Coffee Hunting In Colombia:
I recently returned from the state of Antioquia, Colombia. Colombia is the world's second largest producer of coffee and the state of Antioquia is the largest producing state with nearly 20% of the yearly production. Antioquia is broken up into municipalities that vary in size and production levels. They also tend to vary in cup profile but more on that later.
Antioquia and the city of Medellin were at the heart of the violence that consumed Colombia in the 80s and 90s. During this time many farmers had to flee their farms and to this day many have never returned despite the governments efforts to improve the safety of rural areas. The state of Antioquia currently has a very forward thinking Governor who is investing huge sums of money into the local coffee industry in order to attract farmers back to their land and lift those producing coffee above the poverty line. Coffee is a critical product to the countries future wealth and with the recent lows on the C market farmers have been growing debt. It is estimated that it costs a farmer 700,000 pesos to produce 1ha worth of coffee (roughly 700kg) and in the most recent harvest they were being paid around 400,000 pesos for that coffee. I've discussed the price of coffee before and it doesn't take an accountant to work out this is not a long term strategy. In response to this issue the Governor has created a project to help educate farmers about their crop and help them to focus on the specialty market. Part of this initiative is getting foreign buyers like us to come and meet the farmers, explain what we want from a coffee and help inspire them to continue focusing on quality (financial incentive included of course).
95% of farmers in Antioquia have between 1-3ha and produce between 700-2100kg per year. This is a tiny amount of coffee and thus it is very difficult for farmers to market individual lots to international buyers. So all the farmers belong to cooperatives, which buy the coffee based on the amount of defects they find in a green sample of 250g. If the sample has fewer defects than the norm they get a slight premium, if it has more they receive less. The cooperative will then mill the coffee, sort it and blend it with the other coffees of the same grade and sell it to traders and exporters. Therefore, a lot from a cooperative could potentially be made from thousands of farms and multiple varietals. One of the issues is at the coops, the coffee is bought without a single person tasting it. So a proud farmer who only picks the ripest cherries, keeps all his equipment clean and produces the best coffee is still only receiving roughly $1USD per lb of green coffee. Clever exporters work their way through lots and buy them at the standard price to charge a premium for them to international buyers. The coops are non-profit organisations so they mark up only enough to keep the organisation funded. The farmers have no idea what there coffee tastes like or what happens to it after they sell it to the coop. Few farmers have any formal education and some of the families I met after the competition had never been into a city until this event took place. Their lack of knowledge is hard to imagine and comprehend for people coming from western countries.
To help the farmers, the government has spent the last two years working with 2600 families, 99% of whom own less than 3ha. Education is the objective, helping the families to take better care of their plants, processing and picking to improve the quality. They are building educational centers where the farmers can learn to roast, cup and process their coffee. These centers are being built in the coffee growing towns near the coop depots that buy coffee from the farmers. The hope is that the centers will inspire younger generations to take over the business and develop it with quality in mind.
The cornerstone of the Antioquian quality project is a competition to find the best coffee in the region. 40 Q graders from numerous countries were invited to make up the international panel and select the best coffee in Antioquia. The winners were then auctioned off to the international judges; most were importers and coffee roasters. Prior to this event a team of local cuppers worked their way through over 2000 samples to narrow down the best 60 coffees for the international panel. The lot size was set at 11 bags to insure all the small farmers could enter.
Once we arrived in Medellin we were picked up and taken to visit four coffee farms that are part of the project. The intention is that international buyers get direct access to farmers, pay a premium for the best of their coffee, ensure that money goes to the farmers and stop the coops blending what could be stunning coffee into big commercial lots. If Antioquia can change its reputation through this program and attract more high-end buyers looking for small distinguished lots, then there becomes something of a snowball effect and they put themselves on the map as a destination.
Over two days we cupped the top 60 lots from the state of Antioquia. Each judge scored the coffees out of 100 and the top ten were then recupped to decide the winner. The top two coffees scored over 90 points, with the top ten all scoring over 86, which is encouraging for a region that is often overlooked by the high-end buyers.
Throughout the competition descriptors were collected for each coffee in an attempt to establish flavour profiles for each municipality. The state of Antioquia is bigger than Costa Rica and produces more coffee than Guatemala, by dividing it into flavour profiles based on municipalities it will be easier for coffee hunters to find what they are looking for. There were certainly a couple of stand out areas that had flavour profiles I'm not used to seeing in Colombia coffee. I have some work to do to compile my own information before I expand on this but we hope to use this information to source some unusual coffee next year.
Undoubtedly this is an amazing project. The people involved seem genuinely motivated to help the farmers. The team running the project is young, intelligent and highly educated. The Governor seems to be genuine in his belief and motivation that this is a good way to improve the livelihood for some of Colombia's poorest people. At times on this trip there were hints of political power struggles at play and that not everything was quite as in inclusive as the program administrators would have you believe. However, from what I could tell the program is making a big difference to thousands of peoples lives even if those on the wrong side of the Andes are being left out.
The top ten coffees all received a financial incentive that must be reinvested in their farm. If you add the huge overprice most of the coffees received in the auction the farmers who's coffee made it to the top 60 have started the year well. We bought the 11 bag lot that was awarded 4th place. It comes from the municipality of Giraldo which is exclusively made up of tiny farmers growing coffee on no more than 3ha. The farm we bought from has 1Ha only and after speaking with him and the government's technical people it was decided that raised beds for drying would be the best investment for their farm.
Don Alfredo Jesus Alvarez is in his 70s he has 15 children, 26 grandchildren and 4 great grand children. He has never been to school, he cannot read or write, and knows nothing outside of the small patch of land he works to support himself. He lives in a masonry block home with basic electricity no toilet and no kitchen. All the cooking is done over a fire outside. Their existence is basic but through an interpreter they expressed that they are happy but life is hard. After spending 2 hours with Alfredo and his family I left feeling happy that the governments efforts and our willingness to pay top dollar for an excellent coffee will make a considerable difference to his and the life of his family. However, I also left in emotional turmoil from seeing first hand the effect corporate greed and exploitation has on the lives of wonderful people. With hundreds of new questions for my guides from the governors office I tried to understand intricacies of the program in order to determine if the story they were telling us held up.
The situation for coffee growers in Colombia is difficult. The complexity of the situation is too great for me to outline here but if everything I was told is true there are 2600 (and growing) families that look to have an opportunity to improve their lives dramatically. Likewise it is nice to know that Governments and industry organisations are starting to listen to the roasters and importers preaching the benefits that striving for quality brings. The key to the success of this program is connecting the farmers with roasters like us. By cutting out many of the middlemen the farmers get a much better deal. In a global world it is now much easier for us to access these remote areas.
The way we do business really comes from Richard and Gerard's belief that work should be fun and that making money is necessary to grow and do new things but there needs to be enough in it for everyone involved. We only get one chance and we prefer to live our lives and our business knowing we had a good time and helped other people to do the same.
For us this trip was about establishing relationships and learning how the system works in a country with infinite potential that in many ways is untapped. We are excited about the future for the farmers I met and the potential of the coffee we now have access too. There is a lot of work to be done before we see the results but there will be a taste teaser in the shape of a competition winning lot available in the next couple of months.
If you have any questions about anything written here you can contact me email@example.com
Why you can't have your coffee extra hot:
When you work in hospitality for a while, particularly in an emerging industry like high-end coffee there are little phrases that cause you to die inside a little every time you hear them. The one that pains me the most is people asking for a drink extra hot. I'm not really sure how this has become such a common request but it is something we spend a lot of time explaining to customers in our cafes.
We take a fairly robust stand on this issue and will not make a coffee over 65 degrees Celsius. I like to draw a comparison to steak and say that high end steak restaurants often wont cook a steak well done because it destroys the flavour of the meat and makes it very tough, likewise heating milk too much kills the flavour an texture. Our target temperature is 60°C because at this temperature we are not compromising on quality but it's at a temperature that is hot enough to placate those that like a hot drink.
The ABC of Milk:
Lactose - Lactose is the form of sugar found in bovine milk. It is perceivably less sweet than sucrose. When the milk is cold we get mild sweetness from lactose due to its low solubility. However, when we heat the milk we increase the solubility so it is more perceivable to our tongue. We also break down complex sugars into simpler sugars which helps to increase perceived sweetness. However if we heat for too long or too much we begin to burn the sugars, which adds bitterness and reduces sweetness*.
Fats - While fats get a bad rep from dieters they are often misunderstood and play an important part in human nutrition as well as a critical role in the texture and flavour of any milk based drink. We all know fats taste good so a milk with more fat in it is going to taste better than a milk with less (skinny). Fats don't change drastically during the steaming cycle but different milks will give you different qualities of texture and flavour depending on the fat content. Obviously too much fat can become unpleasant but a standard full fat milk will produce a far better drink than any kind of reduced fat product.
