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Help us start a cargobike revolution

Two cargobikes

You might know by now we’re big fans of cycling, we talk about it a lot (maybe more than we talk about coffee!). We use an electric cargobike to make our local deliveries in Nottingham. For us as a business it’s much cheaper than using a motor vehicle and more convenient – you can park a bike anywhere. It’s also much more fun, and helps us achieve our goals of being as sustainable as possible. 

We think more people should have access to cargobikes. Most car journeys in the UK are under 10km and have only one person making the journey, but people cite needing to sometimes carry goods and transport people as reasons why they can’t give up their car. Cargobikes help with that. While they may not replace every single journey, they can replace lots of local trips and help reduce the number of cars on the road, making it easier and safer for everybody (including  those who need to drive!). 

Cargobikes, and especially electric cargobikes are often expensive and most people don’t need one every single day. That’s where commons cargobikes come in! 

The idea behind commons cargobikes is that a community based business hosts a cargobike that anybody can access on a pay what you can basis, any time they need to. This makes them more accessible to more people. This is already up and running successfully in Europe, especially Germany where it is known as Dein Lastenrad. We’re now trying to bring it to the UK, via our Nottingham roastery. We’re buying the first bikes to kickstart the scheme, and also building the bike booking platform that any other commons cargobike scheme across the UK can use to start their own free cargobike share. 

We’re raising funds to help make this happen, and are match funding every donation up to £2,000. We’ve also secured a generous 25% discount donation from Raleigh to purchase the first bikes, making it even more achievable. 

If you’re able to donate, please do so at commonscargobike.co.uk. Even if you can’t donate, we’d really appreciate it if you can help spread the word. 

 

 

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How to choose the right coffee for you

We want you to have the best cup of coffee possible, and that can be subjective. Even within our small team of two we have completely different definitions of a good cup of coffee. Adam likes darker and smoother coffees like the Brazilian whereas I like the wild flavours of Ethiopian coffee. We both agree on Guatemalan coffee though which combines smoothness and fruitiness. Here’s our guide to helping you find the right coffee for your taste.

Strength

Supermarket coffee often has a strength guide, although this tends to refer to how ‘strong’ tasting the coffee is rather than strength of caffeine. A strong coffee will be a darker roast which gives more of those rich, toasty, smoky flavours whereas a light coffee will be a lighter roast with more of a milder biscuit or fruity taste. Medium will be smooth and fruity. 

If you like a strong coffee look for flavour notes described as rich, smokey, liquorice, tobacco, leather, spicy. 

For medium coffees, look for flavour notes described as smooth, chocolate, caramel, vanilla, plum, cherry

For lighter coffees look for flavour notes described as biscuit, apple, blueberry, citrus fruits, floral

Flavour

Each of our coffee includes tasting notes. These aren’t literally what the flavour is, a coffee that is described as having notes of chocolate won’t literally taste like chocolate, but a way of describing the flavours that you can expect from the coffee. A coffee with notes of chocolate will be smooth and sweet whereas a coffee with notes of blueberry will be juicy and fruity while notes of apple will indicate a light, crisp and slightly sweet coffee, and tobacco indicates spiciness and smokiness. 

Think about what kind of flavours you enjoy and look out for tasting notes similar to that. 

Brewing style

Your brewing style massively affects the taste of the coffee, and some flavours do better with some brewing styles than others. 

Espresso and mokapot

Espresso emphasises richer, darker flavours and brings out the best in coffees with notes of chocolate, smokiness, spiciness, and stone fruits. These coffees also tend to do well in a stovetop mokapot brewer 

Cafetiere

A cafetiere, aka French Press or plunger, is an immersion brewer and the long contact time between the water and the coffee grinds means it brings out the body in all coffees. It can be used with any coffee, although it does particularly well with full-bodied and fruity flavours. Coffees that taste good in a cafetiere also tend to work well in an Aeropress. 

Filter

Filter is really good at bringing out the nuanced fruity flavours of the coffee, so look out for tasting notes of soft and stone fruits, eg cherry, blueberry, strawberry, and also for coffees described as sweet. 

If you still can’t decide, we have a multi-pack which contains 4 x 250g of our current coffees or our Coffee Club allows you to try all of our coffees on a two or four weekly subscription.

