Category Archives: Tools

Article on Coffee Brewing Methods [Gizmodo]

First, I have to apologize for the long hiatus from blogging as I was quite held up working at a bistro. I’ve since left that job and am continuing in my search for the barista position that chooses to escape me. While I am currently awaiting several emails to help me in my next post (yes, I’ll be researching this next one and not just post my many naked portafilter shots), I’ve found this comprehensive article on Gizmodo (don’t they do gadgets?) that details the many methods of brewing coffee, most of which can be found on (my) store.

Gizmodo article on Coffee Brewing Methods

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Sorry, I couldn’t help it. :)

i-Roast 2

I finally bought a coffee roaster. I’ve been using a popcorn roaster to roast coffee for the longest time. Melvin alerted me to someone selling the i-Roast 2 because he had received the US model. Knowing that I had a good collection of power transformers, Melvin emailed me and the deal was sealed.


Enter the i-Roast 2. The i-Roast 2 is a fluid bed air roaster like the popcorn popper. It can roast up to 150 grams of beans per session, which is double that of the popper. The i-Roast 2 has 2 pre-set programs plus you can customise another 10 more programs into the i-Roast 2. Each session can be programmed up to 485F, up to 5 stages for a total roasting time of not more than 15 minutes. The 2 pre-set programs were of little use to me as I drink espresso. Pre-set Program 1 roasts at 450F for 10 minutes, while Pre-set 2 roasts at 455F for 6 minutes, 400F at 4 minutes, and 435F for 1:30 minute. All programs end with an additional 4 minute long cooling, which is enough to bring the roast down to near room temperature.

Being a noob, the first inaugural roast was a batch of Zambia/Brazil blend using Pre-set 2 and well, that was more suited to making americanos for house guests.  to be continued…

PCI Cleaner

Anyone who’s ever tinkered with their pc would know what the above widget is. This stainless steel widget is the PCI slot cover found at the back of your personal computer. What is it doing in my coffee blog?

Well, I was doing some minor cleaning work on my Quickmill Anita today. The grouphead, specifically. It got to the point where the brush wasn’t enough.

Have you seen the caked up coffee deposits on the inside of your grouphead? You should. It’ll make you lose your morning coffee. Pallo tools are just not angled to make the desired cleaning.

Enter the PCI Cleaner. Ahem.

Use with care. The PCI Cleaner is angled perfectly to reach and dislodge the caked deposits. You may then use the Pallo Coffetool or a brush to brush off any excess. I was contemplating on adding some chamois at the tip of the PCI Cleaner. [Update 10 June 2009: Since this PCI Cleaner is always next to my array of cleaning tools, it also makes a wonderful tool to remove your basket from the portafilter for cleaning or back flushing.]

Another tool of my improv brought about by too much free time. Hope it helps in your endeavour to a cleaner cup of coffee.

Day 3: Brazil Moreninha Formosa

As I write this entry, I’m on my 2nd cup. My 1st cup was under-dosed, and thus under-powered. Here’s my pour:

Just to sidetrack a bit, I got a new camera. A Fuji Finepix F50fd. What a great camera. What sets this ultra compact aside from the rest of the Sonys and Nikons and Canons is its sensitivity settings. The ISO for this beauty goes all the way to 6400. And unlike the rest of the gang and including some DSLRs, the Finepix handles noise very well. The above photo is taken at auto program, an ISO of 400. On other cams, you’ll be seeing pixellated noise, not on this baby. And if you ever ever find its predecessor F31fd, lay your hands on it. The F31fd handles noise better than any camera in its class, and outside its class, including DSLRs. Anyway, on to more pressing matters…

Where was I? Moreninha. There’s a certain tang to it. Not lemony brightness, no. I can’t pinpoint it. Also, there’s this more dominant taste waiting to spring out. I can’t pinpoint it either. Methinks I have to be patient and wait another 2 days rest before I can get the full flavour of this coffee.

Technorati Tags: , moreninha, , f50fd

Cleaning Your Espresso Machine with Autosol

Have you ever wondered how to get rid of the unsightly coffee or water stains on the stainless steel parts of your espresso machine? I have, and I’ve just found the perfect solution. I Googled and came to this informative site. This site recommends using olive oil, vinegar or club soda.