Proteins - These little guys are what make texturing milk possible. Without protein the air that we force into the milk during the steaming cannot be trapped. If you are interested, try steaming rice milk or any non-bovine milk with less than 1.2% protein content. You will make the milk hot but it will not hold any foam and without the foam you get a thin non-textured drink.
When we heat proteins they denature, meaning we can only heat them once. If we overheat them they start to break down and become responsible for a sticky phlegm like feeling that lingers in the back of your throat (very unpleasant).
How Hot is 60°C?
For some reason 60°C sounds quite cool but it really isn't. For example, a boiler in a typical household is set to heat the water to 65°C by the time it gets to your tap it has inevitably dropped by at least 5°C. I'm not sure about you but usually the hot water out of a tap is a temperature that is bordering on too hot to comfortably hold my hand under and I certainly wouldn't want to pour it straight into my mouth.
With all that said you do want a coffee that gets to your table and is still hot. But with the machines that are used by us and most other high end coffee destinations the cups are kept warm on top of the machine so the drink looses very little temperature in the time it takes to get to the table. I do have to concede that baristas do make mistakes and sometimes the milk is too cool. Likewise I think baristas are often too quick to get defensive if questioned over the temperature of the milk. I believe, and it is our policy at nude, that we are responsible for being educators and representatives for our industry and therefore becoming defensive is counterproductive because we alienate potential customers.
Most coffee professional get into the industry because they love what they do and most of all they love the coffee. Not many people make their millions in this business and those that do tend to be in the commodity side of the industry with low quality green beans, big margins and low wage costs. So the baristas in cafes like ours are very passionate and dedicated people so it is sometimes hard for them compromise on something they are dedicating their lives too.
To be good at your job in coffee you need to understand taste! Taste refers very specifically to those components of food that we experience on our tongue: Sweet, Salty, Bitter, Sour (acidity) & Umami. Every person has an ability to distinguish these characteristics in food but most people are unaware or untrained at doing this. Most people could tell you if they like something or not but are unlikely to be able to tell you why they like it.
We are all genetically programed to respond to sweet, salty and to a certain extend acidic flavours positively because they alert us to foods that are nourishing. Likewise bitterness is a biological warning system that alerts us to poisons, although some bitterness can be pleasant most people do not enjoy it. If we were to do a blind taste test with untrained people and provide milk steamed to various temperatures between 40°C and 80°C an objective taster would prefer milks at 50- 60°C. Why? For the very basic reasons that it will be perceivably the sweetest, fattiest and it will have a texture that feels nourishing. We've done this exact experiment with staff and customers and 100% of the time the milk they like best is within the aforementioned range.**
Any roaster, barista or serious coffee geek will tell you the same and it is the purity of the passion that many coffee professionals feel that causes them to be strict on issues such as these.
Milk can bring so much to a well crafted espresso drink. It adds the sensation of nourishment and will make a coffee feel soothing and relaxing. However, this is only possible when the milk is treated with respect, if we overheat it, it becomes tough like overcooked steak. So if your coffee is too cool then speak to the barista about it but it shouldn't be so hot that you can sit with it for 20 minutes and it still be hot. It should be at a temperature that allows you to drink it straight away. If you come to us with an open mind we can take you on a journey of coffee flavour that most people would not imagine possible but you need first to dispel any preconceived ideas about what coffee should be.
As always you can contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
* The human body has a temperature window in which tastes are available to us. Too hot or too cool and we can no longer perceive things
** I'm very aware this is not scientifically relevant and so really proves nothing but it is interesting as an indicator
Coffees Shaky Future:
The coffee blogosphere is alive with people talking about the price of coffee. For those that don't know we are seeing the lowest coffee prices on the commodity (C) market in 5 years. While I'm sure some companies are out there rubbing their hands together and counting the money, for those of us with a conscience the situation is dire.
At the time of writing this blog the C price is $1.11 USD per pound of green coffee. It is generally accepted that $1.45-$1.50/lb is the cost to the farmer to produce the product. At the current prices for every pound of coffee a farmer produces and sells they are worse off by $0.39. This is an unacceptable situation and could pose a real threat to the future of the coffee industry.
Our good friend and one of our green bean suppliers Mike Riley of Falcon Specialty succinctly explains the situation here.
If farmers continue to be forced to sell their crops for less than the cost of production, they will change to other crops. Palm oil and sugar cane are popular choices along with other native crops used for food. Changing to other crops is not an ecological or social disaster and one could argue that in some places farmers should change, after all it is excess supply that is partly to blame for the low prices. However, I love coffee more than some of my family members! So for selfish reasons I hate the thought of areas that could potentially grow amazing coffee being changed to any other crop.
That being said it's not just the potential loss of crops that are a concern. There are families that have been working coffee plantations for generations, family histories and ways of life could be lost forever. Not to mention the fact that those with coffee plantations are currently growing debt and may end up in bankruptcy before they have a chance to replant. Many farmers will struggle to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads in the current situation. In areas where there are big estates whole communities are often dependent on one farm. If farms are to struggle there will be no work for pickers, no education for their families and if things get serious, no food.
Personally I find the human element the most disturbing. There are real people, real livelihoods, hearts and minds in the firing line while traders exploit a commodity they have no interest in ever touching, just to make a profit.
So what's the answer? At the moment there isn't one. You can read about some of the work that coffee professionals are putting in here. In real terms there are a few things we can all do to help the situation. As a roastery we have always been in open dialogue with our suppliers as to their philosophy on purchasing from farmers. We have chosen to work with those that are transparent and responsible in their trading. It means we often pay more for our green beans but we wouldn't have it any other way. We think the customer should be putting questions to any roaster that they buy or drink coffee from, the roasters that are making an effort to speak about this are likely the ones that have nothing to hide.
We believe that focusing on quality is a viable insurance policy for farmers. This works because generally speaking those that buy quality products tend to be more emotionally invested in the products. This means they learn more about it and take the issues that farmers face seriously. The specialty or craft side of the business is the perfect example of this. Our margins as an industry are likely to be much lower than companies churning our generic supermarket blends but we love what we do and believe in furthering the quality of the product. We also believe that those responsible for providing us with such a wonderful product should be rewarded. There is a real craft and expertise involved in farming and processing stunning coffee and it should result in a profit for those producing it.
I'll finish here by saying that a solution to this issue is multifaceted but I think that we can all do our bit to solve this buy holding the people we buy from to a higher standard. Generally I think this approach is applicable to almost the entire food industry, among others. As we have seen in industries like meat, a grass roots change in the purchasing decisions has seen positive changes. Where once the public knew very little about the practices in mass meat production, most thinking consumers are now very aware of the horrors of battery chicken farms. In a similar way we can positively change the actions coffee buyers take by purchasing in a responsible way.
If you want to ask any more questions about this issue or our own standards you can contact me: email@example.com
Define Single Origin...
This edition was prompted by the recent introduction of 'Starbucks Origin Espresso'.
Before I start I want to make clear that neither nude coffee roasters nor myself are having a go at Starbucks. I believe that companies like ours owe a lot to the likes of Starbucks and Costa Coffee for getting the British public in the habit of drinking coffee. It is in no way my intention to criticize or belittle their work but to highlight the issues surrounding the terminology being used.
For those who are unfamiliar, on April 3rd 2013 Starbucks introduced their Origin Espresso to the UK and Ireland, which is no doubt designed to keep them in touch with the blossoming independent coffee scene throughout the UK. It makes a lot of sense as independent coffee roasters and cafes have been offering single origin espresso and filter coffee for a number of years now. I would say that within our little corner of the market it is widely understood what single origin means. However, in the wider coffee community there seems to be more flexibility in the application of this term.
For us at nude, single origin is defined by the smallest common denominator. This means we work our way back and describe the coffee with the most detail possible, there are often limitations to this as different producing countries structure the coffee supply chain differently. Let me give you an example:
Our current single origin espresso is a coffee from Rwanda, a small African country that shares boarders with Tanzania to the East, Uganda to the North, Burundi to the South and the DRC to the West. Rwandan coffee is predominantly grown by families that have no more than a hectare of land. Figures vary but you can expect to get between 500kg and 1000kg of green coffee per hectare and at a maximum around 40% of this would be of high enough quality for us to purchase. The families organize themselves into groups called cooperatives in order to pool resources and have enough product to market it internationally. Because of the organization of the cooperatives we call this coffee single origin but we name it after the washing station that services the coffee from the cooperative which in this case is called "Shara". It would be impossible to name the individual farmers producing the coffee that we buy therefore it makes the most sense to trace it back to the washing station. With this in mind it is easy to see that the final names or 'origins' can be country specific.
