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Stilly
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Since the first lockdown started I've bought beans from many different suppliers and hated every single bean I've had from them. I only did so because my beloved Algerian coffee stores couldn't operate at times. Thankfully they have been back up and running for some time and I was able to restock on my favourite, Huehuetenango. Then Brazilian bourbon happened and oh my, what a bean. Not sure which is my favourite now. The bourbon is full on in every respect, which is exactly what I like, whilst the huehue is a little smoother. 

Still happy with my little bean to cup machine as there's no faff and the coffee tastes great. I conclude that if you have a bean that you love, it doesn't much matter how you turn it into a cup of coffee but if you don't love the bean, no fancy grinder or machine can save it. 

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Yeah, if you don't like acidic african floral tasting beans no grind setting or brew method is going to save that, you can tweak around the edges of something though to remove certain aspects of the brew (like bitterness, tannic/drying, thinness) and make it far more to your liking and drinkable. 

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It's a crude approach, but I find that some beans which are unpalatable as black coffee taste good with milk, and vice versa. That can salvage a bad bag.

 

Left to my own devices I tend to just buy whatever says it tastes like chocolate orange and drink it black, but I often get more esoteric stuff when friends and family give me beans as a present.

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That’s what I’m doing with the poor pulls I’m getting, just adding loads more water with milk and sugar for a regular cuppa. It still beats the instant shite I’ve been having all my life.

 

On the same topic I think that cup this morning has spoiled me. The ones since haven’t been anywhere near as nice.

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I have some grinder crystals. I have no idea if they are useful but it's like a sort of salty substance. 

 

The instructions say send it down your grinder then send beans down. It's supposed to pick up old oils on the burrs. 

 

Anyway, when doing so it's wasting beans because the ground coffee has that salty stuff in and while it's safe to ingest its hardly worth drinking, so that's become my use for "bad beans" or maybe stale ones if for whatever reason I've not drank as much. 

 

 

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This is escalating quickly:

 

https://www.marktplaats.nl/v/witgoed-en-apparatuur/koffiezetapparaten/m1797183652-gaggia-classic-met-pid-unieke-editie

 

Quote

I am selling this Gaggia Classic from 2014 because of a new espresso machine. A classic among the compact espresso machines, of which this is a special one.

I bought the Gaggia new but have given it due attention and upgrades over the years including:
- an improved temperature controller (PID), which is neatly built into the machine. As can be seen in the 3rd photo, a special new top plate has been designed. The PID is an Omron E5CC. On Thuisbarista there is a report of this installation, for the enthusiast.
- a brass boilerplate, instead of the original aluminum variant
- the well-known Rancilio Silvia steam pipe
- a quieter Invensys CP3A pump, to replace the old one
- adjusting the pressure to 9 bar

The machine has been well maintained and has always been given descaled water. I have never descaled it with citric acid and the like, but I have had it serviced periodically. The interior also looks good.

All original parts (such as the steam nozzle and the original top) are included. In addition, there is a good single and double filter basket and a new group ring.

I am selling the machine to another espresso enthusiast so it can keep making people happy for decades to come! The machine can be viewed in Delft, and will not be sent.

Feel free to message us with any questions!

 

LOL at the bit about him selling it to another enthusiast. I might just get a new one and carry out mods myself, when/if required. This feels a bit like buying a pre-built PC/MiSTer.

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Thought my delonghi magnifica bean to cup might have broken after 7 years of daily service as it was failing to take water in and making a right racket.  Cleaning out the intake didn't fix it but a quick google and turned out I had an easy to fix air blockage which took about 30 seconds to then fix.  Old machine keeps on trucking and am now giving it a bit of tlc with a descale and re-grease.

 

I've been looking at new machines on and off for about 2 years now almost hoping it would die so clearly it owed me a scare! 🤣

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I am having a very good coffee week. I was in London on Monday, which means wherever you are, you can just open the Best Coffee app and find a brilliant coffee shop not far from you. This is in contrast to opening it at home and the closest place being 13 miles away.

 

So I hopped off the train at King's Cross and found Origin, who I've bought coffee from before, have a shop in the British Library and their batch brew was this stuff from Ethiopia. Absolutely delicious, and not at all like other Ethiopian coffees I've tried.

