Two weeks ago, I launched my Coffee at Home series (which now has its own page on the Coffee Spot) with a simple guide to the cafetiere to get you started, followed by a piece on the importance of getting a grinder at home. As I explained in the cafetiere guide, it works well for bold coffees (I typically use it with espresso blends) but less well for subtle or delicate single-origins. So today I’m taking you one step further with a method that’s more suitable for those subtle/delicate single-origin coffees.
I’ll be honest: there are plenty of excellent filter methods out there, each with its own set of devoted fans. There’s the Aeropress, V60, Chemex and Kalita Wave to name a few. However, today I’m writing about the Clever Dripper, which, in my opinion, is the easiest method for those of you taking your next steps into home-brewing. Like the cafetiere, it doesn’t require any fancy equipment, other than the Clever Dripper itself and some filter papers. It also shares other important characteristics with the cafetiere: it’s simple, reliable and, above all, very forgiving. All you really need is coffee, a mug, kettle and a timer (plus, ideally, a grinder).
Last week I wrote about making coffee at home, using just a cafetiere and kettle. At the time, I said that the most important thing you can add is a grinder, so picking up on that, here’s a short post on the importance of grinding your own coffee at home, including some practical advice to help get you started.
The simple reason I advise everyone to grind their own coffee is that it tastes better! Coffee ages over time, slowly losing its taste, but ground coffee ages incredibly quickly (it’s to do with the amount of surface area exposed to the air). In contrast, whole beans keep much longer (and can be successfully frozen to further prolong their life). You then just grind the beans you need, ideally right before brewing, and off you go. You should notice an immediate improvement in taste.
Like many things in coffee, it can seem a little daunting at first, but grinding your own coffee needn’t be difficult, particularly if you are only grinding for one preparation method, which means you’re not always fiddling around with settings. In this post, I’ll talk about selecting a grinder and the all-important consideration: how fine to grind!
With the COVID-19 crisis in full swing, most people will be making coffee at home for the foreseeable future. While I’m rather obsessive about my home coffee making (fancy scales, hand grinder, gooseneck kettle, multiple filter methods, espresso machine…) and even have my own travelling coffee kit, that’s not for this post. Rather, I’m going back to my coffee-making roots with the method I used before I got swallowed by the speciality coffee rabbit hole. Hopefully this will help anyone not used to making coffee at home.
So, rather than write about my Aeropress, V60 or Clever Dripper, this post is all about the humble cafetiere (aka French Press) which I still use to make my morning coffee every day. I find it a simple, reliable and, above all, forgiving way of making coffee. It’s also very scalable: using the same basic recipe you can make coffee for one person just as easily as you can for three or four (as long as you have a big enough cafetiere, of course). All you really need is coffee, a cafetiere, mug, kettle and a timer, although the most important thing you can add is a grinder, which will improve things immensely!
A week ago, I’d just arrived in Chicago for work, having flown in from Atlanta. While there were worries around COVID-19, and people were taking precautions, everything seemed very normal. I went for a walk around the city and visited some coffee shops. That weekend now feels a very, very long time ago.
The day after I arrived, Sunday, 15th March, the Governor of Illinois announced the closure of all bars, clubs, restaurants and cafes to all except takeaway customers, and I made the decision to return home. I flew to Boston the following day and on Tuesday, I flew from a near-empty airport on a near-empty flight back to Heathrow.
Since then, I’ve been trying to readjust to life at home and practice social distancing, while continuing to work (I’m fortunate that I work remotely anyway and, for now, work is carrying on as normal). I’m also trying to support my local coffee businesses as best I can and for as long as I can.
Am I taking unreasonable risks? I don’t know. Am even doing the right thing? I don’t know. All I can tell you is that I’m asking myself those questions every day, re-evaluating, every day.
Although a big advocate of cuppings, I rarely get the chance to attend them, so when an opportunity comes along, I tend to grab it with both hands. I was visiting Amanda in Portland last summer when the barista at the Tandem Coffee Roastery mentioned that the roastery holds public cuppings every Friday at noon: naturally, I had to go. Ironically, having not been to a cupping for a while, this was my second one that year, both in the USA.
In case you don’t know, a cupping is where several different coffees are tasted using a standard methodology, which allows their taste profiles to be compared without the brew method, etc, influencing the results. They’re a regular part of any roaster’s life, often used to assess new samples before deciding which beans to order. However, in this case, the cupping was part of Tandem’s quality control procedure for its production roasts.
