As our range of equipment and hardware continues to expand, our focus remains on showcasing products we’ve extensively tried and tested to ensure they don’t just complement, but elevate, your home brewing experience.
Sometimes that means introducing a new category of products, like water filters or storage canisters, whilst at others it means extending our existing range to offer greater choice.
Dubbed an entry-level grinder, the Baratza Encore is perhaps underselling itself. Whilst it is the brand’s most accessibly priced grinder – and comparably priced to the much-loved Wilfa Svart – it’s a reliable and impressive countertop grinder for the home brewer. The 64mm hardened steel burr is hard wearing and produces a precise grind quality. Two colour options – black and white – allow you to choose a look that blends in on your countertop.
Setting-up and dialling in
Boasting a small footprint (33.8cm x 14.0cm x 16cm (H x W x D)), the Encore is incredibly easy to set-up straight out of the box. Simply pop the rubber ring into the top of the burr set and affix the switch and you can begin grinding your coffee. However, as with any grinder, the first thing you’ll want to do is dial it in.
Your grind size can be easily adjusted with a simple twist of the hopper. Following the 40 numbered settings labelled on the hopper, rotating towards the lower numbers will provide a finer grind, whilst twisting toward the higher numbers will coarsen the consistency of your grounds
The instruction manual in the Encore’s box offers some useful jumping off points for where they recommend setting your grinder for different brew methods. However, what these don’t factor in is your recipe (i.e. how much coffee you might be making with that specific brewer). We’ve therefore built on their guidelines to offer some more specific starting points:
1 minute brew time, 15g coffee to 230g water, inverted – Setting 12
3 minute brew time, 16g coffee to 250g water, regular – Setting 15
1-Cup, 15g coffee to 250g water – Setting 14
2-Cup, 30g coffee to 500g water – Setting 20
25g coffee to 400g water – Setting 18
60g coffee to 1000g water – Setting 32
45g coffee to 750g water – Setting 26
36g coffee to 600g water – Setting 25
75g coffee to 1250g water –Setting 30
Whilst more specific than the manual’s instructions, we still view these as starting points. Each grinder will be calibrated slightly differently, so be sure to find the grind size that works best for you in the cup. You can find more detail on how to approach your grind size in this video.
Cleaning & Maintenance
Keeping your Encore clean is incredibly straightforward. Remove the hopper by rotating it to the coarsest setting and lifting it out. This will reveal the rubber seal and burr set below. Removing both, the stiff-bristled brush included with the grinder allows you to remove any built-up fines from the seal and the burrs.
To maintain consistently clean cups of filter coffee we recommend carrying this out at least once a week if you’re using the grinder on a daily basis, and monthly if you’re just using it at the weekends.
Perhaps one of Baratza's most commendable and appealing qualities is their commitment to creating products that stand the test of time. As well as allowing for easy removal of parts for cleaning, the Encore has also been designed so that every part of it can be replaced with relative ease. This avoids the challenge of built-in obsolescence that many electronic devices face and helps ensure the product will be part of your home brewing routine for years to come.
As more of us brew coffee at home than ever before, we've collated various thoughts and conversations we’ve had amongst ourselves over the years on the subject of brew water. We hope the following will provide a guide to and through what is a dense and, at times, distracting topic in specialty coffee.
Our shared goal is to enjoy delicious coffee, so let’s look at getting the very best cups possible.
An unfinished product
Coffee is a unique product in many ways. Often compared to wine or chocolate, in that it can be cheap, simple and commoditised or a vastly complex, high quality ingredient, capable of delivering amazing flavours, coffee stands apart in that the actual drink only materialises right before it is consumed (with the exception of pre-canned cold brew options, but let’s leave discussion of those for another time).
The onus on the home brewer, making a cup for themselves or a pot for the family, to do right by their beans is greater than that felt when popping a cork from a nice bottle of wine or snapping a square off of a high quality chocolate bar. As a roaster that sells whole beans we’re asking the end consumer to carry the potential quality of their chosen coffee through into their cup. Armed with a good burr grinder, a robust recipe and some basic brewing advice this can be achieved quite easily, but there’s one more wrinkle that needs ironing out: water.
