One title doesn’t fit all


This is going to be a bit of a mish mash post, a composite of a few different things.  Originally I had planned to follow up the previous post on brew temperature and conduct a few experiments but the comments quickly reminded me I need to go and do some serious reading before attempting anything serious.

Instead this post is a collection of a few different thoughts rolling around like tumbleweed in my brain.


We had a lot of international visitors today at the roastery.  Keith Loh from Singapore, Joe Hsu from Orsir in Taiwan and Paul Bassett meaning that conversation was both interesting and far ranging.  Plus I ended up drinking way too much coffee.

Joe very kindly brought me a TC-2A syphon, and we talked a little about the Syphon contest that had taken place in Japan a couple of weeks ago.  Joe had sent me the score sheets but I can’t understand them – if anyone wants to see them then I can post them on here, but google will probably deliver them quicker!

If I understood it right then in the contest steep time is set at 1 minute, and this restriction kind of inspired me to start playing with the syphon this evening.  I confess, shamefully, that my interest in it was inversely proportional to the fetishization of it online.  I never wanted to be one of those people who stopped liking a band because it got popular. How embarrassing…

Regardless – it has been good to be challenged by it again.  I still suck at it – by which I mean I still haven’t really nailed a coffee, though I feel I am getting pretty close.  I am sticking to sensible doses (60g/l) and am trying to just change one thing at a time.  There seemed to be a lot of chatter about syphons online, did anything close to conclusive surface?  Are people willing to share where they ended up?

Green Coffee Packaging

Ola wrote a fantastic post a while back, and recently it has been something I’ve thought about more and more.  Of the vac packed coffees we deal with I have two polar extremes.  One of the seasonal espresso components was packed in 20kg boxes, and plastic vacpacking.  We’ve gone through all the boxes in three months, in which time the other espresso components still in jute have not suffered.  The amount of packaging is quite upsetting, and makes me feel quite bad.

However we have a few different coffees from Aida Batlle that are too precious to trust to jute.  We may not know the full effects of alternative packing methods, but with coffees like her Grand Reserve (which we won’t launch for a few weeks more) I am glad to have them packed well against the elements.  So I remain conflicted.  I think Ola’s identification of the problem (it takes too long to move coffee) are pretty much spot on, and if we sped that up and remained seasonally focused as an industry then the packaging dilema is somewhat reduced.  That said – I’d still like to know of alternatives to jute for shipping and storage. (Shipping especially)

Teflon steam tips

Paul from CoffeeHit very kindly took a few low flow Synesso steam tips away and had them teflon coated.  I know teflon steamwands are nothing new, but this is still a fun experiment for me.  I love the low flow tips – they are great for training – but they were always annoying to clean.  I’ve only had these for a day, but so far so good.  I am going to send one back to Synesso for fun, and have a couple left.  Will see what to do with them.  I should point out that the colour choice is not the only one – it does now match my portafilters quite nicely though!

Home Brewing

I still want to do more on brewing at home.  I know I am not alone in seeing this as a really important area where the industry needs to do better when it comes to communicating and educating.  I think for the quality driven there are only benefits for getting people to drink better coffee at home – that includes cafes too.  I quite fancy putting together another videocast on coffee brewing at home.  I know I need to redo the Chemex one, and that is pretty high up the priority list, but I was curious if people had a preference.  More than that I was curious as to how most people who read this make coffee at home.  I’d be very grateful if you could vote in the poll below (you can pick three different options):

How do you make coffee at home?

View Results

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So – quite a lot there.  I know I need to catch up on replying to loads of great comments – looking forward to doing that this weekend.

13 Comments One title doesn’t fit all

  1. michael phillips

    we just had our quarterly chicago intelli “cookie competition” this has been primarily a latte art comp but this time we tacked on an impromptu vacpot comp. I wa stuck running the latte art comp so did not get to see much of it but the lady from my shop that did well was using around 42 grams for water to the 5 cup line and a two minute steep time with a quick stir at 1 minute and vigerous stir at the end. no wet towels or anything, just some huffing and puffing. With drawdown the total time was close to 3:30. Pretty nice cup, actually made me want to start playing with it again!

  2. yara

    Regarding the Vac-pots, I gotta say I hate the Cona ones from UK … they look awesome but there is nothing more embarassing than doing a presentation in front of x people while the glass filter fails … On the other hand the combination of Hario beam heater and TC-2A is stellar. I never really nailed down the taste but these toys are just the ultimate eye catcher …
    btw: If Keith is still at your place James, please say hi to him, thanks …

  3. Tony

    To answer your poll, I don’t make coffee at home. At all. We have a one group Elektra at our design studio, which has spoiled me completely. I only drink coffee at work or when out at a café. I didn’t think clicking ‘other’ really covered that …

  4. The Onocoffee

    At home, I’ve got french press, vacpot and an espresso machine, but I invariably turn to the press for my leisurely coffee drinking. Too much mess with espresso and vacpot takes a bit more time to setup and tear down. At home, I just want to drink.

