An Analysis of Nespresso – Part I

This is the first in a little series of posts looking at how and why Nespresso works the way that it does. There’s a few things I think when it comes to Nespresso:

1). We continue to underestimate their success, and their ability to leverage technology to overcome hurdles of quality.

2). Speciality coffee roasters share more customers with Nespresso than they’d like to believe.

3). There’s a lot of speculation about the technology they use. Lots of it is clearly proprietary, so I wanted to dive into it a little bit more to try and understand what is happening.

Continue reading “An Analysis of Nespresso – Part I”

Discussing Brew Methods

This post is a follow up to the poll I posted a little while ago. I was wondering if my own thinking about brew methods mirrored others, or whether they were different. I admit it was something of a flawed poll, but I wanted to use it as a stepping stone to this larger post. (This is a long blog post.)

My thinking in this revolves around the fact that we often talk about how a certain brewer could highlight certain aspects of a coffee’s taste and quality. I want to explore this idea in a little more depth, because this is such a fuzzy idea that I don’t think it is particularly helpful.

I’m going to avoid talking about specific manufacturers of equipment, primarily because I have a conflict of interest in this area.

I should also point out that a great deal of this post can be written off as anecdotal, and I’m more than happy to discuss contradictory experiences or opinions.

What do you want to highlight?

I figure the best place to start is by taking a slightly more objective look at the potential characteristics of a coffee that we might be highlighting. Most scoresheets used for cupping exist to assess green coffee but there are sheets used for other purposes. There are certain common attributes that are assessed:

– Sweetness
– Acidity
– Mouthfeel/Body
– Balance
– Aroma
– Flavour
– Finish

When brewing a coffee we should be thinking about how the process impacts each of these attributes and presents.  How do we influence each of these factors with our equipment and technique?  This is a more difficult question to answer, because it is all so interconnected.

Most of the above attributes are primarily linked to extraction.  The coffee itself is obviously the determining factor of how much sweetness is available, or how much positive acidity is available for us to capture in the cup but the quality and quantity of each of these in the brew is tied to extraction.

Extraction remains a sticky topic.  I believe that uniformity of extraction is important, and also that whatever people consider their desirable range of extraction is tied heavily to the grinder and its particle size distribution.  Regardless of what your desired level of extraction is, there are certain factors that have a strong influence when we are brewing.  Two of these are deeply interconnected:

– Grind Size
– Contact Time

The first two have the most obvious connection – the grind size determines surface area of coffee exposed and the rate at which solubles extract, and with all brew methods we must be careful to balance our grind size and our contact time.  You can brew a french press at a number of different grind sizes and have good results as long as the contact time is appropriate.

The moment you read that another thought might pop into your head – which is that surely brew time has an effect on brew temperature.  If I grind very coarsely, requiring a longer steep in my press pot, then surely the average temperature of the brew will be much lower?

Temperature is still something that we don’t really understand in brewing coffee.  We’re happy to talk about espresso brewing temperatures, yet references to the brewing temperature of drip coffees is remarkably absent from published recipes or discussion.  Temperature has a brute force effect on extraction – it supplies energy required for a soluble to enter a solution, so generally the more heat you have the more extraction you have.

Along with overall extraction we have the extra effect of thresholds of temperature required for certain compounds to be extracted.  The best example of this are the negative, bitter qualities we extract from even light roasted coffees when the brew temperature is very high, up towards boiling point.  Brewing at lower temperatures – 80C/175F for example – allows a reasonable mechanical extraction of the coffee, resulting in reasonable body, simplistic sweetness but overall a cup lacking complexity and character.  This experiment also highlights the unusual effect of temperature on acidity.  Brewing at temperatures like these doesn’t result in the sour cups we might come to expect, instead the acidity is notably absent – requiring more temperature to be fully extracted.

