London Calling

Posted by Matthew Patrick McLauchlan on

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A visit to the London Coffee Festival provides an insight into a blossoming industry with plenty of room to stretch it's feet.

Coffee houses popping up across the city of London is by no means a new thing, they first appeared in the English capital in the mid 1600s, caffeinating those creative minds forging The Age of Enlightenment. In more recent times however there has been somewhat of enlightenment in terms of the city’s coffee quality with a Third Wave of coffee roasting giving birth to a specialty scene every bit as innovative and energetic as anywhere on the planet.

While Monmouth could certainly lay claim to being the first specialty roaster (setting up shop in the late 1970s) it would be another 30 years before standards truly started to rise on a grand scale. In 2005 Soho’s Flat White brought an Antipodean flavor to the city and, with James Hoffman, Stephen Morrissey (an Irishman in London) and Gwilym Davies winning the ’07, ‘08 and ’09 WBC respectively, the rest of the world would soon to sit up and take notice of a city’s specialty coffee scene on the march.

Today 2 billion cups of coffee fuel $14 billion worth of turnover from almost 19,000 outlets, but what’s most impressive is the pace at which these figures have been achieved. In the past 15 years alone there has been an almost 400% increase in the number of ‘coffee outlets’…and there’s no sign of this pace abating any time soon.

Nowhere is all of this more evident than at last weekend’s London Coffee Festival at the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane (London’s trendy hang out in the Eastern reaches of the city). Now in it’s fifth year the festival features 250 exhibitors and represents all that is dynamic about the specialty scene in the UK today.

Make no mistake, this is not just some trade show established to provide a platform for industry folk to shift some units… this is an engaging, evocative and, most importantly, accessible window into an industry on the cusp of a wave, a way to communicate to a sometimes skeptical marketplace, a means to captivate a city constantly on the hunt for something new and exciting. ‘The Lab Space’ holds up to twelve talks per day on topics such as industry trends & the future of the marketplace, social media strategies and brewing techniques for the home. The much anticipated Coffee Masters competition (created by Rob Dunne and Victor Frankowski of DunneFrankowski) allows the heaving crowds to get up close and personal with 20 of the world’s top baristas as they are tested on various disciplines including, but not limited to, brewing, latte art, cupping and a signature drink. With Workshop Coffee’s James Bailey eventually coming out trumps it was an exciting spin on the world of barista competition, their next stop will be New York in September. As Festival Director, Ludovic Rossignol states “a festival is not a festival without music”, and accordingly the crowds were treated to an eclectic line up of world music performed live in the hall.

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A city’s coffee could be said to be only as good as it’s roasters, most of whom were out in force over the four days. Square Mile engaged on their first visit to a coffee festival, though you wouldn’t have guessed it. With a Black Eagle (matt black!) offering out exceptional espresso and a filter bench consisting of three SP9s (Marco’s latest offering) this was an ideal point at which to start you journey around the room. Union Coffee offered introductory talks to roasting along side a cupping competition, Ozone presented some of their new cold brew while The Roasting Party had a stand large enough to engage in a Mexican wave (really). All the while the crowds enjoyed appearances from the likes of Caravan, WorkshopOrigin, Notes, Small Batch and Nude. Another new roaster gaining much attention is Assembly who will seek to redefine the roaster/café relationship to collectively create new approaches to coffee and café culture which ‘best serve the needs of the independent industry’, very much a case of ‘watch this space’.

There are also many subsidiary off shoots of the industry on display, each contributing their own to the energy of the event. Minor Figures (who has recently entered the Australian marketplace) drew much attention for their cold brew while the stand out new piece of equipment was most certainly Marco’s new SP9. A revolutionary product for the world of pourover, this single cup brewer is set to transform how cafes approach their filter programme.

Should you happen to be in London on the other 51 weeks of the year when the festival is not on then you can sample most, if not all of the above, at an array of dynamic cafes across the city including Mother’s Milk, Embassy East, Brooklyn, Black Lyan (a pop up due to close at the end of the festival, but check out the mothership White Lyan for some serious cocktails) and the soon to reopen (atop Old Street Roundabout!) Macintyre Coffee.

Samuel Johnson once said “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”… while that notion could certainly be debated, it alludes to the electric energy that runs through this city. Music, theatre, restaurants and sport are all areas in which London can match and, more often than not, outdo other major cities. With thanks to a number of pioneering and driven industry leaders the city is no longer left lagging behind in the field of specialty coffee and can add yet another feather to it’s already bulging hat. Mind the gap? What gap.

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This article was originally published on the Five Senses Coffee website: London Calling.

