Archive for September, 2009


September 27, 2009

rusty  g1

                 …Out                                                    …In

The last few days have been a whirl of frenzied busyness at the cafe, what with one thing and another. Perhaps the crowds are here to see Gloria, but in truth, it probably has more to do with the fact the 8th wonder of the world which has just opened nearby: John Lewis Cardiff, and, imminently, the remainder of SD2.

Fortunately though, Gloria has moved in, been introduced to the team, and is settling in very nicely, helping us to refuel lagging shoppers with some especially lovely coffees (while ‘Rusty’ is enjoying a well earned retirement)!

There’s lots to get used to, as with any new machine, and so little time to experiment with the details, but, learning curves aside, already the difference in both the quality and the consistency of our espresso is worlds away..!

…Shots are sweeter, cleaner, brighter, truer, and altogether more sparkly, and representative of the coffees!

…Milk is now creamier and of a more consistently wonderful texture!

…Bottomless shots (my first) are *Super Wow!* and and full of promise, as well as taste and texture!

…Shots are, weirdly; hotter..!

…No more gushing shots, that are simultaneously sour and bitter monstrosities! (not as eye-wateringly at least)

…Configurability is quite perversely well appointed!

…Each group seems to contain magical sprites whose job it is to paint the crema of each shot with richly flecked, intricately beautiful tiger striped mottling!

…With 3 fully and independently functioning groups, and 2 wands, our potential output is (potentially) multiplied by some ridiculous figure!

By far the biggest difference for me in terms of technique is the change in group size. This will take some adjusting to in order to utilise it to its best potential. The 58mm groups are certainly the only thing that I perhaps miss about our old machine, but even this may change once Gloria and I get better acquainted. It is strange not being able to dose at 16-20g any more: Doses now (as far as I can initially see) need to be 16g or less (17g at a push, when the conditions are right); even with smaller group support plates in place. I knew doses would need to be smaller on the whole, but I had anticipated still being able to dose up to a maximum of about 18g, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s also odd not being able to employ any additional finger distribution and leveling any more – almost no occasion safely allows for this with the 53mm’s, so I think it’s best to forget about it entirely, and work on developing a consistent method that doesn’t ever involve it.

But what’s a few grams less, or a different surface layer, when the coffee tastes this good?! Rather than updosing ability, 53mm groups are designed to offer greater consistency, and this will be a great thing for the cafe. And regardless of these aspects, the coffee is undeniably immeasurably superior now. It probably just focuses attention more towards the grinder…

The only other decision right now is whether to go flat, or US curve again for my replacement RB tamper base! Don’t think I’ll be venturing down the Euro route…

Ps: Our new baby isn’t sleeping through the night yet, but it’s early days!

Bye Bye!

September 22, 2009

Our old machine gasped its last (and rather nice) espresso for the plan this afternoon… Tomorrow it will leave us forever.

No photos sorry – only a sentimental vibe… You have to love your machine as a barista, no matter what it’s like!

…But, more importantly, there is also feverish anticipation for Gloria’s arrival!

Some perspectives on the ECX

September 20, 2009

It’s a lot of reading (which potentially leads to a lot more), which I’ve only touched on, and which I’m still ploughing through. Rather than attempting to comment on something I don’t know about, I just wanted to post this collection of links I’ve come across today, for anyone else who might be new to the subject, and interested…

As you’ll see, there is a link to the ECX too, but unfortunately it just doesn’t seem to be working very well, at present…

(Update: Ah! The site itself now seems to be working.)

UKBC 2010 Heat Dates

September 18, 2009

Crumbs! Is it really nearly that time of year again..?

22nd Jan: Belfast

26th Jan: Scotland

2nd-4th Feb: South West – Exeter

16th-17th Feb: Midlands

20th Feb: London

2nd-4th March: Semifinals, London

…No ‘Wales’ heat this year??? Shocking!!!

Boring old rosettas

September 11, 2009

Great single rosettas always make my heart smile!

But sometimes, after customers have seen them a few times, it’s like “Aah – that leaf again – can you do anything else? Will you be doing Christmas trees? …Or Welsh dragons?”

…And I pour another rosetta: Boring, I know!

When is 12oz not 12oz?

September 11, 2009

When it’s a takeaway cup, apparently!

We recently received my order for our nice new takeaway cups, at 4oz, 8oz and 12oz. It’s been a long time since I had much to do with takeaway cups, and when I last did, I probably wasn’t so concerned with volumes, ratios, etc. And so, whilst this is probably a common, universal issue, I was surprised when I measured the cups to note that the ’12oz’ cups actually measure nearly 16oz to the rim!!! Similarly the ‘8oz’ cups measure 10oz to the rim, whilst inexplicably, the 4oz cups are actually 4oz…

This doesn’t seem to be just some strange anomaly from a dubious source; these 12oz cups are exactly the same size as all the other ‘standard’  ’12oz’ paper cups you see from all the other popular, reputable sources. Yet, at about 420ml instead of the stated 340ml, there is a substantial and annoying discrepancy.

Needless to say, this has an impact on the desired espresso to milk ratios, and therefore, an impact on flavour. Why do the manufacturers feel the need to oversize disposable cups in this way? A little, I could understand, for ‘health and safety’ reasons, perhaps – but an extra 4 ounces  for a 12oz?! If you’re all about quality and flavour (and consistency of flavour throughout ‘in and away’), rather than the-bigger-the-better large cups, obviously this isn’t ideal. We will therefore be leaving a good gap at the top of the cup, in order to best preserve flavour (unless a customer feels they are being shortchanged, in which case we will ‘happily’ dilute their drink to the top with the leftover milk!). The frustrating aspect of this solution is that freepour latte art is made much harder!!

Hence, I will be looking to resolve this issue in the future! Is there a good UK source for takeaway cups at true sizes to the rim, that look good, are non-branded, and competitively priced?

nb – the new takeaway cups will be in operation when Gloria arrives. ETA: 24th Sept.

September 11, 2009

The shots and the pours were flowing well today, on my last day before hols!



…One for the boss


…And one for me!

(With the ever luscious El Salvadorian La Fany)

Lots happening at the plan cafe …soon!

September 5, 2009

With Gloria’s arrival becoming imminent (at the end of the month), it’s exciting times at the plan, and we’re also busy preparing lots of other little changes to to coincide with this, meaning the coffee offering will soon be more delicious, and more accessible!

We will be offering our espresso-based coffees to takeaway (properly now; with some new countertops and a collection area, cups, stirrers and everything!). Small, rich, flavoursome Flat Whites will be joining the menu officially (they’ve already been a favorite in-house and for a few regulars for some time).

At the heart of the changes will be Gloria herself, who will help us to produce much more consistently delicious espresso; getting the most from the wonderful, varied, fresh, craftroasted coffees that I will continue to use.

If you like your drinks full of flavorings and sweeteners and served in a massive bucket, then sadly you might be disappointed… But if you like lovely coffee that tastes of coffee, that’s naturally sweet and full of flavour, then hopefully you’ll be in for a treat!

Please bear with us during this time, as we fine-tune the new system, and all the new features; but it will be worth it – we aim for the end result to be increasingly fantastic-tasting coffees!