Monday, November 23, 2015

EK 43 Espresso's on the Menu

Finally, - since the 5th of November -, after 5 months of testing, we have the new menu running.

2 weeks later we may say it is a big hit.

Getting the EK (as we call the grinder) in the line up for all clean espresso shots - we mean as a coffee to drink pure - is the biggest change in our bar for the last 3 or 4 years.

A small look on the history of espresso making at Caffenation, or elsewhere.

2003 We start at Caffenation with an old Gaggia machines and 2 Santos grinders.
We didn't know much about how espresso should taste like.

In the years 2004-2008 we get our game plan enrolled along as how a Barista pulls his/her shots in a competition :
Cleaning of the portafilters shot after shot.
Flushing of the group heads every time again
Clean machines and work stations
Grinding on demand
Tamping the grounds
and (not in Championships) Using Teflon Portafilters

Every step was a big step forward. And every step again my Barista's were wondering what the gain was. I have to admit that it wasn't always so easy to measure. Also because our coffee's in those days were not as clean as they are today, and for sure roasted a whole lot darker.

In November 2008 we bought our first La Marzocco. Finally we paired our technique to a supreme coffee machine and with the newly bought Anfim on demand grinders we were heading bit by bit to coffee nirvana.
In 2010 we started roasting ourself. We roasted lighter, brought the water temperature lower and started to experiment more and more with naked portafilters.

In May 2012 we moved our main bar to the current location - Mechelsesteenweg - and changed the coffee menu seriously.
Before this we made 2,5 to 3 cl espresso and had a separate grinder for ristretto's.

At the Mechelsesteenweg we only served 4cl doubles made with a naked portafilter.
When we had combined orders of a ristretto, espresso and a doppio espresso, we served 3 times the same drink, as discribed above.
Most espresso lovers understood the system and bit by bit we even reduced them towards 3-3,5cl or appr 33grams of weight espresso - crema included. This was sometimes very complex and even a bit too ristricted for espresso but surely gave better 'milk drinks'.

And here's where the problem is situated in most of the bars. There's a grinder and a machine for espresso making, but it needs to grind and extracts for two different type of beverages - the black ones and the ones with milk.
Of course it's possible some type of espresso is perfect for both goals - drinking clean or with milk, but most often it's a stradlle we can't make.

When reading about the EK 43 experiments and with particular enthusiasm about the higher TDS compared to traditional coffee grinders, which resulted in a higher and better tasting extraction yield, we started to research this for ourself.
Here an interesting post about this subject. (m perger)
And here. (m colonna)

The whole idea : You can extract more, without getting over-extracted flavours when using a Mahlkonig EK 43 grinder. 
In total it took 3 different versions with all different burrs and settings and in total 2,5 years (with intervals of course) of research.
In a later post we talk more about settings and techniques
Today our menu and the new way of serving espresso.

Since 8,5 years we serve single origin espresso's, but always as some kind of back up for the main blend(s).
We respected early adaptors of the concept with only SOE coffee a lot - think, for Belgium, Kolonel Koffie, Broer Bretel, Viggo's, Superette, etc - but not all of them succeeded. Sometimes it didn't work for the milk drinks or sometimes the clients did not understand the concept. But now in 2015 i guess people are more and more aware that it is much more interesting to drink a single origin espresso in stead of a blend. See it as a Single Malt Whisky vs a Blended/Normal Whisky. Or a bottle of specific wine from a specific farm vs a 'table wine'. Or a single origin chocolate vs a plain chocolate bar. If you give people the choice between something specific with a story or something generic; people prefer the first one.
In the 3 comparisons above you can argue that the single is much more expensive than the blend, but in coffee it doesn't have to be like that. Or at least it should't make a big difference.
We sell singles a bit more expensive, but that's because we do 40+ different onces a year and there's a lot of work involved in the finding, investing, stocking, roasting and then communications and techniques to get all the flavours out. Plus we push hard to get our hands on exclusive specialty lots, which isn't always easy.

