Pascal's Coffee

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Gift Giving Season

As we approach the silly season, is there a better gift to give besides coffee?
Sure, but coffee is still a pretty good one. It still astounds me that a humble drink made from roasted beans is so popular, it's a wonder that it isn't a religious beverage.

So I've roasted off a number of kilos of beans, the most I did was 4kg in one day! That's a huge amount for me to do. Here's some of the result...

This is my 'Brazmatran Blend' it's a nice simple mix of 50/50 Brasil and Sumatran, so far it's popular on many palates. It was blend post roast and there will be other blends that I'll do as we head further into the season.

Thanks to those of you who have seen my site and commented on it, though it is a little surprising what kind of an audience that the site has been attracting, especially with the late night SMS.

I haven't forgot to publish the completed tamping experiment, it is just time is a bit on the sparse side at the moment.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Experimenting with Espresso: The Tamp

I've been doing the experiments on tamping, no tamping and how they work using a naked portofilter.

Why haven't I published anything yet? Experience. Trying to give it all a fair shot.

Extracting espresso is not an easy thing to get right, there is definitely a real level of competency that needs to be achieved before I am going to give an opinion of if tamping is required or not. I love experimenting with lots of thing... temperature of extraction, coffee aging, particle size, density of puck/dose vs. particle size... and now tamping.

When I started the experiment on the tampless extraction I quickly realised that if this was going to be fair then I would have to invest time in attempting to find a way to become competent enough to find out if it was as at least as good as a tamped extraction. Reminded me of Myth-busters, if it was possible I was going to do it. Hence the delay in publishing any of the results.

Introduction To The Experiment
Firstly, what is tamping? Tamping is using a device to compress ground coffee into the basket/handle (portofilter) of an espresso machine.
There are many kinds of tampers, from plastic to custom made. Here’s an average stainless steel one that I use, it has a curve base.

There is some debate on the net about if tamping is necessary at all. So far the experiments that I’ve seen and accompanying photos have not convinced me.
What they have seemed to be focused on is time of extraction for a 30ml shot. Importantly they have not combined a ‘naked’ to look for the quality of extraction. To my mind it's about quality, because that’s what coffee is all about, and definitely not timing.

I always believed it was possible to get a 30ml/30sec extraction but the photos (that I've seen) saying it wasn’t necessary to tamp all have spouts on the portofilter some blonding/channeling, differences in crema (just one indicator) and uneven pours from spouts.

Now the experiment is extremely subjective because there are so many variables involved , but the results from it will hopefully be good enough that they will be reproducible for the average person.

It will be all over by next weekend. I hope people like the experiment and hope it adds something to the topic area.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Roasted Coffee Aging For Espresso

The follow is my opinion at the moment, so it will interesting to see if my opinion will change over time. But anyway here’s my take…

How long should we wait before using roasted coffee for espresso?

This is a question that has been on my mind for a while… few have helped. When cupping coffee or using a plunger (French press) the answer is immediately. Easy.

Let’s keep this simple and non-technical, coffee has oils and sugars and these begin to breakdown and oxidize as soon as the roasting is completed.

