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Assorted recent news, 5th August 2014
Tuesday, August 05, 2014 - 08:07 PM - 3 months, 3 weeks ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Welsh Champion 2009 Trevor Hyam's The Bean Vagrant
Coffee is what I spend a huge majority of my time doing, and if I’m not actually doing something with coffee directly, it’s never too far from my thoughts, for long. Continuously. To say it consumes me, more than I it (but in a way that’s still healthy …just!), might not be too far from the truth. So, as it’s been a while, there’s lots I could mention. But, just a few of the highlights that have occupied or entertained by coffee brain enough to come into focus here, are unpacked as follows. Gifts: Not long ago, I received a lovely gift of samples from UK-based coffee subscription company Press Coffeehouse . They sent a couple of samples from their list of world roasters: USA’s Madcap’s Ardi Ethiopia natural, and Germany’s Five Elephant’s Los Guacharos washed Colombia. I’d heard good things about Madcap already, whilst Five Elephant was new to me, but both coffees came with a wealth of information, and it was clear this could be tasty. Initial inspection of the beans/roast in both cases was full of promise, and I was not disappointed. Both coffees were great! The Madcap was especially brilliant (but then I’m a sucker for great Ethiopian coffees!), ripe, sweet, and intoxicatingly floral. Five Elephant was lovely too though, a transparently light roast, and very clean and juicy. There’s much that can be said against ordering coffee from overseas roasters, although there are of course many awesome ones, for various practical reasons (freshness, unsuitable transportation environments, costs, to name some key ones), when we have such brilliant roasters here in the UK. That said, it’s very tempting to do so, and it’s fun that a company like this takes the headache out of getting hold of them, for those that want to try. As far as freshness goes, the Madcap arrived at my doors 16 days post roast, and the Five Elephant at 11 days. There are those who might consign coffees to the bin at two weeks (or sooner!)… But I’m not one of them (coffee freshness is very important to me, and is something I take seriously, but for me, the quality of the bean, the roast, and the brewing/preparation, are all more critical than the freshness, within reasonable limits). I found both coffees had travelled well, and brewed wonderfully at home, as various types of pourover filter. Particle sizing: A while back, results came in for my latest round of laser particle sizing tests, after submitting grind samples from several top ranking coarse filter grinders (see previous post). A very brief summing up is as follows: My modded Tanzania was predictably awesome again, at all settings tested (medium to coarse), and was the benchmark from which to compare the other grinders, giving (narrowly) the very best result. I had suspected the Hausgrind hand grinder might well equal or possibly even surpass the Tanzania (from having read about it, and seen and tasted grounds from it). It might seem hard to believe that a humble hand grinder could rival a legendary electric commercial filter grinder, but some of the new generation of specially crafted hand grinders are purpose-built to be excellent for coarse grinding, and I see no reason why some cannot do so, potentially. And, at coarse FP settings, at almost identical peak micron sizes, the Hausgrind was indeed very impressive. Without going into specifics, one could place these graphs from the Tanzania and the Hausgrind over each other… and essentially see only one, single, identical line (!). I believe the Hausgrind had benefited from a few tweaks and optimisations, so this is not necessarily representative of every single one, but I would imagine they would be pretty close. The Tanzania’s still a bit more convenient though (but at a price)! Perhaps more surprisingly, the plan cafe’s Bunn G3 performed very well too. I had hoped it might indeed be better than is generally assumed (due to various factors I’m aware of). But I was still surprised by just how impressive it’s results were. Pretty much identical to the other two grinders, when compared at matching peak micron sizes. The Hario Skerton was then also added to the list of grinders tested (just to compare, by the lovely @mathewsmith1 who makes the analysis available, as this is his own grinder). This is a nice enough hand burr grinder, but not meant to be in the same league as the others tested. Predictably, here we saw the biggest difference. In comparison to all the other 3 grinders, this had a very shallow and wide peak (although still essentially a single peak), and with a lot more fine particles in the 0-100um/microns range. Completely different to the other three. Cold Brew Coffee: This summer, I’ve introduced a new drink for the plan cafe: Cold Brew coffee. Cold Brew has already been popular for a long time in (warmer!) countries like the USA and Australia, but has rarely been seen here in the UK until more recently, but this summer it’s been flourishing at a few artisan coffee shops, particularly in London (Thanks to @CaffeineMag for some inspiration on this initially!). This method involves steeping (or drip brewing) grounds with cold or room temperature water for many hours to extract the flavour, rather than relying on hot water to do the job in minutes. Brewing slowly with cold water gives a completely different kind of flavour, and allows for a concentrate to be brewed that can be served over ice without becoming diluted. I spent a few weeks experimenting with recipes (with some unpleasant results initially), before reaching something I was reasonably satisfied with (thus adding to the already long list of brew methods for which I have brewing notes written up in extensive detail, and continuously updated, in separate, method specific files!). It’s slow going, changing one factor at a time, when you have to wait 7-24 hours (and this range can be even wider) to sample the results! And, as with any brew method, there are so many variables at play (the coffee, the grind, the time, the temps at different stages, agitation, technique, filtration, water, roast profile, flash hot bloom, or cold only, room temp, fridge, iced water, etc), that the variation in the results can of course infinite. I’ve experimented with the