Thursday, 27 December 2007

Acid test

Not sure how good the coffee in your cup really is? Well make a fresh cup & don't add milk sugar, or indeed anything. Leave it for an hour to go stone cold, then try it.

Drinking your coffee when it is completely cold will help you to identify any undesirable tastes lurking in your cup, such as burnt or bitter notes. Try it and see what you discover.


Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Xmas update

Well we have achieved some of our objectives, but unfortunately not all, before our self imposed Christmas deadline.

You will see we have our website up, and I am pleased to tell you that we have the Swissgold (1 cup) filters in stock now, and we will also stock an entry level burr grinder before the end of January to give anyone who would like the opportunity to start buying their coffee as beans and grind as required, rather than purchasing ground coffee.

You do not need to lay out several thousand pounds on an espresso machine and grinder to expose you taste buds to first class coffee. Once you taken the first step in that direction of course, do not be surprised if you do find yourself begging for a bright & shiny espresso machine long before next Christmas!

So our first task for 2008 is to get the coffee flowing again in our enlarged premises roasts that we moved into last week.

Don't be surprised if you see my personal favourite in the line up (I will state my bias clearly right now, it is from Papua New Guinea). While not best suited to espresso, in single origin form at least, I think our PNG coffee has an unparalleled exotic richness in the cup when paired with the Swissgold filter. I would also concede that it is not to everyone's palate, but teamed with a fine Swiss chocolate with a high cocoa content it is undeniably a personal favourite.

On the topic of favourites, so many people have told me over the years how much they enjoy Brazilian coffees. Well I have heard it from too many for them all to be wrong, but I must concede that I have never had the opportunity to have a really satisfying coffee from Brazil. It is one of my goals for 2008 to hunt down & learn how to roast to perfection a coffee from Brazil.

In the meantime enjoy a safe & refreshing Christmas-New Year & we look forward to seeing you early in 2008.

Merry Xmas,


Thursday, 22 November 2007

Coming soon...

Christmas is just around the corner, and so is our shiny new website. When we pull the covers off you will have the finest coffee money can buy, delivered right to your door. You will also be able to post us questions about how you get the best out of your coffee equipment, whether it be a £5,000 state of the art espresso machine or the humble filter cup. Your satisfaction is our primary concern. Anyway, come back soon & we look forward to serving you with your favourite coffee in December.

Thanks for stopping by,


Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Tornados prefer Londinium Espresso

The picture on the right was captured surreptitiously late last night at great risk to the camera man as he caught world exclusive footage of a tornado noisely slurping a freshly drawn Londinium Espresso before hissing off into the night. (p.s. we know this one is over-extracted!)

Monday, 19 November 2007

Swiss gold filter vs paper filter

Here at Londinium Espresso we have a rather egalitarian view of life. One of our founding principles is that great coffee should be available to everyone. However we recognise that not everyone is in a position to make a not inconsiderable investment in a grinder and espresso machine. And even those that are will often find themselves at a distance from their espresso machine and in desperate need of a great coffee.

So, what to do we thought to ourselves? Not ones to give up on a challenge easily we went out and tried all kinds of coffee making contraptions over the last 3 years, of vary cost and complexity. And guess what? We have clear winner!

The Swissgold filter.

In our opinion it knocks spots off anything else we tried on taste alone. Its closest rival in terms of affordability and ease of use, the paper filter cup, was let down in our long term test on taste and finding ourselves short on paper filters when we needed one most! A paper filter absorbs many of the oils in the coffee (which transport many of the complex flavours in the coffee) and prevents them from making their way down into your cup, and our taste tests confirmed this.

The Swissgold filter is well made, incredibly simple to use, affordable, and can be cleaned in seconds with a quick rinse under the tap. But most importantly they make fantastic coffee.

It really is this simple:

The 22K gold plated filter in all its glory

1. Ensure you centre the filter on top of your cup so it won't topple off and burn anyone

2. Add coffee to taste - say a rounded table spoon for starters (we have found it is remarkably tolerant of different grind sizes & can't really explain why, other than to say that this certainly isn't the case for the paper filter systems)

3. Place the insert in after you have added the coffee

4. Carefully add the water

5. Yes, it does take a while to filter through, but trust us - it is well worth the wait!

Watch this space for more exciting news on this product in the next few weeks

Monday, 22 October 2007

My grinder made some awful crunching noises, then jammed. What now???

Most likely a stone amongst the coffee beans has become trapped between the two burrs.

Unplug the grinder from the electricity supply.