Back to Brewers

Temperature often seems to be a separate factor from brew method – more a function of technique and recipe rather than the brewer itself.  This is mostly true – your brewing temperature is determined by the temperature of water you start with, and the thermal mass you achieve in your brewing liquor/slurry.  A pourover brew with the bed kept very, very low with a slower pour will have a lower brewing temp than a faster pour and a higher cone – presuming water starting at the same temperature.  This is often exaggerated further by a slow pour from a pouring kettle which is losing heat as well.

This isn’t to presume an ideal technique, just to highlight that the brewer doesn’t really control the temperature.  Except for one:  the syphon.  I find it odd that the temperature profile of this brewer isn’t discussed more.  It is rare to brew coffee in an environment where the temperature is held stable across a period of 1 to 4 minutes, as we usually do not add any energy beyond the brewing water to the brew.  Many people dislike the taste, or are simply disappointed by, the taste of coffee from a syphon.  Some might argue that this is because the person brewing lacks the particular ridiculous ninja stirring skills, but more likely the temperature profile of the brew is what is making it stand apart. 1  In terms of combining infusion and pressure driven percolation it is remarkably similar to an aeropress – something which rarely is discussed.

Speaking of stirring we can discuss agitation.  This is a topic that we are a little squeamish about as an industry, because we’ll almost instantly wheel out the words “inconsistent” or “unrepeatable”.  Usually this is in relation to the manual movement of the coffee with a tool – such as stirring the bloom of a pourover, or stirring the slurry of a syphon.  I’m skeptical of magical stirring techniques in any brew, and it feels like we should also be looking at the other agitation going on – when the water hits the coffee.  How we pour, where we pour, from how high we pour – all this and more will affect the movement of the coffee in the bed and more movement will result in more extraction.

Once again – this isn’t really a function of our chosen brew method – more our chosen technique.

So far there really hasn’t been much about the brewing process that is determined by the brewing device, rather than the brewing human.

Filtration

As we look to other attributes of the coffee an obvious place to see the impact of the brewer is the influence filtration medium.   One important aspect of coffee is how it feels to drink – the body, the mouthfeel, the texture.

This is determined by several things divided into two categories:  Dissolved things and Undissolved things.

The quantity of dissolved things determines our strength, the more solubles the stronger the drink will be and the heavier the body and mouthfeel will be.  This is linked the extraction (technique again) and recipe – not the brewer itself.  The coffee determines the composition of the solubles, and certain coffees contain solubles that increase our perception of mouthfeel.  All brew methods produce a cup where the dissolved solids play a fundamental role.

Undissolved solids are interesting too.  The undissolved we most often talk about are the lipids (oils) in the coffee, and also the tiny pieces of coffee that can be suspended in the brew.  These both have strong influences on the mouthfeel of the resulting coffee, not always in a beneficial way.

Paper filters are considered the most thorough way to remove the undissolved solids, resulting in a much clearer brew with an attribute we would often describe as clean.  Cloth filters allow through more of the undissolved materials, noticeably the lipid fraction but also some of the fines too.  However, there is usually so little fines overall that we usually experience a fuller mouthfeel – something most enjoy and I think cloth would be a more popular filtration method if it weren’t for the annoyances of maintaining the cloth and preventing it imparting unpleasant flavours.  This leaves metal filtration which simply removes the largest pieces of suspended material (i.e. the bulk of the brewing grounds) and results in a cloudier, muddier brew that can still be incredibly enjoyable even if that final mouthfeel is probably worth leaving in the cup.

So far, with the various factors discussed, it appears that the brewer has relatively little influence on cup quality compared to technique and few brewers demand certain techniques – instead allowing infinite varieties of recipes, methods of agitation, or brew temperatures to be used.  There is, however, one more distinguishing factor that should be discussed.

Infusion Vs Percolation

This is probably the biggest distinction between brewers, and the most important.  We have brewers that are solely infusion – like a french press – where extraction occurs as coffee infuses into the water.  We have percolation brewers where water flows through a bed of coffee, washing out soluble materials, and we have hybrid brewers where both occur at different stages – such as a syphon where the water a coffee steep, before the heat is removed and the water is dragged through the bed of coffee against the paper or cloth filter.

