Goodbye to The Plan Café: 2007-2020

September 17, 2020

Little announcement: I have decided to leave The Plan Café, and am no longer involved with the café or its coffee.

After nearly 14 years of dedicated and loyal service to this unique independent business and space, and to Cardiff speciality coffee, I’m hanging up my hat. The end of an era!

There are numerous reasons for this, and there’s no need to get into them all here, suffice to say the last few years have been especially difficult at The Plan, and despite my unwavering passion for the coffee, the place, and the customers, it eventually got to the point where I just had to call it a day.

The Plan and it’s coffee have been a huge part of my life, almost defining me, for many years, and I have worked extremely hard to build a reputation for the coffee at The Plan. I have been the one constant there since 2007, when I first arrived and introduced speciality coffee standards for the café, and have provided stability for the café ever since, throughout many highs and lows of both the café’s life and my own.

The café provided me with a platform to do what I loved – to practice the craft of making and serving coffee, and continually developing and maintaining high standards with the coffee has been my mission throughout my time there!

Cardiff, myself, and The Plan have gone through many changes over the years, but my dedication to the role and the coffee, and to providing consistency throughout these changes, has undoubtedly been key to helping assure that the café as it is known stood the test of time. I feel proud to have played my part in this unique coffeeshop’s journey and to have contributed in my own little way to pioneering Cardiff’s modern speciality coffee history, and also for the achievements accomplished over the years. Although I’ll admit I didn’t always get it right 😉

But now the time has come for a fresh start!

I’m stepping out of the coffee world, professionally, but I will of course still be making and enjoying coffee at home – as a hobby now rather than a job. During my time working with speciality coffee over the last 16 years or so, my obsession for coffee has of course lived at home as well as at work – and that journey will continue. There’s so much I can explore and experiment with coffee at home in my spare time to satisfy my curiosity, without needing to do it for a living as well.

Unfortunately however, many of the espresso based techniques I have spent years developing in the café environment will be completely abandoned or mothballed (because my focus at home is on manual brew methods), which is admittedly something of a shame… Although having said that, in other ways this move actually comes as a huge relief.

As for this blog?

Well, it’s been radio silence here for several years now, and there are various reasons for that as well, some of which I have described in the previous post, and others which, again, I don’t need to detail here.

I’m mostly active on Instagram these days for quick bits of coffee stuff and imagery.

I am going to leave The Bean Vagrant blog in place for the time being at least though, partly for posterity, and partly because now my situation has changed, it’s possible that at some point the blog writing paralysis of recent years might reverse, and I might revive the blog again, to talk more about brewing coffee at home, or from some other angle – who knows, maybe, maybe not…

For now I would just like to say a huge Thank You to my amazing wife, Claire (@Creative_Clara79), for supporting me through everything, to all the wonderful regular customers of The Plan, to the incredible Peter James and the James’ Gourmet Coffee team who have been my regular roaster of choice because they are THE BEST there is, and also to the many many wonderful colleagues and team members I worked with and trained over the years, and who I couldn’t have done what I’ve done without.

…That’s all folks 🙂

February 2018

February 3, 2018

[Just re-posting a post from October 2016 because this post is still the best description of where I am right now. In short, I’m as obsessed with coffee as ever, but simply don’t get time to blog about it these days. However, I am certainly active on Twitter, and now Instagram too, so you can find me there, and full time running things, devotedly, at The Plan Cafe of course!]

There is so much I could write about here!

But life these days is incessantly busy, both at work running the cafe and training our team at The Plan, full time, and now with home life too.

The periods of free time I used to have at my disposal have vanished, and ‘spare’ time doesn’t exist anymore! This means there’s rarely the luxury of sufficient time to construct meaningful, thorough, and in-depth posts here.

This has been making my Twitter (and Instagram) account a more ideal medium for me for a while now.

Coffee is an all consuming obsession for me, as much as ever. Making, serving, tasting, measuring, recording, drinking, writing brewing notes, photographing, reading, learning, calibrating, testing, experimenting, training, theorising, thinking and researching coffee is a continuous and ever present feature and focus in my life.