 

And since then, I've cracked open a bag of this Brazilian coffee from Pact and it seems I can do no wrong with it. Clever dripper or Aeropress, higher or lower dose, even making a cup at work without my scales to measure water, nothing but fantastic cups.

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1 hour ago, Blue said:

That's why I believe it's all about the bean and far less about the method. There are a lot of horrid beans out there. 

 

There's certainly something to that, but I've also had plenty of beans that I've just not been extracting right and fiddling about a little bit has been transformative.

 

Very disappointed to see I can't buy more of this stuff, but I do like swapping coffees, so am hopeful some of the new ones Pact have in will be good. The one I tried at Origin is also out of stock, sadly.

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Another great coffee from Pact - San Joaquin, an El Salvadorian coffee that's super fementy. Lovely.

 

I also bought James Hoffmann's World Coffee Atlas as a gift for someone and have to say it's lovely. I've not looked at it in any great depth as I don't want it to look like I've read through it, but I'll probably also buy myself a copy. It's full of interesting stuff and is well made, but not too big, making it a nice coffee table book.

 

He also has a book called "How to make the best coffee at home" coming out in August. There's a 10% discount if you pre-order at amazon so I've ordered myself a copy of that, too.

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I stopped my subscription to Pact because I wasn't sure I liked their 'style' of coffee (if that's a thing?) and wanted to try another company to see if I preferred them. I chose a local company - St Martin's Coffee in Leicester.

 

HUGE MISTAKE

 

It all seemed okay at first, I bought a bag from their online shop, got a confirmation email, then a dispatch email, and then on the day they said it would arrive, at 3pm, I got a delivery confirmation email.

 

What I didn't get was my coffee.

 

Our postman came at about 12:30, and there was no coffee. I was home all day and no other deliveries were attempted. When I checked all the usual places that delivery people might leave something, there wasn't anything. Checked with my neighbours, no coffee got left with them.

 

I went to the email and clicked on the tracking link. The tracking number didn't work. I contacted Royal Mail on Twitter to ask what was going on, and they said that tracking number hadn't ever been issued.

 

I emailed the sales team at St Martins Coffee asking what was going on. I got no response that day, and on a whim, just before bed I checked the tracking again. Now suddenly the number did work, and it said that the package had been dispatched at 4:45pm that day.

 

The next day I emailed the sales team again asking for an explanation. I heard nothing. The tracking continued to update. 

 

Today the coffee arrived. I've still heard nothing from the company, and what's worse, the coffee's pretty shit.

 

tl;dr: Avoid St Martin's Coffee in Leicester. They're shitbags and their coffee's crap.

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There is so much choice out there you can drive yourself (and your wallet) nuts chasing down the perfect beans.

 

I've been keeping detailed notes on who we've bought from, roasters to try next, grind settings we settled on for certain beans and our tasting thoughts just to help hone in on what we believe we like. We've tried 35 different bags from a dozen or so places since middle of last year, and the advent added another 20+ types to that.

 

It's interesting as in general we don't like the Pact style either, but their Zaroca is my partners no1 at present. Price isn't a factor either as like with wine/whiskey you are paying for either scarcity or specific notes which may be prized but you don't actually like.

 

I just opened a bag I've had sitting round for a while, Brown Bear breakfast blend, had been putting it off as always had something more interesting/expensive to try, its actually a really moreish and easy to drink brew, it's also got Robusta in it which had put me off snootily as those are the cheaper nasty beans over the prized Arabicas.

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What about roast level? When you guys talk about not liking Pact's "style" I'm not sure what you mean, as they have a pretty wide range of beans. You've got your washed East African coffees which are really floral, more run of the mill washed stuff, and then the Natural process south American coffees that I love, which are all quite difficult. But they do have a certain roast style, which is generally quite light. They're also clearly cheaper coffees. I obviously enjoy them, but they're nowhere near as special or as unusual as the £13-£16 bags of coffee you can buy elsewhere.

 

I think part of the problem is that "Specialty Coffee" sounds great, so there's no real way to tell if roasters mean they're "third wave" specialty coffee, i.e. lighter roasts that focus on the origin characteristics of the beans, or roast more heavily, where the roast is really the defining variable of the beans. I keep meaning to try Spiller and Tait, but have no idea where they sit.