When it comes to assessing techniques and extraction I think it is fair to say that using infusion it is easier to achieve relatively uniform extraction, compared to percolation.  With percolation something is driving the movement of the water – it might be gravity, or applied pressure – but this means that paths of least resistance are preferable for the brewing water.  We must adapt techniques to allow for this, and help prevent too much uneven brewing.

Uneven brewing is a problem because it is so hard to measure – outside of taste.  I firmly believe that measuring overall extraction is incredibly useful and has many practical applications.  The critics of measurement have often cited our inability to measure evenness as a reason to not bother measuring at all.  This makes absolutely sense to me, but perhaps not hugely on topic. (Clarification:  AndyS points out that this is a horribly phrased, confusing sentence.  My explanation in the comments follows.)

The fact that extraction measurement can’t quantify evenness is not a reason to abandon and ignore a very useful tool that does exactly what it promises: to measure how much of the total coffee was extracted.  Pointing out what it can’t do as a flaw creates something of a straw man argument to me. Same thing as pointing out that it is misused and therefore a bad tool. (which I see online a lot too)

Creating a brew recipe

Have I argued that any brew method should be able to brew any coffee as desired, or have I argued the opposite?  To answer the question I thought I’d look at how I might make a choice about how I would want to present different coffees, and how I’d choose a brew method or recipe.

If I love a coffee because it has a plump, sweet fruit quality then I might choose to brew it using cloth filtration at a slightly higher recipe than usual.  Considering I take 60g/l as my own preferred starting point, I might instead brew at 65g/l to further emphasise the body.  When talking about the coffee I want to highlight a few simple reasons why someone would enjoy it, and then use my prep to make those points evident.  Plush, rich, heavy, jammy mouthfeel is a big promise, but I feel that if fulfilled a great experience would be had.

Conversely, if I loved the light, delicate tea-like quality of a floral coffee then I might drop back to 55g/l, and make sure it was paper filtered and brewed with a relatively hot brewing liquor.  Sometimes reducing concentration can help with clarity.  I’m not saying all coffees like this would be brewed this way, but to instead talk a bit about how we might think about our recipes and analyse our brewing choices.

I don’t think I’ve really come to any conclusion here, nor did I really mean to.  I just wanted the opportunity to write up a few thoughts on brewing and try and give them some structure.  I’m open to input on this, open to disagreement and probably being wrong about a whole heap of things.  On the one hand I feel like I’ve missed out a great deal but on the other hand this post is probably long enough!  I look forward to your feedback!

  1. My personal preference for coffees to brew in syphons would be very light roasted, dense coffees, that are often difficult to extract  ↩︎

Coffee descriptors

Back in September of last year I was thinking a bit about the words we use when we describe coffee.  Out of interest I went to a few US roaster’s websites and copied all their coffee descriptions into a text document and ran it through wordle.

I then went to Starbucks website and did the same thing with all their descriptions.  The results are interesting, I think and you can click to enbiggen:

Speciality:

Starbucks:

Now don’t take these too seriously – this is hardly the most incisive bit of research.  I’d like to ask if the same thing stands out to you as it does to me – but then I have to ruin the question by giving my own answer.

Speciality  1 likes to use nouns.  Solid, statement-of-fact nouns:  This coffee tastes like blackberry.

Starbucks surprised me, not only by their consistent use of acidity which confuses me on a couple of different accounts, because they don’t use as many nouns.  Lots more descriptive words, more adjectives and adverbs.  Are they harder to argue or disagree with?  Perhaps a more accessible way to describe coffee to their customers?

Is there something in the way they do this we can learn from.  I’m not suggesting we spruce up our descriptions with meaningless words, and I will admit that I am uncomfortable with labels when flavour descriptors start verbing, but would describing those factual flavour nouns in our labels a little more be beneficial?

