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Coffee CD and DVD Reviews

As the world of coffee finally moves into the 21st Century, I’ve received 2 DVDs and a CD for assessment. The DVDs are training aids courtesy of the Coffee Academy, and the CD is an encyclopaedia of the coffees of the world.

The first DVD is “Prepare and Serve Espresso Coffee” from the Coffee Academy at the William Angliss institute of TAFE, A$26.00 plus postage within Australia.

The second DVD is “Coffee Art”, from the same source, A$16.00 plus postage.

The CD is “Les Cafes produits dans le Monde”, “The Coffees produced throughout the World”, and is Euro 55.00 including postage from the Netherlands. The supplier in this case was Ivo van der Putten of www.vdpcoffee.nl .

“Prepare and serve Espresso Coffee”

The program is basically a recap of the actual course as taught at the Coffee Academy. It’s divided into 8 sections, beginning with an introduction where the first “talking head” is Giancarlo Gusti, proprietor of “Grinders” coffee roasters and a patriarch of the Australian coffee industry. In fact Giancarlo sold me the first bag of “real” coffee I’d ever purchased, over 30 years ago now.

Then it’s into “Growing Harvesting Roasting”, “Coffee Making Equipment”, “Making Perfect Espresso”, “Checking the Grind”, “Milk Texturing”, “The Espresso Menu” and “Cleaning and Maintenance”.

The “Growing Harvesting Roasting” bit was filmed in Australia, at the Skybury plantation, one of the most mechanised in the world. While it is accurate as far as it goes, it doesn’t really reflect the reality of most coffee growing and processing in the world, and shows only wet processing of the harvested beans. The “Roasting” segment is fairly superficial as well.

The nitty gritty parts of actually making a decent espresso, narrated and performed by Jill Adams, are handled fairly well and all the basic information is well covered and accurate. One small niggle is Jill’s “Perfect Espresso Shot”, where the pour looks to be a little lacking in viscosity. Since this tends to be a function of the beans, and the beans are Piazza D’Oro, the major sponsor of the Academy, I suppose it couldn’t be helped.

Overall this DVD is an excellent basic introduction to the world of espresso production. There’s a lot that could still be done to improve it, though, and some of the things I’d like to see are:

  • More explanations of WHY you do things, rather than just telling you WHAT you should be doing.
  • Demonstrations and explanations of common problems with espresso production and milk texturing, and a troubleshooting guide explaining what to do when things go wrong.
  • More in depth explanations of what an excellent espresso actually looks and tastes like.

However, I have to say that at the price (and especially compared to the cost of most of the books on the subject) there should be a copy of this DVD in every café in Australia. It should be required viewing for proprietors AND staff, and it would go a LONG way towards improving the general standard of espresso!

“Coffee Art”.

This appears to be a short movie supplied in DVD format, which demonstrates how to produce various forms of “Latte Art”. While it’s OK as far as it goes, it could have gone a LOT further in terms of tips and tricks, common mistakes to avoid, practice exercises for beginners etc. It seems to have originally been meant for video, and makes no attempt to exploit the multimedia features available for DVD.

My verdict on this one would be that in its present format it would only appeal to enthusiasts with plenty of time and milk for practice. It’s not really “step-by-step” enough for the novice barista, although several close viewings would probably give enough clues to start you off. However, compared to some of the other training materials available, the price is excellent!

“The Coffees Produced throughout the World” by P. Jobin & Cie.

This CD-ROM effectively replaces and updates the original Jobin coffee encyclopaedia, which weighs in at 4kg and currently sells for US$225.00. (http://secure.stoneworks.com/scaashop )

To quote from the SCAA website, “The green coffee professional’s ultimate reference book. In French, English and Spanish, this book covers everything about all eighty coffee producing nations that you could ever want to know; the amount of acreage devoted to coffee, soil condition, botanical varietal, yield, major ports, economy, harvest season, political structure, etc.”

The CD edition is in English and French only, and at present available for Windows, although a Mac version is in the works. It requires the installation of the Borland Java Virtual Machine before it will run, and when you first start the CD it attempts to connect to the internet and download the JVM, a 14 meg download! This is somewhat stupid as a copy is already present on the CD, and can be installed by looking at the CD contents in Explorer and clicking on the file.

If you’re involved with any aspect of the green coffee business it’s worth the trouble. I don’t know of any other reference work in the coffee industry that covers the breadth of detail that Jobin does. My only complaint would be that slightly more specific cupping notes about the various coffees, instead of general descriptions along the lines of “can sometimes compete with standard arabica”, would be more useful. Otherwise you can search by country, continent or typing in the country name, and discover an impressive amount of detail about how, where and when coffee is grown and harvested.

Jobin is now an affordable “Must Have” for anyone seriously involved in the Specialty Coffee trade.

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