Tag Archives: Progression

The best laid plans of mice and men…

1 Jan

I know I said this last year, but I’ll say it again.  I’m gonna try and blog more in 2012.

I kept a fine roll going and made it into July but from there I did…well nothing.


I beg pardons but my last 6 months have been filled with resounding amounts of work and other hobbies coming to intercept my time.  As I alluded in my last post, I’ve started working at Peel & Peel Independent Coffee, in Northampton.  This has fulfilled one of my goals of last year but more on that in a minute. I also started working on a per diam basis for Monkshood Coffee, an independent mobile coffee company using (Working!) VW Campers and through them got to work at Download, Sonisphere and Bloodstock festivals, making top-notch coffee. This made me very happy. All the while continuing my daily job at The Courtyard Brasserie and convincing them that speciality coffee is the way to take that side of the business.

So, last year I made a set of goals for myself to achieve over the course of 12 months. They were

  1. Try as much coffee as possible – I could have tried more. C for effort
  2. Work towards my own operation or with people with a similar goal – This was perhaps my most coveted goal. In working at Peel & Peel I feel I’ve achieved this with bells on
  3. Share great coffee with more people and help educate consumers about what is possible Peel  & Peel definitely gives this an extra outlet, but Monkshood brought it to a whole new level. Metal people love their coffee
  4. Give the UKBC my all – Effort; yes. Timeliness; Not so much
  5. Visit a producing farm – A tall order to arrange but, one day…
  6. Blog more – Failed entirely.
So, with that in mind, a few new goals should be set.
  1. Blog More! – I couldn’t blog much less than I have in the past 6 months so it’d be hard to fail
  2. Try as much coffee as possible – I have 52 weeks in which to try as many coffees as I can.  I can feel a few coffee subscriptions coming on…
  3. Expand Peel & Peel toward becoming entirely self-sufficient and, with luck, work towards our own premises. (May take longer)
  4. Give one last crack at the UKBC whip.  – I feel this might be the last time I put myself through the UKBC, at least for a few years.

I’ve chosen these goals with a consideration to what their secondary effects will be.  Blogging makes me continually reassess and rethink concepts that I’ve held as fact, sometimes incorrectly. Tasting coffees expands my palette and makes me better at what I do. Expanding Peel & Peel is an expansion on my own goals in regard to running my own coffee shop. The UKBC forces me to assess myself as a barista and work on any bad habits I may have acquired.

A very Happy New Year to you all.


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.

Brewing Methods and the Public

30 Jul

As some who know me are aware, I’ve been planning to start my own coffee shop for a while now, although its still very preliminary in idea its progress, one thing I’ve though about alot is offering different brewing methods.

Note: This most likely is going to end up slightly more business focused than my usual posts, sorry if it comes off a bit corporate…

If you were to walk into any coffee shop right now, you will likely find an espresso machine, or a drip brewer.

These are not the only methods of brewing coffee, merely the most convenient.  And while I love a good espresso or a good brewed coffee, I would love to see more options. Why not crack out the french press (one of my personal favourites for brewing coffee).  If you’ve got 4 people coming in for a meeting, offer them a press pot, sit them down and make it up for them.  Then replace it for them for a small fee, and again, and again, until their meeting is over.  Rather than a capp, 2 lattes and an americano, you’ve got a delicious cup of coffee in front of them in 4 minutes while you can serve someone else and its easy to give them a couple of pots.

Or why not have a vacpot on the end of the bar, not only is it good coffee, but it looks brilliant and will draw people in to look at it.  I know these methods aren’t as clean or as much fun as a barista, but they offer a greater range of choice and show a higher level of understanding of the coffee. I’m not saying every coffee shop should have a vacpot, but one or two would be nice and create a real unique selling point.

French press also gives consumers who find espresso to be intimidating a much gentler learning curve, its a nice step between their comfortable instant and fresh coffee.  You also get a nice after-sale potential with people who want to buy their own press for the house, and then want to buy coffee to go in it on a regular basis…

Espresso is often put on a pedestal as the most artisan brewing method, and I understand why.  There are so many factors to go wrong and it takes some skill to actually make a good shot of coffee, but could the same not be said of making a good french press?  If you under-dose, add water too hot, let it steep for too long, stir it too much, don’t crack the top etc.  does it not create an inferior cup?  Sure a bad espresso will scream at you and a great one will almost give you a cuddle but a bad press-pot is very unpleasant and a great one does draw your attention, all be it slightly less intensely.

Also, it creates a new point of contact with the public about coffee.  Someone who is drawn by spectacle may see a vacpot brewing and be drawn in, the old bloke who just wants a coffee-coffee can get his little pot and enjoy it without feeling like he’s being looked down upon by the barista …Oh coffee snobbery, perceived or held….another topic I feel…will pop in for his small cup of coffee and truly appreciate it. And the people who like their lattes and cappuccinos can still get them.

Obviously there are certain levels of added difficulty from these ideas, another grinder for the press-pot or one that can switch quickly between two grind levels…(Vario?)  more training for staff, more cost of equipment outlay, people demanding different brewing methods at once, coffees that don’t work in certain methods, but I feel the positives would outweigh them hugely and in the long term create a much stronger coffee industry.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, if any coffee shops near you, or your shop use other brewing methods and how successful the different methods are sales wise.

Decaffeinated Coffee

20 Jul

Decaffeinated Coffee;  To some, these two words shouldn’t ever be side-by-side.  Why?

Some say that the flavour isn’t as good or it defeats the point of coffee or a million other things.  Is this truly the case, or is the fact that most places serve BAD decaff the real reasoning behind this, fueling a downward spiral?

A shop owners train of thought may go “Most people don’t like Decaff coffee, so why buy a premium decaff when it won’t be bought whilst its good.” Fuelling the dislike of most coffee drinks to think that decaff coffee is of a lower quality.  I know a lot of 3rd wave bars have a second Pro-sumer grinder for the purpose of having good decaff but they’re still in a very small minority when you look at the 2nd wave bars out there.  Most use pre-omni-ground (i.e. too fine for filter too course for espresso), single serving sachets of decaff coffee and not usually a good blend.  I’ve even witnessed one making decaff with Kenco Instant Decaff Sachets alongside espresso machines.

Is the quality of decaffeinated coffee lower than its full-caff equivalent?  I think the end product is often of a lower quality but this is more due to the fact that decaf gets so little respect and is often treated like a begrudging obligation to stock rather than another part of the range.  I’ve never had the opportunity to taste an identical coffee’s in both varieties side by side, but assuming that the Swiss water method is used (Rather than the chemical method) I would imagine it takes on characteristics of a washed coffee.

Why drink decaff?  If its 10pm and you fancy a coffee, you’re not going to often be wanting to be up until 2am because of it.  Or you’ve had a lot of caffeine and want to mellow out a bit but still crave coffee.   Or you’re highly sensetive to caffeine but you like your coffee, an affliction for which any suffer gets my heartfelt sympathy.   Saying decaf coffee isn’t really coffee, rhetoric I’ve heard quite a lot, and even believed for a period, is akin to saying low-fat sausages aren’t really sausages or sugar-free cakes aren’t really cakes.

I think the fault lies with the providers not the products, decaffeinated coffee needs to be brough miles forward to be on par with its caffeinated counterparts.

N.B I know there are some coffee shops and roasteries that do make good decaff espresso, but they are not commonplace.