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Teflon coated….(Long post)

Plethora of things are teflon coated these days. It’s on the frying pan, fabrics and recently it has been sprayed on our portafilters. It was a mission to clean the dirty dried up remains of an espresso shots, and we can’t clean our baskets and portafilters after every shot pulled. After coating the surface with teflon, only thing i do now is rinse with hot water, nothing else.

Then i came across this: 

James Hoffmann did an interesting experiment with teflon coated baskets, with a video.( Check that post first before reading on this post if you haven’t done so)

I thought by coating the basket with teflon; flow rate and extraction from coffee bed would remain the same, or would have correlation to non teflon coated basket.

I was wrong; the teflon somehow changed all things where i thought it would remain unchanged, and the video shows that.

This made me thought ‘Teflon coated portafilter is enough’, until this showed up

Yes, it is a teflon coated dispersion block for Nuova Simonelli Aurelia. This was sent to Andrew by Paul from Coffeehit (Many thanks Paul) for us to play with and test on. So on a quiet Saturday evening, i made my way to Bank, where i got to play with this little green thing 1 on 1. 

My first impression was ‘just a dispersion block with teflon’ nothing special really, except for the fact that; on the hand, it felt really smooth and silky, unlike the rough brass dispersion block.

Side by side, it looks like this

For those who does not know the function of the dispersion block on the Aurelia, put simply, hot water is jetted out from the mixing cavity at an angle; this is done so when it hits the dispersion block, equal amount of water by passes the 8 holes on the block itself, so water is distributed evenly, hence achieving good extractions from all areas of the coffee bed.

I thought having teflon on dispersion block is a good idea, as it is very very hard to clean! So i quickly fitted the teflon block on one of the group head, and started to pull some shots through and start my experiments..

Experiment 1.

Firstly, i set the grinder using our house blend, through the group head with no teflon dispersion block. When i started to get good shots through, i measured the dose, time of extraction and the brew weight on both group heads ( one with teflon one without)

So have a look below:

 So for each shot, i tried to get these variables constant:

Dose : 21g

Time: 25sec

Tamping technique 

Few things that i want to point out, or you guys already noticed is that, the teflon shots were pulled from a naked portafilter, where as brass had spouted portafilters, also, i can’t guarantee that each group head was at equal temperature, but i would imagine that it was within ± 0.5℃.

Even with these factors did contributed to the fact that; my experiment was not entirely ‘Uniform’ or ‘Accurate’ giving fair results, the results did surprise me.

17g difference in brew weight is quite big. Very big i would say. Also, when i was observing the shots coming through the group with teflon, it seemed to me that the water was not removing much soluble solids from the coffee bed, to me, it seemed to be channeling rapidly even though the shot was aligned at the centre,

here is a picture:

With my eyes only, i couldn’t explain what was happening, so i decided to let my palates take charge. The shot from the brass dispersion block tasted of everything i desired; floral notes along with apricot notes coming through, giving way to sweet chocolate notes finished with very nutty after taste lingering in my mouth.

On the other hand, the shot from the teflon dispersion block was quite unpleasant.

It felt to me as if i was drinking sour americano, flavors were underdeveloped, it was very watery in my mouth, so much dilution, i could only taste slight nutty notes on that shot.

After tasting each shot, I’ve realised that, somehow, the teflon dispersion block was not doing it’s job. It wasn’t letting water pass through the 8 holes equally, or evenly so even extraction could happen, instead channeling was occurring, not much of the water was going through the coffee bed removing soluble solids.

I had no clue why this was happening, i repeated the same experiment over 10 times but i had the same results as above.

Experiment 2

I decided to take a look on the spent coffee bed. What this tells me is how much soluble solids have been readily removed from the coffee bed. So if i pulled; nice evenly extracted espresso, the spent coffee bed should have nice graduation of color. The top of the coffee bed( where it has first contact with water) should be lighter than the bottom, and inside the coffee bed, should have nice color distribution( Light to dark from top to bottom).

Here are some pictures of the spent coffee bed:

 The spent coffee bed from teflon is still quite dark, where as coffee bed from the brass is noticeably lighter, showing that soluble solids has been removed from the top of the bed.

 From the second picture, i wanted to show the color inside the coffee bed, this picture, just like the first shows that the coffee bed from the teflon is still dark, no change in colour between coffee bed, not much solids were removed.

I don’t know, I just don’t. I know that teflon dispersion block causes or contributes majorly to channeling, therefore producing under extracted, sour shots. But i just can’t figure out why…

If i was to take an educated guess, i might say that; maybe there is something to do with friction of the dispersion block. Brass, even though on hand it feels smooth, on microscopic view of the surface will be very rough looking, so causing friction when water is flowing on it’s surface.