After many years, I’m still always trying to refine and progress every aspect of what I do, because although I’m producing the best work of my life right now, there’s no limit to what you can learn within the craft. I just don’t often get time to also write blog posts!

So, follow my Twitter (and Instagram), and you’ll find regular snapshot updates (including lots of imagery!) that communicate the highlights of what I’m doing with coffee at any given time.

And, occasionally, there *might* of course continue to be posts here too…

And besides, if you’re new to this blog, you’ll find there’s already plenty here (including on the ‘pages’ sections) to keep you going for quite some time..!

Thank You!

February 4, 2017

After a recent award and a couple of high profile listings, I just had to post here briefly to say a big: Thank You!

Cardiff Lifestyle Awards Best Coffee Shop 2016

The Sunday Times 25 Best Coffee Shops in the UK 2017

The Telegraph’s Britain’s 30 Best Coffee Shops 2017

Thank you to the good folks responsible for selecting and deciding to include us in the listings (including the wonderful Caffeine Magazine for one of the above).

Thank you to our wonderful customers (the most lovely customers there are!) for voting for us to Win the Cardiff Lifestyle Awards Best Coffee Shop category in November 2016, when we were up amongst so many of the very best local independent artisan cafes. Thank you all for your regular custom, continued support, and kind words of appreciation.

And thank you to our fantastic team of lovely people at The Plan Cafe, who should all be very proud of their involvement with making these achievements happen. Thank you for taking on board the extensive training, for putting up with me being so particular about everything coffee, even though coffee is not your passion, and for working so hard to help maintain the service and coffee standards I put in place. Thanks to Mike and Veronica for taking the cafe on at the beginning of 2016, understanding what makes us special, and helping us to continue doing what we do, better than ever.

To be honest, it always comes as a shock to be included in such listings; it is an honour to be mentioned alongside some of the most prominent names in London and the UK (legendary coffeeshops who are at the forefront of the UK speciality coffee scene), when what we do feels so humble and low key.

I know it is the ambition of all serious coffee shops to be included in any such UK wide list by a well regarded newspaper even once, but that most, even really good places, never achieve it.

So to have been listed in several over the years is just such a wonderful privilege. Always so unexpected, and it makes me happy, proud, and humbled.

I’ve been doing what I do at The Plan for a decade now, since I arrived at the cafe in 2007. From that point we became one of the very first places in Wales offering the Third Wave style, at a time when it was still very rare (especially in Wales). And the endeavour has been to continuously improve, learn more, and constantly refine the details further and further within the existing framework of what we do.

There was my 2010 UK Barista Championship Final achievement, and following that we were listed in The Independent’s Top 50 UK Coffee Shops (along with numerous other listings, articles and features over the years).

Since then, the Cardiff speciality coffee scene has of course gradually developed, and there are now quite a lot of places in the community locally doing good things with coffee. I recognise this as a mutually positive, and completely expected natural development, as part of a speciality (Third Wave) coffee movement that is thriving and constantly expanding worldwide, as well as throughout the UK.

With this in mind, it would be easy to assume or suggest that we might now be overlooked or disregarded within this more densely populated contemporary speciality coffee landscape.

Especially when we at The Plan could be viewed as being less focused on things like being on-trend, and having the right look, etc, than some places are. When we haven’t had vast pots of money poured into slick, fresh interior design (ever). And when we don’t have all the latest, brand new must-have kit and gadgetry at our disposal (whilst our kit is not the latest, it is still great, and I just try to look after it lovingly, know it intimately, and use it well …and just make do).

So, to continue to be singled out for recognition of this stature, from amongst so many others of merit (both locally and across the whole of the UK), makes it all the more spectacular, remarkable and appreciated.

My focus is simply on trying to make the best coffee we can, as consistently as possible, in an inclusive and unassuming sort of way. We aren’t preachy; we won’t bore you with all the details about our coffee if you’d prefer not to know (although I’m always happy to talk about it when people are interested!). I’m not into being showy or ‘leading the way’. We don’t tell people they can’t add milk, cream, or sugar if they want it. And if you want your drink extra hot, that’s fine; we’ll actually adjust our technique to try to ensure we still give you the best possible texture and product.

