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Drowning, not waving.
Friday, June 06, 2014 - 01:09 AM - 3 months, 2 weeks ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Simon James' SdotJames
Drowning, not waving.
I’ve recently read 2 pieces that, to me, were unintentionally related. James Hoffman’s “Hipsters, Coffee And Authenticity”, questions the perceived aloof Baristas & customers associated with a “Modern” coffee culture, whilst Alan Frew’s April 2014 newsletter questions “Solutions in search of problems”. Like others in the coffee industry, I’ve also been well and truly guilty of focusing on […]

Video: Back to the Moka Pot
Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - 02:15 PM - 4 months ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - WBC 2007 World Champion James Hoffmann's jimseven
Video: Back to the Moka Pot
This video was uploaded a few days ago, and is worth watching if you use a Moka pot (or have customers who do). I appreciate the tiny little hat tip at the start, and who doesn’t love modding coffee brewing kit to have 4 thermocouples in it for logging data…? I also learned a few interesting things! Worth just under 8 minutes of your time:

Introducing Longberry Magazine
Monday, May 19, 2014 - 10:22 AM - 4 months ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - WBC 2007 World Champion James Hoffmann's jimseven
Introducing Longberry Magazine
Today I’m proud to announce that a project ,that has been in the works for some times, has come to fruition – Longberry Magazine. A small group (myself, Ben Szobody and Jacob Forrest ) felt that coffee was fascinating, but that most publications were more focused on the trade side of things rather than trying to tell the stories we have to the interested members of the coffee drinking public. We decided we’d try our hand at creating a magazine and I’m excited to say that we’re now taking pre-orders. The magazine has actually been printed but we’re splitting the distribution between the US and the UK, so right now half of the (very small) print run is on its way to the USA – having been printed here in the UK. Philosophy There were a few key ideas behind the magazine that I’d like to share: - No advertising. We know that this is how the magazine business actually makes money, but we didn’t want that to be part of what we did. We intend to remain ad free. If it stops being financially viable then we will stop printing magazines. - We will pay authors. We will pay authors a share of the revenue from each edition (physical or digital) sold. The initial print run is very small, so we hope people will also embrace the digital editions. - We want to tell stories you haven’t heard. We hope to find authors new to much of the speciality coffee world, who aren’t writing for most magazines out there. We’re challenging ourselves to find the best stories we can, to share with an interested audience. - It should be a beautiful thing. We’ve produced a pretty limited run of physical magazines, printed on high quality stock and they’re lovely things to own. These two things mean that we have to charge a fair price for the magazine. We believe £7 plus shipping is a fair price and good value. The digital version is priced at £2.50 or an additional £1 if you buy the physical copy. We hope to publish more in the future, though we aren’t going to promise to release a magazine per quarter. We’re calling it “an occasional journal of coffee”… Where can I get it? If you are in North America then we’d recommend buying it from the Longberry Website , as that will be distributed from the USA and the cheapest. If you are in Europe, or the rest of the world, then we’d probably recommend buying it from the Square Mile Webshop . (Square Mile are helping with distribution – but this is not a Square Mile Coffee project). If you’re buying just digital then please buy direct from the Longberry site. Both websites are charging in GBP, because the company (and its bank account) are based in the UK – but you can buy it with any credit card, and Stripe’s conversion into other currencies isn’t painful. Can I write for Longberry? You can! You can email a pitch to Longberry at editors@longberrypress.com (though I would kindly request that you read the magazine and have an idea of the kind of stories we want to publish before getting in touch).

