News

Entry level grinder: Krups GVGX2-12 Burr Grinder

by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 01:16

If you are contemplating the move to buying whole beans, but do not wish to spend too much on a grinder then the Krups GVX2 might be exactly what you are looking for. No, it is not suitable for espresso as it will not grind the coffee to a uniform size, which will become more noticeable as the burrs wear and become blunt. The container that holds the ground coffee is also susceptible to static charge which will cause the coffee grinds to stick to it. From time to time the beans will also fail to drop down into the grinder, causing it to spin freely at very high speed. But if you do not need to make espresso, and say team it with the Swissgold filter you will still be able to enjoy exquisite Londinium coffee for a very modest outlay. This grinder is sold at John Lewis for £40 last time we checked, and is also available online at Amazon & elsewhere at even lower prices.

Cupping - The correct adjectives to describe what you taste and smell in the cup

by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 00:30

This list needs to be refined, but it provides us with a starting point. What is important in cupping coffee is that the accepted adjectives are used. I am not sure I agree with all of the comments that follow each adjective, but we can edit those in due course. For example, there are various characteristics listed below that are said not to be ‘undesirable’, yet I personally detest them in my coffee. As long as you use the accepted adjectives, I think whether or not a certain characteristic is ‘desirable’ is highly subjective, and largely a matter to be determined by you, the cupper.

Aroma

  • Animal-like – This odour descriptor is somewhat reminiscent of the smell of animals. It is not a fragrant aroma like musk but has the characteristic odour of wet fur, sweat, leather, hides, or urine. It is not necessarily considered as a negative attribute but is generally used to describe strong notes.
  • Ashy – This odour descriptor is similar to that of an ashtray, the odour of smokers’ fingers or the smell one gets when cleaning out a fireplace. It is not used as a negative attribute. Generally speaking this descriptor is used by the tasters to indicate the degree of roast.
  • Burnt/Smoky – This odour and flavour descriptor is similar to that found in burnt food. The odour is associated with smoke produced when burning wood. This descriptor is frequently used to indicate the degree of roast commonly found by tasters in dark-roasted or oven-roasted coffees.
  • Chemical/Medicinal – This odour descriptor is reminiscent of chemicals, medicines and the smell of hospitals. This term is used to describe coffees having aromas such as rio flavour, chemical residues or highly aromatic coffees which produce large amounts of volatiles.
  • Chocolate-like – This aroma descriptor is reminiscent of the aroma and flavour of cocoa powder and chocolate (including dark chocolate and milk chocolate). It is an aroma that is sometimes referred to as sweet.
  • Caramel – This aroma descriptor is reminiscent of the odour and flavour produced when caramelizing sugar without burning it. Tasters should be cautioned not to use this attribute to describe a burning note.
  • Cereal/Malty/Toastlike – This descriptor includes aromas characteristic of cereal, malt, and toast. It includes scents such as the aroma and flavour of uncooked or roasted grain (including roasted corn, barley or wheat), malt extract and the aroma and flavour of freshly baked bread and freshly made toast. This descriptor has a common denominator, a grain-type aroma. The aromas in this descriptor were grouped together since tasters used these terms interchangeably when evaluating standards of each one.
  • Earthy – The characteristic odour of fresh, wet soil or humus. Sometimes associated with moulds and reminiscent of raw potato flavour, a common flavournote in coffees from Asia.
  • Floral – This aroma descriptor is similar to the fragrance of flowers. It is associated with the slight scent of different types of flowers including honeysuckle, jasmine, dandelion and nettles. It is mainly found when an intense fruity or green aroma is perceived but rarely found having a high intensity by itself.
  • Fruity/Citrus – This aroma is reminiscent of the odour and taste of fruit. The natural aroma of berries is highly associated with this attribute. The perception of high acidity in some coffees is correlated with the citrus characteristic. Tasters should be cautioned not to use this attribute to describe the aroma of unripe or overripe fruit.
  • Grassy/Green/Herbal – This aroma descriptor includes three terms which are associated with odours reminiscent of a freshly mowed lawn, fresh green grass or herbs, green foliage, green beans or unripe fruit.
  • Nutty – This aroma is reminiscent of the odour and flavour of fresh nuts (distinct from rancid nuts) and not of bitter almonds.
  • Rancid/Rotten – This aroma descriptor includes two terms which are associated with odours reminiscent of rancidification and oxidation of several products. Rancid as the main indicator of fat oxidation mainly refers to rancid nuts and rotten is used as an indicator of deteriorated vegetables or non-oily products. Tasters should be cautioned not to apply these descriptors to coffees that have strong notes but no signs of deterioration.
  • Rubber-like – This odour descriptor is characteristic of the smell of hot tyres, rubber bands and rubber stoppers. It is not considered a negative attribute but has a characteristic strong note highly recognisable in some coffees.
  • Spicy – This aroma descriptor is typical of the odour of sweet spices such as cloves, cinnamon and allspice. Tasters are cautioned not to use this term to describe the aroma of savoury spices such as pepper, oregano and Indian spices.
  • Tobacco – This aroma descriptor is reminiscent of the odour and taste of tobacco but should not be used for burnt tobacco.
  • Winey – This terms is used to describe the combined sensation of smell, taste and mouthfeel experiences when drinking wine. It is generally perceived when a strong acidic or fruity note is found. Tasters should be cautioned not to apply this term to a sour or fermented flavour.
  • Woody – This aroma descriptor is reminiscent of the smell of dry wood, an oak barrel, dead wood or cardboard paper.