  • Any oxygen absorbed post roasting is considered very negative… many roasters leave the bean in the open for a while here, but the evidence contradicts this practice. So once cooled the beans are best to be stored, say in a one-way value bag allowing CO2 build up to escape.
  • The most delicate aromatics are the first to leave (highly volatile) and as time continues negative flavours are produced, but less volatile compounds are still preserved. The most delicate are the sweet fruity and floral ones. Dark roasting, heat, also destroys these delicate aromatics, but on the flip side, caffeine is water soluble and bitter so its content is reduced in dark roasts.
  • Coffee has over 8000 different compounds, only 20% are known. It’s these compounds that provide the different aromas in coffee. Humans have different perceptions of the interaction of these compounds so it is subjective but we know that staleness is perceived by a large number of people so there is some common ground. Plus there is evidence of this process of decomposition.
  • Espresso fizz begins to settle after 3 days, this de-gassing stage has allowed some decomposition of the bean, especially CO2 release, and under the pressure of extraction (8-9 bar) the carbonation effect is reduced.
  • As espresso ages past the 3-day mark, the oils that make up “body” in espresso are extracted better because of short contact time with the water (a solvent).
  • Coffees in espresso have still won awards at the age of 21 days. Secrets from awards winning roaster/coffee outlets have privately told me that the 9 to 14 day mark is the best time to extract. Even when stored in “ideal” conditions after 3 weeks 50% of the considered positive aromatics have escaped (in whole beans). This means that there are a lot of contradictions in espresso field.
  • There is sufficient oxygen to stale coffee in vacuum packaging. There is no packaging that can ultimately preserve a roasted bean, it has a very finite life as fresh.
  • Oxygen, moisture, heat, sunlight are the most negative influences on roasted coffee, storing beans in a dry, dark, cool, and closed environment during aging is important. Water must never be used to cool roasted coffee, this is a poor practice.
  • Storing coffee in the fridge then seems the logical solution, not quite. Why? Because it causes fats in beans to emulsify, this denaturation of the coffee oils alters the coffee negatively and dramatically.
  • Grinding, we know about this and it’s true. Surface area is increasing, allowing sensitive aromatics to escape into the air rather than into the cup.


If the most delicate flavours are the first to leave, but we know that the negative fizz of freshly roasted bean means we have to wait. So in the end the espresso does not permit these top flavours to be captured.

From what I have found by experience/experiments has been later confirmed by the research I have read to date… so my opinion is 4 days, if the bean has been store in a unopened, dark, cool environment. But (you knew it was coming), I have enjoyed espressos at that are older, the characteristics change but it is variable with age and bean type. So after all that, I say go with what you like and if anyone says there is a ‘right’ way in a product with 8000+ chemicals and with differences in human perception, you know what to think.

For Further Info:

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Espresso Sequence: Double Ristretto

Here is an espresso from today...

Still stiving to get perfection on every one, not quite there on this one but a delicious 45mL was the result!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Getting Naked!

Time to get Naked!

I've had a bottomless portofilter for a while and the novelty has yet to wear off. If fact nearly all the espresso that rolls out is from it, sure it takes a bit longer but it's fun to use.
Here's what one looks like...

The reason to get one is to improve shot consistency and tamping (compressing grounds into the basket). I haven't taken any more photos of late here's a few from before ..

Una Ristretto

Although there are a few patches as the shot starts, it draws together for an even extraction and importantly it was delicious. The tiger stripping is great and often it has 3 seperate streams before forming a uniformed pour.

Here's an interesting one. This is an uneven firm tamp, but it did not gush like a channelled shot, it's easy to see why the "naked" has a legendary status.

If you are thinking about getting a naked or making one, which is simple enough... do it! It's worth it. Naked is downright exciting and is awesome way to make shot consistant.

To learn more:

Friday, September 22, 2006

Wild For Coffee

Here is a very basic summary of coffee literacy and although it is general I think that this is an excellent start to this blog, it is intended for the novice...

Hopefully after this article you will be prepared to face the wilds of the coffee bean culture around you and maybe make a better cup of coffee to boot. Now some of the following is what ‘they’ don’t want you to know (insert mysterious music here)…

To start there are two types of coffee, robusta and arabica. One is cheap and one is expensive…. Ok the differences really…




High Caffeine content

Woody flavour

Used in instant coffee and low quality espresso blends

Drunk by the public known as ‘strong’ coffee

Easy to grow

Grows like a weed virtually anywhere

Smaller rounder bean


Moderate caffeine content

Delicate Flavours

Used in espresso and higher quality blends

Drunk by aficionados know for ‘quality and taste’

Hard to grow

Only grows in certain climates

Larger oval bean

So when people ask for strong coffee… make sure it is strong by using a double shot or adding more coffee to a plunger, so when drinking for quality always use freshly roasted arabica beans.

