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August 25, 2021

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In Conversation with Rafael Oliveira – Creative Director, Tracksmith

Intermittently sipping his cappuccino from a cup made by Portuguese ceramic studio Studio Jav, Rafael Oliveira smiles warmly from behind the screen. The cup, combined with the pristine, white-washed brick wall that serves as his backdrop, allude to his passion for cleanliness and simplicity in both his day job and his wider life. 

Having grown up in Portugal, it was here that Rafael studied film and photography at Instituto Politécnico do Porto before beginning a career in graphic design that has seen him working with companies based in Barcelona and more recently, Boston, which is home to performance running brand Tracksmith. Working from his newly built home in the city of Porto, he leads their creative output, overseeing everything, from their striking typography to their celebratory, and at times emotive, imagery. 

“I didn’t necessarily follow what you’d call the normal path to get to this point. Graduating in film and photography, many of the skills that I use in my professional career today are self-taught. The software aspects, the graphic design – you know, the canons and rules – were not discovered by reading the right books and following a specific curriculum. Much of it has been found by trial and error, by making my way through it. And by finding my way through it, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to get a lot of shit out of my system. That doesn’t mean I don’t still do shit work today – not at all! – but I feel I’ve been able to become better at learning how to do things a little bit better each time. And now I’m at this point where all of the elements that I was able to take control of have added up to get me here.”

“I learned at my own pace and chose to dedicate my time to learning about something that felt important to me, rather than it feeling prescribed, and that meant I was able to find my own rhythm and pace”.

As you’d expect from someone whose job it is to manage the way an entire company is perceived, the subject of control comes up frequently as we spend an hour talking and nursing our coffees in our respective time zones. It has negative connotations, bringing to mind micro-management and rigidity, but Oliveira is a staunch believer in it being a catalyst for creativity and a crucial ingredient in his pursuit of creating something better.

“So many things are out of our control, so for me it’s about controlling the things I can and not worrying about the other stuff. I like my furniture organised, my plates and dishes just so – I just like that there is a sense of order. If it looks okay to me, if it looks organised and uncluttered, it’s an achievement.”

And that creeps into all areas of your life?

“Of course. It’s a cliché, especially from a runner that works for a running brand, but I adopt a marathon mentality in so many of the things I do. You cannot expect to run well if you haven’t done the work. There’s no way! The distance will call you out. But at the same time, it’s not necessarily about crossing the finish line either. It’s about that commitment day in day out, tweaking things slightly and then seeing what the outcome of that is as you try and get a little bit better every week. Yes, it’s great to cross a finish line, but that moment is the result of that anonymous early morning run on a Tuesday, when nobody else was out there and you weren’t quite happy with the pace, but it doesn’t matter because you were out there running. They add up to allow you to get better and do what you want to do.

And it’s kind of the same with coffee, right? It demands engagement from you. You can go about and not care, using whatever amount of beans from whichever place and you still get a cup at the end of it. But is it good? It depends, and taste varies because different people like different things, but for me, I want to get it to a particular place by weighing out my coffee, tweaking and changing the temperature, folding the filter paper a certain way and seeing what impact it has.”

That’s not to say he’d describe himself as a conformist. “You need to know the rules before you can break them”, says Rafael. “You always need to start at the point of control and impose these sorts of restrictions to better understand the process and what they allow you to do, and what you like or don’t like about them. From there, you can decide what you need or want to change and create something that’s much more personal because they’ve been done by you and you alone. In that sense, they’re not replicable and provide a sense of enjoyment – at least for me”.

Having returned to Portugal and built a house with his wife in its coastal city of Porto, Rafeal is no stranger to remote working. As a result, while many of us have followed suit, his day-to-day routines haven’t necessarily changed. However, their structure certainly has, with his daily schedule being bulked out with blocks of meetings and calls.

“My attention has become super fragmented and that’s been the hardest thing for me to adapt to over the last year or so. I’ve found myself with less time to spend with my own thoughts and coffee has presented me with a chance to relax, which I realise is kind of ironic – it’s associated with making you more alert and focused, but for me it kind of let’s me step out of a zone. I stand up from my desk and I walk into my kitchen in an entirely separate part of my house and I brew my coffee whilst looking back at my desk, take a step outside onto my patio, breathe in some fresh outside air and try as much as possible to stop and relax for a little bit.”

Has it been a boon over the last 18 months? 

“The first thing I’d wake up thinking about is the pot of coffee I was going to brew and it was the first thing I did. With more time to try things and experiment at home, it’s definitely allowed me to discover what it takes to brew a cup of coffee, you know? Where does it come from? What does my favourite café do that I’m not doing? How can I make this better? 

Until recently, there was absolute certainty in what I was going to brew because I only had my Chemex, but I’ve recently bought an espresso machine, so now I leave it to the day to decide”.

Is there a preference for one over the other?

“It completely depends. Sometimes I run early and, if I’m heading out on a longer run I like to do it on an empty stomach. So, I’ll just take a quick shot of espresso and I head out the door. If I’m leaving a little later in the day so I can get better weather or wait until it’s a touch warmer, I’ll probably indulge in a cappuccino with my breakfast and let a couple of hours pass. 

That said, I love filter coffee – I think it’s great. It takes a little more time and I think it’s almost more engaging in a way. The Chemex, for instance – it’s a beautiful sculpture. Just looking at it and the orangey, rusty coffee liquid inside is beautiful. 

