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April 2003 Newsletter

My apologies for the delay in this month's newsletter, but "Domestic Factors" intervened last weekend.

I'm still short of Imat Napoletanas and Juniors (latest is "another 3 weeks") but finally I have a few LUX grinders. These are the Nemox version (prettier and more expensive than the Imat/Quaha model) but they are in stock. The prices on the website have been adjusted to take into account the higher cost, but will come down when the Imat machines finally arrive. Existing orders were supplied at the old price.

I'm also just about out of the Rancilio Sets, the demand for these has been much higher than anticipated. I've got some more on order, and they'll come in with the new Rocky Doserless grinder in late May.

I went along to the "Celebrate the Bean" festival at Southbank a couple of weeks ago, and my photo report is up on Coffeegeek at http://www.coffeegeek.com/columnists/alanfrew/03-30-2003 . There were a whole lot of "Domestic" espresso machines there, some interesting seminars (which were packed, they need more space!) and many local roasters.

Several people I met mentioned the recent "Choice" magazine reviews of home espresso machines. After reading this travesty of a review, all I can say is that if I reviewed machines the way Choice does, no one would EVER trust my recommendations again. Their review has to be one of the worst examples of ignorance about the whole espresso process that I've ever seen.

As far as I can tell, all the machines were tested with a single (unspecified) coffee at the same grind level. No effort was made to adjust grind parameters for 25 second shots or to differentiate between single and double shots, amount of coffee in filter baskets or correct warm up procedures. I'm glad I'm not one of the "Espresso Experts" quoted at the end of the review, although to be fair to those involved, none of them have any form in the "domestic" espresso field at all. If you buy an Espresso machine based on this review, you WILL be disappointed.

Anyway, on to a much cheerier subject, Indonesian Coffee.

Coffee cultivation was started on Java by the Dutch in 1696, and has continued to this day. All the islands that make up the Indonesian Archipelago have some form of coffee growing activity, but the "best" beans are generally considered to be the Sulawesi Toraja, Sumatra Mandheling and Lintong, and the Java Arabica.

All the beans have the common characteristics of relatively low acidity and heavy body, but there are significant flavour variations between them. In particular, the Java Arabica was the first to be exported to Holland, and the long sea voyages produced a type of aging or monsooning which reduced the acidity and increased the body even further. The distinctive taste is still prized in quality Dutch coffees today.

So this month's special is the Aged

JAVA ARABICA $35.00/kg

This is a great big brute of a coffee, with an incredibly heavy body and a greater depth of flavour than any other coffee I sell. Sweet, subtle, discreet it's NOT, instead it delivers a monster kick to the tastebuds.

Its espresso performance is similar to Robusta, without the nasty tastes. It requires a MUCH finer grind setting but delivers huge globs of crema, almost too much. As you would expect, this coffee is normally available only in blends which cut back its potency. I'm playing with a Mocha/Java blend myself but haven't got it right yet.

I now have my Isomac Millennium on the bench, for a comparison to the Expobar Office control, with a view to selling a "high end" home machine. I'll be trying to get a Brugnetti Simona Top to play with as well, but the importer is out of stock for a few weeks.

The Hario Noveau 5 cup syphons have finally arrived as well, and I hope to add them to my current line up next week, as soon as the prices and spares positions are clarified. Finally, if any aspiring "home roasters" are interested, I've discovered a cache of Tiffany popcorn poppers locally. I still use my first Tiffany for test roasting, and apart from being a bit warped & melted it does a great job.

Alan.