The double hump

This post has come out of an email conversation between Andy Schecter, Scott Rao and myself. Scott had originally considered posting this as a comment on the Brewing Outside of Gold Cup post, but I thought it was too interesting to take the chance of being missed by people who might find it very interesting.

The timing seemed excellent after my last post on Cupping and French Press – for reasons that I hope will make sense once you read it.
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An experiment with grind size

My experience with the ExtractMojo has so far resulted in one recurring realisation:  I often wasn’t grinding finely enough.  The purpose of this isn’t to rehash the whole underextracted thing.  More a simple experiment in terms of people’s preferences.

Accurately communicating grind size remains near impossible.  We can say coarse, very coarse or fine or whatever, but it is still a pretty bad communicator when you are stood in front of a grinder that you don’t know.

If people are up for it then I’d like to try an experiment.  Pick a method that you know well.  Record how you are currently setting your grinder for your desired grind size.  Each time you brew it, keep everything the same (brew temp, water volume and steep time if applicable) but go a touch finer.  Keep going until you hit the wall of bitterness.  You’ll know it when you taste it, when the cup falls to pieces in a bitter finish.  Come back a touch coarser, and try a side by side brew of this grind Vs your original grind.  Which is better? Why?

I hope a few people will try this – it would be really interesting.  I am interested because if someone asked me the ideal grind size for the aeropress, for example, then I’d say to keep the steep time the same and bring the grind as fine as you can before it starts tasting noticeably bitter.

(I am quite prepared for you to all come back and tell me I am an idiot)

Talking About Pressure Profiling

Is it me or is everyone else a little surprised at the lack of discussion of pressure profiling?

Most of the interesting discussion, if not just about all of it, has been over at home barista where various people are building pressure profiling units for their one group machines.  Still much of that discussion remains more about how to build it, than about desirable profiles.

Pressure profiling is undoubtedly going to become more readily available.  Though the capacities of the Slayer, the Strada and Cimbali’s new machine are all different, they are all chasing the ability to manipulate pump pressure to improve espresso.  A lot of this desire comes from the profile of espresso produced by lever machines, which have a very different pressure profile compared to a pump driven machine.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, given my own experiences with pressure profiling.  I was asked, a little while back, about why I hadn’t posted anything about it and I thought I would take this opportunity to explain:

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5 Predictions for 2010

I don’t know why I keep coming back for this, having not done so well last time but they are kind of fun to do.  So without further ado here are my predictions:

1.  Widespread measurement of brewed coffee

The spread of the Extract Mojo will help, and I think anyone who uses one will see their value and they’ll continue to spread.  Projects like the Gold Cup Research Group – more info on the project here – will help reinforce the value of measurement.  I am not saying we should stop tasting – the whole point of the research group is to make sure the alignment between measurement and taste is correct.  A bigger concern for the US market – with good measurement tools the brewed coffee at major chains can easily be improved, and don’t think they haven’t started using them because they already have.

2.  Another very bad year for the UK Branded Chains

I sometimes worry I default to just picking on them, but I genuinely think this is going to be another hard year for them.  You could argue that it is only really Starbucks who are suffering, Costa are growing, Nero are growing – but they fear the independents (they’ve said as much in public) – and there are less and less reasons to frequent them as more and more viable alternatives appear.

3.  Increasingly explicit seasonality

To some extent seasonality has always existed in coffee.  What I think has changed in the last few years is that it has gone from being obscured through blending and the sale of old and past crop coffees to being celebrated a little more.  Intelligentsia’s “In Season” mark, seasonal espresso blends, shops celebrating fresh crops – all this will continue to gain momentum in the coming year.

4.  Baskets for Espresso machines

We’ve always known baskets have had an effect on extraction.  Some people prefer certain baskets, not just because they allow a certain dose/headroom with their machine.  However, recent evidence shows that there are many issues in espresso baskets beyond the placement of the holes across the base.  Expect to see people getting excited about baskets in the next 12 months.

5.  The WBC Prediction

I won’t predict a winner, because that is foolish.  I will say that I think the inclusion of a 12 person semi-final, on the same day as the final, will be a good thing for both the competition and the spectators.  I will predict that at least 4 of the 12 will be from coffee producing countries.

I look forward to seeing lots of people at the WBC – should be a lot of fun!

Your predictions?

Espresso Poll: Results and Analysis

First off a big thank you to everyone who contributed to the espresso poll.  It closed out at just under 100 people giving their data.  Out of this some data had to be ignored as it was clearly entered in error, leaving just over 90 espressos worth of information.

I am not a massive statistics expert – and I am grateful to Vince Fedele for taking the data and cleaning it up and doing some analysis on it.

To start with the easy stuff:

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