Archive for November, 2012

In-Season coffees for cafetiere… Shake up!

November 22, 2012

It’s been quite some time since I introduced small selections of freshly roasted In-Season coffees to the menus for cafetiere at the cafe, and started releasing new selections every few months. This has been great, but it was still a little restrictive in some ways, and needed to move forward further still. So, I’ve just released our newest ‘menu’ for coffees for cafetiere at the cafe, but this time it’s all change. In a positive move I’ve been keen to make for some time, our coffees for cafetiere will now be an even smaller selection to be found on blackboards in the cafe. Therefore these newest printed ‘meus’ for the tables simply describe the new system, along with many general points of interest about the sorts of coffees we use. Crucially, just like I’ve been doing with our Espresso of the Day for a long time, this allows me to change the filter profile selections much more fluidly, as soon as the freshest crops come into the roastery! If you read the ‘menu‘, everything’s explained, but essentially it’s all about being able to offer the freshest, most current crops as soon as they arrive, and keeping them all at their optimum freshness from roast. Today we were grinding and brewing the coffee roasted… yesterday, which for filter, is always nice!

Today, we have launched with: Guatemalan Finca Providencia, Antiguan Finca Entre Volcanes Bethel Micro-Lot, and Kenyan blend of Makwa Esate with Ngutu Mill Coop. But these can, and will, frequently change at the drop of a hat – exciting! Updates about some of the specific coffees will appear regularly here and on my Twitter.

The Scace is back in the cafe for another visit, so I can perform some more testing of temperatures, and reassess previous data collected, and the settings on our machine, with newly refurbished sensors (thanks Peter!).

Just got Scott Rao’s Barista’s handbook – a happy birthday!

Emailed Welsh Water the other day with an enquiry about water quality at home and at work. I’ve spent some time this year making polite and patient enquiries for information to various coffee grinder manufacturers. Somehow, somewhere along the way, I have come to the position where I expect to get replies that are, at best, useless, but which are better than the more common alternative of no reply at all, whenever I make any sort of enquiry. So I wasn’t really expecting to hear anything back, at least for several weeks.  But Richy Mariner mailed me back the very next day, and not only answered my questions precisely, but sent me a huge wealth of extra interesting information about water locally to boot. Still quite shocked. In short, in the interests of sharing, water in Cardiff centre is currently (approximately) “100.3mg/l as CaCO3 (slightly hard)”, whilst “in Caerphilly the hardness is approximately 53.5mg/l as CaCO3 (moderately soft)”. Ace. Perhaps roughly as expected, and certainly as hoped.

13th November 2012

November 13, 2012

Espresso coffees-wise at the cafe, I’ve kept things pretty simple over the last few weeks, as we have tried so many different coffees and roast styles recently. So instead I’ve had the focus on the hugely enjoyable current versions of Naturelle and Formula 6 in rotation, as this can be just as fascinating as lots of different coffees. There will however, be a new JGC Kenyan espresso blend (of one estate, Makwa, combined with Ngutu Mill, which is coffee from the Rwaikamba Coop, featuring SL28 and SL34 varietals) coming up for a visit or two very soon.

All in all though, it’s been a very interesting week or few.

Admittedly I post a little less these days… Not because I’m less interested or doing less with coffee. Far from it. But my focus is on the cafe, and on my own general day-to-day research and practice, the majority of which is not really useful to post about. I used to zealously post a lot of half-baked notions, but as I’ve learnt more, these sorts of posts seem less useful, so I tend to keep posts simpler, more factual, more casual and open-ended now. Unless you have some properly conceived, quite rigorously researched findings to report (fortunately, there are those who do this), it can be less than useful to publicise every little thought (contradictions to follow almost immediately, no doubt). I do take a LOT of notes most days these days though, and log a lot of findings and observations for myself, as part of my continual efforts to understand everything with coffee more. Getting quite obsessive about it actually..! But it is rarely concrete or definitive enough to share.

However there are a few points of interest recently that I’ll mention.

Another (all too rare) visit to James’ roastery last week was great, and they were as generous, welcoming, and inspiring as ever. Nothing short of exceptional, naturally. As intended (whilst my delivery fulfilled the ostensible justification for the visit), I took the opportunity to spend a little time on their Mahlkonig-Marzocco setup, in order to observe as many little details, differences, and comparisons as possible, because I spend so much time zoned-in on our own setup, that one becomes wildly curious to try the same coffees on different equipment, in order to make a little more sense of everything. Fascinating. Lots of notes!

And, picked up a delicious new Rwandan coffee for filter at home! More notes.

After a hideously contrastingly low point on Monday, Gloria has been revitalised with some pretty major works today. Sensors, cartridge elements, etc. This raises some more interesting questions about water quality and hardness, and temperatures, and PID settings, some of which, coincidentally, Peter was talking about with us last week at the roastery. Reams of notes…

Hoping to hear something more specific about local water quality from Welsh Water after an enquiry today, even though you might assume we’re soft in the Cardiff area..!

Nearly there with the main stuff on the machine – just a few more tweaks for the engineers to do, and possibly some improvements to our exit pressure for steaming hopefully as well, and then it’s just a lot of reassessment, recalibration, and fine tuning and observation of the effects from me. No change there then.

At home my Rocky has seen off the Ditting 1203. This will hopefully be another post with some more detail. But (keeping it fairly short), throughout the whole process, I was baffled at the added uniformity and filter brewing performance from my existing Rocky in comparison to the Ditting. It just didn’t seem right or plausible, given the 1203’s rep. Even when Mahlkonig in Germany analysed samples from my Ditting and reported that there were no abnormalities to the normal curves, I was suitably relieved, but also still hugely surprised, and disappointed. So it was bye-bye Ditting, whilst the Rocky is still here, and doing remarkably good things, considering. But, I am still scouting out the next attempt at finding a truly great filter-press grinder for home that is a level above and beyond. I’m looking for the evidence (excuses?) to justify the spend on whatever it may be. I have tried and failed (a tedious process) to get anything really useful out of Compak about a certain commercial range. Which puts me off buying one. What is it with grinder manufacturers? Other likely suspects naturally involve the Mahlkonig/Baratza’s, certain versions of the Vario, and even potentially the top Mahlkonigs and Ubers. Then there’s that Orphan Pharos, amongst others, but perhaps a slightly different kettle of fish… More notes?!

Also, a pleasure to meet Simon of (who has adopted the enviable task of travelling around visiting as many coffee shops and tea rooms as possible, and documenting his findings!), who came in last week:
Cardiff post. Plan Cafe review.