Best of American Beer and Food

How Pressurised Filter Baskets Work

Pressurised filter baskets rather disappointingly appear to be taking over the espresso machine market. Gaggia now ship them as standard; Ascaso put them on their ‘Versatile’ machines; not to mention all the small domestic appliance manufacturers who dabble in a bit of everything, including espresso machines. The worse thing is that often these manufacturers ‘pretend’ that these filters are in someway better than the standard ones. The same standard filters which are used by professionals in every (well I hope every) coffee shop throughout this land.

Gaggia state that:

“…thanks to our constant efforts towards product improvement…The (standard) ground coffee filters and the pod filters have been replaced by the new “Crema Perfetta” (pressurised) filters, which improve the final beverage by producing an even thicker crema, typical of espresso coffee.”

You can see why some manufacturers opt for pressurised filters. To make good coffee on an espresso machine takes a lot of practice and patience. Pressurised filters are essentially a cheat as they pretty much guarantee that no matter what you do preparing your espresso, the resulting drink will look like an espresso (i.e. will have a crema). Look being the operative word. What it tastes like is creamier and less flavoursome than a true espresso. The nearest thing I can think of to compare it to (and this is only going to relate to a small niche) is the difference between a proper hand-pulled pint of ale and a nitrogen assisted smooth/cream flow pint.

How True Espresso is Brewed

Before I explain how pressurised filters work, first I’ll explain how true espresso is brewed using standard filters. The key to brewing quickly, like for espresso, is to brew using pressure. Pressure energises water to extract flavour more quickly from the coffee grounds.

For an espresso you need to brew under somewhere between 7-9 bar. Under this amount of pressure it’s possible to extract all the desirable flavours from the coffee grounds in 20-30 seconds. For this reason espresso machines are fitted with a pump. Whilst the pump is responsible for producing pressure, it will only generate enough force to push water down through the group head. As water on its own offers little resistance to the pump (gravity is already acting on it), little pressure is generated.

This is where the all important cake of ground coffee in your filter comes into play. It’s the cake’s responsibility to act as a barrier to the oncoming flow of water so the pump has to work much harder. This is why we grind fine and tamp down, so the cake can provide resistance till, finally, after around 8 bar of pressure has built up behind it, water penetrates the cake extracting all those lovely flavours.

How Pressurised Filters Work

When brewing espresso with a pressurised filter, there is no longer a reliance on the coffee cake to form a resistance to the pump. This is because the filters are designed to add pressure once the water has passed through the coffee cake and formed a coffee solution. Typically these filters work by bottlenecking the solution by squeezing it through one tiny hole and it’s this that causes a crema to form and so look like an espresso.

With pressurised filters, there’s no need to tamp, or grind fine. You can even use stale coffee.

The problem is that adding pressure after the brewing process, rather than during, doesn’t help the extraction process. It’s too late. It doesn’t energise the water to extract more from the coffee cake. So if your coffee cake doesn’t form an effective barrier to the pump, then even though the resulting brew will look like an espresso, it will lack flavour as there will be plenty of desirable flavours still locked away in the cake.

Even if your coffee cake does form an effective barrier, because the resulting solution is then subjected to further pressure this messes with the makeup of the drink. The texture is creamier and the delicate flavours are destroyed.…

Coffee Berry Borer and Climate Change

I read an interesting report this week entitled: “Some Like it Hot: The Influence and Implication of Climate Change on Coffee Berry Borer (Hypothenemus hampei) and Coffee Production in East Africa”. Experts believe that rising temperatures will result in higher populations and spread of the coffee berry borer, which could have far reaching consequences for high quality Ethiopian and Kenyan coffees, some of my personal favourites.

What is a Coffee Berry Borer

The coffee berry borer is one of the most feared pests for a coffee farmer. This beetle makes the coffee berry its home. Fertile females will tunnel into a berry to lay up to 60 eggs. These eggs hatch, eat the berry from the inside out before flying off to find a new home in another berry. Needless to say a berry infected with the borer is no longer fit for harvest. It’s estimated that borer attacks cost farmers USD500 million a year worldwide and that this problem affects more than 25 million rural households involved in coffee production.
There’s some good information on the coffee berry borer on the University of Hawai’i website.

