Tagged "Tips & Tricks"

How to Start Brewing At Home

Posted by Keith Yee on

Coffee is a necessary thing for most of the people. Some people just enjoy drinking it but for others this is not enough, they are interested in learning how to prepare it so they can enjoy wherever they are. However, it can be troublesome for a coffee lover to head down to a café, especially in the morning when you are getting ready for work or school, so here are my tips to start you off brewing at home with just a few simple tools.

delicious coffee common man coffee roasters

Many of my friends and customers have asked me this question, 'How can I brew a coffee at home that tastes delicious whilst not spending too much money on coffee equipment?' My answer is always the same, go buy a Clever Coffee Dripper (CCD) and a good bag of CMCR coffee! The CCD is suitable for every beginner because it doesn’t require too much technique and the cost is relatively low. All you need to have is a CCD, paper filter, a stirrer, delicious coffee and you are good to go!

CCD common man coffee roasters

So a little about the CCD, firstly it brews coffee in what we call the immersion method. This method allows you to control the steeping time while brewing, resulting in a much more balanced cup compared to other brewing methods.

Once you take your CCD out it’s box, you’ll notice it has a release valve at the bottom of the brewer which unlocks when pushed and allows the water to start dripping when you place it on a cup. You’ll also see it comes with lid which keeps the heat in the brewer, so you can have a lovely hot cup of coffee every time! The CCD is also lightweight and portable so you can enjoy the same great coffee at home, work or even on holidays.

ccd common man coffee roasters

Here’s my recommend recipe and a list of the tools you’ll need:

Paper filter
Scale (Optional but if you want a consistent cup is worth the investment)
Stirrer (a kitchen spoon will do)
Boiling Water
Delicious coffee (roasted for filter and CMCR of course!)

Once you have all these, here how to start brewing:

  1. Place your CCD on either your scale or worktop but do not place on your cup yet otherwise you’ll release the valve!
  2. Fold the paper filter according to the line on the side and place it nicely in the CCD.
  3. Rinse the paper filter with hot water to get rid of the papery taste and warm up the brewer.
  4. Put 15g of ground coffee into the CCD (medium coarse grind size – ask your barista for a filter grind if you don’t have your own grinder).
  5. Pour 250g of hot water into your CCD (or equivalent 1:16 ratio).
  6. Stir 5 times and put the lid on.
  7. Allow to steep for 2:15 minutes.
  8. Take off the lid and stir 5 times.
  9. Now place your CCD on your cup to release the valve and let it drip.
  10. Sit back, relax and enjoy a cup of joy!

It's really that easy! This is my recommended recipe but you may find you like it slightly stronger or weaker depending on the type of coffee you have. Why not have an experiment at home to see what works for you? remember consistency is the key so having a scale and a home grinder will mean you can repeat your recipe again and again.

Did you know that you can also brew cold coffee at home using a CCD? check out our blog for our method and enjoy a delicious cold brew made by you!

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Home Brewer: Cafe in Your Kitchen - Part Three

Posted by Stella Cochrane on

So now you have your machine up and running and can pull a mean espresso shot it time to turn our attention to the thing that everyone wants to try - Latte Art! We are going to look at creating the Rosetta, a fern or leaf shaped pattern, which is the most well known and often the most difficult design to master. Here we are going to run through the process step by step, so you can try it at home.

Common man coffee roasters milk texturing latte art

So you’re getting consistently good shots of espresso and you’ve mastered your milk steaming with silky consistency. But all your challenges are not surmounted! Increasingly in cafes around Singapore, patterns and designs are flowing onto the surfaces of coffees — while everyone around you is happily enjoying the filigreed designs, your frustration builds as you get no closer to achieving more that what your friends and family fondly refer to as your ‘abstract phase’. Well it’s time for that to change — below are some tips and pointers for getting you closer to giving birth to your first Rosetta.

My first prefacing statement would be that without a good set of shots as the base for your coffee, there’s no way you’re going to be able to achieve great latte art, let alone a good tasting coffee: so get those shots right! Remember: once your face gets close enough for the first sip, no-one can see the latte art anyway!

