It's all down to the Grind!

Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Hand grinders may seem like a lot of hard work, but Ishan Natalie, 3 time SA Barista Champion, can assure you that this labour of love is totally worth it. Whichever one you choose, it’ll be a gadget you’ll never regret having as part of your home barista kit!

Originally published in Issue 25 of The Coffee Magazine

Words by Ishan Natalie


The world of coffee is forever exciting, with new developments and creativity being showcased constantly; especially recently with home brewing options. I get very excited with new products, particularly those to use at home. With an already vast array of brewing methods and general coffee gadgets at home, I keep a close eye on what is new out there. This can be quite troublesome at times as I am quite impulsive in my purchases for anything I am intrigued by in coffee. I have an awesome wife who supports me in everything I do, but these gadgets are taking up more and more cupboard space in my home and the wonderful wife is less than impressed (haha!). So I’ve had to become a lot more selective with what I invest in for home brewing. It has to make sense – functional, efficient and, most importantly, necessary!

I think we can all agree that most of our coffee smalls and equipment are a luxury and ‘must haves’ based on our lust for lovely things. But do we really need them? Almost everybody, myself included, looks at new aesthetically pleasing brewing equipment (brewers, drippers, machines), but often overlook what I believe is, and should be, the first purchase for brewing coffee. The grinder! Grinders are considered less important to many (even in the coffee world), with people spending heaps of money on espresso machines and cool brewing devices in the pursuit of great coffee. I have learnt that this is the absolute wrong way of achieving better coffee. You see, the brewing devices and machines are merely a way we brew coffee to deliver a style of coffee, they are not the most important tool. That’s where the grinder comes in. Think about the structure of a home – the aesthetic design of the building provides comfort for living and fulfils our desires; but a solid foundation is what keeps it all together and maintains the integrity of the structure. Likewise, the grinder is the foundation to quality in your coffee. If you have a beautiful brewing method, but a poor quality grinder, you merely have a perception of quality, rather than the high quality that is possible with the right foundation.

In short, the grinder is king!

With travelling often for work nationally and internationally, I grew more and more intolerant of poor quality coffee on aeroplanes and in the hotel rooms I stayed in. Freeze-dried coffee was driving me crazy. And so, in 2003 I took the plunge and bought a Gater hand grinder which suited my needs at the time – it was inexpensive, light and compact. This meant that I could chuck it in my luggage or backpack and take it everywhere. This gave me an option for better coffee brewed anywhere. Paired with my Aeropress at the time, it made for a convenient, traveller-friendly brew kit. I loved my grinder, Pinky as I name it, as it was very bright pink. As much as I would get weird looks when I whipped out my very bright pink grinder on the airport floor, I was very proud of it. It opened a whole new world for me when I travelled, I could I enjoy newfound complexity in each extraction. The only downside was that there was no lid to attach to the beans chamber which resulted in the beans sometimes flipping out, messing up my brew ratio. Its amazing price point meant sometimes I struggled with particularly dense beans sometimes hitting a ‘road block’ that put pressure on the bearings, but all in all, it served me well and started my love affair with hand grinders.

Then I came across the Lido 3 by Orphan Espresso. I competed at the 2015 World Barista Championship in Seattle and I remember chilling in the hotel room for some competition preparation and downtime when Craig Charity (SA Barista Champ 2014) walks in with the Lido 3 he got at the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Expo . We brewed coffee and he spoke of the grinder with utmost respect and admiration. Just by looking at it and listening to Craig with his immense technical knowledge while he showed us the mechanism of how it was built and worked, I really wanted one. But then the hurdle that made me rethink the decision of buying one – it cost about $195!!! Plus it weighed close to a kilogram. The thought of paying that price for a hand grinder (and a heavy one for my hand luggage and general use) was ridiculous and I decided I couldn’t afford to spend that much on a grinder. Famous last words!

It was the last day of the SCA Expo, and I walked the show floor to explore. I came across the Orphan Espresso stand and got to speaking with owners Doug and Barb Garrott, who were so proud and technically proficient with why they designed the grinder the way it was. I quickly came to believe that this grinder was the best thing on earth: the blades were stainless steel and cut to precision; it cut through coffee like butter and was quick and effortless in grinding; it was easy to adjust the grind, it has a long bean shaft and a rubber lid to prevent the beans from flipping out, whilst also reducing the noise of grinding, supported by the very sharp burrs; it came in a soft padded carry bag with slots in the side that contained a ball point hexagon screwdriver to strip the grinder for cleaning and reassembly, as well as brush for cleaning the blades. An exceptionally well thought out piece of coffee equipment.

