Tag Archives: coffee

Gyre & Gimble. 2 Cornwall Place, The High Street, Buckingham, MK18 1SB

16 Dec

As with all things in nature, adaptation is the key to survival. The Coffee Vagabond as shifted focus to become a barista-for-hire/training venture. In it’s place as a shop, Gimble and Gyre has apparated.


Gyre & Gimble is a joint venture between Elliot Wallis of Monkshood Coffee and myself, to create a stand-alone fixed coffee shop in North Buckinghamshire.  We opened our doors yesterday (Dec 15th 2012) upon the market town of Buckingham and went straight into full service.

We are using Jabberwocky from HasBean as our house espresso blend and be grabbing different coffees from roasteries all around the country as time goes on, for guest espressos and filter coffees.

There will be Postcard loose teas for those that prefer a lighter drink and we’re also featuring Kocoa collection’s Single Origin Hot chocolates.  In the coming weeks produce from the surrounding area will be filling our shelves, including locally pressed apple juice and freshly-baked cinnamon buns, cakes and pastries.

Away from the products, we’re also very pleased to offer a completely different decor than we’ve experienced else-where, our obsession with Victoriana and steam-punk has heavily influenced the design and ambience we’ve tried to create within the shop.

It’s still early days and there is plenty more to add to the shop as time goes on, but we’re both very excited about Gyre and Gimble and will be here for time to come.


Gyre and Gimble on Twitter @mrgyre_mrgimble

Gyre and Gimble on Facebook: Gyre and Gimble



Projects and projections

21 Sep

Yes, it’s been a while since I posted. Self employment and working with others has left me with little time to blog and a good chance to work out thoughts practically rather than theoretically.

So, status update; The Coffee Vagabond (which evolved from Peel & Peel) came to a conclusion at the Northampton location in July and will be relocating soon. But in between now and then another project is keeping my attention. Pull Brew Melt the indie Coffee, Tea and Chocolate festival is fast approaching, 29th & 30th of September.

On going work with Monkshood Coffee has been fantastic and shown repeatedly that the public, when given the option will err on the side of quality and are wanting to learn about their products. In response to this enthusiasm we’ve been show Elliot and I decided that it’s time to really make something of the wider UK coffee scene as well as bringing lovers of tea and chocolate together to make it a sensory weekend.

From the outset we were determined that this won’t be a trade show. This is a public show with free entry (donations to Coffee Kids are encouraged), our goal is spreading awareness and interest in a really accessible and fun way and while we’re at it we will be raising money for Coffee Kids.

We have a raft of different forms of entertainment and education, from talks and Q&A’s to jazz bands and cellists as well as anything impromptu that comes to mind over the weekend.

All this is happening at the Waddesdon Plant Centre which is about an hour from Brent Cross by road. Check out the website or Facebook (Day 1, Day 2) for more info.

Brief show info:

Address:The Glass House, Waddesdon Plant Centre, HP17 0JW
Times: 10:00-4:30
Entrance: Free (donations to Coffee Kids welcome)

Any questions, contact me on Twitter @awlred

Experiment Time: Timered Grinders

7 Sep

I recently acquired a Viponel S15 Darkroom timer to attach to my grinder as a non-permanant timer mod.  My reasoning for this may be explained at a different point.

There has been a serious take up on the timer modded grinders both in competition use and in shops looking for consistency alongside freshness.

I became curious as to how dependable the timer mod is in terms of ground coffee ending up in the portafilter.  In order to test I measured the grind over 50 timed grinds of 2.5secs each weighed to an accuracy of 1/100th of a gram.  I used a single origin coffee of a relatively dark roast that I use for seasoning and such with an espresso grind setting and the coffee loaded into the hopper in one large portion. The use of a single origin is to negate any possibility of having a variance in the load upon the motor from different density varietals.[1]

The grinder used is a Wega 2.6k which is a rebranded Compak K6.[2]

The results were an average grind of 6.83g of coffee reaching the portafilter.  Exactly half (25) of the doses were within 1/4 gram of the average and 37 of the doses (74%) within 1/2 gram of the average.

