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Friday, February 24, 2006

Specialty Coffee Espresso in Pods - Hmmmmm - Maybe?

I was listening to a great podcast this morning from It was an interview with Timothy Tulloch, roastmaster for European Roasterie - He was talking about how EuroRoast is bringing specialty coffee to the pod market. I must say I'm still skeptical. Every pod coffee I've had is not so great (better than instant, but that's about it). Anyway, apparently EuroRoast has developed a pod which can be used with currently available pod brewers - including Black and Decker (best results) and Senseo (worst results due to lowest brewing temperature). Their pods contain more coffee than other pods (11g as opposed to 7 or 9 grams). They overcome the freshness issue by individually packaging the pods at less than 2% oxygen within each package. It sounds promising.

Checking out their site just now... looks like there is another coffee podcast to listen to! Can't seem to find any of their pods for sale though?????

If you don't think it's possible and you're interested in hearing more about these specialty coffee pods, check out the FirstCrack podcast with Timothy Tulloch here.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The espresso learning curve

When I first bought my espresso machine and grinder in early December 05, I had no idea it would take so long to get the perfect shot. I guess I thought after about ten goes, I'd see a nice pour. Boy was I wrong! I think it took about 2 kilos of coffee and many day's effort before I saw something I liked.

Then, even when I had a great looking pour (honey-like, 1ml/sec for 25-30 seconds), the taste wasn't quite right. That of course led me to start home-roasting. Immediately the taste of my espressos improved dramatically. I was surprised how much easier it was to get a "god-shot" with fresh roasted coffee. The pour is superb and the crema is thick like guiness. The taste difference is astounding. Comparing fresh-roasted coffee with preground (or even pre-roasted whole beans) is like comparing 100% freshly squeezed juice with a canned reconstituted juice.

Now, my next hurdle is Latte art. Not that it impacts the taste in any way, I just really want to be able to do it. Coffee art is one of the reasons I bought my particular espresso machine (Sunbeam EM6900). It was affordable (being thermoblock and not boiler type), but it has twin thermoblocks - one dedicated to the steam wand... so it is capable of producing the microfoam needed for Latte art.

Yesterday I thought I was getting close... a few squiggles on my coffee. Today, I'm back to square one - just a blob of white foam. *Sigh*. I can't wait until I can post a piccy of my first apple or rosetta - by the look of things, that could be a few more months/years away!

home espresso machines
My Espresso Machine and Grinder


Monday, February 20, 2006

Getting there - Latte Art and Etching

Thanks to the fantastic CoffeeGeek forums, I've learnt that I've been stretching and frothing the milk too much, resulting in a cap of foam that would not mix evenly with the milk. As a result, I'd pour out the milk and a big dollop of foam would plop on top! I've now foamed two batches of milk that were capable of Latte art - nice even textured milk... no separation of foam from microfoam. Now I just have to work out how to pour some real art. This morning I had good crema, good milk and a little squiggle of coffee art. It's a start! Certainly a lot better than last week.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Coffee Desires

Roasted up my second ever blend this morning. No skill involved - just thought I'd throw some beans together. This one was 50/40/10 Columbian/Brazil/Lington (See previous post for full bean names). I'll let it rest to degas today, but can't wait to try it out tomorrow.

I'm having heaps of fun roasting and pouring espressos, but I'm still frustrated by milk pouring - coffee art - latte art - whatever you want to call it. I found a great article this morning and now can't wait to get home to try again (at work on break right now). Check out the article by clicking on the title of this post. Here's a quote from the start of the article:
Have you ever had a cappuccino that looked like a work of art and felt smooth in your mouth? I hope you have, because that is what a cappuccino is all about. And if you had it you would probably agree with me that it is hard to go back to drinking bubbly, fluffy marenge cappuccino again.
So my most impatient coffee desires:
1. to create some simple free-pour latte art
2. to buy and grow my own coffee tree

I don't know why #2. I was listening to the CoffeeGeek podcast and they were talking about how coffee is grown and harvested in Ethiopia. It really caught my imagination, so now I want to grow my own... not that I hadn't pondered the idea before. I'm not much of a gardener though, so I'll have to be sure I can commit to the tree before I buy one. I know they take 3 or more years (I think) to produce any fruit. It would just be really cool to say I have grown, harvested, dried, roasted and brewed a cup of coffee all in my own home.

Until next time...


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Kangaroo Meat Espresso Signature Drink

Eeeewww! Yuk! I was just listening to the CoffeeGeek podcast when there was a small mention about one of Paul Bassett's signature coffee drink creations at a previous year's Barista competition. Apparently he used Kangaroo meat in it. Now, that's all I know, so I could be wrong - but that sounds disgusting.

Then again, I'm sure no one would mind a recipe where the meat was basted with espresso!!!

If you haven't done so, check out the CoffeeGeek podcast for a bit of coffee education.