But if we cover that surface with teflon, are we taking away all that friction or most of it? Making the surface ‘slippery’ for the water?

I don’t know, i guess it’s up to the scientist for this one… it was enjoyable though, in the mean time, i will make sure i give these brass friends nice polish.

Comments and suggestions are welcome!! I would like to hear what other people think about this alot!

Sang ho

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From Korea, with love.

As a Barista, i think communication is a vital skill. Not only between customers but with other Baristas. This can also be translated to networking, knowing other Baristas will lets you experience and learn other areas unexplored by ones self.

The reason i have mentioned this is because, i myself have gained many benifits from networking with other Baristas in London and around the world.

Recently, i had the chance to trade coffee(Square mile for Jong Hoon’s coffee)  with my other fellow Korean Barista: Jong Hoon Lee. Many of you might already know him. He was one of  finalist in WBC 2009, he has proven to the world of his talents and recently has decided to open a espresso bar in Seoul, Korea.

Jong Hoon roasts his own beans, making his own blend for espresso and cappucino, he does not hold back on the components used in his blends, he uses cup of excellence coffees as his components which is rare in Korea. Korean cafes tend to go for average quality beans to produce one of many mediocre blends.

Today at work( Taylor st Baristas, Bank site) , i dialled in the espresso blend Jong hoon sent over which arrived 2 days ago. The components of the blend are just below:

40% Brazil Fazenda Passagem Funda COE 2009 # 7

Variety: Catuai

Process: Pulped natural

50% Guatemala Alfonso Anzueto - Isnul COE 2009 # 13

Variety: Pacamara

Process: Sun and dryer

10% Kenya AA Peaberry Mchana Estate

Variety: Bourbon

Process: Fully washed and sun dried

As you can see it consists of 3 different types of beans. Honestly i thought it would be the same old case where, Brazilians giving body and sweetness, Guatemalans with balanced sweet acidity and Kenyan for the extra fruit and juciness. I was wrong( always the case) big time, this espresso blend was like no other. It was explosive in the mouth, gentle on the nose and so smooth and juicy on the pallates. I could taste and feel how much time and effort Jong hoon had put in.  I was able to  taste the love.

The blend was dialled in using a Synesso Hydra, this is what i did:

Dose: 20~21g

Temp: 95 C

Pre-infusion: Yes, 5 sec

Extraction time: 23 sec excluding P.I

Brew weight: 30g

Extraction yield: 66%

Aroma notes: Lemon tea with honey

Taste notes: Pleasent bright acidity upfront, notes of blood orange and red berries, hint of white grapes. Gives way to muscovado sugars and sweet chocolate finish, hint of 'Terry's chocolate orange' aftertaste.

Body and mouth feel: Extreamly juicy and light  body with almost silky, refreshing mouthfeel

It tasted brilliantly, everyone liked it, every single person told me how much they have enjoyed it. Also i decided that,all the money from selling espresso from this blend was going towards the charity 'Coffee kids'. It was pleasing to see people enjoying the coffee and doing good deeds towards the coffee industry.

I’m sure i’m not the only one networking with other Baristas oversea, i just wanted to tell you guys the benifit of having a blend from another country, sure UK has excellent choice of beans to chose from, but as a Barista, we should teach our customers about coffees outside of UK and how it differs between them, and learn how we can improve what we already have.

It was an honor having Jong Hoon’s blend in the hopper today, and i’m sure it won’t be the last. I also think Jong Hoon should get lots of credit for what he does in the Korean specialty coffee industry, he has improved the quality of coffee in Korea vastly, i believe. I’m sure his start on improving the quality, rather than quantity will act as a catalyst among the specialty coffee industry, and will continue further more.

Well done Barista Jong Hoon Lee, well done Republic of coffee.

Once again Jong Hoon, thank you for the lovely coffees from Korea, with love.

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The past 6 month of my Barista life


I was ordinary. I was just another countless kid from far east Asia, from Korea to be exact, dreaming of success on foreign soil. A victim you could say, of a culture where it demanded you to study study study and have a nose bleed, become a doctor, lawyer or an engineer and make your parents happy; so they can talk about you to their freinds how successful i am.

For the past 12 Years i pursued something where, i couldn’t confidently say ‘I can do this all my life’. Until i came across coffee. Strictly it’s my 6th month of becoming a serious Barista, 6th month from where, i decided coffee will become part of my life and i will dedicate my time to coffee all my life. 

