Current buying suggestions:
For those following alt.coffee - there is no Maestro, Mulino or even Allegro over here.
Establised cheap favourites at the moment are the Krups Vivo ( £80 from Argos), the Gaggia Carezza and then up through the Gaggia range to the Rancilio Silvia (Drury again)
Gaggia series - also try www.best-of-italy.com (alas off air at the moment) The UK agent is www.homewares.co.uk
Not as fanciful as most imagine.
See www.sweetmarias.com for the definitive homeroasting guide.
The last two are available in various places - but, again, try the London Bodum shop.
This is my list. Most I have tried - but i don't try them all regularly - nor
sample all their beans and even if I did its Your Beans, Your Tastebuds.
Remember, ground beans stale within hours, roast whole beans within a fortnight and
green beans last a year or so. There are ways of slowing down staling (Illy's large
nitrogen flushed tin is supposed to be good, his smaller tins aren't bad and the
supermarket bags with one way valves are also a possibility) - but they will change
character, however slowly, before opening and once opened they are subject to the normal
So a grinder is pretty important and home roasting helps unless you live near a decent roaster.
There are many places to buy beans but, by definition, the top 5% - the so called "speciality" market is in short supply:- Class 1 - Specialty Grade is defined as coffee with no primary defects........ exhibiting a distinct attribute in one or more of the following areas: taste, acidity, body, or aroma. ............... (SCAA)
All prices are indicative and are for green beans:
DANNY MCNULTY - my alt.coffee neighbour who runs the espresso cart in Portsmouth is the UK agent for that famous blended green espresso mix - MALABAR GOLD email firstname.lastname@example.org
Charlie is probably the alt.coffee favourite. He started in
early 2000, was posting to a.c and impressed us with his philosophies and approach -
walking the walk and talking the talk. He has a little industrial unit as a
roastery, a travelling espresso cart and has opened a cafe in Aylesbury. His
newsletter is fun too - when he does it........
His bean collection is small - 10 or so - but all good stuff. Green is about £8/kilo with pp at cost. His Java goes particularly well in our little hotair roasters and his Celebes, er, keeps you awake. They are a small company and promise posting on day of roasting - but they only tend to roast once or twice a week.
Stopped doing equipment.
The website was a simple 3 pager but Colin has now got on line
ordering organised. He is one of the good UK commercial suppliers and has 40 or so
beans. He seems to do a lot of Jamaica Blue Mountain, has all the standards but do
ask what gems he has - he had Galapagos and Australian Skyberry last year (not that i
recommend either - but they are unusual) - and the Peru Chanchamayo which i do (alas -
did!) rate for cafetiere. With that range, I can forgive him selling
"snickerdoodle" flavoured coffee. Price of the normal specialities is
about £8 per kilo.
Gadgets tend to be the commercial stuff - cafetieres, big Bravilor drip machines etc but does have the dumbbell type aluminium tamper, 58mm blind filters and cleaner.
The Royal Charter, oak panelling, speak quietly sort of place.
As you go in there are the tea drawers and further back the coffee area. Downstairs
is a little cafe where they will open up the bag of your choice and cafetiere it (yes even
JBM), ground on a 50yr old Whitmee; turn out a decent spresso on the Rancilio S27 or you
sit and oggle the showpiece Probat roaster and dream of ole England.
The beans are roasted at Waltham Abbey so they haven't got all their green in London. Approx 30 different varietals. The Tanzanian Chagga (less acidic than Kenyan and introduced as a more powerful Colombian when they were difficult to get after the war.....) is famous and there is a following for their Creole blend espresso. Price is the astronomical £16 per kilo and £3.50/kilo pp.
They have those mokka pots with ceramic top parts on sale but not much else. Oh semipod filters...
Cramped counter, young friendly, trendy, knowledgable staff.
Step up to a cramped coffee bar at the back - and go in the morning and ask to step down
and see the 50yr old taped up roaster downstairs and sacks of green all round. They
have opened up another shop just south of the Thames now.