All fired up about coffee

My most expensive coffee cost $20 from the Hyatt Hotel, here in Perth WA. It was a Cafe Diablo and we were paying for the show more than the coffee. I remember the barista/barman bringing a trolley out into the lounge area where we were. It was loaded with fragrant cloves, pre-poured espresso, sugar, alcohol and fresh fruit. The show commenced with the peeling of an orange whilst the fragrance of cloves wafted through the lounge. This was followed by stylish cocktail flair with the Cognac and Grand Marnier as it was poured over the length of twisted orange peel. Finally the entire twist of peel was lit up in a string of fire. It was really impressive and well worth the dosh$$. Making it even more special was the live musician playing piano and singing as accompaniment to our show.

If you'd like to try something similar at home... learn how here:
Coffee Coffee - Hot Coffee drinks: "If you ever wanted to have a hot Coffee drink on fire, then this is the one. This is a fantastic diner party drink, the Cafe Diablo is hot, strong and on fire, and you will be the star of the special �VIP guests only� diner party. That, and most guests will entertain a substantial increase in drunkenness."


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Coffee, Love?

Happy Valentines Day Drew! Yes, I'm addicted to you too! Let us share many thousands of morning flat whites and afternoon espressos together.

Coffee - seriously addictive - in more ways than one.

It seems some people think I've gone a little overboard with my addiction to all things coffee lately. I've always needed at least one hit of caffeine every day, but that's not my motivation when it comes to this obsession. Being an obsessive-compulsive type, I'm addicted to getting-it-right... and the only way to get espresso right is to have a good machine, better-than-good grinder and fresh-roasted beans. Add to that the lure of coffee culture, rich coffee history, the beauty of the coffee story - bean to cup. There's so much to learn and I know so little! It's safe to say I'll spend the rest of my life addicted to every aspect of coffee.
Interesting article says I'm not the only one…
Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea, Inc. - Chicago Tribune Magazine - Ruling The RoastNow home roasting is in the midst of a renaissance. In kitchens, garages, fireplaces, back yards and even bathtubs across the country, thousands of passionate coffee lovers are shunning commercially roasted beans and doing it themselves. Like Brown, they say the difference is dramatic, like comparing stale bread with a loaf that's fresh from the oven.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

My new home roasting coffee popper chimney

This could have been my post…
CoffeeSnobs - What to use as a popper chimney?: "I'm roasting quite happily with my $20 popper at the moment, but can't help but feel that I'm not reaching the machines potential with the short little chimney I've forged out of an old baked beans tin. If I fill the popper enough so that they don't swirl around at the start of the roast, by the time first crack hits they are flying OUT of the machine. Although I suppose I could always just use a bigger tin, there must be a better solution, and I've seen plenty of pictures of odd shaped and ingenious chimneys right here. Any suggestions? "
… except I was using no Chimney at all! I was sooo frustrated with the small batch size I was limited to - to prevent overflow. After reading the CoffeeSnobs discussion, I went out this morning and bought a Golden Circle 1 ltr (tall) tinned juice. I have since drank a litre of juice (hey, it's hot here today - 36degC = ~96.8F),made the tin into a Chimney and roasted a 125g batch of green beans. Much better! Sigh of relief. I reckon I could roast 140g without a problem... we'll see.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

I roasted the decaf last night

I must say I was a little disappointed. The coffee was Swiss Water decaffeinated Peru (see pic in previous post). I definitely found it difficult to distinguish the first and second cracks... they seemed very quiet and sort of ran into each other.

SWISS WATER: Organic decaffeination process coffee roasting guidelines green coffee beans: "Roasting decaffeinated coffee has often been compared to flying blind, even by experienced roasters. The usual cues provided by sound and sight are much less distinct with a decaf roast. When roasting decafs you will notice that the usual two cracks you hear will be much less pronounced."
I think the coffee tasted bad because, being a novice roaster, my roast was bad. I'll definitely have to read up a bit more and try again.

The resulting coffee poured quickly through the espresso machine, so I needed to adjust to a finer grind than normal. Once a good pour was achieved, the coffee was drinkable, but certainly not anything to rave about. The crema dissipated within 30 seconds. :-(

Friday, February 10, 2006

The ritual of fine espresso & coffee snob discussion

My attention-seeking toddler finally gave me 5 minutes peace this morning... enough time to pull a fantastic espresso - in fact, the nearest to "God Shot" that I have ever made. The beans were roasted on Wednesday morning and the result was a thick, honey-dripping pour that produced amazing crema and a full bodied cup. Wow!

These moments are rare for me. I love the ritual of espresso - roast, grind, tamp and brew. Reading the CoffeeSnobs post (see below), I wish I could spend more time and waste more coffee just clocking up hours on my machine. With my toddler and my budget, I don't have the time or money to 'dial-in' the grind each day, or stuff around making three or four espressos until I get it 'just right'. So when I fluke a great shot first up, it's a moment to be savoured! And blogged about!

CoffeeSnobs - Dose size discussion.: "I was privileged enough to hang out and pull shots with Hazel - the aussie barista champ - recently, and when she made me a coffee, I learnt so much about dosing and grinding and all that from watching. (Because I raost in small batches at home, I don't know how good this will be for a home setting so...)

Basically, she ground, dosed/distributed, tamped and extracted a shot. She took a sip, dumped it and started again, adjusting the grind to either slow things down or speed them up. Then she did it all again. And again. And again.

