Coffee Rules to live and die by.

We believe coffee is a gift from Heaven(ly Coffees)! After all the Pope declared coffee so good that it could not possibly come from the devil as was previously alleged. (Read our page “Urban and Real Legends about Coffee).

We also believe that awesome gifts like coffee should be looked after and put to the best use possible – after all the angels worked hard to get it to you!

Fortunately making a really good cup of coffee is not difficult at all if you just stick to some basics.

Tips delivered by the angels for making sure you have “a little bit of heaven on earth” when you make your next cuppa.

Fresh, fresh, fresh!!!

  • The heavenly experience will elude you if do not use really fresh coffee.
  • “So what is fresh coffee”?  Coffee ideally needs to be consumed within thirty days of roasting. If the coffee is pre-ground even sooner is better. (Tip: Coffee this fresh is normally only available directly from a roastery)
  • Coffee storage: Although coffee comes from heaven it needs to be stored in darkness. This will help to keep it fresh and away from evil hands. It also needs to be stored in an airtight container. Coffee does not enjoy the company of oxygen as it will destroy its heavenly aroma.
  •  Best before? : Unlike red wine, coffee was not made so sit around and wait for better days. This stuff was made to be consumed and consumed quickly! Ideally the coffee should be consumed within about thirty days of  roasting to get the heavenly experience. After thirty days it starts developing  a taste that would be more to the devils taste, I think!
  • How do I know if it is fresh? Rip open the packet stuff your nose into the packet and take a long deep sniff. If you get that “AAAAHH” feeling and you hear heavenly bells ringing you’ve got the good stuff. If it smells like tobacco head for the trash can and dump it- IMMEDIATELY.

Brewing up the perfect cup.

Plunger Coffee.(French Press or Bodum)

  • Now that you have that packet of lovely freshly roasted coffee in your grubby paws, head over to the kitchen. If you really want the best cup (and you should)grab some filtered water and get it into the kettle and fire it up.
  • If you bought coffee beans now will be the time to grind these little fellows into a fairly coarse powder, similar to ground black pepper. If you go to fine you will end of the coffee grounds firstly ending up in your cup and then between your teeth – talk about a devilish smile! Too coarse and the coffee will taste like …….. well it will be just awful. (weak and watery)
  • If you did not invest in a decent conical burr grinder, it is best to get your friendly coffee roaster to grind the coffee for you. Remember to tell him how you will be making coffee. The quality of the grind is really important for making great coffee.
  • Once the water has boiled, let the water stand in the kettle for a minute or two. You don’t want to go and scorch the hell out of the coffee with boiling hot water now, do you?
  • Place a coffee scoop (heaped teaspoon ,7-8g) of ground coffee per cup, into the plunger. You can add a teeny bit of cold water on top of the coffee. The add the hot water. Start with about 50 ml and let the coffee “bloom” for a few seconds before adding enough water (Slowly) for the amount of cups you are preparing, plus a little bit extra. Give the coffee a quick stir to mix things up nicely.
  • Relax- no rushing here, grab a seat, check your mail or do something useful, or just watch the coffee doing its thing, for about 4 minutes.
  • Return to the plunger and gently start pushing down the plunger (that will be after you put it into the plunger pot, you silly bugger)until it is all the way down. Rush it and some coffee will force itself past the sieve and once again you will have that devilish smile with lovely black teeth!
  • Pour and enjoy! You can of course add all the other goodies like milk and sugar to your taste. Try it at least once, with out milk and sugar – Or at least start without the milk. Black coffee grows on you as you start experiencing all the different flavours that get hidden away by the cow’s produce – But most importantly, enjoy a really good cup of coffee.

Filter Coffee.

  • Ok, so you are a little lazy or perhaps you are just a little nostalgic and wants to make coffee your dad used to. Nothing wrong with filter coffee, some just consider it to be a little out of fashion.
  • The coffee needs to be ground a little finer that for the plunger. Too fine and the coffee wilk take for ever to filter through and will also be over extracted and will  taste and look like the devil’s brew.
  • Again, filtered water is a good idea. It may taste better and will stop your coffee machine from building up lime scale.
  • One scoop of coffee per cup as before and the water as indicated on the machine jug. Take note that the cup sizes on the jug are typically European. An indicated 8 cups is probably good for about 4 mugs and maybe six normal cups. (Don’t forget the filter paper in the basket, before you add the coffee!)
  • Switch on and wait for all the coughing and spluttering from the machine to end before pulling out the jug. Give the coffee a quick stir before pouring to make sure the coffee strength is even throughout the pot.

Espresso Brewing.

