Random and very handy alternate uses for Coffee Filter papers

Wednesday, 14 August, 2019

Who doesn’t love a creative alternative use for an everyday household item? I didn’t even know coffee filters could be this useful until I looked into it. Did you know they’re not just for coffee? It turns out these filters I’ve been taking for granted all these years are actually super handy to have around…

1. Clean screens and polish glass

Did you know that coffee filters are lint-free? That means they’re ideal for cleaning screens – anything from laptops, to TVs, mobile phones and tablets. No more dried streaks across your screens, or any lint left behind. For the same reason, coffee filters are ideal for cleaning glass – and your glasses. The filters absorb the cleaning liquid, and don’t leave behind any residue. Move aside newspaper: this is a job for coffee filters.

2. Strain your wine

We’ve all had corks accidentally break and come apart when opening a bottle of wine, but never fear … Rather than trying to fish out the floating cork pieces, just strain the wine through the coffee filter into a decanter or carafe. The filter catches all the pieces of cork, and you’re spared the experience of a slightly chewy wine. The coffee filter also works just as well for wine with a heavy sediment.

3. Keep shoes smelling fresh

Fill a coffee filter with baking soda and a few drops of your favourite essential oil, twist it closed, and secure with a cable tie or elastic band to make a small sachet. The baking soda absorbs and neutralises unpleasant odours, and the essential oil leaves a lingering scent other than stinky feet. Pop the sachets into recently worn shoes, and even cupboards if you want a general air freshener.

4. Prevent soil from escaping plant pots

To prevent losing soil from potted plants, place a coffee filter at the bottom of your pot before you fill it with soil. The filter allows water to drain away, but keeps the soil in place.

5. Ease those tired eyes

Cut a coffee filter in half, and soak both pieces in some brewed tea – chamomile or rooibos will do the trick. Chill the tea and filters in the fridge for a bit and voilà, a cold compress for your eyes! Just fold the pieces in half and let the coffee filter work its magic.

6. Keep greens fresh

It’s not just shoes that coffee filters keep fresh – you can also prevent your green veggies from wilting. Keep your greens crisp by wrapping them in a coffee filter, which will absorb excess moisture and give you a few more days of grace to eat your greens before they go off. You can also put the filter in the bag with the greens to keep them in good condition.

7. Soften

Coffee filters make great homemade dryer sheets because they’re so absorbent. Dampen a filter with a few drops of white vinegar and your favourite essential oil (lemongrass is my go-to for laundry). Chuck the filter into the tumble dryer with your wet clothes, and they’ll come out smelling fresh and feeling super soft.

Do you have any other tips for alternative coffee filter uses? We’d love to hear them!

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Hot Tip: Choosing the portable coffee maker that best suits you

Tuesday, 23 July, 2019

Portable Coffee Makers – What to look out for when choosing your brewing method

Nothing can ruin your day just as much as a poor cup of coffee can. And besides leaving a terrible taste in your mouth, a horrible brew can leave you feeling like the whole world is against you. Finding a great cup of coffee or the perfect espresso shot while traveling can be a struggle. However, there are plenty of hassle-free ways to make your own brew on the go just the way you like it. Worry not, choosing between the “portable coffee makers” is no herculean task but rather a matter of weighing up the features. Below I will outline these key features and what to look out for. 


How much space I you have? This is a great place to start and good question to ask yourself in your pursuit. 

For example, if you’re setting off on a hike and only have a small backpack to carry your accessories a smaller unit that not only fits in your pack but is lightweight and leaves enough space for your coffee itself will be the best option. 

However, if you find yourself on a weekend away in the bush and your car is your “home” for a couple of days a larger coffee maker with less concern for weight and more for convenience should be considered. 

Electronic or Manual

Where you’re planning on using the maker is a just an important factor to consider. Someone who enjoys the natural energies of the wild with limited cellphone reception and electricity. Then its best you consider a manual portable coffee maker that uses a plunger to build pressure in the chamber. 

Some coffee makers require power from an inbuilt battery source or external like a power bank. Better yet a compact solar cell will do the changing job perfectly. 

So, think about where you will unit the coffee maker. 

Your favorite coffee

Well if you’re honest no two of us are the same and we all have different tastes and likes. For me to impress my turn-to on you would be the wrong this to do. 

