An espresso tamping aid…

Orphan Espresso used to sell a tamping aid they called the Slap Shot – a rubber puck (hence the hockey connotation), on which you tapped the portafilter to settle the grounds (video here). It wasn’t cheap as I recall – their custom-made stuff can be pricey which might explain why most of it has vanished in the 5 years since I last looked at their website** – and now they no longer sell it. Which is a pity, as I wanted one, so I set out to make one, which turned out to be quite easy.

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The Dangers of Coffee Drinking – Allegedly.

Journalists top the coffee-drinking league table despite health risks shrieks the Guardian, going on to get its knickers in a right old twist, panicking about the “health risks” based on research carried out by the South Carolina university. I’ve had a look at it (it’s here), and it’s based on a study of a mere 27 people, meaning that any conclusions reached are statistically worthless.

How much caffeine one gets per cup or mug depends on the style of coffee, on the beans, on the grind, and on the quantity consumed. Assuming the same beans, same size mug/cup – the grind will vary with style – caffeine content varies wildly depending on how long the hot water is in contact with the ground coffee. Espresso is the lowest (highly controlled, ready in seconds), and percolated the highest (no control – depends how long it’s left on the stove), of normal coffee styles. These days, however, most people drink filter coffee, French Press, or espresso (which includes the whole range of espresso-based milky drinks).

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Hot drinks anywhere, almost instantly – Spoonie paradise…

According to my ex – before, of course, she was my ex – I don’t have enough hot drinks, especially on bitterly cold days, like the one I’ve woken up to today. She might have had a point. I don’t drink tea, I’m not over-fond of instant coffee, and filter coffee is vastly over-rated which, frankly, doesn’t leave much.

A couple of years ago I flirted with espresso, but found the manual machine which I thought would be the answer to be very inconsistent. I spent days getting the grind just right, then worked on the tamping and, for a short while I’d get perfect coffee before the machine would throw a strop, and I’d have to start the whole process again. I just gave up. I’ve recently learned that the machine, the La Pavoni Europiccola, is, in fact, hopelessly erratic.

I actually do like hot chocolate but, for some reason, it doesn’t like me, making me feel appallingly nauseous some days though, in fairness, I don’t actually need a hot drink to achieve that, so it might be blameless.

However, I thought I’d try again, looking at what’s available from a Spoonie perspective, and the natural choice Continue reading

Iberital MC2 auto coffee grinder – clearing retained ground coffee and other stuff…

This particular grinder retains several grams of coffee after grinding which, if left, will rapidly become stale, so I figured out a way to remove most of it, without wasting it. It’s worth mentioning, though, that at least part – probably a large part – of the reason for this retention is a “step” in the plastic spout – a very poor bit of design and there is absolutely no reason for it to be there.

If I can buy a spare spout (in case I break the one I’ve got), I’m going to remove the step. A hot knife is probably the best tool, with a file for smoothing afterwards.

For now, though, the best way is to Continue reading

Store coffee beans in CO2 to prevent oxidation – conclusion.

Well, I now have my MOSA keyboard blower, or Power Cleaner, to give it its proper name.

First impressions are good, and it seems to be well made and robust. The trigger enables fine control, so gas can be released very slowly if you wish, obviating the need for me to cobble up a device to slow it down.

Nor is the gas freezing. I know, from experience, that Continue reading

Iberital MC2 Auto first impressions – Mark 2

This is a much revised version of the last post.

You don’t get a manual with the Iberital MC2l, but on reflection, what could it tell you that you didn’t already know? Unless you’re a complete novice, in which case it might be a good idea.

There’s an extensive review of the MC2 at Happy Donkey which is quite useful, and a shorter how-to at The Domestic Barista.

The machine looks very robust, with a steel body and a plastic top (held by 2 tabs and easily removed), covering the burr assembly and holding the bean hopper. There’s a wide plastic base, with rubber feet – wide enough so that it can’t be accidentally knocked over.

I read, somewhere, that you should start by Continue reading

Iberital MC2 Auto first impressions…

A revised and updated version is available here.

You don’t get a manual with the Iberita MC2l, but on reflection, what could it tell you that you didn’t already know? Unless you’re a complete novice, in which case it might be a good idea.

There’s an extensive review of the MC2 at Happy Donkey which is quite useful, and a shorter how-to at The Domestic Barista.

The machine looks very robust, with a steel body and a plastic top (held by 2 tabs and easily removed), covering the burr assembly and holding the bean hopper. There’s a wide plastic base, with rubber feet – wide enough Continue reading

A new obsession?

It’s been suggested, not altogether unkindly, that my new-found interest in espresso is becoming something of an obsession. Weeell – maybe…

However, it follows logically – for me, at least – from breadmaking, something that can be done within the constraints of my disability, and which gives me pleasure. If that’s obsession then, fine, bring it on.

My normal activities, pre disability, revolved around backpacking, rambling, cycle camping, and sea angling. I was also a very good cook, albeit with little artistic flair but, hell, I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed, even more, cooking for others.

All of that’s history. What I am physically able to do, these days is Continue reading

Toxic tamping mat warning…

I’ve just bought a “rubber” tamper mat from The Espresso Shop. There is just one tiny snag – it’s not rubber, it’s some sort of bituminous compound.

I’ve worked with bitumen in the past – I was an estimator for a roofing company – and I have no doubt about what I have here. Bitumen is toxic and carcinogenic; not very, but you sure as hell don’t want it around food or drink, if only because of the stink. Which is a big problem, as it Continue reading

Espresso snobbery…

I’m just reading through http://www.home-barista.com/ where some poor sod with a tiny budget is being told he can’t possibly get a usable coffee grinder for under £300 (his budget for an espresso machine is £200, which is perfectly doable, but suggesting £300 for a grinder is just nuts), and he should get a hand grinder instead. You know, as with any hobby – and this reminds me very much of the attitude I encountered in archery – there’s a massive amount of snobbery that says you can’t make espresso (or shoot well), without spending a small fortune, and most of it is, like this, the purest bovine ordure.

Take grinders. I have a Continue reading