Anyone for Cuban Coffee?

by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 02:32

I was reading last night about Cuban coffee & decided we needed to find out if it is even half as good as their cigars.

Having been told the only guy in the UK with any is in Ireland & he will only sell roasted beans I am pleased to announce that we have found some green beans.

I’ve not had the opportunity to buy from sample so its fingers crossed on this one. I love this journey of discovery that coffee takes you on. It is one of the last products in the world that is completely natural & the processing of which hasn’t been reduced to a mathematical formula.

The gourmet roasting community is always picking up unusual coffees, often in tiny quantities & roasting them according to their unique in-house roasting style and often creating a taste quite different to another gourmet roaster using the same bean, or a bean from a similar region.


by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 02:31

Go and check this website out & watch episode 27

This is a crazy story of coincidence & the power of the web & tools like twitter

A while ago i ran a search for ‘Gunson’, my surname on twitter, just for the fun of it really

It turned up this guy, Jonathan Gunson, who runs a website called

He said on his show that he was in New Zealand & it is a fairly uncommon surname in that part of the world

So I asked a few a questions about his lineage & it turns out that we are related. I lived in Auckland until I was 25 & never knew of Jonathan’s existence

I have resided in London since 1998 & I get on twitter & find a relative & he ends up profiling me on episode 27

In return I must recommend the to you

It is free & I tune in every weekday to pick up his latest traffic nugget & have found plenty of useful practical tips

As a guy trying to get a web business off the ground I have found it to be a valuable, practical resource & encouragement

Anyway, a big thank-you to you Jonathan, I never expected this kind of exposure


What is Londinium Espresso all about?

by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 02:30

Please don’t think we only care about espresso

Our mission is to re-introduce you to coffee. Black coffee. What other kind is there?

At the risk of upsetting you we dont regard latte as coffee, nor cappuccino, and certainly not a triple frappe grande mocha caramel lard arse whatever nightmare

You’re welcome to enjoy them all. We just don’t think they should be confused with coffee. They are coffee flavoured milk. That’s all. And if you haven’t figured it out for yourself already, they are calorie bombs, whilst coffee is calorie free.

You see the trouble is milk fat is a great masking agent. When it comes to appreciating the subtle differences between two brazilian coffees, for example, you won’t stand a chance. Your taste buds will be smothered in a blanket of milk fat, rendering them useless.

Londinium Espresso is all about introducing you to coffee. Black coffee. Water. Coffee. And, er, that’s it. There is no where for poor quality coffee or poorly roasted coffee to hide.

You, the consumer, have been served up coffee of continuously diminishing quality since World War II broke out. We believe it’s time to take you back.

Historically, believe it or not, coffee was known as a ‘sweet’ drink. I bet you’re thinking ‘coffee is not sweet, its often bitter or burnt, or perhaps both. Yes, that’s true, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

You’re probably thinking, ah but, I dont have any fancy expensive coffee making equipment, i cant afford any, its out of my league.

Well, that’s not true either. All you need to acquire is an inexpensive blade grinder & a Swissgold filter. You may even have a stovetop coffee maker, or plunger, or filter machine at home, in which case all you need to buy is a grinder. Make sure you keep you equipment clean, ensuring no coffee residue forms in it. You see it is all about accessing great coffee beans.

Forget ground coffee, it is a waste of money. Ground coffee stales in half an hour or so of being ground & therefore you will never taste a fraction of the coffee’s original, fresh roasted flavour.

Anyway, I think we have made our point. Londinium is all about black coffee. Great black coffee. Filter, vacuum, espresso, stove-top, the method doesn’t matter. It’s all about the coffee… not the additives.

We are also on hand to help you solve coffee problems and chew the fat when pondering where to spend your hard-earned cash on your next caffeine toy, all without obligation and as impartial as we can be for coffee zealots!

Grinders: Blade & Burr

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

This is a bit of a pedantic rant, but I am sick of people proclaiming that blade grinders are no good because they cut the beans and burr grinders are good because they grind the coffee.

Blade grinders have ‘blades’ but if you feel them you will notice they are not sharp. They don’t cut the coffee, they simply ‘smash’ the beans. As a result the ‘grinds’ it produces are a vast array of sizes, and equally importantly, shapes. Hopeless for espresso as the water simply takes the coarse of least resistance through the puck of coffee and it produces a curious mix of over & under extracted coffee. Not nice.

Entry level burr grinders don’t do a whole lot better either, some of them having plastic/composite burrs which wear smooth fairly quickly, unsurprisingly.

Good burr grinders, i.e. those selling for GBP200 and above in the UK actually have burrs that are quite sharp. As a result they do ‘cut’ the coffee bean. The correct term is probably ‘mill’. These sharp burrs, or teeth if you like, ensure the resulting grinds are very uniform in both size and shape. This is what you are paying for in a top quality grinder.

The need to minimise the heating of the coffee if you are grinding any volume is addressed in three ways; 1) the use of highly conductive material (metal/metal alloy/ceramic) for the burrs to dissipate the heat away 2) larger diameter burrs so the working surface of the burr is increased, thereby spreading the thermal load over a wider area 3) reducing the revolutions at which the burr turns, which in turn requires gearing and usually a more powerful electric motor, all of which add to the cost.

All of the above needs to be mounted into a very rigid assembly otherwise the burrs would be able to flex/move as the resistance of beans stuck the working face of the burrs. This obviously adds to the cost as robust engineering as described above is needed. It demands high quality metals/metal alloys and plenty of them.

The upside is you aren’t buying what I like to refer to as ‘consumer grade junk’. When the burrs eventually wear out in a high quality grinder (stated as every 400Kg in a Mazzer Super Jolly) you can simply replace the burrs and you have a new grinder essentially. If you are bothered by such things this is the world our grandparents knew and it is a lot more environmentally friendly than throwing cheap, poorly made items out every year or so.

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!