Briefly we changed the menu and when you come in and ask for an espresso or a double espresso we serve you the single origin coffee of the moment. And that one is prepared - this is the whole point of this post - with a Mahlkonig EK 43 grinder.
For best results we increased the volume towards 45 grams for a double and serve it in an open (cappuccino) cup. There's a lot of drinking here, but where i had problems finishing a double ristretto pulled with a naked portafilter, i have no problems finishing this one.
The mouthfeel is smoother, we taste more details and the cooling down is a whole lot better.
And most of all we have way less problems with these typical 'metalic' tastes you sometimes encounter when making espresso's with light roasted beans.

Of course this way of making coffee is showing all nuances so perfectly that a less clean coffee is sacked very quickly. So high cupped clean cut beans needed.

The Limu Burka Gudina we have on the grinder since today is such a coffee. It sometimes takes a while to dial in the grinder (and machine) when a new coffee has landed, but once we found the recipe - 2 barista's start 15' earlier every day to focus on this - we can't believe why it took so long to make these changes.

Oh yes, to finish of i want to tell the fans of our Mr LGB blend (or Roast ED) that they don't have to panic. We use them for our caps and flat whites, so when politely asked we still serve you this great cup of joe, no worries. It's not that there's something wrong with these kind of coffee's, we just think those new 'EK shots' are something more tasty and spectacular.

ps : don't confuse these type of espresso's with coffee shots. These last type of coffees is something different and probably on our summer menu of 2016.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

90+ Coffees

One post a month is not enough, i know.
But maybe that coffee book i'm writing is a good excuse....

A little word on coffee cupping now.
Coffee cupping is not only a funny thing to do, it is the corner stone of our business and it should be so for every coffee roaster and even every barista. Here's where you learn a lot about your bean and the best way to sharpen your taste buds.

The scoring we give is a big controversial item though.
What cupping sheet are you using?
And are you trained to really understand this sheet and do you have enough reference coffees in mind to give it a proper score?

We, as a company, do not want to give cupping scores on paper. Every roast, brew is different and the coffee is changing over time as well. What is worth a cupping score for a coffee that came in 4 months ago? For example; maybe there's a hot summer in between which influenced the green coffee quality drastically....

We do give cupping scores in our head all the time though and the magical figure we all want to score is 90+.
A 90+ coffee is not just a coffee anymore, it's a gem. A truly clean cup that makes a lot of bells ringing in our head.
I cup 600+ coffees every year, and buy around 35 of them. Another 5 i buy blind; sometimes you have to act fast and take risks to get your hands on some small lots and highly wanted coffees - of course there's always someone who cupped these for us and recommended them, like a coffee trader you're familiar with.
For these 40 coffees we buy every year, almost all of them can be called Specialty Coffee, but only a couple are scoring 90+.
Some people who are start roasting think it's easy to buy these high scoring coffees, but there are a lot of 'buts' in this story.

First of all are some of these coffees very expensive. And are they worth the price? We are not the type of company to pay double the price for one point more on a cupping scale, no thanks.

Then the high scoring coffees are very wanted. The bigger roastery's have more money and are able to buy the full lot. They are often longer in business and have better contacts, up to origin.

Imagine you finally are able to buy them, then you need to be able to roast them and help people to brew them so you can get all the flavors out of it. A little over or under roasting and a bit sloppy on the executing at the bar, bad water or unclean tools and your coffee drops 5 points in a flash...

The end this story i have to warn people that cupping is the best tool to evaluate coffee samples and it is the best tool to test your roasts, but it's always light roast coffees we cup. When roasting the same coffee darker, for espresso, and later pull shots we have at once a different coffee.
Think very clean, subtle and bright tasting beans; they do not translate very well on espresso. Like those zesty Kenyan coffees that give so much acidity in your espresso that you think someone added lemon juice to you cup.
Saying this we notice in 2015 more and more of this type of beans that, once roasting carefully and brewed with the right equipement and skills are bringing gold in our cups. Very interesting times if you ask me.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Ethiopia 2015

Yes, i'm back.
Due to hard work and the fact i put all my writing energy in my coffee book, - should be written by the end of next week...- i didn't do some blogging for a while.

There was a lot to talk about though and one day i will.

But today we stick to Ethiopia.

As you all know, we are big Ethiopia coffee lovers. About 35 to 40 procent of our annual coffees come from the birth land of arabica.
But not so this year.

