See the article in todays TheAge http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2009/06/15/1244917983824.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap4
Barefoot barista challenge
On a mission to create the perfect stove-top brew, Gordon Farrer is drawn into the passionately crazy world of the coffee obsessive.
For years Ive made a light-hearted boast to anyone wholl listen: I can make a better cappuccino with a $15 stove-top moka pot and manual milk frother – and a little know-how - than you can with a domestic benchtop coffee machine that costs thousands.
OK, maybe not better than you, with your $3000 ex-cafe model and barista diploma, but definitely better than my uncle and his new $2000 machine.
We were visiting him at his Blue Mountains retreat a few years ago. After a magnificent lunch he offered coffee. Many minutes and the sound of grinding, pumping and steaming later he brought our drinks. The only difference between my cappuccino and my wifes flat white was a dusting of cinnamon cocoa; otherwise they were pale and watery, covered with wisps of milk froth already dissipating like late-morning mist. He was so proud of what hed made. I thanked him, heaped in some sugar (I dont take sugar) and drank.
On the reciprocal visit I offered coffee. "What can you make?" my uncle asked. "Whatever you like".
After two sips of his cappuccino he came into the kitchen, eager to check out the machine Id used. I pointed to a three-cup moka pot sitting on the stove and a plunger-style milk frother. He was speechless.
That story is unfair to my uncle - he hadnt learnt yet how to get the best from his machine. But from that day came the joking boast about my stove-top being as good as an espresso machine.
Jokes aside, I do believe you dont need a fancy machine to make great coffee at home.
Im very particular about my coffee. It has to be rich and strong - not too bitter - with good body. I cant stand the thin coffees: plunger (French press), percolator and drip-filter coffees leave me gagging. With my simple moka pot I can make a smooth shot with full, rounded flavour and enough grunt to be the foundation of a good milk-based coffee. Every morning, without fail, I make two cappuccinos with a stovetop device, blessing it not only for the cost-effective quality of its brew but for the convenience and space it takes up in a small kitchen.
I was taught the art of espresso by two grumpy Italians in a legendary cafe in Sydney called Reggios, a late-night haunt popular with theatre-goers, students and inner-city artists. But that was 25 years ago, and the teaching was all practical, no theory. Making dozens of coffees a day I learnt how the coffee should look as it streamed into the cup, to miss the first few drops of a doppio ristretto, how to feel by hand that the milk had reached the right temperature and how to texture it to get a rich, silky head on a cappuccino – nothing about beans, grinding, tamping, water temperature, water pressure, the length of the pour or any of the countless other factors baristas learn about today. (Its becoming overcast outside? Better adjust your grind.)
Still, they turned me into a half-decent amateur barista. More than once I was told by a customer that they hadnt tasted coffee like mine since their last trip to Rome.
A year ago I started buying coffee at a stall at Victoria Market (McIvers Pure Brazil) instead of the supermarket stuff Id used for years. There I noticed a stove-top device called a Mukka Express, made by Bialetti, the father of moka stove-tops. Intrigued by the idea of a machine that makes two cappuccinos automatically - the Mukka froths its own milk and combines it with the coffee – I started researching stove-top devices and planning an upgrade from my basic moka pot. That was the start of a journey of coffee discovery that has not yet ended.
During my research I compared half a dozen coffee makers; watched countless YouTube videos of coffee devices (search for "coffee" and "siphon", "Brikka", "Kamira", "Presso" or "Atomic" and enjoy); spoke to coffee experts; and got a glimpse into the delightfully, passionately mad world of the coffee obsessive. I learnt about grinding, tamping, duration of pull, mouth-feel, milk quality and the importance of water temperature.
To understand the differences between coffee-making methods, I went to see Jill Adams, who runs the Coffee Academy at the William Angliss Institute. Adams set out four coffees: boiling water simply poured on to fresh grounds (dirty, muddy, watery, not to my taste); French press (surprisingly good body, the best plunger coffee Id had); a moka pot coffee (much fuller, richer and sweeter than the first two); and an espresso from an industrial machine (like the moka only thicker, more viscous, even richer).
From Adams exercise I learned that the moka and espresso machine brewing methods get more out of the sugars and acids of the bean to produce a tighter flavour. Water pressure and fineness of the grind are essential to the process so that the water goes through the grounds, not around them.
But is the coffee from a machine "better" than from a moka pot?
