Sunday, August 31

Readers List

Well, upon closer inspection of Blogger it seems that I can automatically e-mail up to ten people whenever I throw up a new post. So, would anybody be interested? If you are, e-mail me at and I'll add you to the readers list. That way, whenever I put up a new post, you'll be the first people to hear about it.


Friday, August 29

WBC 2009 - The Sponsors!

Finally, the WBC 2009 sponsors have been announced. At 2pm (London time) today the WBC broadcast the announcement on their homepage (

Well, I'll get straight to it. The grinder sponsor is Mahlkönig. They have put forward two grinders, the K30 Vario and the K30 Twin, both of which were used by a few baristi at last year's event. As opposed to the classic grinder design we saw in previous events (the K10, with it's dosing chamber) the K30 is an automatic grinder, ensuring that coffee wastage is kept to an absolute minimum. The Twin also allows the barista to use two hoppers, both of which have totally independent grind settings and ventilation.

The machine sponsor has been a subject of debate for a while now; would La Marzocco keep it, or would Nuovo Simonelli finally take their place. Well, I can tell you now that La Marzoccos dominance over the WBC is at an end, and that Nuovo Simonelli are the official sponsors for 2009-11. The Aurelia is an amazing piece of kit, with more technology than I can fit into a post. If people were excited about a dual boiler, it's nothing compared to the tech in this baby. My advice is to watch the announcement on the WBC site, it'll be worth watching if you haven't already.

So what does this mean for us competitors?

The grinder, well, this effectively removes the worry about coffee wastage. I got to use the Mahlkonig in Copenhagen, and if you're on the ball you'll have no problems what-so-ever. This is because, with it lacking a dosing chamber, you have an unfettered view of the portafilter, allowing you to see when the shot is dosed properly. To be honest, this is the bit of kit I'm most excited by, and one that I look forward to getting reacquainted with come the UKBC.

The machine, well, I'll be honest, I was really looking forward to getting onto a GB/5. They look gorgeous, and they're La Marzoccos for goodness sake! who wouldn't want a go. But from the looks of it the Nuovo Simonelli is by no means an inferior machine. Major differences will be the chance to change the length of pre-infusion, and a group system that supposedly removes channeling (though I'd check up on that if I were you; the tech confused me a bit lol). Also, the steam arm isn't switched on and off with a knob, but a paddle instead. It is still a three-group machine.

So, we live in exciting times eh? Two new sponsors, giving Compak and La Marzocco three years to build something better than the K30 and the Aurelia. Personally, as a competitor I can't wait, and as an audience member I can only imagine that this change in espresso machine will level the playing field a little, hurting those people who work on Marzoccos day in day out, or those with previous competitive experience. But that's just my two cents. So, what do you guys think?

Till next time,

P.S: I have been to Central Bean, but haven't gotten around to actually writing any kind of review yet. I promise I will get around to it, just bear with me lol

Friday, August 22

Scottish Coffee

Well, it's been a week, but here I am again! *fanfare blares*

Well, not a whole lot to mention really. Turns out I was very busy, so couldn't do much of what I said I'd do. For those of you who don't know, I've been helping with a Church youth group for the last week. But, we did have a day out to Edinburgh, and a day out to Dunfermline. The first was a fantastic introduction to the Edinburgh coffee scene. I visited three coffee shops, all of whom served me with a better espresso than I could find in Newcastle (with a couple of notable exceptions, but more on that later). The first I visited was Cafe Andaluz. It was more a restaurant really, so I ordered my espresso to go. On show was a beautiful, two group Wega Nova. They didn't use it. The bloke who served me went into the back, and came back with my shot, so who knows what it was made on. I took it out, bought a notepad (to take notes), then tasted it. I've had better. It was weak, watery and a little bland. It still tasted fresh, but like they'd used too few coffee grinds and too much water. As such the aftertaste lasted about five minutes, no more. But in all it wasn't an unpleasant shot, just not the best I've had.