It is true we don’t stock flavoured syrups (because we’re all about trying to make coffee that tastes really nice by, and of, itself, without needing to add flavourings), and true that we don’t grind beans to take away (whole bean only, for grinding fresh at home, to try to ensure people have a chance of experiencing the best the beans have to offer).

But we’re not elitist; we’re down to earth, unique, quirky, genuine, not always perfect, eclectic – and everyone is welcome.

It’s impossible to fully communicate the level of continuous dedication, training, precision, organisation, calibration, experience, integrity, obsession, focus, planning, thought, research, attention to detail, and sheer hard work that goes into the coffee and service operations at The Plan, every single day, as it has done for many years. Perhaps our continued achievements, and the fact we and our reputation have stood the test of time, is a testament to some of these things.

Update:

You can watch this recent TV interview with me at The Plan on The Crunch Cardiff on catchup. Episode 45 from the 13th April from 38:35 into the show.

And, you can now also follow me on Instagram.

Laser Sizing Analysis Data: Espresso Grounds Samples: Cold and Hot Burr/Grinding Comparisons

January 10, 2016

Several months ago, I posted a few brief comments here on the topic of maintaining espresso flow and quality throughout the day in a commercial environment as espresso grinder burr temperatures heat up, and shot flow changes.

I linked to related posts that had come out shortly before by Maxwell on Colonna and Smalls blog (particularly this post), which offered a new explanation for precisely why flow changes, which resonated with me, and which correlated well with my own observations.

This is something that I’ve always wondered about since first becoming aware of the effect, and something I’ve been looking at more closely than ever (and approaching from a different way) for over a year now, since late 2014.

Most of my experimentation and diagnosis on this has simply involved my standard close observation of general practices (shot making, dosing, flow, visual characteristics of crema, tasting, flavour, grinder calibration and settings, etc), along with regular measurement of all the weights wherever necessary as another reference point, and detailed logging of these findings in daily brewing journals.

Basically just employing the standard methods I always utilise, to record and digest the effects of new practices.

But recently, I decided I’d like to add some laser particle sizing analysis to the mix, to both support and enrich my own findings, and to substantiate from my own environment and equipment the theories and explanations conveyed by Maxwell on the blog, which stemmed from the data they were given by grinder manufacturers.

I’ve had the privilege to access laser analysis quite regularly in the past (thanks to the wonderful Mat Smith!). Previously, my focus with this was to use it to look at various coarse, filter grind profiles from several grinders I use, and I have not used it for espresso grounds, until now.

For those unfamiliar with the phenomenon in question, what happens in commercial environments, with conventional espresso grinders and burrs (certainly flat burrs), is that as the day progresses, and burrs heat up from use, espresso flow rate increases (generally, overall). Basically, the espresso speeds up. This can require one to make lots of adjustments (of one kind or another) in order to atempt to keep the coffee consistently good.

In this environment, the condition of the espresso (and the grounds) is in continuous flux, and one needs to be constantly vigilant, monitoring parameters, and frequently calibrating where necessary, to try to maintain a consistency of quality from a moving target, otherwise shot quality can deteriorate rapidly.

(This of course makes for a completely different, more dynamic and fluid scenario for making and maintaining espresso than is normal in a home or even a usual roastery environment, where burr temperatures remain more consistent for low volume or occasional shot making, and where it’s simply a case of initial dialling.)

But surprisingly (or perhaps not, as genuine, concrete, substance is often rare in coffee), there was, and is, very little detail available anywhere online about why this actually happens.

In fact, no one (publicly) seemed to know why for sure. Even the top coffee professionals seemed to only be able to give vague hypotheses.

Virtually no conclusive evidence or even detailed speculation, that I’m aware of, about what, specifically, causes shots to speed up in this way.

Just some thoughts mentioned here and there that as burrs heat up they actually move further apart and gradually grind fractionally coarser, or that warmer grounds extract and flow more quickly, amongst a few other things.

(For those using timed dosing, there can be some related effects in relation to this too).

It seems ludicrous that no one knew what causes this, until now (or at least there was nothing publicly documented and available about it).

You would imagine that the reason for such a significant effect that is so familiar throughout the coffee world would already be understood, and explained with matter-of-fact confidence.