An interesting pattern of weight distribution also occurs.  Almost uniformly a portion is above average and then below with few outliers from the pattern.

I would suspect that the main variable that is affecting the result is clumping.  I noticed during the experiment that at times there were more grounds being held at the chute rather than going into the dosing chamber.

I suspect that using a courser ground there would be a lot more consistency within the dosing and perhaps using a lighter roast of coffee may have a different result being that there would be less surface oils to adhere the coffee particles.

In the end a relatively interesting set of results.  I would be interested to conduct further experiments to see what differences may be found within different fineness settings, roasts and varietals.  Though a full range of doses extended from 5.90 grammes to 8.71 (an extreme outlier,the next largest dose being 8.10) I would suspect the consistency is much higher that of a full, calibrated dosing chamber due to weight of the coffee above it etc.  in addition to the fact that coffee in a dosing chamber is sitting going stale. In my opinion timer-dosed coffee, even with a margin of inconsistency is undoubtedly preferable in terms of the resulting cup.

If anyone has any insight into the results or would like to see my (slightly messy) spreadsheet for the verbose results then e-mail/twitter me and I’ll forward them on.

1. It should be noted that the roast looked slightly inconsistent so that may have affected the ground dose by adding load to the grinder, even if only momentarily.

2. Another point of note with the grinder is that the exit chute from the grinding chamber holds approximately 4-5g of coffee before it reaches the chamber, so there’s an amount of room for compression and clumping within the chute.  Also the dosing chamber in this grinder has a few points where coffee can remain.

Brew-bituary: Penny University

23 Jul

Fore-word: I know I may seem slightly odd to post an obituary prior to the closure, but this post is also in part to encourage anyone who has not yet been, to visit Penny University and experience it before it is gone.

In May, Square Mile Coffee opened its very first retail space project dubbed ‘Penny University’. Partially in order to shake things up in the espresso-centric world of coffee in Central London.  The elegantly simple bar featured a state-of-the-art Uber Boiler from Marco and its sister-project Uber Grinder.  Beyond that there was nothing you couldn’t expect to see in any coffee enthusiasts kitchen.

For various reasons, Square Mile have announced that Penny University shall be shutting its doors for the final time on July 30th.

By deliberately omitting the espresso bar concept; the shop has been able to brew coffee in the same manner you may at home, showcasing Square Mile’s coffees and the elegant, quiet simplicity of a manual drip or a syphon brewer.

Penny University's Menu

Incase anyone hasn’t had the opportunity to sample some of the best brewed coffee in London a quick run-down.  Penny University features three individual coffees from Square Mile’s range and three brewing methods, a Hario v60 (Paper-filtered pour-over), a Hario Woodneck (Cloth-filtered manual pour-over) and a Hario TCA-2 syphon (Paper-filtered Vacuum/Syphon brewer) which are also available as a tasting flight with some exquisite chocolates.

Coffee at Penny University

The bar has been manned primarily by the charming and incredibly knowledgable Tim Williams and Tobias Cockerill with a few guests at various stages.  They’ve worked tirelessly to bring the best coffee to the fore and the role of a brewing barista seems so much more intense than one working with espresso, especially given the level of scrutiny they preside over every drink they make and the level of questions coming from almost every guest within the shop.

I had the pleasure of drinking coffee at Penny University three times during its installation and were it more feasible I would have frequented a lot more often. In fact, had it been feasible I would have worked there for free!

If you’re in London during the next week I would beseech you to pop by Penny University and give  yourself the treat of an excellent coffee. You will not regret your visit!

Square Mile at Penny University

Incase anyone hasn’t yet had the oppertunity to sample some of the best brewed coffee in London a quick run-down.  Penny University features three individual coffees from Square Mile’s range and three brewing methods, a Hario v60 (Paper-filtered pour-over), a Hario Woodneck (Cloth-filtered manual pour-over) and a Hario TCA-2 syphon (Paper-filtered Vacuum/Syphon brewer) which are also available as a tasting flight with some exquisite chocolates.

All Aboard!