Climate Change

The report focuses on the problem of rising temperatures in East Africa and what effects this will have on coffee production. It used to be the case that Arabica production was largely unaffected by coffee berry borers as it’s normally grown at too high an altitude for the borer. Up until 10 years ago, there were no reports of borers found attacking coffee plantations over 1,500m.

However, temperature increases over the last decade have enabled the borer to live at higher altitudes. In 2009, borers were found at altitudes of 1,800m on the slopes of Mt. Elgon, Uganda. On Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, this beetle is now found at elevations 300m higher than 10 years ago. As temperatures are predicted to continue rising, the spread of the borer to higher and higher altitudes is set to continue and more and more Arabica crops will be attacked.

The other problem with rising temperatures is that it will cause an increase in the population of borers, as higher temperatures speed up the life cycle of this beetle. Currently, in East Africa, a borer is able to complete between 1 to 4.5 generations per a year. By 2050, the number of generations is predicated to increase to 5-10, possibly even higher at lower altitudes (below 1,300m).

It’s difficult to see clearly what’s happening from the maps. As I interpret them (I could be wrong) by 2050 the area where conditions are favourable to the borer will have vastly shrunk; I guess mainly because it’s getting too hot. So the borer will be seeking refuge at higher altitudes such as on Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya. South West Ethiopia looks particularly badly affected by the predicted rise in temperature.

Solution

The spread of coffee berry borers to higher altitudes is very bad news for both the coffee farmers and for those of us who absolutely love high quality East African coffee. So a solution needs to be found.

With borers moving higher, the most obvious solution would be to move the coffee plantations even higher, so the Arabic crops are once again out of reach of the borer. However, this immediate presents a problem, as the higher you go up a mountain the narrower it gets. So at higher altitudes there’s less land available.

Also with the population of East Africa predicted to rapidly increase, coupled with lower yields of crops caused by less rainfall, there’s going to be an increasing strain on food supplies. So it’s likely that any available arable land will be used for food crops rather than crops like coffee.

The authors of this report think that shade trees are possibly the best solution to the borer problem. Shade trees have been demonstrated to have a positive affect on coffee systems, by altering the microclimate and creating diversity. But more importantly, in the fight against borers, the shade they offer can decrease temperatures around coffee berries by as much as 4°C. A 4°C reduction could slow or even halt the borer’s life cycle.

Whilst I agree with the authors, that shade trees will help in the fight against borers (there is evidence to support this), I’m wondering whether the solution is too long term. I imagine that most farmers will have to grow trees from seeds as they won’t be able to afford saplings or older trees. I’m also guessing that to grow a tree, from seed to reaching a height and spread where it can offer significant shade to coffee bushes, is going to take at least 10 years, probably much longer. By this time borers could be found at altitudes in excess of 2000m. Clearly there needs to be a plan in the short term to reduce the risk and to control any borer attacks, otherwise good quality East African coffee could become even scarcer.…

Aerobie Aeropress

What is the AeroPress

For me, the AeroPress has to be one of biggest breakthroughs in coffee making history since Achille Gaggia gave birth to the modern day espresso machine. I’m not the only one to think these coffee makers are great, a group of coffee professionals where so inspired that they started the World AeroPress Championship (WAC).

Aeropress coffee makerWhat makes the AeroPress so good is that it makes fantastic coffee; smooth, bright, full-flavoured and without bitterness. And they’re so simple to use that just about anyone can make tasty coffee.

The AeroPress was designed by the same person who brought us the Aerobie Frisbee (you know the frisbee that can travel a quarter of a mile – not a lot of good for playing in the back garden though!) – Alan Alder. His aim was to design a brewer that made coffee that was less bitter and less acidity (so it would be easier on the stomach for those who suffered from acid reflux). After much experimenting he came up with the AeroPress.