Secondly, you really need to have mastered your milk texturing before attempting your Rosetta. If your milk is lumpy, airy, too foamy, not foamy enough or not folded together thoroughly, you’re going to have all kinds of problems as you try to pour.

Another important factor is the spout on your milk jug (something that you generally only learn after purchasing 37 different milk jugs to find — the right one). Make sure that your milk jug has a clearly defined spout — check out our Incasa Milk Jugs we’ve got in stock: one of the reasons we chose these jugs is that they’re great for latte art. A spout with no point or one that has a big lip at the edge will disperse your milk widely, restricting you from any fine detail.

Alright — you know what you’re aiming for and you’ve prepared your shots. For the Rosetta, you want to steam your milk as if for a flat white — much thicker than this and there will be no definition to your design. Once you’ve steamed your milk (check out last month’s Café in your Kitchen — Part II article if you’re not sure about this), you’re ready to roll!

Begin pouring straight into the center, keeping the jug low to the cup. Begin with quite a slow pour to help stabilise the crema in the cup.

common man coffee roasters latte art guide

Once you’re around 1/3 of the way up the cup, move the jug so you’re pouring towards the back and start slightly shaking or ‘jiggling’ the jug side to side to throw the foam forward.

common man coffee roasters latte art guide

Once the foam has marked the surface of the crema, continue that same shaking or swaying motion while moving the pour backwards through the cup. Upon reaching the front of the cup, pour in a straight line toward the back of the cup, through the lines you’ve previously created. Your swaying motion will create the leaves of the Rosetta with the final pull through creating the stem.

You can then start practising doing fancy things like this:

common man coffee roasters guide to latte art

Alright — that’s a step by step walk through but just a few more tips:

  • Always make sure that the tip of your milk jug spout is as close to the surface of the milk as possible (pour low).
  • Once you’ve shaken the white to the surface, use a fairly slow swaying motion to create the leaves — don’t zig-zag but rather rotate just your wrist.
  • Try with a large cup to begin with — more surface area = more canvas.
  • Always attempt to have only as much steamed milk as you need in the jug: too much milk and the angle of your pour towards the end will still be too low.

So with these tips, hopefully you’re closer to achieving that great finish to your coffees, and always remember: the espresso base and texture of your milk are the most important factors — latte art is the icing on the cake!

Visit the Common Man Coffee Roasters online shop for all your home barista equipment needs!

If you want more hands-on practice and tuition in latte art, sign up for a Latte Art Class at the CMCR Academy, details of all our classes and how to book.

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Home Brewer: Cafe in Your Kitchen - Part Two

Posted by Stella Cochrane on

Last time we looked at setting up your espresso machine and extracting the perfect shot of the first time. Now we must turn our attention to the often most problematic area for a budding home, or indeed a professional barista.

Milk texturing: it’s often the difference between a sweet coffee and one that is better poured down the sink. Once you’ve mastered the art of pulling a perfect shot, you need to get to work on developing your milk texturing technique.

Even if your preference is a short black, the shiny machine on your benchtop is going to attract plenty of visitors, all prepared to self-sacrifice and ‘let you practice’ on them. So you’re going to have to learn to texture milk, either for yourself or to show off to your guests.

You should always prepare your espresso shots first — the steamed milk holds the majority of the heat of your drink and if you steam first, the milk will lose temperature while you’re pulling your shot, and the foam and milk will also separate.

I am often asked “which milk is best for steaming?”. The answer, like many things in specialty coffee, is that this is largely a matter of personal choice. Common Man is very loyal in it's milk usage, and we give our customers full cream milk, unless specifically requested, because its creaminess complements coffee’s natural flavours; but the choice is really yours. As I say time and time again experimentation is key to perfection, so try different brands and varieties to discover which you like best.

You’ll notice that I keep referring to the ‘texture of the milk’. What I mean by this is basically the integration of the milk and foam, and the density of the bubbles. What you’re aiming to achieve is generally called ‘micro-foam’ — a foam with almost imperceptible air bubbles, a glossy sheen on top and a creamy, dense texture.