If you have any questions or would some coffee advice, please contact us on coffee@roastinghouse.co.uk or tweet us @roastinghouseUK

 

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The one piece of equipment no coffee lover should be without

Three coffee espresso portafilters, one with coffee featuring latte art, one with ground coffee, one with beans

I’m fairly agnostic when it comes to brewing styles. Whether you drink it in a cheap and cheerful cafetiere or a £5000 espresso machine, the most important thing is that you find what works for you from a budget, time, and taste perspective. However whatever your brewing style, there is one one piece of equipment that no coffee lover should be without and that is a grinder.

If you’re looking to up your coffee game, a coffee grinder will give you a much greater improvement on flavour and quality of brew than any other piece of equipment. And with the exception of the humble cafetiere or moka pot, it’s often a cheaper investment. You can get an electric burr grinder for around £50 (you can also spend way more if you really want to!). Grinding your coffee fresh from whole bean just before you brew will give you a gorgeous fresh coffee aroma hit, and as most of the oils and volatile flavour compounds are locked up inside the bean until you grind it, you’ll be getting much more flavour in your cup. When you buy pre-ground coffee, many of those volatile flavour compounds are already gone by the time you brew.

Which grinder should you buy?

Whatever your budget, be it small or large, a burr grinder is the best choice. These crush the beans, whereas a blade ‘grinder’ chops them. The crushing releases much more aroma and flavour, and gives a more consistent grind which is essential for brewing methods like filter, espresso, moka pot etc. They also tend to offer a wider range of grinds, so if you do have multiple methods of brewing that you like to switch between then you’ll be able to grind for whatever you’re using currently.

For an entry level grinder, we love the DeLonghi KG79. There’s also the newer KG80 but we haven’t had a chance to try it yet but the reviews online look good. The KG79 is available for around £50.

Hand grinders are cheaper and tend to offer much more fine tune control over the grind, but the downside is it can take a while to grind enough for a cup and you might wish you had an electric grinder when you’re making the first brew of the day or when you have guests over and you have to grind even more. If you do opt for manual, the Hario Coffee Mill is a great choice as it allows lots of control over the grind, is easy to use, and the grinding chamber comes with a lid so you can keep any remaining ground coffee sealed for next time (although we’d recommend weighing out the right amount of coffee and just grinding when you need over grinding in bulk).

 

 

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Saying goodbye to Facebook

Around two weeks ago we decided to stop using Facebook and its two other platforms, Instagram and WhatsApp. This is something we’d been considering for a while. While we didn’t have much of an audience on our Roasting House accounts, our other business Plastic Free Pantry has a combined audience of around 60,000 followers and we used this account to also promote our Roasting House coffee so it meant walking away from a significant marketing channel. A lot of our custom came from Instagram. 

This has been a decision long in the making. For years now Facebook has increasingly strangled the reach of small businesses, forcing them to pay for advertising to reach even those who have opted to follow their pages. We fundamentally disagree with the surveillance capitalism model of Facebook and therefore don’t want to endorse it by paying for ads. We also don’t use their tracking pixel on our websites. We’ve also become increasingly concerned by Facebook’s lack of action against hate speech. We can’t continue to endorse Facebook through continuing to use it. 

This does of course pose a challenge for an online business who reaches people through social media! So we’re calling on you to help us out. If you like what we do, please let people know. Sign up to our newsletter to stay in touch, recommend us to your coffee loving friends and family, share your favourite coffees. 

If you regularly buy coffee, why not sign for our coffee club? Regular subscriptions allow us to plan and operate more sustainably as we know how much coffee we need in advance.  

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Why we use compostable packaging

Bio plastic compostable coffee bag

Packaging is such a challenging issue. We used to use the same valved bags that most other coffee sellers use, but after looking at a stack of coffee packed up and ready to go out to customers and realising that all of those bags would be in the bin soon as the multi-layered bags can’t be recycled, we started to search for more environmentally and socially responsible packaging. It’s become something of an obsession!

Initially we used paper. It was easily accessible and recyclable. We had some concerns about coffee freshness, but did an experiment and found that as long as the coffee was used quickly or transferred to alternative packaging then for whole bean paper worked fine to send coffee out in.