The Failure of First
Monday, May 12, 2014 - 04:00 PM - 4 months, 1 week ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - WBC 2007 World Champion James Hoffmann's jimseven
The Failure of First
There is an obsession with being first in our culture that I find increasingly troubling and frustrating. This isn’t just coffee specifically, I find it throughout various industries and professions. Journalism has long chased the scoop – the story that no one else has. In the past a scoop wasn’t simply a story that no one else had – it was also revelatory, bringing something hidden to light. Today it is mostly just saying something (or posting a photo of something, or claiming something) before anyone else does. Journalism has undeniably changed because of the internet. The frustration with the internet is its revenue model – we’re all eyeballs to advertisers. It’s not that we were in some golden age of journalism before, tabloid journalism has always been a horrible thing – and certainly no better than Gawker. The incentives in journalism have changed to writing something that gets as many eyeballs as possible, skewed through a world of analytics of page views and headline optimisation. Nothing gets eyeballs like a “first”, and as a result (and I’m not talking about coffee specifically here) accuracy and truthfulness have gone out of the window. Poorly researched inaccuracies, or salacious claims, can be retracted quietly on the same webpage once the wave of traffic dies back. It isn’t damaging because those eyeballs have moved on, and only the very few that care will revisit the story to see if it has been updated. There was a period of time where you’d often see people try to comment “first” first on a particular article, contributing nothing – simply attempting to claim some non-existent internet points. We all hoped it would go away, but I don’t think anyone wanted it to drift from the comments section up into the content itself. Linkbait , the now omnipresent listicles , compendia of Buzzfeed-esque gifs, it’s all very…. amusing, but I miss being treated like an adult who might actually want to do some thinking. More information, less titillation. Sadly, there’s a reason why the Daily Mail’s website (which I will not link to) is so appalling well trafficked. I am aware I have crossed the line into “shut up old man” territory. I’m aware that things change, that newspapers are dying, and there is no moral obligation to save them. I’m aware that the profession of journalism now exists in large part to see how far it can get away with stealing from those who still want practice it, or at least try to get them to work for free. You can argue that if people really wanted great journalism then they’d support it and champion it. The fetishization of longform writing is perhaps a counter to this, but that isn’t really what I’m talking about either. Enough about writing though… Typically in coffee, we love a “first” when it comes to equipment, something I’ve never really understood. Being the first one in a town, state or country to carry a certain new piece of equipment seems to have gained a perceived value that I don’t believe is being realised or returned. I don’t believe that paying a premium in cash (or time without a fully functioning machine if you bought in beta) generates matching revenues. I don’t think enough people buy coffee because of the machine’s novelty to cover its costs. The difference with technology is that there is a long precedent of “first” not really winning. This doesn’t stop technology companies launching very average products, barely out of beta, in an effort to be first to market. (I’m not talking about coffee specifically – just technology generally) Being first may give you something of an opportunity, but there is a better opportunity if you enter with a superior product later. The same is true of ideas. We all want to be able to claim we were the first to do something, though in truth almost every interesting idea in coffee is derivative in some way (this is no bad thing) of another. There is no real ownership of a great idea, but there are definite advantages to executing a good idea well. In coffee it isn’t unusual to see an older generation roll its eyes (in either frustration, exasperation or amusement) as the younger generation “discovers” something or “invents” something that they’ve seen or done long before. My biggest worry is that the world of the “first” is very shallow indeed. Ideas aren’t really dug down into because everyone just wants to move onto a new one, rather than work towards a better iteration of an existing one. That is perhaps cultural, and on the upside I believe it leaves enormous opportunities for anyone willing to stick with something to really explore it. This isn’t a universal problem – some of the most interesting businesses and people to me in coffee are doing this: digging down, exploring and taking their time to work something through. I believe they’ll see continued success from this approach, and I look forward to seeing what they learn and where they end up. I’m not really sure I’m going to make a definitive point here, it is just something that my brain has been chewing for a little while and writing for here is as good a way of any to start to process it a little more. I’ve missed writing on here recently, as most of my creative energy had to end up somewhere else for a while. I’ll share more about that in the not too distant future…

Tamper Tantrum Talk: Bourbon
Friday, May 09, 2014 - 03:03 PM - 4 months, 1 week ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - WBC 2007 World Champion James Hoffmann's jimseven
Tamper Tantrum Talk: Bourbon
I was asked by Colin Harmon to give a talk at the Tamper Tantrum event at the UK Barista Championship. He gave me a one word topic, so I thought I’d have a little fun with it. I hope you enjoy the talk, I’m sure there are a few factual holes that people will pick up on. (I really struggled with the pain from a back injury that day, so it isn’t quite as coherent as I’d like – but no excuses!) If you haven’t explored the amazing library of talks that they’ve built up so far – then this is what you should do with your weekend! You can subscribe in iTunes too.

Ethiopians
Wednesday, May 07, 2014 - 11:39 AM - 4 months, 2 weeks ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - James and Anette's Square Mile Weblog
Ethiopians
The first couple of Ethiopians are available in the webshop now, both very different but equally great examples of their regions! First up is the Reko from the Yirgacheffe region, with plenty of sweetness and florals reminding us of honeysuckle. It is a very well balanced and complex coffee with a citrus acidity and silky mouthfeel. We will be using this in our next Red Brick blend, but felt it was too good not to share as a filter first! Grab a bag here! Secondly we have the Ayichesh from the Oromia region, which is quite different, with delicate notes of pistachios and lemon drops. It has a single cream like mouthfeel and red grape or strawberry acidity to it. Available here. Both of these also make up the components of our newest Sweetshop blend, one of our sweetest versions yet! Also available here.

