Bodum Antigua grinder at an amazing price

by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 02:29

Trolling the web just now I found this incredible deal;

No the grinder isn’t suitable for espresso production but it is superb for anything else

I had one for years to test and I was very impressed

Before you ask we are not affiliated to these guys in ANY way, I have not been asked to post this, I was simply checking out the current price, thinking it to be about GBP90 & found this.

How to use a Swissgold filter

by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 02:26

this is a very crude first attempt at adding video to this blog

New and impreoved checkout facility!

by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 02:23

Having tried the patience of many of our customers for longer than we had any right to, we have finally upgraded our checkout such that it is more intuitive for those who do not wish to pay by Paypal.

We hope this meets with your approval & welcome any comments you may have.


Can coffee be too fresh?

by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 02:23

for me the answer is a resounding yes. you will often hear it said that coffee needs 48hrs or thereabouts to de-gas and this is true enough.

but with the experience we have built up since 2004 when we started roasting i think the answer is more complicated, there seems to be more to it than simply waiting 48 hrs

the coffee seems to reach a higher ‘optimum’ if it is left in the sealed bag for about 10 days after the date on which it was roasted. don’t ask me why, i’m not an industrial chemist & i suspect a lot of them may not be able to account for the change in full, for if they were coffee would have been synthesised by the large multinational coffee roasters long ago

cut & go by all means when you first receive your Londinium coffee (i’ll do this too if i’m out of coffee), but the coffee will taste thin, flat, and wooden relative to what it is capable of delivering to your taste buds. not bad relative to most coffee on offer, but very much sub-optimal to what it is capable of

please dont take from this that coffee doesnt need to be fresh, it does, it is imperative.

the point is, like so often with coffee, that the optimum isnt at the extremes. it is a complex balancing act of so many variables. so next time you hear someone bragging about making an espresso from beans that are still warm out of the roaster, be a little sceptical.

anyway, try it for yourself, the difference isnt simply an academic one for the coffee cone heads, it really is quite noticeable once you are looking for it.

happy drinking!

Consider a lever Espresso machine

by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 02:22

I have been weighing up in my mind for ages whether or not to make this post as lever machines tend to divide the coffee community like a scythe. It is not a sly attempt to talk you into the superb Olympia Cremina we offer, but rather the result of my continual musings on the best machine to sink your hard earned cash into at the lower-mid market price points

If money is no object, or you have a sponsor who plies you with free espresso equipment to promote on their behalf then these considerations fall away obviously, but most people are not currently in that position.

I have come to the conclusion that lever machines cop a lot of unfair criticism. yes i know you can criticise the less expensive machines for poor thermal stability and so on, but are they any worse than electric pump machines at a similar price point?

I would also qualify my comments further i saying that i am thinking about the typical Londinium Espresso customer, i.e. one who is focused on espresso, doesn’t need to turn out a large number of coffees in a short period of time, and only occasionally uses the steaming wand.

Yesterday I was in Harrods and it was interesting to see that they now sell primarily 2 types of machines; pod machines & bean to cup. Finito. The vast array of choice they used to offer has all been swept away. Both of these types of machine are pitching to the convenience market, so that obviously reflects what the bulk of the market wants.

I was offered the opportunity to sample the coffee from the bean to cup machines and i have to say i was very disappointed. Was the coffee offensive? No, not at all. In fact it was completely the opposite of the that; bland, primarily due to being underextracted. It was the same last time i tried a bean to cup machine. Despite the ‘oh yes sir its 15bar all round on this machine’ i remain unconvinced. I also suspect the grinders aren’t even on nodding terms with what a Mazzer delivers. I find this unacceptable at this ‘top of mkt’ price point.

Was the machine easy to use? Certainly. Did it look nice? Yes, although the flimsy plastic cowlings and fake chrome on plastic isn’t really acceptable at this price point in my opinion. These bean to cup machines are not inexpensive, and place you up into the Olympia price point for the top models. For me there was no comparison. The Olympia makes coffee as good as a commercial machine, and given the poor coffee and lack of care associated with almost all retail coffee offerings the coffee you make at home on an Olympia will be on a different planet to your local cafe and at a fraction of the cost once you have the machine.

Anyway, the point is that the entry level bean to cup models of this particular brand started at £650. While i dont doubt they are available on better terms elsewhere i started thinking that for a lot less money, assuming you are an espresso fanatic (i.e. not a milk fiend) and dont need to crank out a row of espressos in a hurry, then a lever machine like the La Pavoni really does make sense. A good friend of mine has owned his for many years now. He hammers the daylights out of it every day. Ok, sure he is a single guy & not catering to 10 supper guests at a time, and tends to drink espresso or macchiato.

During that time he has had to service the seals on the machine, but this is true of any espresso machine after 5 years of daily use. The espresso he makes from the La Pavoni leaves all the bean to cup machines i have tried for dead.

Sure, i am the first to admit that a bean to cup machine offers convenience, you dont get coffee grinds spread all over the kitchen, etc, etc.

