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Shaun

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About Shaun

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    Lightly Roasted
  1. I've been storing Union beans in a cold pantry over the winter and not doing anything special. I buy a new supply every few weeks and have not noticed any decline in taste. However, with the same pantry now much warmer with spring upon us, a cool place which is not the fridge or freezer isn't so straightforward. If potatoes can grow shoots in a dark place during the warmer months, this surely does not bode well for beans. What's the accepted wisdom and should we expect a lesser life until autumn once more beckons? Shaun
  2. I did indeed read that long thread, but I couldn't picture the flavours being described at the time, so it was hard to appreciate the respective sides to the discussion. Now I've actually tasted fruits or whatever in my coffee it all makes much more sense. If I'd seen the Square Mile bag of beans before buying it, I'd have taken a step back, in the same way I do when someone picks an unusual berry with hairs on it from a bush and expects me to eat it. So I'm not sure it's really about lighter or darker roasts, but more the acute flavours hitting me. I guess I never expected coffee to involve such varied things, and if anyone's in any doubt as to what's out there, here's the list of goodies from the sweetie shop for Red Brick: cherry, toasted marshmallow, treacle, toffee, baked apple, milk chocolate, marzipan, brazil nuts, caramel - and to cap it all, blackcurrant jam and red berries. If there are people out there who can taste that little lot, then I'm humbled. That picnic in the forest can be compared to donkey's perfunctory approach of toffee, caramel and creamy chocolate. Actually, looking at the three packets in front of me, I see Union Revelation mentions berries but I can't say I've noticed in the taste. I'll pretend I didn't see that and just mention the chocolate and sweet caramel.
  3. I think anyone new to this game whose tastes have yet to develop (and whose familiarity with espresso is narrow) could do worse than have written on their left hand - "Union Revelation - nice, safe, traditional espresso." On the right would be "Square Mile Red Brick: prepare for palate shock!" I've had a bit of the red brick each day for 8 days now and it hasn't changed, despite what I've read about optimum taste after roast date. I've tried everything from 16g to 19g, plus different grinds and tamps. These factors have only altered the crema and the pour, and it tastes the same each time - sharp and fruity as hell. Square mile recommend the higher 18-19g dose and longish shot time, and loth as I am to admit it ('cos if it wasn't so expensive, I'd bin it), that has been the best option, mainly because I shivered less on tasting. By huge contrast, a happy donkey also arrived on the scene this week, carrying Brazilian (not yet tried) and Classic Italian (now very much tried). By now beginners still reading this will have run out of hands to write notes on, so foreheads will have to do, and you'll need to do carriage returns. Here goes. "Donkey Italian: absolute doddle to get massive crema and full cups of rich, traditional espresso, seemingly regardless of bean weight, grind, tamp or water temp." This stuff is very fresh and can be dug into straight away. Cheap as chips and only the postage sends it up to the level which is nearly on par with picking up bags of Union from Waitrose. But by comparison the donkey is clearly the fresher bean, and if this is what others describe as undemanding and lacking in diversity of flavour, then so be it. Those of us with undemanding, traditional palates who enjoy a deep and rich crema, can enjoy this to the full, knowing how little it has cost. In short, the donkey's nuts! Shaun
  4. I've had my commercial machine for yonks and I've just added a commercial grinder, but my palate is stuck in French cafes, so I'm probably not the best to judge how the retail Union beans compare to others and freshness generally. What I can say is that the best espresso I'd managed to make before last week was bog-standard Lavazza, so you can see I have quite a ladder to climb. Nevertheless, the Union beans straightaway gave me the stripey mouse tails which I'd never seen before, and the flavour was more certainly more complex, in a good way. However, just to confuse the issue, I've recently taken delivery of some Square Mile Red Brick and I'm counting the days to when it hopefully stops scaring my palate. I've read that something like 9 to 11 days is the best after roasting, but I can't believe it's going to change that much over the coming days. It's so sharp I don't know how to describe it. So, back to Union and if their really fresh stuff can improve on a couple of months old bag from Waitrose, then I'll be well pleased. I'm seriously considering having a word with the manager to find out when their new stock is due in, just to see how near to roasting day I can get.
  5. I emailed Union yesterday (Sunday) and had a reply early Monday, so good on Union for such a quick response. I asked whether there was a means of telling when beans supplied to Waitrose would have been roasted. This was the reply: It's a real balance between freshness and convenience. At the moment we do not print on a roast date on our retail packs. As much we would like it, Waitrose just cannot sell coffee as fresh as we can ourselves, direct to you. The coffees in Waitrose is packed immediately on roasting in nitrogen flushed bags to preserve the flavours for as long as possible, so you will always be getting as fresh as possible. Just not as fresh as direct from us, and unfortunately with no guarantee of consistency since roast date. You may want to try Ocado where their supply pipeline is significantly shorter than Waitrose. There will be coding on the Waitrose packs. If you would like us to let you know when your pack's coffee was roasted, we can do this though would need this info from the pack to check against our records. I then emailed the code on the pack of beans I was using, which showed a 'best before' date of 14 September 2013. The code was AAA 2348. So now for the information we've all been waiting for: I can say that we place 9 months on our retail packs from roasting to best before. The code is roast date expressed as the Julian Date. 2348 2 = 2012 348- day of the year As I mentioned, we would want our coffees brewed as soon as practical after roasting, but with the constraints the supermarkets place upon suppliers regards pipeline, we have to be realistic and work within this. Many others will have 12-18 months shelf life. For the quality of our coffees and the limitations the channel places on us, we feel, though not ideal, 9 months is a conservative period. Which means the beans I'm using were roasted on 14th December and I bought them in Waitrose 7th February, nearly 2 months after roasting. However, on the same shelf, Waitrose had a pack with a 'best before' date of June 2013, which means they would have been roasted 5 months before the day I looked at them. I've since emailed Union again (this will test their patience), to find out whether the supply of beans to Waitrose is a random thing according to the order placed, or is scheduled. Either way, are the beans freshly-roasted when they leave Union, or given the constraints of their supply process to retail outlets, are they not likely to be fresh? I'm thinking once this is known, there might be some merit in finding out when a local Waitrose is about to take delivery of a new batch of Union beans, to obtain them at their freshest - assuming that's close enough to the roast date to make a difference to just picking up whatever's on the shelf at the time of a routine visit. My son works at Waitrose, so I get 15% off most things, which makes it £4.04 a bag for the Union beans (£4.75 normally) and obviously no delivery charge. Ocado may have fresher stock, but there's a fifty quid minimum order, so that would be the backup choice. Shaun
  6. Shaun