It’s here that Oliveira’s passion for a combination of aesthetic and process – for form and function – becomes abundantly clear. There is, he concedes, a possibility he attaches more weight to the visual aspect of things than most, but he loves things that look good. Holding up his cup, he says: 

“My eyes are the gateway to my brain. I know that there’s a lot of privilege that comes with saying this, but when you’re engaging and taking the time to use something I also believe it should be beautiful. It helps increase the experience, heightens the senses and makes everything that little bit better. It’s not just about what you consume, but how you consume it – it adds to the overall process.

“Of course the product is important too and I’ve more recently become more attentive to where my beans are from. Where does that come from, what does that do to the flavour? I’m seeking that out more and more, trying as much as possible to experiment and have fun – coffee needs to be fun”.

With our cups empty, we bring our conversation to an end not too far from where we started. As someone who self-admittedly likes to exercise control, what are the non-negotiables when it comes to Rafael’s daily routine?

As much as I love it, coffee doesn’t quite make the cut. I have, in the past, gone two months without a drop of it, so it’s a luxury – and a luxury I love – but not a necessity. 

The only thing that’s really non-negotiable for me is running. It’s not just the physical aspect of it, it’s the mental element too. I know that I’m going to be able to think during that time, even if I’m doing super hard intervals where I need to be really focused on what I’m doing. It allows me to open up certain pathways in my brain and tohse have helped me in my personal life and also in my work, so that’s not going anywhere.

Introducing Our Industry Purchase Programme

Part of our tenth anniversary celebrations, we're proud to introduce the Workshop Coffee Professional Community – our industry purchase programme. A new initiative based on old principles, it's one way in which we hope to continue building relationships with those within the specialty coffee industry.

2021 marks our tenth year seeking out, roasting and showcasing exceptional coffee from our home here in London. 

At once exciting and at the same time entirely arbitrary, the movement from single to double-digits has us reflecting on just how much we have learnt since we began roasting coffee. We’ve encountered numerous and ongoing firsts along the way, spanning new coffees, origins, locations, roasters, team members, partnerships and more. 

In the pursuit of progress it can be all too easy to get swept up in its momentum. However, change has only been a constant for us in allowing us to hone in and focus further on the unwavering tenets we strive to adhere to.

We’ve always aimed to keep a set of guiding principles squarely in our sights: a commitment to the people that grow and prepare the product we’re lucky enough to source, roast and serve; an unwavering focus on offering a continuously improving, consistently delicious product; a dedication to building lasting relationships, be they with farmers and producers at origin or our wholesale partners across the world. 

As well as taking the occasional moment to reflect over the coming months, it will be these guiding principles that we’re keeping at the front of our minds as we begin our second decade. Using this milestone as an opportunity to double down on our beliefs, we’ll be continuing to look ahead, paving the way for the next ten years (and beyond) of Workshop Coffee. 

To kick this process off, we’re proud to introduce a new initiative based on old principles. 

The best relationships rely on a cycle of open communication and accessibility, which is why we’ve always sought out those who share our values. Whether team members, producing partners or those looking to introduce exceptional coffee to a new community, great people doing great things in their own areas doesn’t just align with our own approach – it provides us with another opportunity to learn and improve.

The Workshop Coffee Professional Community is one way in which we hope to continue establishing and building relationships with those within the specialty coffee industry. Providing exclusive discounts to those working with the product we love, our aim is to ensure our seasonal range of single origin coffees be as accessible as possible regardless of your place or position within the industry.

We’re looking forward to sharing more projects and products we’ll be kicking off in our tenth year over the following weeks. Until then, you can discover more about our Professional Community and submit your application here. 

Workshop Coffee x Attaquer | Join Us in Coal Drop's Yard

Purveyor of fine cycling apparel, Attaquer, are popping up in North London's Coal Drops Yard between Friday 9th and Sunday 18th July. We'll be working alongside them throughout the week to ensure visitors are able to enjoy exceptional coffee daily. 

To celebrate their latest Artist Series collection, Attaquer will be previewing the new release alongside a range of exclusive Attaquer London products. Working with French artist and skateboarder Lucas Beaufort, the full range of kit will be on display each day from 10:00 a.m. and available exclusively ahead of its global launch on 12th July.

As well as a chance to peruse and take items home, visitors will also be able to enjoy a host of events throughout the week. From shop bike rides and beer tasting with Bianca Road Brewery, to an evening with cycling journal, Rouleur, the full event schedule can be found below. Visitors will also be able to pick up one of a limited number of special-release bags of Nicaraguan filter roast, Emilio Gomez. 

Beginning with a launch party on Saturday 10th July, join us for a brew, a beer or a conversation inside Unit 55, Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross, London, N1C 4DQ.

Event Schedule:

Saturday 10th July: Lucas Beaufort launch party (with drinks, art & giveaways in store) – 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Sunday 11th July: Shop Bunch Ride (2 distances and paces, more information to follow).

Thursday 15th July: Late Night Shopping (Bianca Road Beer Tasting in store)  – Open until 9:00 p.m.

Friday 16th July: Rouleur Guest Night

Saturday 17th July: Wrap Party —6:00 p.m. 'til late

Sunday 18th July: Shop Survivor Ride — Closing 6:00 p.m.

More information on the Attaquer London Pop-Up can be found here.

