The Power of the Scale

09.14

There are a few things a person needs to help them brew better coffee at home and the tool most often overlooked by beginners is a digital scale. Weighing coffee and water, rather than using scoops and cups, allow consistency when measuring your ingredients.

Different coffees have different densities depending on how they are roasted or the size of the bean, so one tablespoon isn’t equal for all coffee. You’ll also notice that many of the better coffee brewing tutorials found on the internet use grams as the common unit of measure. Since 1mL of cold water weighs 1 gram, it’s simple math to calculate your dose ratio and learn to measure and brew coffee this way. Most coffee shops concerned with quality use scales, if not for brewing, at least for weighing the proper dose.

When I make coffee for friends, the first reaction to my scale is usually, “whoa, you’re really serious about this, huh?” Well, yes, but the scale shouldn’t be an indication of that. The digital scale is a valuable tool that every kitchen should have (even the New York Times agrees) and cost between $10-$50. When it takes less than a gram of coffee or a milliliter of water to alter the balance of a good cup of coffee, the scale shouldn’t be reserved only for “coffee nerds,” but should be embraced for the consistency it adds to the brewing process and the quality it creates in the cup.

The NYTimes article, though specifically about cooking, shares this coffee revelation:

The scale also ensures repeatability. I once calibrated exactly the amount of beans that I need to make coffee the way I like. Now, every morning, I place my can of beans on the scale, and then scoop out 28 grams — allowing me to repeat the same pot every day.

You don’t need to buy a scale that’s super fancy, just something with accurate gram measurements and a tare function will do fine. After fresh-roasted coffee beans and a good grinder, a scale will help improve your coffee brewing the most. Understanding your dose and being able to consistently repeat it, will contribute to better coffee on a regular basis without much added effort.

Browse digital scales curated by DCILY on Amazon.

posted by on 09.14.2011, under Coffee 101, Misc., Products

2011 MANE (not Maine) Coffee Conference

09.13

What’s better than New England in Autumn? Coffee in New England in Autumn! This year’s MANE (Mid-Atlantic/Northeast) Coffee Conference in Rhode Island is the best way to enjoy both. What began years ago as a barista jam started by Gerra Harrigan of New Harvest Coffee and Troy Reynard of Cosmic Cup Coffee, has transformed into full a on coffee conference for baristas, roasters and coffee industry professionals. There will be speakers and forums and workshops oh my!

Kicking off the weekend with words of wisdom from Gwilym Davies himself, the weekend will progress into selected tracks for baristas, advanced baristas, roasters and owners/managers. Each track will offer specific skill building workshops from industry professionals with some intimate hands-on experience—who doesn’t love that? There will also be an opportunity for baristas to take a BGA Level 1 Certification test while they’re in Providence.

There’s a great list of presenters lined up, including:

Gwilym Davies – 2009 World Barista Champion
Jay Caragay – Spro Coffee
Dan Streetman – Irving Farm Coffee
Trevor Cortlett – MadCap Coffee
Scott Guglielmino – La Marzocco
Tommy Gallagher – Counter Culture Coffee

just to name a few…

Since I’ll be in the States in October, and I love foliage season, I’m be taking a weekend trip to Providence to take part in the fun and share some collective coffee wisdom from an often overlooked part of the country. The cost of registration is only $75, so if you’re in the industry and live along the Eastern seaboard, sign-up now and I’ll see you there!

MANE Coffee Conference

posted by on 09.13.2011, under Misc.

Crop to Cup with JJ Bean

09.09

I’ve posted a lot of videos lately, but they’re all fantastic and serve as great reminders of how complex coffee is—not only in taste—but the effort it takes to fill your cup.

This latest video from JJ Bean Coffee Roasters in Vancouver begins with a montage of beautiful b&w photos from an origin trip to Guatemala earlier this year. After returning home, it follows the green beans to the cupping table, through roasting and into a cup.

From the JJ Bean website:

Relatively few people in North America have any knowledge about where or how coffee is made. It is easy to think of coffee as simply a tasty drink made from ground “beans”. However, there is much more to coffee than that, and we wouldn’t even have those beans (which are actually the seeds of coffee cherries) if it were not for the hard work of farmers and workers on coffee farms around the world, as well as the tasters, roasters, and baristas who transform the green beans into the drink we know as coffee. At JJ Bean, we wish to honour the entire “journey of coffee”, from crop to cup, as well as the many people who work tirelessly to bring us that coffee.

I couldn’t agree more. Enjoy.

posted by on 09.09.2011, under Misc., Recommended Roasters, Videos

World AeroPress Record at 20,000ft

09.08

To follow yesterdays re-announcement of the World AeroPress Championship, I’d like to say I’ve found my new training regiment. I’m ready to don an oxygen mask and start making inverted AeroPresses at 20,000ft! Who’s with me?