Instead find a coffee maker that compliments your coffee by ways of the correct pressure, temperature and run time. 

Type of coffee

Some of us perfect capsule while other grounds. Luckily these coffee makers can do either and some coffee makers can do both. With the aid of an attachment to the machine one could change from coffee grounds to capsule coffee in a matter of seconds. This is a great feature to look for when making your choice. 

Now, I know some of you may be thinking… Well what about my coffee beans? A simple compact coffee grounder is a great on the go solution that can solve your problems wherever you might be.

Water boiling

While some portable coffee machines are capable of boiling water within the unit. These machines are very uncommon. This is due to the huge power demand this task involves. Instead look for a coffee machine that boils the water on the go or simply carry a flask on your travels. 


Perhaps the most important factor is price. Some of these units can seemingly cost an arm and a leg however we all know there’s no substitute for quality. However, in saying this it all depends on the buyer’s budget and there are many great units that are very reasonably priced and extremely well made. 

Ease of Purchase

I find purchasing these units and finding the best one for you to be easiest online because of the range and delivery options these sites offer. If you’re someone who prefers visiting a physical store, then your best option would be a major outdoor store in your area. 

While the machine and its features are undoubtedly important, just as important is the setting and company your surround yourself in. So, when you find yourself weighing up the option remember a great cup of coffee is what you make of it. 

About the author

Cameron Mc Millan

Coffee enthusiast and contributor at www.bysacw.com 

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Tamp That!

Thursday, 16 May, 2019

The History & Importance of Tamping and Distribution

Words by Michelle Johnson

When we walk into our favourite neighbourhood coffee shop, we usually notice a lot of movement going on behind the bar. We may see a barista leaned over a Chemex concentrating on the steadiness of the flow from a kettle and another fully engaged with a customer helping them choose some beans to take home. Then there’s the barista behind the espresso machine, confident and fully in control of the flow of drinks coming in and out. 

A peek into their domain and you see even more movement. The barista fills the portafilter with finely ground coffee before levelling, tamping, and finally locking it into the machine to produce espresso. Of all those steps, the importance of levelling and tamping the coffee isn’t fully understood by new baristas and home coffee brewers, alike. But it’s arguably one of the most essential parts of the process — it can make or break the tastiness of your coffee! 

A Brief History

In the late 90s and early 00s, tampers started to gain in popularity as baristas all over began to understand their importance in producing well-extracted coffee. Reg Barber was a pioneer in creating tampers with a wood handle and stainless steel base that fit larger espresso baskets (usually 58mm) perfectly so no coffee grind was left behind when pressing into them. Nowadays, tampers are fully customizable and come in a variety of types depending on your basket size, and even come handleless. No matter what, tampers are a staple tool on every single coffee bar across the globe, at home and in the cafe.

The Basics

What exactly is tamping and why is it so important? Tamping is just another name for compressing coffee grounds into into a “cake”, or puck, in the portafilter. But this seemingly small step carries a lot of weight. 

Compressing the coffee allows the grinds to fill every space inside the portafilter so when water is finally introduced, it doesn’t flow too quickly through the puck, resulting in under-extracted espresso. But if the puck isn’t compressed enough, water flows too freely and you end up with a very watery drink. Also with the addition of pressure from the espresso machine, there needs to be some resistance from the coffee. The more resistance, the longer it takes for the water to soak through the puck, and the more extracted your beverage will be in the end. Pressure is a variable not present when brewing filter coffee [the Aeropress is arguable], but is a major factor in why the total brew time for espresso sits around 30 seconds. Most baristas equipped with only a tamper get by just fine (I did!), but a newer coffee tool has emerged in recent years—the distribution tool.

Distribution is incredibly important in espresso brewing. Have you ever seen a barista swinging their arm and fingers around a portafilter, moving the coffee about? That’s distribution (and more specifically, this method is called ‘Stockfleth’). Prior to tamping, you don’t want there to be more coffee in any one part of the portafilter. The goal is to have a flat bed so the water can do its thing at an even pace for every grind. Tamping alone achieves this to some degree, but manual distribution absolutely ensures even extraction and better tasting coffee. 

Distribution tools usually look like large metal pucks with an adjustable piece at the bottom that levels the coffee without compressing it, creating a flat canvas for even tamping. These tools also aid in consistency—something manual distribution can’t always account for. For this reason, they’re an awesome training tool for new baristas, and even those who are more skilled use distribution tools everyday. At national and world level barista competitions, you’ll almost never see a competing barista without one because consistent distribution and an even tamp scores high technical points!