Considered by many as the ultimate brewing method. Developed by the Italians to make a strong, good quality coffee in a short period of time. Espresso, really means in a hurry!

A good espresso really requires quite a bit of effort, lots of practice, some good equipment and a good understanding of what constitutes a good espresso.

A good espresso is normally recognisable by the following characteristics:

1. Good dark golden brown thick crema on top of the coffee that should last for at least 30 seconds before starting to disappear. The crema normally has slight dark and lighter lines in it known as tiger striping.

2.  The Espresso should have pleasant and slightly sweet smell. A burnt smell also indicates over extraction.

3.  A rich full taste, smooth mouthfeel, not too much acidity with no unpleasant burnt or other unpleasant tastes coming through.

4. The espresso cup should have 30 ml’s of coffee, no more no less.

Ok, so how do you make a good espresso?

First you need some specialised equipment:

  1.  Espresso machine – for a real proper espresso you are going to need a pump driven machine delivering at least 15bars of pressure.
  2. Grinder – ideally you should grind your own coffee to be able to fine it to your machine and tamping pressure. Pre-ground coffee is mostly ground for filter machines and will be too coarse for an espresso. The grinder must be of the conical burr variety. The whirring blade variety used for spices etc will not make the grade here. The ground coffee particles must be uniform in size for proper and consistent extraction. The blade grinder will chop some of the coffee as fine as dust and other as coarse as ground pepper – you will end up going to hell with all the swear words you will be uttering trying to get this too work!
  3. Tamper – A basic metal tamper is good enough although you can go to town here as well, if you wan too.
  4. Stopwatch/Electronic timer – Only if you want to get really serious about this!
  5. Small electronic scale – Now you are REALLY serious!

Let get going!

First you need to get the grind right.  It is very difficult to explain what the grind must be like and even pictures do not show it clearly. The grind must be slightly coarser than fine pepper but not as coarse as typical black pepper.

Espresso Grind
Espresso Grind

 

 

 

 

Next we need to get to filling the porta filter and tamping the coffee.

The best is to grind directly into the porta filter. Anyway, fill it so that  the coffee is heaped up above the edge of the porta filter. Next using your finger resting on the sides of the filter and swiping across the filter to scrape the excess coffee off and leaving the surface of the coffee level and flush with sides of the filter basket.

Levelling the coffee
Levelling the coffee

 

 

 

 

 

 

Possible causes of Over Extraction:

Too fine grind- if the coffee is ground to fine the water battles to get through the coffee resulting in  a very dark devilish brew – not what the angels intended!

Too much tamping – back off already muscle man! Not so hard on the tamping! Elbow at 90 degree to the portafilter, about 15kgs of pressure, and a quick twist of the tamper to finish off with should do the trick.

Possible causes of under extraction:

Too coarse grind – you need to change the grinder setting in small increments until you get it just right – you need to excercise a little patience ok! If at first you fail, try again and again and again……

Not enough tamping pressure – you need to do a few dumb bell curls every morning an work those biceps a little! Not really, just a good firm tamp (about 12kg’s pressure) should do the trick. It is important to grip the tamper correctly and to make sure you tamp the grounds level. The elbow and upper should form a 90deg angle with the tamping surface, hold the tamper as shown with finger tips touching the edges of the porta filter. You will immediately feel if the tamper is at an angle. Then press down lightly, and finish with a 90deg turn of the tamper to polish the surface of the coffee.

Gripping the tamper
Correct holding of the tamper
Tamping elbow
Upper arm and elbow forming 90 deg to the table
Finishing the tamp
Finish the tamp with a 90deg twist of the tamper.

 

 

 

 

 

Once you are done wipe a way any coffee grounds from the edge of the porta filter and lugs of the porta filter before inserting the porta filter into the group head.

Here is a great video to watch on tamping and grinding with the compliments of Chris Coffee Service from New York.

With the porta filter properly inserted into the group head you can now run an espresso. If you are going to go the whole way, now is the time to pull your electronic gram scale and timer closer. Place your empty demitasse (espresso cup) on the scale and zero the scale. Place the cup, still on the scale under outlet of the porta filter and hit the switch to start dispensing as well as the start button on the timer.  If you got the heavenly combination between grins and tamp right you should have 30ml (grams) of espresso in 25 secs. (If you are using a double porta filter you will have double the volume in the same time or two cups of 30 ml each.)

If it took longer or shorter adjust your grind and/or tamp until you have the correct combination.

There you go! See it was not that difficult after all.

(Pictures in this section are from www.silviaschool.com – they have plenty of good videos and tips)

We will shortly add some more methods for brewing a :”Heavenly Cup”

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