Don’t lose sight
Ultimately, there are certain properties that the water coming out of your tap might possess that will dampen some of the attributes that make specialty coffee so special.
By entering your postcode into your water supplier’s website, you should be able to read a report that breaks down what you’ll typically find in what’s coming out of your kitchen tap. Of particular interest will be the alkalinity, which you should think of as your water’s potential capacity to buffer your coffee’s perceivable acidity. Certain compounds will essentially work against you, making your coffee flatter and duller than it could taste brewed with different water.
So, if a bright, sparkly acidity is something you prize highly in your cup (we certainly do) this is something to be aware of.
Caveat Emptor: focussing too much on water can be a distraction.
The Music Analogy
Think of water as your hi-fi set up. Yes, you can spend thousands of pounds on the right turntable, needles, amplifier, cables, tweeters and woofers, and there are plenty who get a lot of joy from doing so.
Similar-minded groups of fervent brewers wishing to bring the same vigour and enthusiasm to their coffee brewing would be buying a home water distiller or the Zero Filter jug, and keep a stock of a couple of different mineral additives like Epsom salts - link and bicarbonate of soda - link). They can then create their own finely tuned brew water to recipe, to accentuate those attributes they find most appealing in their cup of coffee.
However, it is only those with a particular constitution and finely tuned ear who could lay down Curtis’s Roots on a more lo-fi sound system and find the music unlistenable and unenjoyable. Indeed, a lot of music producers and engineers often ‘car test’ their mixes as a way of ensuring a wider audience is able to listen and enjoy their music on more basic music systems. They may well concede that it won’t be at apex quality through such a system, but they wouldn’t eschew ever listening in the car. Similarly, well roasted, clean, fresh tasting coffee will give the drinker a huge amount of pleasure across a range of waters. There’s enough richness and depth when drinking coffee to allow some slide when it comes to your water quality.
To stray from one multimedia analogy and into another, you are allowed to watch The Irishmen on your phone, despite what Scorsese says.
What are my options?
The music analogy can only take us so far. There are definitely times when untreated water used to brew quality coffee may be like listening to music with severe fuzz and distortion over everything, whereby the music underneath cannot be heard and enjoyed, in comparison all the positive flavours in the coffee are no longer perceivable.
At what point does poor water quality result in a flavour defect in the cup rather than something sub-optimal? If all of the positive aspects of a cup are getting knocked around by the minerals in your water, creating something indiscernible from a poorly roasted, commodity coffee brewed with the same water, then steps do need to be taken to reclaim the characteristics that make specialty coffee special, and worth the extra time, effort and cost.
 Bring Your Own Bottle
I’ve jumped straight over bottled water. It’s undoubtedly a solution, but not a sustainable one, so I recommend purchasing one or two reusable bottles and visiting your local specialty coffee shop. They’ll be treating their water to reduce scale buildup in their machinery and make their coffee taste better.
On the off-chance you get funny looks or are uncomfortable asking for this you could always offer them some money each time you fill up, as it will cost them to treat their water. But if you’re buying your beans from there too, they’ll no doubt be open to helping you get the best out of them. We’re always open to sending you home with great brewing water when you visit a Workshop Coffee bar.
Obviously this isn’t an option during the current state of lockdown, but if you plan to keep brewing coffee with gusto and enthusiasm when we’re open again, keep this option in mind.
 Take the edge off
Filter jugs are mainly designed for taste and odour. They clean up the overall character of your water, but you don’t have ultimate control over your water’s buffering potential or overall hardness. Most regular household filter jugs like the Brita are very effective when the cartridges are fresh. Over time they do less work to improve your water quality before ultimately needing replacing.
