Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sundays are for Lab Work

I do love to play. Today, following an inspiring evening on Wednesday with the guys at European Foods at Bar 399, I decided to play with signature drinks and coffee cocktails.

Like most good science the afternoon was a series of failed combinations each of which led me towards two successes.

The cocktail success was achieved using Ethiopian Limu that I roasted myself using bean from Fiori. It was roasted only just to second crack so it is very bright and lemony. An espresso shot of this was paired with Stones Green Ginger Wine (reserve) and a dash of tabasco sauce for extra kick. Lots of fun. About 30ml of espresso to the same of green ginger wine. Stir in the tabasco and then take the whole lot into your mouth. DO NOT SWALLOW! Hold it till the heat builds then let it trickle down your throat.

The second success was born of what seemed like total failure. I was using truffle butter as the 'trick' but had trouble pairing it with other flavours. In the end what worked was warming a minute amount of truffle butter in about a tablespoon of Bannister Downs milk, pouring a shot of espresso into this and then a teaspoon of maple syrup.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I don't like coffee

As much as I like people.

That realization has been with me for some time now. I do like coffee, a lot. But the real reason I have maintained an interest in coffee, and a connection with those in the business of providing it, is that I like the human contact, the kaleidoscope of a fluid industry, the characters from the roasting floor through to the cafe and the vide of people engaged in small but much valued daily interactions.

From time to time I have felt weary about maintaining a blog just about coffee. It is neither my primary interest nor my source of income. I have blogged as an outlet, because my work cannot be blogged in any detail and because coffee was something accessible yet diverse.

I have not learned anywhere near as much as I would like to about coffee, and I know just enough to understand how what I know represents such a very small part of the whole, but the learning is fun, and the people for the most part, warm, generous and open.

There are some great coffee stories in Perth, just start talking to Kamran and Louise at Fiori, or John and Catherine at European Foods, or Dean at Five Senses, Pete at Pranzo, Garrett at Pony Expresso, Emanuele at Ristretto, Jonny and Justin at Elixir, Jackson at Zekka, Clare at Tiger Tiger - the list is almost endless and I could quite literally fill several pages with just the names interesting people I have come to value over the last four years. People with diverse values, views and opinions but all of whom are worth knowing and who enrich the lives of those around them each day.

I've often wondered if this blog needs to have a sunset clause, and end date, a best-before, use-by or termination clause. But I don't think it needs that. I do have to ease off in the frequency of posting (and already have), but I still enjoy the outlet, the contact and the capacity to share information, plus this has become a handy way to keep in touch and to stretch my mind on some coffee issues.

Work has cranked up and we shall see what the remainder of 2010 delivers in our cups, both real and metaphoric. I may not blog as often, but I do hope they will be quality posts!

Tomorrow is an important day for Australia, so arm yourselves with an early coffee and please, please vote for someone who will put the Nation's interests above their own personal convictions, no matter how similar they may be to your own.

Probably that rules out most the major parties, still, I hear the Australian Sex Party has a few candidates running this year. At least their primary policy is rooted in practicality.

Sorry, could not resist that...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Hario Siphon

The team at Coffee Shrine supply a range of coffee making equipment for the home and office, and recently started stocking Hario siphons. I have never had the opportunity to play with a siphon and so I jumped at the chance to borrow one when they offered. I read up on technique in a number of places, including the recent instructable at Five Senses Coffee. Feeling well armed with knowledge and blissful lack of experience I put together the siphon and the Hario hand grinder and started to make coffee.

Actually, it took a few more tries before I got something that approximated what was described to me as a good quality cup of siphon coffee.

The final attempt though was something awesome. I was using an Ethiopian Limu that I had lightly roasted two days before and it was full of stone fruit and had an almost tea-like tannic quality. It was very refreshing and quite different even to the pour-over I had made with the same beans.

The Hario kit is a beautiful set of equipment. I love glasswear, and particularly laboratory glasswear. At teacher's college we had to learn to make our own pipets and other basic glass tools, but always I luster after the rows of beakers, conical flasks, retort stands and bulb flasks that stood in rows in the lab prep room.