alternative Japanese iced coffee method at home before, and that certainly appeals to me, like many others in specialty coffee, because it can better preserve the brightness, acidity, florals, aromatics, nuance, complexity and character that we love in light roast, high quality coffees (although it does have its own issues; really good pourover is very technique dependent under normal circumstances as it is, but when you remove half the brew water, extracting successfully and correctly becomes a real knife-edge). As such, I was a little sceptical, but intrigued, about the slow Cold Brew method, as it is often described as the opposite: all mellow mid tones, and no acidity or individual character. But, I’ve been very pleasantly surprised. Whilst all the above is true to an extent, Cold Brew can be delicious in its own particular way, and, with some tweaks to the method, I’ve found it’s possible to balance the best of both worlds, retaining a good degree of acidity, aroma, and the character of the individual coffee, together with a creamy mouthfeel, and an overall flavour that is delicate, smooth, and very refreshing and approachable. In fact, I was shocked how identical the aromas of the finished product can be to the aromas of the specific beans. Perhaps even more so, albeit in a very different way to hot brewed coffee. And the colour, well filtered, is WOW! Beautiful, deep reds, orange, and amber, with wonderful clarity. I’ve been enchanted by the beauty of the clarity and colours of hot pourover coffee for a long time, but pure Cold Brew, over ice, is something else – super stunning visually! And what’s more, I’ve found it can be a great way to successfully encourage people to try, and enjoy, coffee black, without milk (which is always a positive thing!), precisely because the drink’s intrinsic flavour profile is so soft and delicate. People often describe using darker roasts for Cold Brew, and it then being a good vehicle for adding cream and sugar. But if you think about it, that’s just like hot brewed coffee, and it doesn’t have to be like that. From the outset, just like any hot brewed method I would use, my aim was to use lighter roasts, and create something that would be nice on its own, black, and representative of the coffee. And if you make this your desired endpoint when experimenting, you can work towards achieving this aim, even though Cold Brew might always lack much of the range, complexity, and intensity of hot brew. I did try some (relatively light) espresso profiles, but was not at all keen on these, finding them just way too much, although I could have experimented more to make them work. One or two people who prefer a real punch, or who definitely only like coffee with milk, preferred these though. So, I’ve settled on using light filter profile single origins exclusively, and have found these can make clean, juicy-yet-smooth-and-creamy, delicate, refreshing, and interesting Cold Brew. And the filter profiles are actually best black, as the brew is nice and delicate, whereas adding milk to these drowns it a bit. Some might use something middle of the road for Cold Brew, believing anything else to be a waste of good coffee, or because they’re just going to add milk or cream to it… But I’ve gone in the other direction, as I wanted to give the brew method the best possible chance, and have mostly experimented, and launched, with a really premium coffee: Colombian washed Finca El Faldon filter profile from James’ Gourmet, grown by Arnulfo Leguizamo (the same farm and farmer that produced the 2011 WBC winning coffee). This has notes of jellied plum, and toffee as Cold Brew. We’re serving our double filtered, bottled concentrate at the side of a chilled glass of ice, with a little cold water to dilute to taste, if you want. If you want milk, or some homemade simple sugar syrup, no problem, just ask, but maybe give it a try without, as it’s surprisingly delicate and mellow! The availability of the Cold Brew will be limited each day when it’s being served, and it won’t be on every day. Check the Twitter, or feel free to @message if you want to know. It’s essentially a very easy brew method, which is all about experimenting a lot, carefully, with the detail of the recipe and variables, until it works well for a certain coffee, rather than needing any skilled technique as such. It’s therefore great fun to try at home – you don’t even need any expensive equipment whatsoever, just some good beans! Despite a lot of work getting to a recipe for the El Faldon that I’m pretty happy with, I’ve really only scratched the surface with Cold Brew and there are so many further variations I could try. Sieving would be just one interesting option to try (I even read about someone talking about brewing whole beans as Cold Brew, which is something I’ve toyed with the idea of before, as a way of getting past the issues caused by grinding!). If I continued to dedicate just a fraction of the time and research I do for hot brewing for this, I think the method could potentially be improved further. Certainly worth playing with. There’s lots of info around online about slow Cold Brew if you want to have a play at home, whilst the sun’s still shining and hot! Espresso brew ratios: For several years now, I’ve been using low brew ratios, and doses, for espresso, for pretty much all the (relatively light roast) espresso profile coffees I use (both single origins and seasonal blends), and I’ve been watching with interest over the last couple of years as indications have emerged that a few others in the speciality industry, in the UK at least, have been gradually beginning to move in the same direction, here and there. Using low brew ratios did not come easily, and was something that confused me, and even seemed ‘wrong’. Why? Almost all the brew ratios and recipes you saw within modern, speciality, ‘Third Wave’ coffee, until more recently, recommended high dose, high brew ratios. So for a long time, I fought against it, and tried (jumped through hoops) to do what was apparently ‘correct’ for this type of coffee. In the end though, I stopped resisting, and navigated by taste, instinct, and experimentation, towards consistently lower brew ratios, for pretty much any coffee, even coffees designed and recommended for higher doses and ratios (although with slight variations depending on the specific coffee and scenario, etc, as presented when dialling). It