The ONA Distribution tool. Pic by ONA

Within the barista community, there is a lot of debate whether or not these tools actually distribute coffee evenly throughout the portafilter. Folks also ask if they do so any better than other methods like the Stockfleth or palm-tapping, lightly tapping the side of the portafilter to settle the coffee grinds.

Our team at Barista Hustle conducted some experimentation to answer these questions. We found that distribution tools didn’t perform any better than other methods, but that doesn’t mean they’re not useful. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and your budget.

Which Will Work Better For Me?

Between tampers and distribution tools, there are a range of options on the market to choose from for home coffee bars. Out of the two, tampers are a non-negotiable for brewing espresso. Most new home espresso machines will come with a simple, dumbell-shaped tamper. It’ll get the job done, but it never hurts to upgrade so that you can get the most out of your coffee! 

First, you have to know the size of your espresso basket and purchase a tamp who’s base will fit. Any space left between the tamper and the walls of the basket will result in loose grinds. Those will have a negative effect on the taste of your coffee. Once that’s figured out, determine your price point. Wood, steel, and customizable tampers are usually priced between $50-$100 USD, depending on the customization. The PUSH Tamp, a handless tamper that helps relieve stress on the wrist (especially for baristas who work in high volume cafes), is priced at just under $200 USD. Another popular option is the Barista Hustle tamper, a minimal, black aluminium tamper ($55 USD) with a replaceable stainless steel base should it dent when dropped ($15 USD). 

Some coffee shops remove manual tamping altogether and will buy a machine tamp—the Puqpress is the most well-known option. This has been really helpful for maintaining physical wellness for baristas in protecting their wrists. If you find this is important, consider investing in one!

The Puqpress, automatic tamping tool. Pic by Puqpress Official

As far as distribution tools go, it’s completely up to you. It’s a great practice to implement into home espresso brewing. More often than not, you’ll find your espresso tasting better and more consistent. Distribution tools are usually expensive, though. The OCD is priced just under $200 USD and most others are in that range. It’s possible to achieve consistency with manual methods of distribution, but with the one thing all coffee brewing requires—practice! 

There are so many things that go into making the perfect cup of coffee. On top of remembering all the steps of the process, the tools needed all have their own intentional uses that are important. Now when you walk into the nearest shop, you’ll have a better understanding of what’s going into brewing that tasty espresso that keeps you coming back. Hopefully, you’ll also realize this is attainable and achievable at home, too, and you can enjoy great coffee anywhere.

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Basics: Getting started with a Grinder

Wednesday, 10 April, 2019

Can you really call yourself a connoisseur if you don’t own a coffee grinder to grind your own beans? Maybe, maybe not… Either way, here’s what you need to know to find the right grinder for a fresher and more flavourful cup…

Blades vs. Burr

A blade grinder has blades similar to those in a food blender. It grinds coffee beans very swiftly, which is an advantage, but the grounds produced are often different in size, meaning the resultant cup of coffee won’t be the best quality. On the plus side, you’ll find blade grinders have price on their side. That age-old struggle: price versus better tasting coffee.

A burr grinder produces very consistent grounds, so it’s the superior option if taste is your ultimate deciding factor. A burr grinder is a type of mill – coffee beans pass through a small gap between a stationary surface and a revolving surface, both of which are coarse. The two surfaces belong to two cylinders or a cylinder and a flat surface, and these are the burrs. The user can usually set the distance between the two burrs, allowing you to choose between larger or smaller grounds. This is definitely the first choice if your morning routine calls for a serious cup of coffee.

Manual vs. Electric

Electric grinders make grinding easy work. You pour beans into the funnel, press the button, and hey presto, freshly ground beans. However, if you’re choosing to grind your own beans over buying pre-ground ones, perhaps you’re not all about modern convenience. Also, given our national loadshedding situation, perhaps manual grinders are the way forward. 

A manual grinder, albeit burr or blade, involves effort on your part. The manual burr grinder is, of course, the ultimate in personal control – you decide the size of the grounds based on where you set the burrs, and you control the speed of the grinding process, as you’re in charge of the swivel arm. The finer the ground you want to produce, the more elbow grease required. Those who make coffee from grounds they produced themselves using a manual burr grinder must feel all sorts of achievement unknown to the rest of us plebs, but we don’t recommend this option unless you know you’re willing to put in the extra time and effort. 

