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Sorry about that

21 Jul

Sorry about the spam post there. Shouldn’t happen again.

–Alex

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Peel & Peel Independent Coffee

12 Jul

So, I have been quiet of late, with the exception of a few brief posts and it’s because my time has been spread over a few projects and distractions to keep my time away from writing.

The most exciting distraction has been working at Peel & Peel Independent Coffee in Northampton.  Those who follow my twitter (@awlred) will know I visited this shop when it launched last September and got to hang out ith Steve Peel, the eponymous owner.  I was immensely impressed with Steve’s laid back attitude and the niche-cool of the hosting shop Retropolitain. Peel & Peel is a Saturday only pop-up and this set up allows a foot in the door to introduce great coffee to Northampton.

In April I joined the team as a co-conspirator of introducing great coffee to Northampton with the role of managing day to day running of the shop.  We’ve since moved from the fantastic Retropolitain into the brilliantly cool Spiral Archive next door.  Spiral Archive is a great independent record shop that we’re really glad to be working along side and look forward to the future, expanding and meeting the fantastic folks of Northampton and cafeinating them thoroughly.

Techy stuff; we’re running our espresso through a Rancillio 3 group lever machine and serving brewed coffee through a melitta filter, aeropress or cafetiere. If anyone is about Northampton on a Saturday then I’d love to see people coming through the door.

Peel & Peel Independent Coffee Shop
Inside Spiral Archive
24 St Michael’s Road
Northampton
NN1 3JU
Saturday; 10.00-16.00

We’re also on Facebook and Twitter

Okay, Shameless self-plug over.  But pop on by ‘kay 😉

Follow up to the working barista conundrum…

3 Jul

OK, so a slightly different blog post to the usual and one that shan’t be a common theme, but I felt the need to empty my mind slightly into the Internet.

That not-withstanding, Gwilym Davies made the suggestion of a working barista co-op. An idea I think is absolutely excellent.  Forgiving the logistical issues this would require conquering in order to be truly equitable, this sounds like an excellent plan.

Though I know most speciality shops don’t have profit margins as lovely as some would imagine, would there be shops willing to help get this off the ground? Would there be people willing to donate time to keeping this operating?

I would love to see someone take this idea and formulate it into a working model.  I have no knowledge of such thinks so I would willingly be a member of such a program but I would have no business in running or organising it.

Personal Blog, Professional Blog…Where is the line?

18 May

Hey folks, so this is a bit of a weird blog post but I hope it will make things a bit more lively around here.

I appologise if this post seems slightly rambling but it’s more a stream of consciousness than an articulate post.

For the past few months I’ve been running coffee evenings at The Courtyard Brasserie, Olney where I work through the week in addition to my usual responsibilities, this has provided a fantastic opportunity to connect with our customers and has a small, but devoted group who regularly attend but it would be nice to widen this circle and induct more people into how good coffee can be. In addition to this I’ve been responsible for a monthly speciality coffee cafetiere’s selection and tasting notes which has built up a fine momentum in the past 15 months.

For the last few weeks and for the foreseeable future, I shall be manning the bar and responsible for the day-to-day operations at Peel&Peel in Northamptonshire on Saturdays and looking to expand from there.

I am not naive to business, nor how important promotion is, however I may have mentioned some of these things in tangentals to blog posts, and done a small amount of promotion for the first evening on here, but I’ve been very conscientious (I hope) in keeping my blog personal rather than an outlet to advertise for my personal gain.

Atleast until now…ish…I currently get a better throughput of traffic than I ever expected my blog to receive and find the temptation to promote myself from this launchpad very alluring.

I am acutely aware that a blog that only posts adverts is not a blog that attracts reader but I wonder, would the occasional mention of up coming events in this vein be appropriate for my blog and would they make you less likely to read it?

I invite your opinions, criticism and suggestions as to how much I should proceed from this point on.

-Thanks

2011 – Make a plan…and stick to it!

1 Jan

So another year is upon us.  I’ve decided to write down my goals for 2011 in a hope that I don’t forget them and that I’ll feel some fire under my ass to stop procrastinating.

1) Try as much coffee as possible.

By no means an original idea, nor a new one for me, but I want to continue to expand my palette and my experiences of coffee and everything it can be.

2) Work towards my own operation or work in/with people with a similar goal.

As most people who have met me will know, opening a coffee shop is my ultimate goal.  unfortunately, working as a barista doesn’t raise much financial opportunity toward that goal but there are windows of opportunity, I just have to be willing to grab them and take occasional risks to achieve my dream.  This is no slight on my current employers, who run a bistro, their focus is the food and they have been very progressive and have allowed me certain ways to share great coffee with those who are looking for more than something dark and coffee flavour, namely a speciality monthly coffee and a monthly evening where I get to really geek out.

3) Share great coffee with more people and continue helping to educate consumers about what is possible.

This might sound a little pretentious but if it does it’s more due to my lack of skill with language.  In the process of sharing speciality coffee with people over the last 11 months, I have witnessed palettes become far more honed and people’s perception of coffee changed.  I did my utmost to combine easily digestible information with more in-depth points for those that would be interested.  I feel that the project is an ongoing success and I want to continue sharing these great coffees with people through 2011.