The second cafe was Café Rouge. To look at, this is the best coffee shop I have ever been to. It looks more European than Café Europa. All the waiters and baristas are wearing white shirts, full length black aprons and black trousers. Turns out it's a cafe in the true European sense of the word, selling food, with the coffee as a side dish. So, I went for the full experience and had a lemon tart and a cappuccino. The tart was the best I've had. The coffee wasn't. This isn't to say it wasn't nice, however. The milk was good, but not amazing, with some larger bubbles, and the espresso base was nice enough. The temperature was perfect, warm but not hot. All round a nice place to spend an afternoon.

However, looking back, both these cafes should be ignored, totally. They're both on George's Street. Start in Charlotte's Square, walk down George's Street on the left hand side and you'll find them both. Keep on walking, you'll find a better coffee. Wellington Coffee. Basically hidden away underneath another shop. Walking in, I was amazed by how small it was, yet they still managed to fit three grinders behind the bar; one empty, one for decaf and one for their espresso blend. I ordered myself a cappuccino, and sat down. Tragically the banter was minimal, but I forgave them when my drink arrived. The foam was not the meringue nest I'd gotten in Dunfermline (more, again later), but a perfectly intergrated layer of microfoam. The chocolate powder had been poured ontop of the espresso, then had the milk poured into it, creating a rosetta with a fantastic contrast. To taste, it truely is the best coffee I've had since Copenhagen. Finally, I find someone in the UK (putting aside just about everyone I met in Copenhagen) who can make a better coffee than me. I finally have a benchmark to aim for again. To drink my capp was balanced and silky smooth.

Anyway, this is getting to be long, so I'll stop waxing lyrical and get on with it.

In Dunfermline all the leaders on this week away, as well as a couple of the helpers (myself included) dressed up in stupid costumes and ran around the town. I was dressed as a huge yellow dog called Jumpster. A couple of the leaders and I tried to avoid the kids who were looking for us, and found a coffee shop. We sat down, I took off my dog's head, and we had a drink. So, now for the coffee. I got a cappuccino, and later an espresso. The cappuccino was what you'd expect from somewhere that uses Illy beans; it tasted alright, but nothing all that special, and the foam sat totally seperate to the milk. The espresso was served without any creama to speak of, and was bitter and overextracted. I'll try and get some photos of me in the suit up though.

In more local news, there is a new coffee shop open in Newcastle! Central Bean. My collegues at work loved it so much they rang me while I was in Scotland, so today I'm going to try it. I will post my thoughts when I get back, but from the sounds of it I might finally have some competition in Newcastle. Not to sound big-headed, but you really need to have a look at the Newcastle coffee scene to see what I'm on about.

So, will speak soon!


Thursday, August 14

A Tidy Up Of Florence, What Happens Next, And A Look To The Future

Before I go into the post proper, there are a couple of things I want to say about my latest holiday, sort out a few loose ends. First, barista technique and practice in Italy. This is something that really amazed me. In the UK I've always judged a good coffee bar on how full the dosing chamber on the grinder is, relative to how busy the bar is. If you've got a line twelve deep, a quarter full chamber is not a cardinal sin. A chamber which is packed to the hilt when no one is at the bar, that's unforgivable. In Italy, the rules seem to change. In every bar I went to (including the much hyped Rivoire) the chamber was about half full, even where it would be possible to grind totally to order. Now, for those of you who might not know, the crema on espresso is mostly made up of CO2. The CO2 gives a lot of the brightness and acidity to the coffee, and is vitally important in every avenue of coffee. When beans are ground to an espresso grind they lose 80% of their CO2 content within the first minute, losing that lovely, balanced flavour and giving you something dead and lifeless.

I can just see people thinking now that Italian coffee is not as good as people keep saying it is, but this just isn't true. Somehow, despite having left the coffee for over a minute in the dosing chamber, the coffee still tasted lively and deep, unaffected by the flatness that stale coffee is known for. Aside from this the barista technique (or what I saw of it) was largely similar. One thing I did notice was a lack of big-name equipment. Grinders seemed to be Mazzer and Compak copies, and the machines were largely unknown to me, aside from a couple of Rancilios.