"Its all about personal preference," said Adams. "If you prefer moka pot coffee - or plunger or percolator - to a machine, thats up to you. Comparisons arent relevant if you enjoy the coffee you make."
Next I spoke to Jack Grieve, importer of La Sorrentina, a modern make of the classic Italian Atomic stove-top coffee maker. Grieve warned me that I was on a collision course with the purists.
"Youll find that all the coffee enthusiasts, or baristas, or snobs, or elite, or whatever, will shower you with scorn if you try to say that any sort of stove-top device can compete with a machine," he said. "If you use the term ‘espresso (for stove-top-made coffee) they get all riled up." And what about my moka pot V machine theory?
"Theyre very popular, the moka pots, and with good reason," he said. "Home machines - electric machines - are good when they work, but they can have lots of problems and can be expensive to run. Many stores stock huge numbers of moka pots, so there must be a huge number of people across Australia who use them."
Grieve said that if you do use a stove-top device there are several ways you can improve your brew: "Use good water, good coffee, always grind fresh, tamp correctly and experiment with your grind - play around with those factors."
Grieve also explained coffees Rule of Three: "Green beans last for three years. Roasted beans last for three weeks. Ground beans last for three minutes." One website suggested you discard your coffee if its more than 30 seconds since you ground it. I filed that in the Im-not-that-insane-yet basket.
Lastly, Grieve again stressed the importance of grinding your own beans: "As soon as you get a grinder, even a simple one - a hand grinder, even - and you make a coffee with freshly ground beans you straightaway notice the difference."
The advice to use and grind fresh beans was echoed by Andy Freeman, an online coffee retailer and operator of the Coffeesnobs website (buy the best grinder you can afford, he suggested). Freeman pointed out that coffee is a fresh food product. "Weve forgotten about that in the past 50 years with the invention of instant coffee," he said. "You go to the supermarket and buy something with a three-year use-by date. But coffee really is a fresh food. So if you can get it recently roasted youre well on your way to getting great coffee. Theres no comparison."
And my moka pot?
"I respect all manner of mechanisms for making coffee. But there are a couple of science rules about making coffee that prevents your moka pot coffee being as good as a machine. The most important rule is that the correct temperature to extract the wonderfulness from the bean is about 93 degrees.
"Most stove-tops transfer the water through the coffee at boiling temperature, so youre burning off a whole lot of aromas and flavours. You end up with burnt coffee."
Is there any way to get around that with a moka pot?
"I dont believe so. Quite often Ill use a stove-top when Im going away, travelling by motorbike. It fits in the backpack, you take a gas cylinder, its a great way to do takeaway coffee. But I can tell that the coffee isnt as good."
So there it is: the boiling water in a stove-top kills some of the coffees aroma and flavour. My claim is sunk. Then I remember what Jill Adams said: if you like what you make, thats all that matters. I like my stove-top coffee maker because it makes the kind of coffee I like. End of story.
That said, today my coffee making is more sophisticated, more informed and much better than when I made my original boast. I grind fresh, local-roasted beans every time, a different grade of fineness for different devices. I have a thermometer for the milk (around 65 degrees is best) and a proper tamper for tamping. Occasionally, I even use purified water. The milk texture is better, my extraction is better and the coffee I get from my Presso and my Bialetti, Bellmann and La Sorrentina stove-tops is superior in ways I hadnt known it could be.
To gauge how far Id come, I decided to make coffee the old way: vacuum-packed pre-ground beans from the supermarket, basic moka pot, hand-frothed milk. I went to the store and stood in the coffee section. For 10 minutes I examined the brands and blends I had bought for years and had been so happy with. But I couldnt bring myself to spend $9 on 200 grams of coffee I knew I would never use again.
Theres no going back.
I want a Martian!!!
Java "Toys, I must have new toys!!!" phile
It could be your favourite Martian.Originally Posted by 18332433223A3B3E37520 link=1245084187/2#2 date=1245101198
It looks to have some of the same features as the Atomics and I assume made by the same company
Laughed at this comment: One website suggested you discard your coffee if its more than 30 seconds since you ground it. I filed that in the Im-not-that-insane-yet basket.