So, I wanted to see whether I could corroborate and confirm this newly suggested reason for the effect, arrived at from the graph data from the grinder manufacturers that was referred to.

Maxwell has mentioned on their blog that he hopes to publish data on this soon, and doubtless when this happens he and the (incredibly) specialised team involved will be able to present a far more thorough and insightful examination of this topic than I am capable of.

But, at present, the graphs referred to in relation to this theory have not been released. So, by posting the graphs from my own samples and laser sizing analysis here, it’s exciting to be able help with progressing knowledge forward a little regarding this topic that cafe baristas worldwide encounter and deal with every day.

Nice to release some data, publicly, to help substantiate the theory, and further support its accuracy, and to provide another reference point for anyone researching the topic.

The samples below have all been run on the same volume based analysis model. As Maxwell points out, if you run the same sample using different models, you can see strikingly different representations of any particular sample (and I might run the same samples, or new ones, via different models sometime). And as I’ve mentioned here in the past, the whole topic of the way particles are measured by this sort of equipment is incredibly complicated/scientific. The data can be interpreted or represented in many different ways, is often not as straightforward or conclusive as you might imagine, and the results often lead to as many questions as answers.

However, regardless of all this, you will see that the model selected here amply demonstrates in the graphs the effect on super fine particles, and on the overall shape of the distribution curve, of different burr/grinding temperatures.

And it does so far more dramatically and conclusively than I had expected.

Samples:

All on a modified Anfim Super Caimano 2nd revision with steel burrs, dual time presets.

All samples taken at the same grind setting.

All using the same coffee, a washed, espresso profile blend from James’ Gourmet Coffee (composed of SukeQuto/Antonio/Paraiso/Potrero), across two batches with the exact same components (which performed identically, and which were rested for very similar periods), taken between 25/11/15 and 12/12/15.

Sample 1:

25/11/15
Start of day.
Cold burrs (after loading the clean grinder with beans, and grinding a few doses to suitably prime the throat and other areas without excessive grinding).
Ambient temp, 16℃.

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Sample 2:

Towards end of same day.
Warmer burrs.
Ambient temp 21℃.

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Sample 4:

12/12/15
End of day.
Particularly warm/hot burrs.

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I had another sample tested (Sample 3), the graph for which I don’t have here, taken at the end of the day, testing the effects of selecting a finer grind setting, which demonstrated the same pattern in fines reduction with warmer burrs.

The graphs show, amongst other things, this key feature in question, of a vast difference in the amount of fines between cold and hot samples, with the fines reducing, and the grind particle distribution becoming increasingly uniform, as the burrs heat up, which seems to largely and convincingly explain the primary reason for alteration in flow.

A curious feature, which I hope to look at further, is the variation in the peak size/s across the 3 samples shown, despite all being at the same grind setting. With warm sample 2 peaking at a smaller/finer micron size than cold sample 1, and warm/hot sample 4 peaking coarser. Which is inconsistent, and which warrants deeper investigation (or maybe simply a better understanding of the graphs than I have!).

What’s interesting is how we choose to manage the phenomenon, generally, and, now that we think we do know what causes this change in flow, whether people might choose to manage it differently in the light of this new information.

Similarly, there is not a great deal of specific detailed substance published about the precise methods and practices used by people to counteract and manage this effect.

There are many generalised references to the commonly adopted approach of gradually grinding finer throughout the day…

And, of course, the idea of rigidly following set recipes and the brew ratios which we discover when initially dialling in (or as provided by a roaster’s recipe) is often cited as standard practice.

For reasons I mentioned in my previous post, the commonplace practice of grinding finer and finer throughout the day (and that of ostensibly adhering to sacrosanct fixed brew recipes), is potentially called into question by this new data, given that, in the light of this information, at the same parameters/recipe later in the day, at a finer grind (as is common practice), the shots will not actually be quite the same as they were (and might in fact be very different), because the distribution curve of the particles in the shot will be a different shape (regardless of whether the grind setting is changed or not), and because the mode particle size might have been significantly altered away from where it was initially…

If the grind had been getting coarser in a simple way, as some people thought, and we were just recalibrating it, and the distribution curve, back to where it had been when cooler, going finer would make perfect sense. But we know now that this is not the case.