Finally she got a shot she was happy with, steamed some milk and handed me one of the best piccolo's I've ever had. "

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Frothing milk for your coffee... ice it up?

I've spent a bit of time reading through the excecllent Espresso MiniFAQ that I mentioned yesterday. In the article, Mark Prince comments about the use of cold milk.

I actually store my milk jug in the fridge so that the milk is poured into the cold vessel... meaning it doesn't warm up too quickly. I think the main reason I like to use the milk as cold as possible whilst frothing is that it buys you time. If you're a newbie, you need as much time as possible to stretch the milk before it starts to overheat. Starting with colder milk gives you this time. When I first started, I even iced up some milk in the freezer. Frothing this milk took 4-5 minutes (on my mid-range home machine). I found this a great help until I got the frothing down pat.

That said, once you start frothing every day, you quickly develop the skills to froth any kind of milk... no matter the temperature or the fat content.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Nothing beats the Guiness-like crema from home roasted coffee

The best thing about home roasted coffee is the fantastic crema. The crema on my espressos today as been thick and full - looks a lot like Guiness. In fact, most of the liquid is actually crema. You can check out what a good crema looks like at Mark Prince's excellent Espresso MiniFAQ.

In addition, a good crema like this makes the perfect base for Latte art (coffee art)... which I'm trying my hand at. I poured half a rosetta today! Damn it's difficult! It's easy to create nice coffee art with a thick dark crema, good milk and a toothpick - but the free-pour art is tough.

You'll know if I ever get anywhere near a good rosetta - the camera is primed. I think it'll be a while *sigh*.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The seriously warped factory meltdown

I roasted the first of the new batch of green coffee beans last night (Brazil - see yesterday's post). It's over 30 deg Celcius (which I think is about 87F) here in Perth, WA. The popcorn popper couldn't handle the heat and the lid is now seriously twisted and warped - might post a piccy soon.

I think it'll last a few more roasts, but that expensive purpose-built home coffee roasting machine is looking more and more like a necessity. Gee... what a shame! :-)

Monday, February 06, 2006

Time to get blending... a new selection of green beans has arrived!

Trying my hand at home roasting with a popcorn popper, I had only bought 1 kilo of Columbian beans. After all, I wasn't sure if I'd like this gig. As you've no doubt gathered by now - I'm hooked. So I've ordered some more (on the internet) and they arrived today.

From left to right:
1. Indonesian Arabica Lington
2. Swiss Water Decaf Peru Organic
3. Brazil Cerado Daterra Rain Forrest Alliance

I'm going to try the beans roasted each on their own before I try a coffee blend. Of course, I'll post here about how I go.

Here's how to indulge in your choice of fresh roasted coffee beans every single day - and save money whilst you're at it!

Yep, the coffee bug sure bites! And when it does, you find you spend heaps of $$$ on coffee. When I first bought my espresso machine in December, I went through about 3kg of beans just getting the grind right! The solution... roast your own!

As I've been roasting at home, I've also been measuring the weight of the beans before and after. I find that after roasting the coffee beans (Columbian Popyan Supremo) in the popcorn popper, I lose about 15-20% weight. This is obviously due to water loss, chaff loss and the few beans that spill out during the roast.

So here's the math:
1 kilogram roasted beans here in Perth Western Australia = $40

1 kilo green beans is approx $15 (varies on type) and yields a minimum of 800g roasted (about 20% loss in weight). So you need 1.25 kilograms of green beans to yeild 1 kilo of roasted beans.

Total = 1.25 x $15 = $18.75 per kilo.

That's less than half price... and because I can roast on an as-needed basis, the coffee is fresh every day - so it tastes better than any pre-roasted coffee I could buy!!!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Freshly Roasted Coffee Beans - Shine & Oiliness

I had always thought that one of the signs that beans were freshly roasted was an abundance of oils on the surface of the bean... you know, a shiny appearance. Embarrassingly, I have even written this in a couple of articles that are now distributed on the internet. Oh well - live and learn. I have updated my website to contain more correct info... that, in fact, freshly roasted coffee beans have minimal oil on their surface.

What I used to think I knew :-)
Shiny Appearance - freshly roasted beans will have a glossy shine due to the oils still sitting on the surface of the bean.
What I now think I know - thanks to my own home roasting efforts and some friendly roasting folk!
Fresh Roasted Coffee Beans have Minimal Surface Oil - . This article previously stated that freshly roasted beans will have a glossy shine due to the oils still sitting on the surface of the bean. This is actually not completely true. The amount of oil on the surface of freshly roasted beans depends on the degree of the roast. Light-to-medium roasts will appear matt and almost no oil will be apparent. Dark roasts will have tiny specks of oil on the surface of the bean… and the darker the roast, the more oil. If the beans are very shiny (wet-look), this is an almost certain sign that the beans are old. They are old enough for all the oils to have made their way to the bean’s surface. To confirm your suspicions, breathe in the aroma. A sour or cigarette-like aroma confirms the beans are stale. A wonderful, sweet toasted-caramel aroma proves the beans are delightfully fresh!