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Fine vs Coarse! Dialing in your filter method.

What is the 'correct' grind for brewing filter coffee, whether it's Syphon, Pour Over or AeroPress? This has been a hot topic ever since the 'Third Wave' coffee scene took off a couple years ago.

Some baristas say, that the grind has to been slightly on the coarser side, because we are not dealing with pressurized water. Some say the grind has to be finer, so the water and coffee have enough time to interact with one another.

In this little experiment, I look at both sides of the argument, and try to come up with a rational answer.



Firstly, we need to decide on what type of water we are going to use to brew our coffee. This subject is commonly overlooked in the cafe environment, as most people just take the hot water out of the espresso machine, as it is convenient and it is at the correct temperature. But to a get 'true' reading of the coffee, we should not be using water that has been purified through a filtering device, as most of the natural minerals have been striped away, leaving us with a slight metallic taste. Also, we don't know what state the machines water boiler is at, as it may have scaling, which effects the taste in the cup.

So as a general rule, we should be using bottled mineral/artisan water, something that has a low 'total dissolvable solids' (TDS).

Obtaining good quality mineral water is no means a difficult task. Your local supermarket should have a sufficient selection to choose from. In most case scenarios, soft water is the best, something that has a TDS of 120-150 and a pH level of 7.

Antipodes and Otakiri water are two brands I highly recommend. Both are from the same source (Whakatane, Bay of Plenty), and both are in glass bottle form. Plastic tends to affect the taste. The only down side, is that they are quite pricey at $5.50 a bottle.

So for the purpose of this experiment, I went for cheaper water, Waiwera Artesian water. Now, this water does not produce a sweet a cup as Antipodes or Otakiri, but it is still better than general tap water.

 

 

 

 

Secondly, the grinder, I recommend using one that has ‘stepped’ gauges. Having one with this feature is beneficial for recording the grind settings. The Malkonig Vario W is a little domestic grinder I own, and used for the Brewers Championships. Its extremely accurate and well worth investing into.

So, getting back to the purpose of this exercise, I made four Aero Press coffees, all with slightly different grind particles. Two of them are made from fine grinds and the other two are from coarse grinds. All four coffees were made with the same coffee to water ratio, fourteen grams to two hundred mls of water and brewed at the same temperature.

 

In the first test, The AeroPress on the left, had a coffee grind setting of 2a and the AeroPress on the right had a grind setting of 8a. Water was brewed to ninety six degrees.

 

There are two styles of brewing AeroPress coffee, traditional; where the AeroPress is already setup on top of the drinking vessel, as you pour and let it steep, the coffee is already starting to bleed from the filter base into the cup, I found this method to be very inconsistent and plain sloppy.

The other technique is the more commonly used one, and by far, it is the more creative. This technique is known as the inverted method, it is when the AeroPress is setup, upside down, and then flipped on its head, when it is time to brew the coffee

The technique I used is based on the Koppi Coffee Roasters style. Some brewers remove the coffee slurry after its steeping time, believing it helps with the clarity of the cup, but after a few trials with this method, there is not much of a difference, and is not 100 percent plausible, as some grinds are heavier than others, and tend to sink to the base of the filter. Scandinavian roasts are extremely light which equates to the grinds sinking to the bottom.

 

Remembering that the coffee on the left was brewed with a finer grind setting 2a.
Taking a sample of the cup, I placed a few drips in to the sight well of the refractometer.

The findings of this cup, translate to be something of an over extracted, borderline bitter type beverage. It predominately had a multi/grainy type mouth feel.

The cup on the right has a 'french press' type grind setting 8a. Again, taking a sample of this and placing it into the refractometers sight well.

 

As you can see from the above diagram, the grind setting falls out of the 'ideal' taste window. It is telling me that the water has not had enough contact time with the grinds to properly fuse together, otherwise commonly known as underdeveloped, but just to tickle my curiosity, I wanted to give it a try.

Confirming what technology has told me, this cup was, indeed very weak. It tasted diluted and sappy, if almost felt like something had been removed from the coffee.

Now, taking from what I learnt from the last test, I decided to tweak my grind settings. 

 

 

Cup left deals with a slightly coarser grind 3a and cup right has a slightly finer grind. Hoping that one of these settings will give me the right 'Grind' for my Aero Press. Visually there is not much of tactile difference between the setting 2a compared to 3a, but I was on a hunch, that the slight change  in the grind will result in a more pleasant cup.

As you can see from the result, the TDS reading is above the underdeveloped line and sitting in the middle of the ideal taste window, so science wise,  this is a balanced, well brewed cup of coffee.

Now for the right cup.

 

Even though, i've made the grind slightly finer with a setting of 7a, the right AeroPress still falls outside the 'ideal' window, with it just sitting below the 'underdeveloped' line, but I thought it was worth tasting, since it was just slightly off. Unsurprisingly the cup was not that bad, maybe lacking a little in the mouth feel department, but it had a nice balance of sweetness and acidity.

 

CONCLUSION

It is tough to give a logical black and white answer between the two settings, coffee is a volatile product and the roast profile, type of bean or origin play a big factor. There are something’s that make logical sense when using a finer grind, i.e.

Small coffee volumes require a finer grind setting for the water and coffee to interact properly. But to say that you should use a fine grind for the AeroPress in all case scenarios is a BIG call.