Although, in a certain sense, to be fair to those who thought the grind got coarser, it kind of does of course. One grind profile with less fines at an approximately similar mode size than another with more fines is sort of coarser, with a higher proportion of, or balance towards, the larger particles, relatively. But it is not coarser in the traditional sense, the burrs have not (we think) moved further apart (or even if there is movement that certainly does not seem to be the primary cause of the effect on flow at least), and the mode size has not become (significantly enough, or at all) larger, and this therefore presents us with a very different scenario.

Anyway, my results concur with the theories presented by CS originally, and the analysis they had access to.

But, when I say we now finally know what causes this effect, that’s not entirely true.

Yes, we now know quite definitively that flow increases in this way because of decreasing levels of fines in the 0-100 micron range. But, we don’t yet know what actually causes this decrease to happen.

Whether this is due to the hotter burrs actually grinding differently (with less fines) for some reason (changes to the metal caused by heat), or because the warmer beans as heated by the hot burrs (above and beyond the effect of any increase in ambient temperatures), whilst directly above and feeding into the burrs, break and fracture differently (with less fines), or to what extent ambient temperatures and humidity have a contributory effect in this, is, I think, still undecided. I think it would take someone a lot of time and well structured, in depth testing to ascertain this.

But nonetheless, the important (revelatory?) takeaway from this for the time being is this alteration in the distribution curve and specifically the levels of fines as shown in these graphs posted here; this evidence that there are less super-fines when the grinder burrs (or beans) are running hotter compared to when cold. A lot less. This alone gives us a lot to think about.

Christmas coffee selection 2015!

December 18, 2015

It’s that time of year again!

The last 2015 delivery fresh from the JGC roastery is in right now at the plan cafe – and 250g bags of whole bean coffee are available to take away for gifts, or your own Christmas coffee for home!

I’m especially happy the selection this year, some fantastic coffees:

Konga Sedie Natural Yirgacheffe (a great natural; ripe strawberry, fig, melon, very fruity, soft, sweet acidity).

Ruiruiru AA washed Kenya (classic top quality Kenya, with distinctive, sweet juicy blackcurrant acidity, blue, black and purple fruit sugars, and tangarine):

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Socorro Anexos washed Guatemala (big, succulent beans, chocolaty, but also clean, juicy fruity acidity a little like a great Kenya):

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And, a very small amount of Anza Guintar Colombia (chocolate, black treacle, white fruit and apricot).

These are light roasts, suitable for any type of filter or immersion brewing.

For espresso, we have (larger bags only) of the awesome Naturelle, currently composed of Suke Quto Guji Ethiopia, San Antonio Guatemala, Finca el Paraiso Nicaragua, Merced del Potrero Mexico.

These are all whole bean only to take away – simply so that you can have the chance to get the best from these coffees by grinding fresh at home.

Grinding yourself is essential, not just so that you can grind fresh, but so that, crucially, you can adjust your grind and fine tune it to suit your specific brew method, bean, technique, batch size, etc.

You cannot do this if you buy preground coffee, and so are unlikely to be able to get the best results. Even if you get a cafe using a top quality commercial grinder to grind great beans for you fresh to take away, at that point they will begin to stale very rapidly, and, perhaps even more importantly, you cannot then alter the grind to suit your needs.

So, a good excuse to treat yourself to a grinder!

Caffeine Magazine Cardiff feature

December 3, 2015

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The newest freshest issue of the wonderful Caffeine Magazine is out now for Christmas at the plan cafe and… drum roll… fanfare… this issue includes a long awaited Cardiff Feature!!

The details for our inclusion were gathered during a long chat recently with the ever lovely Brian whilst he was spending a (yet another!) very caffeinated day, in town interviewing for Caffeine at the various coffee shops featured.

Great to see Cardiff getting a mention, at a point where there are now finally enough cafes here doing good things with coffee to make a feature. We’ve distributed a few copies from our stock to all the cafes featured, so you might catch a read at any of Cardiff’s top coffee spots right now!

So, we’ll be prouder than ever to be serving Caffeine at the moment, free with your order to all our customers (the loveliest customers)!