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having now drank over 20 Pact coffees with the advent my general observation is that irrespective of roasts they seem to be on the lighter side of things in terms of depth of flavour and the mouthfeel, whereas somebody like Spllier & Tait the flavours in general are a lot bolder, even from  a medium roast coffee. 

 

Spiller are our go to solid good cup of coffee benchmark that we return to when we want something safe, several of theirs (Columbian Huila, South American Blend, Signature Blend) all hit the mark in terms of what we prefer. 

 

We've definitely learnt that in general third wave, floral notes, high fruit acidity are not for us.

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I think it’s very unlikely that people would enjoy anything Pact have on offer (in their filter coffees) with milk. Especially the floral ones. It’s a bit like drinking green tea with milk. 
 

If you like coffee with milk, you may well find you just prefer Robusta in general. 
 

 

Have you tried any of them as God intended since getting your Niche?

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I had mentally ruled out Robusta's but this morning experience could have me reconsidering that, there's been no shortage of great Arabicas now we know the language to look for our hit rate has been much better.

 

Did a Workshop Coffee guided tasting last year with 6 types that were all drunk black - think I posted about it here. that came as beans we ground to a guide size and whilst the experience was great for getting the different flavours in a black cup, and really showed how temp plays a big role as the coffee cools, didn't want to drink anything black after that, just not our bag.

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Having tried beans from all regions and many suppliers and roast levels, it seems I only like S.American beans and they have to be roasted to almost black. If a bean is any shade lighter, I'll hate it. 

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I take my coffee black, no sugar. ALL Pact's coffees just taste really bland to me.

 

The only ones that come close to having any intensity of flavour are their espressos. And it's not that I want espresso coffee all the time, I do like floral/citrussy/whatever cups, and when I go to coffee shops (pretty rare these days, admittedly) I can taste the coffee's character.

 

I just find that no matter how much coffee I use, or what grind level, I get only a hint of individual flavour from Pact's beans. They taste like 'generic' coffee, very bland, nothing of interest.

 

I'm well aware this might be my palate, or my water or something. I don't think it's the method, as I've tried the Clever dripper, a cafetiere and an Aeropress, and they're all just very very meh. But rather than just put up with it, I'm trying other places.

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I went into a real coffeeshop last week and asked for a double espresso. The guy recommended some Brazilian stuff after having a laugh at me buying that €60 Lidl machine (which he also spotted). Now I know exactly what the bar is. I was also correct about my previous assumption in that I'd never drank a proper espresso before.

 

I'll get some beans the next time I'm walking past. Although I did get some Segafredo espresso beans out of the supermarket. These are much better than the Starwipes kind, but they take a lot of grinding. I can get a nice cup out of these most of the time, but it's. a. lot. of. work.... Each step of the prep has to be done with 9/10 precision or over if I want an enjoyable cup. It's only a matter of time before I buckle and get into trouble over buying a €400 machine (plus whatever for a decent-ish grinder).

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I’ve been sticking largely with Dark Woods Coffee recently. They have a nice range and I feel I can taste the individual characteristics of each bag - I’m no expert but I definitely seem to get good shots for my usual cups of espresso/flat white or Americano. 
 

If anyone likes the fruitier side of coffee you are also well served there. 

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My most recent bag of coffee is a "white honey" process, coffee. So, in terms of the spectrum between washed (very clean, distinct flavours) and natural (fermented, bolder flavours), it's just one step from washed:

 

NrG1kmx.jpg

 

And you can absolutely taste that. It's like a washed coffee with a little bit of that extra depth to it. Very nice.

 

I feel like I'm on quite the roll at the moment, like all my brews taste like they should, after a really frustrating period not too long ago. I'm not sure what I'm doing differently, really, other than having loosened up my grind significantly, but I had already tried that when I was getting rubbish cups and it didn't help at the time.

 

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Does anyone else use https://ironandfire.co.uk? I hear quite often that Pact's beans are quite bland/hard to tell the difference between, but I've not really had that with my beans from here, so would be interested to compare.

 

I had some Monmouth beans (I have thrown out the packet now of course so can't remember the variety) for Christmas which I thought would have been a very fancy treat a couple of years back, but they haven't been great. Hard to chase the bitterness out and utterly unusable with a bottomless portafilter (honestly, I don't *think* it's just that I'm shit! I am of course, but I could at least make a shot with other types of beans without getting the whole worktop sprayed with coffee)

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