But…Londinium Espresso really is a place for purists, people with a focus on ultimate quality over convenience. A perfect espresso made with care on a Saturday morning, or after lunch on a sunday.

if your espresso needs are as i describe above you should give the La Pavoni, and the other lever machines some serious consideration. Lever machines do take a little bit of effort to master, but it isnt that difficult & we are very happy to help, without obligating you.

Bella Barista also have a spring lever machine (Ponte Vecchio from memory) on their website, which i havent tried myself, but from what i can see it is very attractively priced. You also have the Elektra machines, and no doubt there are others which i am not aware of

At the price point a La Pavoni delivers far far better espresso than an electric pump machine. Put the money you save on the La Pavoni into a great grinder, at least a Rancillo Rocky, or step up to a Mini Mazzer if you can. The La Pavoni grinder is OK, but it is a bit flimsy in construction.

The trick to the lever machine is weighing the ground coffee until you are able to simply visualise what 8g (or whatever weight you want to go with) looks like in the portafilter before you tamp it. The other thing is to shift the lever so the piston is in the open position and allow the coffee puck to pre-infuse for around 8s before moving the lever to force the water through the coffee puck.

I readily concede that they are not the weapon of choice for lattes & cappuccinos, or rolling out 10 espressos in a hurry for a dinner party.

In addition to the performance considerations the lever machines are easily maintained, they are silent in operation (having no electric pump) & in my opinion they are a lot more attractive.

So in summary do give a lever machine some serious consideration, depending on what your needs are.

Coffee isn't Coke

by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 02:22

What do we mean?

Well the primary attraction to coffee for me is it is one of the last non-homogenous products in our daily lives

It is a truly natural product and as a result it delivers a vast palette of variances that reflect all the external factors that the coffee has come into contact with on its journey from soil to cup, often from one side of the world to the other.

One of the challenges for a roaster of coffee is to work with this variance in the coffee and consistently deliver coffee to the customer that tastes as close as possible to the previous batch

The same bag of coffee will also taste different on your taste buds at different times of day, and at the same time of day on different days

For espresso use coffee needs to be ground slightly more coarse on days with high humidity, and slightly less on days with less humidity, and so on

So the focus for Londinium Espresso is to demystify the diatribe of the coffee world where boffins and madmen lurk to a simple set of rules and advice that will place you in the right ‘zone’ with your coffee

From this point you will develop the confidence and experience to fine-tune your method for your unique set-up. It is highly unlikely that any two of our customers have exactly the same set up, and even if the machine and grinder are identical, with identical degrees of wear on the grinding burrs and so on, your technique will differ and you will produce slightly different results from the same coffee beans

It is not possible to set down a rigid set of rules, which if followed by two different people on two identical set-ups would produce identical espresso. Similar, yes, but still with differences.

For us this is a beauty of coffee, not a short coming. Large multinationals have spent, and continue to spend, millions to synthesise the unique taste of coffee in order to deliver a homogenous product to the market at a very low marginal cost of production. The fruits of some of these efforts can be seen in instant coffee, coffee powders, coffee pastes, and probably the most recent development, the Nespresso style pod technology.

We are the first to recognise that such products offer convenience. We would just ask that you don’t confuse them with coffee, which is what Londinium Espresso offer you. Coffee by definition can never be a convenience product. Coffee is an affordable luxury.

Even the most straight forward of preparation methods (a grinder and a Swissgold filter) does not come close to a pod system for convenience, but the result is coffee, a fantastic respite from the daily rountine of life.

A taste which carries your imagination to far off plantations in exotic locations with a dense jungle canopy overhead to filter the beating sun with just the first sip. All this while your cursor sits on cell ‘C12’ of your Excel spreadsheet in some bland city office block. What a bargain!

From the FT: Reaching for the Starbucks

by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 02:22

We have decided to republish this article directly from the FT in full, as it says the same as what we have been saying ad nauseum. That is to say, Starbucks is not about espresso. We have placed the key paragraphs in bold and italics.

By Christopher Caldwell

Published: February 20 2009 19:17 | Last updated: February 20 2009 19:17

The decision of Starbucks to begin marketing Via, its own brand of instant coffee, is a powerful symbol of something â either of the unexpected resilience of innovative companies or the collapse of the whole logic of the consumer economy.

The struggles of Starbucks are well known. Its stock lost half its value last year, and store sales were off 9 per cent in the most recent quarter. The company announced in January that it would shed 6,700 jobs and close 300 more outlets, after shuttering 600 last year. Other espresso chains are nipping at its heels, some with better services (such as Caribou in the US, where high-speed internet is free), some with lower prices (such as Dunkinâ Donuts). Home-grown competitors are rising in important markets â for example Costa Coffee and Caffè Nero in Britain. People differ on whether Starbucks has expanded too fast â losing sight of the bohemian ambience that was its main selling point â or whether peddling coffee for several dollars, or pounds, a cup is a non-starter in this straitened economy.