12 Jul

A recent twittering made me think more considerably about when the public will be ‘on board’ with speciality coffee. This lead me to thinking about what we actually mean when we say that.

The first thing taught in modern management is SMART tasking. The memetic ‘M‘ being measurable, the term of ‘on board’ is entirely subjective and immeasurable.

The ideal which I have held is the point where instant is a minority product and 6 oz cappuccino are the norm everywhere, anyone can walk into any coffee shop and be served properly brewed coffee or prepared espresso with perfectly formed milk at a good temperature which doesn’t burn your tongue and through which the nuance of the coffee still maintains. Alas if heaven is a reality and I get in, that shall be mine, along with unrusting 1988 Mini Designer in black and a track to accommodate it.

Roland Glew made a more realistic goal of;

… for me, the pivotal moment will be when the concept of people being coffee geeks is familiar to non coffee drinkers….pretty much everyone knows of wine and real ale aficionados, but I get a lot of people surprised that there is equivalent for coffee.

Personally, I would like a step further where people don’t automatically add sugar and milk/cream to a coffee and realise that boiling point is not the optimum temperature to brew nor enjoy coffee. But for now let’s just aim for recognition in place of amusement and snickering akin to the attitude with which computer specialists were treated 10 years ago.

This goal is helped and hindered by lazy articles in the media that laud the qualities of Kopi Luwak or other gimmicky over-priced coffees.

These articles are, in my view, dangling a golden carrot to the larger public. They introduce the idea of [pseudo]speciality coffee and then they make it unapproachable by throwing in a price point that most people would turn up their noses at (and rightly so).

By using Kopi luwak as an example coffee they also introduce a coffee that isn’t always widely available nor a particularly palatable idea, and further more can create a perceived snobbery depending on who is presented in the article.

One step forward, two steps back.

I make the claim of these articles being lazy because a headline is more grabbing when you can drop in claims like ‘£5 for a cup of coffee‘ or ‘cup of monkey poop coffee‘ rather than writing something much more accessible like Gethumbweni’s Ribena blackcurrant taste or Sidikalang’s banana funkiness or Cachoeira’s overall chocolatey deliciousness.

So… how long is it going to take before people recognise that just like wine and ale there are aficionados for coffee and that coffee can be more than just coffee. Well in the last three years I’ve been in coffee I’ve noticed the shift of people realising that there is more to coffee.

I’d like to think that more than 55% of people could be of a progressive mindset in the next 3 years but more realistically I’d estimate we’re around 5-10 years away without any media change in the way coffee is reported upon.

However all it would take for a massive acceleration of this process is for the media to get onboard properly and as a segment on one of the Saturday morning cooking shows to include a tiny segment on speciality brewed coffee and the inception of coffee en masse would be massively expanded.

At the end of the day I think few members of the public are going to push their coffee practices to the extend to the point where everyone has scales accurate to 0.01g for weighing their coffee and then a further set for weighing their water, a digital temperature probe to make sure the water temperature is “just right” and a professional grinder in their kitchen.

And when we get into the really geeky levels of coffee then the goalposts are eternally moving back as more is thought about, and it’s unfair to expect the ordinary member of the public to go that far.

When it comes down to it the mass public are never going to invest into coffee if they can’t see the benefits of it.  Most will never buy a grinder because they don’t see the difference between grind-on-demand and pre-ground, and even when the reasons before are explained they don’t notice the difference in the cup. And though I would never be without my grinder, I think that’s fine, even if it is somewhat limiting.

The reason I love having my grinder is because I drink coffee in a variety of brewing methods and like the adaptability, I especially like trying coffees through different mediums and tasting the difference, but I have to remind myself I’m a geek, and most folks aren’t going to buy a cafetière, a vac-pot, an aeropress and a drip brewer to satiate curiosity though.

I think the goal at the moment should be people buying good coffee from micro-roasters rather than the supermarket, and for now at least, pre-ground makes a much lower starting investment when you can pick up a cafetière for £5 so why not get people in with it and then introduce them to a home grinder and an aeropress.