However a significant number of our customers buy ground coffee, and this doesn’t stay fresh for long at all. By the time coffee has arrived by post, in 1-2 days, most of the coffee oils seeps through the bag rendering the paper no longer recyclable (although it can be composted) and the coffee no longer fresh. Food waste is also a huge problem and we don’t want people throwing coffee away because it went stale in the post.

We’ve sampled pretty much every supposedly environmentally friendly coffee packaging on the market and found most of it unsuitable. A lot of compostable packaging is PLA (poly lactic acid) based, made from corn starch. This material requires industrial composting which most people don’t have access to so we rejected it. Then we found Natureflex, a compostable material which is certified as home compostable (and confirmed by us and others in home testing).

Natureflex is made form wood pulp, similar to paper, but it has a lower carbon footprint, and is much lighter weight (6g compared to 30g for a similar sized bag) which reduces the carbon impact of transporting it to us and the overall package weight of our coffee.

Crucially, unlike paper it provides a good air and moisture barrier which keeps our coffee fresher than paper.

Of course not everybody can compost at home. If you have a garden you can bury the compostable bag in soil and it will break down (please don’t do this in a public setting as that is littering), or you can return it to us and we’ll compost it for you.

If you wish, you can request paper bags via the order comments box at checkout. However we don’t recommend this for ground coffee and we don’t take any responsibility for coffee spoiling during transit. If you opt for this you’ll need to ensure you transfer the coffee to an airtight container immediately upon receipt.

We’re always looking in to new developments in the packaging world in search of the best option available. What we use now may not be what we use in a couple of years time as things change and more information is made available. The most sustainable packaging of all is some you already have and can re-use many times. If you have a coffee roaster locally to you we encourage you to contact them to ask if you can get your own packaging refilled by them.

If you’re local to us in Nottingham, you can refill  your own packaging directly with us via requesting this at the checkout stage. You can also refill with our coffee from Shop Zero in Nottingham City Centre (sent them in refillable pouches) or Re:Source in Norwich (sent to them in paper).

 

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We’ll be closed 3rd – 13th October 2019

We’ll be taking some time off in early October for a well earned break so we will be closed 3rd – 13th October. You can still place orders via our online shop but they won’t be processed until we return on Monday 14th October, and then it might take us a few days to catch up so please expect your order to be delayed. We will not be checking email or social media during this time as we need a real break so if your enquiry is urgent please send it after 14th October.

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Fazenda Santa Barbara, Brazil

From the biggest of the beans to the smallest, this week our coffee comes from Brazil, land of small, soft coffee beans. Although Brazil has high altitude growing regions, they’re not quite as high as other coffee producing countries and so coffee from Brazil grows faster, producing smaller beans which aren’t as dense. This means they need a longer, slower roast otherwise they can burn quickly. They also need a good rest after roasting as they have a tendency to hold on to a lot of smokiness and feel a bit fizzy from CO2 for a couple of days after roasting. You’ll find the taste significantly different the longer you leave it. 4 days after roasting gives a good sweet chocolate flavour, and after 10 days they’ve really settled down for a much smoother taste.

Much of the coffee in Brazil comes from mega farms and is grown for the commodity market, with very few reaching speciality grade, which is a SCA (Speciality Coffee Association) grade of 84 and above. But there are some small scale farmers who are ensuring Brazil gets some representation in the speciality coffee world, Olney Barreira Junior, the owner of Fazenda Santa Barbara being one of them. Olney Barreira Junior acquired the farm in 2012 and has since replanted the farm with new varietals such as the rare Acaia which is the type we have sent you. He has also upgraded the farm’s equipment and improved processing facilities to improve the quality of coffee that the farm is able to produce. His efforts have been rewarded with high grading coffees, this one being an 84, and we expect to see this rating go up as the farm continues to improve.

Fazenda Santa Barbara is located in the Campo de Vetentes region in the Mantiquira Fields mountainous region which provide the high altitude, cool temperatures, and rainfall which are essential to growing good coffee. The coffee is shade grown and, as is required by Brazilian law, 20% is dedicated as natural reserve where native plants are able to flourish and no coffee planting is allowed.

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Three easy ways to make iced coffee

Iced coffee

Iced coffee is a perfect refreshing drink for hot sunny days or after a bike ride. Here’s our guide to making the best iced coffee, whether you want it right now or you have a little time to make it slowly.