It’s a lovely article, that rightly points out that we were one of the very first places in Cardiff to offer this style of artisan/3rd wave coffee, at a time when it was still rare. What this gives us of course is a wealth of experience; many years of obsessive learning, research and experimentation from myself, and the desire to constantly improve my understanding and ability with all things coffee, which continues to this day. It also mentions my achievements as a UKBC finalist, as a crucial point in my progression as a barista. This is true, as it was, and still is, a massive achievement. But it’s worth mentioning it was also just one small part of my overall journey as a barista. Most of my learning has occurred outside of this, through continuous practice and research in the cafe, and at home, etc. And naturally, if you’re serious and passionate about great coffee, that learning never stops, and it’s hard to describe how much more I’ve learnt since that achievement.

It’s also wonderful, and a testament to what we do, to be able to feature so prominently in this, as somewhere that has not had tonnes of money thrown at it.

Briefly:

Currently, our espresso is a washed blend featuring four farms: Suke Quto Guji Ethiopia, Finca el Paraiso Nicaragua, Finca San Antonio Guatemala, and Merced del Potrero Mexico.

We have Oda Bultu Harar, Thiriku AA Kenya, and Socorro Anexos Guatemala on as French Press, or available as whole bean for home, and new arrivals coming very soon!

I hope to post more soon (so busy!), but in the meantime, my Twitter is regularly updated!

July 2015

July 4, 2015

It’s July, it’s officially summer, and after last year, there where many requests… So, it’s back! Cold Brew at the plan cafe.

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I spent a week or so reading through my reams of cold brewing notes made in 2014, as I experimented and refined recipes, and from this I have distilled a detailed and pretty definitive recipe that I’m happy with.

I’m launching this year’s Cold Brew with Finca La Falda, a really top, juicy, filter profile Colombian coffee, roasted by James’ Gourmet, which I suspected might be an ideal candidate, and which has yielded lovely results.

This is slow Cold Brew, over many hours (although some of the magic happens in the opening seconds). For more about this brew method, there’s this post from last summer (about halfway down the post).

We’re serving this pure, double filtered concentrate with a chilled glass, and ice. That’s it. Refreshing! You ‘could’ add our homemade liquid sugar and or milk, if you like, but you might find that more is less, and vise versa…

There will be limited availability with this each day (because I can’t just suddenly brew up more if it sells out!), and it won’t be on every day. But it’ll be a regular thing whilst the weather’s suitable, and you could always give me a shout via Twitter if you want to check.

Traditional Cold Brew is often dismissed as flat, dull, chocolaty, boring, and lacking the complexity and fruity acidity we prize within speciality coffee. But it can be different, with the right coffees and techniques, you can retain the mellowness associated with cold brewing, but have juiciness too. La Falda has had bags of sugary and ripe, jellied fruity aromatics on the nose that follow through into the glass, with caramel, candyfloss, and brown sugar notes, and a soft, ripe, juicy, sweet acidity that is often distinctively melon-like along with other purple fruits.

Some places have cold brew made for them, and they get it ready bottled with long shelf lives… But I make ours fresh, in small batches, on site, and we keep it for just a few days at a time.

A few other brief updates:

The plan (finally) has a website! We’ve recently added some nice pictures (by Xavier) of some of what we do. Take a look!

We have a lovely natural process in at the moment, from a farm we know well and love: Suke Quto, Guji, Ethiopia. It’s a lovely, ripe fruity and sweet natural, which is also wonderfully clean. If you like naturals, or haven’t tried one before, try this!

Our espresso blend has seen it’s components realign seasonally recently, and is now composed of Suke Quto (washed) with Santa Maria (natural) Brazil.

Happy summer!

April 2015

April 5, 2015

The Kindness of Strangers.

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That’s right! Some Intelligentsia coffee – so exciting! A wonderful and unexpected gift from a lovely new visiting customer. Fresh too; they had picked this up at the cafe roastery on their way here from the States! So kind. A rare treat (and delicious filter coffee, of course)!

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New coffees.

