Wiser Web Wednesday

Wiser Web Wednesday – a weekly link to posts of interest from around the web:

Gourmet Pens
Azizah takes a look at the Rhodia Ice No 16 Notepad. I have linked to a review of one of these previously, however this one is worth having a look at for the gorgeous colourful test writing alone. I was also pleased to read I am not the only one disappointed by “messy tears”:
Review: Rhodia Ice No. 16 Notepad A5

Nock Co.
Nock Co. is fast becoming another one of those sites where you go specifically for one or two items, and checkout with a full cart. Are you kidding me? Now we have TWSBI pens and Organics Studio inks to throw in as we wander the store. Great value too, however the groan you heard was the collective stationery budget around the world stretching a little thinner:
Nock Co. On-line Store

Mac Sparky
Following along nicely from last weeks link to Les Posen’s Presentation Magic, now up for sale on the iBooks Store, is David Sparks latest Field Guide, which will help you create exceptional presentations. It’s also made specifically for the iBooks format. You can read a little more about it on David’s blog:
The Presentations Field Guide is now shipping

The Pen Addict
As I do not own one myself, it was only fitting I read about Brad purchasing his third! No bitterness folks. All jokes aside, I have always been wary of acquiring one of these untried, as I do have concerns the clip position may annoy me a little. This is a great looking pen though, and the title contains two my favourite descriptors, gun-metal and matte:
Pilot Vanishing Point Gun Metal Black Matte Fountain Pen Review

Serious Eats
Another article by Nick Cho for Serious Eats, this time on the science and technique of making French Press coffee. A coarser grind and longer brew time of 6–8 minutes probably a little different to what most are used to:
Coffee Science: How to Make the Best French Press Coffee at Home

Matt Gemmell
What better way to put down some thoughts on the lost art of handwriting than a letter. No, really… a letter.
Handwriting

Pentulant
A review of the Kaweco AL Sport, in a fantastic grey body. Why, it’s almost gun-metal:
Pen Review: Kaweco AL Sport

Kickstarter
If you are anything like me, consideration of various pen and paper related Kickstarter projects is a fairly regular occurrence. This one is a beauty, which I have backed to the tune of two each of both the No 1 and No 2 notebooks. The customisation feature is a winner, and though still deciding on the cover, inside it will be dot grid on Tomoe River paper:
Stateside Co. Notebooks

What’s Brewing: Guatemala Santa Clara

It’s a great time to sample some superb Guatemalan coffee in Brisbane at the moment, and I have also been in on the act by roasting some myself. Cup Coffee have a Santa Clara showcase of sorts, currently offering washed, honey and fully natural processed versions for sale, many of which have also found their way into a cup or two at Strauss Café & Bar in the CBD.

On a recent order of green beans from Ministry Grounds, I picked up some of the fully washed Santa Clara to roast and brew at home.

Coffee

  • Guatemala City (Image courtesy Wikipedia)

    Guatemala City (Image courtesy Wikipedia)

    Guatemala Santa Clara

  • City: Antigua
  • Altitude: 1600–1830m above sea level
  • Variety: Bourbon
  • Processing: Fully Washed and patio dried
  • Owner: Zelaya family

The farm has been managed since 1988 by Ricardo Zelaya, the 4th generation of the Zelaya family to have produced coffee at Santa Clara. The Zelaya family has been growing coffee for over 100 years and four generations. This renowned family owns farms throughout Guatemala and grows one of only a handful of genuine ‘Antigua’ coffees (coffees grown in the Antigua valley area bounded by three volcanoes – Agua, Acatenango and Fuego).

Information courtesy Ministry Grounds

While tracking down some information for this post, I also came across a brief interview with the owner of the Santa Clara Farm, Ricardo Zelaya, conducted when he visited Melbourne in 2013. He talks about managing the farm, plans for the future, and how he drinks his coffee. You can find it on the Market Lane Coffee blog.