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Thoughts from the SCAA Expo 2015

Posted by Matthew Patrick McLauchlan on

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A city known as the heartland of specialty coffee and the birthplace of Starbucks, it was appropriate that this year's Specialty Coffee Association of America Symposium (SCAA), Trade Expo and World Barista Championship (WBC) were held in Seattle. With its thriving coffee culture, exciting food scene and great weather (not withstanding the piercing cold), Seattle was the perfect stage for what would be the best coffee event of the year. Home to the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, with its amazing state-of-the-art acoustics and intimate lounge spaces which were perfect for in-depth debates, the Benaroya served as unique and powerful backdrop for the Symposium. For those not in the know, the SCAA Symposium is an intensive two-day seminar where all the leading professionals, scientists, leaders and organizations in the coffee industry congregate to discuss the topics which are driving the industry at present.

This year, the Symposium was broken into five sessions and the topics for discussion were chosen in response to the last Symposium in 2014.

Getting to the heart of it: Quantifying and Optimizing Specialty Coffee

This was a light hearted introduction to the Symposium as five speakers assessed the current state of the market in their specialist areas. Pierre Ferrari kicked the session off with a bang as he preached the idea of the coffee industry thinking ‘outside the cup’ by providing solutions for coffee farmers to plant various other crops to provide an extra source of income to aid their quality of life. Other topics ranged from a rethink of the value and capabilities of different varietals (Caturra vs Castillo) to an in-depth look into collaboration between small coffee producers by Catracha Coffee in Honduras (which promoted a profit sharing scheme amongst these farmers). Not only did this collaboration enable an improvement in the quality of coffee produced, but it created the concept of change within the community and encouraged the fruits of success to be shared by all. This session ended on a high note with an in-depth look at the current state of the specialty coffee market; it was good!

The Cutting Edge of Sensory Science

With a few variations of the ‘Flavour wheel’ currently in use, it was only right that the SCAA addressed the issue of creating a universal vocabulary of flavours, one which details description and intensity but is also transferrable across levels. The World Coffee Research’s partnership with Kansas State University has led to the creation of such a lexicon, with a wide array of 108 flavour notes and nine levels of intensity.

One of the more interesting lectures which came out of this discussion was from the guys at foodpairing.com. Through the use of complex algorithms based on the availability of this huge database, Bernard Lahousse suggested to the audience that flavour perception is about 80% smell. Therefore this system, used alongside a formula for pairing complex aroma signatures, creates the ability to pair a dish with a certain single origin coffee with great ease.

Water: The Invisible Driver of Coffee

A wide spectrum of topics was covered during this session. The issues raised ranged from discussion about the conservation of water in coffee processing methods to the management of water cycles on a farm. The perspective of the Coffee Market and Community and how they are affected by drought was also discussed, along with ideas about the potential standardization of the composition of water in the specialty industry. This was potentially one of the most enlightening and intriguing topics on offer that day.

Flavio Borem’s lecture on how changes in processing methods can effectively save tonnes of water was something of a highlight for us. In this current day and age where water is scarce, we as an industry should be looking at ways of encouraging sustainable practices. Flavio champions the idea that natural processing (if done correctly, with well thought out systems and practices) can create an equally consistent and high quality end product as that achieved by a fully washed process – but water usage is decreased drastically during natural processing, from potentially 1,240 litres of water to 0 litres of water per bag of coffee. However, in the specialty coffee industry where the emphasis is on quality, there needs to be a balance between natural and fully washed processing.

Out of the Box: Unexpected Innovations in Coffee

This came from a farmer who proved that coffee can be grown in California. He discussed the evolution of coffee rust, its origins and where it is today.

Charlotte Biltekoff’s discussion of how health issues are addressed scientifically, but also significantly influenced by culture and social values, was enlightening. She showed us how the definition of what comprised a ‘healthy’ diet has changed dramatically over the decades.

Gender Equity: Can Shifting Our Focus Improve the Supply Chain?

The role of gender equity was analyzed with reference to the impact it can have not just on the industry and coffee, but also on the community within coffee producing countries when it’s implemented in the right manner. Lorena Aguilar’s lecture demonstrated that empowering women and giving them a seat at the table is not just the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do, as evidenced by their results especially in reference to creating a better, more effective and efficient community structure.

The Bukonzo Cooperative Union hit a home run with the implementation of their gender equity programme – a regime which not only improved relationships between men and women in the households of that community, but also empowered women through the various leadership and training opportunities. In turn, this improved the quality of their coffee programme, which in turn brought about some amazing returns. The coffee quality increased from a cupping score of 77 to 85.75 in the space of less than four years – which was phenomenal!