 

 

 

 

 

2nd Place at the New Zealand Brewers Cup 2014

The New Zealand Brewers Cup was held in Wellington last weekend. It may of been a competition of four people, but these were four highly motivated, skilled individuals that had one common goal, and that goal was to go to Italy to represent New Zealand in the World Brewers Cup.

Some may say, it was not a real competition with four people, but the amount of skill and application that went into each competitor’s routine, I doubt there would have been any difference in the finals placing.

 

The competition consisted of two parts, a compulsory round and an‘open bar’ section.

For the compulsory round, the competitors were given 500gms of the sponsorship coffee to use. The coffee was Guatemala la Soledad, roasted by Coffee Supreme. The purpose of this round was to get the competitors out of their comfort zone, and use a coffee that we have never used.

We were given 30 minutes of practice time to dial in our grinders and find a grind setting that we were happy with.

The compulsory round itself, consisted of five minutes setup time, followed by seven minutes of competition time to prepare and serve their beverages, without any presentation or demonstration. Working in dead silence, but still have spectators watching you, was still nerve racking, compared to last year, where we did it backstage away from googly eyed people.

For the open bar, we were given five minutes of setup time and ten minutes of competition time to present, prepare and serve three cups of coffee, each brewed individually to three judges. In this section we were using our own coffee that we trained for. These beverages had to be accompanied by a presentation that enhanced the coffee experience for the judges.

 

 

Aymon McQuade, past New Zealand Barista Champion, World Barista Champion competitor and runner up in last years Brewers Cup.

Who was the biggest draw name, and more times than not, Aymon usually brings home the goods with faultless performances, but he was undone, buy a couple of ‘young guns’ in the eventual winner, Nic Rapp of Flight Coffee and myself.

 

 

Using the same coffee as mine, but an older harvest. Aymon believed his post crop coffee had ‘gotten’ better with age. Stored in GrainPro bags and kept out of direct sunlight at room temperature, he believed the sweet aroma of the coffee had improved over time, an ambitious statement, but after trying his coffee through the brew pot I was really impressed! His taste notes were very accurate and the cup really did shine.

 

 

Sam Boarchers, from Coffee Lab used a washed Kenyan coffee from the Nyeri region sourced through Nordic Approach, which had bright raspberry acidity and sweetness. Brewing the Kenyan coffee through the clever dripper, Sam used two different types of water at different stages of the brew to bring out those amazing characteristics she was after.

 

My brew method was a brainchild idea, which was born from the frustration of setting the “right grind” that would match the water volume.

 

Most people over look it, but when we brew small amounts of coffee, the water will pass through the coffee faster than if you are brewing large amounts, as there is less resistance for the water. Therefore our grind setting has to be finer, also espresso like, so there is enough contact time between the water and coffee bed. If you want to brew a much large volume and hit the same extraction and taste, you would need to grind coarser.

 

How I showcased this methodology, was in the form of a dripper brewer, which I appropriated from other brew methods. Using a tea strainer, paper filter and adjustable water flow taps. My concept of using restriction of water flow helps increase the body of the coffee, if we’re using a small coffee to water ratio.

 

 

 

The eventual winner, Nic Rapp of Flight Coffee used a 100% Red Caturra from the Huila region in Colombia. This was the same coffee Nick Clark used at the New Zealand Barista Champs this year. From what I remembered of Nic’s rationale, his roast profile was extremely light, almost to Scandinavian levels of light, it had lime acidity and orange sweetness. These notes were matched with grapefruit bitterness in the aftertaste.

 

 

Using his trusty AeroPress, Nic knocked out a winning brew!

 

 

1st Place: Nic Rapp 139 points

2nd Place Matt Hing 137 points

3rd Pace:  Aymon Mcquade

4th Place: Sam Boarchers

 

The NEW wheat, thats wild for summer!


Wild wheat has opened a new quick stop bakery hot spot in Mt Eden. The space is divided into 2 distinct zones. One for artisan and specialty breads and the second for coffee; where you can casually wait for your delish coffee from bespecialty and be tempted by the pastries and savory items on display. The coffee setup has a refurbished 3group La San Marco 94, with a Mazzer timer grinder. All the coffees are served in takeway cups, but thats not really an issue, since you're there for a quick bread pickup.

The environment is designed to be light and fresh with a strong natural element; expressed through the use of plywood paneling throughout, and complimented by the textured concrete effect wallpaper and powdery blue walls. Simple black pendants create contrast within the space and emit a warm glow to each of the sales areas. Cane baskets and simple plywood shelves that ‘float’ off the wall are filled with varying loaves of artisan breads; the product remaining the main focus for the store and shopfront window display.

 

 

 

Conceptual interior design by Spaceworks http://www.spaceworks.co.nz  

Overview of the Super Caimano 'on demand doser'

Out of the box, the Super-Caimano 'on demand doser' fit and finish are impressive. It ships with a factory-installed cooling fan and dose timer, and its construction is reassuringly solid. Setup is a snap: simply install the hopper and waste tray, plug the grinder in and go.
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July 21, 2013

brand › makeover ›


New and improved

Welcome to bespecialty, formally known as barista empire coffee!

After eight years we've decided to give the brand a full make over. Our purpose is to educate Joe average on the finer things of life, more specifically, specialty coffee.

The new logo is more sleak, contemporary and pays homage to the orginal Ben cafe street sign.