I decided to use a metal polish instead, as I had a tube of Autosol lying around. And lo and behold, after a night of applying some elbow grease, this was the result.

Brand spanking new! The Anita looked better than when I first got it from Chriscoffee. Out of the entire small tube of Autosol, I ‘ve used not more than 1 cm of cream for the entire machine. Not being food-safe, I was careful not to apply it on the portafilter. I soaked the portafilters and baskets in a bowl of hot water and Urnex Cafiza solution.

In fact, the Anita machine looked so new I was almost afraid to use it today. After my first brew, the stains wipe off easily, and the machine still looks great.

** I highly recommend using Autosol for your espresso machines. **

Technorati Tags: , , , , autosol, , cafiza

My Ritual and the next move

I’ve had a long hiatus since my last post, what with handling a chaotic comic book shop, and trying to move the whole shenanigan to a new place (more on this later), I haven’t even the time to do a roast. But I managed to find some time, what with my poor time management skills, to allocate for Roast Day Sunday last.

Today is Day 3 of SM Italian Espresso Blend. I did a pull yesterday, sorely out of temptation as I haven’t had a “proper” drink in quite a while. Yesterday’s was kinda grassy, too bright for my liking, and well, not well-rested.

Today. Today, on the other hand. What a difference a full day makes!

Assisted by the 2 megapixel camera on my iPhone (has anyone seen the curvaceous MacBook Air?), and my military grade Surefire L2 light, among an entire entourage of devices such as the venerable Eric Svendon Digital Thermometer Device, and not forgetting, the Anita, I sought out to find enlightenment in these dark days. (My, my, this is just after my 2nd drink.) Without further ado, here is the following sequence of my (haphazard, can’t help it – one hand holding the iPhone feels like one hand tied) ritual:

First drops of nectar. I was so sure there wasn’t enough light, so I used a Surefire L2, which provided a 15 lumens flood beam. Overkill. Looks like 10 seconds at this point. The Anita provides a pre-infusion of about 8 to 9.5 seconds at around 3 bars. During these first drops, the pressure climbs to a 9 bar at a steady rate.

Here, you see the Guinness effect (akin to a Guinness Stout pour, non-believers), which happens when you have well rested beans. The colour is really slightly darker, but thanks to the Surefire Overkill, it appears so much lighter.

More of the Guinness pour. This is really looking good. From experience, this looks like 15 seconds into the pour. (Non-believers, this is espresso, no milk added.) On the right, that’s the hot water wand, which I always swing out of the way, to allow easy access to the brew lever. And that’s a Bodum Pavina 2.7 oz, by the way. And why is it kissing the naked portafilter? You will see….

Mmmmmm… The iPhone moves slightly lower to reveal the dark coffee starting to invade the voluminous crema. The tamping was not done well, because, at this point, I noticed that the funnel was not coming from the center, but rather to the right. Another smaller drop was forming to the left, but seemed to be drawing nearer to the main funnel. I could seem the righteous left(no pun intended) dark chocolatey drop forming, and was determined not to stop the flow until they reunite. This is hitting the 20 second mark. Come on, you slow drop!

OK. So, chocolate drop at left field went independent. It didn’t seem that left field was yielding anything more than a drop, and flow is starting to thin. Time to reach for the brew lever. It is now 25 seconds.

And it’s a fumble! Lights out. So, Surefire was needed afterall. Whoops. 28 seconds. Thank God I tamped really hard just now. Seems to be paying off.

So, now you know why Pavina was almost kissing the naked Verna Design portafilter. Have you seen a Verna up close? You have not seen a naked portafilter til you have a Verna. If I were Pavina, I would be kissing the Verna pf too. Remember what I said about the Macbook Air? The Verna portafilter is to all other naked portafilters what the MacBook Air is to all other generic laptops. More on this later in a separate post. OK, back to the main event. Note: colours are really darker than what it looks like here. Everyone? “SUREFIRE OVERKILL ! ! !”

This was taken approximately 10 seconds after the pour. Raised platform sponsored by’s excellent measured shot glass. However, I’ve not had the pleasure of measuring anything with it yet. The 2nd drink was not as good as the first. A slight thinning out as I was fumbling for the brew lever, and careful not to place the iPhone on anything hot.

Here’s another look at the crema laden pour, with espressoparts shot glass trying to edge itself nearer to bask in the limelight. “Hey, Mom! Hey, quit shoving!”