The Starbucks single origins have been listed as Ethiopia, Kenya and Guatemala Antigua. Now Ethiopia and Kenya are both big countries with a vast range of flavor profiles from the different provinces. Antigua is a reasonably small area in Guatemala but there is a lot of coffee produced there and with different farms, varietals and processing methods we see a complex range of flavor from a small geographical area.
I have to stress that even small areas of land can produce vastly different coffees. Boquete in Panama is a good example of this. A small valley nestled in the center of Panama, we see quite different weather patterns in the different corners of this valley. Rain, sun, altitude and humidity all impact the plants lifecycle and ultimately flavor of the coffee.
With all this in mind how do we define the "origin"? Should it be the country, the province, the valley, the farm or the washing station? One thing I believe that many of the critics of the Starbucks single origin have failed to recognize is the scale of the Starbucks operation. It would be impossible for them to purchase enough coffee from a single farm or washing station to launch it nationally. This is essentially the same reason we cannot buy enough coffee from one of the coop members of the aforementioned Shara washing station. You could argue that they are doing the same thing only on a much larger scale.
I can't help but feel that naming a country is not quite a fair representation of what 'single origin' is supposed to stand for. In the boutique side of the industry, exhibiting single origin coffee is about showcasing a special coffee for it's unique flavor. Using coffee from an entire country or a varied and complex region like Antigua is kind of missing the point.
As I see it naming a region is the only feasible way for a company of that scale to offer 'single origin'. I think it's an indication that the high street brands are starting to worry about the impact of the little guys. What fascinates me is the dynamic between the two factions of the industry. I can't imagine many of our loyal and passionate customers visiting a high street coffee shop but I could see the high street customer coming to our café. Nowhere is this point better illustrated than in Australia where Starbucks is scaling down operations because they can't compete with the local shops. It proves that the general public is aware of the difference in quality between a roastery like ours and the big chains, after all that's what we're in it for!
It's an interesting issue and I'm not sure I've solved or proved anything but I would be fascinated to hear what you think.
As always you can contact me by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The flavour in your cup is dependent upon a long chain of events that happens mostly in the country of origin. One of the most important parts of that chain is the way the cherry is dealt with after picking. As I hope most of you know, coffee is the seed of a cherry that looks remarkably similar to a ripe cranberry. The seed and the fruit need to be separated and this phase of the chain is what we call processing.
There are generally three main systems of processing: Natural, Honey and Washed.
This seems like the simplest process from an outsider's perspective. However, natural processing presents the most risk for the farmers.
Natural processing involves picking the cherry and laying it out on patios or drying tables. Insects, bugs, fungus and mould love sugar and moisture. I'm sure you can see where this is going. As the cherry and subsequently the seed dries, it is in danger of being attacked by any number of beasties. One of the other problems is the rain. Rainfall during the drying phase can play havoc with the speed and consistency of drying. The longer the cherry is wet, the greater the chance of the fruit beginning to ferment, which will quickly destroy the entire crop.
This process is also very difficult to control and we tend to see big swings in quality from the same lots in consecutive years. Some times they are amazing and some years they can be very average. We also tend to see a greater number of faults from natural processed coffees and a greater variance in colour of the roasted coffee suggesting that all the beans aren't drying the same way. This inconsistency in some ways adds to the character of natural processed coffees but too much can make the flavours muddy and unpleasant.
All the various methods present different characteristics and natural is probably the most distinct: comparatively sweeter than the others with a heavier body, less clarity of flavour with greater complexity and a distinctive funkiness that is hard to describe to those not familiar with it. The 'funkiness' is divisive, we love it but some roasteries never buy naturals because of it.
In my opinion natural processing is the best and worst method. When it is done well it is incomparable and extraordinary, when it goes wrong it goes really wrong, there is no middle ground!
Washed or wet processing involves the most equipment but tends to produce the most consistent results. There is an art to wet processing but as long as the equipment is kept clean then there shouldn't be many potential problems.
Once the cherry is picked they are sent through a wet mill, which consists of rotating discs that pull the skin and fruit from the seeds. A sticky sugary layer remains called the mucilage. The beans then travel into fermentation tanks that are filled with water and the beans sit in there from 12-24 hours (country dependent). The fermentation stage is used to remove the mucilage from the bean, as it does not come off easily. This fermentation involves natural bacteria found in the air, water and on the fruit to separate the sugar from the beans.
Once fermentation is complete the beans are then dried on patios or drying tables. Rainfall is still an issue in the drying phase of the washed method but it poses less of a risk, as there is substantially less available sugar for small creatures to attack.
Washed coffees tend to be lighter in body than the naturals, lower in sweetness, higher in acidity and have cleaner more defined flavour profiles. Many people in coffee hold washed coffees as the benchmark and in many cases they are right. Nothing compares to the clarity and cleanness of cup that a washed coffee presents. The advantage to the farmer is clear: less risk and a more consistent product.
Honey processing is becoming more popular and is best described as a mixture between the two aforementioned methods. Like washed processing, a pulping machine removes the cherry but instead of the fermentation stage the beans are dried with the mucilage intact. This is where things start to get really complicated because there are actually four versions of the honey method, they are: Red Honey, Yellow Honey, White Honey and Black Honey. There is also different terminology that Brazil uses for the same methods, which are: Pulped Natural and Semi Washed.
Now, if you're still reading well done, basically Red Honey is all of the mucilage left on and the others are varying degrees of mucilage removal. Essentially the more mucilage you remove, the closer you get to the characteristics of a washed coffee, the more you leave on, the closer it gets to a natural. Pulped Natural is a Red Honey and Semi Washed refers to the other variances of Honey. It's confusing but the Honey terminology seems to be winning the battle of descriptors, as a few Brazilian coffee farmers prefer the more specific Honey names.
Honey processed coffee has a character between the Washed and Natural methods. However, this depends on the farm and the way the processing has been done so some will have a distinctive Natural like flavour and others will be indistinguishable from the Washed. This method gives the farmers more control over the flavour profile so it's finding favour among the farmers that a quality driven.
As always that is a question of taste. There is nothing I love more than a well processed Natural but as already mentioned many people can't stand the 'funk' that all naturals have. Overall a good coffee will taste great no matter how it is processed but the processing will add a character to the coffee regardless of the brewing method used. I believe all methods can be used for different brewing methods but again some coffee professionals will refute this. We have found that our customers like the naturals the best. I believe that it's because they are sweeter and tend to have a bigger bolder mouthfeel. However, I think that we love naturals so much that we tend to rave about them when we have them so this may also play a part.
If you're still unsure what to go for then I suggest you make it along to our next open tasting or come by the roastery and try our new Costa Rica Finca Licho along side the Kenyans we are serving to get a feel for the part processing plays.
As always if you have any questions you can contact me by email: email@example.com
Does the equity of coffee lie with
the farm or the company roasting it?
As quality roasteries push forward and continue to tout the value of terroir we begin to look at the issue of whether the value of a coffee is in the green form or in the way it has been roasted. Which poses a second question; from a roastery perspective should we focus on one particular aspect or should we pursue a more holistic approach.
This blog follows on from our previous post in which we were talking about the value in the term specialty. What I failed to mention in the last post is that the term specialty refers very specifically and exclusively to the green bean. Specialty has only one provision for roasted coffee and that is it should be free from quakers or unroasted beans (for the uninitiated quakers are a fault cause by picking unripe cherries). Like being a barista, blacksmith or a glass blower, roasting is an artisan craft that takes time and commitment to learn and something that not everybody will become good at.
Single estate farms and cooperatives are beginning to attract a following. Good farms have been identified as having value within the area they are situated, as is the case in the great wine regions of France where value lies in the soil. Likewise the people on the farm that oversee the care of the trees, the processing and to some extent the marketing add value. Roasteries understand the significance of this and there is a definite trend towards promoting the value of the farm. I personally think this is a good thing from an industry perspective. It is important for the coffee drinker to have an understanding of where their coffee comes from and the hard work the farmers put in. The decisions the farmers make during growing and processing all impact the end quality of the coffee. Having a reputable farm in your offering can also attract the more knowledgeable customers. As a coffee roaster, I focus on sourcing the very best coffee I can because as the saying goes "you can't polish a turd". Good farmers are artisan craftspeople in their own right and I believe they deserve to be recognized for their skill.
I've said it before but roasting coffee is a craft and it is something that takes time and attention to learn. There are many ways to get good results with the same coffee and if you pay attention you can pick up styles of roasting from different coffee roasters around town. A bad roaster can take the best coffee in the world and make it taste like any old swill. This is where marketing can drive loyalty and convince a customer that a product is better than it is.
