Tuesday, September 13

A Union Delivery, A Night With The Girlfriend And A Whole New Blogging Tool...

Hey guys!

Well, it's been a while, and I can only apologise for that. But, what I have lined up for you should hopefully make up for that. First things first, the 26th. Matt and I are running a coffee tasting 'experience' at Pumphrey's Cafe. We're looking at recording the audio and finding a way of letting you hear it. No promises, but we'll give it a go! And if you happen to be in the area, Newcastle, around the 26th September, places are limited to 15, and we're filling up pretty fast.

So what's up right now? Well, guess who got some nice, fresh Union micro lots? Oh yes...a good old Third Wave tasting. Unfortunately, Matt wasn't at work today, and our rotas don't match up this week, so this week you get the input of my lovely girlfriend and coffee widow, Kat. She;s not a coffee professional, but has taken to it as a hobby in a really satisfying way. My V60 and Skerton are usually at her flat, and she loves messing around with them. She listens (and actually takes in...) when I talk constantly about coffee science and the like. So, it's just us, tasting three wonderful coffees, all through a V60. So, let's dive right in!

So, firstly, which coffees do I have? Well, Union were nice enough to send me a washed Suki Quo Ethiopian Sidamo, a Mafalda Mokka, and a Costa Rican from San Juanillo.

First, Kat and I tasted the Sidamo. Straight away it hits you with a smooth body, and peach acidity. Behind that, giving a good, solid yet not overpowering mouthfeel were lovely chocolate tones. As the coffee cools, the apricot comes out, until it becomes the overriding flavour. Lovely complexity, with a developing flavour profile. One of the best coffees I've had in a while.

This was, however, quickly overshadowed by our next coffee. The Mafalda Mokka proudly tells us of it's bergamot and vanilla flavours on the packaging., Now, for those of you who know me, I have a very sweet tooth. infact, the only reason I'm in the coffee industry is because of my love of hot chocolate and, importantly, vanilla syrup. This coffee does what it says on the bag; a bergamot opening with a vanilla hint. Great coffee, nice flavour, medium body and a lasting mouthfeel. Then it cools, and that vanilla hint becomes a vanilla syrup, with the bergamot moving into the background. The Dairy Milk tones in the coffee begin to give a faintly syrupy sensation, which coupled with the vanilla tastes like a flavoured coffee, in a nice way.

Finally, the San Juanillo. A honey sweetness with a red berry top note. It has a bright, lemon like acidity, and a flavour I simply couldn't put my finger on. Kat and I sat and chatted about it for a bit, and we came up with strawberry. It's not quite the right descriptor, but it's as close as we could come, and it gives the right idea; a lovely, sweet, bright fruit with bags of acidity.

All in all, three very nice coffees, and three I'd recommend you try out. My favourite was probably the San Juanillo, if only because I have simply never tasted anything with that particular strawberry like flavour. The Mokka, however, is a very close second (as a side note, this is the second time I've tasted all three together. The first time the the Sidamo rocked my world, and the other two were simply nice, smooth coffees. All for the sake of a few days degassing)

Last thing before I go, I have a new blogging tool. Meet my new iPad and bluetooth keyboard! The upshot of this is that I can now blog from work, from Kat's house, wherever. So hopefully I should be far more regular than I have been since I started up again.

Cheers guys, it's been a pleasure as always. Now, a Punk IPA and planning tomorrow's blog (hopefully...).


Thursday, August 18

E-Mail, Twitter, And A Bitter Aftertaste...

Hey guys. Today's post is one I've been trying to post for a couple of days now. Technology problem? No. I just seriously underestimated the topic I'm going to be discussing. To be honest, what was originally going to be an in-depth look at the chemistry of coffee is increasingly becoming more of a discussion. If you know more about coffee chemistry, or chemistry in general, than I do, drop me an e-mail and let me know what you think of this post. Correct me if you can, please. If you don't know anything about chemistry, let me know if I've explained it well at all. Cheers guys.

Here we go.

Have you ever wondered why coffee tastes bitter? Have you, like me, gone looking for an answer, finding that caffeine is a naturally bitter substance? Has a barista ever told you that overextraction pulls out too much caffeine, which makes it more bitter?