The Hario gear took me right back into that world and I spent a blissful weekend trying slight alterations to the various recipes I had.

I was also very surprised by the hand grinder. My experience with manual grinders has not been good but I found that the ceramic burr Hario had grinder was effective and consistent and that the process of grinding enough coffee did not take too long. It actually added to the experience overall.

A big thanks to the guys at Coffee Shrine for letting me borrow their kit, it was great fun to play with.

The pictures below will hopefully tell the story better than my words can!

Monday, May 17, 2010

All About Coffee

The incomparable Ross Quail, president of the Australasian Specialty Coffee Association has posted on the AASCA site the exciting news that the William H. Ukers coffee text "All About Coffee" is now out of copyright and as such project Gutenberg have undertaken to make it available electronically - free of charge. This occurs whenever sufficient time passes after the death of an author to be sure that the author's estate has benefited as much as is reasonable from the product of that author - I think about 50 years or so.

There are a variety of formats available including ePub - which can be read on laptops, desktops iPhones and other smartphone - and naturally, iPads.

You can find the book here:

Thanks to Ross and AASCA for spreading the news as I know there are many people who cannot afford the several hundred dollars for a paper version of the text.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Unstated obligations

I've been grappling with the ideas behind this post for two weeks now and find that I still cannot frame the ideas as well as I would like. I took two semesters of sociology (20 years ago) and find that this brief introduction is totally inadequate to even provide some basic guidance as to where to take this for a more structured discussion (all advice welcome!) - but here goes anyway.

It seems to me that an unstated obligation can exist between a person, or persons (entity A) who create something or advance ideas and those who benefit from that creation or idea (entity B). The obligation is not a situation of debt as such - in fact almost always explicitly not, but more likely requiring acknowledgement that the obligation exists and that an expression of thanks is appropriate.

The situation I am specifically considering is that of coffee roasting in Western Australia. It has been suggested that Perth is in a 'golden age' of coffee, which might seem like hyperbole but we have not had such choice before so in that respect I agree that 'we have never had it so good'.

A lot of this is due to the fantastic local roasters (and we have a good number now) that promote good coffee in Perth. While standing at the the deli counter of the Leederville Re store last week I was looking at the montage above the counter that showed some historical images of the Re and Ferrari families. In one photo, a shop window bore the words "Good Coffee is Fresh Coffee" and I was reminded once again that these families have been roasting coffee in Perth for nearly 80 years. I suspect that at times they may have been the ONLY local roaster in Perth.

They still continue today and I know they have kept roasting logs for decades - a wealth of knowledge and a source of learning for new generations of roasters. They also have a collection of equipment and a record of coffee purchases that would provide a wonderful track of coffee consumption in Perth's cafes.

The family remains involved in Perth's coffee scene and Catherine Natale (Winner of the Australian Cupping Championship) and her brother John Ferrari were judges at last year's WA Barista Championships and backed the effort with the resources of their company, European Foods.

In a very real sense the European Foods family have been a consistent presence in Perth coffee and have helped keep the idea and practice of local roasting alive in Perth long enough for it to diversify and gain in popularity and professionalism. In that sense I think I can acknowledge the unstated obligation that I as a coffee hobbiest have to the Ferrari and Re families and I would like to thank them for their generations of effort in making coffee available to Western Australians and to contributing to the development of Perth's coffee scene.

I know I have other 'unstated obligations' as far as coffee is concerned to a great number of people across the Perth coffee scene who have taught me a lot about coffee - most of them are roasters or baristas who I have met, but a lot are also just coffee lovers rather than coffee professionals. As I run into them over the next few months I am going to try and remember to say thank you - because sometimes obligations may be unstated, but should be acknowledged.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It happened again!

Only a day or so after bemoaning the all to soon passing of a great apricot flavour in a coffee I go out today with Alchemist (a fellow CoffeeSnob) to Elixir - and try a Yirga Cheffe that they had as a single origin and there it is again - more peach than apricot but still that sharp tangy stonefruit and utterly delicious flavour.