Brew Methods

Hario V60 Filter, Aeropress, Espresso (+ Kalita Wave at Strauss Café & Bar)

Impressions

As I mentioned earlier, this shade grown coffee is processed by both wet and dry methods, and if you can, it is a worthwhile endeavour to sample both.

As I have now begun roasting each coffee more specifically for espresso and filter based consumption, this and most future posts will discuss my impressions from this perspective (that is, two separate roast batches with different roast profiles). In the past, I have written on the basis of a single roast profile for all types of drinks.

As a morning latte or flat white, the Santa Clara performed really well in milk. It created a creamy, smooth drink, with a good chocolatey base, and some of the fruity flavours peeking through as well. A very, very enjoyable way to start the day. As espresso, also very enjoyable, a bright cup, with a pleasant level of acidity, medium body and a lovely creamy mouthfeel.

The filter roast performed equally well in the Aeropress and V60 Pourover, the V60 resulting in a more delicate, refined brew as expected. Both demonstrated a fresh, bright cup, again the acidity was pleasant, with enough body to make a great “winter warming” brew consumed sitting in the sun on a cool winter afternoon. This perhaps clouded my judgement of the Aeropress (consumed at my office desk), given sitting in the backyard sunshine carries an obvious environmental advantage! Again, nice fruity flavours with chocolate and citrus in both forms of brewing.

Finally, a brief mention of my thoughts on the variety of processing options on offer at Strauss Café & Bar, which were all sampled through the Kalita Wave. My pick would be the natural process, which seemed to enhance the stone fruit flavours a little more, and at times was reminiscent of a juicy grape. Not the most elegant of descriptions probably, however hopefully you get my drift. That is all I have to say on this point – remember, I do not do café reviews.

Final Thoughts

Loved it.

Probably one of the more enjoyable coffees I have roasted and brewed this year. I must admit, the cool weather of late has made it a little easier to control my roasts (given they are done outside), and with a little experimentation, I feel these have been improving over time as well. I’ll be disappointed when the last of the Santa Clara goes through the grinder, however there may be something even more enjoyable up ahead. After all, isn’t that the basis for the journey?

Rating: 4.5/5

A little coffee and a lot of learning

In thinking a little about independent learning recently, it seemed a good time to put down some thoughts, having myself attended a class on manual coffee brewing at Strauss Cafè & Bar in Brisbane’s CBD a couple of weeks ago. What follows is a brief rundown of the class, along with a few of those thoughts learning.

On Learning

Brew_Class_3Exactly why have I been thinking specifically about learning? Part of my day job involves training new staff in certain areas of the business, and in reviewing and updating these materials, I’ve been considering further improvements to make them more effective. Thinking back, I have also sat in enough university lecture halls, experiencing a wide cross-section of teaching to understand the delivery of information is equally as important as the content itself.

I’m referring to those memorable courses or seminars you attend, regardless of the topic. Where, after attending, you leave with a solid foundation of the topic at hand, yet also a framework for independent experimentation and growth. In cases where you already have a solid foundation, some of the tenets of that foundation are challenged, with alternatives provided that encourage you to seek further information, experiment, or at the very least reassess those facets of the foundation your knowledge is based on.

The great presenters? Those that clearly have knowledge so deep it would be nothing for them to talk all day, entirely unscripted, though remaining somewhat focused on the topic at hand. The best “stuff”? Well, that can often be found in the anecdotes and stories they have to tell, illustrating a point so precisely, it becomes one you won’t forget.

Although occurring in the context of drawing out information from a subject rather than the teachings of a presenter, a similar point made in a recent blog post by author Steven Pressfield, about doing research for his latest book The Lion’s Gate:

They brought out the insights and memories that they had kept in the vault because they deemed them marginal or “not important enough.” It was these stories that turned out to be the most fascinating and revealing.

Time for the coffee, however my point above is simply this, while the brewing ratio’s, numbers and guidelines are important[1], I believe we learn more from the experience (both successes and otherwise) of those more knowledgable than ourselves, who have spent countless hours themselves learning, considering, tweaking and experimenting, so our starting point begins further along the learning curve than it otherwise might. What follows is evidence enough of that.