So miraculously, I found the money to make the impulse (but calculated) buy. Thank goodness for credit cards! Up until this article was published, it has still been the best investment I have ever made in brewing devices/ equipment to make coffee at home and when I travel. Even with my electric grinder on my kitchen counter, I always reach for the Lido 3. This grinder is so well designed and put together, it’s was worth every penny to me.

I only recently unpacked and started making use of my Grindripper set that I got as a gift on that same trip to Seattle. I found this to be a great alternative for traveling extremely light with very limited luggage/ carry on space. The grinder is attached to the dripper and is great for a single cup brew no matter where you are. It is sturdy for a little grinder though a bit slow in grinding due to the blade size. The burrs are adjusted with an easy to handle knob attached to a screw shaft and adjusts a click at a time making for a precise adjustment.

There are so many reputable hand grinders on the market – Hario, Rhinowares, Porlex, Commandante and the new & exciting Lume battery operated hand grinder. All differ in size, weight, grind mechanisms, user-friendliness, grind variations and ultimately, price.

I would highly recommend investing in a hand grinder that is versatile; you want a grinder that can achieve grinds for a variety of brew methods from French Press (course) to Espresso (fine). Hand grinders vary in price quite substantially due to materials used and therefore, longevity. It depends on what your needs are and I suggest chatting to your supplier, but also doing some research online with various coffee professionals and home brewer forums before choosing. 

If you come across the term ‘ceramic conical burrs’, this is the material and shape that the burrs are made of. Most on the market use ceramic burrs, but there are stainless steel options too, like the Lido and Commandante and nearly all I have seen are conical in shape. The burrs you buy the grinder with are basically going to last you a lifetime as the volumes of coffee you will brew at home or on the go are far less significant than in a coffee shop application. Just so you can understand, it’s recommended to change industrial coffee grinder blades every 500kg of coffee ground. If you brew a 2 cup batch for yourself every day, at an average of 20g of coffee for every 300ml of water, you would only need to replace your burrs, or attempt to sharpen them every 25,000 days/ 68 years! This will obviously vary dependent on burr quality, ceramic vs steel and size of burrs. Ceramic and larger circumference burrs stay cooler during grinding due to less friction and will therefore last longer. To improve longevity it helps to strip/clean your grinder weekly/ monthly to remove any coffee residue and grind build up in and around the blade assembly. Uncleaned burrs and assemblies will lead to poorer tasting coffee and potential mechanism inefficiencies.

My personal criteria for choosing a grinder are as follows: I like having a grinder that allows me to grind volumes of coffee up to 50g in one go for multiple cups, with the ability to adjust grind from fine to course for various brew methods. I use my Lido 3 for 1 cup brews as well as up to 5 cups/ Chemex for guests, cupping, paper and mesh filters, you name it! I have brewed coffee on aeroplanes (with uncomfortable looks from air hostesses and passengers), hotel rooms, on the street, in airports, at home, on the beach and on hikes. The possibilities to have fresh, great tasting coffees wherever you are limitless and fairly inexpensive when you invest in a quality hand grinder. Rather than asking your local coffee shop to grind the coffee for you and limiting your coffee freshness and flavour to a matter of a day or 2, grind whole bean at home for a much more flavourful experience that lasts a lot longer. Nothing beats the smell of freshly ground coffee wherever you are. And believe me when I say, coffee tastes sweeter and you savour it so much more when ground fresh and brewed by your own hands. It’s the labour of love!

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In Honour of the Moka Pot

Friday, 7 December, 2018

Is there any coffee maker more iconic than the Bialetti Moka Express? After more than 85 years, the classic stove-top coffee maker, invented in 1933, it was reported in a recent article may soon be out of business. Bialetti, the company behind the Italian invention, was alleged to be in serious financial trouble and at risk of bankruptcy thanks to consumers switching to the convenience of capsule machines.

We received a response to this from Bialetti Italy.

Regarding the information reported by the press by which “moka makers have seen market share decline due to competition from coffee capsule machines” we inform you that the turnover of Moka express increase by 6,8% in the first half of 2018. Bialetti also produce and sell coffee capsules and ground coffee and arise the fourth position in the capsule segment. We have recently received investment into the company to rectify any financial stress.”

Phew! Well thats a relief! The Moka Pot revolutionised coffee-making in the home, and it’s estimated that over 70% of Italian households own at least one Bialetti coffee-maker. The distinctive design of the Moka Pot has even earned it a place in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and some say it’s the most copied coffee-maker in history!