I told my customers this for coming up to four years, believing every word. Until I read an article of Sweet Maria's (I'll post the link at the end). The article was on coffee chemistry and freshness, and contained so much actual chemistry that I needed to spend two days teaching myself bits and pieces just to understand it. Caffeine, it turns out, is in too low a concentration to affect the taste of coffee all that much. Bitterness is, for good or bad, contributed by the presence of Chlorogenic Acid Lactones (CALs from here on in), derived from chologenic acids, and Multiply Hydroxylated Phenylindanes. CALs are the predominant polyphenol in green coffee. So what's a polyphenol? It's a structural class of natural, synthetic or semi-synthetic organic material, characterised by the presence of large multiples of phenol units. Great. So what's a phenol? It's a class of chemical compound directly linked to an aromatic hydrocarbon group. The term aromatic refers to their generally sweet aroma.

When the green beans are roasted, two things happen.

  1. The phenolic acids (such as CAL) break down into di- and trihydroxybenzenes. These are aromatic compounds which are in turn classed as phenols.

  2. The acids epimerise (they become epimers...I couldn't find a simple description of what an epimer was, so please guys, let me know) and dehydrate to give various lactones that provide a pleasent, 'coffeelike' bitter quality.

If the roasting continuesthe lactones break down and form 4-vinylcatehol as a highly reactive intermediate. This is a highly energetic molecule which breaks down very quickly into a more stable molecule, in the case Multiply Hydroxylated Phenylindanes. These yield a lingering, harsh bitterness, almost always associated with over-roasted coffee.

That, unfortunately, is all I know. I hope it's been of some help, and if anyone has any further details, feedback, etc, let me know. It's what the e-mail and Twitter accounts are for :) Quiz me, make me go and search for things. Keep me busy. All the contact details are to the right hand side of the window, at the top. Hope to speak soon. Oh, and if you thought this helped, tell your friends.

Cheers guys



Saturday, August 13

Shadows Of The Past, Happenings Of The Present, And Rumblings Of The Future...

Well, first things first, this Rule Of Three I use in my titles? Not always easy.

So, first things first; the past. Coffee back when I started Third Wave was a very different animal to what it is now. Maybe it was just my perspective on it, but way back when, coffee seemed to far less defined. Finding exact definitions of what drinks were, how to brew coffee, or even what was happening when coffee was brewing was difficult. Yes, it's still niche, but things like brew ratios and extraction yields were incredibly difficult to find when I first started out. Even social media, blogs, forums, etc were difficult to find. The times I did find people talking, there was very little about filter, and certainly little to do with the science of it.

Now? Well, Coffee Forums UK has grown massively since my last visit, with a healthy cross section of home baristi and professionals. It's difficult to search for coffee without finding a blog, a book or a forum, and with people like the guys at Tamper Tantrum putting out great podcasts, filled with really, really geeky knowledge, education is getting easier and easier. The public even seems more open. Looks like all those crap newspaper articles about 'speciality coffee' might have had some kind've affect.

So what does that mean for us? (If you're reading this, I assume you're a geek (or have just been directed here...probably by me), but if you're not, I apologise, because this probably won't apply to you. Please, bear with me though) We need to capitalise. Grab people's attention, make coffee accessible, appealing, make things like V60s and Aeropresses the go-to home barista kit, rather than Gaggia super-autos. Down South, I know people are doing a great job, but up North we're fighting a good, hard battle. Cuppings, latte art jams, free or at least cheap barista courses, evenings where people can come along, get in cheap, taste a load of coffees and be taught something about them. You'd be amazed how many people's eyes actually light up when you tell them what a bloom is.

So; the future. Well, for Third Wave, I'd like to develop something of a local feel. Every blog in existence tells us everything about Square Mile, the London Coffee Scene, the SCAE, etc. Newcastle has some great cafes and some great baristi, and soon, I hope, some really, really good events. That'll be my job. Which is where my other bit of news comes in...

I'd like to welcome a new writer. Dane, unfortunately, is no longer part of the coffee industry. Just so that you don't get sick and tired of my rantings, I've gotten someone on board to replace him, someone with a huge passion not only for coffee, but also for tea and (this one seems almost unhealthy...) bread; sour bread in particular. His name is Matt Pickering, and he's an awesome guy. He's been a barista for 11 weeks, and knows far more about certain things than I do. He's a very quick learner, and has a lot to teach me (and hopefully you). From what I gather (I don't hold a very tight leash on my writers...except quiet editorial control :p), he plans to do a Barista 101 in a series of articles as he reads a couple of very good books on the science of coffee. I, for one, can't wait.