Being stuck in the hustle and bustle of a roastery each day, one rarely gets to take a step back from it all and put into perspective the enormous range of topics which seek to drive our industry forward. The SCAA Symposium serves as the perfect platform for discussion and inspiration for these thought-provoking topics. And this drives us, as coffee professionals, in our pursuit in excellence, as we’re always striving to produce that perfect cup of coffee. But the Symposium this year also reminded us to take into account the social and environmental footprint that excellence brings with it.

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Brew Temperature and its Effects on Espresso

Posted by Matthew Patrick McLauchlan on

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One of the topics we explore in depth in our Advanced Barista Skills class at the Australian Barista Academy is brew water temperature and its effect on espresso taste and extraction.

Brew temp is an easily accessible brew parameter with the right espresso machine, but is not something that all café operations chose to alter as part of their morning dial in. Conversely there are plenty of cafes using brew temperature for everything from regulating extraction yield, to overcoming issues with machine and grinder temperature as their workload increases. To bridge the gap and provide some info for new and experienced baristas alike, I’ve prepared some objective testing and solid numbers to digest.

Brew temperature: things people say

It has been observed using a standardised recipe and solid brewing technique that brewing hotter will result in higher extraction yields (more content removed over time) while brewing colder will extract content at a slower rate (less content removed over time). Taste wise, hotter temps result in increased body and sweetness (with a greater chance of astringency and bitterness), while cooler temps emphasise less bitterness, body and sweetness (resulting in a sour, bright shot).

Baristas who are savvy with brew temp modification might make some of the following suggestions:

  • Lowering the brew temp will enhance acidity in coffee/raising the brew temp will decrease acidity in coffee.
  • As the grinder heats up, the ground espresso coffee tend to become more soluble, and extraction yields can increase. Lowering the brew temp is a way to counter this.
  • Don’t change your grind to affect your extraction yield; change your brew temp
  • Increasing the temperature can be used to increase the extraction yield of a slow, dripping shot.
  • Higher temps can be used to compensate for an underdeveloped roast while lower temps can be used to overcome the high solubility of an overdeveloped roast.

These suggestions guide practice in many commercial cafes. There is probably a mixture of truth and half-truth among them, and maybe even some outright heresy, but it would certainly be nice to have more data to back it up. If you stay tuned for a follow up article you’ll get exactly that — I’ll be using some nifty equipment to test the effects of puck depth, density, and brew temp. For today’s article I wanted to answer a simpler question — what does brew temperature do to extraction yield and flavour?

The effect of brew temperature on extraction yield

If you need a quick catch-up on extraction yield and what it is, check out our previous article on VST baskets here.

To fully test the effects of brew temp on extraction yield, I set up the following test:

  • 40 x 22g espresso shots were ground en masse and allowed to cool to room temp.
  • The espresso shots were prepared using a standardised recipe: 22g dose, 46-48g beverage, ~29 seconds shot time. The preparation method used was a stockfleth distribution followed by a single collapse on the bench and a super firm tamp.
  • A single grouphead and handle were used.
  • Ten shots were poured at each brew temperature (92, 94, 96 & 98 °C) Espresso was prepared in groups of 10 – first at 92, then 94, 96 and 98.
  • Shot time and beverage weight were recorded for each extraction.
  • A sample of each coffee was immediately removed and sealed (in a pipette) to prevent sample evaporation.
  • Each sample was filtered and TDS readings were taken.
  • Extraction yield was calculated and recorded.
  • Samples were set aside for tasting.

The raw data

To remove the outliers, I sorted each temperature category by extraction yield and removed the two highest and lowest data points. This reduced the sample size, but removed outliers resulting from inconsistent extraction behaviour.

Tables 1-4 summarise the data for each extraction temperature, and Figure 1 puts it all together for you.


Table 1 - 92°C

Cup Temperature (°C) Dose (g) Beverage (g) Time (sec) TDS Yeild %
1 92 22 48.3 29 8.41 18.4
2 92 22 46.6 28 8.7 18.4
3 92 22 48.2 29 8.53 18.8
4 92 22 46.2 30 9.26 19.3
5 92 22 47.1 30 9 19.3
6 92 22 47.1 32 9.11 19.5
Averages     46.5 30.3 9.2 19.38

Table 2 - 94°C

Cup Temperature (°C) Dose (g) Beverage (g) Time (sec) TDS Yeild %
1 94 22 46.7 29 9.09 19.3
2 94 22 46.2 30 9.22 19.3
3 94 22 47.1 32 9.01 19.3
4 94 22 46 31 9.28 19.4
5 94 22 45.4 30 9.39 19.4
6 94 22 47.8 30 9.03 19.5
Averages     46.5 30.3 9.2 19.38