On my way back through Terminal 5, waiting for a connecting flight to Newcastle we stopped by Giraffe for some dinner. I'll be totally honest, we only did because I started taking photos of the four group La Marzocco Linea (or GB-5, can't remember off the top of my head), and they used Union Hand Roasted coffee, which I'm sure you know I love by now. Tragically, though the food was terrific, the coffee was a let down. I got myself a small cappuccino (6oz in a glass) and found the milk to be too bubbly, and the foam was separated from the milk, so that it was difficult to drink the foam. The espresso base was the biggest let down though. It was bitter and tasteless, obviously over extracted, and the whole drink felt like it had been left out while they made my dad's drink. My dad's drink, on the other hand, was a lovely idea and not bad to boot. It was a shot of espresso with hazelnut syrup, served with a jug of steamed milk. The espresso smelt over extracted, but tasted nice and balanced with the syrup. The milk was frothed and steamed nicely, with not many larger bubbles.

Okay, this post has already run on for a fair while, so I'll try and keep this section as short as possible. Firstly, I'd like to take this moment to assess the state of the blog. We currently have 443 hits, and that flies up every time a new post goes up. However, I do get the feeling that if it carries on in the vein it's in it'll become stale quite quickly, hence the current poll. So, with sixteen hours to go it seems you want some bits about the life of a barista, as well as some cafe reviews, equipment reviews and some of you even want more coffee tastings! If anyone reading this hasn't voted, please do, as it'll help me plan out what I want to do in the next month or so.

So, in response to this, I've decided to change tack slightly. The blog at the moment is basically updated when I feel I have something to say, so posts can go up daily, or once a fortnight, depending on what I'm feeling like. To a certain extent I'm going to sort this out by planning out certain posts ahead of time. So, on the books for when I get back from Scotland is a comparison of the Motta jug beside the standard straight walled jug, a review of some of my favourite coffee websites, an in depth review of the Newcastle coffee scene (be prepared for a very long post, or possibly even a two or three parter), a review of a couple of press pots, and (in the not too distant future), a no-holds-barred review of Coffee Aroma, the playground of my good friend Chris Weaver and his boss. In between those I'll try and fit in some barista bits, assuming I can work out what "Life of a Barista bits" means.

Anyway, I hope you're all as excited about this as I am. As for coffee tastings, to date I've only tasted pre-ground french press at home. To remedy this I'm going to try to get a grinder and sort out some proper, freshly ground tastings, possibly some cupping. Also, I only usually taste Union, so I'm going to try and branch out. On this subject, if anybody has any suggestions for what I should taste (as well as where I can get it) email them to me, and I'll have a look. My contact details are on the side bar. Also, any roasters, feel free to send me samples! If you do wish to send any samples, drop me an email and we can sort something out. Drop me some cash and I'll make it more favourable :p lol

Quickly, a review of some news. I've been offered a guest host slot on the Common Grind podcast, and am looking forward to taking up Chris on his generous offer. Watch this space. In other news, Mark Prince has announced on the latest CoffeeGeek podcast that he has joined a Cup of Excellence sub committee designed to look at the possibility of a barista membership. I'll blog more about this in the future, but go check out the podcast, it's always a good listen.

So that's it. Two months in and the blog is stronger than I ever could have dreamed. With twenty three people now members of the Facebook group, including some fantastic baristi that I owe much of my passion to, nearly 45o hits on the blog itself, and some great feedback coming in I look to the future with both trepidation and excitement. I hope the blog continues to grow, and that I can keep up the quality of the posts, so please, keep that feedback coming.

Before I go there are a few people I should thank. Firstly, Chris Weaver and Glenn Watson, for keeping my passion for coffee networking and blogging alive. To Stephen Leighton, for not being offended when I basically forgot who he was (sorry mate), and for leaving some great comments on the blog. To all my regulars at work, for putting up with my experimentation and uncontrollable passion for everything Third Wave. To Dane McGreevy and Chris Walton, for forcing me to up my game all the damn time. And finally, to Ru and Lu, my employers, for taking a young, immature, jobless waster who hated coffee and moulding him into the professional barista and general coffee geek that I am today. A huge thanks to everyone, and to all of you reading this. Without you it's just me rambling to an uncaring void.

Cheers, and sorry about the length,

Monday, August 11

A Really Quick One

My last coffee in Florence before I leave tomorrow. A lungo. Finally, I've tried one. I have nothing to compare it to, so I won't judge it. Instead I'll simply say it tasted like a Cafe Nero espresso. Long and bitter, but not entirely unpleasent. The difference is, of course, that's what a lungo is meant to be. So that's my final coffee here, and it was nice. My parents' capps were lovely as well (still not as good as Rivoire, but close enough).