Recent filter profile arrivals coming through the cafe via JGC are/have been: Baudilio Cordoba micro-lot Finca Merlin Timana Colombia, Finca El Carmen ‘La Montana’ micro-lot Guatemala, Bolivia Asencio farm, and we still have the lovely Ethiopian Lekempte Operation Cherry Red Negosho farm.

These are all beautiful, light roasts, that are juicy, fruity, clean, and sweet. I think beans like this are a thing of beauty!

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OCR Negosho

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Asencio

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Merlin Baudilio Cordoba

I’ve also tried a little (lots!) of this longberry from Wahana estate, which has been really lovely at home via Chemex, Clever, French Press, and wedge filter cone. Considering where in the world it’s from, this might be surprisingly good, but considering it’s more specifically from the Wahana estate, it’s not surprising at all, as we’ve seen great, perception changing coffees coming from here before. A really interesting coffee with clean, green, herby elements, licorice stick, and an asparagus note described by our roaster that is subtle yet distinct. Despite some of these flavours sounding more savoury, this is also so sweet.

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Perspectives.

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We try to manage flow to maintain shots within parameters that keep the coffee tasting as close to when it was first dialled as possible, as things change throughout each day. The ideal is to choose routes that provide you with the most consistency, and the least negative impact on shot flavour. The received wisdom is that we should change grind settings finer and finer to maintain shot flow and parameters, and to maintain a set recipe, in a daily cafe environment as grinders heat up and the conditions change.

This Colonna and Smalls article cropped up recently (plus the previous post).

https://colonnaandsmalls.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/the-heat-is-on-more-grinding-puzzles/

The shifting fines production at different grind temperatures and it’s effect on flow rate (offering an explanation that is fundamentally different to the theories that are usually offered to explain the reasons why flow alters as burr temperature changes), immediately resonated with me and made a lot of sense in relation to things I’ve been observing and experimenting with over the last year.

If these reports are correct, with this information in mind, the consequential effects (on grind profile, distribution, and flavour) of changing the mode particle size as people usually do becomes more clear, and is brought into question.

I think the consensus, or one popular theory, has been that the grind gets coarser as burrs heat up, meaning adjustment of the grind setting is in a way simply a recalibration to keep the grind essentially the same, (atmospheric conditions aside). But if this isn’t actually the case, it’s conceivable we have a situation where the grind was good, and then we actually are making it finer and finer… Although there are other possibilities again.

One way or another we can be fairly sure the grind profile, or elements of it, is constantly being reshaped as temperatures change, so it seems sensible to entertain the possibility that when we adjust in the conventional way, and fix everything else in pursuit of a recipe, we will still end up with shots that are not actually completely the same. It might conceivably be worth experimenting with looking at things from different perspectives (however unfashionable), where different parameters are fixed, and others are opened up and allowed movement. Different sorts of recipes; ones that move in predictable patterns, to rhythms, but which are not always fixed at the usual points, that shift, and are allowed to. Something outside the box.

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We make single shots too, with an actual single basket, and naked PF. This is one (although mine’s always a double!).

February 2015

February 22, 2015

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The last few weeks have seen some big changes to our current espresso blend at the plan, Naturelle, as the components shift from being fully washed process, to include pulp and full natural process Brazilian coffees, from Santa Maria, and Daterra, along with the fabulous Suke Quto Guji washed Ethiopian. This brings richer, more tactile chocolate and nut qualities (I could mention a certain famous chocolate caramel and peanut bar here!), and riper fruit tones. Still with lots of sweetness, floral complexity, and balanced brightness, just less shimmeringly crisp-focussed than previously. Still a similar overall flavour profile, but very different on the densities, roast, dialling, and flavours too!

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And just a few pictures for now, until time allows for more!

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cafffeb

therm

Fantastic Thermapen!

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Clever (Bolivia Asencio) at home (more baby friendly sometimes than three minutes of pourover pouring!).

Christmas coffee selection 2014 at the plan cafe

December 16, 2014

Season’s Greetings!

Just a simple post during this busiest of times, as we approach the festive period, and the roasteries roast and deliver their last batches of 2014 to us at the plan cafe, to let you know about the wonderful coffees we have on offer this Christmas.

Of course, these are also available as beans to take away, so you can have delicious, freshly roasted, speciality coffee and brews at home over Christmas and New Year …or for gifts! I know I couldn’t dream of being without it at home!