Whatever the problem is, it is hard to see how instant coffee could be the way out of it. One prong in the Via marketing strategy is to sell it through the discount retailers Target and Costco for about $1 a sachet. That is a lot of money. While there is a logic in selling premium coffee at a premium, there seems to be little in selling so-so coffee at five times the price of other so-so coffee. The second prong is to sell it, starting in March, in Starbucks stores in three cities â Seattle, Chicago and London. That makes sense: 81 per cent of the coffee drunk in Britain is instant, and the world instant coffee market generates $17bn (â ¬13.5bn, £11.9bn) in sales. So perhaps Starbucks can sell enough in prestige markets to convince shoppers elsewhere to buy it in bulk.

That would be in character. Ever since it began expanding, Starbucks has worked by paradox and misdirection. _It is supposed to be a chain of espresso bars but, in the US at least, it has been years since most Starbucks have stocked proper espresso cups. A shot of espresso comes as a little puddle rolling back and forth at the bottom of a pint paper cup meant to hold some other concoction, most likely one with lots of steamed milk and syrup. Starbucks is basically a malt shop and this should not surprise us. Creamy foods are always popular in booms. The great food fad of the 1920s, the historian Frederick Lewis Allen tells us, was â Eskimo Pieâ , and US ice cream production rose 45 per cent in the seven years to 1926. The genius of Starbucks is to keep its identity as a coffee shop, letting its customers feel more virtuous than if the place they habitually nip off to at 10:15am were called the Dairy Tub, or something like that.

This makes the shift to instant coffee easier. If you are selling milkshakes, the quality of the coffee is not that important, any more than the quality of scotch is important to someone whose favourite drink is scotch-and-coke._ But there is a problem with instant, too. Part of what Starbucks founder Howard Schultz calls â the Starbucks experienceâ has always been a matter of class. Starbucks has managed to give its customers the feeling they are â inâ in two ways.

The first is through its reputation as a â responsible corporate citizenâ . Starbucks offers health insurance to employees who work 20 hours a week or more and has been punctilious about trading only with ethical coffee growers. These choices are defrayed through higher retail prices. Since people who care about corporate responsibility tend to be well-educated, and hence well-paid, caring is a class marker. Corporate responsibility and conspicuous consumption are near relations. You can â feel goodâ about ordering Starbucks in more ways than one.

The second link to class is through real estate. This may hold the key to the companyâ s difficulties. Starbucks has had a genius for sizing up properties and picking locations. The company starts, according to the writer Taylor Clark with â a database ranking every US metropolitan area according to the qualities Starbucks found especially desirable â high income, high population and high educationâ . In plotting its expansion this way, Starbucks not only collected information but generated it. An up-and-coming neighbourhood would have a Starbucks: a superficially similar but stagnant one would not. In the very act of its site selection it became a sort of rating agency. One extraordinary side-effect of Starbucksâ retrenchment is that, as outlets have closed â particularly in struggling cities such as Newark, New Jersey â protests have arisen to â Save Our Starbucksâ . Naturally! A closed Starbucks signals a downgrading of the neighbourhood. But picking real-estate winners is not as lucrative now as it was a couple years ago.

Starbucks may have come up against the limits of its model. The chain will have to serve a different function in the bust economy than in the boom. Maybe espresso bars could thrive as purveyors of â cheap luxuryâ , the way cinemas did in the 1930s. A lot of people thought that the collapse of phoney equity values would make people turn to healthy, high-value food. But, really, that almost never happens â the natural food craze of the late 1970s was a cultural coincidence, not an economic effect. As this paper has reported, people today are turning to fast food, fish and chips and other comfort foods. â The less money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food,â George Orwell wrote in The Road to Wigan Pier. â When you are unemployed, which is to say when you are underfed, harassed, bored and miserable, you donâ t want to eat dull wholesome food. You want something a little bit â tastyâ .â The taste for the kind of sweet drinks Starbucks serves is unlikely to wane any time soon.

The best coffee in town can be at your place!

by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 02:20

we’ve said it before, we’ll say it again, most cafes buy the least expensive coffee they can find, and anything from italy must be good right, because everyone knows the best coffee comes from italy, right?

er, no, not necessarily at all. they’re often the same people who think coffee is grown in italy, when not a single bean is!

lets be clear, we love going to italy & all things italian & some superb roasters practice their art there, but the bulk commercial roasters? tell us your next joke!

quite simply, if you find yourself tightening your fiscal belt at the moment, there is no need to reach for the instant coffee just yet.

for a very modest outlay you can acquire our starter pack and you will find you are serving a nicer cup of coffee at home than you ever had on the high street & staying within your budget at the same time.

come over to the dark side. try londinium.

New in: SWP Cascadia

by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 02:19

Yes, another decaf coffee

Why? because a customer demanded a decaf, but it HAD to be organic & fairtrade

All we could find right at the moment that fitted the criteria was this or a single origin Sumatran

We decided this was the safer bet as dry processed Sumatran can be rather over bearing as an espresso

This is a blend which we will detail when we load it up on the site

Anyway, we will most likely take delivery on Tuesday

This is a relatively expensive coffee so we have high expectations, particularly as the SWP Costa has set the bar so high

Send us a coffee question...

by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 02:19

and we will answer it here for you.