I'll get the wine and olive oil tasting up soon.

I've had a little too much to drink, so now I'm off to bed.


Sunday, August 10

Last Day In Florence, Espresso Con Panna And A Five Bob Note

Well, while not being our last night in Florence itself, it i our last full day to wander around the city. Tomorrow we're off on a tour of the surrounding area, including some wine tasting and some olive oil tasting (which I might post, just as a matter of interest). Today (and yesterday for that matter), we had remarkably few coffees which I haven't already mentioned.

We had dinner at Gilli. Fantastic meal, and I had a cappuccino to finish off, as did my mum. Both of us got latte art in the top (the first I've had all holiday!), mine a rosetta, my mum's a heart. The foam was lovely, with only a few larger bubbles (not large, but larger), and it was sweet and creamy. The espresso base was tasty, and more than complimented the quality of the milk.

As for Rivoire, tonight I had an espresso con panna, and a cappuccino. The espresso con panna is something I can't say I'm a huge fan of. Part of this is simply because I never know how to drink them, but also I find it a weak imitation of an espresso macchiato. It was, however, the last drink on the menu I needed to taste, so I had a go. I'll be honest, it was good. If you like the con panna, you'll love the Rivoire. The cappuccino, while not having any latte art, did have a perfect line of crema all the way around the edge of the cup, surrounding a solid white block of milk. I quickly remedied the lack of latte art with a cocktail stick and some etching. I'll get the photo up on Flickr when I get back. It was, again, a perfect cappuccino. Not complex, or mind blowing, but a solid capp; balanced, sweet and creamy.

As for the five bob note...well...I found five Euros on the floor. Awesome.

And that's about it really. Everywhere is closed tomorrow, so I don't know if there'll be any coffee, and we leave Florence on Tuesday. A quick heads up, I'm away next week as well, helping with my local church youth group in Scotland. There is very little chance that I'll have any internet connection, so I'll be silent for a while. I'll be taking loads of coffee and a french press with me. I might even do a comparison of french press pots if I find the time. We'll see.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed reading about Florence, and I really do recommend that any of you who love tasting different coffees, and seeing different techniques (something I've sen traically little of) come here. The food, the atmosphere, the sights, the people, everything is worth a look. And the Rivoire is where you need to go.

Cheers, and thanks for reading :)

Thursday, August 7

Veni, Vidi, Pluo - Part II

As I promised, here is part two.

The resteraunt where I had this cup of excellence (:p) was the Rivoire, in the Piazza della Signoria. The food was tremendous (in fact, the main reason we even came back to Italy was because my mum fell in love with the Panacotta last time), and the service was without peer. From start to finish we were looked after by one waiter, who really could not have been more helpful.

This morning, I decided to sample the hotel's coffee. We're staying in the Hotel Davanzati, near the centre of Florence, only a short walk from the Piazza della Republica. The food, again, was great. A full buffet service with everything from cereal and croissants to cheescake. They had both drip and espresso based drinks, so my dad went with an espresso, and I a cappuccino. Tragically, it was not what I had hoped for. The milk was uneven, with two cones of milk froth in the centre of the cup, and the foam was seperate from the body of the milk, suggesting it hadn't been spun properly. This, I knew before I was even served the drink, simply by listening to the woman behind the bar making the milk, frothing it even as she switched off the steam wand. The espresso too was mildly overextracted. To its credit it was served in an eight oz. cup at a drinkable temperature, and was made by hand, on a double group machine.

Having said this, it may have been the worst coffee I have experienced in Italy, but it is still better than the average UK cappuccino. The milk was the same quality as some of the drinks I've had from Costa or Starbucks, and the espresso was only mildly overextracted, but still drinkable.

We also visited the Gilli, in the Piazza della Republica. With it being the middle of the day I only drank water, but my dad had an espresso. The smell of it was lovely. It smelt only slightly bitter, and my dad agreed that, while the Rivoire's espresso was better, the Gilli was still an excellent cup of coffee. We are hoping to back there later this week, so I'll give you a more detailed review then.

