My top 3 choices focuss on aesthetics, practicality, usability and price point.
But before considering a potential purchase, I’d like to stress the importance of coffee quality. If you’re using commodity grade, poor quality, or old crop coffee, you’re fighting bit of a losing battle.‘Specialty’ grade coffee focuses on quality and ethical sourcing. It all starts with great coffee!
I’d also like to emphasise the importance of freshly ground coffee. Whole beans will hold their freshness for approximately 4 weeks (from the roast date). Ground coffee will start to go stale almost straight away. So, if you’re buying pre-ground coffee, it will most likely be ‘flat’ and lack complexity…. Think warm cola that has lost its fizz.
It’s also important to have control over grind size. How fine or coarse you grind is dependant on your chosen brew method and desired flavour profile.
So, when considering home brewers, we must also consider an accompanying grinder. I’ve included some recommendations.
If you really want to get the best out of your coffee when brewing, you must use a recipe! (See videos). For this we need scales (that weigh to 0.1g) and a timer (stopwatch). I’ve also included suggestions for scales. (All the scales have an integrated timer)
My recommendations are split into three parts; Budget, Mid Range and Luxury.
I would love to have included many more. However, here are my ‘current’ top 3, based on price, design, uniqueness and performance….
Aeropress (35 Euros, Stooker)
Method: Immersion/ filter/ Espresso???
"Aeropress for espresso I hear you ask"....well, hear me out! Though not strictly designed for espresso, you can modify the Aeropress with the Fellow Prismo. This is a pressure-actuated valve attachment. In short, it creates a build up of pressure to brew espresso style coffee on your Aeropresso. The reason I included the Aeropress in my top 3, is because you get a lot for very little. Though it will never compete It would be unfair to leave it out in terms of versatility and price point.
The Aeropress was invented by the designers of Aerobie Sprint (the retro frisbee we all treasured as kids). Its popularity has inspired Aeropress competitions throughout the World.
How it works? Stage 1: the coffee is brewed much like a french press. Water is poured onto the coffee and is left to brew. Stage 2: the coffee is then forced through a paper filter, using a bit of elbow grease. It’s designed to achieve body from the immersion and clarity from the filter. Clever stuff!
The Aeropress is user friendly, quick to make a brew and easy to clean. And for the environmentally conscious… you can buy reusable metal filters.
The Aeropress is incredibly versatile. With a bit of practice, you can achieve anything from clean, elegant florals to big body; sticky sweetness. Most single origins work with an Aeropress. You can achieve blackcurrant juiciness from a Kenyan, just as easy as toffee apple sweetness of a Guatemalan.
If I had to choose one thing I like most about the Aeropress, it would be how travel friendly; it is. You can pop it in your bag and take it anywhere. It’s lightweight and won’t break. I’m always accompanied by my Aeropress on vacations.
Recommended grinder: Hario Skerton Plus hand grinder (Approx 30 Euros)
Recommended scales: Hario VST-2000B scales (Approx 45 Euros)
9Barista (£295, 9Barista.com)
This is brand new to the market. It’s innovative, aesthetically pleasing and has revolutionised the old skool Moka Pot (Stove Top).
Where the Moka Pot, arguably, produces watery, burnt coffee, the 9Barista performs like an actual espresso machine. Very clever stuff!
The key is in the name; 9BARista. It can produce 9 bars of pressure like a commercial grade espresso machine. This might not mean much, however, pressure provides that beautiful body and crema we have all grown to love.
This is due to the engineering excellence of William Playford.
Not only can it produce the appropriate pressure, it also brews the coffee at a desirable temperature; 93 degrees C.
I’m so excited to see this in people’s homes. Espresso at home, without the price tag of a commercial espresso machine.
Recommended grinder: Comandante hand grinder (Approx 200 Euros)
Recommended scales: Acaia Pearl (Approx 250 Euros)
La Marzocco Linea Mini (Approx 4K)
The design of the Linea Mini is based on the most iconic La Marzocco machine ever built, the Linea Classic. Loved by thousands of professional baristas, the Linea Classic truly helped launch the specialty coffee movement of the early 1990s.
This is high end, coffee shop quality in the comfort of your own home. The Linea Mini comes in 6 different colours.
These are by no means affordable for every home, however, the build quality, consistency and performance of these domestic machines is unmatched.
Recommended grinder: Mazzer Mini, On Demand (Approx 700 Euros)
Recommended scales: Acaia Lunar (260 Euros- Stooker)
Why Training is Important
The purpose of this piece is to highlight the importance of training: How it can improve standards, retain staff and ultimately help towards increased profit margins.
It’s geared towards current business owners looking to improve their coffee offering and entrepreneurs looking to start a coffee focussed business. It is also for the individual; staff, baristas and their professional progress within the workplace.
‘Quality’ is the perfect starting point: the quality of the place, it’s product(s) and the level of service. It all starts with setting quality standards and sticking to them!
Businesses have different set ups, concepts, products and target audiences. But regardless of the model, setting standards and maintaining them is key.
This is perhaps an obvious thing to say, but putting this into practice doesn’t come easy. It requires meticulous attention to detail and a deep understanding of the vision, ethics, products and the customers of that particular business… And all of these need managing!
Cafe’s, restaurants and bars are often busy places. It’s fast paced. Workflow and efficiency must be tight to maintain customer expectations.
However, in my experience, the first thing to suffer in a busy environment is ‘consistency’. Standards slip for the sake of speed.