In honour of the iconic Moka Express, we thought we’d share some tips for making the perfect Moka Pot coffee.

Prepare the perfect Moka coffee

1. Preheat the water to the point just before boiling – this will help with the extraction. Then fill the water chamber of the Moka pot with your hot water, to just below the level of the pressure release valve (don’t cover it).

2. Use freshly ground coffee that’s not too fine and not too coarse. You might need to experiment to find the grind that works best for you. 

3. Fill the basket with the ground coffee, but don’t overfill it or tamp it down. If you use too much coffee, you’ll end up with a bad extraction and bitter-tasting coffee.

4. Screw the pot tightly closed, making sure there’s no excess coffee grounds around the edge.

5. Place the Moka pot onto the stop over a medium-low heat for a gradual extraction. If you hear sputtering, the heat is too high.

6. Watch for the brew to start trickling out, and remove from the heat when it’s about 80% complete.Don’t wait for all the water to pass through the pot – this retains more of the coffee’s aroma and prevents your coffee from tasting bitter or burnt. Have a cool cloth at the ready to wrap around the base and stop the extraction process.

7. Moka pot coffee is generally quite concentrated and strong, so you can dilute it with hot water if need be. 

8. Pour and serve immediately. And in the words of the Italians, gustare il vostro caffè! Enjoy your coffee!

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Review: The Nespresso Creatista

Monday, 3 December, 2018

This week we got a chance to unbox the Nespresso Creatista Plus and it was a surprisingly good experience. With Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood’s keynote address at Creative Coffee Week still fresh in our minds, one has to consider what the biggest barrier to entry is for consistently good home coffee: Equipment, the skills to use the equipment and the time we have to make good coffee happen.

We have to give credit to Nespresso - they are continually innovating and looking at how quickly this coffee market is evolving - and coming up with coffee products to fit those emerging gaps. Case in point? The first thing we noticed as we unboxed the Creatista Plus is that is has a steam wand, and a proper barista milk jug. And not just any steam wand - a Breville steam wand.  Nespresso built an entire empire on the fact that at home, work and in small-scale hospitality situations people want a quick, consistent shot of espresso. But now they also want to have control over the variables that make the coffee their coffee and understand that giving the user the ability to attempt latte art because they have perfectly textured milk is a big win.

Want a cortado? You pour the exact amount of steamed milk. 

Want a 3 tiered tulip? Well now you can attempt it with the microtextured milk courtesy of the Breville  automatic steam-wand and proper barista jug (It’s pretty impressive!).

Want your milk at a certain temperature? Adjust the heat on the very smart, simple control panel.  

The second thing we noticed is that Nespresso are trying desperately to  change the perception of wastage and enviro-push back to their massive global footprint. With this new line of machines, they are including a re-cycling bag for the used aluminum capsules which can be dropped off at local Nespresso centres. There is a lot of media around this, so we won't bore you with the details, but it is a start and we hope that those of you who do use Nespresso will actually make the effort to re-cycle and to take the bags to the appropriate place. 

We like this machine a lot. It's a solid and easy to use piece of equipment with the ability to control the variables that takes out the need to have skills and is super efficient for people who don't have a lot of time in the mornings.

Now, we just need to find the right coffee to use with this great piece of hardware.

The microtextured foam from the Breville steamwand is pretty damn good, it's just that our latte art needs some work! Make your selection with the dial from the classy interface.

Great crema on the espresso (though this 'flavour' wasn't our favourite!), the automatic steam wand at work.

Will this bag make it to a recycling station? We can hope! At least an effort is being made.

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Healthy Coffee: Coffee-Chocolate Smoothie!

Friday, 30 November, 2018

Healthy Summer: Coffee-Chocolate Smoothie

With hot summer days fast approaching, many of us are regretting our winter breakfast choices. Not the coffee of course – never the coffee! But maybe all those heavy carbs… Not to worry though – health and fitness expert, Lisa Raleigh, has shared one of her smoothie recipes for a healthy summer. 

Lisa Raleigh has been an exercise specialist for more than 15 years, with her specialties including wellness, stress management and fitness. Lisa Raleigh has shared her “Mouthwatering Pure Power Coffee-Chocolate Smoothie” with Coffee Magazine readers, to help you make the most of your summer mornings.

There’s nothing better than a smoothie if you’re looking for convenience in the mornings. The Pure Power Coffee-Chocolate smoothie serves one and is ready in 10 minutes – perfect for busy mornings!