If you don’t already know, we do only sell our beans whole, not ground, in order to preserve the qualities of the freshly roasted coffee, as it stales quickly once ground. So if you don’t already have one, and you want to make great coffee at home, put a decent burr grinder on your Christmas list, so you can grind fresh, just before you brew! This way you’ll have more chance of experiencing the best that these great coffees have to offer.

The freshest roasts are arriving throughout this week – feel free to keep an eye on my Twitter which is regularly updated, if you want to know the latest. 

Negosho Farm, Lekempte, Ethiopia. Operation Cherry Red. Washed process. James’ Gourmet Coffee.
Ethiopian coffees from the Dutch OCR project always make me very excited, as over the years, these have regularly been really exceptional. 
This one has a quite distinctive passion fruit note, along with peach and citrus, creamy body, and bright, juicy acidity. 
I’ve brewed this at home in Chemex, Flat bottomed (wedge shaped) ceramic filter cone, Sowden Softbrew, and cafetiere, and I have enjoyed them all, although I have to agree with our roaster’s observation, as the cafetiere was possibly the most complex, complete, balanced and sincere expression of this coffee.

Finca Las Flores, Antigua, Guatemala. Washed process. James’ Gourmet Coffee.
Delicate and refined, sweetness, clean, fresh and juicy fruit, tea-like, floral, balanced, rounded acidity. 
If you don’t already know, James’ Gourmet Coffee roast as light as can be for filter profiles, wherever they feel it’s suitable, allowing delicate origin flavours to shine, without any hint of ‘roast’ flavour, and this is a great example of this light roast style.

Fazenda Samambaia. Brazil. Yellow Bourbon. Pulp Natural process. James’ Gourmet Coffee.
This is approachable, moreish, chocolaty and really nutty. 
Low acidity, and a slightly deeper roast, to accentuate body and chocolate, but still nice and clean and relatively subtle, and not ‘dark’ by any means.
Samambaia is a farm I look forward to seeing the new crop from every year, as it’s always well produced, and so tasty!
For me, simple, chocolaty coffees are never as interesting, magical or exciting as lighter, brighter, fruitier coffees, but for most people, who aren’t particularly into speciality coffee, the mere mention of chocolate has an instant allure, and any mention of fruit or acidity is a scary, alien concept, which is easy to understand (if you’re prepared to consider things from this more normal perspective).
This coffee is comforting, easy to love, and not challenging, and it’s easy to be seduced, as it is tasty.

Finca Santuario. Colombia. 
Washed process.
Union Hand Roasted. 
Chocolaty, but still with fruity, juicy, clean, peach and plum notes.
This is a ‘light’ roast from Union, and it is relatively light in the grand scheme of things, although Union do generally go a little bit deeper even for light roasts, when compared to some other artisan roasters who roast very light. This accentuates denser chocolaty tones and body, and intensifies aromas and flavours, and this roast style will appeal to those who enjoy more full bodied coffee. 

For espresso, we have the Naturelle seasonal espresso blend from James’ (kilo bags). 
This is currently composed of washed process coffees from Finca Bourbon, Guatemala, and Suke Quto, Guji, Ethiopia. 
There is so much I could say about this blend, which is very special to me, and which can regularly be seen as my espresso of the day at the plan cafe, even moreso this year than ever.
Working with several incarnations of just this one same blend almost exclusively this year might be seen as ‘less’ by some, but for me it’s most definitely transpired to be ‘more’, as part of an intentional voyage of discovery.
But for now, I’ll simply provide a brief description!
Naturelle (always) showcases a great Ethiopian coffee which (together with a relatively light espresso profile roast) brings juicy, fruity brightness and floral complexity to the blend. This is supported by a foundation currently provided by the Finca Bourbon, that adds richer, chocolaty base notes, that give enough depth for this to work in a whole range of ways.

We currently also still have a small amount of James’ washed Rwaikamba Kenya Peaberry too; beautiful little round peaberries, with distinctive, particularly intoxicating blackcurrant characteristics (even for a great Kenyan), and creamy body, but these are almost all gone!

That’s it! Have a great time!