How to Brew the Perfect: Cold Brew At Home

Posted by Stella Cochrane on

Cold brew coffee is a great way to achieve a delicious, naturally sweet brew perfect for the humid weather we have here in Singapore. We often get asked how people can make it at home, our answer  - it couldn't be easier! You need time, patience and a few keys bits of equipment. Read on for a short exploration of cold brew and our take on easy cold brewing at home.

WHY COLD BREW?

By brewing cold and over a relatively long amount of time (if you can handle the wait!) the water is allowed to do its work on the beans, dissolving desirable flavours whilst leaving behind undesirable flavours.

Coffee is one of the most chemically complex products we consume with over 800 volatile compounds present which evaporate when it is brewed at high pressure and temperatures as with an espresso machine. This is not the case with cold brewing as it allows the retention of many otherwise lost flavours, creating a very complex and naturally low acidity and sweet product.

The extra sweetness and great flavours achieved means that there’s no need to add any sugar or milk to cut your coffee, helping you achieve those waistline goals whilst the lower acidity means its easier for your body to process that morning cup.

EASY COLD BREWING AT HOME - THE CMCR WAY

At Common Man Coffee Roasters, we use the 'full immersion' method to brew our cold brew which gives us a great result and unbeatable consistency.

TOOLS

  • Clever coffee dripper
  • Filter papers
  • Grinder
  • Digital scales
  • Kettle or urn
  • Cup or vessel

INGREDIENTS AND TARGETS

  • 40g of your favourite CMCR filter roast coffee (lighter than espresso)
  • 400g (or ml) of filtered water or adjust to a Coffee Brew Ratio of 1:10 (brew coffee:water)
  • Beverage after brew: 350g

METHOD

  1. Grind your coffee to a course grind size so it looks like flaky sea salt in your hand.
  2. Insert filter paper into Clever Coffee Dripper.
  3. Add your ground coffee.
  4. Sit your Clever Coffee Dripper on your scales and carefully add 200ml of 94°C brewing water over the grounds. Be careful not to knock the dripper so the bottom lock is disturbed and you end up with a wet mess all over your scales!
  5. Take a break for 30 seconds to allow the 'hot bloom' and allows the extraction of compounds that require a bit more heat.
  6. Pour in the remaining water (200ml), it doesn't matter if it has dropped to room temp, making sure that all the coffee grounds have been submerged.
  7. Now the wait begins - 15hours to be precise. Chill out maybe go have a nap and wake up to a delicious start.
  8. After the brew has been completed, place the Clever Coffee Dripper over a large enough vessel and activate the valve to drain the coffee, through away the filter.
  9. Sit back, relax and sip your deliciously brewed coffee.

You can buy a Clever Coffee Dripper, filter papers, a hand grinder and of course delicious CMCR coffee from our online store so you can get brewing at home, try it out!

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How to Brew the Perfect: Kalita Wave (Flat Bottomed)

Posted by Stella Cochrane on

Sometimes it seems like there's more coffee toys than you can poke a stick at. Whenever one pops up, we like to put it to the test and see what kind of deliciousness it can help us deliver. Pourer devices have been a staple in our toolkit for a while now but after some further experimentation, we've decided to focus on supporting scrumptious gravity fed from the Kalita Wave 185.

If you haven’t brewed with a Kalita Wave yet, you can expect some cutting edge qualitative differences compared to results from a Hario v60. If you haven’t brewed with a v60 yet, I’d still recommend getting a Kalita Wave (ha!). Jokes aside the useability and consistency of result brew to brew with the Kalita has bumped it to the top of our list and whether you’re at home or overseeing a brew bar in a cafe, we’d recommend giving it a burl!

Why more consistent?
The Kalita has three small drainage holes at the bottom which, in addition to the filter paper, allow for an even and controlled drawdown of your brew water, as opposed to the results with one large hole. This helps to standardise your rate of drainage, which in turn provides more consistent results. In testing, we’ve enjoyed great cup quality, clarity and consistency. It’s almost fool proof if you can follow a few basic steps in preparation and brewing.

How do I use it?
Here’s a quick ‘How to’ on brewing with a Kalita:

KALITA WAVE BREW GUIDE

Great brewed coffee should be complex, satisfying and clean. But most of all, it should be easy to repeat! Here’s a good starting point for a rockin’ Kalita brew:

TOOLS

  • Kalita Wave 185
  • Filter papers
  • Grinder
  • Digital sclaes
  • Timer
  • Kettle or urn
  • Cup or vessel

INGREDIENTS AND TARGETS

  • 15g of your favourite CMCR filter roast coffee (lighter than espresso)
  • 280g (or ml) of filtered water or adjust to a Coffee Brew Ratio of 16.7:1(brew water:coffee)
  • Beverage after brew: 250g
  • Target TDS: 1.23% ‐ 1.48%

METHOD

  1. Bring your kettle to the appropriate temp (~94°C).
  2. Insert filter paper into Kalita.
  3. Use hot water to thoroughly rinse filter paper and preheat device.
  4. Grind 15g of coffee at a medium coarseness (18‐22 on a Baratza grinder).
  5. Place Kalita, with pre-wet filter paper on decanting device and scales, add ground coffee and tare the weight.
  6. Pour 50g of 94°C brewing water in the first 15 seconds. This allows the grinds to release the gas they contain and makes it easier to integrate them in to the brew while pouring.
  7. Wait 15 seconds before pouring another 130g of brewing water over 15 seconds (during 0:30‐0:45) in a steady circular motion. Stay in the centre and avoid pouring into the gaps of the filter.
  8. Pour another 100g of brewing water over 15 seconds (during 1:00‐1:15).
  9. After all liquid has dispensed, discard the used filter paper and rinse Kalita.
  10. Sit back, relax and sip your deliciously brewed coffee.

You can buy a Kalita Wave ceramic cup and filter papers from our online shop, happy brewing!

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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 Stella Cochrane 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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