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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Making Coffee at Home: AeroPress (Revisited)

The view from above: an AeroPress, used in the conventional configuration, with 15 grams of ground coffee in the chamber, waiting for the hot water to be added.When I started my Coffee at Home series at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020, the aim was to present some simple ways of improving your home coffee making. My post on the AeroPress was part of my Coffee Preparation Methods series, simple guides on how I use various coffee brewing methods. In it, I wrote about my early struggles with the AeroPress, how I came to fall in love with it, finishing with my preferred way of using the AeroPress, the inverted method.

Fast forward six months, and, as the pandemic dragged on, I took to binge-watching James Hoffmann’s excellent You Tube channel (if you haven’t discovered it yet, I thoroughly recommend it). Since then, I’ve become an avid watcher and, along the way, I’ve learnt an awful lot. Just one example is the Clever Dripper, a method I liked but sometimes struggled with. Then along came James with his Ultimate Clever Dripper Guide and it completely changed the way I brewed with the Clever Dripper.

So, when James released his much anticipated five-part AeroPress Guide, I was intrigued. Would it confirm everything I’d been doing with my AeroPress, or turn everything on its head again?

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The Coffee Spot is Nine!

An espresso, made by my Rancilio Silvia espresso machine, in a classic white cup and saucer from Acme & Co., New Zealand, distributed in the UK by Caravan Roastery.This time last year, I remember writing that 2020 had been a very strange year, so much so that I almost forgot the Coffee Spot’s birthday! In many ways, the last twelve months have been even stranger, but at least this time I remembered the birthday, the Coffee Spot turning nine years old today. Not that I realised what I was unleashing on myself when I launched the Coffee Spot on Friday, 28th September 2012 (at 14.15 to be precise), with just a vague idea that it might become a useful resource for coffee (shop) lovers and an entertaining way for me to spend (some of) my spare time.

I ended last year’s birthday post noting that the country was at another crossroads in its journey through the COVID-19 pandemic, wondering what the Coffee Spot’s ninth year would bring. Sadly, it ended up being more of the same, with soaring infection rates leading to more restrictions through the winter. For a little while in the early summer it seemed that vaccination had COVID-19 under control, but the delta variant put paid to that. As the Coffee Spot enters its 10th year, we’re back to an uncertain future with far higher infection, hospitalisation and death rates than this time last year…

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Coffeeland

Detail from the cover of Coffeeland by Augustine Sedgewick, with the volcano of Santa Ana front and centre.Regular readers know that I don’t often write about coffee books, so today’s Saturday Supplement is the exception that proves the rule. Coffeeland, by Augustine Sedgewick and published in 2020 by Penguin Books, was a chance discovery in my local bookshop while I was looking for something else (Howul, if you’re interested, an excellent debut novel by my friend David Shannon).

Back to Coffeeland: I hadn’t previously heard of the author, and was completely unaware of the book, but there it was, sitting on the shelf. I was intrigued by the title, so picked it up, read the blurb on the back and made the impulse decision to buy it.

Coffeeland is ostensibly a history of coffee in El Salvador (the “coffeeland” of the title), with the focus on James Hill, who went from the slums of nineteenth-century Manchester to El Salvador, where he founded one of its great coffee dynasties. However, Coffeeland is a lot more than that, a fascinating, multi-threaded book which weaves together many strands of the modern, industrial world to tell the story of coffee from the perspective of those who produce it. A harrowing read at times, it shines a light on some of coffee’s darker corners.

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Frozen Solid Coffee Project

My coffee, the Nano Lot N14, a Gesha grown by Creativa Coffee District in Panama, roasted by The Hub in Malaysia and served in a carafe, with a lovely ceramic cup on the side, all presented on a wooden tray, part of the Frozen Solid Coffee Project at Tilt in Birmingham.Something rather special is happening at Tilt, Birmingham’s speciality coffee, craft beer and pinball joint. Tilt has been serious about its coffee ever since it opened, but recently Tilt’s owner, Kirk, has taken things to a whole new level. For example, there is a continuous rotation of guest roasters on espresso, with Tilt using coffee from around the world. Right now, Tilt is serving a single-origin from Manhattan Coffee Roasters (from Rotterdam in the Netherlands), which replaced one from Onyx Coffee Lab (from Arkansas in the US). However, the really exciting thing, exciting enough to have this whole Saturday Supplement dedicated to it, is the Frozen Solid Coffee Project.