    We use an amalgamation of theories and ideas from various friends around the industry. Yama TCA-3 with 16 grams of coffee added after the upper chamber has stabilized (8z serving), saturate with bamboo, steep 35 seconds, cut the power, three vigorous stirs and the whole thing should brew and fall within 1 minute 30 seconds. Simple, but not easy.

  5. boshek

    I would be very interested in your findings for vacuum brewing method – how each parameter affects the cup. I have been using a Hario vac-pot for a couple of years and use the following method:

    1) 48-50g per litre
    2) Filter grind – may be slightly finer
    3) Grinds in the top before attaching to the bottom
    4) Quick stir for wetting, then re-stir when all the water is up
    5) 1 min steep time before extinguishing

    I have been experimenting with longer steep times recently but have not found any definitive conclusions (due to too many other inconsistent factors). However 1 min seems to be contrary to the “golden rule” of 3-4mins total water-coffee contact time used in other brewing methods. I’m not sure whether adding the coffee before or after the water rises to the top chamber makes any difference either. Like I said, I would be very interested in your findings because I think you can probably better control the other parameters involved than I can at home. Also: couldn’t google any info on said vacuum brewing competition – link(s)?

    There is indeed a lot of fetishization particularly on – although there is useful information (read: opinion) there also along with the brewing tip sheets at sweet maria’s.

    Re: home brewing: I much prefer brewed coffee to espresso based drinks – to the extent that I almost avoid drinking coffee when not at home owing to the lack of brewed choices and poor quality available at most cafes and restaurants.

  6. Patrick Smith

    Regarding the innovative packaging of green coffee, I too have compunctions. In order to salve my conscience & steward as wisely as possible, I have begun saving and indefinitely re-using the foil bags in which our Daterra is shipped. I re-pack many of my other green coffees which would otherwise store in jute in the warehouse here. I also re-use the Daterra boxes for shipping. In the case of the bags, it does not eliminate the waste, but it extends their life. Re-using the boxes prevents me from using a new one–more cost & eco-friendly. I would appreciate any additional ideas for “re-uses” of such products. As always, James, thanks for the good work; you’re always challenging me to critically evaluate my processes.

  7. Lucey

    I use a TC-3. Roughly 12 oz. w/ 26-29 g. Agitate to saturate, take the flame away around 50 – 55 sec. Agitate just again before draw down. Drawdown – 30 sec. I’m always interested to see what can be done with the more typical brew times, but just feel as though I get better results with what’s listed above.

    I’d love to see the score sheets posted, or would love them emailed.
    Thanks James.


  8. BaconMeister

    My problem with the Siphon is the amount of variable factors involved, I can usually get one good brew from a particular coffee then couldn’t replicate it again 5mins later… Maybe I just haven’t gotten use to it yet. I guess that’s why there is Siphon Competitions because the bloody thing is so hard to use. Wondering whether there’s a French Press competition as I’ll definitely join up, LOL….

  9. jimseven

    I get very confused when you mix oz and grams! I must invest in a TC-3 at some point, I always end up sharing my brew from the 2 cup and then wanting more. I will upload the scoresheets this week – hopefully someone can translate!

  10. Andy

    I’ve been using a TC-5. Water to 5 cup line (21 oz., 620 ml), 44g. coffee and method very similar to Lucey, killing flame at 50 seconds. We’ve rigged a metal filter which works great and eliminates the hassle of cleaning cloth filters. Total brew time around 2.5 min.

  11. Will Frith

    all of these issues are intriguing, but i can’t help but to focus on the teflon. there’s some controversy about the substance (particularly that of a long-term toxicity buildup, and i’m wondering about what the regular contributors to your comments have to say about it. here are a couple of links, though all i can find on the “teflon is not dangerous” side of the argument is DuPont’s reaction to the whole controversy:

    here are the cons:

    do we worry too much? (or not enough?)

  12. James Hoffmann

    I am uncomfortable with the use of Teflon at high temperature, or in environments where it is likely to be chipped off easily – cookware/pans being the main example.

    At 80C, inside a portafilter I am less concerned. I am keeping a close eye on it for signs of wear and tear but they seem to be holding up well and I am by no means aggressive with them when cleaning.

    The steam tip does make me nervous that it could get chipped but so far I’ve found no issues.

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