Jabberwocky reborn
Wednesday, April 30, 2014 - 05:57 PM - 4 months, 3 weeks ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog
Today we are proud to refresh and reborn Jabberwocky, one of our most successful blends With teeth that bite and jaws that snap, its a bight in your face espresso blend with a kick in its tail. Following on from all the new espresso blends, it was time to turn our attention to the the […]
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Reverse engineering espresso
Wednesday, April 30, 2014 - 11:31 AM - 4 months, 3 weeks ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - WBC 2007 World Champion James Hoffmann's jimseven
Reverse engineering espresso
Typically when we think about brewing espresso it all starts with a dose of dry coffee going into a basket. We might start out with our 19g of coffee, and think about what we want to do from there. We might try a ratio that we enjoyed with another coffee, and taste it and measure it and make adjustments from there. I’m not making a criticism of the way we think – when you make coffee you feel like everything starts with the raw materials, and this isn’t a terrible way to think. At the end of all this you’ll end up with a recipe, but different coffees will need to be treated differently (even if you want to confine them within the same parameters). Technology exists, however, for us to start to think about it from the end point backwards, to reverse engineer our product. Why does this matter? If we start from the end of the process, we start by clearly defining the customer experience and then using our techniques, equipment and understanding to create and craft that. This means that we might have to make some pretty critical decisions that aren’t used to making. Let’s start with a topic that’s always a little tricky for us: How strong should my espresso be? This is a fun place to start, but it does mean you’ll need some experience in measuring the strength of espresso and have been paying attention enough to know what you like. As a reference point – I rarely enjoy espressos that exceed 12% strength. At this point the shot certainly have a tonne of texture, but I find the flavours too concentrated to be easily discernible and enjoyable. I really enjoy espresso in the 9–10% range. This is simply my own preference, and by no means a recommendation. Lots of people have strong, positive responses to very strong espressos. How much espresso do I want to serve? This feels like a particularly strange question, but it is worth considering. How much liquid do you want to put in a cup? Is 32g of espresso worth the same as 36g of espresso? Either way, for this to work you need to make a decision. Personally, again all preference, I don’t really want more than 50g as a double – generally I prefer a double to be 36–40g of coffee. What about extraction? Enough’s been said about extraction to spare too much in-depth conversation. You like what you like, either as a cafe or a roaster – and certainly as a roaster you should be targeting roasts against a specific level of extraction. I like espresso, from conventional flat burr grinders, at around 20% extraction. So now I have a recipe. I know I want 40g of coffee, at 10% strength that is a 20% extraction. Fire up VST Coffee Tools and plug it in. By adjusting dry coffee dose until I hit my desired extraction then I can see that for this recipe to work I should start with 18.6g of coffee. I can then start with 18.6g to 40g and adjust grind until I hit my desired espresso – presuming my water, grinder and baskets allow me to do this. I would pretty much ignore time (though from experience I know it will likely end up in the late 20s/very early 30s). I wouldn’t dial in against time though, I’d be pulling on scales to hit my shot weights. Is this how I should make all espresso now? The idea of this post isn’t to change the way you dial in, but instead to present an alternative way to think about how we generate our brew recipes. I think it is pretty healthy to change it up sometimes, to start with what our customer will drink (and how we want that to taste) and to work backwards from there.