At present, I think the consumer sees value mostly in the roasting company rather than the farm. The passionate following of brands like nude, Workshop or Monmouth is a testament to that and while most of the companies doing well have skilled roasters involved, what a lot of people do not realize is that a lot of the skill lies in selecting the right coffee to begin with.
Predominantly coffee companies position
themselves as conventional brands and try to drive value in this
direction but is there room to do something different? Could we try
to use the value of the estate or cooperative as the primary
marketable value? It's an interesting question and from what I've
seen there is no one doing it at present. I see no reason why this
The Holistic Approach:
This is where a lot of the current breed of roasteries are going and it is certainly where we are going. For us it's a case of building strong, ongoing relationships with farms that we respect and enjoy the coffee from. We see the development of such personal relationships as the key to the success and prosperity of our own company and the farms we buy from. Likewise we want to see those farms recognized for the value they bring which is why the farm name is always prominent on our coffee bags.
However, we also see the value in helping the customer to understand the skills we have learned over the years. The finesse and subtlety of a finely crafted roast profile is something to behold and something we always work towards. It takes a team of people to make a great coffee and I would never attempt to claim sole credit for the end result of our very best coffees.
Comments and criticisms are always welcome. You can contact me by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What's the problem with
I find a lot of the terminology used within our industry problematic. I think part of the reason is that we are a young industry trying to define ourselves. The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) has made great strides towards defining the terms we use and putting standards in place to grant meaningful qualifications to people who wish to be qualified. However, there is still a long way to go and the European equivalent (SCAE) is still finding its feet. The problem is that as the standards get put in place people start using the words to define what they do without necessarily adhering to the standards. For example, we recently joined the SCAE but all we had to do is pay some money to them. As members of the SCAE people assume we are specialty roasters and that we are adhering to the standards that have been put in place to define what "Specialty" coffee is. We did not have to prove our adherence to the standards. I could be roasting any old rubbish and calling it specialty!
We are a business focused on quality and we pay close attention to what is happening around the world. We have worked hard to keep the quality high and exceed the specialty coffee guidelines under all circumstances. This is why I get very frustrated seeing roasteries calling themselves specialty coffee roasters and selling poor quality coffee.
Marketing teams have long used linguistic trickery to make products seem better than they are. Most mainstream lager is a great example of this. "Premium quality" is on almost every bottle but most beer enthusiasts would hardly consider it to be beer at all in much the same way instant is not really considered to be coffee. When enough people use an adjective like specialty it begins to become meaningless. I previously worked for a company that screams at every chance they get to claim they roast specialty coffee and while some of the coffee they roast would meet SCAE guidelines for specialty, a lot of it would not. I don't necessarily believe that these kinds of companies are intentionally misleading their customers either. In a lot of cases they themselves don't understand the guidelines that have been put in place and because there is no regulation they see no need to investigate the guidelines properly (certainly not the way I would choose to do business). This makes it very hard for the consumer to determine exactly what they are purchasing and without some kind of regulatory body checking there seems no end to this misrepresentation.
The obvious regulator would be the SCAE. However, this is an organization that relies on the membership of the industry to survive and I suspect there are not the resources to a) turn potential members away and b) have somebody working full time on regulation. Interestingly I recently heard that New Zealand's Specialty Coffee Association was beginning to check in on members and perform some kind of regulation, which gives me hope that this may be possible in the UK or Europe once the industry becomes more established.
So should we be using the term specialty to define what we do? I think we should, after all it is the standard industry term used to describe what we do. Likewise, I know we adhere and exceed the specialty regulations in all aspects of the business. I'm also not sure that any other word would be better as the problems do not stem from the word itself. We could call ourselves "Craft Roasters" and the terminology could easily become just as meaningless.
I'd like to hope that, in the end, the companies that thrive will be those motivated by a passion for their product and have an eagerness to share this passion. Ultimately we have to believe that enough people will recognize quality and respond to what we and other excellent roasters are doing. The global trend towards locally produced, better quality products gives me hope that the good guys will be ok.
Comments and criticisms are always welcome, you can contact me by email email@example.com.
A Guide To Brewing Coffee At Home
We sell a lot of retail coffee from our two sites and out of the roastery. One of the things we get asked about most is how to brew coffee at home the way we do it in the stores. There is no easy way to explain it as one of the main philosophies of our business is to treat each coffee like an individual. Each coffee we get is roasted and brewed in a way that suits the characteristics within it. That being said there are some really easy ways to greatly improve the results you get at home.
Rule Number 1: Buy Fresh, Grind Fresh!
I can't stress this enough. If you really want to get the most out of your coffee buy it from a local roaster and use it within 3 weeks of the roast date. It also needs to be ground right before you brew it. There are many simple and cheap options for grinding at home. For those on a budget go for a hand grinder with ceramic burrs, they do a pretty reasonable job for the price (starting at £25). They can be a bit slow but it means you feel as if you have earned your morning brew. There are a few good electric options that are cost effective but to be honest even a bad grind done fresh will improve the flavour you get. The only thing to avoid here is the spice grinder. These grinders have two rotating blades that really just smash the beans to pieces and are very inconsistent, make sure you get something with proper grinding burrs.
Rule Number 2: Water
Water is a huge part of any brewed coffee and as we know the water in London is very hard. Hard water can play havoc with the delicate compounds we are trying to extract form our coffee. If water is extremely hard it can actually reduce efficiency of extraction because the water already has an element of saturation so there is a limit to how many coffee particles the water can absorb. If you have a filter built into your kitchen bench then use that to fill your jug before boiling it. If you don't then I would recommend using a Brita style hand held filter. Although these are not the ideal solution, they will reduce some hardness and take out any other chemicals that may have a negative effect on the flavour. We have done blind comparative taste tests with staff and customers and it is blindingly obvious which sample has filtered water and which does not. One, not very eco friendly or practical option is to buy bottled water and use this for your coffee.
Rule Number 3: Temperature
You don't need to be a fanatical about temperature to get good results. Simply letting your jug sit for 2-3 mins after boiling will allow the water to drop to between 90-95°C. This is where we want to extract our coffee, any hotter and we get harsh bitter flavours, any lower and we get sour under developed flavours.
Rule Number 4: Consistency
If you want to compare different coffees on an even level I recommend finding a system with the equipment you have at home that means you can duplicate results. In our shops this means weighing the ground coffee, weighing the water and timing the extraction. Although I recommend this approach I realise most people just want a nice coffee, not a science experiment. However, I do suggest you use the same scoop size each time you brew (most brewing devices come with some kind of scoop), likewise, I would decant from your kettle into a smaller vessel that is easy to pour from and fill it the same amount each time.
Rule Number 5: Coffee to Water Ratio
This is less a rule and more a suggestion. A good starting point is 60g ground coffee per liter of hot water. From here you can decide if you would like it stronger or weaker and either up or down the amount of ground coffee you use. With a darker roast I tend to use a little less coffee because as the roast progresses we loose moisture and subsequently weight from the bean so it requires more beans to obtain the same weight.
Pourover, Filter, V60, Chemex:
This is one of my favorite ways to brew coffee. It's simple, easy and produces a clean and satisfying cup of coffee. Always rinse the filter paper well with hot water before using it. If using a ceramic cone then put the paper in the cone before rinsing as this will help to heat the cone to the same temp as the water and ensure it doesn't cool to quickly. Roughly 60g per liter will give you good results.
I have a love hate relationship with the aeropress. I love the idea and how it works but I hate the way they look and I'm always discouraged by the papery taste the filters give off (this can be avoided by purchasing a metal disc filter). That said, you can get fantastic results from these devices and they are a must have for any home coffee geek. I love that you can produce such varying results from one device and if you really want to understand extraction and grind size then the aeropress is a one-stop shop. Personally I tend to enjoy natural processed coffee through the aeropress but it can depend on how you brew with it. This is not the place to get into a detailed description of all the ways you can use one but I will say the first thing to do when you purchase an aeropress is to throw the instructions in the bin!! They are a waste of paper. I recommend brewing with it upside down and turning it over to plunge once you reach your desired brew time.
These devices often get a bad rep but I think they are fantastic. They are quick, require no knowledge of coffee and produce fantastic results. The only downside is the sediment in the bottom of your cup but this issue has been addressed by espro (for a hefty price, available from coffeehit.co.uk). Always pour your hot water into the cafetiere first. This helps cool the brewing water to below 95°C. Pour the coffee in on top and give it a good stir. Put the plunger on and submerge the crust ever so slightly and wait for 4 mins, plunge and serve straight away. The most common mistake with these is that people leave the coffee to stew which produces bitter over developed flavours. A good place to start here is 60g per liter.