Manual burr grinders are great for on-the-go coffee consumers and a hit amongst the craft coffee crowd, but an electric grinder (burr or blade) is probably best for those who want an easy operation that gives you a quality cup of coffee every time.

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Let your morning coffee ritual start your day off right

Tuesday, 12 March, 2019

Some people are morning people … and for the rest of us, there’s coffee. And if there’s one thing we non-morning people love – it's that first cup that kick starts the day. Your first coffee in the morning is usually the quietest and most content moment of the entire day if you’re enjoying it at home, so it’s worth investing in to make sure you get the most out of it.

Coffee lovers around the world can attest to the benefits of setting up your own coffee station at home – placing everything you need for that perfect first cup within arm’s reach. If you can’t free up counter space in the kitchen, find a drinks trolley or a cabinet corner where you can dedicate the space purely to your caffeine fix. The advantage of a drinks trolley or bar cart is that it’s mobile, so you could even have it in your bedroom if you don’t want to wander too far from your bed in the morning.

Organise your morning

The purpose of a coffee station is to keep everything you need for that perfect cup in one place, clutter-free, lined up, stacked and organised just the way you like it so you don’t even have to think too much. Simplifying this one little thing leaves you free to really savour your coffee. So how can you start your morning off on the right foot? To set up your very own coffee station, you will need some (or all) of the following coffee accessories, depending on what you find essential to your coffee making process: 

  • Coffee container (filled with beans, ground coffee or pods)
  • Coffee maker of your preference (filter machine, French Press, Chemex, Nespresso)
  • Filters for your chosen method
  • Kettle
  • Grinder - Hand or electric
  • Milk frother, optional for a little bit of decadence
  • Mugs or teacups
  • Espresso cups
  • Sugar or sweetener
  • Teaspoons and a spoon rest
  • A tea towel

A coffee station is an inexpensive and easy way to bring some style to your early morning routine, not to mention the convenience of having all the essentials on hand. Bringing some structure to your morning coffee routine can help to make the whole process more relaxing, easing you into the day with a caffeine fix that’s truly satisfying. 

Do you have a coffee station set up at home? Share a photo with us and tell us if it helps you get going in the mornings.

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AeroPress the Tim Wendelboe Way

Tuesday, 19 February, 2019

In the beginning of the idea of the 'coffee celebrity', one name was above all others: Tim Wendelboe. The owner and namesake of one of the now most famous roastery's in the world located in Oslo, Norway.

This roastery also played host to the first World AeroPress Championship (Three competitors in total!) and he was part of setting up the concept that has become such a worldwide phenomenon, WAC.

This snippet was filmed as European Coffee Trip put together The AeroPress Movie, which you can now stream here.

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How to use the Coffee Taster's Flavour Wheel

Wednesday, 13 February, 2019

You may have seen this poster in your favourite cafe and thought, hmmm, that’s pretty! Well, this particular whirl of colour is more than just a pretty face. A collaborative effort by the Specialty Coffee Association and World Coffee Research, The Coffee Tasters Flavour Wheel is designed to be a tool for the coffee taster or avid coffee drinker to help identify flavours in coffee. Chad Whitby of Colombo Coffee gives us a hand in understanding how it works.

Words by Chad Whitby

Have you ever heard, 'It tastes like chocolate”, but then receive your coffee and it tastes nothing like the chocolate you expected? This is an example of how the terms ‘taste’ and ‘flavour’ are incorrectly attributed. This can be confusing, but when you break it down it becomes simple. Let’s try think of it a different way; taste is an opinion while flavour is fact. An argument could be made that all flavours are based on opinions, but like I said, we’re keeping it simple here.

Think of flavour as a colour and taste as our brain processing that colour as we see it. Let’s use blue as an example. Our brain makes the decision whether the colour is in fact blue, as opposed to say, green. Our brain’s perception of colour can be wrong (e.g. colour blindness) or different to another person’s perception, but the fact remains that the colour is blue. Reasons for error in perception are numerous. For example, we may not have ever seen the colour before and so we have no reference of what it is. We could have also seen the colour in a poorly lit environment and so our interpretation of the colour is inaccurate.