Another option from BWT will improve taste and odouor, but also replace some of the mineral content in your water with magnesium, which is a very buzzy topic in the specialty coffee world due to its potential to highlight more sweet, fruity characteristics in your brew. We have found that magnesium rich profile waters can make distinct coffees taste a little monotonous, ultimately resulting in sweet and round cups but that can taste quite similar to each other. They also take a lot longer to “break in” than Brita jugs, whereby the first few litres of brewed coffee can taste a little weird before things start to get tasty. Once broken in however we’ve had undoubtedly sweet and complex cups of coffee that are leagues ahead of cups of the same coffee brewed with untreated tap water.
Despite the limitations of both Brita and BWT filter jugs, in that the water quality will fluctuate throughout their usage, they are a fantastic addition to your brewing repertoire for a very reasonable amount of money. Comparing cups of coffee brewed with untreated tap water and cups brewed with both Brita and BWT filtered water it is very easy to see their benefit. You can even return spent filter cartridges to certain shops for recycling.
 Fully customised
Making your own water is an extreme option, but you wouldn’t be alone in doing so.
As mentioned above, a home distiller or the Zero filter jug will create water completely devoid of minerals. By adding your own minerals, which requires a very accurate scale to 0.00g fidelity, you can experiment with different water profiles to get the very best out of your coffee. Different coffee roasters may even share their water specs so that you can recreate the very same water they use to assess and tweak their roast profiles. This option is maybe not quite as decadent as buying bottled mineral water to brew with, but does allow you to fall fairly deep down the rabbit hole and explore the complexities and intricacies of water.
Heresy? Not quite.
The obstacle of imperfect water coming out of your tap for coffee brewing is not insurmountable. Just like how a slightly dull set of grinder burrs or a slightly darker roast can be managed through adjusting your recipe and technique, you can work with your tap water rather than against it to create a sweet cup of coffee.
If your water is muting acidity and creating more bitter, flat and stewed characteristics, then limit the potential for this by using a stronger dose and aiming for a slightly lower extraction overall. This will ultimately accentuate acidity and brightness, which may express as sour in soft, clean, neutral water, but that unbalanced acidity will be rounded out and bridled in the harder water. You’ll also reduce bitterness by curbing extraction, which is achieved by using a fractionally coarser grind, slightly cooler water, coupled with your slightly higher ratio of coffee to water.
What does that mean in practice? Here’s what would usually be a one-cup V60 recipe made with clean, soft water, made using the Wilfa Svart, adapted for tap water:
Recommend Brew Guide (Clean, Soft Water)
1. 18g of coffee ground at the first 'R' in 'AEROPRESS' on the Wilfa Grinder.
2. Clean, soft water brought to the boil.
3. Start your timer.
4. Bloom for 30s with 50g of your water and stir fully.
5. Add all of your 300g of water by the 2 minute 30 second mark.
6. Drink, savour and enjoy.
Tap Water-Adapted Brew Guide
1. 20 of coffee, ground 2 clicks before 'AEROPRESS' on the Wilfa Grinder.
2. Tap water, brought to the boil.
3. Start your timer.
4. Bloom for 30s with 50g of water, but don't stir.
5. Add all of your 300g of water by the 2 minute mark,
6. Drink, savour and enjoy.
The changes are relatively small, but the impact they’ll have on the attributes in your cup will be more than noticeable, allowing you to regain some clarity and definition in the flavours you’re looking to find.
There are other implications of using tap water, primarily its effect on your equipment in terms of scale build-up. That’s nothing some quick and basic maintenance tips can’t address, and we’ll be covering those in another Journal piece.
In the meantime, if you want to get in touch please email firstname.lastname@example.org for advice on how to get the very best out of your coffee.
Easter weekend is approaching quietly, but quickly, which means our roastery in Bethnal Green will be taking a couple of well-deserved days of rest.
As such, we will not be roasting or dispatching coffee on Friday 10th or Monday 13th April. All orders received between these dates will be dispatched on Tuesday 14th April, at which point we'll return to normal, dispatching coffee, hardware and subscription orders every day of the working week.