CMCR Milk Texturing

Although you’re not using the same quantity of milk as your local café, it’s still a good idea to make sure you don’t have too much milk left over after pouring your drinks to minimise waste. You can often use the inside of the spout on your 1L milk jug to measure how much milk is needed. For two traditional cappuccino sized cups (around 220‐250ml), fill cold milk to 1cm below this spout — we’re aiming for 1cm or less of milk leftover. You’ll learn how much milk to use pretty quickly with practice.

Milk steaming can be summarised in two steps — the Stretching Phase and the Rolling Phase. In the stretching phase, you need to position the steam wand tip right on the surface of the milk so that you can hear the distinctive “tch, tch, tch” or hissing sound. This sound indicates that you’re injecting air into the milk to create foam. During this process you’ll see the volume of your milk rise, hence the ‘Stretching’ title. Continue to lower the milk jug very slowly so that you continue hearing the same stretching sound, and create more foam. The more slowly you lower the jug, and the more gently you introduce air to the milk, the denser your foam will be. This will avoid those nasty, sea-foam-like air bubbles that uneducated baristas still produce.

Once you’ve created enough foam for your drinks, or if the jug is feeling too hot to hold comfortably, you should move into the second, Rolling Phase of the milk texturing process. Raise the jug till you no longer hear the stretching sound, submerging the steam wand approximately 1cm below the surface of the milk. Angle the jug slightly so that the steam pushes the milk around the jug in a whirlpool. This phase combines the milk and foam, and heats the milk to a good serving temperature.

CMCR Milk Texturing Rolling

To create a foamy drink like a cappuccino, stretch the milk for a longer amount of time. For a thinner milk drink like a flat white, you should only hear the stretching sound for a couple of seconds before submerging the steam wand tip in the milk.

In relation to temperature, for those using a milk steaming thermometer, cease the Stretching Phase at around 45C and turn off your steam wand at around 60C. The temperature of the milk will continue to rise to around 65C after you’ve turned off the steam wand. If you’re not using a thermometer, keep one hand under the milk jug, and stop the Stretching Phase when the jug becomes too hot to comfortably keep your hand underneath, then count to 15 before turning off the steam wand. Obviously, different home espresso machines will heat milk at different speeds, depending on their internal components. For example, we’ve found the Isomac range of espresso machines require a count to eight to bring the milk to a good serving temperature.

Once you’ve finished steaming, lower the jug and immediately wipe the steam wand with a damp cloth to remove all milk. Push the steam wand in towards the drip tray and turn the steam back on for a quick pulse to remove any milk that may be inside the wand.

To burst any larger bubbles on the surface of your milk, tap the jug a couple of times on the bench. Finally (and this is one of the most important steps, so don’t be tempted to skip it!) swirl the milk within your jug to fold in the foam that you’ve created. Initially, the surface of the milk in your jug is likely to look quite matt. Roll the milk up the sides of your jug until the contents turn shiny and glossy on top.

Once the milk and foam are well mixed together, keep the jug low to the cup and pour the foamy milk in one even pour on top of your espresso shot. If pouring more than one coffee from a jug, always pour the drink you want to be foamiest first and give the jug a quick swirl before pouring subsequent coffees.

After pouring your coffees, aim to have a minimal amount of wastage left over, allowing you to quickly rinse out the inside of your milk jug so that next time you can start with fresh, cold milk. Do NOT attempt to re-steam milk! This is one of the biggest mistakes an uneducated barista can make, you have already changed the chemical make up of the milk and will produce bitter, burnt tasting coffee if you attempt to re-steam. Just say no.

Those are the tips that should get you well on your way to producing velvety, smooth milk every time. Invite your friends and family over and use them as your guinea pigs to hone your skills — but be careful, no doubt they’ll be inviting themselves around shortly to ask for another couple of ‘test coffees’!

Next time we will be honing these skills and looking at creating some amazing latte art.

If you’re serious about coffee and want to hone your espresso making skills with a hands-on workshop, sign up for our Skills for the Home Barista class where you can hone your skills with the helping hands of our talented trainers.

Finally, don't forget you can shop for all your brewing requirements including gear, beans and more from the comfort of your own home using our online store - #getbrewingwithcmcr!