Ingredients:

1 heaped tablespoon pumpkin / sunflower seeds 

1 heaped tablespoon goji berries 

1 shot of your favourite espresso!

1 teaspoon raw cacao 

2 tablespoons pea protein powder 

1⁄2 frozen banana / or regular banana and a few blocks of ice 

1 cup coconut water (no additives; you can also find coconut water in the bottom of coconut milk or cream tins when the cans have sat and not been shaken) 

1 tablespoon digestive enzymes (optional) 

Sugar replacement (recommended: xylitol syrup) 

Directions:

Pop all the ingredients into a blender and blitz. All that’s left is to enjoy your get-up-and-go summer smoothie! 

For more healthy summer recipes, check out Lisa Raleigh’s healthy recipes, nutritional advice and cooking tips for every budget and palate.


 

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SA AeroPress Champ Recipe!

Wednesday, 14 November, 2018

Our South African Champion, Romeo Chimunya is in Sydney right now. Here is his winning recipe for you to try at home!

  • I used grind 4 setting on the Guatemala Gold grinder (coarse)

  • Measured 32 grams of coffee

  • Add about 80 ml of water

  • 84 degrees

  • Stirred throughly to bloom the coffee

  • Let steep for about 1 minute

  • Topped up another 80ml of hot water

  • 1 wet filter in the cap

  • Plunge slowly for +/- 1,5 minutes

  • Added more 20 ml of slightly cold water into the coffee to cool it a bit down

  • and then BOOM!!!

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Brewing Coffee from a Backpack

Wednesday, 31 October, 2018

Your friends have invited you to spend five days in the mountains, sleeping in caves and hiking with all your food and possessions on your back. They have persuaded you that you can survive on two-minute noodles and rusks. They have even convinced you that squatting for the loo isn’t that bad. But then you ask, “Who’s bringing the coffee?”

All it takes is, “We normally just pack a Glad Bag with instant”, and that is it – you are out. Spending five days without proper coffee is just too much. Of course, FOMO kicks in because you really do want to go; everything else sounds so enticing – the mountain air, crystal waters, showering in waterfalls… So, the question is, how do you make sure there’s quality coffee along for the hike?

Coffee makers for camping

The first thing you need is a coffee maker; something small, portable, lightweight, and easy to clean. The traditional options are just not possible here, and while there are some great camping products on the market, they can be a bit pricey for people who are not regular hikers.

Breaking a glass French Press on a hiking trip is no fun, but there are some great options from Cape Union Mart:

Designed for outdoor adventure, both options are vacuum-insulated to keep your coffee hot for a few hours, and stainless steel to withstand any rugged terrain. They can also be used for water when you find yourself over caffeinated (unlikely, but it’s a possibility).

If you’re aiming to earn more eBucks, there’s also the Stanley Mountain Coffee System Vac Bottle, which retails for around R999. The all-in-one system provides a stainless steel pot to boil water in (on your burner or over a fire), before you brew your coffee with the built-in press, and store it in the leak-proof thermos (which promises to keep your coffee hot for 24 hours). The lid even separates into two cups so you can share your French-pressed coffee on the trail.

If you have to have an espresso, then the Minipresso is what you want. For just over R1,000, you get an amazing hand-pumped espresso in a super-small portable system. With a clever, compact design, this little powerhouse machine claims to be the smallest and lightest espresso machine in the world. With both a cup and a coffee scoop included, all you need to add is the coffee.

Rough it on a budget

If your budget doesn’t quite extend to these options, and you only ever plan on going camping this once, rather spend your money on good coffee than the coffeemaker. The budget solution is some simple coffee filters (R26 for 80) and a no-nonsense plastic funnel (a whopping R9). You can even throw in an AfriTrail enamel mug for R40 and you have a pour-over system for R75, all-in. 

It might not make the best filter coffee in the world, but you’re still going to feel better about life than the person in the next sleeping bag who is sipping on chicory or one of those cappuccino sachets people who don’t know you keeping offering. Happy trails!

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Grinder Technology explained by an expert: The Mythos II

Friday, 26 October, 2018

On the counter at Thirdspace in Fourways JHB, photo courtesy of Thirdspace.

We chatted to Alessandro Morrico of Morrico Imports about the grinder that many in the coffee community hail as one of the best out there!

What are the key feature additions to this version of the Mythos?

MYTHOS II is designed for speciality coffee and cafes alike with maximum parameters to allow roaster and baristas to get the “best” out of their coffees.