It’s funny to think that when Alder was designing the Aeropress, he was probably looking at these two problems separately. But recent research has shown that the two problems maybe interlinked. It’s a particular group of acids know as chlorogenic acids that are thought to cause acid reflux and these acids also add bitterness to coffee. The AeroPress avoids extracting this mischievous group of acids as the brewing process is too quick for them to dissolve fully into your cup.

Luckily the Aeropress doesn’t remove all acids from the cup. As I’m sure many of you are aware, the flavour of coffee actually comes from some of the acids it contains.

Aeropress Recipes

Part of the reason why there is a WAC is because the brewer is so versatile. Everyone who takes part in the championship has their own special recipe, varying the: amount of coffee, water temperature, steep time etc. So I thought it only fair to post some recipes here (none which I can claim to be my own).

WAC Recipes

2010 Winner – Marie Hagemeister

  1. Pre-soak paper filter with hot water
  2. Invert AeroPress (i.e. insert plunger part a little way into the main chamber and turn upside down so the top of the plunger is resting on the worktop)
  3. Add 20 grams of coffee – ground slightly finer than filter grind
  4. Add water at 80°C until the main chamber is almost full
  5. Stir for 10-12 seconds
  6. Secure filter
  7. Turn the AeroPress the right way up and plunge slowly – stop before you hear the pssss!
    Serve

2009 Winner -Lucasz Jura

  1. Pre-soak paper filter
  2. Invert AeroPress
  3. Add 19.5-20 grams of coffee – ground slightly coarser than filter grind
  4. Add 200ml of water at 75°C
  5. Stir 4 times
  6. Secure filter
  7. Turn AeroPress the right way up 15 seconds after adding the water
  8. Plunge and serve

Andrew James Espresso & Cappuccino Coffee Maker

Not been too long since the brand has made an establishment. It was in 2005 they have started the company and has built in high reputation for its products. The luxury stone grill has been patented for its uniqueness and they supply other appliances with high quality and innovative designs which does adhere to the safety parameters. Andrew James Espresso & Cappuccino Coffee Maker is one such which impresses the customers and the following review will gives you better details of this product.

An Overview:

This model is a short and smart appliance suitable for the domestic use which is capable of handling the functions making aromatic espresso and cappuccino coffee. It can operate with the ground coffee, easy serve espresso and coffee pods for which different attachments are been used. Among the many models available in the market Andrew James Espresso & Cappuccino 1050 Watts Coffee Maker is sure to bring out the Italian style in you and the coffee. With the well coordinated design and the style it gives an endless supply of espresso, cappuccino or any other coffee type including the hot water when required.

Design Details:

This model is stylish and has a stainless steel finish. The stainless steel housing adds to the home decor and is also proven durability. It consists of a drip tray, the water tank, the controls and the cup. It operates with different attachments based on the type of coffee used. The complete dimension is 300mm in height, 285mm in width and 225 mm in depth. The weight is not a hinge and it allows shifting the places to the user convenience.

Power and Capacity:

This electric appliance works with the power of 1050 watts which is quite normal for this powerful machine. In just minutes aromatic coffee is been produced with the support of the water tank of 1.5 litre capacity. This gives easily around 6 to 7 cups and is a perfect delight for the full family. This capacity holder really saves time as it allows making more cups in a single go.

Functions:

This model gives a total coffee solution as it can take coffee beans, pre ground coffee and it can also use the coffee pods to make the coffee. Relishing as per the taste bud is possible and it gives Cappuccino system, Ground coffee and Coffee pods. Along with these are the functions like the cup warmer and water boiler. It can also be used as the steam producer and is perfect for the frothy milk drink.

Features:

The controls are simple with a knob that sets the type of coffee that is been preferred. It comes with the indicator light that intimates are a distance about the functioning of the device. Both the drip tray and the water tank are removable for easy cleaning and maintenance. The drip tray helps to keep the environment clean and tidy without much of mess up. The pressure of the pump is 15 bars and it helps to obtain forth in the milk. The stainless steel finish is not much of trouble for maintenance as when wiped with the damp cloth it cleans up the dirt and can easily be maintained new as always.