Slight channeling to the left, where the left ear is. It could be from the disengaging of the portafilter from the grouphead, right? But, I think not. Can’t blame anyone, darn! Eric’s Digital Thermometer (EDT), on the left, says hi. The reason you are able to see the colours through the Pavina is because I flushed the Anita with EDT, and heated the Pavina with the ensuing flush. Without the Pavina all heated up, the glass would be more hazed up than it is in the pictures above. The Bodum’s double walled insulation helped a lot here. And that’s why I’m not using the EP shot glass. Besides, the Verna Design pairs up wonderfully with the Pavina.

In summary, I would like to thank the following uhh.. tools that gave these 2 wonderful pours light of day. Quickmill for designing a beauty of a machine, the Anita; Eric Svendson for the digital thermometer to aid in my flushing attempts; Verna Design for making a beautifully crafted and cut portafilter; Bodum for artfully crafting a double walled insulated shot glass; for equally making a flat bottomed shot glass; Surefire for providing adequate flood light. Last but not least, thanks to the tutelage from the people at CoffeeGeek, Home-Barista, and CGSG, without whom I would not have the necessary skills to pull this off.

A small announcement to make. This blog post has taken too much of my time, and a lot feel that time should be better spent at the shop, so put 2 and 2 together, Anita and all the tools mentioned here will be making the exodus to the new place. Stay tuned either here or at my shop blog to figure out where we will all end up next. And if you are a CG, HB, or a CGSG, just mention your affiliations, and I’ll see to it you’ll have a nice welcome drink. More on this in another post. I’m late for work. See you soon. BIG SMILE.

An End to the Hail Mary Flush

I received the kit in the mail 6 days after Eric sent it. I’ve read the instructions several times over even before I received the kit, so I pretty much did a quick effortless installation. The instructions were well written, but for newbs who don’t know a bolt from a nut, it would be helpful if there are photos detailing the name of each part.

The really plus point is that Eric has a Quickmill Anita. So, the charts he has in his instructions are all Anita-friendly. Lucky me.

In his response to this blog entry, Eric stated that “the blue data points represent actual readings of a thermocouple inserted into the grouphead exactly where the digital thermometer is inserted.  The pink represent the Scace thermofilter readings.  A thermocouple and/or digital thermometer typically will always read higher than a Scace thermofilter because the water gets cooled further (by the grouphead) in the additional 1.25 to 1.50 inches it must travel.”

From left to right, the above chart shows the thermocouple reading of a flush til the end of a pour. The thermocouple’s reading is about 5ºF cooler than the actual brew temperature measured with a Scace thermofilter. The peak of the curve at approximately 218ºF shows the start of the flush, which continues until the thermocouple reads 185ºF when the flush is stopped. The upwards spike denotes the thermocouple reading the grouphead temperature instead of the water temperature during the flush. A good 100 seconds pass before 198ºF (marked Eric’s favourite) is reached, and the brew lever is turned on for the pour. The part that denotes the pour is magnified in the chart below:

The 100 seconds lull is more than enough time for me to go about my routine of DLTing my portafilter. I initially wrote that with Eric’s device, I tend to flush more water than I normally would without his device. But then again, without Eric’s device, it was a Hail Mary flush each time, not knowing at what temperature to stop flushing, with me just watching the water dance to gauge.

Eric added that “the chart ALSO represents MY methodology for pulling a shot.  Needless to say, there are a number of ways to execute a shot and every individual would have their own “little” variations.  It is correct to say that this methodology uses up more water but it is not correct to say that the installation of the digital thermometer (in and by itself) uses up more water.  As you can read (and feel free to copy verbatim into your blog) in the adaptor tidbits document, I dose directly into the basket while the PF is in the machine.
It would also be easy to FULLY PREPARE the basket, flush to, say 200, and immediately pull the shot.  You would be flushing less BUT I believe the consistency of the shots would suffer –  I could be wrong.  The temperature dynamics of our espresso machines (all prosumer machines) are very complex.”

While I need to brush up on my routine, I’ll have to note that with the help of Eric’s Digital Thermometer Kit, my pours have improved a lot. At the very least, I KNOW when to end my flush and begin my pour. That’s ending another uncertain variable in the journey towards making a goodshot. This mod is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for E-61 machine owners who don’t know when to stop.