Why not?
Well, because of 2 reasons.
The first one is the price. For years Ethiopian coffee has been price way below the value. Last year we were able to buy top notch Ethiopians (cupping 86-88 points!) for 5/6 euro's a kilo. This year we pay 8 for the same quality. On our total volume this means easily 40000 euro's of extra costs if we would stick with the same type of coffees and prices. Seen the fact some of the Ethiopian coffees goes into blends on which we have less margin, we had to replace them with some with more conventional Ethiopia or other origins.

Second reason is very simply, because of the quality.
It isn't difficult to find a good Ethiopian, but very difficult to find a superb one.
Main reason is the lack of acidity (and floral touch) in the cup this crop year.
For espresso roasting it's a relatively easy affair. We need less acidity. And so we bought a good amount of Sidamo's this year - Guji, Conventional, ...
But almost no Yirgacheffe.

We are in September and finally we have a couple of very nice Ethiopian coffees entering the warehouse. Hunkute, Biftu Gudina, Suke Quto Pulped Natural.
Again no Yirgs, but quality it is. Although very expensive. 11 tot 13 euro's a kilo. This almost sounds like Cup Of Excellence coffee prices.

Probably the Specialty Scene finally found the tasty stuff and this raised price.

Hoping for a better crop and more Yirgacheffe's next year.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Blogging News

Never been blogging less then this month.
But there are good reasons for this.
First of all i've been bloggin about all our new singles on this blog :

And secondly I'am writing a coffee book.
Sorry for the English minded, cause i'm writing it in my mother language, Dutch.

When and what will be known soon. :-)

Any news for now?

Yes of course.

We think Guatemala is the nicest origin for this summer.

We are working hard to get our EK43 ready for pulling our clean espresso shots soon. It is sooooo different and our machine doesn't have the newest software yet, so it'll need a while before we can give it a go.

New staff at Caffenation that needs to be introduced.

New art at our walls soon. By Ana Jaren.

New Caffenation Dealers. I need to update our site. 7 real dealers ready by August. That's a lot!

An article in the pipeline about the incredible Pullman Tampers - unbeatable!!

And some info on other new gear...

See you soon. Nice Holiday's.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Mister LGB Summer 2015

We have equal parts of 
Ethiopia Sidamo Guji grade 1
Guatemala Huehuetenango Finca Isnul
Costa Rica Tarrazu Monte Canet Estate

All 3 washed coffees and each one of them specially picked for a good reason:

The first part is from our favourite coffee origin Ethiopia and a super clean grade 1 pick. This Sidamo grown coffee has low acidity and an excellent mouthfeel. The Guji came in First place in our Top 5 Espresso ranking 2014!
The Costa Rica Monte Canet is another Caffenation classic and it's 4th year already. The coffee has lighter body, but more brightness and fruity tones.

The Finca Isnul was is the Mr LGB Spring2 already and well appreciated for its spices, body and low acidity. This bean binds the two other coffees to ensure stability in the cup.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Chemex : Where it started and where I am now

More than 8 years ago this post was my 5th ever.
Meanwhile a lot of things happened and both coffee and Caffenation are now in a totally different phase.
But the Chemex is still there. What happened with it after all those year though?

8 years ago the Chemexes i bought were probably unique in Belgium.
And i started to make my coffees with this brewer time after time, to end up ... frustrated. I could not understand what to like about the Chemex, except for its look.
Of course in those days, (filter) coffee brewing was a new experience, and a totally different texture and taste than the espresso, lungo or americano we were used to drink.

When in 2009 Scott Rao launched his book with a big chapter on extraction ratio's, we were all quickly understanding this would change our view on coffee dramatically.
And at the same time he was so negative about the Chemex, the whole 3rd wave coffee change was shaking on its feet.
Read this very interesting discussion on, between Rao, Thompsen, Hoffmann, Piccolo and others.

After my negative experiences prior to this discussion i gave my Chemex to a friend. I was on the side of the non-believers.

Bit by bit the Chemex became more popular - see this photo underneath from a popular Horeca shop, Hanos, that stocks the Chemexes today, to my surprize - and bit by bit i was ready to restart experimenting with the brewer again.

