Archive for May, 2010

May 28, 2010

Flat Whites. Ouch! Tasting good right now at the cafe! They’re a bit of a trendy buzz word, I know, and they are only as good as the coffee, and the barista, making them, but there’s definitely something about ’em. We fight over these. They’re a prize on the order board! Because they’re a joy to make, they taste great, and they are a great vehicle for getting a full flavour out to people. And I find it’s one of those drinks where I really feel I’m learning a little more each time – about how best to build the drink, and how less is really more with the air and the temp for the milk… But it’s a tightrope! You don’t want folks feeling it’s not hot enough, and impressive latte art is a challenge with this type of milk when done properly – after 10 seconds of the naked espresso finishing, there might be no rosetta… unless you wait another 30 or so!

May 28, 2010

Naturelle is still tasting fantastic right now as our espresso-of-the-day at the moment. With the hotter weather playing havoc with the ambient humidity (29-49%!) and temperatures over the last week or so, I have moved our store of fresh espresso bags to a safe place… deep within the cafe… to help maintain its freshness at the absolute peak that I am growing increasingly aware it’s important to maintain, to attempt to achieve the very best!!

NEXT WEEK we have  – to keep things fresh and new and exciting – our roaster’s brand new, seasonal, limited espresso blend, The ‘Bold Red Espresso Blend‘ touching down at the cafe, which I will be alternating, probably with Naturelle, for the next few weeks …until it goes!!

So many exciting new season coffees arriving at JGC right now – check it out.

Well done Team plan!

May 28, 2010

Congrats to the team at the plan cafe this week! Everyone’s doing great, with, amongst others, Charlotte, Matt and Lenny (as more experienced members) really flourishing and using their skills to knock out some wonderful drinks!

Few things can be more rewarding for me, than to see more and more customers enjoying and complementing their work as well as my own – right now we have the most skilled team ever, so far, which is invaluable in terms of achieving and sustaining something that can occasionally be more than the sum  of our parts, and something we should all be proud of as a cafe!

Chemex

May 25, 2010

I know – another coffee toy?! …Yes!

The Europiccola was, sadly, gathering dust and taking up counter space, so now it’s been popped in a box …for later? I have such nice equipment at work for espresso that it just never matched up. Meanwhile, partly as a consequence, and partly because it makes a delicious change (oh, and it’s also very en vogue, darling), I have been brewing just filter at home for some time. Single cup pourovers and Aeropress are wonderful …but not so good if you want to brew for more than just yourself …Enter the Chemex! (thanks Has Bean!) Haven’t tried it yet but look forward to experimenting with it at the weekend, and learning more about filter technique. The special thick papers are part of the idea, I know, and maybe they work best …but I do worry a little about all that paper sucking up some of the goodness too, so I might also get hold of some O2 bleached Hario size 2 papers to try with it as well, as suggested by Sweet Marias.

There seem to be a lot of different pouring/brew techniques out there for it and I’m not sure which is best, so will have a play, and do some more research. Couldn’t stretch to one of them there fancy-spouted kettles, so I probably won’t be able to get too geeky with the pouring anyway! Maybe I can rig the kettle with a little nozzle of some sort..? 🙂

May 25, 2010

…As a passing curiosity, wondering why naked double shots won’t necessarily display any flecking when in narrower vessels, whilst an ‘identical’ shot in a wider one will..?!

May 15, 2010

Single filter brewed coffees that I make at home when I am away from the delights of the espresso machine at work are increasingly, and unashamedly, simply forcing their way onto the blog!

Right now it’s El Meridiano Coop Micro Lot, from Saldana, Colombia. Just brewed this up as a pourover filter, and Yeay!! Absolutely delicious! Sweet, juicy, fresh, clean, blackcurrant jam! If I can sort out the notes of the recipe I used, I’ll post it below.

IF you have a decent grinder, get some – Now! If not, get one – then get some!!