The Moccamaster KBG Select: Overview & Brewing Tips

Last year, we created a video offering tips on how to get the most from the Moccamaster KBG that’s proven valuable to many. The more recent release of the Moccamaster KBG Select provided us with the perfect opportunity to revisit our favourite automated filter coffee brewer and take a detailed look at some of its updated features, which includes a switch to adjust water flow for smaller or larger batch sizes. 

We also revisit and expand on some the brewing tips we recommend for getting the most from each batch brewed with the Select, including grind size and recipe recommendations. 

The same overview and brewing tips found within this piece can also be experienced visually and aurally via our video on the brewer, which can be found at the bottom of this entry. 

Breaking down the Moccamaster
Having started manufacturing their products in The Netherlands in 1968, Moccamaster continue to hand make their units there today. The first KBG was first released in 1974 and, whilst the team at Moccamaster have continued to iterate on the original design, you can still clearly see the original silhouette within newer models of this now classic countertop brewer. 

When brewing, the first element you come into contact with is the BPA free plastic reservoir. Labelled with volumetric markings, these provide a very useful guide that ensures you're always adding the right quantity of water for your chosen dose of coffee.

The water then drips through to a copper heating element that sits within the brewer's casing and, once hot, is fed via a glass pipe inside the reservoir through the 9-hole metal shower head. This sprays your water onto your ground coffee, which is housed in a ridged plastic brew basket (also BPA free). These ridges help keep your filter paper away from the basket's walls, helping to promote water flow.

A simple but smart plug is also housed under the basket, which will only open when the glass jug is placed underneath it. This is handy should you wish to experiment with pre-infusion, but also means you should ensure your jug is squarely in place before beginning the brewing process. 

The glass jug is fitted with a lid that includes a thin, black destratification pipe. Descending down into the jug, it aims to help avoid your coffee layering (i.e. not mixing together) and provides more consistent cups. 

What's in the box?
Alongside all of the above, on unboxing your Moccamaster KBG Select, you'll also find a few filter papers, a scoop (although we recommend having scales to hand to ensure you stick to a consistent, repeatable recipe each time), a sachet of cleaner to keep everything clean and scale-free over time, and an instruction manual. Each unit also comes with a 5 year manufacturer's warranty. 

As with any brand new piece of brewing apparatus, we would advise running an empty cycle before brewing coffee. 

The Select switch: a new feature
The new Select switch offers two different flow rates, depicted on the Moccamaster by an icon of a half batch of coffee, and another showing a full batch. This doesn't mean you need to brew batch sizes of exactly 50% or 100%, but it does mean that the rate the water passes through the brewer can be selected to run either more slowly (for smaller batches) or more quickly (for larger batches). 

For us, this is a fantastic and exciting addition to the brewer, as it adds greater flexibility to the brewing process. As well as providing the opportunity for fuller extraction in smaller batch sizes than its predecessor, this additional variable also allows you to offset imperfect grind settings should you need to. For instance, if your hands are tied by pre-ground coffee that's a little too coarse when brewing a full batch, you can run the brewer on the half batch size to achieve a fuller extraction. Equally, if you're pre-ground coffee is finer than you'd ideally like, you can utilise the full batch setting to creater a quicker extraction with a reduced chance of stewed, over-extracted notes. 

Which flow setting for which quantities?
For anything up to and including 750ml of water and 45g of coffee, we would recommend using the half batch setting. For bigger batches of 1L to 1.25L we would suggest the full batch setting. 

Suggested grind sizes

Despite our detailed and ongoing testing across a range of grinders, it is always worth noting that any suggested grinder settings are always a staring point. Even highly calibrated, professional-use grinders are subject to variation and nuance, but this is even more true of at-home variants. That said, the following should provide a useful springboard into finding your sweet spot:

For a brews up to 750ml... 

  • Timemore C2/Slim – 28 clicks
  • Comandante C40 – 34 clicks
  • Baratza Encore – 28
  • Wilfa Svart – Align the red line with the dot between FILTER and AEROPRESS
  • Wilfa Uniform – 34

For a brews over 750ml...

  • Timemore C2/Slim – 32 clicks
  • Comandante C40 – 36 clicks
  • Baratza Encore – 30
  • Wilfa Svart – Align the red line with the R of FILTER
  • Wilfa Uniform – 37 

As a rule of thumb, taste your coffee and if it's a little thin and sour, fine up your chosen grind, and if it's tasting bitter, astringent and stewed, coarsen it up a little.

Brewing with the Moccamaster KBG Select
After folding your Size 4 filter paper and popping it in the brew basket, we find it easiest to weigh our beans into this and then, when grinding them, quickly rinse the paper under the tap before filling up the reservoir to the desired level. 

It's worth noting that the volumetric markings on the reservoir will not correspond directly to the amount of coffee that eventually finds itself in your glass jug. This is because the grounds retain anywhere between 2 to 3 grams of water per gram of coffee. So, if you fill the reservoir to the 1 litre mark, you can expect a batch of around 850ml of coffee. 

With your coffee ground and added to your rinsed filter paper, simply pop your brew basket in place and flick the start button. In theory, there's nothing nothing else to do but weight a few minutes for your coffee to be ready to drink and enjoy. 

However, we've enjoyed even better results in the cup from the Moccamaster KBG Select by enlisting one small, but for us important, extra step: stirring.