This time I know what the bean is however!

It is the Koke Coop Yirga Cheffe roasted by Five Senses who have coaxed out everything that is good in this bean. Jonny at Elixir poured a shot of this for me and then the power went out in the whole suburb - I thought I'd jinxed their machine but it was not I how shut down power to Nedlands today! The coffee is amazing and I know they only had a tiny amount left in their hopper so I would be surprised if there is any left but even so it was great experience trying this coffee roasted professionally and prepared by a master.

It is also a great relief to know this is not just a fluke occurrence but a quality that is cropping up in specific Ethiopian coffees - each time I have experienced this it has been distinct and enjoyable - not something I would use with milk as on tis own the character is too much fun.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Stovetop Espresso

I have never had much success with stovetop espresso although I own about 4 variations of the caffetiera - all of them in stainless steel.

A friend gave me a Bialetti for my birthday and I read up on the process of making stovetop at a number of different web sites. The advice had some common points, and and some conflicting ideas so I combined these and with a little trial and error got a great tasting espresso from my new allow friend.

I'm not saying that this is THE way to make a good stovetop - it is more a video about how I used it to make mine. All I can recommend is that if you own one and have been frustrated by it - persist, read and experiment.

Also buy a Bialetti 'cause they are cool!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Lowdown Highlights

Well, I may not be the best coffee blogger to discover Lowdown, nor will I be the one to take the best photos or write the most descriptive prose, but I know one thing - I am the first coffee blogger to discover this inner city treat.

I noticed it during the fit-out as I walked through the arcade to a meeting and peered several times through the shutters to watch what was going on. One of the first things that I noticed was the presence of a very unique item in a Perth cafe - a Fetco CBS 2021, a temperature calibrated coffee brewer. In a city full of espresso machines this thing appears to be unique.

Actually it seems as though some of the frenetic pace of perth coffee has altered of late and a number of cafes have expanded beyond espresso in their coffee offerings. This is great in my opinion as it allows other aspects of coffee to be explored and will actually contribute to improving espresso through a better understanding of coffee generally.

Back to Lowdown though:

Lowdown is a new addition in Cloisters Arcade and exemplifies the broader acceptance of 'other than espresso'. Offering a house blend from Fiori and a changing single origin, Lowdown is one of the first (if not actually the first) contemporary Perth cafe to offer brewed coffee which they are serving as long black coffees, as a chilled black brew and as the base for their iced coffee.

Owned by Sarah, Claire, Mark and Adam Lowes the cafe is a family business (can you tell that Mark and Adam are brothers? Mark is married to Sarah and Adam to Claire keeping the whole arrangement very neat indeed and providing plenty of help to manage the business.

I had already eaten breakfast but the food was very tempting and almost everything there is made by Sarah including some fantastic looking Hungarian offerings such as the Hungarian cherry cake.

My coffee tally hit four with two long blacks, a ristretto, a chilled long black to which I added an extra treat from another innovation they have introduced - half and half milk. That is, half milk and half cream in a chiller jug that you can pour yourself. They also make milk available in a similar jug and it was great being able to tweak the coffee by adding the milk/cream combination little my little as I drank the coffee to alter the experience.

The coffee from the Fetco was very clean and quite reminiscent of to body obtained from a clover. It was one of the best bodied filter coffees I have had for some time and it certainly highlighted to fruit driven PNG Kimel peaberries.

The ristretto was a delight and brought out the unique characteristics of their custom Fiori blend with caramel, berry and stonefruit apparent as it cooled.

Today was their very first day trading and already they had attracted lots of passing trade who were likewise intrigued by the Fetco. From its Edison reproduction light globes to its warm timber fittings, Lowdown is a very comforting addition to the arcade.

For those wanting a full experience of the new venue, Fiori have arranged two 1 hour coffee appreciation sessions at Lowdown where participants will be tasting three specialty coffees including the Monkey picked coffee. These are this Friday (9 April - with maybe one place remaining if you are lucky) and next Friday 16 April where there are several spots still available.

