Filter Tasting Flight at Bonanza Coffee

One of the three filter coffees in the filter tasting flight at the Bonanza Coffee roastery in Kreuzberg, served in a glass carafe with the cup placed on top as a lid.When I was in Berlin last month, one of the highlights of my weekend exploration of the city’s speciality coffee scene was Bonanza Coffee Gendarmenmarkt. I spent the following day, a Sunday, strolling around Kreuzberg, arguably the birthplace of Berlin’s speciality coffee scene, where I popped by the Bonanza Coffee Roastery, which doubles as a lovely coffee shop. Well, I say “popped by”, but that understates the deliberate nature of my visit. Tucked away in a large courtyard, accessed down a long road from Adalbertstraße, the Bonanza Roastery is not somewhere you’d stumble across, or, indeed “pop by”, unless you already knew it was there.

It’s a lovely spot, quiet and sheltered, with plenty of outdoor seating and even more inside, where the coffee shop, at the front, shares the space with the roastery at the back. It was also incredibly popular and my original plan, which had been to write it up as a Coffee Spot, went out of the window almost immediately. However, I noticed something that I always love to see on the menu: a filter tasting flight. That, I thought, will make an excellent subject for a Saturday Supplement. And you know what? I was right!

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Improving the Coffee Gator Espresso Machine, Part II

Pulling a shot on Amanda's Coffee Gator espresso machine using her Hario V60 scales (to weigh and time the shot) and with a Tupperwear lid so that I can position the Cafe Grumpy cup right under the portafilter.Last month I wrote about Amanda’s new Coffee Gator espresso machine, which she’d bought for under $150. Although it far exceeded my expectations and consistently makes good espresso, I found almost everything else about the Coffee Gator to be intensely annoying, particularly after spending the last five years using my Sage Barista Express. As a result, as soon as I began using the Coffee Gator, I started to think of ways that I could improve the experience, which in turn has led to this series of posts.

In Part I, I wrote about a couple of cheap accessories (a dosing funnel and a proper tamper), which improve the workflow during preparation. Today’s post is focussed on improving the experience of pulling shots and is all about how you can weigh shots with the Coffee Gator. Depending on what equipment you already have, this can be a no-cost option. That said, even if you don’t have any scales, these days, high-quality coffee scales are easily affordable, and I strongly recommend that you get some.

The third and final post in the series will look at the pros and cons of upgrading the Coffee Gator’s pressurised basket, which you might want to consider.

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Improving the Coffee Gator Espresso Machine, Part I

The original Coffee Gator portaflter and pressurised basket, along with two accessories that Amanda bought to improve the Coffee Gator experience: a proper tamper and a dosing funnel.Last week I wrote about Amanda’s new Coffee Gator espresso machine, which she’d bought for under $150. I was fully expecting to be disappointed, but to my surprise, it made consistently good espresso, far surpassing my expectations. However, after years of being spoilt when it comes to home espresso, including spending the last five years using a Sage Barista Express, I found almost everything about the Coffee Gator, other than the quality of the espresso, to be intensely annoying.

As a machine to prep, use and clean up afterwards, it is incredibly frustrating. This is largely an inevitable consequence of making a machine that can sell for under $150, but as soon as I began using it, I started to think of ways I could improve the experience, which is the subject of this series of posts. I present some potential improvements, including simple accessories and some workarounds to allow you to weigh and time  shots in real time (depending on your scales).

This post, Part I, considers two simple and cheap accessories which can improve the workflow during preparation. I also talk about an alternative to the Coffee Gator’s pressurised basket, which I’ll cover in detail in Part III.

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Making Coffee at Home: Vacuum Canisters Revisited

My new Soulhand vacuum canister, complete with coffee beans, looking very pretty in the sun. Please don't store it in direct sunlight though!Welcome to the latest instalment in my Making Coffee at Home series, which takes another look at storing coffee beans in vacuum canisters. At the start of the year, I received the gift of a vacuum canister from Soulhand (a company which also gifted me a gooseneck kettle the year before). Vacuum canisters, as the name suggests, work by removing (almost) all the air from the canister, which, in theory, keeps coffee fresh for longer than storing it in an airtight container.

My initial post about the Soulhand vacuum canister was written not long after I received it. I covered the principles behind vacuum canisters and the Soulhand vacuum canister itself, including what it was like to use. I also did some simple comparisons between beans that were stored in the canister and those kept in an airtight container (my usual practice for storing beans). Unfortunately, the results were inconclusive, largely because over the short timescales involved (a week), I wouldn’t have expected the coffee to go stale. However, at the end of the post, I explained that I’d set up an experiment to see what difference storing beans in a vacuum canister makes over a longer period of time…

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Helping Ukraine Through Coffee

The familiar Coffee Spot cup, superimposed on the flag of Ukraine.With war currently raging in Ukraine, people are wondering what they can do to help. An obvious way is to donate to the many charities offering direct support and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and to Ukrainian refuges. However, I wanted to look at some additional ways of helping, specifically those that involve coffee.

One option is to buy your coffee from a UK roaster offering to make donations linked to each sale, perhaps the most (in)famous of which is Dark Arts Coffee’s Russian Warship Go Fuck Yourself, a naturally-processed El Salvadorian coffee. For each box sold, Dark Arts will make a £2 donation to help support the victims and refugees displaced by the war in Ukraine. In a similar vein, Dear Green Coffee will donate £1 for every sale of its Goosedubbs blend, the money going to a variety of Ukrainian aid charities.

Another option is to offer direct support to Ukraine’s own speciality coffee industry. It’s something I’ve been considering for a while, partly inspired by an article in Sprudge, looking at how the war has impacted coffee businesses throughout Ukraine, as well as by stories about booking Airbnbs as a way of getting money directly to people in Ukraine.