And here is when it all starts to become more interesting. Most striking in this whole story and discussion is that we did not specify enough what type of Chemex we used. When checking out the 6 and 8-cup Chemexes i noticed an enormous difference between these big ones and the 3-cup Chemex, i started with in 2007.
If you would use approximately the same pour over technique on both models - stating both the 6 and 8 cup are seen as the big model - the outcome is very different.
The Small Chemex is extracting shorter and give way less body and bitters and more acidity.
The Big Chemex is slower, with more body, sweetness and less acidity.

In general i found the brews from small ones very often under extracted and the big ones over extracted.
As most people i forgot about the small ones and started training on the bigger version.
Very often the problem was that it started of really well the first 2 minutes or so, but then we had 2 problems to fight with. One was the fact the Chemex is sucking itself vacuum too fast. Having the triple layer of filter on the pouring side was helping a bit.
Second and biggest problem is the fact - and here Scott Rao is right - that too much of the coffee grounds got squeezed in to the bottom part of the filter and this is not capable of letting the water through fast enough. All the coffee and water is sitting there and with some bad luck your extraction quickly goes up to 5, 6 minutes or more.

Best tips to avoid over extraction is to grind coarser but most of all not using this brewer for large brews. I know it looks like you can make 0,6 up to 1 liter of coffee with the Chemex, but don't go there. To my opinion it is not capable of brewing stable when you go over the 0,5 liter mark.
But even staying low is not always helping and way too often my Chemex brews are unstable. Over the years i have been cursing so often at it, i started to loose my trust in them.

When a couple of years ago Hario launched a similar type of brewer, the V60 Dripper Decanter, i had, on my first usage, the cup right where i wanted it. That was the day i gave my 6-cup Chemex to a friend.

With no Chemexes in the house and less Chemexes around it felt like we could bury the discussions we were in for over 7 years.

In 2014 we were called in by the famous and one of a kind restaurant In De Wulf in Dranouter Belgium to have a look at their filter coffee.
I was deeply impressed by the chef's cooking skills and we helped him with his coffee at his Superette resto project in Gent. But the filter coffee i had at In De Wulf 2 years prior was not to my liking. Old coffee, dark roasted and a brew that lost all of its freshness by keeping it too long in the pot.
Now they were ready to serve 3-cup Chemex, with fresh roasts from Mok and/or Caffenation.

Ok, so Jens from Mok, Valentine from Superette - who organized this project! - and me were testing some coffees in Small and Big Chemex brews.
And i was pleasantly surprised by the small Chemex brews. It had less dept and body, but great refinement and freshness.
I  noticed at Caffenation, and we follow a bit the world wide trend on this, we make our espresso's stronger and more complex and our filter coffees lighter and more refined, over the last couple of years. I don't want to judge too hard on other desires or preferences, this is just how it feels right to us; it is a personal thing.

Now we are 1 year into brewing Chemex at this great restaurant and we have the 3-cup back on the shelf in our shop and on my own kitchen work table.

So almost 8 years it took to finally embrace this awkward looking coffee brewer with funky filters.

I feel that there's still a lot to experiment, but this is the way i work with the 3-cup now :

Folding the filter is still the same way as i always did it, although i put more pressure when folding it.
Then you have to brew with a minimum of 300 grams and a maximum of 360 grams of water, of which appr 15 grams stays in the grounds at the end of the brewing cycle.
I heat up the water to 90 degrees in a kettle with a fine spout.

Of course i rinse the filter paper first, meanwhile heating up the vessel/brewer.
Then i bloom with 10% of my water and leave it for 15" blooming.
Then i pour half of the water slowly in circles in the middle of the filter.
When it lowers a bit i tend to slowly add the rest of my water. I always stay in the middle.

This morning i had a total brewing time of 2 minutes and 30".

Conclusion : The Chemex is very nicely designed coffee brewer that can be the perfect tool for your coffee at home, work or in a professional environment, but it's a tricky one.
Your grind, water temperature, ratio and pouring technique need to be just right, to get the all the nice things in your cup and the bad out of it.
First train your taste buds, then your brewing skills and this could work out just fine.

If you feel it's too much of a hassle and complicated, you better go immediately to a Hario V60, Kalita flat bed, Aeropress or even Clever dripper.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Inspirational vid

With good old Jean and a sparkling Isabelle. Next stop : Gothenburg.