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Home Brewer: Cafe in your kitchen - part one

Posted by Accounts Department on

So you have finally taken the plunge and bought that shiny new machine you have always wanted and can channel your inner barista from the comfort of your own home. From setting up your machine to making your very first espresso, here are some handy tips to get you started.

Note: Obviously, the following is general advice and you should always follow the instructions provided with your machine.

While your machine may look gleaming and shiny, it’s a good idea to wash all the removable parts in warm, soapy water. Wash the baskets, the portafilter (the handle containing the coffee basket) and the water reservoir to remove any dust and get rid of any plastic or metallic taste.

Espresso is made up of 90% water, so it’s important that you use good quality water. The tap water here in Singapore is pretty darn good due to our advanced water treatment process and reliance on rainwater which contains low levels of calcium and all the minerals that can potentially clog up your machine. However, you will still need to carry out a once yearly descale just to clear out all the components.

Of course to get the cleanest taste and to prevent any problems occurring with your machine you can use bottled or filtered water. This approach would remove any negative effect minerals can have on the flavour of your coffee. A simple filter jug, like a Brita would be more than sufficient, just remember to change the filter regularly so no bacteria can grown around the filter.

Once you’ve filled your water reservoir, fit it back into your machine and turn the machine on. Wait for your espresso machine to heat completely — the portafilter and surrounding metal of the body should be hot, as should the water in the boiler or thermoblock. This will take around 15 to 25 minutes. Brewing temperature has a big impact on the quality of your espresso, so be patient!

Run a full reservoir of water through the group head, portafilter and steam wand to remove any dust or negative flavours from lines that transport water. Once you’ve finished flushing water through, refill the water reservoir.

Just like cooking, making coffee at home can be a little messy if you’re not organised. A couple of damp cloths and a tea towel are very useful, but the easiest way to keep your kitchen bench clean is to use a knock box. This is a small container with a cross bar which allows you to up-end the portafilter and knock old grinds from the basket. I used to use the corner of my bin and was constantly reaching into the murky depths of the rubbish to pick out and rinse off my basket because it would pop out.

You’re also going to need cups, a tamper, a couple of different sized milk jugs and a grinder. There are many grinders on the market and we would recommend a Baratza Sette grinder or if you are on the move a lot a small portable, hand grinder. You may have received a tamper with your espresso machine but these are often a cheap afterthought and rarely fit your basket. Achieving an evenly compressed and level biscuit of coffee within your basket is crucial in order to extract the maximum flavour out of your grinds. It’s worth investing in a good quality tamper like a Pullman, with a base that fits your basket, as it will help with consistency and make the entire process more enjoyable.
Along with using freshly roasted coffee (ideally within two weeks of roasting), the other key to achieving spectacular, café quality coffee at home is the use of a burr grinder. Rather than the ‘whirly blade’ grinders (sold as ‘spice and coffee grinders’) which actually crush the coffee beans unevenly, a burr grinder will shave the beans into clean and consistent particle sized grounds. This allows the water to pass evenly over all of your coffee. Grinding fresh, just before you need to brew your coffee, will ensure that all the volatile oils and aromatics in the beans are kept trapped within the particles rather than, after being exposed to air for more than ten minutes, evaporating into the ether.

By now, your machine should be hot, you will have flushed several litres of water through and you should be armed with your favourite quality, fresh roasted coffee beans from Common Man Coffee Roasters. To create a quality espresso base, the water needs to be passing over the coffee grinds at the right speed. This is controlled by the particle size of the grind. A finer grind will produce a slower pour while a coarser grind will produce a faster pour.

To start with, set your grinder to produce a particle size which feels somewhere between dust and sand when you rub it between your fingers. As a general guide, on a scale of one to ten (one being the finest), this will be around three.

Remove your portafilter from the pre-heated espresso machine and wipe the basket dry with your tea towel. Place your basket under the dosing mechanism of your grinder, turn the grinder on and fill the basket until slightly heaped over. Turn your grinder off and give the portafilter a couple of light taps on the bench to collapse the coffee in the basket. Then go back to the grinder and heap up a little more coffee in the basket. Next, compress the coffee grinds down evenly with your tamper, keeping your arm straight.

