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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Kaffa moves

Kaffa Roastery has moved from their previous quite isolated and out of town location in an industrial estate to a much more central location in Helsinki (you can enter from Pursimiehenkatu 29 or through Mokomarket at Perämiehenkatu 10). I popped in today to pick up some coffee and check out the new place. I think it is great to finally have a roaster and a nice espresso/coffee bar in a location that is accessible!

Next to the espresso bar is a cute Piaggio trike. I had to ask, but apparently there are no plans to make a mobile espresso bar out of it for the summer.

The roasters themselves are behind a glass wall next to the espresso bar. On duty are two Toper roasters that were hauled over from the previous location - a 2.5kg one and a 15kg one (as well as a four barrel sample roaster).

Current selection of goodies available for purchase consists of coffee roaster on site (this is done mostly on Mondays and Tuesdays), Zero Japan drippers and Bodum presspots.

Reg Barber tampers, Motta milk jugs and other stuff is to follow soon. I look forward to seeing what that may be - Cona vacuum brewers? Clever Coffee Drippers? Let's see...



But there was also something interesting lurking in a back room. An old Probat UG-22 roaster! It is in need of some cleaning but is otherwise in very good shape. May be we will soon see it in action?

One more thing to note for those visiting Helsinki - Kaffecentralen, another must visit coffee place in Helsinki, is located only about a 100 meters from Kaffa's new location. Very convenient.

You can follow the latest news and developments regarding the new products becoming available etc from Kaffa Roastery's blog.

At the time of writing this, Kaffa's actual website is not yet up to date.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays!

I hope that everyone has a peaceful and relaxing festive season. Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year 2010!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Balance Brewer

Out of curiosity I purchased this little new toy. If you are not familiar with these, it is a Balance Brewer. It is basically a Vacuum Brewer that just looks a bit fancier than you "average" vac pot.

So far I have only tried this baby a couple of times, but it is actually surprisingly easy to use (although fairly difficult to clean). So far I have found that the grind needs to be suprisingly fine and that for ideal results - at least with this unit - one will want to use pre-boiled water and also extend the brew time slightly by holding the vessel on the right down (by lifting up the counterweight on the left) for an extra 30 secs or so. This way you will get stronger coffee - both due to the longer brew time, but also due to getting more of the water from the pot on the right to shift to the glass on the right.

The temperatures seem to be good as I have not detected bitterness in the cup, i.e. it appears to cool down sufficiently from the boil while making its way through the siphon tube.


What I have detected is a clear and clean cup of very tasty coffee. Better than I have ever managed with a French Press. And the Balance Brewer certainly looks the part - and I suspect it will be a nice conversation piece over a good after dinner coffee.

Any downsides? It's early days, but I've already mentioned cleaning. It takes a bit of time but is manageable (although I would not use this on a daily basis). The bigger gripe for me is the little faucet used for dispensing the brewed coffee. It is fairly small and it takes a while (too long in my opinion) to serve the coffee. The maximum capacity of this unit is around 400ml and there is a bit less of the finished product. So no this cannot be used to entertain larger groups (although larger units are available).

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

La Torrefazione

I'm really happy to see that a new speciality coffee shop / roastery, La Torrefazione will be opening its doors in Helsinki in the near future. The location is as central as can be and there will be roasting on site. I have very high hopes for this venture - the concept seems great and the people behind it have the track record. They include e.g. Benjamin and Svante from Kaffa Roastery and Roman Kolpaktsi (leading barista from Café Ursula). The gents also have a blog - check it out here. The grinders look familiar for some reason :)

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Robur-E in da house!

Talk about taking a break from blogging.

A few things have happened, more of them in future posts. This is just a quick one on my new grinder, the Mazzer Robur-E and my previous one, the Mahlkönig K30 Vario.

The Mahlkönig was a very good grinder. The looks, the finish (especially of the customized version I had) and the ergonomics were excellent - way better than those of the Robur. The stepless adjustment is probably the best design I have seen in a grinder. Overall, I was really pleased with the K30 but there were two things that in the end drove me to the latest change - the lack of conical burrs and the clumping (although I think this could at least partially be fixed with a change of burrs).

Having now spent a few days with the Robur-E, does it live up to my expectations? Too early to say as I am still in the process of running the beast in. Kindly enough Kaffa Roastery had some test batches, old samples etc of coffee that were of no use to them and I managed to source 25 kilos of coffee for running in the Robur. I am halfway through this coffee and I am happy to already see that there is no clumping or static issues with the big Mazzer and the ground coffee is really fluffy and has an almost perfect initial distribution. The shots I have pulled and drunk using quality coffee also shows promise. But too early to draw any conclusions...