Increasingly, roasters are opening up their production cuppings to the public. It’s a great opportunity to get to know more about a roaster and the coffees on offer, as well as a chance to develop your own palate. I thoroughly recommend that you attend one if you can!
In 7½ years of writing the Coffee Spot, I’d never been to a cat café. However, all that changed last weekend when my friend Richard suggested visiting Cat Town in Oakland. It was America’s first cat café when it opened in 2014, adding the RAWR Coffee Bar, its own independent speciality coffee shop, in 2017. I wrote about RAWR earlier in the week, which you can visit in its own right, independent of Cat Town, while today’s Saturday Supplement focuses on Cat Town itself.
What makes Cat Town special in the world of cat cafés is that all the cats in residence are up for adoption, although you don’t have to be interested in adopting if all you want to do is visit and hang out with the cats. An hour with the cats will set you back $10, which goes towards covering Cat Town’s expenses. Although you can turn up on spec, booking ahead of time is recommended since Cat Town limits the number of people allowed in at any one time and it can get very busy. Note that while Cat Town is closed on Monday/Tuesday, RAWR is open, so you can still pop in for coffee.
Welcome to the annual Coffee Spot Christmas gift guides. If, like me, everything ends up getting done at the last minute (I like to this it’s because I’m busy, rather than unorganised, but I’ll leave that to you to decide), then here’s some inspiration with an eclectic selection of gifts for your coffee-loving friends/relatives.
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 are also some suggestions for presents for your coffee-loving friends at the top of the slippery slope of coffee-geekdom, who just need a helping nudge to begin the headlong descent into the rabbit-hole of speciality coffee.
While this is a Christmas gift guide, feel free to return to it throughout the year. It serves just as well as a birthday/anniversary gift guide…
It’s that time of year again! The Coffee Spot Calendar, now into its seventh year, is on sale! As always, the calendars are professionally-printed on glossy paper, each month featuring a landscape, A4 picture from one of my favourite Coffee Spots of the last 12 months. As in the last couple of years, I’ve been ridiculously busy, so please accept my apologies for the late arrival of the calendar. Thanks also to my friends and supporters, Keith, Amanda, Sharon, Dave (and everyone else) who has encouraged me and suggested pictures.
The calendars cost £18.00 (£15.00 for the desktop version and, new this year, £12.00 for the poster version) with a flat £2.00 postage and packing charge, regardless of how many you order. 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).
Please note: the original print run has now sold out. Any new orders will be dispatched direct from the printers and won’t arrive until 2020. Furthermore, since I’m now ordering individual calendars, rather than ordering in bulk, I’ve had to increase the prices.
Four weeks ago, I spent a very pleasant Tuesday evening at Amoret Speciality Coffee in Notting Hill, learning all about the properties of foam. Specifically, milk foam, in case you were wondering what this has to do with coffee. I was at the second Coffee & Science evening, organised by fellow coffee blogger, Bean Thinking, aka Karen, who (when not engaged in the important business of blogging about coffee) spends (some of) her time as a research physicist at Imperial College.
The Coffee & Science evenings are a series of informal events held on a (roughly) monthly basis, hosted by the lovely Sadiq of Amoret Coffee and organised by Bean Thinking. The next one is this Tuesday (22nd October) and is all about the science of espresso extraction. Karen is keen that the tag “science” doesn’t put anyone off: the events are fun, friendly, practical, and, most important of all, you don’t need a background in science to attend! Coffee & Science is open to anyone with an interest in coffee and science behind it.
In the meantime, if you’ve ever wanted to know why milk foams (or sometimes doesn’t), which milks foam the best, and how non-dairy milks compare, read on!
Another year, another post wondering where all the time has gone! The Coffee Spot celebrates its seventh birthday today! I launched the Coffee Spot exactly seven years on Friday, 28th September 2012 (at 14.15 to be precise) with 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. Little did I know just how much the Coffee Spot would take over my life!
In the Coffee Spot’s seventh year, I published 240 times (up on 219 since last time), covering 185 Coffee Spots of various sorts, with the remaining posts covering coffee events, roasters, my travels and the Coffee Spot Awards. Since 2016, the contents of Coffee Spot has been largely shaped by my work travels and the last 12 months have been no different, with six major overseas trips, and short jaunts to Rome and Prague. Despite this travel, I only visited six countries outside the UK, including three visits to the USA and two to Japan (the other countries were Canada, China, Czechia and Italy).