Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. Just contact us and we can put together something for you. Jonathan, our Director and Head Barista has trained scores of people in the coffee world, and has a background as a teacher and educator outside of coffee.
Many roasters provide guideline recipes for their coffees, but we think this can be too prescriptive; different waters, equipment and tastes all mean that there is no such thing as a ‘correct’ recipe. Having said this, a good starting point for espresso is a 1:2 brew ratio in 30s. For filter coffee 60g/litre is a similarly useful starting point. Don’t be afraid to experiment, though – we’re currently running a Round Hill Ethiopian natural at 16g in, 36g out in 49 seconds.
This is largely down to the roaster. Some roasters like to roast lighter for filter (or darker for espresso), others omni roast (same for both). Both styles can work, and it should be remembered that all pf our coffees are lightly roasted but perfectly developed – we want to showcase the flavours of the beans, not some generic roastiness.
The key to successful steaming is to get the hissing noise of air going into the milk and also to get the milk spinning. If you don’t do the former you’ll just get hot milk. If you do the former but not the latter, the steamed and stretched milk won’t mix – when you pour the hot milk will still be separated from the stretched milk and latte art will be impossible (the tell tale sign of this is thin milk in the first part of the pour, followed by horribly over-stretched milk coming out in one big clump at the end. You won’t be able to pour any latte art until you get the texture correct, so concentrate on this first.
With latte art, practice makes perfect – I poured at least 1000 coffees before I mastered the simple heart.
As a basic rule, if it’s tasting thin and sour (acidic) then you’ve under-extracted, so grind finer and try again with the same parameters. If it tastes bitter and heavy and a little smokey (bitter like very dark chocolate) then you’ve ground too fine and over-extracted. Try grinding coarser with the same parameters. If you’re not timing and weighing everything then go out and get some scales (accurate to 0.1g) and start again.
This is almost an unanswerable question, as it really depends on the individual, the budget, and multifarious other factors, such as your willingness to let coffee equipment take over your kitchen. If you want to drink espresso and have a budget that is less than several hundred Pounds, then the Nespresso machine and Colonna pods are your best options. If you like espresso based milk drinks, budget a bit more for a Nespresso machine with a decent steamer (don’t bother with the machines that have integrated milk pichers that auto-steam the milk – they don’t really work). Alternatively, buy a base level Nespresso machine and a separate steamer.
For filter coffee, the starting point would be a decent hand grinder, such as those produced by Porlex. Electric grinders only produce better coffee than hand grinders at much higher budget levels (as you’re paying much more for the electrics, rather than any improvement in grinding quality until you ‘re well into the triple figure cost level). Pair this with an Aeropress, which is the easiest and most consistent way to make filter coffee and you’re well on your way to making great coffee. Avoid blade grinders and electric grinders that are under the £100 mark.
If your budget extends to around £500 you can get something like a Gaggia Classic and a decent used commercial grinder. The Mazzer Super Jolly is popular and can be picked up for around the £200 mark used. Anfim Caimanos are also good at this level, or if you can stretch a bit further, the Super Caimano can be had used for around £300 and is good enough to have been used to win the World Barista Championship on several occasions. Remember that the grinder makes more difference to the taste and quality of the espresso than the machine.
Beyond this there are various machines from the likes of La Spaziale, La Marzocco and Sage. Look for dual boilers (enabling you to steam milk and extract espresso at the same time), PID control of the brew temperature (enables greater consistency) and commercial style groupheads. Don’t be tempted to purchase a used commercial machine, unless you’re willing to a) use up all your kitchen space b) have it wired to a dedicated 32amp power source c) enter an ever spriralling search for the perfect water/grinder/tamper/etc (you get the idea).
Remember that making a few coffees on a proper machine generates a significant amount of mess; if you’re OCD about your house, Colonna pods and a Nespresso machine will be friendlier companions.