brewing coffee news

The math of brewing a better espresso

Scientists have finally answered a burning question of mine: why should an espresso be brewed in 25 +/- 2 seconds and use approx 15-22gr of dry coffee to yield 50ml of (a double) espresso?

Who came up with this rule and why? Not that I have a specific problem with it but it seems so arbitrary. Also, once you start to make espresso’s a day long, you’ll notice that it’s really hard to dial in the equipment a certain way and maintain those rules for every cup. Sometimes it’ll be 21 seconds, sometimes 29. The grinder is pretty accurate. The beans are practically the same. So where does this high variation come from?

Well, it turns out that brewing your espresso differently yields the same great taste and flavors while achieving this with much greater consistency and reducing the cost per cup of espresso!

How did they do it? Well, they started by reducing the process to a proper model with solid mathematics behind it. Brewing an espresso is basically fluid dynamics of a bed of particles. The “puck” being coffee grinds of varying sizes and water is pushed through this bed at a certain pressure.

These mathematics are very well understood and accepted. So the scientists started with this model, created equations for everything and solved the equations using differential equations. That resulted in a few parameters and then they found the optimal solutions.

Sounds easy enough but believe me the math is pretty impressive, yet their logic is sound.

Turns out if you lower the pressure to 6 bars instead of 9, use 7-15gr of dry coffee, ground more coarse then tradition tells you to and aim for an extraction of 8-15 seconds, you will get a beautiful espresso that is much easier to reproduce!

Don’t believe it? Read the articles:

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Barista ethics, principles and practice

After working as a barista in various places since our return to the Netherlands in July 2019, I’ve learned that the coffee business is vastly better here than on Sint Maarten. The beans, the machines and the skills of the baristas working there are much better than there.

But what’s surprised me the most is that most places stopped after buying better quality beans or investing in a good machine.

Many places shamelessly use the same beans for espresso as well as “gewone koffie”, the historical Dutch name for normal coffee meaning filter coffee that our parents and grandparents used to make.

Some establishments use at least a different grinder when making “koffie”. But they opt using the same espresso machine because it’s there, so the “koffie” is most often approximated by a lungo.

A few use both a different bean as well as a separate grinder. A conscious decision. But I fail to understand why you don’t simply make “koffie” using a filter method?! After all, if it is about the money, and I think it is, then the math of making a liter of coffee from 57-63g of ground coffee is always better than turning 17-19g of the same coffee into 50ml of espresso or 90-100ml of “koffie”. Right?

And if you decide to use different beans for espresso and “koffie”, because of flavor I assume, then how come you don’t use different beans for cappuccino? After all, roughly 70% of coffee drinks sold in the Netherlands are “white coffees” aka milk-based coffees such as flat white, cappuccino, latte macchiato and large lattes.

I’m often disappointed by what I find in espresso bars during my Temper shifts. Large 3 group machines supplied by a caterer and left to more and more careless baristas who’s level of care and quality goes down by the month when management is not present, training is no longer provided and customers don’t know better.

Granted, many people working as barista are students either during the studies or directly after, earning money for leisure time, travel plans or settling down. They learn on the job while doing it and some of them are truly gifted and highly skilled by intuition. Nothing wrong with that. But as soon as they leave, and there’s always a better laying barista position coming next month – turnover is a bitch – knowledge is drained and whoever is left in charge has to pick up the slack. But pay is low, pressure is high and people don’t seem to care or know.

I’ve been searching for a better place to make excellent coffee now for 2 months and every place that I’ve talked to is stuck to bean contracts, doesn’t want to invest anything further and can’t train the people with SCA courses.

Well you can’t have it both ways! You want cheap high quality coffee fast, but you only pick two at any time. Not three. Skilled baristas cost more, care for the equipment, as well as customers. They know how to tweak the machine on a daily or even hourly basis to result in the best quality coffee.

Nothing makes a barista more happy than a great clean machine, new grinder or a kilo of fantastic beans to try out. Reward staff with perks, not salary. The effect is the same, if they truly love their jobs. Hire a legendary barista or roaster to give a workshop and spark their interest again, relight that fire (no, don’t go there!) and give the team a new boost of energy.


Coffee Culture in Bussum en Naarden

Update: per 1 december werk ik niet meer voor Coffee Culture. We zagen er beide geen toekomst in. Dan heeft verder gaan geen zin.

Deze maand werk ik al weer voor het laatst bij Coffee Cabana in Utrecht. De drie maanden opstarten zitten er al weer op. Ik weet zeker dat het een succes zal worden want het concept is erg uniek in Nederland: een koffiebar met een Braziliaanse twist. Tapiocas, pão-de-queijo, cakes, natuurlijke vruchtensappen zonder toevoegingen uit Brazilie, biologische thee en limonades, acai bowls en meer. Binnenkort ook met bier en wijntjes dus bij uitstek geschikt voor borrels uit de hele buurt.

Ik ben blij dat ik Coffee Cabana heb kunnen helpen met de opzet van de lunchroom, in zoverre dat ik natuurlijk niks anders heb gedaan dan goede koffies maken! Hierdoor kon Galit zich zoveel mogelijk richten op de rest van de zaak en alles wat daarbij komt kijken. Tussendoor heb ik mijn kennis van de horecakeuken kunnen inzetten bij het aanscherpen van de menukaart voor belegde broodjes en de mise-en-place daarvan.

coffee culture
Coffee Culture

Ik heb weer een hoop geleerd over wat er komt kijken bij een eigen zaak en ben klaar voor een volgende stap op weg naar de Dutch Barista Championships 2020! Vanaf november ga ik werken bij Coffee Culture in Bussum en Naarden! Dat is vlakbij en hoogstens 15 minuten fietsen voor me. Aangezien er in december een 2e kleine aankomt is het verkorten van de reistijden heel erg gewenst.

Coffee Culture

Vrijdag 1 november begin ik op het station van Naarden-Bussum en zaterdag 2 november op locatie in Naarden Vesting! Kom gezellig langs! Hierna zal ik een beetje zweven tussen de locaties in Bussum en Naarden, dus wil je mij zien en spreken, check het dan even van tevoren met mij via WhatsApp.