Often we find we can't differentiate between shades of colour not because we can't see them but more because we don't know their name. For example, many mistake amber for orange. Amber is a shade of Orange. Once we know this and we know what amber looks like, the next time we see Amber, we'll call it by the right name. This is also true of flavour. Our taste buds  taste Earl Grey tea but our brain has no existing reference and so our immediate response is, 'I don't know what I'm tasting'.

This is why the Coffee Flavour Wheel is such an important tool. A team of highly trained experts have carefully compiled it so when we're stuck with identifying flavour, we can look to it for help. We start with the basic question: what type of broad flavour is it? These are at the centre of the wheel. Then we work our way outward. Much like colour, we start with the basic colour then we break down the shade. We also use the Flavour Wheel to understand what effects various green bean defects and roast profiles have on flavour. 

Download your own copy at SCA store.

The flavour groups marked Green/Vegetative and Sour/Fermented can be used to help explain roast underdevelopment. Underdevelopment is when a coffee is not fully roasted and the chemical processes normally activated during the roasting process haven’t had sufficient time to react. Think of a cake that is brown on the outside but still has wet batter inside. This means if you taste a coffee and come across any of these flavours that you can rule it out as underdeveloped and green. As a roaster, this means we need to adjust our profile to get more out of the coffee.

As we move anticlockwise on the wheel, we get the Fruity, Floral and Sweet flavour groups which are generally delicate flavours. These are positive flavours and are accentuated in lighter roast profiles. These flavours are what we want to taste in brew methods like Chemex and Pour Overs. 

Next, are the Sweet, Nutty and Spice flavours. Flavours like dark chocolate, hazelnut and cinnamon all pair well with milk and are eminent in darker and more developed roasts suited to espresso.  

The Roasted section describes flavours associated with roast defect. A roast defect is when a roaster has poor roasting technique such as not opening airflow to extract negative fumes in the roasting drum or roasting too long which gives the coffee a malty or tobacco-like flavour. 

The last section, Other, is related to green bean defects. Flavours like rubber, petroleum and medicinal are all signs of defects from processing, transportation, pest interference or stale green beans. Signs to look out for to know which coffees to avoid!

Understanding these flavour groups helps the customer communicate better with the roaster and barista. So, if you taste a flavour like malt or grain, you can go back to the barista and say “I think I’m getting a roast defect in this coffee, can you taste it?” Much like if you heard a sound from your car, you would first distinguish if it was a knocking, banging or scraping sound so that when you explained it to your mechanic they can start to determine the possible problem with the car. Effective communication for the win! 

These flavours don’t always come naturally. So how do you get better at differentiating flavours and interacting with your local coffee professional? Practise! The reality is no one will ever be able to identify every flavour, but we can learn quite a few so that the next time we taste them, we can identify them. An example of this is remembering people's names. You know that you know the guy’s name, but you just can't recall it or from where you know him. You need a strong memory of place or situation to spark the name! If you're trying to remember blueberry flavour, try relate it to an experience or memory. I can identify dried fruit flavour immediately simply because they were my absolute favourite when I was young and marzipan was my worst so the moment I taste something that is even close to that flavour I am put off. 

The next time you taste something and you're stuck trying to figure out what flavour it is, remember to start off simple: Is it sweet, sour, fruity, nutty etc? Once that’s answered, the rest becomes easier. Also, coffee people love talking about flavour, ask if you don't know so you can start to build your flavour library. Tasting flavours and identifying them is a journey not a destination. Happy tasting!

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AeroPress Recipe from the Inventor, Alan Adler

Tuesday, 5 February, 2019

How does the inventor of AeroPress brew his morning coffee? Check out Alan Adler's recipe and all the tips he shared in his kitchen in California. He's a really entertaining guy! European Coffee Trip filmed it as part of the AeroPress Movie, you can watch the full film online here.

AeroPress recipe by Alan Adler:

1 - Put a filter in the cap and twist it onto the chamber.

2 - Add two AeroPress scoops of fine-drip grind coffee.

3 - Pour 80C (175F) water slowly up to the number 2.

4 - Mix the water and coffee with the stirrer for about 10 seconds.

5 - Wet the rubber seal and insert the plunger into the chamber.

6 - Gently press down for about 20 to 30 seconds.

7 - For American coffee, top-off the mug with hot water.

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