Taste

  • Acidity – A basic taste characterised by the solution of an organic acid. A desirable sharp and pleasing taste particularly strong with certain origins as opposed to an over-fermented sour taste.
  • Bitterness – A primary taste characterised by the solution of caffeine, quinine and certain other alkaloids. This taste is considered desirable up to a certain level and is affected by the degree of roast brewing procedures.
  • Sweetness – This is a basic taste descriptor characterised by solutions of sucrose or fructose which are commonly associated with sweet aroma descriptors such as fruity, chocolate and caramel. It is generally used for describing coffees which are free from off-flavours.
  • Saltiness – A primary taste characterised by a solution of sodium chloride or other salts.
  • Sourness – This basic taste descriptor refers to an excessively sharp, biting and unpleasant flavour (such as vinegar or acetic acid). It is sometimes associated with the aroma of fermented coffee. Tasters should be cautious not to confuse this term with acidity which is generally considered a pleasant and desirable taste in coffee.

Mouthfeel

  • Body – This attribute descriptor is used to describe the physical properties of the beverage. A strong but pleasant full mouthfeel characteristic as opposed to being thin.
  • To an amateur coffee taster, body can be compared to drinking milk. A heavy body is comparable to whole milk while a light body can be comparable to skim milk.
  • Astringency – The astringent attribute is characteristic of an after-taste sensation consistent with a dry feeling in the mouth, undesirable in coffee.

Valentine's day at Londinium Espresso

by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 00:28

Ever had a Valentine’s Day that left you burnt & bitter? Well this year be prepared with Londinium Espresso. If the day goes well you can relax, safe in the knowledge that ‘inviting them back for coffee’ isn’t going to disappoint. It will mark you as an individual at the cutting edge of couture coffee. And if things don’t go as well as you’d planned, you’ve got the finest coffee in the land all to yourself. Have some on hand to cover either eventuality!

Coming soon: Long term review of the Olympia Cremina 2002

by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 00:28

we’ve had ours for 3 years, with nothing but good things to say (once we learnt how to use it!). built like Stonehenge (to last). no electric pump to replace. largely unchanged since 1928. voted best espresso machine by the New York Times (from memory) a few years back. the price is high, but you do get what you pay for. new electric pump model now onsale – lets hear from you if you have one of these.