It has been a roller coaster ride (for me anyway) for the past 6 month, i have seen and experienced many things and most importantly met great people along the way and learnt incredible amounts of knowledge from these people.

I decided to write this post to take a step back; and see how far i came since 6 month ago, and how little i came until the point where i want to be. I just wanted to highlight the moments and people i have met, which changed the course of my Barista life and thank them for moulding me into what i am right now.

London School of Coffee, The espresso room and  Ben Townsend

At late March this year, i decided to take the VRQ Barista skill course in LSC. At that time i had no experience of using a tamper, did not know where coffee originated from and i thought you can extract coffee upto 35 sec. With my little skill on latte art, thats where i met Ben Townsend, i didn’t know anything about Ben, his backgrounds, his shop, practically everything. Ben amazed me every single day of that short 3 days course, i was dazed to be hit with so much interesting, yet challenging information about coffee, Ben changed me within 3 days of that course, i still remember when i had to serve Ben series of drinks and how nervous i was.

Luckily i passed both practical and theory exams and gained a merit, and i really wanted to learn more and more about coffee and asked Ben for a job, i still remember how desperate i was. I thought obviously, Ben will say no, he had the right to as i was so inexperienced, but Ben told me to come to his shop 2weeks later, and started my work at The espresso room.

I learnt so much when i worked with Ben at the shop, all my foundation was built up from which Ben has taught me, such as ‘Time to lean,time to clean’,  Ben isn’t a ordinary employer, he is a teacher and a freind, he made me settle quickly in a foreign environment, made my mind open up more and every moment was a joy.

If it wasn’t for Ben, i wouldn’t  be here writing this right now, it has been some time last time i worked for Ben, i always seem to miss him when i have the chance to see him, i miss The espresso room and i should make a visit real soon and work there once in a while. I have said this to Ben before but i will say it again, I love you Ben, you are a great inspiration!

Taylor St Baristas, Andrew, Nick and Laura Tolley

I remember meeting this bloke with a bike helmet and a jacket in The espresso room. Ben told me to make a shot of espresso for this guy and Ben introduced me to him, telling me he is one the Tolley’s who owns Taylor st Baristas, it was Nick.

I thought that would be it,  but 1 month later i got a call from Ben in the afternoon telling me to call Laura of Taylor st and meet her for a interview, i did that and few hours later i was at the Bank site, it was a struggle to find but i made it. I thought it would be an intense 30 min interview talking about coffee and myself, i remember taking a printed material about coffee and reading it until just i got into the shop and trying to memorise them. But it wasn’t a interview i thought of, there wasn’t any geeky questions about machines and origin of coffee, me and Laura just sat down and had a flat white, i remember telling Laura ‘ I just want to learn more and become better’.

After a nice relaxing chat, i was introduced to the staff, it was a complete different enviornment to The espresso room, the shop was big and very very busy, it was a new challenge for me, i realised 2 things. First it is going to be physically demanding to keep up with masses of order, second i had to maintain the quality of the coffee in a busy environment. With new challenge set, i thought i would do well honestly, but things were much different. I couldn’t keep up with the orders and i was so exhausted, in addition, i was also slightly intimidated as i was the only person with black hair, brown eyes and absence of OZ accent,and another great shock was that my knowledge on coffee was still paper thin, it fustrated me and motivated me to research more about coffee, study it and share things i learn with other people.

I didn’t meet Andrew until much later on after i started to work at Taylor st, i remember asking him if one of his brother taught at London school of Coffee, when it was actually Andrew who did. every time i worked with Andrew, he taught me great deals on coffee and skills. I found that Andrew and Ben had a similarity, they were both perfectionists. I learnt alot from Andrew just by watching him work, he is a great mentor, Andrew constantly feeds me with knowledge and news about coffee, he challenges the Baristas and his geekiness is praised among the staff, so much so that it is my mission to talk about coffee the most geekiest way with Andrew for atleast 30 minutes.

Without the help of Laura, Nick and Andrew, i would have given up after few days of work, i wouldn’t have fit in to Taylor St if the staff wasn’t welcoming and caring.

I feel really lucky to have met great people like Ben, Laura, Nick and Andrew in short space of time, and working for them is always a pleasure. This 6 month went past in a flash, i’m looking forward to the road ahead of me, the challenges i will face and people i will meet and learn from.

I thank everyone who has made me into a Barista i am right now. 

It is a long post…and boring one also.. i promise next time, i will write a post where you guys can read at least half of it before you fall alseep.

p.s sorry if i have mis spelt any word with crap punctuation, i should go back to studying english.