Tag Archives: Coffee Dominion

Hitchhikers guide to coffee

Finding a good cafe when you’re on the road is pretty tough. We struggled in our January trip to New Zealand. There are a number of tips and tricks for checking if the cafe you’ve stopped in is worth your while. But most require you to actually step inside the cafe, and then there’s the awkward evacuation that comes after you spy the milk caked steam wand…

But no more. Beanhunter does the hard work for you. Tracking down independent cafes and recommending them. There’s one result for Townsville – the sadly defunct Squires (actually I think they’ve just moved, and I haven’t found them yet). I’ll put Coffee Dominion on the map. Because they deserve it.

In case I’ve not posted something like this before – here’s my fail safe list for judging a cafe without actually tasting their coffee…

  1. Bean supplier – I tend to avoid the big name companies like La Vazza and beans that are shipped from Italy or elsewhere. You’ve got absolutely no way of knowing if the beans are arriving within the window of freshness – and chances are they’re not. Beans roasted on site are normally the best bet (but not always). Reputable local wholesale roasters (eg Merlo) are a good start… but can suffer from the same dramas as international beans. Beans from specialty roasters tend to come with a little more care involved – they’re more interested in protecting the brand than expanding the number of cafes selling their beans.
  2. Grinder. I don’t think there are any cafes not grinding their own coffee these days. But Grinders with a big doser (the plastic chamber at the front) are dangerous. If the barista is grinding on the spot it is at least freshly ground.
  3. Milk wand. Seriously. If it’s caked with cruddy milk or screaming like a banshee – run away. Literally. Run. Don’t wait.
  4. Volume of traffic – lots of customers means high turnover of beans and that other people like the product.
  5. Staff – if the staff look like they can handle the basics – grinds, tamp, extract, and froth the milk – that’s a start. If they have two baristas working the machine – one doing coffee and the other milk – that’s even better.

Caffeine Hit

Ever wondered just how much caffeine is in your morning cuppa? No? Well, I have, so this article was interesting to me.

Apparently Robusta has twice the caffeine content of the much nicer Arabica. It also produces a better crema – but tastes like burnt rubber (kudos to Coffee Dominion for that description). I wonder if there’s a link between caffeine content and crema?

Anyway. Here are some figures from the article by Jerry Baldwin – one of the cofounders of Starbucks (he sold his share in 1987).

“In a couple of studies testing 90 different Arabica cultivars, the caffeine content varied between 0.42 and 2.9%. My morning cup would then vary between 84 and 580 milligrams, depending on which of these varieties was in my cup.”

“If your morning cup came from a commercial roaster who included Robusta in the blend, we have another level of complexity. Caffeine content in these coffees, in one study, varied between 1.16 and 4.0%. A straight 12 oz. cup, using 20 grams of the 4% coffee, probably wouldn’t taste very good, but would definitely provide more buzz: 800 milligrams of caffeine.”

“An espresso made from 100% Arabica, on average, has about 70 milligrams of caffeine per shot; a 12 oz. cup of drip coffee made my way in a press pot, using two scoops of coffee per 12-ounce cup — would have 200 milligrams.”

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Bean thinking

I was wondering how much someone who spends as much time as I do reading about coffee could learn from a three and a half hour coffee school. The answer – not much, and a lot. 

We took the three hour course at Coffee Dominion. It’s $75 and basically includes all you can drink coffee and three hours of hands on training.

The thing about coffee is that there’s an incredible amount of diversity in thinking and practice that it’s hard to nail down any one particular theory. 

For example – many people argue that tamping (the compacting of coffee in the filter basket) is not only essential – but must be done with 10kg of pressure. Other people argue that as long as the distribution and dosing of the coffee in the basket is even, tamping is irrelevant.

What really matters when it comes to making a coffee is consistency of method. That was hammered home tonight. As long as your dosing is consistent – that is the same amount of coffee in the basket, prepared the same way, and your tamping is consistent – the only variable is the grind. The grind will vary based on humidity and variables like type of bean, depth of roast and time since roasting. If your method is the same this is the only change you’ll need to make.

I disagreed with a little bit at the start, we had a sit down session where we were told that single origin coffee is no good for espresso. I like single origin espresso. That is one type of bean from one place. The argument is that espresso requires a dark roast, that diminishes the flavour profile from the bean – so to keep espresso interesting you need to mix a broader variety of flavours. I disagreed. I don’t mind espresso made from a light roasted bean. But that’s less than relevant in the broader scheme of things. 

The “cupping” was interesting. Cupping is the primary method bean buyers use when determining what beans to order. It’s basically hot water poured over ground coffee. It’s that simple. No plunge, no brewing, no steeping. It’s just coffee and hot water. The coffee forms a crust. You break the crust that it forms and sip the coffee. Then you figure out the flavour profile – it’s similar to wine tasting really. 

Milk frothing was interesting too – I struggle to get the texture right. The goal is to make “silk from milk” and to avoid big bubbles. 

We also got to look around Coffee Dominion – where all the behind the scenes magic happens. Including a little excursion into the roasting room. I’ll put pictures up shortly.

It was a good learning experience – and worth doing. We’ve even got certificates to show for it.

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Coffee School

Robyn, Chris, and I are going to coffee school tonight at Coffee Dominion. Should be fun. It’s pretty much all you can drink coffee – and we are learning about the following:

  • Espresso Extraction (hopefully I know a bit about that already)
  • Latte Art (I’m pretty hopeless at that)
  • Espresso Machine Care (I think I have a good grasp of the advanced side of that – like replacing parts – but not so much on the regular stuff like backflushing and descaling).
  • Cupping – I am really looking forward to this part.

I’m taking the camera and will no doubt give you all a run down tomorrow. I’m pretty excited.

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All fixed now

Well, almost. My blog was down for a while today. My hosting provider – dedicated host – had some issues switching over to a new payment system. They lost payment details and suspended my account. Apologies to anybody who has been trying to get on today…

Dedicated Host have the best customer service I’ve experienced from an online company. I emailed today at about 4.00pm notifying them of the problem and I had a response in minutes and the problem fixed very shortly thereafter. And a free month’s hosting as a sweetener. They get an A+ for customer service.

As do Coffee Dominion. My coffee machine issues were not as simply fixed as I thought last weekend. There was a leaking seal spraying water all over the control panel’s circuitry. Water and electricity don’t mix. I normally order parts online through coffeeparts.com.au – who are good. But postage for a small o-ring is expensive and the Coffee Dominion team pointed me to their local seal supplier. Who were also helpful. My machine is now up and running safely.

I isolated the power issues in my computer – my video card died a painful death at the hands of either the tropical heat or humidity. I’m not sure which. But it’s working now too. Thanks to the onboard video card. 

So, now it’s just the breadmaker. Which has been almost completely dismantled. In fact, everytime I overcome one problem with it and get a little excited, I break something else in my haste. There aren’t many more pieces left to break. And I now know exactly what goes into a breadmaker. I guess that could be exciting for some people.