All funds raised will be donated to Be Kids Australia. The cost to attend is $15 and bookings are essential. These can be made by emailing Louise at

Lowdown on Urbanspoon

Who: Lowdown
What: Great Coffee - with the added brewer bonus and very nice food on offer
Where: Shop 16A Cloisters Arcade, 865 Hay Street Perth (access also via St Georges Terrace)
Hours: From 7 am to 5pm (yay - coffee after meetings that finish at 4pm!).
Contact: Website, Email or (08) 9226 3041
When: 7 April 2010
Accessibility: Excellent - no issues with floor levels and counters and lighting and noise levels were acceptable.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Elixir, Coffee Specialists - Claremont

Juan Ponce de Leon, a Spanish exlorer born in 1474, led the first Spanish foray into Florida in search of gold, slaves and the reputed 'Fountain of Youth'. He found swamps and alligators and no magic vitality-restoring elixir.

The fortunate sandgropers who inhabit this state don't need an imaginary fountain of youth for our elixir. We HAVE Elixir - or to be more accurate Elixir Coffee Specialists in Claremont.

Now not just anyone can credibly call themselves 'coffee specialists' in Perth these days. Or rather they can, but they risk rolled eyes and snarky comments on coffeesnobs if they are not the real McCoy.

This is a scenario not even remotely possible for Elixir in Claremont. If there was ever a team I would trust to make great coffee it is that headed up by Jonny Nease and Justin Kenny.

Their coffee is sublime and Jonny manages to find the right notes of the blend as well as the single origins with apparent unerring ease - it is obvious however that behind the effortless-seeming approach there has been a lot of work and for the first time in a long time I have had to resist the urge to lick the last drips from the eggshell blue Croatian coffee cups.

The cafe is a pleasure to visit, the coffee amazing and the food superb.

Elixir is a great addition to the growing lineup of great cafes in Perth and have pushed this style of coffee further out from the CBD.

The team have acquired a 6Kg Giesen roaster - a heavy metal presence in the rear of the store that is not yet in production, but soon will be. They do not appear to be in a rush to roast and intend to let that stage happen when it is ready. In the meantime they are making their Five Senses roasted beans sing delightfully.

Blue is the new white - when it comes to espresso!

Justin Kenny

Jonny works the Hydra magic

What a product - there is so much dimension to that flat white that it is like a bas relief

Who: Elixir, Coffee Specialists
What: Top notch coffee and a small but superb selection of food
Where: 45a/145 Stirling Hwy, Nedlands WA 6009 (entrance off Robinson St -beside Chelsea Pizza)
Hours: From 7.30am.
Contact: Website, Email , Twitter or (08) 9389 9333
When: 6 April 2010
Accessibility: Excellent - I will also check back with Elixir and ask about their toilet facilities as I did not check those for accessibility.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Yes but what do you call it?

Scientists in Brazil have created a hybrid cross of Theobroma cacao and Coffea arabica. The result is a plant that produces large pods that contain beans that are not quite cocoa beans and not quite coffee beans but have the characteristics of each. Essentially coffee with a high oil content it is unlikely that these seeds could ever be used in the preperation of espresso style drinks but there is potential for them to be used in much the same way that cocoa is used - conched to extract the 'butter' and then the remaining powder used to create a beverage.

The new hybrid has been given a scientific designation Theobiba cachuatl (latin for 'drink of the gods' and then the Aztec name for cocoa 'cachautl')but has not yet been given a common name - probably a marketing decision as the sales options for the new product are explored.

Unfortunately as a hybrid the plant seeds are sterile and it can only be propogated by repeating the steps of cross fertilisation between coffee and cocoa plants. On the positive side the plant is remarkably resistant to common coffee pests as it releases small amounts of hydrogen sulphide as the bean pods ripen. While this does slightly taint the beans the 'rotten egg' odour is said to dissapate over time and be barely noticeable in the processed product.