We're off out again later, so I'll post again later. And I'll try to keep the posts short, cos the last thing you want is to read two full length essays a day.

See you again soon,

Wednesday, August 6

I Came, I Saw, I Showered

I'm in Italy guys! Because of this my spelling might not be great, because I have no spell checker...well, I do, but it's Italian. The fight was alright, not as long as I thought it was gonna be, and I slept through most of it anyway. Landed in Pisa, then got the bus from the airport to Florence. With no air coniditioning. That was hell. But by goodness, it was worth it. I decided to forgoe a coffee all day, until after supper. Again, it was worth it. All you people who think you know what the 'God Shot' is, you don't. You people who think you understand five star service. You don't. So, I had lasagne, with a white wine, followed by gelato. Then I had my espresso.

The machine was a four group Rancilio. The grinder, unfortunately, I didn't recognise. The espresso was served in a spotless, bowl-style demitasse, and looked perfect. A beautiful, hazelnut coloured crema, with perfect tiger striping. I tried pulling back the crema with my spoon (WBC style :p), and it repaired itself immediately, showing no evidence that I'd ever touched it. The the taste. I'll be honest, there was little complexity to the espresso. However, the quality of the shot more than made up for this. An intense chocolate taste, with a hint of hazelnut at the front of the tongue. All in all I can confidently say it is the very best shot of espresso I have ever had. Despite it obviously being a very dark espresso roast it did not taste bitter at all. Even the crema tasted balanced. It was full-bodied, with a light acidity.

Anyway, I'll post the rest of the night tomorrow, because the family is trying to get some sleep.

Till next time!

Tuesday, August 5

Come On Seamus, Not Another Bloody Tasting...

Well....yes. I'll be honest, I've been buying too many great french press coffees to just not share them with you. And besides, it keeps the blog ticking over until I get some of the big stuff. Just to forewarn you all, as of tomorrow I'm in Florence, Italy. Hopefully I'll have Internet access while I'm there, in which case I'll post regularly about my adventures abroad with the parents. If not, I'll write it all down instead and post it when I get back, at regular intervals. I also hope to do a tamper comparison in the fairly near future (two Reg Barbers and a Bumper, hopefully), as well as a review of the Motta jugs (unrelated to a similar idea floating about on Coffee Forums). Just thought I'd let you know.

Anyway, on with the tasting. Today was a special one. For a change, it wasn't a light, bright coffee. It was a dark, french roast espresso blend with beans from Latin America, East Africa and Indonesia. It also happens to be the espresso blend I use at Coolaboola (the little kiosk where I work; Happy now Ru?), so I've got a fair old idea of what I'm looking for. I am, of course, talking about Union Hand Roasted's Revelation. Using this day in, day out, I know that it has a punchy red berry opening, leading to chocolate with a caramel finish. I know that as a cappuccino it enhances the berry, and diminishes the caramel. This time, however, espresso had nothing to do with it. This time, it would be a french press.

Now, I was more than a little excited, as was Dane. Even stood on the other side of the unit I could smell the intense chocolate aroma as he cut open the bag. Upon closer inspection (for want of a better word) the aroma of toasted caramel, and even a subtle hint of berry. As the coffee brewed away to itself the chocolate aroma intensified, to the point of making my mouth water in anticipation. On the tongue the taste evolved much as the aroma had. A subtle but defined berry opening which excited every part of the tongue, leading to an intense, full bodied chocolate as you swallow, leaving a caramel aftertaste, and a refreshing berry taste on the palette.

Overall, drinking this coffee as a french press really showed me the way that Revelation evolves in the mouth, moving from taste to taste in ways that are far too subtle as an espresso for my novice palette to truly understand at the moment. So this will not be my last cup of Revelation french press, and I look forward to getting back from Italy to try the espresso and the press pot beside each other.

Anyway, hope this alleviated your boredom a little, and I hope to have something a bit more original this time next week (along with pictures on my brand new Flickr account!). Until then I'll hand over the last word to the man, the myth, the legend, Intelligensia's own Geoff Watts:

"F*cking, speciality coffee will kick the asses of all the shitty coffees in the world"

Amen brother.

