Sunday, 26 June 2011

Barista Profile: Damon McMinn, Small Batch Coffee Company

Hello. Who are you? 

And what do you do?
Whatever needs to be done. 

And what is that in detail?
Set up shops, close down carts, drive around, drop things off, pick things up and, finally, make some coffee. 

When did you first discover real coffee?
Dug coffee in a big way since my teens but my eyes were only recently opened. So much I didn't know. So much I still don't. 

How did you get started in the coffee trade and learn your skills?
A lifetime ago - dare I say it? - I worked for... Starbucks. I consider the skills necessary to produce a fine coffee so elementary a bonobo could acquire them. Pulling shots, steaming milk and putting the two together is not about skill, it's about information and desire. Does one possess the necessary information to know what is good? If so, does one desire to produce something good? Bonobos likely can't grasp the concept of "good" and even if they could, I suspect the only desire they'd be interested in exploring is how much they love touching each other. This is why we at Small Batch don't employ them. It's company policy.

What is the best thing about doing what you do?
Going to bed early. I'd sleep in later, but hey. 

What drink do you make best?
I once had a Zen monk as a customer. “Give me the best coffee you have,” he said.
“Everything on this cart is the best,” I replied. “You cannot find here any coffee that is not the best.” 

With those words, he was enlightened. But not enough to leave a tip. Cheap bastard.

What are the top three things you should look out for from your neighbourhood barista?
In no order. A smile. Care. Can do. 

A home coffee brewing trick or technique?
A grinder. We sell hand ones. They're meditative.

What do you look for in a good bean or blend?
Subtleties of taste and smell are not my arena. As long as it tastes good and I know it's been roasted with love, I'm happy.
What do you drink yourself?
1/3 espresso and 2/3 hot water. Pretty much a standard since forever. I do quite like a flat white though.

What is your favourite professional machine and grinder?
La Marzocco Linea. Never used a Synesso, but hear they're pretty top notch. Anything that reliably grinds on demand. 

What is the most important part of the coffee process - the growing, the roasting, the blending, the brewing or anything in-between?
They're all the most important and can't be separated. The coffee in the cup is what counts. The growing of a high quality bean is crucial, as is the roasting, as is the brewing. Blending is a detour on the journey from farm to cup.

How do you make coffee at home?
Aeropress. It's fun.

Anything else you want to say?
Suppose a town has one and only one barista who makes coffee for all and only those who do not make coffee for themselves. Who makes coffee for the barista?

Thanks for the chat.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Red Roaster, Brighton, UK

Red Roaster is one of the older and more prominent coffee shops in Brighton. Situated near the bottom of St. James' street, it is a large establishment with plenty of light and is packed full of seating. It is very popular and is nearly always full.  

Red Roaster don't just make coffee they roast their own beans and supply many of Brighton's coffee shops. The beans are lovely and prepared to a very high quality. I've had these at home and in many other coffee shops in Brighton but the beans are only one part of it, the brewing makes a huge difference.

When I first moved into town I was told about them and it may surprise readers that I have not done a review to date. The simple truth is that I have drunk coffee there, I have bought beans there and I have deliberatly not written this review before. Why? Well I've not had a great cup of coffee from there and I was waiting for a great one.

Sadly this time was no different. This is not to say it was bad, it was just not fantastic. Although made with care and with a good strength and crema there is an off taste. My black Americano was marred with an issue of an after taste of slightly off creaminess.

I have to say I am not sure why this is the case. Perhaps it is a certain flavour that I am personally not a fan off and others are but for me it is a perfectly acceptable but not a great cup of coffee.

  • Double shot black Americano, drink in.
  • Very strong
  • Off cream tang
  • Dark crema
  • Size small - Asked for it in a small cup
  • £2.10

Strong competent coffee but with an off putting aftertaste.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Hudson & Bridges, Brighton, UK

Hudson & Bridges is a coffee shop and Deli on the outskirts of Kemp Town, it sits on the edge of the garden district. The owners also run the similarly themed Swan pub, which is just round the corner. I have to say I like the place although I think the decor is pretty terrible however the ambience is good, the staff friendly and attentive and most of all the products are great.

The food and the coffee is top notch. Lots of nice savoury and sweet things to choose from including bread from the Real Patisserie and nice looking pastas and pies to eat in or take away. I've drunk coffee here many time, it is solid , close to where I live and I like browsing Deli style produce.

Top marks for presentation as the coffee comes often on a board with just the espresso and a jug of water. I've only been to a few places that do this and I love it, I get it just the way I like it. It had a great aroma and I mixed it quite strong. The taste on this occasion was good but marred by a tangy after taste that I could not ignore.

Early rises you can get an espresso for a £1 before 9. 

  • Double shot black Americano, drink in.
  • Strong
  • Good aroma, slight tang.
  • Little crema
  • Size medium
  • 1.70

Normally a very good coffee, this last one held a little bitter tang but don't let this put you off. Best of all you get to choose the strength yourself.