Made by Knock: Aergrind

The new Aergrind from Knock, with its top off and loaded with beans.For a long time, my go-to hand-grinder has been made by Knock, which produces a range of top-quality hand-grinders. I actually have two Knock grinders, Woody, the world’s first wooden feldgrind and Red, which is a feldfarb, the metal version of the feldgrind. I wrote a comprehensive article about Woody two years ago and since then both Woody and Red have received extensive use.

What sets Knock’s grinders apart from the cheaper hand-grinders on the market is the use of a high-quality steel burr set. This gives far superior grind consistency (not to mention being easier to use) when compared to the ceramic burrs used in entry-level grinders. The Knock grinders also have the easiest adjustment mechanism I’ve seen on any hand-grinder.

Earlier this year, Knock created something of a stir by launching a Kickstarter campaign for a new grinder, the Aergrind, which was fully subscribed in less than a day. I got my first look at a prototype at this year’s Glasgow Coffee Festival, and I have to say I was impressed. Then, towards the end of last month, there was a knock at the door and there was the postman with a package for me. A cylindrical package…

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My Travelling Coffee Kit

Improving hotel coffee one Aeropress at a time with a little help from my Knock feldfarb hand grinder.A little while ago, a reader, Linda, got in touch to ask me how I managed when travelling to places where there was no good coffee. This made me realise what a very good question that was. While I’ve written on several occasions about my penchant for making my own coffee on long-haul flights and overnight trains, as well as hinting on other occasions about making my own coffee in hotels, I realise that I’ve never really addressed the issue in a comprehensive matter.

Over the five years I’ve been writing the Coffee Spot, I’ve gone from drinking whatever I’m given to being quite obsessive above bringing my own coffee and coffee-making equipment. I’m not quite sure when this started, but it’s become increasingly important with the amount of travelling I’m doing. As an example, tomorrow I’m off to Manchester for a week for work, then the weekend after that, I’ll be in Leeds, before flying to Chicago for three weeks (work + play). I can’t imagine being away for all that time without decent coffee, so I’ve assembled a basic travelling kit which, give or take a few items, comes with me wherever I go.

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Vietnamese Coffee Part III

My traditional Vietnamese cup-top filter from The Espresso Station in action at my friend's house in the USA.Welcome to the third and final part of my exploration of traditional Vietnamese coffee following my recent visit to Vietnam. Part I covered my introduction to Vietnamese coffee and the traditional cà phê phin, a cup-top metal filter. I explained how, after a few false starts, I discovered a taste for speciality coffee made with the cà phê phin when I tried it at Shin Coffee in Ho Chi Minh City.

In Part II, I continued my exploration, trying traditional Vietnamese coffee, both speciality and non-speciality, over ice, and with condensed milk, with mixed results. I also tried the (in)famous egg coffee, traditional Vietnamese coffee with a layer of whipped egg yolk and condensed milk. Think of it as a liquid pudding rather than coffee and you’ll be fine.

In this, Part III, you can see how I got on making traditional Vietnamese coffee in various hotels and back at home using my own cà phê phin which I bought at The Espresso Station in Hoi Ann. I’ve tried a number of different beans, and used a couple of recipes which I picked up simply by observing baristas making coffee at the likes of Shin Coffee and Hanoi’s The Caffinet.

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London Coffee Festival 2017: Kit & Cups

The Ottomatic automatic Chemex pour-over maker at this year's London Coffee FestivalWelcome to the second of my detailed write-ups from this year’s London Coffee Festival, where I cover individual aspects of the festival, ranging around subjects such as sustainability, my coffee experiences and the coffee itself. Conversely, if you want to know what I made of the festival as a whole, take a look at my festival round-up.

For previous London Coffee Festivals, I’ve dedicated entire write-ups to the subject of cups, particularly re-usable cups. I’ve also devoted entire write-ups to coffee-related kit, while last year, automatic filter machines got a post of their own. This year, however, the pickings have been a bit slimmer, not because there isn’t the kit around, but because a lot of it is stuff I’ve covered before.

I’ve therefore chosen to bring kit and cups together in one post for this year’s festival. There are innovations such as the automated milk steamer (there were two this year), another automated filter machine, a top-end hand-grinder, my favourite personal hobby horse, reusable cups, finishing with a quick round-up of what else I found at the festival.  As always, I never did get to see all the stands, so if I missed anything out, please accept my apologies.

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Sage Barista Express

My Sage Barista Express in action, making an espresso with the Coffee Spot cup.Soon after starting the Coffee Spot, my faithful Gaggia espresso machine gave up the ghost and I was on the market for the replacement. The Rancilio Silvia, by overwhelming consensus, was by far the best single-boiler home espresso machine for under £400, so four years ago, I became a proud Silvia owner.

Fast-forward a year and Sage launched its dual boiler home espresso machine, instantly becoming a market-leader. However, it was well beyond my price-range (£1,200) and, well, I had my Silvia. A year later, Sage extended the range, introducing two single-boiler machines, the entry-level Duo-Temp Pro (£380), and the Barista Express (£600), with a built-in grinder.

Again, I was impressed. I only managed to play with them at various coffee festivals, but even I managed to pull decent shots on them. I also heard nothing but good things from friends who owned them, so I began recommending Sage if people asked about home espresso machines. Despite this, I didn’t actually own one, largely because Silvia still had plenty of life left in her and represented a significant investment. Then, shortly before Christmas, Sage asked if I’d like a Barista Express. Well, I wasn’t going to say no, was I?

