The six disruptive innovations of coffee

Coffee comes from the area that is now Ethiopia. Interestingly so do we. Fossil and genetic research suggests that all modern humans originated in the same area as coffee. It is impossible to know if your great x 10^4 grandfather was munching on coffee products. However, for the next 9928 generations there was probably more munching than drinking. Archaeological evidence suggests it was common around 800AD to press the cherries into ball of fat to preserve them for long journeys[i]. At some point some bright spark started boiling water and using the leaves of the coffee plant to make a stimulating infusion. Since then the way that coffee is drunk has changed dramatically six times over the past 600 years. Continue reading

Why I stopped packaging our coffee in one-way valves

19/9/14 Nota Bene. This post was relevant to particular style of coffee (light to medium), roasted on a drum roaster (Diedrich IR5). Our current roaster (Loring Merlin) roasting a similar style of coffee leads some coffees – especially natural-processed coffees – to swell the bags up and occasionally burst. We currently cut open and vacpack these coffee bags again a couple of days after roasting. This is only the case for 1kg bags. 250g bags are not affected. We shall be ordering 1kg bags with valves in the future.


Yesterday I decided to do away with one-way valves on our roasted coffee bags when packing with a vacuum. It’s been something that I’ve been testing for many years now and time again I’ve come to the conclusion that they really don’t make that much difference to the coffee. Indeed, too often they provide an access point for oxygen to enter the bag and degrade the coffee.

Good for sniffing the beans, letting out aromas and bugger all else.

One-way valves are supposed to let CO2 gas out of the bag while preventing O2 getting into the bag. Oxygen is the main culprit behind the staling of coffee and packaging is an attempt to extend the vitality of the beans. Continue reading

In defence of coffee science

At Artisan, we’ve all spent hundreds of hours practicing how to make a cup of coffee. It’s not just that we’re obtuse. To understand why it takes us so long to get a decent brew, you need to understand four things about coffee: concentration, extraction, brew ratio and temperature. Looking at these aspects of a drink might seem overly fastidious (verging on wanky) but, for those of us with simple passions, they are highly necessary. Continue reading

The Beans

“Our espresso coffee is made up from a five bean blend.” – Inconsistent.

“This coffee is made from the best Colombian beans.” – Untruth.

“This coffee is Fairtrade giving the farmers a fairer deal.” – Half truth.

“Our coffee is made from 100% Arabica beans.” – Really bad.

Marketing is a marvellous means of spotlighting the good often to obfuscate the bad. It also usually means that the thing they’re shouting about is as good as it gets. Let’s have a look at some 100% Arabica beans.

100% Arabica Coffee

All of the above is sold as Arabica coffee. It’s a Ugandan Triage and it tastes remarkably like Nestle 100% Arabica coffee. It is available along with many other 100% Arabica coffees for any coffee roaster to buy at a very low price. It contains: fungus, husk, insect damaged beans, sours, blacks, floaters, wood and the occasional whole coffee bean. The question we could now ask is ‘What’s in the blends that aren’t 100% Arabica?’ Welcome to the world of coffee marketing. Continue reading

A lesson in atmosphere – a visit to Typica

A coffee cup with the Typica logoCheap factory outlets generally have concrete floors, metal racks overflowing with products and bored staff seated upon plastic seats who either never could be bothered or the tedium and futility of their work life beat the bother out of them. These places are considered to lack ‘atmosphere’. Cheap hawker stalls also have concrete floors, plastic seats that might or might not collapse under the weight of a decent sized devotee to the nosh, metal racks covered in produce and staff who have families to get back to. Yet the hawker stall abounds with ‘atmosphere’. Continue reading