When you first set up your espresso machine and grinder, run three or four ‘test’ shots through before you sample a shot. These test shots calibrate the grind correctly, and season the coffee surfaces with oil and flavour.

If the water pours out of your espresso machine too quickly or too slowly, adjust the grind setting finer or coarser to alter the speed of the water flow. Remember, a finer grind produces a slower pour and a coarser grind produces a faster pour. Try to keep the amount of coffee in the basket and the pressure you exert on the tamper the same.

Now watch the espresso shot as it comes out of the portafilter as it starts to loose colour turn it off — the shot will progress from a rich, reddy brown to a tan, caramel colour and finally to a watery, white pour. This loss of colour indicates that the rich oils have been extracted from the grinds. If you keep pouring the shot, bitter, sharp compounds will be added to the cup.

Note: As an interesting experiment, prepare your basket of coffee as usual, get three espresso cups ready and start your extraction. Catch the first reddy, brown part of the pour in the first cup, and as the stream starts to lighten to caramel, quickly put the second cup underneath and then, as the caramel starts to pale to watery white, place the third cup underneath and extract until completely thin and watery. Noting the colour of the crema, taste each cup from last extraction through to the first segment to see where all your flavour is coming from!

Using a double basket will result in two espresso shots of around 20-30mls. It can be quite useful to use a shot glass with a 30ml measuring line for the first couple of weeks to make sure you get the correct amount of espresso as a base for your drinks.

These tips should help you get your Kitchen Café up and running. Remember, drinking coffee is a subjective experience, so make sure you sample plenty of your efforts along the way to discover the perfect technique for your personal taste. And above all else, make sure you have fun!

Watch out for more in this series soon, next we will walk you through steaming your first jug of milk to velvety perfection.

If you’re serious about coffee and want to hone your espresso making skills with a hands-on workshop, sign up for our Skills for the Home Barista class where you can hone your skills with the helping hands of our talented trainers.

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Home Brewer: Tips for choosing the right beans

Posted by Stella Cochrane on

When it comes to selecting the right bean for your home brew the offerings can be daunting; with a world of jargon and information to decipher which inevitably ends either grabbing an old faithful or putting your trust in the prettiest packaging. To assist you in taking a new step along your coffee journey we have put together some of the key factors we think you should look for in your beans; unlocking a exciting new world of tastes.

Tip 1: Freshness

Coffee is a fruit, a cherry in fact and it is a carefully grown, agricultural product and therefore has a shelf life. Rule of thumb (as with any fruit) - fresh is always best. That's why we label all our bean with their roast date so you can easily identify the products' freshness. 

So when should I look to buy and finish my coffee by? Buy it as freshly roasted as possible and look to use it all up no later than three weeks after the printed roast date for maximum enjoyment. The ideal ‘peak’ flavour times are usually found between day 7 and 14, which will be the norm for most of the great cafes you visit. You can still potentially look to use beans for up to 4 weeks, but most of the time, after day 14 the quality and flavour intensity will start to fade and leave you with some very flat cups and sad faces.

Tip 2: Roast Profile

You should adjust your roast profile according to your preferred brewing method but here at CMCR we only roast to light or medium as we find this brings out the best bean characteristics ranging from fruity and herby to nutty and chocolatey. We call these espresso and filter roast, catchy names right?

So what is the difference? An espresso roast coffee has been developed in the roaster for longer, increasing caramelisation and body, which suits being prepared on an espresso machine to extract delicious elixir. It is generally more robust so it can stand up to the heat and pressure exerted by the machine during brewing. On the other hand, filter roasted coffee has been developed less in order to retain more of the sparkling acidity and delicate flavour perfect for a pour-over or immersion brew.

Dark roasts tend to have a much more smoky and spicy flavour which we feel masks the true flavour of the bean. However, this is a purely subjective and you may find that a darker roast suits your particular taste buds - only way to find out is to drink lots of coffee!

Tip 3: Blend or Single?

Our rule of thumb, if you want to drink your coffee with milk, choose a blend. If black coffee is your thing, choose a single origin however this can vary tremendously depending on where the coffee is from, more on this later.

