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September 2016 Newsletter

One of the most frequent questions I get these days is from long-
time customers. Having purchased an espresso machine from me "back
in the day" and said machine now older (and much better behaved)
than some of their kids, they'd like to know what comes next.
Truthfully, there's not a lot happening in the under $1000 domestic
espresso machine market these days, as the proliferation of capsule
machines continues without a letup.

There are "new" models of E-61 group machines coming out on a
regular basis, but they seem to be around $3000 and up, which not
everyone wants to spend. After a hard look at most of the currently
available domestic machines, I've concluded that best value in terms
of both cost and performance is the Breville BE920S Dual Boiler
espresso machine.

You can generally get one from one of the "big box" stores for under
$1000. The machine has programmable preinfusion, adjustable brewing
pressure, PID temperature control, adjustable dosing and a 58mm
group. The feedback from a large group of users is that the machine
works as advertised and has good warranty support when things go

The downside is that the machine is made in China and seems to have
been optimised for a 3 to 5 year lifespan, and while it is somewhat
user serviceable, this is generally not recommended. Still, in terms
of what you're getting for what you pay, it's excellent value.

Now, on to the coffee portion of the newsletter. Regular readers
will know that I've complained in the past about how similar
"specialty grade" coffees are starting to taste. Some of this
similarity is down to coffee growers and processors using "best
practice" methods to minimize energy and water inputs and maximize
productivity. However, most of the similarity is due to the
particular Arabica varietals involved, or what I call "The 3 Cats."

That is Catui, Catimor and Caturra. These 3 varietals have a lot in
common, in that they are all high yielding dwarf varietals that grow
in a wide variety of climates and have medium to good flavours.
"Dwarf" means that they grow as a bush or a shrub, low to the ground
which makes it much easier to pick the coffee cherries. The "High
Yield" speaks for itself, a single bush can produce up to 4 times
more coffee than most of the heirloom varietals. Most coffee farmers
don't see much of a premium for better tasting coffees, so the
"cats" and their close relatives now make up the majority of the
coffees from Central America.

So when I get an heirloom coffee from a country that's lost over a
third of its production to coffee rust disease it's a very unusual
thing. This is only the second 100% Bourbon varietal coffee I've
seen in the last couple of years, which emphasises just how scarce
they are becoming, not helped by the coffee growing as a low
yielding tall tree!

In fact, the last Bourbon I had was the superb Panama Maunier in
mid-2014, which might come around again if I can get the price down
from ludicrous to merely ridiculous. Meanwhile, this month's special

El Salvador Los Nogales Bourbon

Intense flavour with sweet honeycomb and hazelnut in the front
palate and a smooth cocoa and malt finish. And yes, it does remind
me of a Malteaser.

Until next month


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