Anita chooses her own beans - very carefully - about a dozen varieties. How about the grapefruity Costa Rican La Laguna .... as always, ask. Unlisted was a brilliant organic Peru that was a bit special for a Colombian fan like me. Her 5 bean robusta-less espresso blend wowed me and gets good reports from most of the London alt.coffees. ("not roasted in the Pompeii style which is now so popular"). Price £15/kilo.
Roasted off site - forget where. Small shop next to where
that Soho bomb was a few years ago? - machines on right, blackboard on left with specials
and blends. Jam packed with gadgets.
Less of a specialty shop than Higgins, Monmouth or Hillandvalley - but they do do a full range of round the world beans - skyberry to brazilian - 25 odd varietals. I am also unimpressed with their bean handling - any roaster should bag into foiled valve bags asap after roasting - and there was no sign of any. The staff also weren't incredibly with it to me. But it seemed popular and they are always bagging a lot of mailorder stuff. Again only some beans are in green at the shop. Price £16/kilo.
Gadgets galore - gaggia inc the grinders (but more expensive than e.g. Selfridges) but really scores on ibriks, stainless steel mochas and napolitanos - and they have the Alessi Flip Pot (mega drool).
More of a commercial roaster - does Harrods. 20 odd varieties - mostly the
standards at £8/kilo but some Estates at £15/kilo with pp £3.04.
Andrew imports the Hearthware Precision - and, i believe, divi's up with Whittards to sell it at £130 compared with $100 ish in its country of origin. they also do a Piaggio based espresso cart.
Stop Press - now advertising the Precision at £150!. Considering these have an average life of 1 year - then see Roberts below.
Their site is currently under development. They are the
retail/wholesale arm of Matthew Algie - the large Scottish roasters famous on alt.coffee
for Tinderbox - the double roasted espresso blend and the London and Glasgow bars of the
same name. (£13/kilo roasted FWIW)
They also do all the bits for the commercial espresso shop - eg the tamper is £20.
Our High St coffee supplies. The site is better than the
Yes - i still get beans from them when i really run out. They come to the shop bagged - and they get rid of them three weeks after opening the packet..... They used to do green as part of their Hearthware Precision sales drive but apparently no longer.
Still - its always worth a browse when Penny is visiting Next for Kids. and i do admire Giles Hilton - he used to be an accountant.
But, funnily has just started a piaggio scooter based espresso franchise on the web.
Merits a mention because he does know his beans and has some specials - the Peruvian Villa Rican at the moment.
Lovely place to visit - tourist trap on a converted farmyard complex with art shops
etc. Big old roaster, bags of beans mostly the standards but i first tried Skyberry
and Koorghully Estate from here. £10/kilo Working on his espresso
Sold me my Giotto second hand :-) Also had <?> a retail shop in Manchester town itself.
Selling the Alpenrost for £295. (c.f. Drury Lane Tea and Coffee selling it for £330 - and i couldn't get them to budge.)
They sell green if you twist their arm. Don't ask about speciality beans.
Sell the Rancilio Silvia for £295 and the Rocky for £140. and the Mini Mazzer
I have been emailed by www.anothercoffee.co.uk
as a net supplier of, inter alia, beans, coffee accessories, grinders, a roaster and Illy
cups. Seems a decent enough outfit for gadgets - but I wasn't (yet) enamoured by
their bean selection.
Finally - the home coffee roasters specialist:
I get an annual food parcel - i normally buy about 20lbs
ish. He has about 50 varieties and its like reading the Scalextric catalogue before
Xmas (shall i have this or..... :-).
I get him to send it surface mail and my average bean cost tends to be about £13/kilo inc postage. (Well - he has some expensive beans) There is no trouble with Customs (nor have i had a VAT charge for the bits i tend to buy as well). Takes about 6 weeks - 10 weeks over Xmas......
Ask him to double wrap or seal the beans. I have had two packets come open and trying to sort beans by look is enough to drive anyone spare.