Moka Pot, Bialetti, Stovetop Espresso:
I cannot stress how bad these things are! Never ever use these to make coffee! You might as well take the coffee put it in an old work boot and throw it in a fire. I find some people are really passionate about these devices and everybody has a theory on how to do it best. I have tried them all and cannot find a way that does not overheat the water to the point that it strips all the nuanced flavour from the coffee and leaves you with nothing but superheated bitterness. The Moka pot is steeped in tradition however this does not make it a good device for brewing coffee. I don't want to rant and rave with hatred for these little things but if you are buying nice coffee and using a Moka pot you will do yourself a massive favour by purchasing a £10 cafetiere from John Lewis.
This really is a big subject and it deserves it's own blog post which I will do at some stage. However, I will offer one piece of advice: Spend all the money you can on a good grinder. You will get far better results with a good grinder and a cheap machine than you will with a good machine and a cheap grinder.
New Developments at the
Things have been moving flat out in the roastery with new wholesale accounts all over the UK. The UK is really starting to switch on to good coffee and we are proud to be amongst the rosters on the sharp end of the blade.
From the outset of nude espresso the plan was to build relationships with people. Richard and Gerard believe to build a brand and a company that has longevity, you must understand and know everybody you do business with. With that in mind we are beginning to look at how we can connect with the people who grow and pick our coffee. It is the dream of every serious coffee geek to get to origin during the harvest to pick the cherries, help with processing and really get involved with the beginning of the coffee supply chain. In an industry filled with small companies there are very few people who get the opportunity to do this. Often business owners are to involved with the day to day running of a café or roastery to leave it for any extended time. Both Richard and Gerard have barely had more than a weekend off since they opened 5 years ago.
Excitingly we are now getting to the
stage where we can begin to work with farmers more directly and get
access to coffee that is rare and special. This week we ordered our
first true micro lot directly from El Salvador. We have been buying
coffee from the El Borbollon mill for a couple of years now as a
staple for our blend. When they sent us some micro lot samples from
the new crop we got very excited and decided to dip our toes into
direct trade. The lot is due to ship on Thursday and should be
available in a couple of months. This coffee is a really great
representation of what a good El Salvador should be: Big, juicy,
sweet and full of red fruit flavours.
Costa Rica is another exciting project for us. Richard and Gerard plan to head down later in the year to meet the owners of Finca Sonora. We currently have two coffees available from this farm that are a good representation of the part varietal plays in the flavour of coffee. We are hoping to work with Finca Sonora going forward because we love the coffee they produce and they enjoy working with roasters to produce the kind of coffee we want to drink. Hopefully in the future we will be able to get more interesting lots from them that exhibit processing methods, varietals and possibly altitudes.
To keep up with demand for our coffee we have hired a couple of extra hands in the roastery. Kurtis Leigh who was once the manager of our Soho store before spending a year working for some of the top roasteries in Melbourne. Tom Flawith has also just started with us to help spread the roasting load. Tom has worked at Extract coffee in Bristol, Allpress in London and now moves to us here to continue learning about green coffee and fine tune his roasting skills.
Make sure you pop down to the Roastery on the next sunny day and enjoy a coffee in our little car park garden. See you soon!
National Barista Champions!
The last few blog posts have been pretty heavy going so I though it was time for a bit of a feel good update.
2013 has been a whirlwind so far with a huge increase in whole production for us at the roastery. A growing coffee industry and consumers getting used to a better quality cup of coffee has seen many new cafes opening up in London and our existing customers seeing growth also.
At the beginning of the year we set ourselves the goal of getting through 20 different single origin espresso offerings and we have just moved onto our fourth with the Rwanda Gisuma becoming available this week. This coffee is fresh, clean, so so delicious, and will be available in our Cafés next week.
We are also now holding open cupping sessions at our Soho store on the final Wednesday of every month. These will give our west end customers and fans a chance to taste our wares without having to trek out east. So today at 4pm I will be there with our latest coffee offering and a few sneaky samples of things to come.
I am very proud to announce that nude espresso roaster & trainer Jordi Mestre has just defended his title as the Spanish Barista Champion! Below Jordi has written a little overview of the competition, the work that goes into his preparation and what can be gained by entering into such competitions. As a witness to Jordis' development over the past year I can testify to the growth in his understanding of coffee in general but also to his development as a coffee professional. We are lucky to have him!
I would also like to send out huge congratulations to Mirriam Simasiku of Blue Moon Café based in Lusaka, Zambia. Who, at the beginning of March won the Zambian Barista Championship using our very own east espresso blend. Mirriam came across our blend by chance when a customer of ours was in Lusaka and gifted Blue Moon café a bag of east; she fell in love. After a few emails and a Skype session to discuss roasting profiles, flavour and bean origin, Mirriam put together a signature drink with summer fruits, spices, lemon zest and dark chocolate. She won herself a trip to Melbourne for the World Barista Championship at the end of May and we hope to work with her in her preparations.
The first time I sat and watched at a competition it was just over a year ago, it was in the 2012 London heat of the UK Barista Championship. I remember that at that time, I thought it was ridiculous and totally unnecessary, I did not understand the reason why one would like to compete and submit themself to that pressure. I enjoy brewing and preparing coffee for my costumers and love to be a perfectionist with it, but I was convinced that competition was not for me.
After competing in the last two National Barista Competitions and one World Barista Competition I can explain the HOW and WHY of this show or game.
First of all let me explain the basics of the competition. Each contestant will have 15 minutes to prepare 4 espressos, 4 cappuccinos and 4 signature drinks and your own beverage creation that highlights the characteristics of the chosen coffee. Moreover, during these 15 minutes the contestant will have to explain why he/she decided to go for the chosen coffee, and all the characteristics of each of the drink. In the espresso, explain exactly what the judges will find in the cup, crema description, aroma, mouthfeel and body as well as acidity, sweetness and flavour notes. Similar descriptions will have to be provided with other drinks. It is important to show and demonstrate your understanding of your coffee and the techniques you're using. You must also demonstrate a concept and synergy in the preparation of your drinks.
Seven judges will score different aspects of your competition, 4 sensory judges evaluate taste and score your drinks on sensorial descriptions, 2 technical judges that will evaluate your techniques and methodology. One head judge is in charge of checking consistency on all the drinks, techniques and calibrating the judging team.
Rules and particularities go on and on as you get more involved in it, but I wont bore you with all the scoring system details.
I registered and entered a little bit by accident but from the first minute I started training I realised there was a lot to learn before I could measure myself among other competitors with years of experience in the field.
So, for one month I would go every evening after work to competition training at Protein by DunneFrankowski where Rob and Vic were happy to guide me and polish my style to prepare for a competition service. It is unbelievable the amount of hours that have to be invested in tasting coffees, choosing one, deconstructing espressos and cappuccinos, and coming out with a creative and genuine signature drink that encapsulates the concept of your speech and highlights the characteristics of the coffee. Moreover, lots on practice in order to gain confidence in competition service, practice your shots and pours as well as your speech.
The learning curve experienced in a competition-training period pays back all the effort and hours that one put in it.
The baristas and coffee professionals that congregate in these sorts of events bring the knowledge that they gain during a whole year in their jobs, and put it together with other professionals that also want to share their experiences.
To me in competition there is a lot to gain and certainly nothing, absolutely nothing to loose.
And this is all I expect from this years WBC in Melbourne!
2x Spanish Barista Champion, nude espresso trainer & production roaster
Roasting for Espresso & Filter
Our roastery is open to the public and we encourage people to come in, ask questions and generally soak up the atmosphere. There is something to be said for the theatre an operating roaster provides; as a result we sell a fair few retail bags of coffee from here. When selling beans we get many questions about roast style, most including the terms 'espresso' and 'filter' roast. I think that these terms are helpful in most cases because they describe a style of coffee and they do give you a hint of what to expect. However, there are in fact myriad exceptions and like all things different roasters can interpret styles differently.
My plan for the following passage is to describe my own approach to roasting for these two styles of brewing. It is important to note that I am omitting any reference to bean varietal, processing method, origin or altitude of growth, which would all normally play a part in how I approach roasting a coffee. The reason is that it can get very complicated very quickly and because this blog goes to a range of people I don't want to get too technical and bore everybody. The graphs used below are from real roasts that we have done in our 15kg Toper drum roaster. Something worth noting is that the performance of a roaster is dependent on how it has been installed (ventilation, extraction etc.) and the climate it is in. Our roaster behaves very differently from winter to summer so the exact profile is an evolving thing that moves with the seasons and the age of the green coffee. So if the temperatures look a bit strange then it is probably due to the above reasons. I will also mention that the line labeled air temperature is an exhaust temperature measured just before the cyclone so does not represent the air temperature in the roasting chamber.
