Coffee Mailbag – February 2021

In this month’s edition of the coffee mailbag we’ve answered some of your most asked questions.

We certainly had some interesting questions submitted to us during February so read on to learn a bit more about coffee!

Distribution Tools: Are they worth it?

I use a Lelit distribution tool: it creates an even density, minimises channeling and creates a cleaner flavour profile. It’s far from a gimmick and I’d highly recommend. If you don’t want to pay that high a price, a cheap one will still be a good upgrade.

I’m just getting into coffee, should I roast my own coffee beans?

The roasting part is very important. It makes or breaks the beans. I wouldn’t recommend self roasting if you haven’t had really good coffee from many roasters yet, since then, what would be your point of comparison?

You could go to a local store where you can get freshly roasted beans which is ideal, but you don’t really know if their blends are any good or if they roast the right beans at the right temperature, etc.

My advice would be to buy online from roasters who are more “proven”. These online roasters roast in small batches often so your coffee will always be fresh.

I recently bought a Colombian coffee that’s meant to taste like pomegranate but my espresso is almost always too sour. Is there a way to tame this? I’ve tried to grind finer.

I’d imagine it depends on what you’ve drank before especially if you have darker roasts or low altitude Brazilians. This sounds like it will be a fruity coffee so likely fairly acidic hence the sourness you maybe perceiving.

I wouldn’t keep going finer as you’ll just end up wasting coffee and choking the machine. Take it to the usual parameters of (depending on basket size) 19g in 45g out in around 27-32secs and see how that is. It may just be a coffee you don’t enjoy due to it’s acidity.

How can I improve my frappe? The ingredients keep separating!

Xanthan gum. You need an emulsifier. This is what is in the ultra sugary “frap base” syrup at Starbucks that holds the whole thing together.

I’ve got a new Gaggia Espresso maker. How can I make something similar to a Starbucks flat white?

I think you’re setting the bar too low if you just want match what you can get at Starbucks! I don’t think they know how to pull a proper espresso shot but with all the milk and sugar the bitter flavour of the burned beans pulls through.

You should find out what blend they use for that drink, I’m guessing it’s their espresso blend assuming they just use that one type to do any espresso based drinks.

But once you get the hang of the machine, definitely try some light or medium roast beans and see how you like it! If you’re just getting into espresso and don’t have good grinder, I believe that machine has a pressurised basket and you should use that one.

Ideally for ‘real’ espresso you’ll need a good grinder and use the non pressurised basket which depends on the very fine coffee grind to get the proper timing / extraction. IF you want something easy / cheaper to get into, I’d recommend the Aeropress. If you’re like me and not a fan of plastic & hot water mixing, cafetiere or pour over is also good!

How much grams can you get in a standard Sage double shot basket?

It depends on the coffee. I got about 18g of light roasted coffee into the basket, but dark roast is less dense and you’ll generally get about 16g in. How fine you grind also makes a difference, but usually I’m grinding finer for light roasts.