With a blended coffee, most of the time, specific single origins have been chosen to use in that blend that create a complex and balanced espresso while still having a milk based beverage in mind. The coffees have been carefully selected to provide increased body, some delicious brown sugaring flavours, or to simply add some floral complexity in order to help balance the espresso. 

A single origin coffee is from a single known geographic location, such as a farm or estate. This allows the coffee drinker to appreciate the specific nuance that a particular growing region provides. So if you are a black coffee drinker you will be more likely to perceive and enjoy this subtlety of flavour easier without milk masking it.

Tip 4: Choosing your origin

Growing conditions and economic factors vary greatly across the planet and so it’s no surprise that coffee grown in one country will be different from the next. Coffee prefers to grow in the warmer latitudes between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. This band of latitudes is often referred to as the ‘coffee belt’. Within this band a vast array of variables exist including altitude, rainfall, soil conditions and sunlight, all of which will alter the outcome of how your coffee will taste.

So how do I narrow this huge offering down to what I might like best? If you seeking fruit driven flavours and floral aromas, starting with African coffees is a great option. Many coffee drinkers swoon at the thought of excitedly opening up a bag of Ethiopian beans to deeply inhale the complex berry and wine like aromas. Or salivate at the thought of slurping on a juicy stone fruit influenced coffee from Kenya.

South and Central American coffee might be your thing if you are looking for clean coffees exhibiting delicate sugar browning sweetness, like chocolate or buttery pastry, accompanied with a softer fruit character. As most of the world's coffee production hails from this area, it’s highly likely that you will find a winner here. Brazil is well known for producing coffees with a heavier body and peanut character. While further north in Colombia these flavours a mellowed and typically present more so as caramels and toffees. Sounds delicious! Do I even need to look elsewhere?

Perhaps if you prefer a coffee to be heavier bodied and earthy, selecting from the India and Indonesian region is for you. Often exhibiting a luscious and syrupy body combined with herbal and savoury flavours, these tend to be the most dividing in personal preference and definitely sit in the ‘Love or Hate’ bracket.

Tip 5: Choosing the right varietal

Since coffee is a fruit, there can be huge flavour differences between the most common coffee varietals; namely Bourbon, Typica and Caturra. While many countries will tend to favour growing a particular varietal, it’s not uncommon to see some varietals transplanted into different growing regions. The Geisha varietal is one of the most sought after on the planet. It’s saturated sweetness, clarity and vibrant flavours can range anywhere from dark berries to mangos or even peaches, if you see this on the shelf be sure to catch it whilst you can!

Tip 6: Processing

Washed, wet processed, honeyed, natural process....what do these all really mean in terms of flavour? Well if you are looking for a clean, bright and sweet brew then a washed bean is the one for you, but if you want something much more fruitier and bolder look out for a natural processed bean.

A washed coffee, or ‘wet processed’, has had the outer pulp of the cherry removed, then placed in fermentation tanks before being washed and placed out to dry. The result is often a coffee with a great clarity of flavour while exhibiting a bright complex acidity to match. A very popular method with producers as the fermentation process is controlled and leads to less defects.

A natural processed coffee is a coffee that has been dried with the cherry still remaining on the bean and parchment throughout the drying process allowing the fruit flesh and sugars to impart upon the seed. The result is often a ‘fruit bomb’ with a spectacular aroma and wine like characters. These are the two more common methods available but many others exist, such as Honey Processed (somewhere between Washed and Natural) and Wet Hulled.

Tip 7: The higher you go, sweetness and acidity is gained

Coffee prefers average temperatures between 18˚C – 23˚C and, in order to maintain that while still getting enough rain, higher altitudes are often preferred.

So what numbers should I look for? Anything growing above 1500 masl (meters above sea level) is quite a high growing region, and will generally exhibit a refined sweetness and acidity (remember those tasty Kenyan coffees we talked about earlier?). While lower down at 1000masl – 1250masl the acidity is mellowed significantly and more earthy tones are found, think Brazil or India.

So there you have it, our seven key indicators for choosing a good coffee. As I have said before though, nothing is set in stone and the best way to find out which coffee bean is right for you is to try as many as possible and remember to have fun along the way.

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