How to progress in the coffee industry
Tuesday, April 29, 2014 - 07:17 PM - 4 months, 3 weeks ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - WBC 2007 World Champion James Hoffmann's jimseven
How to progress in the coffee industry
I get a lot of email (a lot of emails) from baristas from all around the world, and the most common theme could be summarised as: “I currently work as a barista, I’m really passionate about coffee and would love to progress in this industry. Do you have any advice for how I should do that?” It’s a fair question – coffee is a relatively opaque, shrouded industry that doesn’t really give much away in the way of direction for those who have fallen in love with it and wish to do more. This is similar to the talk I gave at the Nordic Barista Cup, but that crossed over quite a lot into talking to employers and those already established within the industry. This post is by no means a definitive answer, but hopefully it offers some helpful advice. Demonstrate Patience There’s a whole other topic that should probably be covered about writing effective CVs (résumés) and performing in job interviews, but this particular one straddles both. The expectations of those entering industries have changed. People expect to be able to progress quicker, and often the most visible within an industry rose very quickly (or at least appeared to). Other industries generally do a better job of explaining why you should spend a couple of years toiling away for little reward, or at least set clear goals for what must be achieved to progress. Coffee is one of many where this isn’t really a thing yet. However, employers look at your work history for two reasons: to see what kind of experience you have and to see how long you generally stay in a job. Collecting a few months at various well renown cafes is significantly less valuable that having put some serious time in at a cafe someone may never have heard of. Yes, a cafe owner may look at that and see a reduced need for training, but if you’re looking to progress into a different role which will require time spent acquiring new skills then skipping around from place to place is potentially going to work against you. This doesn’t mean you should be you shouldn’t be hungry to progress, keen to advance – that’s definitely a good quality. Taste Everything While we generally under-represent the diverse roles within the coffee sector, there are very few roles where being able to taste well isn’t an advantage. Learning to taste well, to taste critically and to build up a level of objectivity around certain aspects of coffee tasting, isn’t easy to do. If you work at a cafe this means tasting more than the coffees you serve. It means tasting coffees from other suppliers, tasting coffees from other cafes. It means looking for any and every opportunity to taste with other coffee professionals, in an environment where honest discussion takes place. It means looking for opportunities to taste things that aren’t coffee in different environments. Beer, wine, cheese are the obvious contenders as there are often tutored tasting available and things like sweetness, acidity, complexity, aroma or mouthfeel are all key aspects in their taste make up as they are with coffee. If there are opportunities to taste other things then leap at it. If there aren’t those opportunities where you are then make them. £20 goes a long way to buying a variety of things to taste within a theme – from chocolate to citrus fruits, olive oils to tomatoes. (Thanks to my team at Square Mile for the inspiration here). Be Part of a Community If I am honest, online communities are significantly less helpful for curious and passionate coffee people than they were five years ago. Social media has undeniably had an impact, but its return on invested energy is mild frivolity and a worrying acceptance of crass absolutism. I’d recommend looking for a real life, in the flesh type community to be involved in. In some places this is easier than in others, I accept that. If your city has throwdowns, or open tastings, or coffee book clubs, or general coffee events then get involved. That doesn’t mean just turning up, it means putting in some time and effort. Passive participation can be enjoyable, but isn’t really going to help you move forward. Networking is a horrible term, but it remains a practice that goes on in every industry. It doesn’t have to be the awkward “press the flesh” type thing though. Guilds, associations and the like are there to offer this function as a core reason for their very being. I’d recommend getting involved with them. Don’t expect to be spoonfed knowledge It is an employer’s role to provide necessary information to do a job well, unless they’ve hired requiring a certain qualification. However, it is not really an employer’s obligation to feed every curiosity you may have about coffee. This sounds negative, but in reality it is easier to learn collaboratively with an employee (supporting them in their learning, rather than doing all the heavy lifting) than it is to just have information be a one way street. Not every employer will work this way, and I suppose I should recommend finding employers who have a good track record with developing staff and supporting them in future endeavours is another piece of advice. This isn’t exhaustive, not even slightly, but I hope it is useful. Obviously I’d recommend keeping an eye on job openings (never easier these days with sites like Coffee Jobs Board , NYC Coffee Jobs and Sprudge Jobs ). Disagreement, dissent or supplementation to these ideas is welcome.