then felt as if I had previously just been trying to ‘force’ the coffee into a little box, where it, and I, were often not happy, and where the results rarely seemed to be the best expression of what the coffee should, or could, be. Whereas at lower brew ratios, I consistently found a more balanced, rounded, articulate flavour, a more true sweetness, a lighter, more delicate, but more appealing crema (visually and texturally), and I generally felt it simply gave me a better representation of the coffee’s flavour. If I just ignored the weights until after dialling to where the espresso simply looked and tasted best, this is where I’d end up. It just seemed more ‘right’ (and not simply personal preference either). So, I stopped trying to follow the fashionable recipes, and just did what worked for me. I didn’t understand quite why I found this to work better, when everything I saw elsewhere recommend otherwise (although I had theories). I thought maybe it was just some quirk of our particular equipment set up. And to some extent, this is still true; our equipment does certainly seem to prefer, even require, lower doses, and lend itself towards lower brew ratios too. But this alone didn’t completely explain the situation, and didn’t help to alleviate the nagging feeling that the recipes I was using were somehow ‘wrong’ (at best, ‘traditional’ or low end ‘normale’), and not ‘proper’, modern, speciality – because everything you read would recommend different (higher) doses and ratios. But it worked best, for me, and I gradually just stopped worrying about it (as much). Several years ago (but not that long ago), at that time, most of the speciality or Third Wave recipes you would read about were in the 65-100%+ region. Triple baskets were the thing, and ristretto was king (and this is often all still true). Often the few recommendations you might find for lower doses still came hand in hand with a relatively high overall brew ratio, at or towards ristretto. Then, a few years ago, a slight shift downwards got a lot of airspace on the top blogs and forums, with people talking about recipes more down at the 65% end, quite specifically. I still felt like something of an anomaly… Then, just a year or two ago, I noticed a few (leading) figures talking about recipes in the region of 55%, as something of a norm, for the light roast espresso they worked with as standard. This gave me a little hope that maybe what I was doing wasn’t so very odd after all, although even this still did not quite reflect what I was generally using. Now, even more recently still, a few key sources have broken the 50% seal though, and have been talking about 55-40% brew ratios, and even beyond (and non of this is even with regard to something altogether different like lungo EK coffee shots – just ‘normal’ espresso making). And some of these sources are the same ones that were at about 65% a few years ago. It feels strange to contemplate that finally, almost comically, the recipes I’ve been using for a long time might actually be becoming somewhat fashionable and on trend, after for so long feeling at odds with this one aspect of the very movement I’m part of, and wholeheartedly promote. Why’s this happening? Has speciality UK roasting undergone a such a significant shift over the last few years that it suddenly requires these lower espresso brew ratios? I don’t think so – the top handful of microroasters have been pretty (even very) light for some time already. Who knows, there’s a lot at play, and any possible reasons for it are really another story. I just wanted to point out these observations, and put them out there. I’m not saying this is how all espresso should be brewed, by any means. And I’m not saying I’m always happy with the espresso I achieve now. I’m not even saying that I only like espresso brewed like this (I’ve had hugely enjoyable shots made in other places, brewed in the high dose, high ratio way). Different brew ratios and practices can all make delicious shots when successfully executed. And some will simply not like espresso made with a low brew ratio, out of personal preference. And I’m not suggesting that those using 65% or more a few years ago, and now using 55% or below didn’t already know (far more than I) what they were talking about back then. I don’t think they’ve suddenly ‘figured out’ that lower is better. And, what works best in a certain situation for one person can be highly specific to the individual site and equipment (coffee, machine, baskets, pumps, grinders, water, technique, etc, etc), and not necessarily transferable, as any kind of wider ‘truth’ that will work for others. And, it’s certain that particular equipment set ups will lend themselves more towards making high brew ratio shots very nicely, and people using such set ups might rightly navigate towards higher ratios, perhaps even as an ideal for that set up. I’m not really trying to say anything specific at all! It’s just been interesting, and refreshing, to observe these murmurs of a possible gradual shift in perspective for some highly regarded figures in the industry in recent times, and a loosening of the previously accepted ‘rules’, towards something I’ve long found to work, for me. Silly Article: A month or two ago there was a depressing and surprisingly negative article in the Observer Magazine about modern speciality coffee in the UK by someone I would really have expected to have a more positive and enlightened attitude towards something exactly like this movement. The bile that followed in the comments attached to it online lowered the tone even further. There were a few possibly pertinent points made that might have been interesting and productive to explore, but the overall tone of blinkered reactionary negativity eclipsed these. A real shame. But with each juicy, sweet, clean, and characterful cup, I smile, and the memory fades! Current Coffees: In right now for French Press service at the cafe, or filter beans to take home, are delicious new Kenyan Kiri (summer fruits, blackcurrant, brown sugar, floral), and Guatemala Finca El Pelicano (biscuity and ripe white grape), and the smallest amount of El Salvador Guachoca natural, if you’re very quick. Naturelle (yes!) is on for espresso, currently composed of Brasil Santa Maria natural and Suke Quto washed Guji. And, El Faldon Colombia is on as Cold Brew of course, when available, whilst this particular coffee lasts..!

