Good Food and Coffee

The best of Cusine

Archive for the category “Editors thoughts”

We enlarged our scope

Welcome to the (former British Coffee Scene ) Good Food and Coffee Blog.

So many trips abroad convinced me that I needed to add food to the blog. I have a particular love for Spanish Food, so that just had to go into my writings.

I hope you like.




Old Brown Java

One of the most surprising finds for Filter and milk based coffee is Old Brown Java. I have ignored it for a number of years based on a false assumption that all weathered or matured coffee is like Monsooned Malabar, of which, I have no personal affinity for.

What a HUGE surprise in drinking this coffee. Rob Hodges of RAVE Coffee sent me some green beans to roast, and the instruction were simple, “make it a little dark”.

I have a lot of respect for the roast direction of Rob. He has a natural touch and instinct with coffee that only a fool would ignore, so trying to not be that fool, I took the beans into second crack for a minute and up to 225C. A quick look at the photo will show the oil on the surface, and the darkness of the bean. The colour of the bean is more even that the flash would suggest. (Click on pictures to enlarge)

The origins of Old Brown Java are interesting. The beans were used for ballast on sailing ships, and consequently the ‘weathering’, ie salt water and length of time produced the distinctive flavour of the brew. Nowadays, the beans are aged in a wetting and storing process for up to 3 years in order to emulate the same conditions as when loaded on ships.

The process itself removes a lot of acidity, whilst retaining the full depth of taste. I made 3 pots of Old Java, from 20 grams per 3/4 pint to 35 grams per 3/4 pint and was amazed at how the acidity did not increase with the added grinds. Old Java is a very mellow taste, with a wonderful ‘coffee’ aroma. In the drinking, there is a delightful sweetness to the cup, and an after taste of, slight herbacious woodiness.

I am going to try and blend it with some other beans and see what happens. Rob Hodge gave me a blend for milk based drink, and I think that I perhaps tried it a little too fresh, it didnt work for me. The Coffee is now 7 days old so will try again.

The Coffee plantations on the Island that produce Old Java are mainly on the East side. Im going to look for some video that I have somewhere of a plantation and upload it later.

I am not sure of which plantation Rob supplied me the beans from, but wherever the come from, roasted or green, Id be giving him a call on 01285 651884 and placing an order.

How important is tamping pressure?

It is taught universally that 30lb (15 kg) of pressure is the optimum amount to compact coffee in the portafilter, so as to facilitate the correct denseness of the coffee for extraction. As a person who leans toward scientific proof, I did some research on the subject.

Tamping itself, is a method of compacting coffee as closely together as possible to remove air pockets or channels within the plug. Once tamped, the compacted coffee within the portafilter can be inverted to show its adhesion to each other facilitated by the force of pressure. Once the portafilter is inserted in the grouphead, and water is added, either by pre-infusion or by a straight pour, the tamped coffee loses pressure integrity immediately. Even lightly wetting a tight tamp will negate the effect.

Most modern coffee machines force water through at, give or take, 9 bars of pressure. If you work it out, that is 15-16 times greater than a 30lb tamp. Bearing in mind that a 30lb tamp has already lost its integrity and hold when initially wetted, the coffee itself during extraction, is no longer under tamp pressure, and will also be under much less integrity and way below pump pressure.

So what can we summarize from these observations? Firstly, a lot of barista’s out there are making fine coffee and NOT doing everything by the barista’s bible. I guess the obvious answer is that the coffee machine pump normalizes a poor tamp, or indeed, will pressurize the water through the grinds regardless of the tamp. I ran a test over 2 days of approximately 80 extractions, and found that there was a more basic component to good pours than tamp.

Grind density and dose size.

Make sure the basket is at the correct level for coffee grinds. Make sure the grind is fine enough to force the water through the coffee at the best rate. My two best pours were when the coffee was fine enough and I applied the tamp weight alone and swirled for a light polish with no added pressure!

It would appear then, that if a barista can apply the same pressure consistently to a correctly dialed in grind, that the coffee will be consistent for quality. Conversely, if the coffee is fine enough and dosed correctly, the same quality can be achieved with little or no tamp!

In talking with some “old school” masters of European coffee experience, men in their 60’s who still have restaurants and coffee bars in Italy and Spain, I noted that agreement between them regarding tamping produced some of the finest expressos and Cappuccinos I ever tasted. They filled the portafilter, and LIGHTLY tamped about 5-10lb pressure and then extracted. It was all one fluid movement of making a coffee. The tamping seemed to be just to settle the grind in the portafilter.

I also am experimenting to see if pre-infusion actually “settles” the coffee before full extraction. Some people have commented that a straight pour without pre-infusion, with or without tamping, can lead to channeling. I have not seen this issue but will continue the research.

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