Until then, we continue to turn orders around quickly and offer a range of shipping choices that include next working day options. However, please note that all of our carriers are currently experiencing extraordinarily high volumes, which may impact the speed in which your package arrives.
On Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd February, Cloudwater Brew Co. hosted their second Friends & Family & Beer Festival. Coinciding with the Manchester-based brewery's fifth birthday, the two-day event was initially hosted in 2019 as a celebration of the independent values, collaborative spirit and community that defines the craft beer industry and, for the two days it existed, it embodied that convivial spirit.
This year we were delighted to be invited to the festival as a brewer of a different sort and the Workshop Coffee team showcased three coffees from our seasonal range throughout. Filling the hopper of our espresso grinder was our floral Ethiopian, Hunkute, and this was supported by two incredibly popular filter coffees options – our first ever Peruvian offering, Yolanda Cabrera, and Mahembe from Rwanda, which has firmly established itself as a staple in our range.
Our coffees fuelled a day of talks on the Friday, which spanned an impressive breadth of subjects, from the objectives of modern IPAs and the future of bioengineered brewing yeast, through to an insightful and inspiring panel discussion on the practicalities of independence and a keynote speech on building an inclusive and equitable work place from PhD Beer Scholar Dr. J. Jackson-Beckham.
As a damp and windy Manchester afternoon gave way to the evening, the doors to the main event space opened and the lights lowered in anticipation of what was one of the most impressive range of breweries and beers we’ve witnessed under one (rather beautiful, wrought-iron) roof. 72 brewers poured more than 500 beers of varying styles and strengths and amongst that impressive number were a host of one-off beers brewed especially for the festival or simply not available in the country at any other point of the year. The full list can be viewed here and has to be seen to be believed (and even then, it might take a few reads).
An enormous thank you once again to Cloudwater Brew Co. for the invitation and to everyone that took the time to join us for coffee and a conversation. The medicinal benefit of a caffeinated kick was no doubt beneficial as the number of beers mounted, but we were thrilled to see our coffee being tasted, savoured and enjoyed with the same excitement and sense of exploration as the beers in the room.
We’re already looking forward to next year.
With only a hint of tongue-in-cheek, Jorge stands and declares "I'm ready to be famous".
A cattle farmer from Pichincha, Ecuador, he has provided some of the most memorably mouthwatering cups in our recent history. Made all the more astounding when you realise there are only three harvests under his belt, Workshop has purchased the last two. Deserving to be as world-renowned as some of the 'rockstar' producers from neighbouring Colombia, Jorge Tapia's coffee screams delicious, delicate, nuanced, complex. Superlatives have yet to be written; it really is that good.
Jorge is not in coffee just for the fame, despite what he says. Ultimately, he wants to better his family's lives. Knowing full well the premiums attached to the coffees of Elias Roa, Arnulfo Leguizamo and Astrid Medina, some of Colombia's most famous producers, have changed their lives, Jorge wants this for wife Hilda, their children Jessica and Cristobal, Jessica's daughter Alison.
Continuous improvement. Easy to say, not as easy to implement, but that won't hold Jorge back. A loan from Caravela funds the purchase of a hand-cranked depulper, dropped in the middle of his trees, saving the effort of hauling coffee cherry up through the steep, overgrown forest. The slimy depulped coffee, their weight reduced by 70% now out of the skins, is transported to the farmhouse, location of Jorge's washing and drying facilities twenty minutes drive away.
Walking us through his steps of processing, Jorge knows where he needs to invest. Better washing facilities to process more volume. A cooler place than the current location, the eaves of his house, to do the initial drying. More prominent raised beds with greater adjustability in temperature and shade control. All of these plans achievable, all of these plans already being worked upon.
Expect big things from Jorge Tapia. This is a name to remember.
People should enjoy coffee with friends.
At Workshop, we always take a moment together to appreciate coffee grown halfway around the world by the producers we work with; made all the more delicious if shared, we suggest you do the same.