Flash Back Friday 2 back to 2007
Friday, July 25, 2014 - 10:10 PM - 4 months ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog
Part two of flashback friday, looking back at amazing things that have happened in the world of Has Bean. This week we take a look 2007 and the time my new roaster arrived (my probat L25) it was an exciting time then and its exciting to me now. so please enjoy. It’s arrived. Yesterday… Continue Reading

Audio musings in a “podcast”
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - 10:26 AM - 4 months, 1 week ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog
I really think I don’t produce enough content, and I feel its important to have you listen to my voice at least once a day. This is untrue in both statements, but I do sometimes have thoughts that pop into my head that I would like to share with you. I have used this audio boo… Continue Reading

Flashback Friday
Friday, July 18, 2014 - 03:13 PM - 4 months, 1 week ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog
All the best ideas come over coffee or beer. This one was over beer last night with Dale. We decided that and every friday, were going to look back at a photo or a blog post or something that was happening during this week over the previous years. I’m very excited to start this, I… Continue Reading

Ibrik / Cezve
Monday, July 14, 2014 - 11:22 AM - 4 months, 2 weeks ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog
As I’ve already said I have kind of neglected this blog for a long time. But I have still been creating content, lots of it. One of the most popular things we have done is our brew guides. Now a brew guide is not a verbatim way to make all coffee (as some guides will… Continue Reading

A small post on Bolivia Machacamarca
Tuesday, July 08, 2014 - 10:06 AM - 4 months, 3 weeks ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog
So as that title say’s this is going to be a very small post, but sprucing up this blog, I read over some of the older posts (I really think you should too, I used to write some ok stuff), and I realised I had not told you there latest news and what is happening… Continue Reading

Kenya season
Monday, July 07, 2014 - 10:31 AM - 4 months, 3 weeks ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - James and Anette's Square Mile Weblog
Kenya season
We are excited as always for the beginning of Kenya season and it is looking to be a very good season indeed with plenty of tasty coffee coming up! The first offering we have for you comes from the Kaiguri factory in the Kaiguri sub-location of the Nyeri district. We have a few different coffees coming from the Kaiguri factory; this, the first, being the Peaberry and it is delicious! It has a heavy dried fruit and plum sweetness which, when coupled with plenty of tangerine, blackberry and blueberry notes reminds us of a baked fruit tart. All this heavy syrupy sweetness is balanced out nicely with a refreshing grapefruit acidity. Click here to grab a bag, and keep an eye out for more offerings from the Kaiguri factory and other Kenyans being released soon!