We’ll cover the fastest way first because you’re in a hurry and can’t wait around!

Espresso over ice = instant iced coffee

  1. Make an espresso as you normally would. Choose beans which are sweeter and fruitier rather than traditional dark and bitter beans for a better taste
  2. If you want to sweeten it with sugar, do it while it’s hot so the sugar melts
  3. Pour over a glass filled with ice
  4. Enjoy

Pour over iced coffee

  1. Set up your pour over as you normally would BUT fill the receptacle that the coffee drips in to with ice
  2. Make your pour over as you usually would but over the ice and with a slower pour to allow the coffee to cool as it runs through the ice

Overnight French Press

This method involves patience as you’ll need to leave your coffee to brew at least over night but you will be rewarded with delicious, naturally sweet coffee that tastes better than the other methods.

  1. Coarsely grind coffee. Aim for ratio of 1:8 coffee:water, so for a one litre French Press you’ll use 125g of coffee.
  2. Place the grinds in the French Press and cover with cold water
  3. Place in your fridge for at least 12 hours but if you’re really patient, leaving it for 24 hours will give better flavour
  4. Plunge (and optionally but highly recommended, filter it by pouring it through coffee filter or cheesecloth for a cleaner taste)
  5. Serve with extra water to dilute (the coffee will be strong, if you don’t dilute it you may well be buzzing all day!).

Bonus tip: make ice cubes with coffee so that your ice doesn’t dilute your brew!

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How to make coffee with a V60

V60 coffee brewer

V60 is a brewing style where technique (and patience) make all the difference to the flavour. While it isn’t the most forgiving brewing method – if you pour too quickly or don’t get the grind right you’ll end up with a poor cup of coffee – it yields an excellent clean and flavourful cup if you get it right. Precision and patience are key. Use scales to measure your coffee and water and a timer to time the whole process.

  1. Freshly boil your water. Save water, don’t boil more than you need! You’ll be using around 350ml of water for one cup of coffee if you include extra for rinsing. Once boiled, let the water sit for around a minute to cool down to the optimum brewing temperature of 91°.
  2. Place your cup or jug with the dripper on top on the scales
  3. Fold the filter along the crimped edge and place it in the V60 dripper
  4. Rinse the filter with freshly boiled water. This ensures that you get no papery taste in your finished brew and also heats the dripper and jug or cup
  5. Grind 20g of coffee to a medium-fine level, about the consistency of fine sand or table salt
  6. Place the coffee grinds in to the dripper and make a small indentation with the tip of a finger
  7. Set your scale to zero
  8. Gently pour a small amount of water over the coffee grinds to bloom the coffee. Use 1-2g of water per 1g of coffee, just enough to wet the grinds. Allow the coffee to bloom for 45 seconds
  9. Slowly and gently pour your water over the coffee in a tight circle until the scales display 300g, being careful not to let the water directly touch the paper filter. I use a circle that is around the same size as a 10p coin
  10. Wait for the water to finish dripping through. The whole process should take 2-2.30 minutes. If it happens too quickly you may need to use finer grinds
  11. Enjoy your coffee!
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How to make coffee in a moka pot / stovetop coffee maker

Brewing guide – moka pot

If you like the rich taste of an espresso without spending a couple of grand on a high-tech espresso machine, the moka pot, or stovetop coffee pot is a great option. There’s also something really satisfying about making coffee on the hob, and watching the steam come out of the spout. Here’s how to make coffee with a moka pot:

  1. Grind enough coffee to fill the basket, approximately 20g for a typical 4 cup moka pot, to a fine level, the same as you would for use in an espresso machine (although some brands of moka pot have larger holes than others. If you find that your coffee is coming out sludgy because grinds are getting through the holes, use a very slightly coarser grind).
  2. Fill up the base of the pot with water until the water reaches below the safety valve. You can speed things up by using pre-boiled water but beware that if you do, the base will be hot when screwing the top on so be careful.
  3. Add the coffee to the basket and give it a gentle shake to evenly distribute the grounds then add the basket on to the water chamber.
  4. Screw the top of the pot on and then place on the hob
  5. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, you don’t want it to boil too quickly or things could get explosive!
  6. As the water comes to a boil you’ll hear the pot gurgle and hiss, this is when the coffee is ready!
  7. Enjoy your coffee