Major key features are:

- Larger Titanium blade diameter of 85mm 

- Variable speeds on motor 

- Touch screen - ( as well as small chalk board in front to let customers know what beans and served - very on trend!)

- Variable temperature settings. 

- Gravitech technology and Weight programming to ensure consistency. 

What technical innovations set the Mythos II apart from its predecessor?

New larger blades allow for best management of the grinding  process-

-The longer cutting blade creates maximum surface area of extraction 

-Longer life / higher volumes are made easier

-Maximum consistencies on extractions during various times of service in a cafe or restaurant

What can cafe owners expect from this machine?

Absolute parameters of choice - recipes will now be best managed via all the new variable options. Such as:

- Setting lower or higher temperatures to best suit the coffee -

- Variable speeds to best manage the coarseness for extraction and flavors of the coffee with zero residue.

-Gravitech , now allows for the use of a hands- free scale system , which allows for perfect yield recipe- no need for extra scales and time wasting steps during service. 

- Silent motor for quite service , as well as allowing better communication and interaction between customer and Barista.

How does this grinder effect the end cup that our readers will be drinking?

The effect  is an obvious perfection of the extraction I.e. the coffee will be a cleaner cup , more consistent , sweeter as well as showcasing the complexity of the bean and roast profile and extraction. Readers will notice and taste the difference and will also notice the consistency. The Baristas will notice for sure the ease of use the reliability as well as performance and versatility of the machine. 

Any other comments/interesting facts our readers would know?

The Mythos I - clima pro , was designed by barista champions ( Fritz Storm , Gwylim Davies , Colin Harmon and James Hoffman)  asking for a better, easier  and more consistent Grinder solution which would offer a more consistent method of grinding to showcase their coffees.

The MYTHOS II has once again been revised by Baristas champions to further use more recent technology and add many more parameters to best achieve very much the same result,  just BETTER with systems that make the coffees sweeter, protect the flavours , will showcase complexity and flavour profiles as well as offer versatility to all types of coffees and Roast profiles and methods of extraction . 

I think It will be very  interesting to know , that each parameter of settings on the MYTHOS II is enough to considerably alter the final flavour of the coffee in the cup and each parameter  will add quality to the cup. If you consider all the parameters available, the solutions are endless. 

For sure, some VERY EXCITING COFFEE TIMES AHEAD for Baristas and readers. 

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Review: The Tognana Stovetop Set

Friday, 28 September, 2018

I love a good for Moka pot for three reasons:

1. The brewing ritual is a special experience. It takes me right back to Italy, to the little apartamento above the piazza where the aroma filled the space and built the anticipation of the delicious coffee to follow.

2. The mouthfeel of a moka pot coffee is something unique. A silky, rich elixir that transports flavour through your mouth like no other coffee.

3. Screw Eskom. You can make a moka pot without electricity. Think loadshedding, camping in the wilderness or on a hot plate at the AirBNB that only stocks instant.

So here is the latest addition to the Moka Pot market and it's a winner...

Tognana - Moka Pot and Milk Pan from https://classichouseware.co.za/

The Unboxing.

We were sent this elegant little package from Classic Houseware.

 It is a 2 piece Milk and Coffee set - and straight away we put it to good use!

The team at Classic Houseware are also one of the distributors for Craft Coffee, which is one of our favourites, especially after they clinched 3rd Place in the A Shot in the Dark roasting competition held in Durban recently!  So it was essential that we tried the Craft house blend as our first coffee in the Tognana moka pot.

We always grind our coffee fresh, this time we used a hand grinder and we set it slightly finer than a Plunger grind but more course than an espresso grind. This means a reasonable amount of pressure build up before the coffee pushes through the puck and into the pot, resulting in a delicious crema.

My favourite moment of a moka pot brew! When the first dark, rich liquid flows out of the spout like lava!

We achieved a delicious aroma and a rich crema on top of the coffee - always a good sign that the coffee is fresh, the grind is right and the heat is correct - pushing through the coffee at a nice even rate.

Next, we popped some milk into the Milk Pan and set that to warm up while we poured out the coffees.

There are 3 great features to this Milk pan. Firstly, the single handle makes it easy to move with one hand, as opposed to picking up a cooking pot with two. Secondly, I hate having to try and pour milk out of a pot, I always , make a huge mess. This one has a great little spout. Happiness. Finally, the coating on the inside ensures the milk doesn't catch. 

There you have it folks. Delicious coffee extraction and easy warm milk preparation. Thanks Tognana!

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