  1. how uncomfortable I am with this term  ↩︎

Coffees of 2011

Last year I saw the collection of coffee bags from 2010 saved by Mat Honan and then Mike White, and thought it would be fun to have a go at collecting everything we taste at work for a year. I’ve seen a couple of people post their 2011 collection this year – Mike White again, and Brian at DCILY.

I mostly succeeded at remembering to keep the bags, though looking through there were about 20-30 bags that didn’t make it and must have been thrown away – which is a bit annoying.

Click to embiggen - larger image further down ↓

There are 183 bags here (to save anyone from counting), and I think (or at least hope) that many other roasteries would have a similar collection if they tried. To taste other people’s coffees is great for setting benchmarks, great for inspiration (even if that inspiration is often rooted in jealousy, as mine often is) and great for palate development. Also it’s fun. If I think that when you add on all the samples and production roasts we’ve cupped this year, and the coffees drunk in various cafes and other roasteries – we’ve tasted a lot of different coffee. (But not enough…)

What blows my mind is that each one of these tasted different. Very different. There is such diversity in coffee, and this was a great way to appreciate it.

I should add that most of these were gifts. Thank you to everyone who gave us coffee – it is very much appreciated.

Anyway – here is the big photo. Sorry everything isn’t in focus. I tried a few different things to get a good shot where you could see every bag properly, but I’m sad to say I mostly failed. 1 Also – I’m not going to rank them. Mostly because my taste memory isn’t very good, and I wasn’t taking notes.

Click for large image 2

  1. I’m not going to list all the coffees, nor am I going to upload the photo to flickr and tag them all like Mat Honan did – sorry.  ↩︎
  2. If you want to see the whole thing then right click and open in a new tab  ↩︎

Tamper Tantrum Live – Colin Harmon

So a couple of weekends ago I popped over to Dublin to take part in Tamper Tantrum Live – organised by Steve Leighton and Colin Harmon. There were to be a bunch of short presentations on whatever the speakers found interesting.

The idea is that with more events there will be a library of interesting TED style talks on all things coffee.

Steve has started to release the talks in the order of the day, and kicking off the event was Colin Harmon whose talk I would consider absolutely essential for anyone thinking about opening a shop. (It was a very hard act to follow – Colin is a great speaker).

I’ll be reposting all the talks on here as they are released because I think they are all worth watching!

You can also download an iphone app which is a great way to subscribe to the talks as they’re released in the future.

The future of speciality coffee

It was hard to listen to the various presentations at the SCAA Symposium this year without thinking about what it would mean in real terms for quality coffee in the future.
I don’t profess to make particularly accurate predictions (the various annual efforts on here stand as testament to that). However, based on the various talks I would make the following guesses:

A shift in production away from diversity

Currently about 60% of the world’s coffee comes from just 4 different producing countries. I hadn’t realise the distribution was stacked that way, but these are countries that are able to apply new technologies relatively easily that will allow even greater yields without expanding the area given up to grow coffee.

My prediction (in between 10 and 20 years) would be that 60% from 4 becomes 80% from those 4 countries. Right now there is a lot of incentive to grow coffee in Brazil. Not only are prices high but exchange rates make their currency even more valuable. This will spur greater investment and a significant bump in yield. The majority of this coffee will be poor to average. Variety/genetic research will focus on palatability of product, rather than excellence.

Coffee is chased up the mountain

Climate change means that coffee growing at current altitudes will be decreasingly possible and rewarding. Farmers at lower altitudes will likely switch crop to something more stable and less affected by disease and temperature (palm oil etc). Those that can grow coffee higher up, where temperatures remain cooler, will continue to do so. However, this reduction in planted area for coffee (as well as a hopeful focus on quality in order to make a sustainable living) will make coffee grown at altitude increasingly expensive.

Climate change figures (esp likely temp changes) seemed to vary at Symposium, but I hope Dr Peter Baker’s presentation will be made available as it was both informative and compelling. No one seems to be arguing the base fact that less land will be viable for speciality coffee in the future.