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Making Coffee at Home: Soulhand Vacuum Canister

My new Soulhand vacuum canister, complete with coffee beans, looking very pretty in the sun. Please don't store it in direct sunlight though!Welcome to the latest instalment in my Making Coffee at Home series, which is all about storing coffee beans at home. Other than a post about keeping coffee beans in the freezer, it’s not something that I’ve written much about. Coffee’s twin enemies, when it comes to freshness, are air and light, so the standard advice, once you have opened a bag of coffee, is to store the beans in an airtight container away from directly sunlight.

Typically, I’ll put around 80 grams of beans into an airtight container, storing the rest in the original bag (which, if it’s not resealable, I’ll pop into a larger container) in the cupboard. This means I’m not exposing the bulk of the coffee to fresh air every time I open the bag/container.

However, there is an alternative, which prompted me to the write this post. A couple of weeks ago, the folks at Soulhand offered me a vacuum canister. It’s something I’ve been thinking about getting for a while, so naturally, I jumped at the chance. Vacuum canisters, as the name suggests, work by removing (almost) all the air from the canister, which, in theory keeps the coffee fresh for longer.

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Making Coffee at Home: Cafetiere Clean-up Made Easy

My shiny metal cafetiere (I got tired of breaking the glass ones!).The very first Making Coffee at Home post I wrote, before I even knew I’d create a whole Coffee at Home section for the Coffee Spot, was a simple guide to making better coffee with the cafetiere. To this day, for all the fancy pour-over methods I have at my disposable, or other immersion methods, such as the AeroPress or Clever Dripper, not to mention my home espresso machine, the cafetiere (or French Press), is still my go-to method for making my morning coffee.

One of the complaints I regularly hear about the cafetiere is that it’s difficult to clean up after a brew. This is something that I’ve never understood, since disposing of the used grounds in a cafetiere is ridiculously easy. Okay, so it’s not quite as simple as tossing a used paper pour-over filter, grounds and all, or popping an AeroPress puck into the compost, but it’s less hassle than, say, cleaning a reusable cloth filter.

So why does the cafetiere have a reputation that it’s difficult to clean up? I suspect it’s because lots of people don’t actually know how to dispose of the used grounds, so to rectify that, I’ve written this little guide.

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Making Coffee at Home: Cloth Filters

Using my two-cup CoffeeSock cloth filter to make a pour-over in a white ceramic pour-over filter.When I first made coffee at home, over 25 years ago, I used a cheap filter machine, but I didn’t like the taste its metal filter imparted to the coffee, so I switched to the cafetiere and never looked back. Years later, when I started experimenting with home pour-over and other methods such as the Clever Dripper, I naturally used paper filters (I’ve had the occasional metal filter but never got on with them).

For several years, I’ve toyed with getting cloth filters to use at home. However, inertia and a general sense that they were a bit of a faff compared to paper filters put me off (which is odd, since many of the other little rituals around making coffee don’t bother me). Then, on my last trip to see Amanda in November, we were in GoGo Refill, a low-waste store in South Portland, where I saw some cloth filters from CoffeeSock.

To cut a long story short, I bought a pair, one for a Chemex and one for a standard two-cup ridge-bottom filter (like my collapsible travel filter). After using them on and off for the last two months, I thought it was time to share my thoughts.

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Making Coffee at Home: Manual vs Electric Grinders

Amanda's Baratza Encore electric burr grinder next to my Aergrind hand burr grinder (not to scale). But which one did I prefer?One of the first pieces I wrote for my Making Coffee at Home series in early 2020 was on the importance of grinding coffee at home. Every now and then people ask me for advice on what sort of coffee grinder they should buy and while the article has some general advice (always get a burr grinder), I stumble over the question of whether to recommend a manual or electric burr grinder.

Regular readers will know that I have a soft spot for manual coffee grinders. After all, I own three of them: a pair of Feldgrinds and an Aergrind, all from Knock. I do have an electric burr grinder, but this is built into my Sage Barista Express. In theory, I could use it for grinding for filter coffee as well, but in practice, I use it exclusively for espresso, sticking to my Feldgrind for my daily cafetiere, pour-over and AeroPress.

However, when I was visiting Amanda last November, I had the chance to use her Baratza Encore for an extended period of time. This allowed me to make a direct comparison between electric (the Encore) and manual (my Aergrind) grinders as I made our morning cafetieres and daily pour-overs.

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The 2022 Coffee Spot Calendar

A pot of coffee for two at Reykjavik Roasters, Kárastígur. The coffee in question is La Cascada, a naturally-processed coffee from the Hulia region of Colombia, prepared through the Kalita Wave filter.After five years of being late in announcing the Coffee Spot Calendar and vowing that next year I will be better prepared and get it out earlier, I’ve given up. Instead, I’ve decided that 4th December is perfect for launching the Coffee Spot Calendar (although this year I have a decent excuse since I’ve spent the bulk of November in America). So, with that out of the way, please say hello to the 2022 Coffee Spot Calendar, which is now on sale.

As always, it’s professionally-printed on glossy paper, each month featuring a landscape, A4 picture from one of my favourite Coffee Spots of the last 12 months. The calendars cost £15.00 (£10.00 for the desktop version) with a flat £2.50 postage and packing charge, regardless of order size. If you think we’re likely to meet up in the near future, then there’s a no-postage option: pick this and I’ll hand your calendar over in person! If you’re ordering from outside the UK, then the postage will be more, I’m afraid (full details after the gallery).

If you order by the end of next week, I should be able to get your calendar to you before Christmas (for UK orders).

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