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, 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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