    Beans From Tesco

    I've found the answer from Union, about what they supply to Waitrose, but as this thread is about Tesco, I'll start a new thread.
  7. I use a dry espresso cup on the scales and zero that, then replace it with the the same type of cup but with the espresso just pulled. However, I had to weigh six of the same cups beforehand to find two that were actually the same weight, such was the variance!
  8. If you do go for a better machine, that in itself says you'll be looking to improve the whole espresso making experience, but that doesn't sit well with you not wanting to upgrade the grinder. I very nearly opted for the MC2 but preferred to jump straight to the used commercial for just a bit more, as many others have done. But they are messy and you have to faff about to get the same weight of grinds out that you put in by way of beans. Ultimately, for the leap in espresso quality many feel it's worth it, but if you're looking to keep things simple, without mess, then your grinder options seem limited, with the Iberital MC2 always being mentioned as a good upgrade without getting into it all too deeply. It's often partnered with the classic, which is also a thumbs up. However, when I was looking for a few weeks, I found the MC2 either gets snapped up used for 70 to 80 quid or you have to buy new, which is nearly double. £118 + VAT and delivery was the cheapest about. Reconditioned is more likely to apply to heavy use grinders, and even then it may just have been a new set of burrs and a good clean. Shaun
  9. Shaun

    Beans From Tesco

    I'm intrigued as to the Union 'Revelation' beans at Waitrose, in terms of when they're likely to have been roasted. I thought it must have been only certain stores that stocked them, but I looked harder in mine and there they were on a low shelf, somewhat hidden. As has been mentioned before here, there's only a 'best before' date on these packs and not a roast date. With that in mind, it could be asked how much fresher they're likely to be than all the other supermarket options. Anyway, I bought a pack this week with a 'best before' date of September 2013, which doesn't say a lot really. However, they were definitely better than any other beans I'd tried, and at £4.75 for 227g and no postage to pay, this will be my main supply for now whilst I try and establish some consistency in my espresso-making. I then ran out of Union after three days and went back to Waitrose to replenish. There was a bag marked down from £4.75 to £3.99, and this was simply down to the 'best before' date - but this was the only bag which showed a three months earlier date than the other packs - June 2013. Does that not say that Union beans in Waitrose might well be months old by the time they're bought? It does look like Waitrose will simply bung their Union stock in place and leave it there until sold (just like all the other brands), no matter how fresh the Union beans were originally. If that's the case it would be better to know how far ahead Union stamp the 'best before' date on these beans, and try and buy new stock when it comes in. If no-one actually knows this, I'll get in touch with Union and see if they'll say more about roast dates for beans intended for Waitrose. Shaun
  10. I am using beans, hence my asking about beans, not pre-ground. Guys, better beans will come later. I'm experimenting with all my gear, and have a commercial grinder on its way to match the commercial machine. I simply don't wish to confuse matters with loads of different flavours, nor waste more expensive beans and have to use them within an optimum window, simply whilst I try to match everything and establish a half-decent espresso. I just want to grab some beans from the supermarket!
  11. My palate is still developing and so is my gear. For now I'm happy just to get a consistent espresso in the right proportions which doesn't taste foul. I'd go so far as to say I don't want my mouth bursting with unusual flavours until I've cracked ye olde fashioned espresso which I've regularly had in French cafes over the years. On that basis, I'm working through the perceived stale offerings of the average supermarket stocked beans, and wondered if anyone had any other recommendations for the usual run of glossy packed beans? Here's my thoughts so far: Illy: It's far too expensive so it can stay on the shelf. Six quid odd for 250g in Waitrose - is this a joke? Lavazza (I can only find the beans in the black bag not the supposedly better blue one): The wife and I found this one pleasant enough and not bitter. £3.50 a bag isn't bad. Percol (black and beyond): Much the same as the Lavattza in that it's not bitter and pleasant