But what if some friends are also the ones who introduce you to those incredible coffees you purchase? It's harder to maintain relationships when 5,000 miles and the Atlantic Ocean lie between people, but when you do finally meet again, it's even better.
Salomé Puentes chats to producer, Fabio Artunduaga - Pitalito, Huila.
Origin travel sounds like the dream to most and in many ways it is. Visiting the tropics, meeting producers, tasting and selecting delicious coffees, it can be pretty idyllic. However, the life of a coffee buyer is not perfect. On the bumpiest of roads for hours at a time, with anti-social start times resulting in supremely long days and the ever-present risk of stomach problems, all pale into insignificance compared to the loneliness experienced in remote hotel rooms and on long journeys. Being away from home and those you love hurts the most, so when those with you become more than just business associates, it dispels many moments you could feel alone.
Iliana Delgado Chegwin and Jairo Muñoz from Azahar Coffee - Yacuanquer, Nariño.
My relationship with the country of Colombia has been precisely that. Salomé Puentes from Caravela and Iliana Delgado Chegwin from Azahar started as guides and translators as I travelled Colombia looking for delicious coffees. Now I call them friends and each visit sees those bonds reinforced; moments of loneliness dispelled, long car rides become a time to talk, play new music and hang out.
To the job in hand then. Coffee.
Starting this trip in Pitalito, Huila with Caravela and Salomé provides a chance to meet producers who supply coffee to the Naranjos Espresso we released in June last year. The first stop is José Hernando Dorado and his niece, Marcela, whose farm straddles the main road to San Agustín, 1°51'25.3"N 76°13'49.0"W.
José Hernando Dorado and Marcela - San Agustín, Huila.
Growing Caturra and Colombia, alongside oranges (Naranjos), cacao, avocado and plantain, José manages the family farm and is currently teaching Marcela the ways of farm management and processing. Utilising washing channels to help remove the less dense beans, they ferment for around 24hr before transferring to the drying facilities José plans to rebuild in the coming months.
As with every farm visit, coffee is served. In most cases, the producer's own coffee, over-roasted and served already containing sugar, I struggle it down. Not here. Marcela, using a cloth filter, brews the best farm coffee I've ever experienced. Roasted by José in San Agustín on a hired roaster, I instantly message back to London with news of delicious farm coffee, before asking for a second cup and more details.
Lidier and Nery - Finca El Mirador, Pitalito, Huila.
Pitalito, 1°51'02.2"N 76°02'50.7"W, the largest town in Southern Huila, has a population of around 135,000, so there's plenty of places to eat and drink in the evenings. Some good, some not so good, you'll never go hungry and there's always a cold Club Colombia available. Coupled with Stop 44, the bar opposite the Gran Premium Plaza Hotel where I rest my head, there's plenty to do in the evenings after a long day visiting producers.
The handover to Azahar and Iliana takes place in Pitalito, but we don't dwell in Huila. Heading back to Bogota and a quick stay in an airport hotel (depressing and expensive in equal measures), the next day wakes at 04:00 with a flight to Pasto, the capital city of the Nariño department.
An airport runway situated on top of an Andean mountain, flights regularly get turned around and sent back to Bogota. Even when but 10 minutes from landing, the elements can change in an instant as clouds roll in from the Pacific.
The weather holds. So begins Workshop's first visit to Nariño.
We've bought Nariño coffees before, from producers Nectario Pascuaza and Eiver Gomez Melo. Both were outstanding and offered vastly different profiles from coffees we buy from Huila and Tolima. This is a different world to those regions. This is the Andes proper and the impetus for our visit.
Located at 2897m, Pasto, like Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, sees you descend to get to the coffee. Dominating the western skyline sits Galeras, a 4,276m stratovolcano, and currently the most active volcano in all of Colombia. Surrounding Galeras, a relatively new ring road circles the entirety; like a smaller, quieter M25, the distinct risk of eruption at its centre.
As the trip is relatively short, we don't stray far from Galeras, instead visiting a handful of communities that lie just off the ring road. Finca San Javier, owned by Javier de la Rosa, situated at 1° 05'14.9 "N 77° 25'35.3" W, falls under the locality of Yacuanquer.