This is a big problem. Compromising your product(s), your craft and expertise compromises how you are perceived. If the customer has mixed, inconsistent experiences, it can breed passive negativity and doubt. This sounds a little melodramatic, but it’s true. In general, people want consistency, especially when they are paying for it.
Training is Key
So, this brings us back to training. My journey as a coffee professional started as a barista, then coffee roaster, account manager and finally coffee trainer.
Having worked in many areas with the industry, I wanted to share my knowledge and help iron out some of the common issues that I have experienced over the years. For me, training is key!
Training can cover many aspects. Firstly I focus on barista skills. This involves a core understanding of the coffee used, the roastery/ supplier, equipment, how to dial in to a basic recipe, milk texturing/ basic latte art and cleaning.
Core skills are a baseline requirement!
From there you can focus on the finer details, such as workflow, efficiency, tailored recipes, advanced latte art, coffee knowledge, customer service...the list goes on.
There are a few ways to seek professional training.
My advice, first of all, is to work with a reputable specialty roastery. For the quality of coffee, of course, but also for additional services they may offer.
For example, Stooker offers complimentary barista training and account management for all wholesale partners.
This is beneficial for both the client and Stooker: Our partners are equipped with the core skills and support needed and Stooker is represented in the best possible light. It’s a win win!!! In our eyes, this makes for a healthy partnership. Hence why we are so passionate and committed to offering the best training possible.
Specialty Coffee Association
So, training from a supplier is one way. Another way is to enrol on an accredited course.
SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) is a trade association that offers world-wide recognised qualifications in coffee.
They have a multitude of courses and modules to choose from, ranging from half a day to three days, depending on the level.
SCA courses are for businesses and individuals who take (or want to take) coffee seriously.
Not only does it raise the profile of a business, it’s a fantastic way to invest in and retain valuable staff. In my opinion, progress within the workplace is beneficial for all!
SCA certified courses are some of the few recognised qualifications within coffee, so perfect for anyone wanting a career in the industry.
SCA experience, qualifications and the association really raises the bar! It gives you insight to the wider industry, keeps you up to date with the latest trends, equipment, science and culture of specialty coffee
Stooker's Training Academy
There are SCA certified training schools throughout the world, depending on where you are. Here in the Netherlands, you can take SCA courses right here at the Stooker’s certified training academy.
So, we’ve looked at some ways to access professional training. We now need to turn our attention to maintaining standards.
In hospitality staff turnover is often high. This can be very problematic for a business. With this in mind, it’s best to be as prepared as possible. Think ahead!
Firstly, my advice would be to have someone oversee staff and standards; a Head Barista or Manager for example. Someone to implement and maintain standards on a daily basis after receiving training.
Ongoing inhouse training is also useful. Have set dates in the calendar to go over standards, techniques and efficiency. This is useful for new staff and also a good refresher for current staff.
This may feel like you’re creating more work, but in the long term it will save you time, prevent potential issues and give you an overall better service.
At Stooker, we offer ‘train the trainer’ consultation to help with this.
Stand out from the Competition
Although we might prefer not to think this way, running a business is competitive. There are so many options for consumers. And as specialty coffee grows in popularity, competition will only increase.
But that shouldn’t be a worry. It’s a good thing! It suggests the demand is high, which is encouraging. But don’t rest on one’s laurels.
Invest in training. Keep standards high and consistent. Stand out from the crowd and keep customers coming back and your business growing.
Keep Keeping On
Times are undoubtedly tough at the moment during Covid. Most places are heavily disrupted, which understandably makes training more difficult.
Stooker are now hosting ‘online’ training for wholesale partners, SCA courses and home brewing. So, if you need support and/or training, you know where to find us :)
Please contact email@example.com for all your coffee education queries and needs.
Keep safe coffee lovers!
Dan Dunne - Head of Education at Stooker Specialty Coffee
Born out of lockdown, The Morning Brew Project is the result of striving for something positive during a difficult time.
A big part of Stooker revolves around education. Normally we’d be busy teaching SCA courses, barista workshops and training wholesale partners. Coffee is social - in every single way!
This has been challenging, with the horeca partly closed, social distancing, limited numbers in groups and, of course, wanting to be responsible and follow the guidelines.
Not wanting to stop doing what we love, we put our heads together and challenged ourselves to think outside the box to develop achievable projects that allow us to reach out to you during lockdown, and hopefully even when it ends.
We eventually broke it down to a few simple questions:
Coffee plays a big part in many people’s lives - it's a way to kickstart the morning, to catch up with friends or take a break from work. Some enjoy it for the craft and science, and others simply for that familiar flavour and aroma….The list goes on. But one thing's for sure: coffee brings people together. And that’s exactly what we wanted to explore.
Increasingly, more of us are working from home and less able to visit our favourite cafes. So, we put our questions to the test to find out what we miss most. It’s friends, colleagues and the hustle and bustle of the office that one misses, the coffee breaks, chats and laughs with others - no surprise there.
We noticed that those working from home are spending more time and attention to making better coffee at home. This is a wonderful thing, but it lacks the social aspect. And that’s where Stooker comes in: by bringing the coffee break to you!
And that’s how the Morning Brew Project was born.
The concept is simple:
The Morning Brew Project so far has been a hit! We have hosted groups of 4- 100 people at a time and all have been great fun!
If this is something you or a group of friends/ colleagues are interested in, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Watch the video below for more information :)
Dan Dunne - Head of Education at Stooker Specialty Coffee