Miscellaneous:

Andrew James Espresso & Cappuccino Stainless Steel Coffee Maker is an approved one and has been certified for CE, GS and ROHS. The box consists of a manual for the step by step instructions and the warranty for 12 months is been provided by the brand in which it takes care of the defects.

Specification Details:

Brand: Andrew James
Model: Name Espresso & Cappuccino Coffee Maker
Steamer style: Espresso and Cappuccino
Finish: Stainless steel
Power: 1050 Watts
Cup warmer: Stainless steel
Controls: Knobs
Dimension (h x w x d) mm: 300 x 285 x 225 mm
Steam nozzle
Capacity: 1.5 litres
Pressure: 15 bar
Functions:

  1. Cappuccino system
  2. Ground coffee
  3. Coffee pods
  4. Cup warmer
  5. Removable water reservoir
  6. Water boiler
  7. Steam producer
  8. Adjustable steam emission
  9. Removable water reservoir
  10. Removable drip tray
  11. Stand by function

Indicator: Light
Box contents: Manual
Approval: CE, GS and ROHS
Warranty: 12 months…

Hinari CM100 Digital Coffee Maker Review

Coffee makers make up the day for coffee lovers and for which Hinari introduces this model which is one among the efficient coffee makers in the market. The design and the functions are supportive while the appliance is as such a friendly one. Hinari CM100 Digital Coffee Maker gives a delicious experience to each of its users. The following reviews discuss more points about this product.

Brand Excellence:

Hinari is one among the leading names in the small appliance category. They are wide recognised and aim to bring in quality and efficiency in each of its products. Their products are made available with great affordability and with a good support on after sales.

Special Features:

Controls –

This model is been operated with digital control system and it has a large LCD screen which displays the programmes and sets the timer. It is one of the easy references and it makes the operation easy and straight forward so the perfect cup of coffee can be obtained at the wake up.

Size –

This appliance is a one-cup maker and it is been noted that these one-cup coffee maker are better preferred over the large models. They are compact in size and great in design and style.

Carafe –

The carafe of this model is made of toughened glass which can withstand high heat. It is designed with the level indicator and the handle provided is large which is easy to access and it also serves for drip free pouring.

Filter –

The filter and the filtration is so efficient that it improves the quality of the water and it also makes the coffee better in taste and quality. The filter present is permanent but it can be removed and washed for maintenance.

Design Details:

Hinari CM100 Domestic Coffee Maker is compact in structure which can be placed anywhere and even on the table top. It functions with the automatic system and the brewing helps to bring out tasty and aromatic coffee each time. The water tank has the capacity of 15 cups. It does have a steam nozzle and the water gauge is present external which makes it easy to fill.

Other Product Details:

The timer allows you to set 24 hour cycle and it also serves as a delay start which makes it great to relish the hot aromatic cup of coffee when waken up. One of the convenience features is the water fill compartment which holds 1.5 litres of water. The large lid present makes filling easy. The outlet preset has anti drip mechanism and hence it gives increased cleanliness. It consists of keep warm hot plate which maintains the temperature at 80 degree C and it automatically switches off after 2 hours.

Overall, Hinari CM100 Black with Stainless Steel Coffee Maker is a simple and straightforward to use which is best suited for the domestic use. This product is been supplied with a measuring scoop which is offered by the manufacturer.

Specifications:

Manufacturer: Hinari
Model Name: CM100 Digital Coffee Maker
Type: Automatic
Finish: Stainless steel with black
Capacity: 15 cups
Jug type: Glass jar
Controls: digital control
Display: Large LCD
Steam nozzle: Yes
Timer: 24 hour
Filter: Permanent, removable and washable
Water gauge: External
Features:

  1. Anti drip
  2. Keep warm hot plate
  3. Toughened glass carafe
  4. Neon power indicator
  5. 24 hour timer
  6. Large LCD display
  7. Removable water reservoir
  8. Removable drip tray
  9. Stand by function
  10. Indicator light

Accessories: Measuring scoop…