Friday's tip

by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 00:27

Well , you can dismiss this suggestion with a ‘yes he would say that wouldn’t he’, but in my experience it is worth dumping the first espresso that you draw from your machine.

This applies whether it is the first shot when you turn it on, or if the machine has been sitting idle for some time. Try it, I think you might be surprised at the results, particularly if you are only drawing off one for yourself, then you will always be having the first one out, and most likely disappointed with the results.

Thought for the day...

by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 00:27

in life, you get what you pay for…if you’re lucky!

At Londinium Espresso the focus is on quality at a fair price. There is an ocean of poor quality coffee, freely available on every corner. There is some expensive coffee out there that is not true to label, or more often does not taste true to label because it is stale.

Why would anyone buy pre-ground Hawaiian Kona or Jamaican Blue Mountain? It’s pre-ground; that means its stale before it leaves the store.

Why would anyone buy these coffees as a blend, particularly if the proportions are not disclosed – how much of the premium coffee are you actually receiving for your money? The delicate flavours of the premium coffee are swamped by the presence of an inferior coffee. What a waste of money.

All this leaves you bitterly disappointed when you expose it to the only opinion that really counts; yours. And possibly embarrassed if you have served it to your friends.

We don’t think it’s a contradiction to say we offer premium coffee beans that represent excellent value for your money. That’s why we have the Londinium Guarantee. If it isn’t the smoothest cup of espresso you’ve had, send it back for a prompt refund from ourselves.

At Londinium Espresso you get what you have paid for: premium coffee that meets or exceeds your expectations.

If you would like a particular coffee that doesn’t currently appear on our website, get in touch & we will promptly acquire it & roast it fresh for you.

in life, you get what you pay for…if you’re lucky!

The Londinium advantage

by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 00:26

At Londinium Espresso we have spent some time designing a custom shaped bag that the postman can fit through your letterbox. So what I hear you ask, ‘how does that help me?’ Well, it means you can be at work getting on with your life and when you return home, instead of having a nice little ‘sorry we missed you’ card from the courier, you will have a gleaming gold coffee ingot from Londinium Espresso. You see, we are always thinking about little ways that we can make it easy for you to access great coffee. I you have a coffee related question, call us or email, and we’ll try and find an answer.

Send us a coffee question

by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 00:26

...and we’ll post the answer on this blog. if you have a new machine and are disappointed with the results, start by weighing your coffee. 7 grams for a single shot, 14 grams for a double. Sure, you don’t need to do this once you have great coffee cascading from your espresso machine, but if you have tried everything else, it is worth going back to first principles. If you can not get that weight of coffee into your porta-filter, and tamped down say 3mm below the top of the porta-filter, then your grind is top coarse, and vice-versa if the measured amount drops in with space to spare. It sounds fanatical, but you will have to make adjustments for extreme weather conditions, particularly for changes in humidity and also as the coffee ages. For example, when you use Londinium Espresso you will most likely find you need to back the grind off (i.e. make it more coarse) initially. If you have it lying around for a while, just tweak the grind one increment finer. Remember to wait for any coffee that was ground at the earlier setting to pass through the grinder, before making it finer again if necessary. Hope this helps. Reiss.

How long does coffee keep fresh?