Diversity in speciality coffee

Throughout Central America, some of South America and East Africa I expect to see less total coffee being produced – especially less speciality coffee. This will drive up prices further but I think we’ll see some truly exceptional stuff as we learn more about producing higher cup quality on purpose. (Looking to the GCQRI on that one….)

If you retail coffee then start thinking about how you’ll see it when it doubles in price. I think it will, and will be sustainable there too. The gap between speciality and commodity will widen significantly. I think genuine speciality (some would say high-end speciality) will also break away from the broad church that we cover with the term “speciality coffee” today.

GMOs

We’re going to see GMOs in coffee. I don’t like it, you probably don’t like it, nobody wants to talk about it, but I think these will likely appear first in the big 4 producing countries where there is greater need for economic stability from the coffee trade.

I hope that speciality works contrary to this to start to mine the genetic diversity in nature to see if we can’t find what we need there.

In summary

I don’t think fantastic coffee is going to disappear despite the challenges it faces. It is going to become increasingly scarce and its cost of production on top means that we’ll see a much bigger divide between C-market (which will likely drop back) and Speciality. You’ll have to fight to find it and buy it.

Whether you can plan that far ahead about how to be effective in a market that different, I don’t know. It is certainly worth some thought.

I’d be interested to hear from anyone else who was at Symposium, or who is interested in this sort of thing, about how wrong they think I am!

Restaurant Coffee

I don’t usually post much work related stuff on here, but taking this photo it struck how ludicrously easy it can be to do a great coffee service in a restaurant. This photo was taken in a restaurant in London called Trinity. Trinity is a small restaurant in South West London, in a fairly residential neighbourhood. A few months ago they took out their espresso machine and replaced it with brewed coffee.

Looking at the photo is seems almost ridiculous. They have a great equipment setup there, and it cost a lot less than even a cheap 2 group. It also takes up a lot less space. They offer different, contrasting coffees. The staff are passionate and informed about the product. 1 They consistently serve really, really tasty coffee. People like really, really tasty coffee.

This doesn’t mean it has been easy. People still come to restaurants expecting to end a meal with an espresso. I think it takes some bravery for a restaurant to admit that espresso is incredibly difficult to do, and instead choose to do something of which they can be proud every time it is served. Inevitably success here comes down to service more than it does product, and I was really impressed by how thought out their approach was.

This isn’t new globally – but it is new to London. There are restaurants out there that are willing to invest in staff, equipment and training. There are many more restaurants knowingly serving an item on their menu that isn’t very good. In fact they know it is pretty bad. Many are too scared to make the change – I hope Trinity pave the way for others to follow. As a consumer and as a coffee professional I’d love to see more great coffee coming out of restaurants.

  1. Doing staff training here is so much fun. We brew coffee, talk about it, argue preference and I answer lots of questions. I love it! That and the technical side of the training is easy to do, and the staff remember everything and just do a good job. The same is sadly not true of espresso training.  ↩︎

The Cappuccino

If we were to say that brewed coffee is to be like wine, and espresso perhaps akin to creating an intense, complex spirit (like whisky), then I would say that the cappuccino is my favourite coffee cocktail. The combination of espresso and milk might seem a little simple, but calling a martini simple because it contains only gin and vermouth would be rather missing the point.

I’ve wanted to write about the cappuccino on here for a long time, for a lot of different reasons. The way I’ve thought about the cappuccino has changed a great deal over the years, but what has really prompted this post is pure selfishness. It is much easier now, in London certainly, to get a great espresso. If you enjoy milk in your drink then likely the best thing you’ll find is a flat white. A good cappuccino still remains pretty hard to find, and as I discovered when I logged my coffee consumption, I drink quite a lot of them!

Cappuccinos have never really been cool. It’ll be a long time yet before the word stops conjuring everything we hate about espresso based drinks gone wrong: badly brewed espresso, scalding hot milk, a looming, wobbly peak of milk froth all lovingly smothered in cheap cocoa. Delicious, no?

