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The quest for the perfect cup of coffee begins with the Arabica beans, selected, blended and roasted at the Allpress roastery in Dalston to give a complex, non-bitter taste. The coffee beans are delivered to our shop about five days after roasting and we keep the bags on a cool dark shelf and ideally use them between day 8 and 14. First thing in the morning we make a couple of espressos to check the grind and the time taken for the extraction. For the best cup of coffee with the freshest taste, it’s essential to grind only sufficient beans for the current cup. We use about 18g of coffee tamped down twice, extracted with 60 ml of filtered water at 93 degrees (any hotter would burn the subtle oils in the coffee); this should produce a 60ml double espresso in 23-28 seconds. If not, then the grind size needs adjusting – finer to slow it down, coarser to speed it up. This might sound devilishly complicated but our wonderful La Marzocco machine does most of the work for us.
We habitually use two shots of coffee; some people prefer only one and occasionally a customer will ask for three. The espresso is always extracted first into the empty cup, except for when we make an Americano, when hot water is run into the cup first and then topped up with the double espresso shot, served either black or with hot or cold milk in a separate jug. If only half the normal amount of water is put through an espresso, then the fuller-bodied extract is called a ristretto (restricted).
As far as the milky coffees go, we use organic un-homogenised Goodwood milk: the whole blue-top milk aerates best because of the extra fat content, but skimmed milk will work too, and soya milk foams very well.
It’s believed that Cappuccino got its name from the brown hoods of the Capuchin monks. It is the lightest and the frothiest – the milk is thoroughly stretched and aerated with the steam wand and then half milk and half foam are added to the espresso, with chocolate sprinkled on the top. A latte is less frothy, still wholly made with milk but not over-stretched; the finished milk should be evenly textured and as smooth and glossy as paint. For a flat white, the milk is heated with the steam wand but barely whipped, so that when poured onto the espresso there is just a thin cap of foam on top.
The ideal temperature is about 70 degrees but we are often asked for a ‘scalding hot’ cappuccino – a tricky thing to achieve without overheating the milk which then burns off the sugars and taints the coffee, and it’s even harder with skimmed milks as they are thinner and burn quicker. It does help to heat the cup first with hot water, but if the customer wants a piping hot cup of coffee then an Americano with added hot milk ticks all the boxes. A macchiato (meaning ‘mark’) is made by adding a dash of foamed milk to an expresso, though the espresso can also be added to the milk.
Obviously, with any of these, it’s crucial to drink them with a flaky croissant or an almond cookie.
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