I was completely unaware of the Frozen Solid Coffee Project when I visited Tilt two weeks ago, only realising that it was there when Kirk pointed it out to me on the menu. Indeed, it’s the sort of thing that you can easily miss if you don’t already know about it. For the uninitiated, the Frozen Solid Coffee Project enables Tilt to offer an extremely wide range of single-origin pour-overs (29 at the time of writing!) from farms/roasters around the world, some of which are extremely rare micro- and nano-lots.

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Three Micro-lots from Crankhouse

The front of a tin of coffee from Crankhouse Coffee, in this case the Finca La Virginia from Rafael Amaya in Timana in the Huila region of Colombia. It is a double anaerobic processed pink bourbon variety with tasting notes of plum and apricot brandy with cinnamon.The Coffee Spot has always been more about places I like to have coffee than about the coffee itself, so I find it amusing that today’s Saturday Supplement is the fourth about coffee in a month! This can be traced back to the Freak & Unique that I received from Hundred House Coffee, the gift that keeps on giving. Along with the Freak & Unique, which spawned a second post when I tried it at Liar Liar, I received a bag of Fazenda Recanto, a coffee from the Cerrado Minerio region of Brazil, which is processed using a 64-hour fermentation technique.

The Fazenda Recanto was a nano-lot which Hundred House bought in conjunction with Crankhouse Coffee and Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters. I was trying to buy a bag from each roaster so that I could compare all three, but sadly, Crankhouse had sold out. However, while I was looking around the Crankhouse website, I came across three other very special coffees which caught my eye. All three coffees were processed, like the Fazenda Recanto, with various fermentation techniques, so I decided to buy them instead.

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Freak & Unique Update

The Freak & Unique (second edition) from Hundred House Coffee, pulled as an espresso shot by Liar Liar and served in a double-walled tasting glass.At the end of April, I visited the Hundred House Coffee roastery in the rolling Shropshire hills, coming away with an unexpected present: the last of the second edition of Hundred House’s Freak & Unique. This limited-edition range is designed to showcase the most off-the-wall coffees that Hundred House can find, highlighting the outstanding and abnormal.

The second edition of Freak & Unique was from the farm of Norma Iris Fiallos in Honduras, who used a macerated natural processing technique to produce a coffee which Hundred House gave tasting notes of “tree mastic, aloe vera and pine”. However, when I wrote about it, it was another coffee, from Fazenda Recanto in the Cerrado Minerio region of Brazil, which stole the show.

Not that there was anything wrong with the Freak & Unique. If anything, that was part of the problem. I really liked it, finding it a lovely, drinkable coffee, but not what I’d call “freak” or “unique”. Since I’d only had a small, 80 gram sample, I did wonder if I’d got the best of out it, so when I saw it on the counter at Liar Liar in Oswestry last month, I decided to try it one last time.

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Freak & Unique (and Other Coffees)

The words Hundred House Coffee, surrounded by an irregular hexagon, carved in black on wood.At the end of last month, I visited the Hundred House Coffee roastery in the rolling Shropshire hills, coming away with an unexpected present: the last of the second edition of Hundred House’s Freak & Unique range. I was given two more bags of coffee, a naturally-processed one from Damian Espinoza Garcia in Peru and another from Fazenda Recanto in Brazil, processed using a 64-hour fermentation technique.

Regularly readers will know that I don’t usually write about coffee itself, but every now and then, something comes along (like the Taylors Discovery I had in March, or Chimney Fire’s El Salvador Three Ways that I started the year with) that I make an exception for. These three outstanding coffees from Hundred House all fall into this category.

I did consider cupping the three coffees, but to be honest, they are all so different from each other that I wasn’t sure what I would learn from that. Instead, I’ve just been making them as regular pour-overs during the last two weeks and taking notes as I go.

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