Any of you remember the "research" thread he started here about 6 months ago *::)
It was a good article...anything that educates the masses and hopefully switches them onto fresh coffee is good. :)
And...he inspired me to make instant coffee! :)
I believe Will of Campos Sydney boasts of this.Originally Posted by 49435641414E5A5C2F0 link=1245084187/3#3 date=1245104829
Theres always a spectrum of snobbery/obsessiveness :)
They move so fast there that ground coffee never gets that old anyway.Originally Posted by 7F4A53590D0C3A0 link=1245084187/7#7 date=1245112277
Does this mean we will see another batch of DenWells House Special Reserve instant?Originally Posted by 1E3F343433295A0 link=1245084187/6#6 date=1245108245
Did anyone actually make a cuppa from the first batch?I laughed more because of the comment itself rather than the authors thumbing of the nose at coffee philosophy/snobbery/whateverOriginally Posted by 1F2A33396D6C5A0 link=1245084187/7#7 date=1245112277
No. Id like to think that rarity inflates the value.Originally Posted by 575D485F5F504442310 link=1245084187/9#9 date=1245118560
I had a little to try - twas better than most instants.Originally Posted by 575D485F5F504442310 link=1245084187/9#9 date=1245118560
Im happy to sign copies, please form a queue...
I was away today (just got home) but rang the family this morning, the kids got a buzz out of seeing a picture of Daddy in the paper (so did I to tell you the truth) and it was great to see Jack and Jill ;) both feature in the story.
I think it was a great article. *Unlike many articles before that CoffeeSnobs groan at this was researched and was full of real world experiences. *Nice work Gordon.
Its been fun at work today Andy, people walk up to me and go "Did you see this in the paper?", the looks of surprise were abundant when I glance and say "Yep, the guy with the beard is who I buy my beans off"
I just read the on-line article *Barefoot barista challenge, My review
I found it to be written in the lines of
A journey taken
Found out a few new facts along the way and adopted them
Found out that if you like what you make, thats all that matters
Made some new friends
However drinking better coffee now because the journey was a lesson
And the writer will never buy supermarket beans again
Thank heavens for that *;)
It was a feel good piece that did not offend
Jill Adams I hope you will enjoy your coffee for many years to come but remember you never stop learning
So the next story should be home roasting coffee why do we do it *:D
I challenge you
Are you willing to give home coffee roasting a go
I sure do it was funOriginally Posted by 3D3A3E313933263631385F0 link=1245084187/4#4 date=1245106143
P.S. I saw no photos on the net version ??
Originally Posted by 3227352E2F23460 link=1245084187/0#0 date=1245084187
Some grinders dont even grind that fast. What are you going to do then? Buy a bigger grinder?
Wait...Dont answer that.
Anyone with the printed version of this, care to scan it for the benefit of those whose work collegues steal the paper before anyone else can see it?
great to see that article get off the ground- front page link- 2 page full color spread- my mum didnt know and she grabbed the Age for the first time in 6 months yesterday by pure coincidence. She didnt look at it all day and when she thumbed through it last night there I was! She got a real kick- and like you say Andy- so did I- I was reading it with a grin when she rang.
Miroslawa (my better half) was very excited to see Andy in the paper. Made sure to let me have a look, after shed finished with it of course.
I hadnt thought of describing coffee as a fresh-food product, although of course it is. Its a message hard to get across to the masses though when its not just instant that has long used-by dates on it, but even "fresh" beans with a best before date 12 months from now being endorsed by those who know better.
Certainly the description Ill use from now on though, rather than trying to explain coffee going stale up front.
Epic comment ;DOriginally Posted by 70727E7676787F62110 link=1245084188/14#14 date=1245193893
I found it amusing that there was a big advertisement for Coles brand coffee on the front of Epicure- given the comments in the article about fresh coffee v supermarket coffee.
Funny to think that a $20 device in the right hands is capable of better coffee a lot of machines costing hundreds ...
but not better if the machine costing hundreds is in the right hands too. ;)
To put it another way - if you have the wrong hands - its quite a saving!!Originally Posted by 6B656867706667090 link=1245084188/20#20 date=1245742916
Either method in the wrong hands you end up with bad coffee. I will leave it at that!! :D ;DOriginally Posted by 76756F78686F69721A0 link=1245084188/21#21 date=1245743811
hmmm, if you have "the wrong hands" you end with bad coffee- but one way you get a pocket full of change to console youeself ;-)
When i was in Italy i had more coffee out of a stove top than out of a machine.
it could have been the location - mountains in north Italy in the area of & surrounding Lozzo di Cadore Veneto, even a few small family restaurants/rifugios i went to served stove top coffee.
If you like what you make, thats all that matters.