enough to drink. £3.75 a bag isn't bad either. Taylors of Harrogate - I tried two different types of bean. Both were bitter and pretty horrid really. Each pack was definitely espresso beans, so how they've managed to earn their place on the shelves amongst the Italian big boys is beyond me. Asda's cheap own brand - 10 second gusher per double shot, no matter how hard I tamped, so a waste of money. Actually it wasn't much money - couple of quid a bag. Once bitten... Starbucks. Now this is what appears to be a newer offering, compared to what I bought in tins a couple of years ago. This one is fairtrade and Asda had knocked the price down from nearly a fiver a bag to three quid, yesterday. It's so strong I'm at a loss as to who could like it. I first knocked the usual bean dose down from 16g to 14g, but even that over-extracted and took an age to get through. I then knocked the grinder back a bit and tamped less, but it still took ages and was still so strong I might as well have smoked it. So, whilst my early coffee experiments are no doubt akin to eating toffee with the wrapper on, the three and a half quid bags of Lavazza or Percol are ahead of the pack at present. Shaun
  12. If only you knew how much time I've spent trying to find info on this thing... I did suspect it was a rebadge, but no idea of what, so thanks for recognising what it really is and for giving me hope that parts availability will be OK. What's odd is that Sanremo seem to want their dealers not to publicise prices, but those selling the Fiorenzato version aren't coy at all. However, in either guise it's not well known around the world, though there's one on Aussie eBay now for 660 Aussie dollars, which I make about £400. In 2011, there was an F5 on UK eBay which didn't get a bid, but it did optimistically start at £345. Anyway, it tells me that I seem to have done OK at £175 plus cheap postage. I've been googling Sanremo (the correct name) but now I'm seeing others selling this grinder as San Remo, which my searches didn't pick up. If I include that, I now find someone (again in Australia) selling Super Jolly burrs which supposedly have added compatibility with San Remo and Fiorenzato F5. That would be reassuring, if correct. However, in any event I also have an exploded diagram of the F5 where the burrs' dimensions are given as 64 x 37 x 8.5, so I'm finding more info as I go along.
  13. Apparently, I can't reply to the PM (RisingPower sent) as I don't yet have the requisite number of posts. So assuming it didn't go, thanks for the encouragement. However, when I received the PM, I'd just completed my eBay purchase of the following grinder: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/ITALIAN-SANREMO-COMMERCIAL-ON-DEMAND-COFFEE-GRINDER-MODEL-SR50A-/121059291281?pt=UK_BOI_Restaurant_RL&hash=item1c2fb23091 Including delivery across country from from Cornwall to Surrey, it came to £187.54. It's a step up from some of the grubby commercial grinders I looked at and I very much like its looks. I googled endlessly about this Sanremo but found very little, as they're mainly supplied to the trade and prices are very hush-hush. Nevertheless, by checking the odd used price I found in places as far away as New Zealand, and also a couple of new ones in Europe, they're about 1,000 euros, to give an idea. So it's a bit more than a Mazzer SJ and probably marketed to compete with it. I like that it's different - very sculpted - and it's black and stainless. It will match my black and chrome espresso machine. Now it's fingers crossed that it doesn't contain parts I can't get hold of - as per the reason for starting this thread. Shaun
  14. That eBay link above is the sort of thing I'm looking at, but my question is not what's being advertised but whether burrs especially will be available, and to a lesser extent other parts.
  15. Well it's the same with most things - once a name is well-established, it costs more. I've read enough about Mazzer, etc, to know they're not the only kit worth having for a particular build point, and if a grinder of some other derivative has lasted years in a commercial environment, I'd like to think its up to the job. Besides, we're talking big money difference here. I'm seeing Mazzer Minis and SJs regularly at £200 to £300, when lesser known commercial grinders are half that and less. Certainly, if it transpires that parts for the latter are a risky proposition then I'll alter approach, but for now I'm open to other makes. For example, I just missed out on a big La Cimbali 6/S which fetched £118 in very good cosmetic condition. Show me a Mazzer for that sort of money and I'm there! Shaun
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