Below pic shows my espresso bar, but also gives an idea of the size of the Robur. It is huge compared to even the K30 :)

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Greed

It has been a long time since I last posted. The financial turmoil that I am sure everyone is aware of has kept me busy - more so than I'd like. After all, I do work for a bank in an international capacity. Nevertheless, I am happy to see that my employer is amongst the ones that has emerged on top amongst its peers in the financial sector. Personally, I also think we're now past the worst times and even though next year may still be tough for many, we're getting over it. I am starting to get optimistic. All this is really not coffee related (more on that leater), but I just just wanted to post and show that I'm still alive and kicking :) I hope to start posting again soon...

Friday, May 30, 2008

Consumer coffee in Finland

I have now spent about a month trying to settle down in Finland. This has mostly gone well, but there have been two exceptions. The first one I already posted on - the difficulties with getting things done in our new home. The second one is coffee related.

Compared to Copenhagen, it has been tough to find drinkable coffee. My first try after moving over was Paulig's "Espresso Originale" from a supermarket. Sounds really bad, and it really was quite sad. To make a long story short, even though the coffee was roasted fairly recently (3 weeks from the day I bought it and it was after all vacuum packed), I have to say that even after my best efforts at varioús grind, dose and temp settings, this coffee was undrinkable for me.

The next step for me was trying Robert's Coffee. For those who do not know, Starbuck's is not present in Finland. I think Robert's is the closest equivalent although I guess they (Robert's) try and do better (than Starbuck's). I am not sure they achieve that and my personal experience has not been positive. I have tried two of their blends (Roberto and Habanero) from (probably) their busiest sales location (Stockmann's in Helsinki) and both of the blends have been a disappointment for me.

While purchasing (on Monday this week), I enquired about the roast dates of the coffees, The responses were vague (as in I have no idea), but apparently the coffee was delivered on Friday (i.e. three days before purchase) and supposedly roasted on the day of delivery (or close to)...

Regardless of all this vagueness, in my opinion the coffee was over-roasted on both blends and I am quite sure it was a lot older from the roast than I was lead to believe. To me the coffee was barely acceptable/drinkable on the day of purchase and the day after. As you may have gathered, I was not impressed and will most likely not be purchasing again unless I am in really dire straits. If I was pushed for further analysis, I'd rather go for the Habanero, but the priority would be on checking which one is the lighter and fresher roast of the blends available at the time of purchase (if you can get a clear answer on that).

After these experiences it initially looked like I had explored all my options in Helsinki and this is almost true. But fortunately not quite. Of course you have the Illy etc pre-packed options available (at the supermakets and various other locations), but those have never convinced me before and I do not think they would do so now, either. So I might as well skip them to be honest.

You also have the Andesa/Cafetoria coffees available in some of the supermarkets, but over the past four weeks, I am yet to find a bag that I feel would be fresh enough for me to purchase (although my guess is that it would be better and not as over-roasted as Robert's is - they do have more of the right approach and the cupping champ on their side to boot).

Anyway, at this stage I was feeling desparate. Finns drink more coffee than any other nation in the world, but in my experience (during my stay in Copenhagen and even more so now that I live in Helsinki again), the quality of the coffee in the Finnish capital is bad. Really crappy. I am frustrated and I expect better (I admit this may be a bit selfish, but in my opinion Copenhagen was heaven compared to this).

After all these disappointments, I thought the only way forward was to start roasting at home again, or start ordering online from Hasbean, The Coffee Collective, Risteriet or Mokkamestarit. These are all viable and respectable alternatives, but I would personally always prefer having a local speacialist (primarily - but I do like variety, comparison and challenges).

So, after all of the above I have to say that I was extremely happy to finally experience and see a very dedicated, talented and professional setup in the capital region. Kaffa Roastery is starting up and it really looks like the guys have the right attitude to speciality coffee. I have had a brief encounter with Kaffa and based on that I would compare them with the Coffee Collective that I was familiar with in Denmark. I think this says a lot about the quality and ambition level of the roaster and so far this is the only source that has satisfied me in Finland. More on this experience soon!

A mess

It has now been almost a month since we moved to Finland. Things have mostly gone smoothly and we are happy, especially professionally.

One of the things that has gone less well is finishing our new home. The tiles we had on the floors for most of the downstairs were not available in stock anywhere and had to be ordered from the manufacturer in Italy. This we knew and were prepared for. We gave the specs (including the calibration and shade) of the batch that we already had on the floor and ordered the tiles.

