Doing your coffee research

I think it is fair to say that the coffee industry shows an interest in the science of coffee. Up until this point most of this science has been more relavant to commodity coffee, and its challenges, than it has to do with quality.

It seems a lot of baristas, roasters and others in speciality coffee are looking to do research too. I’m posting this to ask where they are looking and how they are going about it.

Most don’t have access to published papers, and there isn’t a great deal of stuff online – everyone finds pretty quickly but I think coffee has probably moved faster than that particular website has. ASIC is certainly a valuable resource, but perhaps inaccessible to those without a science background.

In their hunt for knowledge, I’m wondering how many people have grabbed the literature review published by the GCQRI, or have grabbed any of the resources on their site. What are people looking for? Bearing in mind there are no easy answers – are we just talking about wanting to do more research, and learn more about coffee rather than having a specific plan of action or a goal to our learning?

In the future there will be more information to share, mostly from the GCQRI, and I think it would be beneficial to understand how people do their research (honestly), to make sure information ends up in the right place. I’m not trying to catch people out here, I certainly spent a long time putting phrases into google and hopefully hunting through the mixture of garbage and occasional information nuggets it produced. I didn’t know a better way.

What about you?

More London Gastronomy Seminars

Something unrelated to coffee, but if you are in London then something super interesting. I’ve posted in the past about LGS events, because I think most coffee people are interested in all aspects of food and tasting.

There are two upcoming events and you’ll want to make it to both if you can:

6.30pm Friday 8th July – Multimodal Flavour Perception
Venue: Senate House, Malet Street, WC1

Charles Spence and Barry C Smith will explore the neuroscience and philosophy of tasting with some practical demonstrations, and explore the role the brain plays in the pleasures of eating.

How can you not want to come to this? More info here. Tickets available here.

7pm Wednesday 13th July – The Miraculous Egg
Venue: Westminster Kingsway College, Vincent Square, SW1P

Some of you who might be aware of the weekly egg consumption at the SQM HQ, and will find no surprise in how excited I am about this one. For those raising a concerned/curious eyebrow – the egg is incredibly fascinating (and delicious) to me. The range of recipes that use it – the range of textures of which it is capable – are astonishing. This will be very interesting.

More details here (scroll down), and tickets available here. Hope to see some familiar faces there this week.

London Gastronomy – Cheese

I love cheese. Everyone loves cheese.  I don’t really, despite trying, really understand cheese.

Before I type cheese too many times I want to let people know that the next London Gastronomy Seminar is coming up and I am really quite excited about it.  There are more details here.

On a side note – Neal’s Yard Dairy are a company that I have a huge amount of respect for, not just because of the quality of their product but because they do such a great job of communicating it in their shop, and ultimately they are incredibly good at selling it.

There is lots to be learned here.  I hope to see you there!

First London Gastronomy Seminar

This week the website went live for the London Gastronomy Seminars (The Facebook group is here).  The first seminar now has tickets for sale, and I for one am very excited to see Herve This talk.  There aren’t a huge number of tickets so if you are interested I recommend picking one up early.

The idea behind the seminars is to explore and enjoy the science of food.  Some people find that science, that understanding, can take the joy out of things but I for one find beauty and fascination in unweaving the rainbow.  I don’t think any of food’s delight and enjoyment is lost if we understand the mechanics of our recipes better.  Especially if, through that understanding, we can improve the recipe!

Having heard both Tony and John speak at our first forum I really look forward to seeing them present again.  (I also really need to get to Tony’s bar  – 69 Colbrooke Row.

I will probably post more about this soon, I am somewhat wrecked after a week of rebuilding the roastery and building out a new training room (and, you know, running a roastery!)

For those of you in London or nearby, I hope to see you there!


I gave a short presentation at the first London Gastronomy Seminars event, which was a small forum on the topic of extraction.  I learned a great deal from the other presenters – Tony Conigliaro from 69 Colbroke Row, wine writer Jamie Goode and chemist John Forbes from Treatt.

I might upload the presentation slides I used with notes at some point, but a little of what I spoke about is covered in a separate, and coincidentally written post on my other site here.

This first event was a precursor to a larger, public event that is planned.  I will post more details as soon as I have them, but if you are in London and interested in food and food science then it will be right up your street!

A quick espresso survey


Brew recipes have been on my mind again recently, so I thought I’d post up this quick poll.  I’d love if it people could give me some data on this.  If enough people respond then I will post up the results, and any trends that occur.

A few quick things.  Please dial your espresso in to the point that you are happy.  It doesn’t need to be godshot territory, but something you’d serve to a customer or friend who you liked.

Secondly – please weigh things properly.  A lot of people speculate the weight of ground coffee they use, and very few people are accurate with it.  The more accurate the measurement the better.

Just to emphasize this because it is important – I need the weight of your shot not the volume.

Once you’ve weighed the shot feel free to drink it, to make sure it tasted good.

Here’s the poll:

Continue reading “A quick espresso survey”

A grand unified theory of espresso

Not too long ago I posted on Home Barista about trying to find a good way to measure the density of coffee beans.  1

As always the paricipants there were way smarter than me and offered several interesting options. I dropped into the thread that this was part of my idea of a grand unified theory of espresso, and subsequently a few people mailed and pm’d me asking what on earth I was talking about and what density had to do with it.

Well, I should probably explain what I have been thinking.  2

Continue reading “A grand unified theory of espresso”

  1. There really is no better place on the web for these kinds of questions!  ↩︎
  2. Some of this is based on personal preference, some on what seems to be fairly well agreed upon within the community of people who worry a lot about their espresso.  ↩︎

Crema and the laws of physics

It took me a while to notice that one of the prettiest things about espresso was a little bit confusing.

Watch this video and perhaps you will see what I mean:

In theory it doesn’t make sense. The bubbles contain CO2, which is much less dense than coffee so they should be rising quite quickly and not falling. What would make a bubble sink instead of float? You’ll see the same thing happening if you watch a pint of Guinness settle out – and it was their research that gave me the answer to this question.

What is happening is that plenty of bubbles of crema are rising, but they are rising predominantly in the middle of the shot glass and the pressure they create as they rapidly rise effectively sucks down the smaller bubbles close to the walls of the glass. There is nice explanation of Guinness here (with pictures!)

Another mystery solved…..