We're aware that this divides the crowd. A relatively expensive brewer, and one that's billed as automated, many are reluctant to have to be present during the brewing process. We completely understand and by simply turning on the Moccamaster and walking away you'll still get very tasty cups of filter from the process. However, we very much advocate getting in there with a teaspoon to ensure all of your grounds are evenly wet. You're more reliably going to get nice round, sweet cups of coffee with that extra bit of agitation during the brewing cycle. The fact that you are actually able to access your grounds and water during the process is a major benefit the Moccamaster has over many other automated drip brewers, so we'd highly recommend taking advantage. 

The hotplate
A somewhat hot topic amongst home brewers, we're often asked whether we'd recommend using the hotplate function on the Moccamaster, which, unless you turn the brewer off once it has finished its brew cycle, remains on for 45 minutes after brewing. It is worth noting that your coffee will degrade as it sits on the hotplate and, as time goes on, may become a little briney and less aromatic. For this reason, we prefer to brew enough coffee to drink immediately portioning it out accordingly. Ultimately, though, it all boils down to personal preference. 

Cleaning & Care
The moment your brew is done, throw away your filter and grounds immediately and rinse the basket. Minimising the contact time between the brew basket and coffee oils will reduce the frequency with which you’ll need to deep clean the plastic basket with cafiza or a similar cleaning chemical. 

As a rule, if you’re using water that deposits scale, then you should also run through some descalant after 100 brew cycles. This is easy to remember if you’re buying packs of 100 filter papers. At the same time, I’d recommend filling the basket with Cafiza or something similar and scrubbing with a brush to get into the ridges and get rid of any built up flavour taint. 

The Moccamaster KBG Select is available in the hardware section of our online shop. If you have any follow-up questions on getting more from this brewer, be sure to contact our Home Brewing Helpdesk on betterbrewing@workshopcoffee.com. 

A Closer Look at Decaffeinated Coffee

Decaffeinated coffee remains a taboo amongst some people specialty coffee world. I haven't seen any other coffee trope so ubiquitous, whether tattooed onto a forearm, scrawled on an A-board or emblazoned on a diner mug, as the "Death Before Decaf" motif. This is strange to me. Coffee lovers who are eschewing caffeine, either temporarily or permanently, but still seeking that unparalleled experience that coffee delivers, should be welcomed with arms opened wide, as they're here for what really gets our hearts (metaphorically) pumping: flavour!

We're going to take a look here about how we select our decaffeinated options, and also why we branched out into developing a secondary roast curve for filter coffee brewing with our decaf range, to complement our existing espresso roast style.

First up, we need to look briefly at what caffeine actually is. For the TLDR crowd amongst you, scroll down to the bottom to watch our video.

What is Caffeine?  
A bitter, psychoactive compound, caffeine exists naturally in coffee and acts as an insecticide deterrent to prevent bugs and other pests from damaging its fruit, flowers and leaves. Whilst toxic to insects it sadly isn't enough to prevent insect damage entirely. 

When it comes to preparing and drinking a cup of coffee, the amount of caffeine it contains is going to vary depending on the origin and variety of coffee, how much you actually use to brew your cup and the quality of your extraction (i.e. how much soluble material was taken from the grounds by your water during the brewing process). For more information and detail on caffeine, we'd recommend a visit to Coffee Chemistry's website and their Caffeine in Coffee section.

Can Decaffeinated Coffee Occur Naturally?
There are species and varieties of coffee that are very low in caffeine.

Eugenioides, which is a species of coffee that actually parented Arabica along with Robusta, and a variety of Arabica called Laurina (or Bourbon Pointu) both produce lower caffeine coffees, not entirely caffeine free but containing less than most Arabica varieties. They are not grown on a large commercial scale and so you might only see them pop up on roasters' offer lists once in a blue moon. They're really interesting to taste if you can get your hands on them, but to reiterate, they are not going to be caffeine free. 

Why we Showcase Decaffeinated Coffee
To include those who might need to limit or completely eliminate caffeine from their diet we want to be able offer a cup of coffee that caters to these needs and is also delicious in and of itself. 

A broad trend amongst coffee drinkers that we've noted over the last few years is that more and more people are becoming dual-drinkers. Rather than opting solely for caffeinated coffee throughout the day, or being exclusively decaf drinkers, more customers are brewing from their primary stock of regular coffee throughout the day but ensuring they have a bag of decaf in rotation to dip into in the late afternoon or evening. 

How is Coffee Decaffeinated? 
There are several ways you can decaffeinate green coffee, including the Swiss Water method, Super Critical CO2 and the Methelyne Chloride method. However, our preferred process is the Sugar Cane Ethyl Acetate (EA) method. 

Ethyl Acetate is a compound that is produced naturally in fruits and vegetables such as apples, pears and bananas. An ester with a smell not unlike that of pear drop sweets, ethyl acetate is the primary active solvent in what can be marketed as a "natural decaffeination" method and is the one we've chosen exclusively for our decaffeinated coffees for the last 6 years. We've been working exclusively with lots from Colombia that are processed at the Descafecol plant, the only one of its kind in the country, and there are several reasons why we think this is the best method to use. 

Firstly, the coffee doesn't need to be shipped twice. The coffee is grown and harvested in Colombia before being moved to the decaffeination plant and then can be sent to use here in Europe. Avoiding a stop-off in another country for further processing limits the time coffee seeds spend in a container and therefore maximises the freshness and extends the shelf life of the green coffee. Not only that, but carrying out decaffeination in the same country as the coffee is grown provides an additional industry and income stream at origin. Fewer destinations en route also helps to reduce the ecological footprint of getting the coffee to us.