Turn the grinder upside down to empty all the coffee beans in the hopper into a tray

See if you can spot the stone jammed between the top and bottom burrs

Set the grinder to the coarsest setting available

(i.e. move the burr heads as far apart a possible)

Turn the grinder upside down again and see if you can tip the stone out, as it should have come loose.

If this doesn't work refer to the instructions that came with your grinder.

It may need to be returned to the retailer as stones can be difficult to remove from some grinders due to their design.

While we try our best to remove stones from our coffee, some still make it through.

We do apologise if you are ever inconvenienced by a stone from our coffee jamming in you grinder.

If you turn your grinder off as soon as you hear an unusual noise you will usually be able to remove the stone before it jams between the burrs.

Monday, 1 October 2007

What's a burr grinder?

Domestic coffee grinders are one of two designs.  They are either a spinning blade (propeller shape), like an upside down lawnmower, or a tapered male and female burr design.  A blade grinder will simply smash the beans up, rather than cut them, and as a result the grinds will vary greatly in size.  While you can get away with a blade grinder for making filter coffee, it will simply not suffice for espresso.  Yes, burr grinders cost substantially more, but they require an electric motor that is a lot more powerful, and all the load bearing components need to be a lot stronger than just a propeller flying about.

I have tried to set my grinder to a finer setting without switching it on and now nothing happens when I switch it on! What now???

Turn the grinder off immediately - this is the important thing to remember.

Then simply turn the grind several settings coarser and turn the grinder back on and it should start working again

If nothing happens after you have set the grind much coarser, the grinder is mostly probably fitted with an overload switch that has tripped (designed to protect the electric motor from exactly this kind of thing!), so push the overload switch to reset it.

Moral of the story: only change your grinder to a finer setting when it is switched on!

Monday, 24 September 2007

Coffee in London. A brief history

Why can't I make an espresso like the one I had in Italy??? Now you can.

Italy is the country in which the espresso machine was invented by Achille Gaggia in 1929(?) for the FIAT motor empire who were looking for a way to reduce the amount of time that their employees took for each coffee break. The answer? Espresso! A small volume of coffee, which allowed it to be drunk quickly, yet a concentrated cocktail of flavours to reinvigorate the work force.

We owe the Italians so much for bringing art into our everyday lives. Expressed in the spheres of fashion and design, and in particular industrial design, they have brightened the lives of countless millions. As a nation they have contributed so much in making our world more vibrant and exciting, and in my view, more enjoyable. Imagine a world without Ferrari, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Prada, Leonardo da Vinci, Sophia Lauren, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Maserati, Ital, Pinanfarina, Guigaro, Ermenegildo Zegna, FIAT, Lancia, Versace, Lambretta, Alfa Romeo, Zagato? So much so that the word 'Italian' has almost become synonymous for style.

That said, don't let anyone tell you that all the coffee in Italy is great - this is an extension of reality. But the best are superb, and we measure ourselves against them. We don't imitate any of the Italian espressos, and this will become evident from the moment that Londinium espresso flows over your lips. What we do share with our Italian friends is the life force & artistry that we put into our work. From whence do we obtain these distinguishing ingredients for our espresso? From complete enjoyment and satisfaction in our in work, that's where. Ask an Italian artisan next time you are there and we wouldn't be surprised if they give you a similar answer.

OK, so where do I find an affordable burr grinder?

You have our full sympathy here! We spent a lot of time trawling the web for a burr coffee grinder that won't break the bank. We have recently acquired a Krups burr grinder from John Lewis for £40, and are in the process of testing its durability. It is of relatively light construction, but we feel it is priced fairly, and have high hopes that it will be suitable for vigorous domestic use.

Any grinder will jam if you try to set a finer grind (i.e. bring the burr heads closer together) when it is not switched on! I have a Mazzer grinder at home, the same model that you will see in many cafes and restaurants and it is a great grinder that I would recommend to anyone if price is no hindrance. The point is that I can easily jam it solid if I try and adjust the grind finer setting when it is switched off.

Burnt & bitter? Try Londinium Espresso

Most people know espresso as a nasty, burnt, & bitter beverage, and regard it as unfit to drink. Londinium Espresso changes this.

Even amongst coffee aficionados and roasters you will often hear the view expressed that espresso can be made with any low grade Robusta beans that you have to hand, and roast them to the point of exhibiting burnt notes. It's true, and this is often the way it is done. Our point is it doesn't have to be this way.

We use Arabica beans almost exclusively, but our Kickstart roast is 100% Robusta beans as they contain approximately twice the amount of caffeine of Arabica beans. While it doesn't have the same complexity and nuances in flavour that our Arabica roasts exhibit, but we defy you to tell us it isn't the best coffee to get you started for the day. We do not follow that predominant school of thought that all Robusta coffees are of poor quality. High quality Robusta beans will give a superior taste to a low quality Arabica.

