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:

Continue reading “Espresso Poll: Results and Analysis”



This post should probably start with a disclaimer – I did not pay for my ExtractMojo, it was very kindly sent to me by Vince Fedele at Terroir Coffee to use and give feedback upon.  I am very grateful to both him and Andy Schecter and Scott Rao also for getting me involved.

In many ways I am surprised that this isn’t a hotter topic of conversation, especially online.  Then again many of you reading this may have done the same thing as me – download the trial software, have a little play, think it is a cool little automated coffee brewing control chart.  I sorely underestimated it.

Continue reading “ExtractMojo”

Making coffee with snow

Once again pulled from Mark Prince’s twitter 1 , I loved this idea and with a few inches outside it seemed inevitable the inner child would take over…

Continue reading “Making coffee with snow”

  1. Yes, yes – I know we are all bored to tears with hearing about Twitter, but sadly we are stuck with it so we might as well embrace it and microblog ourselves into a stupor  ↩︎

More on the French Press Technique

After the last post there was a bit of discussion about this method.

One big question was:  “Why break and then skim?  Why not just skim?”

This seemed like a pretty good question to me, so today I decided to do a few quick tests.

I took two identical presses, the same dose of coffee, the same brew water, temp and time and then after 4 minutes broke and cleaned one, and just cleaned the other.  I then tested out the TDS in each cup of coffee.

A TDS meter is useful, but limited.  It will tell you how much is dissolved in the water and nothing more.  Here I wanted to see if one cup was stronger than the other.  It turns out one was – and by quite a significant percentage. 1

The broken and stirred cup was stronger, usually by around 0.2%.  This doesn’t sound like much but when you do the maths backwards you find that it is a swing of about 3% of the ground coffee solubles extracted into the cup.

I want to do some more tests on this, and I want to do some blind cupping of it as well.  However it would seem that if your grinder produces a lot of fines, and when making press coffee it seems to easily overextract then I would just skim, opposed to breaking and skimming.  It could be that a different dose and steep time could yield better results.  I am waiting for Mark Prince’s article on his press technique because I know that while he skims but doesn’t break he does use different parameters.  It may be that one style might highlight a certain coffee better than another, who knows – I am just interesting in learning more about all this.

  1. It should be noted that I haven’t done this experiment enough times for it to be seriously useful – if anyone out there with a TDS meter wants to contribute then please do!  ↩︎

TDS, Chemex and London’s terrible water

So thanks to the lovely people at Bunn I have a couple of TDS meters and have begun to poke them into various coffee drinks.

The first thing that upset me was just how hard London’s water is. Out of the tap I get 410ppm, which is pretty hard. This means it is not ideal for brewing coffee as it is less “hungry” for new solubles than softer water. I didn’t realise until I started testing just how badly it was affecting the coffee.

Chemex and TDS

Testing some of Tim’s coffee brewed on the skinny Chemex

I was struggling to get into the Golden Cup zone of 18-22% extraction which, through years of filter brewing, is considered a suitable target. Different countries might like different strengths of coffee but they all generally like 18-22% of whatever dose that is.

I have know switched to bottled water for brewing (with a much more attractive TDS of 130ppm) and the coffee does indeed taste much better and my extraction percentages are up even though I haven’t changed the grind or dose. I had gotten used to a very coarse grind on the Chemex (after being advised by Kyle in Intelli.la) but have slowly been bringing it finer to get the percentage up. I will keep doing more but wonder how many other people out there have TDS meters and whether they have compared their brewers with different grinds and doses and compared the cups after.

To this end I’ve done a little spreadsheet that negates the need for a brewing chart as the maths is built in. It works on 2ml of water being absorbed by each gram of coffee but you can change that too. Input the amount of coffee you use, the amount of water you brew with and then TDS measurements. I’ve left columns in there for other useful data – such as brewer, coffee used and notes on grind settings. I probably should have found a way to include a cupping score/notes but haven’t. If anyone else fancies having a go then do download it and let me know how you get on. Once I have enough data I will post up about my Chemex experiments.

Thoughts and comments welcome….

XLSTDS Testing Spreadsheet


Mike Khan from Bunn sent me his spreadsheet which does percentages and graphs for each brew you do.
XLSMike’s TDS Calculator


Thank you Mike!