Espresso machines are usually set to impart about 9bar or roughly 125psi of hydraulic pressure onto the coffee. This is the main reason espresso coffee is so unique. The pressure has the effect of emulsifying the oils in the coffee. The emulsification causes the liquoring, which coats the palate when we sip an espresso shot. The pressure also intensifies many of the coffee's characteristics, the most obvious one being acidity. Acidity is a very important part of good coffee, it adds character and vibrancy but it must be managed carefully because it can turn sour and harsh very easily. Most specialty coffees have quite a bit of acidity to them and most specialty roasters search out acidic coffee.
Below is a copy of a production roast profile for the Brazil we use in our East blend. The blend is designed to have a mellow acidity that sits in the background but is enough to give the coffee life. The blend is also roasted to be as sweet as possible with a big syrupy body and a subtle stewed plum flavour that comes after the initial hit of caramelized sugar. The profile is quite a long roast by many standards but for a commercial espresso blend the slower approach allows the acidity to mellow and give the barista a bigger operating window in which the coffee will taste good.
This is a fairly classic approach to roasting commercial espresso blends. And at the risk of other coffee professionals scoffing at me I will say that this kind of approach is what many roasters have in mind when they use the term espresso roast.
The next graph is a profile from our current single origin espresso. This coffee has been selected and roasted to highlight the acidity and fruity flavours that are in the coffee at lower degrees of roast.
If we compare it to the previous graph you can see the roast time is almost 2 minutes shorter. It's a little hard to tell but the end temperature is 4°C lower also. You will also notice the start temperature is lower; this is because the initial green weight of the roast is less and I find that a more aggressive heat application gives a slightly sharper, more vigorous acidity (we love acidity).
The above profile is probably more indicative of the recent trend in roast style of producing highly acidic and fruity coffees. Coffee roasted in this way is much closer to what people describe as a filter roast. Likewise, I believe that this kind of roast will produce a more pleasant filter coffee than the first. Many roasters will only roast a coffee one way, they say the coffee is roasted to get the very best from each bean and you can use them for any brew method. I do like this approach but in my experience it can be a little confusing for customers and sometimes people don't get what they want. I suspect that the above profile is probably how coffees are roasted when the "one profile for one coffee" quote is used. It would ensure the coffee works for all brew methods.
Usually the term filter roast includes any slow brewing method that is not espresso. Filter coffee for me is far more like drinking a nice wine. It's delicate, subtle and complex and is usually very easy to drink; it is what I choose to drink most of the time. The absence of pressure that we find in espresso preparation means the coffee feels much more like tea on the palate and you experience more of the high notes (floral, citrus etc.).
The below profile is a copy of a very delicate coffee that has been roasted for filter in mind. You can see again the lower start temprature and even shorter total time. This coffee is about as light as you can get away with roasting coffee and still call it roasted. The flavour is more acidic, very floral, fruity and even has a hint of fresh hay that I personally like in this coffee.
The examples I have given are by no means extensive or absolute. They represent a broader approach for roasting with regards to brew style. That said, some coffees work beautifully as espresso roasted in the fashion that I have used as my filter example. In fact the exact profile above is a coffee that works amazingly as an espresso. I would describe it as whacky but it certainly has a charm that some of our customers appreciate and I love it because it is interesting and unexpected. There are many exceptions to what I have said and I'm sure many roasters will have different approaches to getting different flavours from their coffee depending on their preferences and the machinery they use.
Over all, if you take the same coffee and roast it in either of the espresso profiles I have suggested and then roast it in the filter method and compare them in the same brew method you can expect the espresso roast to be lower in acidity, higher in body and it is likely to be sweeter and smoother.
The main purpose of the blog is to help customers understand what to expect when we use these terms but I encourage those that wish to experiment to disregard our use of the filter and espresso roast terms and try coffees in as many different brew methods as they have at their disposal. Some coffees will work, some will not and some will surprise and change the way you think about things but most importantly you will have fun and you will learn. For me there is no greater pleasure in life than learning something new.
As always, I encourage comments and I would love to hear from any roasters that either agree or disagree with what I have said. I'm always open to new approaches and I would like the opportunity to revisit this topic if others are willing to provide profiles and explanations. Likewise if anything is unclear in what I have written do contact me to ask questions. You can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Williams (head roaster)
What Does it all Mean? Part two:
Milk based Drinks!
What is the difference between a flat white and a latte? How does a piccolo differ from a cortado?
The truth is that the answers to these questions really depend on whom you ask. Every barista, roaster, café owner or coffee enthusiast will have their own idea about the recipes for each drink. Some of these recipes vary so much that two drinks with the same name would have almost no resemblance to each other. For example, I've seen a macchiato advertised at high street chains in 12oz cups, we serve ours in a 2oz.
Last time, I talked about espresso shots and how I don't think we should confine ourselves to set measurements that may not result in the best possible flavour from the coffee. I'll ask you to bear that in mind while I describe my ideas around naming milk based drinks.
Below is the current (milk based) coffee list at nude and how each drink is made:
You can see that the real difference between these drinks is the amount of milk used. True the cappuccino has a touch more foam and a little chocolate but really it's not going to taste much different to a flat white. Now, the drinks listed above are only how we serve them. Cafés that still do double and single shots may vary the amount of shots in these drinks. Likewise the sizes may vary or they may offer the same drink in small and large…. The difficulty with using the traditional Italian names is that the drinks have changed so much over the years and every barista has their own idea about how they should be made. Subsequently, the names are meaningless. The only thing you know when you order a latte is that you will get some espresso with some milk in it…
The new idea is that we should use a size name for milk coffees i.e. 4oz, 6oz and 8oz. I'm not claiming this is my idea, as Prufrock has been doing it for a couple of years now and a few new cafés around town have also started to use this system. Personally I think it ensures that the customer is more likely to get what they think they are ordering. They know if they order the 6oz they will get an espresso (extracted in a way that best suits that drink) with a set amount of milk, what could be easier?
We have partially adopted this system ourselves in our cafés with the use of one espresso size and keeping all our 'traditional' drinks to one size, resulting in each drink effectively representing a white coffee in a different size (as listed above). I'm sure as the specialty coffee industry penetrates more of the market the out-phasing of traditional Italian names will follow, at least you now know what our drinks are made of and you can get what you want.
As always, if you have any questions or comments you can contact me by email email@example.com
Richard Williams (head roaster)
It is an amazing day outside today and we have the roastery door open for the first time in a few months. It feels like spring is in the air and the mood in here certainly has lifted! As part of our push to make coffee information more accessible to our customers we will be putting out a series of blogs that look at different parts of our product. I'm going to try and avoid technical jargon wherever I can and hopefully keep them brief but relevant. If you have any questions or need clarification on something I've expressed poorly don't hesitate to contact me via email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Below is the first of two articles that look at the confusing world ordering a coffee. This has been spurred by my amusement of people who often have overly complicated drink orders but when probed don't really know what they are ordering. I also believe that our current system is unnecessarily complicated and outdated. Enjoy!
What Does it all Mean? Part One:
What constitutes an espresso shot? What is a double? What is a Ristretto?
Well well well dear reader, this is a fun one, and something I think should be cleared up both for the sake of the customer and the café owners trying to explain what they are serving.
Traditionally a single espresso shot was considered to be 30ml or one ounce. The Barista would use roughly 7-8g of ground coffee placed in a small brewing basket and extract for around 25seconds. Therefore a double would be 14-16g brewed in a larger basket for the same amount of time but yielding 60ml of brewed coffee. Simple right? Well, yes and no.
One thing I want to bring up before I talk about why we no longer use these measurements is the issue of using brew volume to describe espresso. Different coffees and different roast styles yield varying amounts of crema (the gassy layer that floats on top of the espresso shot). You can see from the numbers I have quoted below that the ratio of volume to weight is not consistent and the coffees below have a very similar roast style! Shot weight is a far more accurate and relevant measurement.
From the perspective of the speciality coffee industry things have moved on a lot. Probably the most obvious difference is the omitting of Robusta from our selections. If you don't know what Robusta is look it up. I will say that it should be avoided at all costs and tastes like the sole of an old rubber boot. The coffee that is available to us now (generally speaking) is of a far higher quality than anything that has existed in the past. So as an industry when we find a beautiful coffee we like to treat it as an individual. This means roasting coffee's from individual farms, lots within the farms and individual picking days separately. It also means brewing the separate coffees or blends to get the best we can from each one.
For example, we like to brew our east blend with 19g of ground coffee for between 26-30 seconds yielding a brewed weight of 20g (40ml, this is a traditional double ristretto). Contrastingly, we brew our El Salvador Finca Malacara with 18g of ground coffee for between 24-26 seconds yielding about 30g (55ml) of brew coffee. Anyone that has spent a bit of time on an espresso machine will tell you that these two recipes will look quite different both as they extract and when they are done. We have picked these recipes because they represent the best balance we could find between tasting amazing as an espresso and having enough flavour to stand up to milk. If we were to swap the brew recipes you would have very unsatisfactory coffee indeed.