Table 3 - 96°C

Cup Temperature (°C) Dose (g) Beverage (g) Time (g) TDS Yeild %
1 96 22 44.8 29 9.43 19.1
2 96 22 45 29 9.43 19.2
3 96 22 46.1 30 9.24 19.3
4 96 22 45 29 9.49 19.4
5 96 22 46.2 30 9.41 19.7
6 96 22 47.2 30 9.23 19.7
Averages     45.7 29.5 9.4 19.40

Table 4 - 98°C

Cup Temperature (°C) Dose (g) Beverage (g) Time (sec) TDS Yeild %
1 98 22 46 28 9.25 19.2
2 98 22 47.2 29 9 19.3
3 98 22 47 30 9.08 19.4
4 98 22 48 31 8.89 19.4
5 98 22 48.9 31 9.03 20.0
6 98 22 48.6 30 9.03 20.1
Averages     45.7 29.8 9.1 19.57

The Results

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You can see from these results, a nice consistent trend! Lower brew temperatures produced a lower extraction yield, whereas higher brew temperatures produced a higher extraction yield. With a much larger sample size, we might expect to see a smoother line. What’s most surprising from this data is the relatively small difference in extraction yield a 6°C temperature change makes! The total difference was just over half a percent yield from 92 to 98. Even more interesting is just how radically different the cups tasted, despite the relatively small difference in extraction yield.

The effect of brew temperature on taste

Despite the small differences in extraction yield, the four temperature groups tasted radically different. I blind tested this with our staff and the response was exactly what theory predicts:

  • the lowest temp cups had lower body, sweetness and bitterness but higher acidity.
  • the highest temp cups had lots of body, sweetness, bitterness, medium acid… and a strange powdery mouthfeel .
  • the two mid temps were balanced, with high levels of sweetness, balanced acid, low bitterness and good body.

Does this mean our tasters were detecting the tiniest differences in extraction yield, or is it something to do with the balance of constituents removed from the coffee? Maybe both? I’m going to go with maybe both, and if you read on you’ll see why.

The perceived flavour changes which result from altered brew temperature are in agreement with data from ‘The Coffee Brewing Handbook’ (Ted Lingle, SCAA). Rather than reprinting the whole section on temperature changes from the handbook (I’d love to), Figure 2 is a quick graph I made from data in the book showing how the flavour components of the brew change as the extraction temperature changes (74, 94 and 100 °C).

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There are a few trends you can see in this graph:

  • The amount of citric acid extracted falls as the temperature increases from 94 to 100°C.
  • The amount of malic acid in the cup is lowest at 94°C.
  • Extraction is optimised at 94°C (sucrose/sugar extraction is at its peak), with a large increase up from 74°C.

Even with this snippet of data, you can see the huge effect brew temperature has on constituent balance*. If this isn't a great explanation for the taste differences in our cups, then the other route to explore the huge effect on taste which we get from very small differences in extraction yield.

Conclusions

If you put it together, this data clearly demonstrates two things — higher brewing temps lead to higher extraction yields, increased sweetness, bitterness and body while slightly reducing acidity. Lower temps result in lower extraction yields; have less body, sweetness and bitterness and more pronounced acidity. Although the yield differences are small, the cupping results are huge, leading me to the conclusion that there’s a little more at play in terms of what temperature does to our cup profile than to simply increase or reduce overall extraction yield — the changes to the extraction of each flavour component are larger than the overall change in extraction.

This round of testing wasn’t thorough enough to answer some of the most burning questions on the topic of brew temp. One thing that stands out is the limited information gained from the use of a single espresso recipe and its resulting flow rate — would a faster flow rate provide a wider range of extraction yields? This is something I’m very keen to explore. Stay tuned for an upcoming article in which we further explore the effects of temperature across a range of grind profiles, as well as the effect your espresso flow rate has on your ability to thoroughly extract coffee (and how temp can help in that regard).

*the testing from Lingle’s book was conducted with large volumes of filter coffee, not espresso. Still, I believe the effects observed in my testing on espresso are due to a similar effect of creating a different balance of constituents depending on the brewing temperature.

References
Ted Lingle. The Coffee Brewing Handbook (Specialty Coffee Association Of America Handbook Series, Second Edition). SCAA, 1996.

This article was originally published on the Five Senses Coffee website: Brew Temperature and it's Effects on Espresso.