They may never move further along the spectrum but if people are drinking better coffee at home they will demand better coffee when they go out and that’s better for everyone.

Congratulations World Coffee Champions of 2010

25 Jun

Congratulations are in a HUGE order for Mr Mike Philips of Inteligensia who brought home the crown for the USA of World Barista Champion 2010. Mike is a true gentleman, master of his craft and has worked hard to achieve this feat over the course of many a WBC.

A special mention also goes out the the Guatemalan and Australian barista champions who bring home 2nd and 3rd respectively. A big congratulations to the Guatemalan entry for achieving the best rank of any producing country to date.

Colin Harmon of 3FE from Ireland scored a very respectable 4th place with a signature drink that had no ingredients other than coffee and water. Nothing I write could do any of these excellent baristas justice, so I point you toward the videos of their respective performances and encourage you to watch with rapt attention.

In the world cupping contest Ireland’s Dave Walsh placed 2nd to the Ecuadorean taster, Hector Gonzalez

In Gold Sprits we also placed a incredibly close 2nd to the Hugarian barista.

I am pleased to announce that Britain brought home 1st place in the Ibrik competition by the skills of the talented Aysin Aydogdu.

And the best nation was passed from UK to Australia who very well.

Although the UK and Ireland missed out on most of the top spots it’s reassuring to see the competitions are doing what they were designed to do which is to encourage the development and progression of speciality coffee ever further. The competitors brought so much more to the table than ever before and standards have been raised yet higher for next years competitors.

Every competitor is due a massive amount of praise ad recognition for pushing themselves further and helping the industry move towards better heights.

Roll on Bogota

Riding the Waves

10 Jun

So my previous post reminded me of a further issue with the vocabulary we use within coffee. I’m specifically referring to the term third wave, and what it means, or atleast what it means to me as it seems to be somewhat subjective.

As I understand it; Third wave refers to the antipodean style coffee shops serving espresso based drinks in a range of about 6-10fl. ounces with (ideally) a heavy focus on the quality and passionate baristas. Second wave is espresso bars serving 12-20fl. ounce drinks, most likely with a large array of syrups and a fairly dark roasted blend. And first wave are serving bulk-brewed drip coffee that sits on a burner until it’s drank or turns to treacle and is usually served with immense amounts of cream and sugar.

One of my issues with a term like third wave is that it implies a superiority to second wave coffee, and while I’d venture that it’s probably the case that at most 3rd wave shops you’ll get better coffee than at most second wave shops, a third wave shop that’s missed the point when it comes to the push on quality and passion (or simply doesn’t know better) would not be as good as a second wave style shop where the barista really cares about their craft but doesn’t know about ‘third wave’ or is constricted by an owner who is afraid of changing a working formula. So if there were a further evolution to a forth wave it would most likely overshadow the third wave.

I also find myself coming back to the problem of alienating our customers aswell as newcomers to the industry, third wave is a somewhat arcane term, being that it refers directly to the evolution of coffee shops in a way that bears no relation to the difference, it just provides a stepped, linear path and in using terms like this we create a hurdle of communication in general.

The issue of the very segmented stepping between waves I find contentious and counter-intuitive to the developmental-experimental attitude that is fostered by every good barista I can think of. There are shops through the spectrum of the third wave that are doing vastly different things, now I don’t think that we should start decimalising this terminology, as it then becomes even more confusing and alienating when we start talking about a 3.5rd wave bar and anyone who doesn’t get along with maths gets very confused.  Not to mention I’m sure there’d be shops who just want to become a 3.1415926535-rd wave shop, which is just silly.

And while on the subject; are we starting to see the emergance of the forth wave, would a venture such as Square Mile’s Penny University (only brewed coffee with no milk or sugar in the shop atall) be considered a 4th wave coffee shop? Or is it a further, or alternative evolution of third wave? Or could it be considered a careful regression to first wave with a third wave mindset?

As always, any opinions, suggestions, corrections or picking apart of my theories are welcome.

“We think in language; therefore, the quality of our thoughts is only as good as the quality of our language.” — George Carlin