by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 00:26

While coffee is like wine, in that you can have a lifetime of enjoyment familiarising yourself with different styles from around the world, coffee does not improve with age. You need to start thinking of coffee in the same way as you do fruit, which it is. Fresh is best. Ground coffee begins to stale after 30 minutes. For whole beans that are exposed to air, for example sitting in the hopper of your grinder, you will notice a drop off in the fabulous crema after 10 days. Sure, it will still be miles ahead of 99% of the coffee on the market, but none the less expect to notice the decline around the 10 day mark. This is significant to any espresso enthusiast as it impacts crema production, and as a result many of the subtle exotic elements of the coffee’s unique taste signature begin to disappear. And how long do our beans keep in the bag before a similar drop off is observed? Well, as you go beyond 5 weeks after the roast date (clearly stamped on all our bags) you will start to notice a drop off. Granted, it will still be miles fresher than 99% of all the coffee on the market, but that isn’t what you or us are here for. We are both in pursuit of espresso excellence. For this reason we only sell 250g bags to our residential customers, and reserve the 1000g bags for our commercial customers who will consume it before any drop off in freshness occurs. By the way, our coffee doesn’t stale any faster or slower than anyone else’s, so next time you see a ‘Best Before’ date of 12 months into the future, I am you’ll be thinking the same thing as us…Sure, it won’t make you sick, but espresso is hardly an exercise in survival is it? It is the hedonistic pursuit of the ‘ultimate cup’.

The Londinium Glossary - Part 4

by Reiss Gunson on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 00:25

Grind size: the degree of fineness to which the coffee beans are ground. Grind size varies from extremely fine (powder) for Turkish coffee, to coarse for plunger coffee and vacuum coffee makers. The method by which you make your coffee determines how fine a grind you should use. The key components are, the method, the coffee, the weather (in particular humidity), and tamp pressure. If you find yourself using excessive tamp pressure, yet you are grinding fairly fine, the is most likely nothing wrong with your machine. It is you coffee that is letting you down. Try a bag of Londinium Espresso and be astounded at the difference. You will not have to grind as fine, which means your grinder will last longer, and you will not have to exert much pressure with the tamp. Life is easy with Londinium Espresso.

Intensity: the term used to describe the degree of a coffee’s impact on the palate. For example, Robustas are regarded as high intensity.

Maragogype: the ‘elephant’ bean. A variety of arabica bean almost double the normal size. Often superior in quality & priced accordingly.

Milds: a term often used when referring to washed arabica beans.

Mocha: the name designating coffee from Ethiopia and Yemen, originally shipped from the port of Mocha. Before the commencement of coffee growing in Asia and the Americas, the word ‘mocha’ was often used to refer to black coffee, and I believe it still is in Austria.

Pacamara: an excellent hybrid arabica bean combining Maragogype and Paca varieties and grown primarily in El Salvador.

Porcelain: the ideal material for coffee cups as it is a good insulator and does not taint the coffee.

Qishr: the Yemeni term for a brew made of dried and lightly roasted coffee cherries that have had the beans removed.

Robusta (Coffea canephora): one of the two major species of coffee, the other being arabica. Robusta accounts for 25% of all coffee consumed worldwide. Robusta beans are stronger than arabica, and much less subtle. They may be bitter, and generally have a higher caffeine content. Note: the best robustas are better than the worst of the arabicas.

Tamp: usually a flat faced metal instrument, often solid to give it some weight, used in the hand to compact the ground coffee into the porta-filter. It is a critical step in the production of espresso. If the pressure exerted is too light, air pockets will be left between some of the grinds and the water will quickly channel through these pockets as they represent the ‘path of least resistance’ through the coffee. It will result in underextraction, characterised by little or no crema, and any crema will be very pale in colour. If the pressure is too great it is possible that no water at all will make its way into the cup. In less extreme situations the water will eventually makes its way into the cup but the crema will be a chocolate colour, possibly with a light stain on the crema at the very end of the extraction. Both under and over extracted espresso is very unpleasant to drink, even if you have great coffee. Personally, with Londinium Espresso on board, and a moderately fine grind size, you should not be exerting much pressure with the tamp at all. I lightly tip the ground coffee into the porta-filter so it is raised up in a pyramid shape, then I lightly sweep the tamp straight across the top of the porta-filter to level it off, then I am looking to depress the level of the coffee by probably only 3mm, so it just has enough room to lock into the holder on the espresso machine. You will hear/read of people advising about 30, 50, even 70lbs of pressure. In my view this can only be the case if their grind is far too coarse, or the coffee is stale. You should only ever exert light pressure on the tamp with Londinium Espresso.