Last week, while flying 60km/h and geared up to stay warm in the -20°c air, three coffee lovers in Lithuania set a new world record for preparing coffee in a hot air balloon above 20,000ft. Barista Nidas Kiuberis from Coffee Inn, roaster Grazvydas Vilcinskas from Kavos Bankas and pilot Vytautas Samarinas from Orobalionai took to the skies with a thermos of hot water, an AeroPress and fresh roasted coffee from Kavos Bankas (which they ground while on the ground) up into the Troposphere to make history.

After brewing, they each took turns removing their oxygen masks to taste their epic cup of coffee, which sadly was only “as tasty as it is on earth.”

Congrats on the achievement! I think we’ve got our new WAC venue for 2012.

posted by on 09.08.2011, under Misc., Videos

World AeroPress Championship 2011

09.07

This fall, a test of precision timing and perfected plunger pushing will result in crowning a new World AeroPress Champion. The event is set to take place on the 23 of October at HOST (International Exhibition of the Hospitality Industry). This year’s WAC will be graciously hosted by Marco & Über at their exhibition booth along with the support of Aerobie, maker of the AeroPress, in tow.

The AeroPress is one of my personal favorite brew methods and yours truly will be headed to Milan to represent DCILY in the event. I’m excited to be WACing next to an impressive lineup of international coffee talent.

The 2011 competitor list:

  1. Robert Benge, Cafe Cesura - Seattle, USA
  2. Alexander Paull, White Horse Coffee – Sydney, Australia
  3. Colin Harmon, 3FE – Dublin, Ireland
  4. Megumi Ueno, Brew Bar Cafe – Belfast, Ireland
  5. John Stubberud, Kaffee-Alchemie – Salzburg, Austria
  6. Steve Souphanthong, Social Coffee Company – Ontario, Canada
  7. Ben Toovey, Genovese Coffee – Melbourne, Australia
  8. James Hoffmann, Square Mile Coffee Roasters – London, England
  9. Matthew Davis, AIR Coffee Roasters – Sydney, Australia
  10. Tim Wendelboe, Tim Wendelboe – Oslo, Norway
  11. Noriko Sunaga, Manly Coffee – Fukuoka, Japan
  12. John Gordon, Square Mile Coffee Roasters – London, England
  13. Pavol Csiba, Green Plantation Coffee – Komarno, Slovakia
  14. Joshua Wismans, Alterra Coffee Roasters – Milwaukee, USA
  15. Brian W. Jones, Dear Coffee, I Love You – Göteborg, Sweden
  16. Jeff Verellen, Caffenation – Antwerp, Belgium
  17. Paweł Trzciński, Java Coffee Company – Warsaw, Poland
  18. Gwilym Davies, Prufrock – London, England

The 2011 judges:

  1. David Walsh, Marco - Ireland
  2. Mark Dundon, Seven Seeds – Australia
  3. Anne Lunell, Koppi – Sweden

The rules are straight forward and what matters above all is how the coffee tastes. Each round will be 8 minutes, with 5 minutes of prep time and 3 minutes to brew 2dl of coffee for the judges. The coffee used is up to the competitor, but it must be of Kenyan origin and served along with a written explanation of the technique used. Each coffee will then be judged blind and scored accordingly.

Until then, I’ve got a lot of Kenyas to sample and a technique to perfect.

More info at World AeroPress Championship


If you have no idea what an AeroPress is, here’s a good introduction.

posted by on 09.07.2011, under Design, Misc.

DCILY x CMMDI Tee-ser

09.06

DCILY has collaborated with Simon from Coffee Made Me Do It, to bring you another awesome coffee shirt to add to your wardrobe this fall. Along with a reprint of the popular “No X in Espresso” shirt from earlier this summer, I’ll begin taking pre-orders at the end of the week for this latest design. Enjoy a sneak peek for now!

Now available for order.

posted by on 09.06.2011, under Design, Products

Wilfa Svart Is The New Coffee

09.05

When Tim Wendelboe announced the launch of the Nordic Coffee Culture blog, he also hinted at the unveiling of a new brewer that he had been working on with Norwegian housewares company Wilfa (and Europe’s largest design consultancy, Designit). When the top baristas from around Scandinavia gathered last week for the Nordic Barista Cup in Copenhagen, they had the chance to test out the new product.

The new brewer, called the Wilfa Svart (Black) Manuell, consists of a matching electric kettle and carafe with a funnel hanging above it. The funnel has a flow control valve which allows the user to pre-infuse the grounds and better control the extraction time. The kettle can also be pre-set to heat water in 10 degree increments—from 60° to 100°C. Making the kettle useful for more delicate teas as well various brewing preferences.