Grounds – 22g

70g water at 94.6C added for a 40 second bloom

 160g more water added at 91.5C

Topped-up after brewing with a further 50g water

Forgot to measure the brewed weight! Probably about 180-200g, prior to topping-up.

Coffee, Communication, the plan Cafe, Cardiff!

May 15, 2010

There has been some truly exceptional coffee this week!! (I can only say this because I’m also the first to say when it’s not good as well!) Caffe Naturelle is tasting more amazing than ever at the moment with the latest seasonal adjustment bringing Bolivian Finca Irupana into the blend, sending the fruitiness to a whole new level, whilst remaining exceptionally clean and delicate and delightful. Then I put The Brownie Blend back on for the weekend yesterday evening, the temp goes up, and BAM! the rich, sweet perfumed natural fruitiness and the mouthfeel hits you like the best surprise ever!

All this is aided in part by the presence of a great grinder. Even though there are still inconsistencies here and there, especially when you make espresso sporadically (and the rain showers today also kept me on my toes with an unprecedented degree of adjustments throughout the day!), the effect of the superior grinder on shots continues to be undeniable, and stunning. Now I know more intimately why those in the know see the grinder as absolutely an equal part of the coffee-barista-machine-grinder equation, where each part must be as good as possible, and as good as the others to have a hope of achieving the best results.

When you work with some amazing coffees as standard, and walk the tightrope of striving to prepare them as well as possible within a given setting, its intriguing and perplexing to think about the perception from the other side of the counter now and then. Amongst the growing number of those who love and return for what we endeavour to offer, as part of something special emerging in the UK, you still sometimes overhear the romanticism of  ”everywhere in Italy cappuccino is amazing, but it’s never worth bothering with anywhere else in the world”, you still realise that when you mention ‘barista championships’ people have absolutely no clue what you’re on about (I dread to think what quaint images pop into their heads before you then attempt to explain?!), and you still encounter the notion that claims about the integrity of the coffee, or your skill, are just some sort of unfounded, self-generated marketing ploy.

But it really is fresh! It really is craft-roasted! It really is seasonal, traceable right back to individual farms of exceptional standing, and ethically sourced on the basis of quality, rather than just Fairtraded! And it really is hand crafted at the bar at the final stage with a (…albeit barista-specific) level of delight, intuitiveness, expertise and attention to detail at every level that is far from ‘mass produced’, ‘push-button’, or the high street average.

But with this sort of coffee there also often comes more ‘modern’ (less Italian!) un-coffee-like flavours that might not be expected by the customer, and dangerous variations in the consistency of the product, both of which might unfortunately throw people off the scent, quite understandably. Therefore, whilst taste should ideally do the talking, sometimes, even when all goes well and it’s great, taste might fly under the radar, or be misunderstood, without some gentle communication of what it’s all about… And it’s worth remembering that the stunning experience of a fine ristretto naked double shot which you take the fleeting opportunity to savour when you know it’s been a successful pour, might not correlate to that single shot latte for a customer, or standard spouted single espresso, which, whilst lovely, might not speak as loudly and might not get the potential across as vibrantly. Certainly these are some of the most challenging aspects of the whole endeavour – not just the attempt to develop barista skills (and I include my own) in order to maintain consistency in what is a hand crafted, non-mainstream product, but equally the crucial importance for staff (in an ideal world) to have a genuine understanding, belief, and pride in the quality of what’s actually on offer, and the ability to then sensitively articulate this to customers. It’s a case of developing a sense of when and where it’s appropriate too, and finding a way to quickly respond to positive (or inaccurate) reactions even when it’s busy and you need to dash straight away from the table …otherwise the opportunity to convey something special is lost. And it’s not pretentiousness, snobbery, or sales flim-flam, as people sadly often assume, but, ideally, a communication of a sincere passion for the great coffees and the craftsmanship. At the end of the day, it not only engages the customer but also enables them to make more informed decisions and conclusions about what they’re buying and tasting in place to place. Do I expect too much? Absolutely! Always! …Hopefully that’s a part of what keeps making the coffee even better!