New eBook – thebeanstalker.com’s 5 Steps to Better Coffee

Dear dear reader,

You, dear reader, are very special to me. I feel like we have a bond. A deep and dependant bond. I feel like we’ve established some sort of rapport. I feel like you’d like to know some of the stuff I’ve learned in my years of coffee snobbery.

I put a book together for a seminar I’ve run a couple of times, then I added a bunch more content, then I chose some fonts (Helvetica Neue Ultra Light, in all caps, and Palatino), then I made the book into a PDF, made a fancy 3D cover, and finally uploaded it to this place that lets you sell ebooks with PayPal.

You can now totally buy this book. For $5. Which, at the price of a cup of coffee (or slightly more) is a bargain.

Cover jpg

Ice hot: the key to brewing tasty iced coffee

Cold Drip kind of fascinates me in an “I don’t actually enjoy the flavour like I enjoy every other brew method” kind of way. I’ve had several cold drips now ranging from palatable to mildly enjoyable. I just don’t get the fuss. And this might be why – coffee is made to be brewed hot. So if you want good iced coffee. Brewed. Here’s a nifty trick. Brew onto a bed of ice (though from what I remember of high school science this has the potential to smash glass if not carefully managed). But also. Factor the ice into your brew ratio. It’s clever stuff from the Counter Coffee mob. Here’s the thinking behind it. And here’s the beaut video.

How to Make Japanese Iced Coffee from Counter Culture Coffee on Vimeo.

And another…

How to use a Pourover Coffee Brewer – Pourover Basics from Counter Culture Coffee on Vimeo.

Coffee Video Friday: Stovetop Brewing with James Hoffman

Good stove top coffee is almost impossible. Not impossible. Just almost impossible. Another video guide from James Hoffman. The man is a prodigious maker of worthwhile video guides…

Videocast #4 – Stove top/Moka Pot from James Hoffmann on Vimeo.

Preheating the water (even preboiling) before tipping it in the stovetop chamber is the top tip. He also uses a much coarser grind than I have in the past.

Coffee Video Friday: Plunger, or French Press with James Hoffman

Everybody has a plunger somewhere. Mine has a big crack down the side. I don’t use it. Plunger coffee is underrated because most people just follow the instructions on the box. You can have it so much better though, simply by following these instructions from former world barista champion James Hoffman.

Videocast #2 – French Press Technique from James Hoffmann on Vimeo.

The big take home tip, if you don’t want to watch the video, is to first have a ratio you like (coffee to water) and second to scoop the sludge off the top of the coffee before you plunge.

James Hoffman pretty much follows the procedure put together by another former World Barista Champion, Tim Wendelboe.

Where to get a kettle for your pourover brewer

I fell in love with Chemex coffee on the Coffee Crawl. So I bought one (from Bunker Coffee… I love Bunker Coffee). Bunker doesn’t sell them online – but Wolff Coffee Roasters does (I’m the proud owner of a 6 Cup). Readers outside of Brisbane should check their nearest specialty coffee place.

Getting hold of the Chemex was only half the battle. Proper pourover coffee needs a special kind of kettle – a kettle that produces a slow, but sustained, flow of water for a long enough period.

Here’s Intelligentsia’s brewing guide.

Intelligentsia Chemex Brewing Guide from Intelligentsia Coffee on Vimeo.

So. I went kettle hunting. The cafe kettle of choice is the Hario Buono Kettle. Which looks like a beehive. It retails for $75 (not including postage) (from CuppaCoffee, or BeanDrinking).

It’s a nice looking kettle – and you’ll notice it looks exactly the same as the kettle in the Intelligentsia video. Because it is.

But I didn’t want to pay $75 plus postage for a pouring kettle.

I had read rumours of a cheap kettle you could find in Asia somewhere. And that oil pourers were also an option.

Peters of Kensington have some interesting looking oil pourers. This one is 250mL, and $16. I wanted slightly more capacity. And the ability to put the kettle on a stove if we’re camping or something.

So I took the search to Hong Kong. Online at least. And I found these bad boys on Homeloo.com.

This 700mL bad boy is $23 (US). It’s the one I picked.

This slightly smaller kettle is just $18 (US).

Postage on the bigger one was just $13.20. Bargain. And it pours like a charm.

Five Steps to Better Coffee at home: Step Four – The extraction

You’ve got your coffee ready to go after following steps one, two and three – and now it’s time to complete the science of extracting the coffee flavour and caffeine you’re looking for from your cuppa. Here we’ll provide a few tips on espresso extraction, plunger preparation and a guide to stovetop espresso.

Espresso
Espresso is to coffee what nectar is to fruit juice. It’s thick. It’s undiluted. And it’s the basis of most coffee drinks you’ll buy out and about in Australian cafes.