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Singapore Latte Art and Inaugural Brewers Cup

Posted by Matthew Patrick McLauchlan on

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Fresh off the Singapore National Barista Championship held in late January, comes Cafe Asia – Southeast Asia's biggest coffee and tea exposition. This event brings together the coffee and tea communities, and the likeminded folk within the hospitality industry. It was sight to behold with all the various high end and innovative equipment on show.

Café Asia was also host to two main events for the Singapore Coffee Community, the Singapore Latte Art Competition and the inaugural Singapore Brewers Cup.

Even through it was the very first ever Brewers Cup, the level of competition and quality of coffee on show was impressive to say the least. Not only was there a variety of ninety plus coffee and brew devices on showcase, but the each competitor brought with them a very professional presence with a touch of their own individualistic flair. Andrea Tan from A.R.C Coffee blew us away with a brilliant performance belying her young age with a very tasty coffee to boot.

Our very own Lucky Salvador brought his A-Game to the table as he used a Kalita Wave, running the a natural processed La Pastora, Costa Rica from Mainor Esquival's mill. Lucky created an amazing cup which packed a punch, with a very polished and personable performance which helped him claim 3rd place in the Brewer's Cup.

In the Latte Art Competition, Jervis Tan of Kinsmen Coffee came out tops with his clean lines and symmetry; with a signature pour of a peacock comprising of all latte art techniques on show. Credit goes out to Nijo Neo from Common Man Coffee for giving his all in what was a very skilled group of competitors in the 1st round.

We would like to again send out our congratulations to the winners, Andrea Tan of A.R.C Coffee (Singapore Brewers Cup) and Jervis Tan of Kinsmen Coffee (Singapore Latte Art Championship) the best of luck at the World Championships held later in Gothenburg, Sweden.

OFFICIAL WINNERS

Singapore Brewers Cup
1st: Andrea Tan from A.R.C Coffee
2nd: Hidayat from Gentleman's Coffee
3rd: Lucky Salvador from Common Man Coffee Roasters

Singapore Latte Art Competition
1st: Jervis Tan from Kinsmen Coffee
2nd: Joefel Manlod from House of Robert Timm's
3rd: Shyan Wei from A.R.C Coffee

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Nude Seafood

Posted by Matthew Patrick McLauchlan on

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Dining in the Central Business District in Singapore has never been easy. Coffee places rarely serve either great food or food that’s easy on the wallet. So when two former management consultants, Whey Han and Jun Chen, both with no prior food and beverage experience, decided to go into a venture together, they wanted to do something different. Their lack of experience in the F&B industry meant they genuinely brought a fresh perspective to the creation of NUDE seafood; the name reflects that the seafood is both NUtritious and DElicious. In essence, they wanted to make real food fast and put value back on the plate. As a result, the whole operation was designed to be as efficient as possible, cutting down on labour and wastage. You get high quality food, but it’s served with a speed more usually associated with a fast food restaurant – and all this at affordable prices! The menu is short and simple, and includes my all-time favourite dish, Norwegian hickory-smoked Salmon ($16), which comprises sushi-grade salmon accompanied by savoury, smoked beetroot cubes and forgotten grains. Other options include herb-grilled King Prawns ($16) and miso-grilled Seabass with quinoa ($19). There are also some chilled options such as Aburi Salmon belly with soba ($13) and Chilean Bass with somen, mushrooms, corn and egg ($16).

Jun Chen believes that food is about making people happy – and to do that, you need a happy team. By incorporating aspects of the corporate culture from Google and Apple into his team at NUDE, he is setting the bar high, hiring people with capabilities, passion, character and the ability to fit into NUDE’s culture. He’s also worked hard at creating an environment whereby team members bring out the best in each other; as a result, magic happens. The team at NUDE keep their focus on their core product (seafood), so they seek out partners to provide the best of everything else. That’s where Common Man Coffee Roasters comes in. A 2 group Synesso sits at the end of the bar counter serving their custom blend from CMCR which pairs perfectly with the seafood dishes. Even their ceramics are made by local artists which brings a certain character to the place.

It’s now been open for four months and NUDE seafood has already gained a regular following. It’s hardly possible to find a seat during lunch hour when a queue snakes all the way to the door. However, the service is fast and efficient and the line moves very quickly.

The CBD crowd will be happy to hear that a team of talented young chefs with experience in renowned restaurants like Les Amis are planning to create a separate dinner menu for those working late in the CBD.

NUDE Seafood
Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 3
01-02, Singapore 018982
(Marina MRT Station – Downdown line, or 15 min walk from Raffles Place MRT)

Opening Hours
8am - 8pm

facebook.com/pages/NUDE-Seafood
instagram.com/nudeseafood

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