Of equal importance for us, though, is taste and flavour. We've found that this process keeps the coffee's characteristics more intact, and the flavour imprint from the EA method is less detectable than others. At times, experienced cuppers and tasters haven't recognised that our coffee on the table has even been decaffeinated. 

How the Process Works
After being delivered to the decaffeination plant, the first step in the process is that the green coffee is steamed in order to make it swell up, helping to remove the silver skin layer. This is a very fine, papery layer that clings to the green seeds within the parchment layer. It's then moistened with hot water and we begin to see the beginning of hydrolysis of caffeine, where it starts to loosen its bonds with the salts of chlorogenic acids in the coffee.

Image taken from Descafecol – descafecol.com

Once this has taken place, mountain spring water is mixed with the Ethyl Acetate. This is produced from fermenting sugar cane and is the active solvent in the process. This circulates throughout the tank containing the beans and bathes them continually until 99.9% of the caffeine has been targeted and dissolved away. 

Image taken from Descafecol – descafecol.com

Next, any traces of Ethyl Acetate need to be removed and this is done by passing pressurised steam through the coffee before it's placed into large, vacuum-sealed drums and dried down once again until they reach between 10% and 12% moisture, representing a stable level that allows them to be shipped.

The final stage involves adding a protective layer of carnauba wax. This vegetable wax seals the seeds again after what is quite an invasive process that aids them in their journey to our roastery. 

The caffeine that's removed during the process is then sold on to pharmaceutical companies and soft drink manufacturers, with Descafecol selling it by the bag themselves. 

Our Approach to Decaffeinated Coffee
When it comes to roasting the decaffeinated coffees that we've purchased, there are a few factors we need to take into account. The green coffee is visibly different from its caffeinated counterpart, being a deeper, darker green colour. This in turn impacts some of the physical analysis we do here in the roastery. Some of the numbers and metrics we check during quality control analysis look very different to what we'd normally expect from regular coffees in our range. 

Thankfully, we're not just using visual and auditory cues in our roasting process, and through the use of multiple temperature probes, pressure gauges and roasting software, we're able to design consistent roast profiles that give rise to truly delicious, well balanced espresso and slim, clean cups of filter coffee. The fact that our lots are highly uniform with good density means that creating a balanced and consistent flavour from batch to batch is fairly straight forward.

The decision to offer both a decaffeinated espresso roast and a decaffeinated filter roast is relatively simple. Historically, we'd been solely roasting a decaffeinated espresso coffee as a means of offering non-caffeine drinkers the ability to enjoy a cappuccino or a latte in one of our own coffeebars or when visiting our wholesale partners. However, growing numbers of our guests and customers were taking bags home with them and asking how to get the best from it using their V60 or French Press. 

For a while, we altered our brewing advice to ensure they were able to get the most delicious results from a slightly more developed roast profile, but in 2018 we made the decision to design and offer a specific filter roast as well. The result is something that adheres to our usual brew recipes and offers a really clean, balanced, flavoursome cup.

Whilst not subject to the same pace, our decaffeinated coffee range continues to rotate as the year progresses. You can view our current offering here. 

For the Outdoors: Our Latest Brew Bundle

There's something about brewing and drinking coffee in the outdoors. Perhaps it's the fact there are fewer distractions, or maybe it's just the novelty of spending some much-needed time away from familiar surroundings.

Regardless of the reason, the process of brewing away from the kitchen counter can often create a heightened experience in both the making and the consuming. It was this level of enjoyment that we wanted to capture and share with our newest brew bundle, For the Outdoors.

We've brought four pieces of brewing apparatus together that allow for the enjoyment of exceptional coffee wherever you find yourself. 

It centres around MiiR's Pourigami, a durable and de-constructable coffee brewer. Arguably the world's most compact pourover, its three stainless steel panel quickly and easily interlock to create an on-the-go drip brewer that's simple to use and even easier to transport. When not in use, it packs down into the included case and fits into your backpack or back pocket.

This is combined with MiiR's 12oz Camp Cup – a 21st Century homage to its well-known and much-loved counterpart. Striking a sleek silhouette, its double wall vacuum insulation locks in temperature for longer, whilst its powder coated stainless steel finish ensures a robust and hard-wearing vessel that's designed to go wherever you are.There are a total of 12 colours and designs to choose from. 

Finished with a 250g bag of whole bean filter coffee from our rotating seasonal range and a pack of 100 1-cup V60 filter papers, you'll have everything you need to begin brewing immediately. 

Perfect for those preparing to spend a summer outside, it's also ideal for travelling and for those looking for a space-saving home or office coffee set-up. 

Our Brew Bundle: For the Outdoors is available to purchase here. Combining the items allows for a £9.50, or 13% saving. 

Timemore’s Chestnut Slim Hand Grinder

The Chestnut Slim grinder from Timemore is a really high spec, but accessibly priced, hand grinder which we’ve been thoroughly impressed with in our testing. The following relays our experiences with the Timemore Chestnut Slim, but if you’d rather experience it in video form, head straight to the bottom of this piece or click here.

An Overview
Equipped with 38mm hardened stainless steel conical burrs, these are designed primarily for filter brewing, but there is also an option to upgrade the burr set to Timemore’s ‘Spiked to Cut’ stainless steel burrs, or their 6 point titanium coated burrs if you want to prepare your coffee as espresso. The solid metal chamber of the Chestnut Slim means that the drive shaft is held securely in place and offers that bit more durability and an improved grind profile versus the Timemore Chestnut C2’s moulded plastic chamber.