Jorge Hernando Morales Daza, farm manager at Finca San Javier - Yacuanquer, Nariño.
Here the ground is fertile but incredibly rocky. I'm in no doubt that growing coffee can be laborious work, but I witness the most back-breaking of all at Finca San Javier. Three workers charged with removing a whole field of coffee trees. Having stripped the trees of leaves and branches, they now start to excavate the resulting bare trunks and remove what they can of the root systems.
Pick-axes and shovels wielded in 33° heat, the striking of volcanic rocks strewn throughout the soil, ring out. Enquiring how long to clear the last of the trees? Two weeks the answer.
Visiting Nariño, I was adamant about experiencing the local dish - Cuy (Guinea Pig). Colombians are under no illusions they are cute, with many soft toy cuys in shops, but that doesn't stop them featuring on the menu. CuyQuer is the place to visit in Pasto, the main dish a whole Guinea Pig, roasted and quartered. Photos sent home of the meal are greeted by a multitude of emotions from friends and family; from outright anger and disgust to somewhat jealousy and many queries as to how it tasted. It really was quite delicious. Would eat again.
Having just approved recent samples from both Caravela and Azahar, we look forward to the arrival of 4,200kg and 3,500kg of coffee from San Agustín and Yacuanquer respectively. Look out for them in the coming months, these will both be roasted for espresso and delicious additions to our range.
You’ve selected some great coffee beans, you’ve invested in a high quality burr grinder and you’ve even gone to the trouble of sourcing some top quality brew water from your local cafe. Then it comes to brewing your morning pour over and you just can’t quite seem to perfect the technique.
It’s not your fault.
The spout on your kettle is wide and dribbly, you can’t pour in an even stream, some of the coffee grounds are getting sloshed around more than others. All that work just to fall at the last hurdle.
With Fellow Product’s Stagg Kettle, not only will you have the ultimate control over your pouring, the tactile act of making a cup of coffee becomes so much more rewarding. With a built in thermometer and incredibly well designed spout, you’re armed with a more accurate brewing tool which ultimately results in more consistently tasty results (as well as less mess).
Having angled the spout in such a sheer way, Fellow have also made it possible to pour low and close to the coffee bed on both near and far sides of your pour over cone, overcoming a frustration with other more curved ‘gooseneck’ spouted kettle options.
Finally, we’d be remiss to talk about the Stagg without acknowledging its beautiful and considered design. Whilst enough to appease any aesthete, the finish comes from a place of practicality, meaning it looks and feels great on your hob and in your hand. The handle is weighted in such a way as to offer an extra feeling of control, as if every time you’ve used a pouring kettle before you’ve been playing pool with just your back hand on the cue. And now, suddenly, you’ve found a rest.
Another brilliantly busy year is hurtling towards its end and so we'll be taking a few days off to recuperate, celebrate and spend time with friends and loved ones.
As always, we'll be making the most of the only three days that Workshop Coffee is closed in its entirety – Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day – but will be back with you as normal from Thursday 2nd January 2020.
A full lis of our festive opening times, roasting days and Online Shop Christmas shipping cut-offs can be found below.
An enormous thanks to you, our customers and partners, for your support throughout the year. We hope you enjoy a well-deserved break and look forward to seeing and serving you more exceptional coffee in 2019.
Wishing you all the very best from everyone here at Workshop Coffee.
Marylebone + Fitzrovia Coffeebars
Tuesday 24th December: 7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday 25th + Thursday 26th December: Closed
Friday 27th - Tuesday 31st December: 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Wednesday 1st January: Closed
Thursday 2nd January: 7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Workshop Coffee at The Pilgrm
Tuesday 24th December: 7:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday 25th + Thursday 26th December: Closed
Friday 27th - Tuesday 31st December: Open 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Wednesday 1st January: Closed
Thursday 2nd January: 7:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Workshop Coffee at White Collar Factory
Tuesday 24th December: 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday 25th December - Wednesday 1st January: Closed
Thursday 2nd January: 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Monday 23rd December: Open and roasting as usual (although, unfortunately, we cannot guarantee the exact delivery date)
Tuesday 24th - 29th December: Closed
30th + 31st December: Open, roasting and dispatching (although, unfortunately, we cannot guarantee the exact delivery date)
Wednesday 1st January: Closed
Thursday 2nd January: Open as usual
Order by 7:00 a.m. Friday 20th December to guarantee pre Christmas delivery in the UK.