Each tree can produce up to 150 pods a season yealding nearly 500kg of fruit per tree. Experiments are also underway to genetically engineer vanilla bean orchid (Vanilla planifolia)to grow as an epiphyte on the trunk of the coffee/cocoa hybrid (really needs a name guys!) and reduce the effect of the hydrogn sulphide and impart a mellow vanilla note to the bean pods.

We await the advances of science!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Not much about coffee

You may have noticed that I have not posted much here about coffee of late - which is a shame as there is a lot going on in Perth that deserves to be celebrated and crowed about.

It is not for want of coffee either - I have been privileged over the last two months to try some extraordinary coffees in local cafes from a variety of origins and roasters.

I have however been quite overworked and have arrived home with little energy for the internet in general. April will still be busy but I also want to make a determined effort to reconnect with some of the cafes I have been to in the past and also visit some new ones with my camera and try and show them in all there glory.

I also turn 40 in April - I'm not sure what that means or even what I should do to celebrate it as I am somewhat introverted and not very good and social events. Still I should probably mark it in some way and I think coffee should have something to do with it as the people associated with coffee in Perth have had a profound influence on me over the last decade.

Which brings up the other milestone - 10 years in Western Australia, and really, 10 years since I first really became interested in what makes one coffee taste better than another and started this whole rolling journey through the land of the bean.

So - resolutions for April: write more about coffee, redesign the writing space, visit cafes (including ones like Zekka, Vinyl, Cafe 54 and Tiger Tiger that I have not been to for a while) and most of all start getting around to some of the great new cafes that have opened over the last 6 month or so as there are some real gems in Perth right now.

So G'day, my name is Grendel and I love coffee.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Final Cafe

Yes - it is time for Cafe Grendel to expand and the already crowded cafe market on Earth means that we have no other option but to embrace the final frontier and launch into space:

If you want you name to be included on the upcoming launch of IKAROS, you might want to hurry up as the deadline is March 22, 2010.

Enter your message here.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Signature Experiments

One of the fun things at any barista competition are the amazing signature drinks that the competitors create during their 15 shot at coffee glory.

Some with quite bizarre ingredients appear - to great acclaim, or not but either way the creativity that goes into the planning and execution of the signature drinks is a testament to the passion of each barista.

I have on occasion been fortunate to try some of these signature drinks and get a lot of inspiration from them.

Recently I have been playing with some ideas for signature drinks. One involves the Soda Stream - a simple device for carbonating water and so far I have made an espresso spider, carbonated iced coffee and a carbonated espresso soft drink. Only the espresso spider seemed to have potential for real greatness - but possibly at someone elses hands rather than my own.

My other discovery is Sasparilla. Those who hail from Queensland will recall "Sars" as a familiar drink and while it is not so popular over here in the West you can by the Sasparilla concentrate from Bundaberg. This is a naturally brewed concentrate of ginger root, licorice root molasses and sasparilla root and is absolutely outstanding with espresso.

I started by adding about 2ml to the bottom of my shot glass then pouring the espresso over the top. The licorice root gives the drink a not-quite-but-almost salty edge and the result is a sweet and savory concoction of dark power.

My next addition was some unsweetened West African Red Cocoa (from CoffeeSnobs) stirred with a little hot water and 2 ml of sasparilla cordial. Into this I poured one shot of espresso and and tipped the lot over vanilla ice cream.


I think the trick is the balance of flavour already in the cordial - there is no dominant flavour (just as well as I do not like licorice at all!) but the combination goes with coffee in much the same way that chicory root does.

The really good part was that the cordial did not dominate the espresso but elevated certain parts of the flavour profile. This was a fun and tasty experiment!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Brew Methods

CleanHotDry have created a new website devoted to coffee brewing called BrewMethods. Basically they find links to great methods of brewing coffee and provide links to the point at which that method originated. Simple, elegant and very useful.

Happily they have not attempted 'espresso' as a category. The sheer number of machines with all their little vagaries would have made that a complex exercise beyond some basic principles.

Tip o' the demitasse to JimSeven. >