Weighing just 430 grams, the Slim can be conveniently disassembled and broken down into component parts for travel – and that’s all made even easier using the included travel case. At just 45mm in diameter, it also fits perfectly inside an Aeropress, and the wooden handle is removable, saving even more space. It then magnetically clicking back into place when you’re ready to grind. 

The outer casing of the grinder has a diamond patterned knurled finish, providing a textured grip, which makes the grinding experience that little bit smoother and ergonomic. The design of the handle and bearings inside the driveshaft all contribute to a very smooth grinding action, and we’re really impressed with the speed of the grinder – when grinding for a single cup V60, we’ve consistently been able to grind 15g of coffee in around 20 to 25 seconds without breaking a sweat. 

Grind Adjustment & Recommended Settings
The grinder can be adjusted by fully closing the adjustment dial to the ‘zero position’, winding it all the way around clockwise until the crank handle ceases to move and then counting the clicks back to your desired grind setting

When it comes to dialling in for specific brew methods, there are some really useful jumping off points mentioned in the instruction manual that comes with the hand grinder. These are useful in guiding you before you settle on your own preferred grind settings for whatever brewer you’re using to make your coffee,  but we have also trialled the grinder to establish our own suggestions:  

Aeropress (1 minute steep): 16 clicks
Aeropress (2 minute steep): 19 clicks
V60 (single cup 15g): 18 clicks
V60 (two cup 30g): 22 clicks
Clever Dripper: 20 clicks
Steepshot: 15 clicks
French Press (500g): 24 clicks
French Press (1 litre): 27 clicks
Chemex (1 litre): 32 clicks

The maximum capacity of the Chestnut Slim is around 28g of whole bean coffee at a time if you’re using lightly roasted, dense beans. Any more than that and you’re really starting to push what the chamber and the grounds bin are capable of holding.  

Additional Features
With narrow hand grinders, it can be tricky to get your beans into the grinding chamber tidily. Timemore have made this a little easier by mounting the stabilising arms deep within the chamber, making this process considerably easier. We’ve found that weighing into the grounds bin of the grinder also makes it easier to load your beans more efficiently.

Another particularly thoughtful element of the Chestnut Slim’s design is the fact that the burrs are recessed into the body. This means you’re able to balance the grinder on your counter whilst weighing out your beans – a really nice feature that isn’t present in every hand grinder. 

Cleaning & Maintenance
After grinding, you can use the included cleaning brush to sweep out any chaff or bits of ground coffee that might cling to the burrs because of static build up. The amount of ground coffee retained is fairly negligible and we haven’t found the need to updose to account for grinds retention in this particular grinder. 

Following a fair bit of usage, you’ll want to deep clean the grinder, which is also fairly easy to do. Screw the grind adjustment dial to the coarsest setting and as you keep spinning it will come off completely, allowing you to access the burrs inside. Keep track of the order of each component you pull out so that can assemble it again properly in the correct order. The instruction manual will help you out here if you get a bit lost, so we’d recommend holding onto it. 

Nicely finished, the Chestnut Slim enlists durable, quality materials that make for a high spec hand grinder. Nice to hold, smooth to grind with and super adjustable, it’s priced appropriately and accessibly compared to other hand grinder options of a similar spec, and very capable of making delicious coffee on the go or with very little effort at home, regardless of your chosen filter brewing method.

You can find the Timemore Chestnut Slim Hand Grinder in our Online Shop.

Timemore’s Chestnut C2 Hand Grinder

The Chestnut C2 is Timemore’s entry level hand grinder, but the small price tag gets you a grinder with a number of excellent features. We've also created a video that offers a detailed outline, which you can view at the bottom of this piece. 

An Overview
Coming equipped with 38mm hardened stainless steel conical burrs, these are designed primarily for filter brewing, but there is also an option to upgrade the burr set to Timemore’s ‘Spiked to Cut’ stainless steel burrs, or their 6 point titanium coated burrs if you want to prepare your coffee as espresso. 

Like its burrs, the C2’s crank arm is also made from stainless steel, whilst the inner chamber, grind adjustment dial and handle are moulded from plastic and the grinder’s casing is made of aluminium. Overall the grinder is fairly lightweight, weighing less than half a kilo, and can be conveniently disassembled and broken down into component parts for travel – made even easier using the included travel case. 

The outer casing of the grinder has a knurled finish, providing a textured grip, which makes the grinding experience that little bit smoother. The design of the handle and bearings inside the driveshaft all contribute to a very smooth grinding action, and we’re really impressed with the speed of the grinder – when grinding for a single cup V60, we’ve consistently been able to grind 15g of coffee in around 25 to 30 seconds, without breaking a sweat. 

The grinder can be adjusted by fully closing the adjustment dial to the ‘zero position’, by winding it all the way around clockwise until the crank handle ceases to move, before counting the clicks back to your desired grind setting.

Recommended Grind Settings
There are some really useful jumping off points mentioned in the Chestnut C2’s instruction manual, but  we’ve also trialled the grinder to establish our own suggestions on where to start for some of our favourite filter brewing methods:

AeroPress (1 minute steep): 16 clicks
AeroPress (2 minute steep): 19 clicks
V60 (1-cup 15g): 18 clicks
V60 (2-cup 30g): 22 clicks
Clever Dripper: 20 clicks
Steepshot: 15 clicks
French Press (500g): 24 clicks
French Press (1 litre): 27 clicks
Chemex (1 litre): 32 clicks

Additional Features
The maximum capacity of the C2 is 30g of coffee at a time if you’re using lightly roasted, dense beans. Any more than that and you’re really starting to push what the chamber and the grounds bin are capable of holding. 