So what does it all mean? It means that the terms double and single shot are (in my view) meaningless and should be avoided. If you are buying your coffee from a speciality coffee roaster or a café that uses the coffee from a speciality roaster then I would recommend that you try the recipe they use for a flat white (if that's what you like to drink). If the results are unsatisfactory in terms of coffee to milk ratio you then order a drink that represents a variance in this ratio i.e. a bigger or smaller drink. Simple!
Next time we will look at the confusing world of Italian named espresso based drinks…..
Richard Williams: email@example.com
Does your coffee taste like
London coffee is booming and in many ways you can get coffee in London that tastes unlike anything you will be served in most parts of the world. We are spoilt for choice when it comes to quality roasters who all have their own style and approach. However the "specialty" or quality roasters are still very much in the minority. And while more and more people are beginning to expect more from their daily caffeine fix, the vast majority of people are still consuming commodity coffee from generic high street coffee shops. I have no problem with the commodity coffee trade and truly believe that it has its place. However, I fear that many coffee drinkers don't know what they are missing out on. The strangest part of it is that specialty coffee is often no more expensive than commodity coffee by the time you get it in your cup. Walk into any High St chain coffee shop and you will pay almost the same price for a latte as you will in most specialty coffee bars that have highly trained barista's, top quality coffee and very expensive brewing equipment. I urge everybody to try something new once and a while, grab a London coffee guide and go somewhere different and learn to appreciate the variety of flavours that coffee can have. At nude we always try to offer a range of coffee flavours and roast styles in order to challenge our customers and ourselves.
Like most coffee geeks I love good beer. I recently handed a stunning stout from the Redchurch brewery to a friend who is not a coffee or beer aficionado. The reply I got was that the beer tastes like coffee. This is a very common remark from people tasting dark beers. On the surface this is a completely reasonable thing to say but lets look a little closer…
Beer is made from malted barley; to get the colour the barley is toasted. In a dark beer the barley is toasted quite a lot, this gives the beer its dark colour and flavour. Coffee is also roasted and for a long time it was only roasted quite dark, producing dark colour and flavour similar to that in dark barley. The vast majority of roasters still roast very dark and while philosophically I don't think there is anything wrong with roasting dark I believe that it's most often done for the wrong reason: the use of poor quality green coffee. At nude, if we roast something darker it's because we think the delicate interplay between acidity, body, sweetness and overall flavour is somehow improved not because we are trying to hide the defects in it (coffee is a very delicate product and there are many things that can go wrong before we get it,). Defects, as you would expect from the name don't taste very good.
The roasting process has a big impact on the final flavour of both coffee and beer, so is a vital part of both products. Coffee is incredibly complex and the same bean can give off surprisingly different flavours from small variations in the way it is roasted. One of the important reactions that occur during roasting (and the most obvious) is called the Maillard reaction. This is basically the browning effect. The same reaction happens when you roast almost anything (bread, barley potatoes etc). The more we roast the more we brown, so like dark beer we get more dark colour and flavour.
When we look at coffee, I think now we can see that this so called 'coffee flavour' that my friend picked up in the beer is a result of the roasting not the coffee itself. Coffee is naturally very acidic, often fruity and complex. When you use well-produced, high quality green coffee (as we do) you are able to roast a bit lighter and let the individual and interesting flavours shine through. Coffee has more than double the flavour characteristics of wine so the complexity and individuality of different coffees is even vaster. Yes, we do still imprint a certain style on the coffee we purchase by the way we roast it likewise you do the same when you brew it but with quality and defect free coffee the inherent flavour is more important. I suppose what I'm getting at is that I want people to think a little more about what they taste, does your coffee really taste like coffee?
If you want to taste the difference for yourself come along to our open cupping on Friday the 1st of February from 4pm at our roastery.
Roastery moves and changes:
Everyone is starting to look very rugged up on the streets now with the first day of winter just around the corner! Things are continuing to change rapidly here at the roastery and anybody that has been in will have seen our new layout. The addition of pallet racking and a training room for our wholesale sessions gives the space a very different feel. And as we seem to be getting busier and busier the additional room we have created is very valuable!
November has also seen some new coffee's in our range. We have said goodbye to the washed Sidamo Wolutma OCR and hello to a natural Yirgacheffe Konga that is one of the best Ethiopian coffees I've had for a while. We have also landed a natural Sidamo Korate that should be on the shelves in December as this coffee tastes like Christmas spice and mulled wine! For those of you that love something different in your espresso try our new Tanzania Utengule single origin espresso. We are very impressed with the body and structure this coffee has through our espresso machine. Finally I am very excited to announce the arrival of the Panamanian Esmeralda Geisha! We are not roasting this coffee yet but will be very soon, keep an eye out for further announcements. The Geisha really is something special and will make a great gift for those coffee obsessed relatives I know you all have!
I'm also very happy to announce the addition of our new home barista class! This class is for anybody with an espresso machine at home that wishes to learn how to make coffee like the team at nude. These classes are a slightly adjusted version of our wholesale espresso classes but we have a little more fun and it's tailored to suit the needs of those who attend. If you wish to book yourself in on one of these or you want to book in somebody else as a Christmas gift then give Jordi or myself a call at the roastery (07712 899334) or email us firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally I wish to remind you all of the open cupping sessions here at the roastery on the first Friday of every month. The final session for the year will be on the 7th of December at 4pm. This session will be a great opportunity to taste the Geisha before you buy and get a sneak peak at our new African coffees. I hope to see you there!
Richard Williams (Head Roaster) - 20/11/2012
Le Carnaval du café:
I wish to start this post with a big thank you to our friends at The Collaborative Coffee Source and Kaffa for an amazingly informative weekend in Paris at Le Carnaval du Café!
The Roastery team from Nude Espresso packed our bags, boarded the Eurostar and headed to Paris for a much-anticipated weekend of cupping and education with coffee professionals from all over Europe. It was an intensive program of lectures from 8am to 6pm.
On day one we heard from Flavio Borem, a researcher based in Brazil conducting ground breaking research on many aspects of coffee production and quality. Within the first 20mins of his presentation he had exceeded my expectations for the entire event. Flavio is a dynamic and passionate character with a deep understanding of quality coffee. While there is much research done on coffee very little of it is related to quality and most researchers are not themselves proficient in cupping meaning the understanding of the precursors to quality are still somewhat hazy.
We were lucky enough to taste coffee that Flavio had grown, processed and roasted himself for the experiments he is conducting on the interrelation between altitude, varietal, processing and quality. Under the right conditions it is possible to create a natural processed Brazil that is nothing like anything most coffee professionals have tasted before. The coffee was clean, acidic, floral and totally different in character to any Brazilian I've tasted. This year the new crop Brazils are ready to be shipped and we should have some coffees that have been grown with the help of Flavio, we expect to have these in a month or so.
We also heard from Daniel Petterson, infamous grower of the Esmeralda Geisha, arguably the best coffee in the world. For those of you that haven't tried geisha, cupping the geisha varietal next to "regular" varietals makes them seem bland and uninteresting. The flavour is truly something special, geisha must be experienced for oneself.
After the success of the geisha varietal in the Best of Panama cupping competitions Daniel is on a mission to find the next big thing by meticulously growing and cupping hundreds of wild coffee varietals that are unknown in the commercial world. This is an exciting prospect for the future with the possibilities of finding new flavour profiles as yet unseen in specialty coffee.
We are trying to get our hands on some geisha from Daniels farm as something special for the holiday season so if you are interested let us know at email@example.com.
Richard Williams (Head Roaster) - 02/11/2012
Autumn has arrived:
Autumn is my favorite season; cool crisp days with clear blue skies and the clean blue light that you only get at this time of year. With the weather cooling and coffee consumption going up the enthusiasm for our new range of single origin coffee has been overwhelming and we are already on the search for our next selection. Until we can announce those, make the most of the last couple of batches of our OCR Sidamo, and Panama La Esperanza as we won't be getting these in again.
For those of you looking for something a little different pop into our cafés or to Jordi's cart at Nettle Market to try the latest seasonal espresso blend - 60% Panama, La Esperanza and 40% El Salvador, El Borbollon: Honey and Marmalade sweetness with zesty acidity and a delicious malt finish.
On Friday the 5th we did our first open cupping in the roastery. It was an intimate affair with a few friends of Nude and a couple of customers. These sessions are a chance for our wholesale customers and our loyal retail customers to step into our world here at the roastery and learn a little more about coffee as an agricultural product. It's also a great chance for budding coffee geeks to taste a diverse range of coffee side by side. Jordi and myself are on hand to answer any questions you may have and to dispense the beer afterwards!