4) Give the UKBC my all.

I am entering the UK Barista Championships (UKBC) again in 2011 and I have no goal other than to do my absolute best. In retrospect I should have perhaps forgone entering in 2010 being as I was working in a new job and still getting to grips there, but this year I am much more settled, and I have a definite goal in mind for the UKBC. Further more I do not (currently) intend to put myself forth in 2012.  More on this later.

5) (Not specifically 2011 but within a longer time frame) Visit a producing farm, and possibly participate in the harvest.

I’m still incredibly nïave as to the actual conditions in which coffee is grown and harvested.  I have read what I can but I still feel that to experience it would be utterly humbling and hopefully lend me an insight into the labour that goes into the beans that I love.

6) Blog more!

I know I’ve slowed down on the blogging train of late, and it’s not due to lack of interest in the blog, nor is to to lack of things to talk about.  Some topics have been some what redundant and others have been put aside for other things but I’ve got a few more topics in my mind and I definitely intend to extrude them at some point, even if it is slightly like play-doh extruding from a clown’s head.

So, those are my goals. I have 364 days and counting to get them done.

Coffee Evening 3; Processing Methods

8 Dec

It’s time for another shaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaameless plug (in the style of a cheesy TV game show host)

On Friday 17th December I’ll be hosting the 3rd monthly coffee evening at The Courtyard Brasserie in Olney.  The focus will be on processing methods and how they affect the final cup.

I will be presenting El Salvador Finca Mauritania in Natural, Pulped Natural and Washed as well as the Cascara from the same farm, all these coffee have been lovingly roasted by Square Mile Coffee and I’m really looking forward to sharing one of the most interesting variables in coffee post growing.

For me it’s really interesting because certain characteristics that one may associate with coffees of a certain region can be attributed to an affect from the processing rather than the terroir, and using a coffee from the same farm will help to show which elements are fixed and which are more open to influence.

I’m really hoping to share this with a good amount of people and hopefully start some discussions.

Hope to see you there..

—-

##Venue##

The Courtyard Brasserie,
Rose Court (Just off the market square)
Olney
MK46 4BY

Doors open at 7pm
Tickets are £5

Daily Grind – Take 2

23 Nov

OK, so a bit of unproffesional blogging on my part there, I started off with a blog post in mind, got interrupted and basically made my whole entry the introduction to what I wanted to say…

 

Soooo,

 

(Quick Rehash then straight into the actual post) As baristas customers often ask us for advice on home brewing and such and how to get the most out of their home equipment, what, I believe is the common consensus in most circles is that a good burr grinder is the best investment anyone can make for brewing at home. The reasons for this are numurous and I covered them all in the first attempt so I shan’t repeat myself.

The issue I come to now is that we say this and we push people into getting a decent burr grinder, but in the industry don’t seem to ask for much more than a motor and some burrs (and a timer doser) when we look at grinders. The last 9 months or so in coffee have been buzzing about the Strada from La Marzocco, a machine that allows the barista to meticulously sculpt a pressure profile to match their coffee (theoretically) and achieve different extractions with every other parameter the same.  I’ve not had a chance to play with this machine or pressure profiling in general so I shan’t weigh in an opinion on this particular new variable, but it creates a nice example for my conundrum.

Machine manufacturers are pushing their espresso machines through lots of expensive R&D to appeal to a very niche slice of the larger market, but at the same time grinders are given no such attention, either for niche market appeal nor mass market. The technology hasn’t progressed very much in decades and the last one of note was timer-modding, something that’s not a huge step forward in technical terms (although a life saver when working a busy bar).

The old phrase “You’re only as strong as your weakest link” comes to mind.  You can have the best espresso machine in the world, a tamper that gives you a perfectly flat tamp designed to match your baskets perfectly, your favourite coffee and water filtered to within an inch of its life, but if you then go and grind it with a blade grinder the results are gonna reflect that. Whereas a great grinder coupled with a mediocre machine would almost certainly provide a far superior shot of coffee.

I suppose if I’m going to complain that there’s a lack of innovation I should atleast throw out a few ideas as to what could be improved…

*Static Retention – I would be ecstatic to see a grinder with <0.5g grounds retention
*Heat Build up – The act of grinding is very high friction and so creates a lot of heat, if you run a grinder for a couple of minutes you can feel the heat on the grounds, especially at finer settings
*Dosing more reliable – This is a bit of an awkward one, but I’d like to be able to input a weight into a grinder, grind and have that amount ground on demand, I’d like an accuracy to within +/- 0.1g
*Quieter operation – It’s very hard to subtly grind coffee in a shop, perhaps a ‘dimmer-switch’ to run the motor slower when speed isn’t the requirement
*Make them prettier – OK maybe not prettier but there are few grinders that have a design aesthetic that is appealing, it’s not that hard is it?

If anyone else has any irks with grinder design then pop them on the comments, also if there’s anything on the horizon that I’ve overlooked, please let me know as I’d love to be proven wrong on this point.