Things that affect strength, taste:
Roast: dark is bitter and is the old fashion way of drinking coffee (1960’s), basically it was almost charcoal (burnt) where the oil rises to the surface of the beans. Generally a good (full city) roasted bean will have a matt chocolaty look (more dark than milk chocolate), it should not be glossy! We have come along way since then.
Water temperature: ideal brewing temp is from 88 to 96 degrees Celsius. Too hot burns the coffee producing bitter flavour, too cold produces sour tastes.
Rancid oils: regular cleaning of the group head and handle are very important in an espresso machine because you’ll get burn oils flavour which is acrid. Many experts will run the first shot as a dud to line the basket with fresh oils then make their first cup… Oh the trouble!

Coffee is grown in exotic locations all around the world, the best coffees are arabica beans grown in the “coffee belt”, around the equator and some rare high altitude like Jamaican Blue. Coffee beans are grown in Africa, South American, Indonesia to excellent PNG coffees and right here in Australia where beans can vary from the extremes of good and bad.

Expect to pay more for good coffee but relative cost to value, there are some bargains to be had.
Coffee stays fresh for about 2 weeks after roasting but generally not more than 3 weeks. Coffee is like wine, it has its own quirks. After roasting a period of time must elapse called the de-gasing stage where carbon dioxide is released as the bean settles. Generally I like to wait 3 to 4 days and then drink, although others have their own time periods. During this de-gassing stage the bean is volatile and need to age to release its true potential.

Coffee once roasted is sensitive to light (UV), heat, cold, oxygen, and the other enemy, time. It should be stored in a cool, darkish place, sealed. Never in the fridge or freezer. Thanks to technology little things like bags with one-way valves in them allows the carbon dioxide to escape, there are jars called vin-vacs, they use a pump to get air out to create a great storage environment, just like wine. If fresh coffee is vacuum-sealed for long periods the gas will build up and cause the package to explode….
What does that tell you about coffee in the supermarket? Yep…expired before it’s even packed! This is just one coffee-crime. Some supermarket coffee at over $70 a kilo…

Another myth is that Italian coffee is the best…. Hmmm think again…Australia produces wine and truffles of such good quality it’s got the Europeans in a twist, so that they now come in drove to study our methods… why?
Science. Rather than rely on the truffle, wine, coffee gods and guesswork we excel in agricultural and biological sciences. Many Italians coffees still use robusta in their blends and pass it off as fortification… huh? Me too. Basically it means more profits. The world buy it’s beans from all around the world and the Italians buy lower grades of beans and can pass them off as higher quality. And here’s why… Barista skill. The person making the coffee is always the biggest factor in the end product, just like a chef.

Here are a few tips:

  • Use freshly ground beans. In highest quality commercial circles coffee is stale in 20-30 mins. So buy a grinder if you haven’t got one and do it yourself. The precious coffee oils oxidize quicker when ground.
  • For a plunger, boil water and wait a minute or two… use this time to get cups warm, or portion the coffee into the plunger. This time cools the boiled water.
  • Clean your espresso machine and the group head regularly. Rancid = Yuk
  • Buy your freshly roasted coffee weekly or fortnightly and savour the flavour.
  • Never overheat milk. And mix portionally to your coffee… experiment.
  • Finally… water… fresh and clean if in the city, use a filter.

Congratulations on your perfect cup.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

My First Post

Hi world,
Let's start with an small introduction...
My name is Pascal and this is my first foray into blogging, I live in Sydney Australia.
This blog is dedicated to one of my many hobbies and interests... COFFEE!
Over the last few years the coffee culture has really boomed and good coffee is not always easy to find.
Thanks to the net and those many people who have contributed their knowledge I've slowly evolved into one of many that home-roasts their coffee and makes fine espresso and coffee drinks.

Hopefully this blog will be interesting and share my experiences with espresso making, roasting, cafe visits and all things coffee.