The Brewing Class

Myself and nine other keen participants were in attendance for the class, run by national level competition barista Adam Metelmann (Twitter, Instagram), of Strauss Cafè & Bar. The contents of the class itself covered the key aspects of brewing (items below in brackets were the focus for the particular topic or the key numbers used on the night), which those interested in coffee would be familiar with:

  • water quality (characteristics, with an emphasis on filtration)
  • brew temperature (standard of 93 degrees)
  • measuring and dosing (28g coffee, 400g water)
  • pouring technique (differences for various brewing methods)
  • coffee (type and roast level; coarse grind/deep coffee bed principle)
  • phases of brewing (Wetting or bloom, Extraction, Hydrolysis)
  • different types of brewing equipment and grinders
  • key components of a home set up (brewer, grinder, temperature probe, scales, timer)
Kalita Wave

Kalita Wave (image courtesy Cup Coffee on-line store)

After gaining some understanding of the level of brewing experience within the group, Adam covered those aspects listed above, and proceeded on to some brewing. To demonstrate the differences in some of the above variables, we sampled coffee brewed using the Kalita Wave filter (which can be purchased from Strauss or through Cup Coffee here in Brisbane). The first round, two brews made from different water sources (both from the Brisbane area); the second, two brews made with water a couple of degrees apart in temperature (93 vs 91 degrees celsius).

The results? Like night and day on both occasions – actually fairly astonishing when tasted side by side. The key here? Knowing. Being aware of the factors that will alter the resulting brew, and being able to measure them, control some and change others, before again assessing the results in the cup.

Other more technical topics came up, including total dissolved solids (TDS), refractometry, agtron levels and the like, however these are for my own further reading and interest, or perhaps a 2nd level brewing class (cc Strauss suggestion box). Great to know about, however the class remained focused on the key fundamentals of brewing as noted above, utilising the tools I have readily available at home or could easily obtain and use should I choose.

Where to Next?

Brew_ClassSimple. For myself, more tweaking, experimentation, a greater willingness to waste a little of the coffee I roast (or buy) in the pursuit of something better in the cup. In addition to more reading, searching, YouTube-ing and pursuit of further background knowledge in these topics.

Since attending the evening a couple of weeks ago, I have monitored my brewing temperatures a little more closely (new temperature probe on the shopping list); ground a little courser and increased my dose a little; brewed sooner after roasting, assessing the changing flavour profiles as the days pass; improved my pour technique; and now tare my scales after the initial bloom pour. Little changes – big difference. My brews (and understanding of them) have improved immensely and I believe this will continue.

The best part of the evening? Over an hour and a half spent with someone who clearly has a passion for all things coffee, has experimented and experienced all aspects of the brewing continuum to present us with a more focused point at which to work from. Sure, what I am looking for might take a little work, however at least I know to head north rather than have to find out east, south and west aren’t where the answer lies.

Finally, I am lucky enough to have my daily filter brew made by that same barista with clinical precision and overarching passion each and every day, for which I am eternally grateful.

Go forth and brew!

(And sign up early for the next class – if you’re not quick I might take your spot).

~ PD.


  1. Were we simply after a recipe, a Google search will provide thousands of these.  ↩

Wiser Web Wednesday

Wiser Web Wednesday – a weekly link to posts of interest from around the web:

The Cramped
Do you have a particular note taking system (of the handwritten kind)? If not, a round-up of a few popular methods that may be worth a try:
Paper Based Markup Systems

Bean Brewding
Much of the opinion on specialty filter coffee brewing centres around devices such as the Hario V60, Kalita Wave, Chemex and the like. A simple old drip filter – could you? Would you? Local Brisbane guys Bean Brewding gave it a shot, and here are the results:
Can You Make Great Coffee in a Drip Filter Coffee Machine?

