Monday, July 28, 2008


Not long ago I had visited Switzerland and finding a good cup of coffee is almost impossible. Never the less the “trend” of espresso is very much alive and starbucks seems to be a cool and trendy hangout place for tourists and natives alike. Another trendy thing to have and drink is Nespresso, the famous espresso brewer in the whole of Europe and perhaps the most publicised and criticised piece of coffee machinery. Almost every household has a Nespresso machine and a vast selection of different pods. I got to use one every morning myself and had found out why people like it and if it actually makes a good cup of espresso coffee …

Ever since Nordic Barista Cup 2007 I’ve been a little sceptical of this machine and its capabilities, but “in theory” this machine is holeproof. It’s clean, its easy and believe it or not the taste is actually half decent. They appeal to an upper class crowds with their clean and sharp designs. This ferry tail success story really is a great example of superb marketing, however people do not buy a Nespresso machine for the taste in be cup, but for its convenience and cleanliness.

The taste of the pods is ranked by strength, acidity and bitterness, so the stronger/bitter the coffee the darker the colour of the pod. In other words higher dose of nasty robusta, stronger the taste. They do however make an 100% Arabica blend which I have grown to like. The name of the pod is Volluto and the capsule is gold in coulour. The espresso shot is far from perfect but it is more than drinkable and not a bad introduction to decent espresso. Having said that there are still few minor skills required in order to pull a decent shot.

Due to the low dose of coffee in the pods (5grams) and the low bar pressure of the machine the coffee is extremely easy to over extract. There is no restriction and very little infusion time at the start of the extraction, so the coffee comes down like a waterfall, it is very important to visually judge the espresso and cut the shot at an appropriate time. I have found that a 25ml shot would come out around 15sec but the end product actually tastes nice; sweet and chocolaty with a good amount of crema.

The machine itself is inexpensive, that is another reason why people want to purchase it but the pods are pretty expensive and the costs add up, but I guess it is much cheaper than getting an espresso at a coffee shop. Each pod is gas sealed immediately after grinding so the coffee keeps much longer. As there is no one way valve, the pods tend to puff up due to release of gasses.

I have come to the conclusion that ordinary people still drink espresso just because its fashionable, they are not interested in origins and don’t recognise fine flavours. Many like the strong taste, many don’t and that’s the bottom line. In that regard Nespresso is going a horrible job at education people about coffee as a product. You never see people buying a bottle of red wine just because its made out of a red grape, peoples general understanding of wine is much higher, many even understand the appellation system. Nespresso could reveal the origins and blend breakdowns, so people can start associating different tastes and profiles.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Coffee in Berlin

visited : 25/06/08
Straight after WBC I headed to Berlin for a couple of days. As I was in Berlin for a brief amount of time I managed to squeeze one espresso bar into my busy schedule. I would have loved to do a proper espresso run of Berlin, but perhaps next time.

Bonanza Coffee Heroes (Oderberger Strasse 35) was recommended to me by few Berliners that I met in Copenhagen. This small coffee shop is perhaps the most geekiest espresso bar I’ve ever been to. They have a Synesso machine with few Mazzer grinders but that’s not what makes them geeky. Believe it or not, they have a special scale underneath a tamping mat and measure the tamp pressure every time. I guess it gives them more consistency but a barista should be able to feel the pressure naturally every time. As well as all the cool gadgets in the shop they own a brand new clover, when I visited them they were in the middle of installing it into their store. I think that it will be a very good introduction.

Ok lets talk coffee … they use naked portafilters so you get a double shot every time. The espresso blend is on a rather dark side, so the coffee tasted a little ashy and very chocolaty. Personally I didn’t like it as I struggled to find the delicate balance of espresso in my double ristretto, having said that I strongly believe that their espresso is one of the best in town, if not the best. The majority of the clientele drink lattes and cappuccinos so the espresso blend is designed that way and does taste great with milk.

The shop attracts a lot of international guests from all over Berlin. The Barista behind the bar is a really cool Aussie guy that has a lot of passion for coffee. I credit the owners for doing the right thing, they truly have created an awesome barista playground with serious and seriously expensive tools.

I strongly recommend going to this espresso bar, as it simply is the greatest in Berlin. Once the clover is up and running I hope that they will serve some special single origins. Although I wasn’t in love with the coffee I was in love with the passion this place carries out, a great asset to Berlin! A must visit!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Wonderful Coffee - Copenhagen 2008

This was my second coffee trade show, but first ever World Barista Championships. I was extremely excited to be part of it all and had been counting down the days.

I arrived to Copenhagen on Thursday (the first day of the exhibition). As soon as I dropped off my bags at the hostel I rushed over to the venue. I’ve been in Copenhagen before, so getting around the city wasn’t a problem at all considering that the exhibition hall was in a very central location. On the first day the event seemed a little disorganised especially the WBC area. The competition area was extremely hot with no airflow and hardly any sunlight. The stations were well orgonised though. Machines were well tuned and had no technical issues. The organisation had improved on the second day and the weather got a little cooler for the weekend.

All the competitions were held in conjunction with the Wonderful Coffee exhibition so the whole event attracted a mixed bunch of visitors, both local and international. Over the course of 4 days there would have been close to 2000 visitors, so it is safe to say that the show was a great success.

I would like to congratulate all the winners but in particular the Australian competitors that did so extremely well. Massive congratulations to Con for winning The World Latte Art comp and to Dave for coming 2nd in the World Barista Championships, a really outstanding effort boys! The Aussie support team was as strong as always cheering for the boys!

I would also like to congratulate Stephen on taking out the WBC title. Massive congratulations to James and Anette for getting Stephen over the line, you guys are amazing and should take the credit!

Massive shout outs to Casper, (you are a rockstar man!!!) for winning the Cupping comp! Casper took out the comp with sheer style, he is the coolest cupper you will ever meet and I am so damn proud of him! Big congrats to The Coffee Collective crew, yet another trophy to the bookshelf along side your roaster!

Huge congrats to Daniel!!! You make Sweden very proud, great result! I look forward to meeting you again shortly! Swedish support team … YOU ROCK!!!

And how could I forget the Dutch support team, awesome, just awesome!!! Without you the event would have been very dull! You make the whole place shine orange, my condolences about the Dutch football team, but I say no more I know that it’s a very touchy topic for you! Thanks for making this event memorable for everyone! Big Congrats to Liesbeth for putting on a massive fight and coming 3rd in the world!

I was very fortunate to meet so many interesting people, if I haven’t already sent you an email I dearly apologise, it was an honour meeting each and every one of you and I hope to see you all again in the nearest future.

Huge thanks to espresso warehouse (Gary, Conal & Dave) for everything!!!! I am forever grateful!

Thank you Emily for hooking me up with all the volunteer work. It was a bless helping out behind the scenes and making wonderful coffee at the WBC café! Huge congrats to Michelle on keeping everything under control backstage, and good job on sticking it to the mic. guy hahaha!

I really do hope that this WBC is a first of many for me, I cannot describe how much fun and enjoyable everything was. Great job to everyone making it possible, especially the sponsors. If you haven’t already seen the pictures you can find them here … see you all next time!