One thing that’s particularly considered with this grinder is that the burrs are recessed into the body. This means you’re able to balance the grinder on your counter whilst weighing out your beans – a really nice feature that isn’t present in every hand grinder. 

After grinding, you can use the included cleaning brush to sweep out any chaff or bits of ground coffee that might cling to the burrs because of static build up. The amount of ground coffee retained is fairly negligible and we haven’t found the need to updose to account for grinds retention in this particular grinder. 

Cleaning & Maintenance
After a fair bit of usage, you’ll want to deep clean the grinder, which is also fairly easy to do. Screw the grind adjustment dial to the coarsest setting and as you keep spinning it will come off completely, allowing you to access the burrs inside. Keep track of the order of each component you pull out so that can assemble it again properly in the correct order. The instruction manual will help you out here if you get a bit lost. 

Overall, we feel that for the price of the C2 you get a really sturdy, nicely put together and reliable hand grinder. Nice to hold, smooth to grind with and super adjustable, you’ll be able to make delicious coffee on the go or with very little effort at home, regardless of your chosen filter brewing method. 

You can find the Timemore Chestnut C2 Hand Grinder in our Online Shop. 

Introducing the SteepShot Immersion Coffee Brewer

Allow us to introduce the SteepShot, a new breed of coffee brewer.

Designed by Ari Halonen in Norway, this intelligent and considered 1-cup coffee maker utilises pressure to create delicious coffee simply and speedily. 

Having spent the last few weeks brewing almost exclusively with the SteepShot, and having enjoyed the process immensely, we wanted to share our experiences with you. If you'd rather watch our overview than read it, you can access the video here or at the bottom of this piece. 

Why is the SteepShot different?

We first became interested in preparing filter coffee inside a pressurised brewer since Gordon Howell won the UK Brewers Cup championship in 2015. Jeremy Challender then won the next year brewing inside a regular Thermos before decanting and filtering. 

This approach can produce a really fantastic cup, but as well as being a little slow and messy, the techniques – both of which involve repurposing numerous pieces of drinkware and kitchen equipment – highlight the potential of the SteepShot to produce unique, delicious cups of coffee.

It truly is unlike anything else we've brewed with. Developed by Ari Hanolen in Norway, the unique, patented brewing technology permits the brewer to utilise the benefits of brewing in a pressurised environment, whilst keeping the process fairly simple, with clean down being much easier to handle.

It isn’t like espresso or stovetop brewing, which are essentially pressurised percolation brew methods, and it isn’t like a regular immersion method such as French Press, Clever Dripper or Aeropress, as it utilises the pressure built up within the chamber to speed up the brewing process. 

Ostensibly a single-cup filter brewer, it requires quite a bit of headspace to allow pressure to build up inside the chamber to accelerate the extraction process, SteepShot's main benefit is that this allows you to brew faster and still achieve nice high, even extractions without some of the more common obstacles faced in filter brewing, like channelling – where the water effectively ‘misses’ pockets of your ground coffee. 

Components & Assembly

At first glance, the brewer might look a touch complicated when compared to a regular pourover, which is just one piece of brewing kit. However, with only one more component than the AeroPress, it all fits together easily and is incredibly intuitive to use. 

Like any coffee brewer, there will be a certain part responsible for actually filtering the grounds out of the brewed coffee, and in the case of the SteepShot, this is a perforated metal disc. The disc that comes with the brewer has holes that measure 100 microns, which is relatively small and will catch most if not all of your coffee grounds even if you’re grinding quite fine. If you like the fuller body and mouthfeel of coffee from a French Press, but don’t like waiting for so long to let it settle to deal with the sediment that tends to come with it, then this provides a nice solution. This filter isn’t going to create anything viscous and heavy like coffee from a Mokapot or espresso machine, but the brewed coffee tastes a little creamier and rounder than that prepared with an AeroPress of Clever Dripper. 

If you favour clarity of flavour and a slimmer bodied cup then there are a couple of alternatives available. You can buy a second disc with 60-micron holes, which will help further reduce the sediment in the cup. Otherwise, there’s also the option of using AeroPress filter papers for an even cleaner cup, but they obviously aren’t reusable in the same way that these metal filters are. 

The metal filter disc sits into a filter holder cap and is then locked in using a ring that sits above the metal or paper filter. 

The last part of the SteepShot is called the Deflector, which is a lever that screws onto the lid to create an airtight seal. It contains a small rubber O-ring, which is integral to the brewing process as it's what creates a seal and helps create the pressure.  

Once assembled, everything is placed onto the brewing chamber, which is double-walled stainless steel, so you can add boiling water to it whilst still being able to comfortably pick it up and hold it.

Our Recommended SteepShot Recipe

We'd highly recommend experimenting with the SteepShot and the main ways you can do that are by altering your grind size and steep time. The rule of thumb to follow is that a finer grind will require less brewing time, whilst grinding coarser will require a longer steep. 