One month later

Notes on my Quickmill Anita and my modded Compak K6 approximately a month later…

Good news is I’ll be getting Eric’s Digital Thermometer kit after a long wait. It’s due in about a week’s time.

The few goodshots I’ve pulled from the Anita were all ranging in the 40 to 45 seconds pull. Yes, 45 seconds. You must be thinking over extracted, thin brews. Au contraire. I regret I stopped filming my naked pours. The pours are syrupy, thick and it takes forever for the funnel to form. And when it forms, the pour is slow, and continues in a dark chocolatey gooey pour, gauge reading around 9 bars, right up to the 45 second mark when it turns a slight variance in the colour, and when I stop the pour. So, in this sense, the 45 second pour is a ristretto. And you get to taste the nuances, the origins, the character of the bean. Mornings haven’t been this good.

The modified Compak K6 is extremely easy to clean. I’ve been setting it to a fine grind for all my beans. The oversized hopper is removed for my purposes as it’s very in-the-way. Instead, I fit the aeropress funnel on top which eases the transfer of beans from my one way valve bags, and keeps the beans from jumping out during grinding.

I’ve managed to reduce the brew pressure to 9 bars by opening the Anita up. Removing first the 4 screws by the 2 sides, and then the lower 2 screws at the bottom back panel eases the entire one-piece enclosure to reveal the insides. At first I turned the nut without re-adjusting the tube connected to it, and the tube gave way, water flooded everywhere. I easily tilted the Anita to one side to let the water drain out. Then, the needle nosed pliers from my Leatherman was used to fit the tube back over the valve, which was a bit of annoyance. Lesson learnt, I was more careful with adjusting the brew pressure the next time around. The enclosure was fitted back on, with the back panel screws first, and then the sides. The last screw is always the hardest to fit in.

Mini Meetup – First Notes

KS came over this morning. I introduced Anita to him, and after checking out the way she looks, KS is just so eager to try her out. His girlfriend, Dawn is perfectly fine about it. Hey, I don’t mind as long as I know Anita is in good hands.

Anita looks so fine, except she had all these spritzes around her body, thanks to me and my inconsistent dosing and tamping. We — KS and I took turns pulling shots from her. From this meetup, we made a few discoveries about Anita.

We kept looking for the screw depression on the puck, but couldn’t find any, so we just kept dosing more. Then I realized the blunder after a while. Anita has no screw on her shower screen!

The beans for today were Zambia, Ecafe Shilcho Sidamo, and KS Blend. KS managed to hit on an ideal grind setting on the Compak K6 after a while, which produced a beautiful 25 second pour. Still a bit bright though. But the best pour of the day was 45 seconds long. In spite of the very very slow pour, and the expected over-extracted bitterness, it was the best espresso we have tasted for the day. It was neither bright nor bitter. The beans were KS Blend of Zambia Harrar Brazil Sumatra. Although this grind setting may have been ideal for KS, it may not work for me as I DLT differently. The Compak K6 was easy to clean, especially after the mods.

We unloaded the portafilter after pulling a shot each time, and noted that the pucks were still wet, despite the OPV (Over Pressure Valve). When we finally reached the ideal grind setting though, the puck was dry. Also, the dosing was correct, as you can see a slight indentation from the rim of the shower screen.

One minus point about Anita is after using the steam and hot water wands, even with the rubberized grips, the wands are still too hot to handle. I plan to add clips to the wands.

Some points observed about Quickmill Anita are:

1) The boiler is well-insulated, thereby conserving energy. The sides do not run too hot to touch.

2) The hot water wand may be in the way of the brew lever. You may want to swivel it away before turning on the brew.

3) The 3 litre reservoir is more than sufficient. We made about 6 drinks, performing water dances prior to each drink, also to heat up the glasses, backflushing about 4 times for about 5 seconds each time. But by the time we were done, the drip tray was full to the brim.

4) The HX maintained a steady temperature. Even when the red light (boiler) comes on after the portafilter was locked and loaded, it takes at most 5 to 7 seconds before the boiler switches off.

5) The extra portafilter included with Quickmill Anita comes in handy, as you can fit a blank in one of them to backflush. In ordering the naked portafilter from Chris, I now have a triple basket, in addition to the single and double baskets from Anita.

Future posts include frothing milk, and dissecting Anita.