Laser particle analysis again: comparing some top filter grinders.
Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 10:13 PM - 5 months ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Welsh Champion 2009 Trevor Hyam's The Bean Vagrant
Laser particle analysis again: comparing some top filter grinders.
I’ve had grind samples from some of my coarse/filter grinders at home and at work analysed a couple of times over the last year, via laser particle sizing, and have just submitted a new batch of samples which focus on some areas currently of interest to me. This is made possible by @mathewsmith1 who is absolutely awesome for taking the time to make this sort of analysis available to me. I’ve posted in the past more detail about the specific nature of the particle sizing conducted, and the reasons for it, and this is available in previous posts on the blog. I find the whole process both fascinating (fun!), and illuminating. This time around, I wanted to hone-in on a couple of grind settings on my filter grinder at home, a Mahlkonig Tanzania (which I’ve modified with a weighted hopper to minimise and counteract the effects of ‘popcorning’ when single dosing). Specifically, I wanted to look at a couple of settings around a medium drip grind that I use for some pourover brew methods, and several settings close together right up at the coarse French Press end of the scale. And, I wanted to assess and compare the particle size and distribution curves of a sample from the plan cafe’s fairly new drip and FP grinder, our Bunn G3, with my Tanzania. The Bunn is a well known drip grinder that is widely used within modern speciality coffee circles, especially in the US, and it’s pretty highly regarded. Admittedly, the stock, pressed, burrs are not nearly as handsome as those on many other top-end modern coarse grinders, such as the Tanzania, etc, but, there are certain features with the Bunn that help to mitigate and overcome this. I suspect the Bunn might display a less ‘optimum’ curve than the Tanzania in some ways (I could be wrong). But, the Bunn does make very tasty coffee all the same (which raises other questions about what is actually optimum). Then, a local coffee enthusiast Mukhtar approached me with news of his newly acquired Hausgrind Made by Knock hand grinder, and expressed interest in having the grind laser analysed. I had already heard about the Hausgrind. They are one of a few new hand grinders coming out recently (like the OE Lido and Lido 2 for instance) that have been specifically crafted to produce exceptionally uniform grounds in the medium to coarse range used for filter and FP methods – and which are potentially comparable to the top commercial electric grinders, like those mentioned above (along with the likes of the Uber, EK43, Dittings and other Mahlkonigs). The samples I’ve seen, and tasted, from his Hausgrind seem really very good indeed. So, now, this has happily developed into a nice little comparison of some of the top coarse grinders out there, both commercial, and domestic hand-driven! In the end, we almost coincidentally selected the exact same bean for our samples, and, we’ve followed pretty much the same protocol, to standardise our samples, which has worked out brilliantly, as this will now make for an even more direct comparison between the grinders. Some of my (edited) notes regarding my samples from the Tanzania and the Bunn: Suke Quto washed Guji light filter profile from JGC. Roasted 27/03/14 Samples ground on 6th and 7th April 2014 (1 additional sample added ground on 13/04/14) All samples 20g, in order to accurately replicate the grind profile/distribution produced by the grinders for an actual small batch size. 5g of Suke Quto purged through on each new setting before taking sample. Samples ground directly from Tanzania into the press-seal plastic sample bags. As per my standard practice, with Tanzania, beans loaded onto static burrs, weighted mod applied, then burrs switched on. For Bunn, beans are dumped into already running burrs, again as per my standard practice for this grinder. Matt mentioned he might even run analysis on a sample from his own Hario Skerton hand grinder as well, which will be great to compare alongside the others as well. In other news, my recent espresso selection at the plan cafe has been: JGC’s Naturelle (composed of Santa Maria natural and Daterra organic Brazils, with Suke Quto washed Guji), and also Formula 6 (30% Fazenda Samambaia, Brazil 100% yellow bourbon, 30% Fazenda Sertaozinho, Brazil, 16% Guatemala Conception Pixicaya Lot #1, 16% Guatemalan Finca Cuxinales, Genuine Antigua, 8% El Salvador Finca Suiza Micro Lot). Filter profiles available for beans and French Press at the cafe have been JGC’s Finca Zarcero Costa Rica, Fazenda Samambaia, Tanzania Blackburn Estate Pick of Harvest SUN, and a personal favourite, Suke Quto washed Guji filter profile. We’ve also seen two coffees from pioneering coffee agronomist Graciano Cruz’s Panama farms, Los Lajones and Emporium (Caturra), via Union Hand Roasted’s light roasts. Both natural process, and exhibiting variations on lovely ripe fruit, like strawberry, blueberry, orange, pear, and wine, translating into various fruit sweets (like Starburst!). Very well processed, ‘clean naturals’, as you’d expect from Graciano’s designer coffees. The Emporium Caturra microlot is currently available, right now. I’ve also been enjoying some filter profile samples of new Colombians at home, like Primavera, and look forward to seeing more of these soon! I’ll add a glut of (more or less!) relevant recent pictures onto this post over the next couple of days, to embellish it with some descriptive prettiness..! Oh, and yes, it’s true: The Bean Vagrant and better half have had an amazing, bouncing, beautiful baby bean of a boy, Tom! Welcome to the world! 8-D

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