However, we've been getting excellent results with the following recipe:

  1. Add 16g of coffee to your brew chamber, followed by of 250g boiling water (opt for clean, soft water to improve cup clarity and enhance flavour notes – we recommend using a water filter jug).
  2. Start your timer and seal the brewer.
  3. Swill to ensure the slurry is properly mixed.
  4. At 50 seconds, swill again and then upend the brewer.
  5. At 1 minute, point the deflector into your cup and release the SteepShot.
  6. Allow the brewer to fully drain, which will take between 15 seconds and 1 minute depending on your preferred filter (100 micron, 60 micron or paper).
  7. Disassemble and rinse off all the components before brewing again.
  8. Clean in the dishwasher or with hot soapy water.

Where to Set Your Grinder for Your SteepShot

As each grinder will be subtly different as a result of manufacturing discrepancies and the degree of wear experienced by their burr sets over time, the following setting recommendations should be treated as jumping-off points. However, the following grind settings are where we'd suggest starting from to create a predominantly sweet cup, with integrated acidity and minimal bitterness. To learn more about how to approach grinding your coffee you can watch our video here.

  • Baratza Encore – 12
  • Wilfa Svart – Set the hopper so you can see the "SS" of AEROPRESS
  • Wilfa Uniform+ – 21
  • Fellow Products' Ode – 1.5

Cleaning & Other Considerations

Dispensing the grounds isn’t quite as simple as with the Aeropress or a pourover, but you easily knock your spent coffee out into your compost bin or rinse the brewing chamber and catch the grounds in a little sieve as you discard the water into a sink. If you’ve got any extra boiling water you can also brew an empty chamber and use that to clean out the brewer and your sink quite nicely. However, we do recommend either placing the brewer in the dishwasher or cleaning it with hot, soapy water to remove all of the coffee oils and avoid tainting subsequent brews. 

No brewer is without its own set of hazards, to it's also worth considering how to use the brewer safely. Once you’ve added your coffee and hot water and sealed the lid, the inside is pressurised and so you should never open the deflector when the brewer is upright, as coffee can spray out upwards. 

The other point is that when you’re ready to release the coffee into your cup it will come out quickly accompanied by some steam, so keep your fingers nice and clear and on the deflector lever, with the opening lowered down into your cup to reduce the risk of spilling coffee everywhere.

Experimentation

Ultimately, the best SteepShot recipe and technique is the one you most enjoy making and drinking and so we encourage getting familiar with the brewer by experimenting. 

The main ways you can tweak your SteepShot technique are by altering your grind size and steep times, as well as by playing around with different filtering mediums. You can definitely trial super quick brewing styles with a nice fine grind, and SteepShot themselves claim you’re able to get a nice extraction in just 30 seconds. 

Whilst initially dubious about this claim, we've found that if we move through the steps involved in preparing a cup very quickly, then a fast but impressive and full extraction is indeed possible. Unlike a quickly-brewed AeroPress, we've consistently found that rapid SteepShot brews taste sweet, complete and balanced with a long finish. 

You’ll find that if you opt for the finer mesh filter, and even more so with a paper filter, that your draw-down will slow down a touch, but the pay off is a slightly cleaner cup. Through clarifying the brew liquor more effectively you may find the mouthfeel gets lighter, but flavour clarity can jump up, and so depending on what you want from your coffee, as well as what particular beans you’re using, you can make the decision for yourself. 

The SteepShot is available to buy from our Online Shop here. For UK wholesale enquiries, please contact coffee@workshopcoffee.com.

November 01, 2020

Brewing › Hardware › MiiR ›


The Pourigami: The World's Smallest Travel Brewer?

Having introduced the full range of MiiR products to the UK, there are some we feel warrant closer inspection and a more in-depth introduction. 

The Pourigami is one such item. MiiR's only coffee brewer, this durable, portable travel dripper is also arguably the world's most compact. Packing down into three constituent parts made from powder coated stainless steel, the pourover is housed in a case that neatly fits into your backpack or your back pocket. 

If you'd rather watch a video demonstration of the video, you can do so here. 

When it comes time to brew, the brewer is quick and simple to construct, with the three panels interlocking to form a cone. Once it's together, the brewer is ready to place on top our your designated vessel.

Brew Recipe

The Pourigami is capable of brewing up to 2 cups (30g of coffee to 500g of water), but we've enjoyed our best results with one Camp Cup-sized brew.

Using 18g of coffee, we grind a little coarser than we normally would for a single-cup pourover to allow for a slightly slower draining time. Taking your kettle off the boil, pour around 60g of coffee over your grounds for your bloom and wait for 30 to 40 seconds, allowing an opportunity for the grounds to become fully soaked and ready to extract. 

Begin pouring your water over your grounds in a thin and steady stream, aiming for dark or dry patches and stopping as you near the top of the Pourigami. Continue topping up until you've added 300g of water, allow your brewer to drain and then remove it from your vessel.

Discard your filter paper, clean down your brewer and enjoy. 

Features

When we talk about MiiR’s products, we talk a lot about their thoughtful design, which you can see in how this brewer comes together. But it’s the little extra elements that really help elevate their products, which in the case of the Pourigami are the notches on the bottom of the brewer, which help hold it in place on your mug or decanter. 

And as with all of MiiR’s products, the Pourigami has a unique Give Code printed on it. Every MiiR product sold helps to fun trackable giving projects around the world and entering this alphanumeric code over on MiiR.com allows you to follow along with the project your purchase has helped to fun, as well as gain access to updates on them. 

If you'd like to find out more about the Pourigami, visit the dedicated MiiR section of our online shop here.

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