Something's wrong. The milk in my coffee costs more than the coffee.

Don't believe us?  Well think about this.  A 3.41 litre bottle of milk costs around £1.68.  That latte you're drinking might have 250ml of milk in it, for arguments sake, costing 12p using these numbers.  The coffee at many establishments is likely to be costing around £5.50 a kilogram.  It is unlikely that more than about 14g of coffee used to make your latte, so that gives us a cost of 8p per cup.  That'€™s why we call it coffee flavoured milk!  The vast majority of the coffee offered for sale is so poor that people have taken to drinking it with large quantities of milk and sugar to make it more palatable.

Do you drink coffee, or just coffee flavoured milk?

Espresso: No where for bad taste to hide

Dump the calories: drink espresso

Over the years coffee has been accused of many things which have later been disproved, but it gets your name in the news as so many people consume coffee every day. Our view is that like most things in life, quality has a huge part to play. Secondly we think most people should be a lot more concerned about their calorie intake than their caffeine intake. We don't advocate for a moment that anything should be consumed in excessive amounts, but we are particularly concerned about the where 'coffee' drinking has got to. Many people tell us that they like great coffee, but when we offer to make them one it so often turns into a request for a latte, to which numerous extras are addded (whipped cream, flavoured syrups, and the like). Each to their own, but we believe that since the advent of instant coffee in the second world war the focus has been on producing cheaper, and by implication lower quality, coffee for half a century. As a result people have turned to adding more and more milk fat to make their coffee fit to drink. While we understand the reasoning, we are offering an alternative; a low calorie drink that is naturally sweet (no additives of any description), and is truly a symphony of the most exotic flavours on the planet. Come over to the dark side. Try Londinium Espresso.

Friday, 21 September 2007

HELP! my new & expensive espresso machine makes horrid espresso

Don't worry - this problem is common, and sadly many people never succeed in getting a decent espresso from their machine & give up in disgust. It doesn't have to be like this. I have tried to set out below in a logical order the steps to espresso nirvana.

1. Unless you live in an area where limescale isn't an issue, use a bottled water with the lowest 'dry residue' value that you can find. I use the 'SPA' brand as it has a 'dry residue' value of 33mg/L and is available in 3L bottles at my local supermarket. It is important that you check this figure carefully as many bottled waters will have very high dry residue value (for example 150mg/L or more), which will quickly degrade the performance of your machine in the same way that tap water with a high limescale content will.

2. This point is absolutely fundamental: GROUND COFFEE IS A WASTE OF MONEY. Ground coffee becomes stale after about 30 minutes of being ground. Freshly roasted coffee beans give off gas for up to 48 hours after roasting. For this reason a vaccum packed brick of ground coffee will never be fresh, because if it had been bagged when fresh it would re-inflate the vaccum packed brick. Ground coffee is sold because it is a convenience product (the root of all evil, but more on the virtues of slow food in another post when time permits).

3. You will never make a decent espresso with pre-ground coffee. Conclusion: you must buy a burr grinder. I would even go further and say that if you want to make great coffee and cannot afford an espresso machine and a grinder, buy a grinder first then add the espresso machine when you can afford it. Strange but true ~ you can make superb coffee with a £5 filter cup & disposable paper filters. Sure, it won't be espresso, but a superb cup of filter coffee can still be a delight to the senses.

4. Now that you have a burr grinder you need to get the grind size just right. It is important to state from the outset that grind size and tamp pressure ( how hard you compact the grinds into the portafilter) go hand in hand. By that I mean that if your grinds are towards the large end of the scale for espresso production you will need to exert more pressure with the tamp. Conversely, a fine grind means less pressure on the tamp. It is personal preference only, but I grind fine and apply only very light pressure to the tamp. With Londinium espresso beans you will also need less pressure than most

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Londinium Espresso: the revelation

Londinium Espresso exists to help you make the best espresso that your equipment will allow.

We assist individuals, cafe & restaurant owners, and businesses who provide complimentary coffee to their clients.

There are many variables that affect your espresso; we won't abandon you if your first shot disappoints.  We pride ourselves on the content we place on our website that ensures you achieve the best espresso your equipment will allow.

Try Londinium Espresso and experience a revelation in espresso and customer service.

I vividly remember the day I purchased my first grinder, wondering how fine a grind I should use for espresso.  As you can imagine it is not something the can be easily described, but read our 'how fine to grind?' article and get some guidance now.