We’ve recently added a host of new hardware to our range of brewing equipment to help ensure we’re continually offering the best apparatus to get the most out of your brew.
As always, we’ve been testing, experimenting and working with each new piece of equipment for some time to understand just what it can do. Our experience with the Acaia Pearl Scale has been nothing but a pleasure.
The Acaia Pearl scale is, in our opinion, the most beautiful, minimalist and versatile coffee scale on the market. Accurate to 0.1g with a 20 millisecond response time, the scale boasts several built in modes that combine timing and taring on demand or automatically, meaning you’ll be able to customise your brewing experience to suit your needs.
The scale also connects to a suite of apps made by Acaia. These provide you with a host of data points and metrics that go beyond brew water weight and time, encompassing things like flow rate, which allows you to track and evolve your technique over time.
Given the intelligence of the Pearl scales, one of their biggest benefits is rather simple. The ability to recharge the scale using a micro-USB cable will strike a positive chord with home brewers, many of whom will have been caught short when making their morning AeroPress or Clever Dripper only to find their scales batteries have died and having to resort to cautiously eyeballing their dose.
Herein lies perpetual accuracy for every type of brewer; the large platform means that even brewers like the Chemex or a large French Press sit atop the scale easily, with the display still completely visible.
An investment in something like the Acaia Pearl is significant, and you may be nervous about pouring boiling water onto your brewer – what if water or, worse, coffee spills? Even this has been considered in its design. A buttonless platform and the enclosed side panels mean that the scale is water resistant and spills won’t affect its performance.
It’s worth noting that it won’t function when fully submerged in water, but, then again, who expects that of a coffee scale?
When well-sourced, carefully roasted and properly brewed, coffee speaks of the place it was grown, where the pace of life is generally much slower than that of those drinking the end product. Many years of work have gone into your cup of coffee, and in our opinion, it's worth spending a few minutes to prepare a cup and a few more savouring the flavour.
One way that the ‘specialty’ coffee industry has established itself in the market place is as something 'other'. Quality-oriented coffeeshops are defined against a backdrop of high street chains and those stuck in the second wave. The wares of a ‘specialty’ coffee roaster square up against anonymised blends comprised of cheap, defective and typically carbonised coffees from commercial coffee roasters, available for a few pounds in your local supermarket, often replete with FairTrade and Organic logos. Through brand tribalism and a shared language and aesthetic, we have defined ourselves in opposition to what else is available. Yes, we can discuss cup scores and defect counts, but ultimately ‘specialty’ coffee is experiential, emphasising flavour, provenance and quality over convenience, frugality and affordability.
If you want something special and delicious, time and skill are as necessary ingredients as high quality beans and brewing equipment. If you want something less costly, more everyday, and you aren't so fussy about your morning cup, cheaper coffees are available, often coming ready-ground to save you some time. And, if you value convenience over everything else, at the expense of affordability and flavour, you have instant and pod coffees.
These are the antithesis of special.
Pods and instant coffee fall into an even lower category than the cheap whole bean and pre-ground coffee options; they're not even proper coffee. Watching with growing concern at a recent muddying of the waters between specialty and commodity coffee, we now see 'specialty' coffee roasters introducing certain products into their own ranges that, for us, cannot be considered specialty.
‘Specialty coffee solutions' that remove the need for cleaning up, along with any effort or skill in coffee brewing, are becoming increasingly prevalent. You can buy 'specialty' instant coffee, 'specialty' coffee pods and single-serve drip packs and coffee ‘teabags’ that you simply dispose of when you're done. No grinding, no mess, no fuss, and undoubtedly an inferior tasting cup of coffee at the end of it.