Viva El Salvador
Saturday, July 05, 2014 - 10:48 AM - 4 months, 3 weeks ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - Steve Leighton's HasBean Weblog
I am a very happy boy, I am very happy as my first of the two El Salvador containers have arrived. This year its taken an awful lot of work, a lot more work than normal. We have quite a few relationships in El Salvador so that can make it hard, and all of them… Continue Reading

Costa Rica, February 2014
Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - 04:43 PM - 5 months ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - James and Anette's Square Mile Weblog
Costa Rica, February 2014
Each year I travel to Costa Rica to cup with our exporting partners and visit the farms that we buy from, a trip that this spring resulted in a full container of delicious coffee which just landed in our roastery. Across the next few months we’ll be releasing one coffee after the other, some as filters, some as espressos, and some as components in Red Brick. Never ending samples to evaluate Piles of bags ready to process and export Hand sorting at Exclusive As well as revisiting old friends, this year we discovered some new gems on the cupping table, and we’re really excited to introduce you to them. While waiting to taste, here are some photos from my trip to show you some of the people we are working with this year! STA ROSA 1900 Micromill, Finca Macho Macho the dog! LOLA Micromill Don Danilo Vega Cupping with Don Danilo and JJ GRANITOS DE ALTURA DEL ORTIZ Micromill, Finca Ortiz 2000 The girls running Granitos; Johana, Diana, Joice, (me), Dona Yorleni, Jocksi and baby Jocksi! Coffee in the kitchen with Dona Yorleni JUANACHUTE Micromill, Finca Higueron LA LIA Micromill, Finca El Dragon El Dragon in the distance Test plots at La Lia Luis raking the patios HELSAR DE ZARCERO Micomill, Finca Magdalena PUENTE TARRAZU Micromill, La Pena

Finca Filadelfia
Friday, June 20, 2014 - 02:58 PM - 5 months, 1 week ago   - 1. TMC Members' Coffee Blogs  - James and Anette's Square Mile Weblog
Finca Filadelfia
This year I went to Guatemala to participate in the annual Cup of Excellence that was held at Anacafe in Guatemala city. This was great fun and we tasted loads of tasty coffee, it’s always interesting to taste so many coffees from the same country side by side. After the competition I had the chance to go to Antigua with our friend Marta Dalton from Coffee Bird and visit her family farm, a farm that we have been buying from for a couple of years now – Finca Filadelfia. Finca Filidefia is just a little north of Antigua and takes about 10 minutes to drive there from Antigua. Warning – Short post, I took most of these photos on the back of a horse and hence this prevented me from taking too many notes! Bosques de san Francisco comes from the plot on the right. Finca Filadelfia is owned by the Dalton family and has been in the family for generations. Great great grandfather Manuel Matheu was one of the first coffee farmers in Antigua, and started farming on the estate 148 years ago. Manuel Matheu is the man in the image in this picture. After a trip to London, Manuel Matheu was commissioned by the President to show small farmers in the area how to grow coffee on their land. This passion for coffee has been passed down 6 generations. Francis Dalton with his siblings took over running the farm from their mother Elisa, who ran it until she was 94 years old! Today Francis runs the farm with his brother Bobby and sisters Marjorie and Jean. View from the hill on Finca Filadelfia overlooking the farm. With Volcano Agua hiding in the clouds. Bosques de san Francisco on the left with Acatenango Volcano on the horizon. Nursery at Finca Filadelfia. Collection point where fresh picked cherries are delivered to, they are then weighed and sent to be processed and dried. The images on top are the processing facilities and the drying patios are below, the entire production is dried on these patios over the harvest season. More of our coffee next to sorting tables where zero defect coffee like ours is sorted to assure it’s free from defects. That’s our future coffee in the back ground waiting for us to approve the pre-shipment samples before it’s loaded into a container to be shipped. Bosques de san Francisco is on the left of the driveway and the farm on the right is Monte Maria, which last year was almost completely wiped out by rust, all the trees had to be cut down to ensure the rust didn’t spread. This year we will have all the coffee this farm produced which is 5 bags in total! Monte Maria trees making a come back after last years rust attack. Marta from Coffee Bird surveying Bosques de San Francisco. Since I came back our samples were approved and the container has been loaded up ready for shipping. I’m excited to taste the coffee from this farm and the other farms around Guatemala that Coffee bird have sourced for us.

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