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.