Around the cappuccino there remains a great deal of myth. One to get out of the way quickly: the name for the drink has nothing to do with the hoods of monk’s robes, nor the bald spot on their head. The original name for the drink was a kapuziner, and it was a Viennese drink was the 19th Century. It was small brewed coffee mixed with milk or cream until it attained the particular shade of brown that matched the colour of the Capuchin monks’ robes. Essentially the name implies the strength of the drink. If you want a genuinely traditional cappuccino then don’t even bother firing up the espresso machine. 1

This moves me onto the next frustration I have with myths of the modern cappuccino. The strange mystery of the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds is passed around to this day, and describes a traditional cappuccino as being a third espresso, a third milk and a third foam. I was taught this very early on, as were a good number of people reading this. It didn’t take long for the oddity of it to dawn on me. Are we saying then, that if a single espresso is 25ml then a single shot cappuccino ought to be 75ml total? Nonetheless I still see cappuccinos that are labelled as being traditional with a recipe of being a double shot in a six ounce cup. This certainly fulfils the rule of thirds, but outside of the last 5 years I’ve yet to find any evidence or history of a double shot six ounce cappuccino existing to give it any form of tradition. This doesn’t make this drink any less tasty – it is a very tasty drink done well – I am just saying that traditional isn’t really a word that is accurate in its description. Would one describe a 12oz cappuccino, with a double shot at the bottom pulled long to 4oz, as traditional? I’m not slavishly devoted to, nor infatuated with, tradition. I just think we ought to use the term appropriately.

I own a good number of coffee books, and I’ve gone through a lot of them. The first reference to the cappuccino recipe of thirds I’ve found was in the 50s and it was described as being “an espresso mixed with equal amounts of milk and foam.” This sentence appears, pretty much verbatim, a number of times. It is a little ambiguous as it could be saying that only the milk and foam are in equal quantities, or that all three are. So the recipe of 1:1:1 could easily be meant to be 1:2:2. The single shot, 5-6oz cappuccino does have a long tradition, and is incredibly easy to find through much of Italy and the parts of Europe that haven’t succumbed to more generous portions of coffee as retail. It is also, when done well, absolutely delicious.

I used to be a little resentful of cappuccinos, to tell the embarrassing truth, because they were really hard to pour nice latte art into. (Bearing in mind that for almost all of my coffee career I’ve worked for companies that didn’t have cups bigger than 6oz). Barista competition didn’t help. I was guilty, as most competitors are, of prioritising the six point box for appearance (latte art or traditional) over the 24 point box for taste. I’d keep the foam as close the 1cm line (that was then the minimum) as possible – despite this meaning I was adding more milk than necessary and diluting the espresso further. This spread into my coffee making outside of competition. I began to resent foam (for want of a better phrase) and the cappuccino as a result. When people would complain about the lack of foam I wouldn’t be receptive – I thought this implied being out of touch, old fashioned. The arrogance of youth….

This is not all coming to a conclusion where I detail out the perfect cappuccino (though I will share what I currently really enjoy) I’m all for interpretation and individual presentation. I’m also for differentiation and definition and all too often I see cappuccinos that are nearly identical in recipe to other drinks on the menu, and that in the hands of different staff the drinks become completely interchangeable. This is true across the entire coffee industry, regardless of city or nation, of independent or chain.

In an odd way this is a plea for foam. I love really well textured milk foam. I like a decent amount of it in my cappuccinos too. I am not ashamed of this, though a more youthful me might have been. I really don’t mind if all that can be poured in the top is a heart of maybe a tulip. I love Intelligentsia’s policy of no rosettas in cappuccinos. Latte art is a good thing, but it still carries more weight than it is worth.