The first one was kept very small just to test the waters but we will be doing them on the First Friday of every month and from here on out we will be announcing these sessions on Twitter so follow us @nudeespresso.
If you have any questions you would like to ask me about the coffees we roast please feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Williams (Head Roaster) - 10/10/2012
New coffees at nude:
The last two months has been a workout for my taste buds as all the new crop coffee samples pile into the roastery. Every year we expand our search in an attempt to bring you, our customers' better and better coffees.
Look out for the Ethiopia Sidamo Wottuna Operation Cherry Red (OCR). This coffee is absolutely stunning: bergamot, orange peal, herbal aromatics, clean crisp acidity and a tea like mouth feel.
OCR is a program that invests resources and education into the Ethiopian coffee market in order to improve the quality of the coffee. Farmers are taught to pick only the ripest cherries. They are then sorted and processed separately and sold for a premium, which is then paid directly to the farmer. Programs such as OCR are beginning to produce real results both in terms of the flavor of the coffee produced but also in the lives of the farmers that make the effort to improve there practices. We are proud to be paying a premium for coffees that have such positive social implications.
Also on the menu over the coming months will be:
Panama La Esparenza: Clean, crisp, understated with a honey sweetness and malty finish
Colombia Narino: Green apple, citrus and cocoa with a bittersweet finish
We also have Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Konga and Tanzania Utengule on the way so make sure you keep an eye on the shelves at Hanbury Street and Soho Square!
By Richard Williams (Head Roaster) - 13/09/2012
You can now get nude outside Soho
You will be pleased to know that our outside seating has been approved and you are now able to enjoy coffee and brunch outside our cafe 19 Soho Sq. Get Nude Now ;-)
By Gerard - 31/07/2012
Enjoy the Olympics at our Roastery
Puma have set up camp in the carpark in front of our Roastery allowing you to watch the Olympics on the big screen whilst enjoying your delicious Nude coffee. There is plenty of activity every evening when the Puma social club kicks off from 7pm till late located in the Boiler House. Check https://www.puma.com/news/get-in-on-the-action-register-for-puma-yard-london-tickets-updated for details.
By Gerard - 30/07/2012
Spanish 2012 latte art
Nude Espresso proudly took part in the 2012 Spanish barista championships with Miguel Lamora competing in the latte art competion with our 'east' espresso blend. The scoring was based on 25% taste and 75% visual. This gave us a huge advantage as we scored the highest on taste by a country mile! Thanks to the beautiful combination of your 'east' espresso blend and the organic pasteurized milk from a local farm called Granja el Prat, Miguel went on to win the competion. Congratulations Miguel!!!!
By Gerard - 31/05/2011
London Coffee Festival
Nude was proud to be involved in the London Coffee Festival working with La Marzocco to raise money for Project Waterfall. Team Nude got the party started when they took centre stage on the artisan cafe stand with a 3hr session serving there signature Nude Spicy Martini that they created with Absolut Vodka. The day finished with Nude hosting a coffee festival party at there Roastery where cocktails, wine, beers and good tunes flowed on until the early hours!
By Gerard - 04/05/2012
Bring back outside seating Nude Soho Square:
We are currently working hard with Westminster Council to
bring our outside seating back. We are pushing for our seating
plan to be finalized by the time summer rolls along. Hopefully
TFL will be finished digging up Soho Square for you to enjoy
the serenity of the Square over a delicious nude cup of coffee.
By Gerard - 28/03/2012
Soho New Brunch Menu:
Wednesday-Sunday. We know that there are few places that do a good brunch on the weekend in Soho so we thought we'd break the mold and give our coffee lovers out west an inspired seasonal brunch menu to enjoy. Our weekend opening hours will come forward an hour and we will be ready to serve at 10am. Scrambled egg with bacon and French toast with cinnamon poached pear, vanilla marscapone and pistachio are two of our many delicious treats.
By Gerard - 15/03/2012
Join us at the London Coffee Festival 27-29 April:
The London Coffee Festival is back! Once again this will
hosted in the Old Truman Brewery right on the door step of our
Hanbury St café and Roastery just off Brick Lane. Nude Espresso
will be taking part in the event on Sat 28th April from 1pm, working
with La Marzocco on there artisan café stand pulling shots of
coffee and our signature espresso martinis. All proceeds will be
going to the project waterfall charity.
By Gerard - 09/03/2012
Nude Supper 'Taste of Italy':
Nude put together another of there scrumptious and devine supper clubs last month and themed the evening as a "taste of Italy" night. Italian food was prepared by renowned chef Cameron Emirali and matched perfectly with the finest selection of Italian wines. The 5 course meal went on into the early hours of the next day.
By Gerard - 01/12/2011
Absolut Roastery Dinner:
The cocktails were following when Nude recently hosted a dinner for Absolut Vodka. Nude's coffee roastery was transformed into a 24 person sit down restaurant serving a four course meal matched with wine.
By Gerard - 01/12/2011
Guatemala Teanzul Cup of Excellence 2011:
Guatemala Teanzul was also voted one of SCAA's 'coffee of the year' winners 2011. This coffee is sensational. A sweet balenced cup with chocolate & caramel notes, good acidity & great aroma. Nude has a limited supply of this delicious coffee and we are sure it will fly out the door.
By Gerard - 01/11/2011
Nude Supper - 'Taste of Italy' Friday 04th Nov:
We are very excited to invite you to our Italian Supper at Nude Espresso, 26 Hanbury Street on Friday 4th November. Proceedings will start at 7.30 with canapes and bubbly, before sitting down to a 5-course Italian feast created by Cameron Emirali, the chef of the avant-garde restaurant the Wapping Project. The food will be paired with a selection of the finest wines Italy has to offer. Tickets will cost £65 each, and due to the limited space, they will be issued on a first-come, firstserve basis. We hope you can make what should be a thoroughly enjoyable evening.please contact Rich on 07804 223 590 or email: email@example.com Pssst... we will be hosting a 'taste of Spain' supper in early December.
By Gerard - 05/10/2011
New Coffees at Nude: This week we take delivery of 4 new shipments of coffee. Kenya AA Tungua, Ethiopian Harrar, Ethiopian Sidamo and El Salvador El Borbollon. We plan to start roasting these coffees this Friday and will have them in store and available online early next week.
By Gerard - 14/09/2011
Nude Roastery now open: Nude has opened its Roastery doors for the summer, giving customers first hand experience of the coffee they enjoy everyday being roasted in front of their very eyes!
Nude wants their customers to be informed about their coffee and to enjoy the sweet aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans.
The Roastery is south facing so its the perfect spot to relax and soak up the sunshine. 'Nude' deck chairs are coming soon!
By Gerard - 26/05/2011
'east' goes west: Nude Espresso has now opened the doors to it's new espresso bar in the west end. Situated at 19 Soho Square, some of Nude's east boys and girls have headed west, to serve you the best!
Pop in and try some of our freshly roasted coffee and let your taste buds become inspired!
By Gerard - 23/05/2011
Party time in E1: As one of the highlights of our involvement in UK Coffee week, Nude held a super evening drinks party at the roastery last night. Thanks to all those who came along to enjoy the Absolut Nude Espresso Martinis and Steiny Pures!
Welcome to a lavish London summer of Nude coffee and loveliness!
By Rich - 10/04/2011
Nude Winter Feast: Many thanks to all who came to this superb evening, filled with food and colour. Guests enjoyed coffee cocktails, then a gourmet meal from our award winning chef, Cameron Emirali, whilst our guest artist created bespoke artworks for a grand auction (chaired by the fabulous Mr Gosney) of three iconic pieces, reflecting the evening's fare. Carriages left late!
By Gerard - 01/03/2011
Nude Supper Clubs: New York Times quote: 'Most of the pop-ups and supper clubs are found in East London, a sprawling, diverse area with tidy row houses, art galleries and light industry.....Every season Nude Espresso, a small coffee bar just off Brick Lane, hosts a one-night-only meal cooked by Cameron Emirali, the chef of the avant-garde restaurant the Wapping Project.'
Through out the summer of 2011 Nude Espresso will be opening it's Roastery doors to coffee tastings and hosting various events. Keep an eye out and pop in from time to time to find out what will be happening to make this an amazing summer.
By Rich - 18/02/2011
Nude Espresso will soon open its new concept Espresso Bar in Soho Square.
Times are changing and Nude wants to bring its great sense of style and freshly roasted espresso and singe origin coffees to a small pocket of London devoid of decent coffee. Nude will create an environment thats ideal for drinking espresso and pour over filter coffee. We hope this will give us a chance to further educate our customers on our taste profiles and the traceability of our green bean. This will be an environment that coffee lovers can feast in.
By Gerard - 13/02/2011