There are, as in every step of the preparation process, a number of variables to be aware of when it comes to extracting your espresso. Essentially, the temperature of the water, the time taken, and the pressure applied to the coffee are the big three.

Water temperature
One of the biggest (and most common) crimes in coffee preparation is using water that is too hot. A lot of machines will overheat if left on too long. Water will sit in the boiler or thermoblock and heat past 96 degrees (about spot on for espresso). The easiest way to overcome this is to flush hot water from the system before pulling your shot (coffee jargon for pushing the button, espresso machines historically used levers for the process of extracting coffee).

If the water is too cold it won’t cause the coffee oils to separate from the granules, if it’s too hot it’ll get too much oil on the way through. Leaving your coffee bitter. If you like bitter coffee use water that is too hot and extract for too long – it’s all about personal taste.

Shot time
The time taken for a shot is important – if the water is in contact with the coffee for too long it absorbs too much coffee oil and becomes bitter, if the water is in contact with the coffee for too short a time (if the coffee shoots through the coffee quickly) it won’t pick up any of these oils and will taste like brown water.

The Specialty Coffee Association of America, a leading authority, suggests ideal shot times of 20 seconds, the generally accepted principle is that between 20 and 30 seconds is ideal.

Pressure
Until recently playing around with pressure during the shot has been largely impossible (this is changing with the latest and greatest commercial machines). When it comes to home machines it’s a matter of finding a machine that will pump water through your coffee at about 9 bar of pressure (15 bar machines are a little misleading).

Plunger tips

  • Boil water.
  • Grind coffee coarsely use about 8gm per 250mL of water.
  • Pour the boiling water into the plunger to heat it (and put the plunger part in.
  • Let the water cool a couple of degrees.
  • Add the coffee
  • Stir and replace the plunger
  • Plunge after 3-4 mins. Push down firmly but slowly.

Stovetop tips

  • Put in less water than recommended on the box, use more coffee than for machine produced espresso.
  • Tamp the coffee (not too hard).
  • Start with hot/boiling in the chamber (use a kettle first). You’ll need to wear an oven mitt or something as you screw the top on.
  • Put on medium heat, use a pre-heated element.
  • As soon coffee starts flowing remove it from the heat.

This should produce thick and rich stovetop coffee with a layer of crema.

This series covers information I used for a coffee information night I put on at my church (twice) and originally appeared on St. Eutychus.com

Five Steps to Better Coffee at home: Step Two – The Grind

So, with step one complete, you’ll have the best beans for the job. The next step in any preparation of coffee is turning the beans into coffee ready for your machine, pot, or plunger.

The fundamental principle of coffee preparation is reproducability. The one commandment of coffee making is though shalt control your variables. We’ll move on to aiming to consistently reproduce the same routine in the next step – but getting the grind is fundamental.

Grinding immediately before use will dramatically enhance your coffee. But not all grinders are created equal. There are two “families” of grinder – burr and blade. Blade grinders aren’t ideal. They’re slightly better than nothing. But unless you do exactly the same thing every time with the same number of beans at the same weight being bashed by the blade the same number of times, you’re not going to get consistency. You’ll never get uniform sized particles and you’ll probably overheat the coffee particles due to friction. If you grind too fine you’ll overwhelm yourself with coffee that has too much oil and is too bitter.

They are a good stepping stone to improving your coffee at home – and if you want to start off with a blade grinder here are some tips:

  • Don’t hold the button down for ages and batter the coffee into dust.
  • Pulse the button for short bursts (two to five seconds) to avoid overheating the ground coffee.
  • For a fine grind go for about 20 seconds of these bursts, for a coarse grind aim for around 10 seconds.
  • These work better for plunger and filter coffee than for espresso.

Burr grinders are more expensive. But with reason. They are more mechanically complex and they produce a better result. The burrs lock together like cogs crushing the coffee into evenly sized particles. You can control the size of the particles by moving the burrs closer or further apart. You need a different sized particle for every machine and for every different brewing method (extra-fine for Turkish, fine for espresso, medium for drip filter and large for plunger).

Tips for choosing a burr grinder

  • Be prepared to spend more on the grinder than the machine (unless you’re buying a $1000 plus machine).
  • Look for maximum adjustability in the grind size, “stepless” is better than “stepped”…
  • Be prepared to waste some coffee finding the right settings.
  • Clean the grinder regularly to avoid build ups of stale coffee.
  • Steer clear of dosered grinders for home use (grinders like they have at cafes with big chambers on the front).

A good guide to burr grinders available in Australia can be found here.

This series covers information I used for a coffee information night I put on at my church (twice) and originally appeared on St. Eutychus.com

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