The Svart isn’t available  yet on the Wilfa site, but I hope to demo one soon.

[UPDATE] This is still in prototype stage. Tim says they’re working on implementing a scale and timer + (addressing) some design issues.

[photo via @timwendelboe]

 

posted by on 09.05.2011, under Design, Products

Olympia Coffee Roasting Video

09.05

Another visually stunning look into the world of coffee bars and roasteries made by Charley Voorhis for Olympia Coffee Roasters in Washington. I never get tired of watching these. Take a coffee break and enjoy!

If you haven’t seen the others, check out the videos from MadCap & Doma.

[via Sprudge]

posted by on 09.05.2011, under Recommended Roasters, Videos

Brew Method: The Bialetti Moka Express

09.02

There are many ways to brew coffee at home—as many bad methods as good methods. Aside from auto-drip, instant and K-cup machines, I personally think the worst cup of coffee one can make at home comes from a Bialetti. There are a few techniques to improve the coffee from a moka pot—like pouring pre-heated water into the lower chamber—but I still think the outcome is on par with burnt metallic sludge.

Coffee taste aside, the object itself is a beautiful and iconic part of design history, with a place in several major museums around the world. Which is why it looks great on posters, sitting on a kitchen shelf, or even oddly contorted into a ceramic mug.

Yesterday, The New York Times ran an article about the invention of the Moka Express that says 9 in 10 Italian homes own one—which is an incredible saturation of the home brewing market. But just like Italian espresso, ignoring progression in the name of tradition can limit the quality that good coffee can produce.

The moka pot is often referred to as a stove-top espresso maker, but it doesn’t actually make espresso. While, it does use pressure to push water through the coffee grounds, it’s a substantially less amount than what’s required for a proper shot (1-2 bars of pressure instead of the required 9 bars). In many ways it’s just a well designed percolator.

However, if you love using a moka pot as much as looking at one, atleast give the tips in this video a try to see if you can improve the taste. If you’re buying fresh roasted coffee, you shouldn’t sacrifice flavor for the sake of romanticizing an inferior brew method.

posted by on 09.02.2011, under Brew Methods, Design, Misc., Products, Videos

Coffee & Chocolate Pairing

09.01

I may have missed the Nordic Barista Cup last week due to a pre-scheduled vacation, but my week long road trip through Norway wasn’t without some coffee fun. After a day spent in Oslo visiting coffee bars (which I’ll be posting about later), I left for the Norwegian Food Festival in Ålesund, where I attended a coffee and chocolate pairing at a great little coffee bar called Brenneriet.

I’d never actually tasted chocolate and coffee together aside from what’s stuffed in the occasional croissant and it was a unique test of my palette in attempting to discern how well certain chocolates paired with certain coffees.

The 90-minute event began with an introduction to specialty coffee that briefly covered where its grown, how its harvested, proper roasting, grinding and brewing, and the importance of coffee freshness. One of the most interesting points made in regards to preparing coffee (translated from Norwegian), was how 4-6 months of hard work from the farmer can be ruined in 4-6 minutes of improper brewing.

During the coffee intro, glasses where passed around containing green beans, roasted beans, and ground coffee to illustrate the transition and to add a sensory experience to the mini-lecture, which was then followed by an introduction to cocoa and chocolate that set up the experience of tasting the two together.

Gunnar brewed up two coffees on a Hario V60—a Colombia, Omar Viveros and a Kenya, Tegu roasted by Kaffa in Oslo. We were asked to draw a matrix that included the two coffees and the three different chocolates—Bailey’s Truffle, Crème Brûlée, and Raspberry Dream. After taking a nibble of a chocolate and a sip of a coffee, we would determine if the pairing highlighted the coffee, the chocolate, or if they combined perfectly. I was surprised to find that the sweetness of some chocolates made one coffee bitter, but not the other—while the Raspberry Dream made the fruit notes in the Kenya extraordinary.

I usually drink my coffee by itself, and while I’ve heard of coffee pairing being done in some restaurants similar to wine, this was my first foray into the deliberate pairing of food and coffee myself. It’s a great way to test your senses and explore the effects that outside elements can have on a coffee. Some for the better and others for the worse. If you get the chance to try something similar, I highly suggest it.

 


The next day I went back to cup some Tim Wendelboe coffee I brought from Oslo and introduce Gunnar to the AeroPress disk. It was a great time with friendly people who are passionate about great coffee. If you’re ever in Ålesund, Norway and looking for a good cup, be sure to stop by Brenneriet.

 

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posted by on 09.01.2011, under Coffee Touring, Misc.