From frozen bean shots to slot roasting to hydraulic mobile espresso machines, speciality coffee continues its relentless pursuit of perfection through innovation. Here’s what’s new in the Scottish scene – and beyond
Feature from the Scottish Independent Coffee Guide No 3 – buy your copy here.
Frozen bean shots
Freezing beans has been a controversial topic in the speciality world for some time, with coffee pros clashing over its impact on freshness and whether ice crystals alter flavour. But one bold barista is rolling out frozen shots for a different reason at his Edinburgh coffee shop.
‘Our intention at Cairngorm is always to improve consistency,’ explains owner Robi Lambie. ‘For this reason, we’re freezing coffee to give us a more stable starting point when we grind which, in turn, gives us a more consistent grind profile.’
While vacuum sealing and freezing prevents short term ageing without impacting on flavour, how does sending roasted beans sub-zero affect the grind?
‘We want a reasonably thin spread between course and fine grinds to ensure that our coffee is extracting at the same time and not offering up unwanted flavours,’ says Robi. ‘Starting with frozen beans means the structure shatters in a more even way than ambient temperature beans. With this more consistent grind profile, we aim to extract more from our sample without the risk of over extracting.
‘We don’t have a conclusive solution for how to implement freezing within a commercial environment and, until we develop a less wasteful process, we’re not vacuum sealing the beans. Instead, we’re pre-dosing (weighing) individual shots each afternoon for every espresso we expect to sell the next day, and freezing these overnight. We’ve added a sunken freezer to the counter – next to our EK 43 grinder – which keeps the shots cold enough to be effective.’
And the verdict? ‘We’re not scientists; we’re baristas,’ stresses Robi. ‘A lot of our experiments have been relatively relaxed. We do, however, seem to be developing more balance and sweetness than ever before.’
An increasing number of coffee shop owners and baristas want to serve customers their own-roasted beans. However, eye-wateringly expensive roastery start-up costs have priced many aspiring bean alchemists out of the roasting realm – until now.
Picking up on the interest in roasting, and knowing first-hand the expense of setting up a roastery, experienced coffee buffs Todd and Courtney (pictured) of The Good Coffee Cartel launched Glasgow’s first slot roasting service at the end of 2017.
‘Setting up a space that allows cafes and consumers to roast their own beans was always part of the big plan behind The Good Coffee Cartel,’ says Todd. ‘Buying a roaster is a massive investment, so we wanted to create somewhere people could buy time on our roaster and craft their own coffee.’
Todd and Courtney not only rent out the roastery space on Cornwall Street, they also offer their expertise in equipment, green bean buying and designing badass branding to create coffee that’s unique to each cafe.
‘We start with a consultation to work out which flavour profiles reflect the business, then we help them choose which green beans to buy, based on their ideas and the harvest calendar,’ continues Todd.
It’s not just professional espresso slingers getting in on the roasting action either; the guys have also opened up slot roasting to keen amateur coffee fans. The half and full day experiences allow novices to experiment on the sample roaster and learn the principles of roasting before creating their own bespoke blend to take home.
‘We want to make roasting accessible for all. No pretension – just fun,’ smiles Todd.
Get ready for some seriously geeky new gear
Repetitive strain injury suffered by baristas was finally taken seriously in 2014 when a study revealed that tamping coffee (the process of compacting coffee into the espresso basket) had the potential to cause injury behind the bar. With the word out that tamping can take its toll, an increasing number of coffee shops have turned to gadgets to tackle wrist strain.
The PuqPress (a precision tamping device) is appearing on coffee counters across the country, and is designed to prevent injury and improve consistency in the cup. Using sensors, the compact kit allows baristas to dial in an exact tamp pressure and ensures the ground coffee is perfectly level in the basket.
The ‘world’s first portable pourover coffee maker’, the Cafflano, changed the onthe- go coffee game when it was launched in 2014, bringing top-notch filter to festival goers and off-piste adventurers. And now its little brother, the Kompresso, is making waves in espresso.
Mobile brews are hitting barista heights with this clever piece of kit which uses a hydraulic system (designed to retain high pressure) to create machine-standard espresso on-the-move.
Milk on tap
Aussies have inspired our speciality scene and its environmental efforts (KeepCup started down under, FYI), and their latest export sees the next step in coffee shop sustainability.
The Juggler Cafe Milk Tap System is designed to reduce milk waste, plastic bottles and energy expenditure. A tap built straight into the bar, the Juggler dispenses refrigerated milk in pre-dosed measures into the jug which saves barista time and is also at an optimum temperature for texturing. Even better, storing the milk in 10 litre bladders instead of bottles saves on plastic as well as energy waste from opening and closing the fridge. #win