To be clear, we're not a group of curmudgeonly Luddites looking to preserve the status quo and neither are we against our industry pushing the boundaries. 'Specialty' coffee has always been progressive by design and delivering quality coffee is an ongoing, iterative process underpinned by continual change and improvement, driven by experimentation and learning. However, it needs to be said that these apparent advancements and embracing of technology developed for convenience and commodity coffee are detracting from the value of 'specialty' coffee. A subpar and innately compromised product is being peddled at an inflated price tag.
First addressing the subpar and compromised product, 'specialty coffee pods' and 'specialty instant' are ludicrous in the same way that 'Gourmet Microwave Meals' are; the promise of something special is instantly undermined by the delivery mechanism. The calibre of the beans being used to create instant and pod coffees is not retained via the process of pre-grinding and dosing into pods or through freeze-drying brewed coffee. To claim to be delivering both quality and convenience when these product lines are introduced onto a 'specialty' roaster's offer list is equivalent to the promise that pots of instant noodles can provide a comparable flavour experience gained when eating a bowl of slow-cooked bone broth and hand-pulled noodles. Convenient food products don't claim this, accepting their mediocrity as a trade-off for convenience, but grandiose claims are being made about the quality of the wares in ‘specialty’ roasters’ 'convenience' coffee ranges.
Onto the inflated price tag. Whilst rebranding a coffee pod a 'capsule' may make the price of 55p sting a little less, for just 5.4g actual coffee that's a price of £101.85/kg. If you splurge for the 85p capsule, you're spending £157.40/kg. That's equivalent to £25.46 or £39.35 for a 250g retail bag of beans. As difficult to comprehend as the high prices is the idea that 5.4g coffee is a reasonable dose of coffee to prepare a single cup.
Lacking enough raw ingredient to create good flavour intensity, body or to give the drinker the caffeinated effect they seek from their brew, means that a coffee pod’s size inevitably mars the discerning coffee drinker’s experience.
'Specialty instant' is even more costly. It can cost upwards of £3.10 for a sachet designed for 250g water. You'd need 16.8g to produce 250g brewed coffee in a pourover using a typical brew ratio of 60g/L. That’s the equivalent of around 15 ‘serves’ per 250g bag of beans. The equivalent cost of a 250g bag of coffee in terms of instant, in this case, would be approximately £46 per bag or £184/kilo.
We should not applaud convenience at the expense of quality, especially when it is also at the expense of expense itself.
In today’s world, many of us would sooner waste money than time because the latter feels increasingly finite. It's something we understand, but we also believe it can be overcome. After all, it takes less time to grind your coffee than it does for your kettle to boil, and if you want to enjoy a delicious, freshly brewed cup of coffee whilst remaining hands-off, there are fantastic brewers that fit the bill, such as the 50-year-old MoccaMaster.
Extremely convenient coffee options like instant and pods create problems when they're embraced by the ‘specialty’ coffee industry. Coffee becomes just one more ingredient that people become more detached from. We, as an industry, shouldn't be encouraging people to stop drinking 'proper coffee'. The dumbing-down enabled through offering convenient, fast foods means we're eradicating the skills and understanding required to purchase and consume a whole host of ingredients consciously. We also run the risk of seeing these sorts of products retraining a person's palate to accept and tolerate stale tasting goods. In this case, as in many others, faster is not always better. If you're looking for nothing more than a quick medicinal caffeine hit there are far more efficient and cost-effective ways of doing so.
If you haven't got five minutes to make a cup of coffee, grind the beans and drip water through the grounds, then you definitely don't have the further ten minutes to enjoy it. If speed is critical, buy a pod machine, but make peace with the fact that what you are drinking is not special.
However, if you do want to carve out a niche in your day for enjoyment and moving slowly, then here's a link to our V60 brew guide.