Hope that's enough for now. Sometime soon I'll be posting a couple of tastings (got a Monsooned Malabar and La Ilusion from HasBean, as well as a couple of Union microlots, stuff like that), but until then, happy hunting (...for people to educate, turn into coffee geeks...go be metaphorical vampires!).


Thursday, August 11

A New Job, A New Passion, And A Few Thanks.

Here we go again. Back into the world of the obsessive coffee geek. So, what's happened in the two and a half years since my last post? Well, I stopped caring. For many reasons, frankly. It went from being the love of my life, to a job, to something I hated more than anything else in the world, to being something I did to keep petrol in the tank. I stayed at Coolaboola throughout, doing my job to a varying degree. I was promoted to head barista, then bumped down to senior barista because I was so regularly late. My latte art soared to heights I never imagined during my competition days, then deteriorated again. So I looked for a new job. I even looked at buying a friend's business, and running my own coffee shop. In the end, Pumphrey's advertised for jobs, and now I work for them as a line barista.

A new passion? At Coolaboola, we did a great job. We served great coffee, we prepared our milk well, and we had a passion. But the majority of it, I've since discovered, was guess work. We did it right, but didn't know how or why. And hell, a lot has changed since my last post. The first major difference is my attitude towards preparation. At 'Boola, when dialing in a grind, we kept running shots until they ran to about 21 seconds. Now? Now I have to take into account coffee dose, grind size, grind time, brew weight, TDS, contact time, etc, etc. I care about temperature stability, and the effect of temperature on extraction rates. I actually understand the term extraction yield (a phrase I'd never even heard of), and MojoToGo is one of my favourite coffee toys. I love coffee again, and I want to know everything I can. I want to learn how to fix machines, what acids and lipids make up green coffee, the perfect brew ratio for every coffee that Pumphrey's sells...I take every chance I get to play with the Uberboiler. Hell, I've kicked off Third Wave again.

So, my thanks. Well, first of all, a huge shout out to Ru and Lu. You hired a 19 year old lad who hated coffee because I was the best of a truly appalling bunch. I hope (and without wanting to blow my own trumpet, I think I did) I made a difference, and I really do thank you for getting me into this world. Without coffee, who knows what I'd be doing. Something crap, probably. I'd have never met some of my favourite people, and I can't imagine my life without hands stained brown from ground coffee. I don't think it's much of an exaggeration to say that I owe who I am now to you both. Cheers. Oh, and poke Maisie-Boo's cheeks for me and Kat.

Secondly, Stuart Lee Archer for being the geekiest SOB alive. And for buying Ubers. I have a passion now that I didn't have a year ago, and it's a passion I'm desperate (as he may have noticed...) to share. Many thanks for the chance...now, onto UKBC!

Thirdly, everyone I've worked with. I know it's not always easy, but thanks for not punching me. Congrats to Ace, who pipped me to the post (by a good few lengths) in getting Union's Northern Trainer job. When I stopped caring, he really started. He is a tremendous barista, and I wish him the best of luck. I also hope to see him at competition, and if I don't I'll be asking why. You've been warned Ace! Also, best of luck to James Andrews. An amazing barista from down south (and up north...he lived in Glasgow while at Uni), who is opening his second shop. Hope this one goes well, and I'll make sure when to pop in! And I won't forget Leeks, Russell, Ben, Richie, Sam, Dane and all the guys I work with at Pumphrey's.

Fourthly, Kat. My girlfriend of two and a half years, we started going out in January, as I prepped for competition in February. She's seen every stage of my life in coffee, or at least every stage of my passion, and has been a supportive coffee widow from the start. I love her to bits, and in fact am writing this on her laptop, in her flat, drinking a Monsooned Malabar that she made with my V60. It's lovely. And she listens to me go on about coffee, and even picks it up herself. I will have her converted, and it isn't even taking that much effort.

So what are my plans for the future of Third Wave? Well, I want it to be more scientific. I want it to, in part, chart what I learn, try to pass my knowledge on to other people. I'll also continue with cup tastings, local events, stuff like that. Hopefully it'll be half decent.

Well, speak soon. And thanks for reading. Without you guys, I'm just some idiot throwing stuff out into the void.


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

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