Our aversion to foam has created our own worst customers. Every barista I know hates making “dry” cappuccinos. 9 out of 10 people who order one, when asked why they want a dry cappuccino, explain that they are sick of getting drinks that are basically caffe lattes with a little chocolate on top. The only way to get the amount of foam that they want (that they have found) is to order the cappuccino dry. If you don’t believe me then ask them yourself. (Not in an accusatory way, but be genuinely interested and they’ll be happy to tell you.)

So – my current cappuccino recipe. Be warned, it is detailed (though with tolerances).

– Brewed into and served in a 5oz (150-160ml) bowl shaped porcelain cup. 2
– 15 to 17g of espresso 3
– 80-90g of milk, steamed to around 50-55C. 4
– The rest should be creamy, marshmallowy foam with bubbles so small they’re pretty much invisible. 5

I’m not going to label this “the perfect cappuccino” because that sort of thing makes me angry. It is just what I am really enjoying and I’d be interested to know what people think and what they are enjoying too. I suspect some people might take my thoughts about “traditional” cappuccinos above as an attack on their menu/store/brand/business. They are not. Hopefully it will generate a little discussion instead. Now don’t even get me started on flat whites….

  1. If you don’t believe me, that’s ok – I haven’t linked to any information here to back up my claims. There is plenty of information but if you are genuinely interested in this then the person to speak to is Professor Jonathan Morris, who wrote The Cappuccino Conquests. More information is pretty easy to find with a minimum of google-fu.  ↩︎
  2. No tulip cups, though they are easier to find in the smaller size.  ↩︎
  3. One spout of a double basket, I am going to presume you’re making too because they ought to be shared, or the other espresso should be consumed to alleviate a lack of caffeination. This liquid dose is dependent on the amount of coffee brewed, so we’re going to say 20g of coffee, brewing time of approx 28s and an extraction of 19-20%  ↩︎
  4. The cooler the better really. UPDATE – original post suggested 45C, which might be too cool for general enjoyment  ↩︎
  5. This will give you a coffee strength of around 1.8-2.0% which means there is plenty of strength in your single shot coffee drink. Ironically an underextracted short double, in a 6oz cup without much foam isn’t much stronger than this – 2.0-2.4%  ↩︎

London Coffee Jobs Site update

About a year ago I registered a domain and set up a simple website called London Coffee Jobs. The idea was pretty simple – create a focused site that would help connect baristas and cafes in London. I knew (from my inbox) that they were looking for each other and struggling.

It quietly ran away in the background, and though it was set up to charge per job I let people post for free to see if it had value. Continue reading “London Coffee Jobs Site update”

Brewing outside of Gold Cup

This isn’t really supposed to be a contentious or confrontational post. It is just something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

Lots of people now have sufficient equipment to understand their extraction, in terms of how much of the coffee grounds are ending up in the beverage. The research says that 18-22% is the desired range of extraction, certified by all Speciality Coffee bodies (SCAE, SCAA etc) in their Gold Cup programs.

First let’s get the important caveat out of the way – just because the overall extraction falls within this range it doesn’t mean the drink will be tasty as you can’t account for the evenness of the extraction. This isn’t what I want to talk about though.

My question is this: Does anyone reading this, who regularly analyses their extractions, have a particular coffee or brew method that they think works better when the extraction falls outside of this range?

Would they be willing to share if that is the case?

To explain a little more to remove confusion:

By better – I mean that in a hypothetical side by side test, using 100 members of the coffee drinking (and enjoying public), do you have a coffee/method that the majority of testers would prefer over an even extraction of the coffee within the Gold Cup range?

I’ve imposed the condition because while some individuals may prefer coffee brewed unusually (say a sub 20s espresso extraction), most people would prefer a traditional extraction (25-30s for the sake of argument). Individual preference is important, but so is spreading and selling speciality coffee to as many people as possible.

Does this make sense? If you do – then please post a comment. I’m not out to shoot people down, or try to embarrass them in some way. I may have reached various conclusions from my own research but I’d like the opportunity to discuss this further with people.