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Reusable Cups

A flat white from Pitch in Fulham Broadway in my Therma Cup, a double-walled, thermally-insulated china cup which I take with me on my travels.I was inspired to write this Saturday Supplement after reading an article earlier this week by Ashley Tomlinson on The Little Black Coffee Cup about the issues surrounding disposable coffee cups. If you have been following the Coffee Spot for a while, you will know that I really, really dislike disposable cups, although I’ve come at it from a very different direction. While I don’t like the waste that comes with disposable cups, my primary motivation is one of taste. Put simply, I can’t stand the way most coffee tastes when drunk from disposable cups.

This has led me to adopt a somewhat evangelical attitude to reusable coffee cups and, while I’ve been championing them for some time now, I realise that I’ve been doing it in a rather haphazard fashion, writing about cups as I’ve come across them (usually at coffee festivals). I’ve also been making the argument for them (and hence against disposable cups) in a similarly piecemeal fashion. This Saturday Supplement attempts to rectify that by bringing everything together into one place in the form of a new Reusable Cups section of the Coffee Spot where I can add new cups as and when I find them.

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The Coffee Spot Christmas Gift Guide 2016

Some lovely latte art from Rag & Bone Coffee in my Therma Cup, one of this year's Christmas Gift suggestions.It’s that time of the year again, when everyone publishes their Christmas gift guides. Well, never one to be accused originality, here’s the Coffee Spot’s entry into the fray, an eclectic selection of gifts for your coffee-loving friends/relatives.

Let’s be honest, the coffee-loving community can be awkward to buy for, particularly if, like me, they’re towards the far end of the coffee-geek spectrum, when any choice runs the risk of being ill-informed. Do you get them coffee? Or coffee-related kit? Or a book about coffee perhaps?

Never fear, the Coffee Spot’s here to help you out, whether you’re a novice, looking for pointers for gifts for your coffee-obsessed friend, or if you’re that coffee-obsessed friend, looking for a handy guide to point your friends towards. There’s also a few suggestions for presents to help those of your coffee-loving friends who’re at the top of the slippery slope of coffee-geekdom and who just need a helping nudge to start them on the headlong descent into the rabbit-hole of speciality coffee.

Of course, while this is styled a Christmas gift guide, feel free to return to it throughout the year. It serves just as well as a birthday or anniversary gift guide…

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Bonavita Gooseneck Kettle

A 1 Litre Bonavita Gooseneck Kettle, a kind gift from Bonavita.Since I started the Coffee Spot almost four years ago, I’ve changed both the way I make my coffee at home and the way I drink it. From primarily using a cafetiere and putting with milk in my coffee, I now always drink it black. Along the way, I’ve picked up a variety of coffee-making methods, including my trusty Aeropress, several different types of pour-over filter cone and I’ve even got a travel-friendly equivalent to my cafetiere in the shape of the Espro Travel Press.

With these new methods have come new techniques and, inevitably, new tools. For example, I now use scales, not just to weigh my beans, but also to measure the amount of water I use when making filter coffee. However, until recently, the one item I lacked was a gooseneck pouring kettle. Initially, poured from a jug, before progressing to an old coffee pot with a long spout that I picked up from Oxfam.

At that point, I rather fancied the gooseneck kettle to be an unnecessary luxury, a stylish accessory that added looks, but not substance. Then I actually used on and suddenly, everything was turned on its head…

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World of Coffee 2016: The Kit

A beautiful flat white, with latte art by Dhan Tamang, the reigning UK Latte Art Champion, made at the World of Coffee 2016 using the Conti Espresso 60th Anniversary espresso machine.I can’t believe it’s only been two weeks since I was in Dublin, attending the World of Coffee Event. As I pointed out in my round-up last week, I’d never been to World of Coffee before, so I didn’t know what to expect. As it turned out, I really liked it. A cross between the London Coffee Festival and Caffè Culture, it incorporated the best of both events and, as is always the case, there was far too much to for me to see, even though I was there on all three days.

I spent a lot of my time at The Village, catching up with various European roasters, which I’ll cover in detail next week. The rest of the time, when I wasn’t bumping into people I knew, I had a look at some of the kit on offer, which is what I’ll talk about this week.

The automatic filter coffee crowd was out in force, but having spent a lot of time with them at the London Coffee Festival, I gave them a miss this time around. Instead, I caught up with a couple of espresso machine manufacturers and a manual method that was new to me.

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London Coffee Festival 2016: The Kit

My surprise favourite bit of kit at this year's London Coffee Festival, the Marco Beverage Systems Bean Counter, doing what it does best (and indeed all it does), count (well, weigh) beans.Welcome to the third of my detailed write-ups of this year’s London Coffee Festival (if you want an overview of the whole festival, take a look at my round-up). Here I cover individual aspects of the festival, starting with some automatic filter machines and continuing with last week’s look at cups. This week I’ll be casting my eye over some of the other kit I found, before covering, in future Saturday Supplements, my coffee experiences and the coffee itself.

I’ve already looked at one specific aspect of the kit, the surprising proliferation of automated filter/pour-over machines, which I covered two weeks ago. This time it’s a round-up of various miscellaneous bits of kit that I came across, starting with my surprise favourite, the automated bean-counting machine. Another area which particularly excites me, as a coffee shop customer, is the emergence of the modular espresso system, typified by the Mavam, which made its London Coffee Festival debut this year. Finally, I take a look at top-end grinders which are making espresso extraction ever more reliable. In this instance, it’s the Mahlkönig Peak, which was launched the festival.

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