Macstories
Somewhat lost amidst the WWDC hype was an update to one of my most used apps, in the form of Editorial 1.1. This is a significant update to the iPad version, however also brings the app to the iPhone as well. As usual, Federico Viticci leaves nothing unturned in a review:
Editorial 1.1: Another Step Forward for iOS Automation

While you’re there, Unread (my iPhone RSS reader of choice) is now available for iPad, and you can read Federico’s impressions. For me, I will probably stick with Mr Reader at the current time, as my workflows for viewing and sharing/saving articles are pretty well sorted. I cannot speak highly enough of Unread’s minimalist interface for iPhone however:
Unread for iPad Review

The Fountain Pen Quest
Having just opened a mail order package from Pen Chalet containing a new Pelikan M205, my thoughts turned to which ink would fill it first. Coincidentally, after setting my bottle of Montblanc Midnight Blue down (a long time favourite), I checked my Twitter feed and up popped a great review of this very ink from Ray at The Fountain Pen Quest. I’d certainly agree on this point:

I can’t quite place why I like this ink so much so I’m calling it “character.”

Ink Notes: Montblanc Midnight Blue

New York Times
No surprises here. None of us really thought writing by hand was simply a form of expression (I hope!). A few words on just how important hand writing is to a developing brain:
What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades

The Well-Appointed Desk
Although a vibrant fountain pen ink looks fantastic on a blank page, over at the Desk, Ana has some downloadable PDF templates for use underneath a blank sheet of paper, providing the lines many of us could (or at least should) not do without:
Turn a Blank Notebook into a Lined Notebook

PD

What’s Brewing #12 – Colombia Hato Viejo

I was particularly excited to roast a batch of this Colombian, given the same coffee had recently been used in the QLD Aeropress Championships and I had also tried some of the filter roast at Strauss, in Brisbane’s CBD. My initial batch was roasted a couple of weeks ago, and did not go as smoothly as I would have liked, hence this post being delayed until I had the chance to try another batch. Let’s see how things went on the second attempt.

Coffee

Nariño is located in the south of Colombia, right in the border with Ecuador, this farm is located in a village called La Pradera, one of the best producing regions in Colombia and where most of the best Cup of Excellence coffees come from.

Information courtesy Ministry Grounds

Brew Types

Hario V60 Filter, Aeropress, Espresso

Impressions

This coffee was highly enjoyable when consumed with milk as a latte or piccolo, having a nice buttery mouthfeel, and notes of dark chocolate, berry and a little honey. There was enough body to carry these milk-based drinks well, and it certainly did the job as a morning starter. When consumed black, my pick was the V60, particularly once cooled, as the flavours really developed well, including some citrus and a little berry complementing the base chocolate flavours, with a nice clean finish.

As espresso, it made a great filter! No doubt a feature of my roast more than the coffee itself. Served short, the sweetness was certainly evident, however the acidity quite intense and overpowering. I intend to roast the remaining green beans I have just a little darker and assess things again. The Aeropress was probably somewhere in the middle, again the flavours increasing proportionally to the temperature cooling in the cup. Here I would mostly tend to brew and let rest a good few minutes before polishing off the cup fairly quickly while it was in this “sweet spot”.

Final Thoughts

On occasion I order in some green beans to roast and probably don’t quite hit the target with the roast profile – I think this is one of those times. There is probably something else at play here too, that being my expectations. Having consumed this coffee elsewhere prior to my roasting and brewing attempts, I had certain pre-conceived notions about the taste and flavour.

The difference? More than likely professional roasters and high quality baristas being far more adept at the entire roasting and brewing process than myself, producing superior results in the cup. Had I not tasted this first, perhaps I may have rated the Hato Viejo a little more highly. It is probably worth reminding anyone reading, the results of these What’s Brewing posts are influenced just as much (if not more so) by my roasting and brewing techniques, as they are the merits of the coffees themselves, and should be viewed accordingly.

Don’t get me wrong, I was certainly not disappointed and this is a highly enjoyable coffee, though (I) probably missed the mark slightly this time.

Rating: 3.5/5