Sunday, August 3

Truly, You Have No Idea How Excited I Am.

It's something I've been waiting for since I started networking. I'm an avid listener of the Portafilter podcast and the CoffeeGeek podcast. I read the forums, I post on them, I've started my own blog and I'm a moderator. Now, finally, my prayers have been answered. A BRITISH PODCAST!!!

Okay, so I might be a little over excited about this, but finally someone has stepped up to the plate and sorted out some kind of mainstream podcast for us, the UK coffee lover. It's by Chris Weaver (someone I'm mentioned probably a bit too much on this blog) and it's a hugely promising first episode. Fair enough, there are editing issues and it's a little rough, but hell, it's his first go and the content is more than enough to make up for any of it's failings. Aside from the news section (something which on it's own excites me) it has an interview with Steve Leighton, the world famous Hasbean roastmaster which is hugely interesting.

The podcast is only an hour long, so it's easy to fit into the drive home from work (if you travel as far as me anyway), so please have a look and a listen, and get back to Chris with your opinion. He wants to know what people think so he can improve it and make it the world-class podcast I know it's gonna be.

Anyway, I'll post the link at the end of this post, and the link to Chris's blog site is in the window on the right.

Well, I'm gonna go back to listening to it again lol.

Friday, August 1

Turkish Coffee, French Press And the Joys Of Kimya Dawson

[Update: the Columbia tasting has now been added, as has the name of the Turkish Coffee...or at least what I think the coffee is called...]

Come one, come all! Well, as promised I broke out the hotplate and Ibrik and made up another Turkish coffee at work today, and even made notes this time. Now, for those of you who might not know, a Turkish coffee is brewed slightly differently to, say, a french press or a vac pot. It's brewed in a small, handled belly jug called an Ibrik, and uses a powder-fine grind. To be truly authentic it should also be brewed with a small amount of sugar to add sweetness. Again, this will not be a CoE standard tasting, just what Dane (the guy I was working with) and I thought about the coffee. I'll put it up anyway, just in case you find it interesting. The coffee I'm using is a preground coffee, which I think is called Kurukaveci Mehmet Efendi. That could just be a corporation name for all I know. It is from Turkey, however, and I don't speak Turkish...okay, on with the tasting.

Firstly, the aroma. On the nose it's winey, with a hint of oak. Tasting it warm the red wine/fruit notes really stand out, even over the sweetness of the sugar, with woody, oaky tones after the coffee is gone. As it cools the oak notes begin to come out more, giving the cup the taste of, in Dane's words, a forest early in the morning. As for body, Dane and I talked long and hard about this. In the end we decided it was a mix. On the tongue it had a heavy, full body, but on the palette it had a much lighter, watery feel. All in all it was a very different, interesting experience as well as a lovely coffee to drink.

Now onto the next bit of the title; French Press. Yes, today I made up a new (to me) and exciting Union Hand Roasted french press. I used a Colombian coffee from the Timana Co-Operative, Huila. The aroma is that of red wine, deep, full and fruity on the nose. Dane seems to have written 'bum fun' on my aroma notes...this, apparently is what he gets from the coffee. Draw your own conclusions. Tasting it 'straight off the boil', so to say, the coffee has a distinct oak taste, with a medium acidity and a fruit/red wine finish. As the cup cools the oak fades into the background, allowing the wine notes to come into their own, the fruit finish replaced by a defined chocolate aftertaste. Overall the coffee has a medium body and leaves a refreshing, zesty feel at the back of the mouth.

Now, a song for all you coffee lovers out there. Okay, it's a tenuous link, I'll admit that, but it's still an awesome song. It's The Competition by Kimya Dawson. Unfortunately it's not hosted anywhere on the web, so I found another great song by her and Antsy Pants called Tree Hugger (from the Juno soundtrack). Competition is available on iTunes though, and I suggest you buy it now.

Anyway, that's about it for today.


Welcome to Third Wave UK!

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Hey y'all. Welcome to the Third Wave UK speciality coffee blog. Whether you're a coffee profesional, home barista, or just interested in speciality coffee or the speciality coffee scene in the UK, this blog will hopefully have something for you. Cheers, Seamus McFlurry

Seamus McFlurry At Work!