As I noted before, we are looking to have a small dedicated espresso bar in the kitchen. No direct plumbing for now, though. In terms of the electrics, we needed 16 apms for the plugs at the bar (to run the GS3, the Mahlkönig and a wine cooler) and doing this took a bit more effort than we initially expected. No biggie, though.

But this is where things started going wrong. We have up until today been unable to unpack our stuff and more or less everything that can go wrong has gone wrong. I will not go into the details, but we have now been living out of our suitcases for almost a month now. Fortunately things are finally starting to look up and the floor and the kitched should be finished next week, finally... ...let's just hope that there will be no further setbacks.

One of the few things we have managed tp unpack is the GS3 and the grinder (you can probably make these out in the above picture if you click it to see a slightly larger image). However, another struggle has been finding good coffee in Finland. I knew this would be one of my biggest challenges and I have to say that there is some really nasty stuff out there. Fortunately I think I have found a spot that will do the trick for me. More on that (and the hopefully finished kitchen/bar/floor) soon...

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Professional Barista's Handbook

A bit over a week ago I received Scott Rao's new book titled "The Professional Barista's Handbook". I know the book has received a fair bit of attention already, but I thought I'd post my thoughts as well.

The book is clearly focused on espresso and to a lesser extent, filter coffee. French press and tea are also briefly covered. This suits me fine as I mainly enjoy espresso myself. What I really like about this book is that the most important aspects of the barista technique are explained in a fairly concise and easily understandable way. A big plus for covering various different methods and approaches to most topics.

My personal favourite coffee related book is the usual suspect - Illy's "Espresso Coffee - The Science of Quality" - which is a really heavy read and while it contains a lot of very detailed and valuable fact, it is not much fun to read. The Illy book is a scientific exploration of coffee while Scott's book has a practical and "hands on" approach to the preparation techniques (which the Illy book really doesn't cover). I like this.

The book does not cover the maintenance or recommended cleaning routines of the coffee equipment, which are in my opinion a crucial part of barista skills. However, these can be very specific to the equipment at the barista's disposal, so perhaps leaving this out is a good idea (as the book therefore does not restrict the audience or application of the book). Despite the title of the book, it also aimed at (or at least very useful for) the home baristi.

In short, I find Scott's book a great addition to my bookshelf and for me, in addition to the Illy book it now ranks in the top two in its kind. I prefer it over the Schomer book (Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques), which I also happen to have. Highly recommended.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Ristretto.fi gets an update

The Finnish discussion forums have been up and running for a bit over a year now. We initially went for the JForum software and I think was a wrong call. The software was buggy and slow and almost impossible to update to a newer version of the same software. Things may have improved, but we decided to mirgate to another software altogether. This proved to be a lot more difficult than we thought, but we have finally managed it. The Ristretto.fi discussion forums are now running on Simple Machines software and things are a lot better now with added functionality, flexibility, faster operation and a lot less bugs. I am happy. This would not have been possible without the wizardy of Janne and support from Esa. Thanks a million guys!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Changes

It has been a very long time since I last posted on my blog. My apologies to the readers and thank you for your patience. Since my previous post there have been numerous developments. I'll try and make this short.

Both my wife and myself have moved to or are in the process of taking up new jobs. In both cases these are with the same companies respectively, but in a different country. We will be moving back to our home country, Finland, at the end of this month. I have effectively been working two jobs (but unfortunately only on one salary) for a while now and on top of this making the practical arrangements for moving home, country etc have taken their fair share of my time.

In addition to the new jobs, we've managed to find a new home in Finland. We both look forward to our new challenges professionally as well as to being closer to our families. Having said this, we will both immensely miss Copenhagen, Denmark and the friend that we have both come to love over the time we have spent here. Fortunately, going forward, both of us will continue to have responsibilities in our respective jobs that will mean that we will have frequent opportunities to visit Copenhagen on a regular basis in the future.

For me personally the time in Denmark has been an eye opener when it comes to coffee and one of my biggest challenges in Finland will be keeping up the quality of the coffee we are so accustomed to having at home here in Copenhagen. To be honest, I initially see only two alternatives, either ordering online from Denmark and/or the UK or roasting at home. I may and up relying on both. Time will tell...

Moving on to "smaller" things, both myself and my wife both look forward to our new home in Finland. We will finally have a slightly larger kitchen with a space dedicated for my coffee passion. I attach a draft picture of the espresso bar that will be in place soon after we have moved in. It's nothing fancy, but I hope it will serve the purpose. I will report in more detail on this once we have completed the move...
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