit element, a tiny amount of freeze dried cranberries are powdered on the top. As these are freeze dried, the first thing they want to do is suck up moisture from every and anywhere, so by the time the drink is served, the powder in top is more like macerated cranberry fruit, impregnated with the coffee flavour.

I still maintain the drink is really tasty and quite an interesting combination. I particularly like the contrast between the cool, sweet cranberry foam and the hot espresso, plus the bits of intense cranberry fruit which you lick from your lips after each sip. At the end of the drink, there should be a nice little “blob” of the cool, sweet foam at the bottom of the glass, which i think is a really nice finish to the drink, acting as a palette cleanser.

I know the judges didn’t feel my love for this combination, with some score sheets reading “sour”, and even one judge pulling a face (a little unprofessional, no?), so i think something a bit more safe and sensible next time. It was good to have a chat with a few other competitors, though it a shame i didn’t get the chance to see others sets, that would have been really nice. I did however, enjoy the whole experience and though it was brilliant fun, though it is nice to get back to the roasters at work, and I’m looking forward to trying some new samples roasted Friday.

A big thank you to Anni, Peter and the whole team at James Gourmet Coffee (not to mention many visitors – Geoff, Neil, et al.) for being my guinea pigs for the last two weeks ,and getting me confident enough to do my thing. Pictures to follow.


•January 14, 2008 • 2 Comments

So, just a day or two until the UKBC heat and the last weeks/months nerves have settled a bit. I’ve had a few people in to be an audience and also done my set in front of a camera, which should be somewhat cringe-worthy viewing for me, but many thanks to those people who’ve helped me out so far. Things are feeling more fun, rather than challenging, which is the whole idea, isn’t it? I’ve pretty much got all my equipment for the presentation, which puts to rest other worries. Still embarrassingly last-minute, but i guess thats the way we roll!

On a more on-topic note, I’m still loving those Ethiopian coffees: had a great cafetiere of the Helen Negus this morning; like candied lemon peel; brown sugar and lemon – an awesome winter drink and really pleasant cup.

I’ve been meaning to post about some new cups we’ve got (may be of some interest to James, as he is currently posting about his porcelain fetish), but i haven’t found the time to take the pics and write up, whilst in the meantime, more and more have been added to the pile on top of the machines here in the showroom.

I have some interesting notes to write up for the food page of this blog, though trying to find the time is tricky, plus I’m not sure if its really the right place for it. Perhaps the peeps at eGullet should hear my voice (or not!!!)


•January 9, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Just another item from the past months that i’ve forgotten to write about. A little article from CSR Wire. Its all good though!

Here goes another one!

•January 7, 2008 • Leave a Comment

A belated Merry Christmas and happy New Year to everyone after something of a hiatus! Apologies to the two or three people whom read this page, but things have been somewhat hectic and stressful of late (thank you BT, Orange and other companies whom make moving so joyous.) As you should soon realise, i finally have Internet access at home, together with some lovely views over the Wye Valley, and am steadily working out where I’ve stashed up all my possessions in this new place.

Posting was made difficult in the latter half of last year after my Powerbook charger spontaneously combusted (above), nearly destroying everything i own. This occurred just as i was on my way out. Had i not forgotten something, returned to the flat and seen the thing actually on fire, i would certainly not be in the mood i am now. Thank you Apple.

Coffee-wise, and on a more positive note, we took delivery of a lovely bag of Ethiopian Biloya and a couple of Helen Negus Yirgacheffe, just in time for Christmas. Excellent! Foolishly, I’ve entered the UKBC this year, and with the my regional heat just over a week away I’m absolutely bricking it. Its more for the coffee and a good laugh i guess, as I’ve never worked in a cafe, nor does a roaster entering a barista competition sound too promising! Don’t watch this space!

At the roastery, we (Peter really) cleaned the blocked chimneys that were the cause of the sloooooooow cooling coffee and the thick, smokey air inside the JGC unit. It was a bit of a shock to have full airflow control back on both roasters, then having to adjust the roasting technique. Really interesting how you subconsciously adapt your way of working to get the best performance from the equipment.

Posts should be flowing more freely in these parts now, so I’ll catch you in a while, whilst i try to remember other events of note.

Amazing Ethiopian Coffees!

•November 8, 2007 • 2 Comments

Well, this was easily the best table of coffees in quite a while: couldn’t really fault a single sample, which is quite something! I’ve got some more cupping notes to write up when i get the chance, but i must get these in…

Ethiopian Biloya Special Naural

Oh, so sweet! Lush fruits and a hint of game in there. Super creamy, silky body – amazing mouthfeel. Excellent! I’m really looking forward to drinking this coffee. Can’t wait! Darker roasts of this coffee give a fuller body and brings out the dry cocoa, though looses those high notes.

Ethiopian Helen Negus Yirgacheffe

Again, wonderfully sweet, zesty coffee. Full of life and with that great Yirgacheffe lemon pith/peel taste and a hint of lime. Yes!

Ethiopian Organic Keffa Forest (Utz Kapeh)

Fruity (again!) with a slightly nutty aroma. Nice and creamy in the mouth with a hint of chocolate. Great sweet fruity finish.

Ethiopian Harrar – JGC Exclusive Lot

Check out Peter’s write-up of the story of this coffee on the JGC site. A really awesome and unusual lot of coffee – so chocolatey, dry cocoa with just a hint of gamey fruit. Makes a really fantastic single origin espresso and works brilliantly with milk in a cappa. You’d expect a straight Harrar espresso to be too gamey and over-ripe-fruity to work (like a dead body floating in your cup. Sorry, macabre analogy), but this rewrites the rule book. Try it before its all gone.

White Espresso

•November 8, 2007 • 9 Comments

So, has anyone tried this?

We gave it a go a while ago, and we’ve been wondering ever since if this is anyone’s preferred method of getting their caffeine hit.

Let me explain, from what i understand: You pull the beans from the roaster at the point when they’ve become colourless, hence the term “white”. Grinding was a scary affair, mucho noise and  very peanutty smell (this would be a recurring theme for the following hours).

The extraction was very pale, for obvious reasons, looking and smelling like peanut tea. And guess what it tasted like? Yes! Peanut tea! If i remember correctly, it was very, very sweet, which kind of goes against the whole theory of roasting – breaking down chains of polysaccharides into sugars, etc. Interesting, no?

What was at first an interesting experience for the senses, soon turned into a flavour that wouldn’t shift from the palate, haunting every taste bud with its weirdness.

There maybe something in there, somewhere…