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June 2006 Newsletter

The next part of our "round the world" odyssey was spent in
London. I specifically wanted to check out the Bramah Coffee and
Tea Museum at 40 Southwark Street, London. I have known about the
museum for many years but never had to opportunity to visit.
Edward Bramah, the proprietor, is the author of (among others)
"Coffee Makers: 300 years of Art and Design", a book I have in my
own library, and has assembled in his museum the best collection
of vacuum brewers I know of.

Teapots and kettles lined up along the wall.Coffee vac pots in the coffee section.

The emphasis is probably a bit more on tea than coffee (Bramah
started out in the tea industry) but the coffee side has some
fabulous stuff. In particular, his collection of vacuum brewers,
which starts with an original Naperian brewer and progresses
through to modern Conas, is outstanding. He also has some ancient
espresso machines and extremely interesting Moka Pot type
brewers, including very early Atomics. Until I saw them, I wasn't
aware that the early Atomics were available in different sizes.

Throw in things like the original Melior plunger (all metal, like
some of the modern stainless steel ones), Coffee Biggins and
other weird brewers and it's a "must see" for caffeine freaks
visiting London.

Bramah also offers a reasonable (by London standards) espresso
and brewed single origin coffees by the pot. I had a Guatemalan
Maragogype that was true to type and taste. Overall, though, the
standard of espresso isn't that good, with occasional stand outs.
The internet café in Covent Garden produced quite a respectable
shot, as did Drury, but I doubt that London will ever be a great
coffee city.

Behind the counter, a standard espresso machine teamed with a LaMarzocco Swift grinder.The original Napierian coffee syphons.
The "Balancing" syphon, a later modification.Napierian syphons in sterling silver.
Original "Melior" plungers/press pots.Copper vac pots in the "double pot" configuration we see today.
Another balancing syphon design on the left, and the first Gaggia electric home espresso machine on the right."Atomic" espresso makers in their first guise; no steam wands on these babies!
Early commercial espresso machines; L to R Victoria Arduino pump type, LaPavoni steam and Victoria Arduino steam.And next door, a selection of commercial lever machines, with MONSTER groups. The one on the right is a pre-E61 single group Faema.

From the UK it was off to Italy to see Rancilio and laScala, but
there will be more about that in the next newsletter.

In a more "local" vein, the Sunbeam grinders have selling faster
than I anticipated, so I decided it might be time to look at
another of the Sunbeam products. Not the espresso machine (yet)
but the (in my opinion) best small knock out box in the world,
the Sunbeam Bang Bang. Made of die cast aluminium and finished in
neoprene rubber, I find it to be sturdier and more ergonomic than
any of the other locally available equivalents.

Following a number of requests, I'll gladly ship to North America
as well. It's up on the "Espresso" page of the website, and on
the "Equipment" order page.

This month's special coffee is the superb, stunning, magnificent
(you'd think that I liked it!)

Yemen Mokha Ismaili
$50.00/kg

This is a "new crop" coffee and the green coffee looks a lot
fresher than I have previously seen. In the cup it has a lively,
fruity front palate, medium body, and a long dark chocolate
finish. It makes an absolute blinder of a single origin espresso

Finally, I've seen a number of espresso machines returned to me
for service in the last couple of months. In most cases, all
that's been necessary is a good clean and replacement of all the
rubber bits. Sad but true, the combination of heat, steam and
pressure will eventually harden all of the rubber components
(group gaskets, o-rings, pea valves and washers) in any espresso
machine, and the only cure is replacement.


Alan