Cult of the Bean

The aroma. The taste. The ritual of the preparation, and the anticipation. It’s more than just a drink.

Coffee is an integral part of cycling and cyclists lifestyles. But, like Campa versus Shimano, or white socks versus black, the way we imbibe the magic bean can be just as polarising.

We received an email from a reader with a suggestion for The Rules. Rob infers that anyone partaking in a soy-based brew, or a ‘lite’ milk additive, should be ceremonially beaten. “Harsh but fair” he believes, such as we always imply with The Rules.

Already I am receiving unflattering, downright tempestuous emails from my fellow Keepers regarding my soy intake confession. Yes, I unashamedly admit to this ‘foam pas’ and will accept any abuse like a man. A soy-drinking man, dammit!

But no matter how you enjoy your bean, there’s one thing for certain;  coffee is good. Some say it should only be consumed black, sans sugar, in a ceramic cup. Others, like Rob, suggest it can be enhanced with a small amount of milk, i.e macchiato. While everyone has different tastes, I’m sure most of us would agree that caramel, butterscotch and excessive amounts of foam, sprinklings and flavourings have no place in any cup.

 

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127 Replies to “Cult of the Bean”

  1. mcsqueak:
    @RedRanger
    Ah, that’s too bad. Espresso is a fine thing.
    Has anyone ever used one of these old-school bad boys? I use a french press at home to make normal coffee, but I’d like to be able to make my own espresso at home as well, and I really have no interest in spending $200-$300 on a stupid machine.

    That’s what I use every morning to brew my Havana X-Blend – no crema, but a damn fine demi-tasse or three of espresso nonetheless.

  2. IMBW but I always thought real espresso had to be brewed under pressure.

    Those stovetop coffeemakers are dead easy and no more trouble than a cafetiere / French press, but not quite the same as a good espresso – you don’t get the creaminess.

  3. @il ciclista medio

    Has anyone tried the Vietnamese style coffee’s? They make a mean coffee using a small filter over a cup or glass; puts hair on your chest that stuff – black as night, as bitter and strong as you would find anywhere in the world and then finished off with a dash of the condensed milk, sensational and keeps one going for half a day. One of the many excellent influences from the French and Portuguese they have made their own.

    My VMH just got back from HoChiMinh City. Loved that stuff. Says one of those and you can run laps around the city. Served over ice on the hot afternoons. Nice.

    As for espresso, we keep one of these in the house loaded with what I believe is the best coffee in the world, roasted just up the street from our house by Seven Coffee Roasters. For espresso, nothing beats the Huli blend. Top notch stuff. I pick it up by the pound at Makeda Coffee.

    I never throw a leg over the bike without enjoying a nice long pull first; its the perfect start to a ride. An acquired taste, absolutely, but so is pain and we’ve all either learned to love it or stopped riding.

    Give it time, follow G’Phants advice, and you’ll soon be just that much more Awesome.

  4. @ChrisO, @Oli Brooke-White
    During our night camping on L’Alpe d’Huez in ’03, we made friends with some Italian guys who fed us wine and grappa all night. We woke up on the roadside where we camped with RAGING hangovers.

    One of the Italians wandered over to our tent with a Mokka pot (that’s what those stovetop machines are called), and it was the only time I’ve ever seen one of those things produce coffee with crema. Amazing, saved our lives. Not exaggerating.

  5. @mcsqueak
    I have two, one for making lattes and one for espresso. I have a latte if I am going to work, and an espresso if I get up extra-early to squeeze in a ride.

  6. frank:
    @ChrisO, @Oli Brooke-White
    During our night camping on L’Alpe d’Huez in ’03, we made friends with some Italian guys who fed us wine and grappa all night. We woke up on the roadside where we camped with RAGING hangovers.
    One of the Italians wandered over to our tent with a Mokka pot (that’s what those stovetop machines are called), and it was the only time I’ve ever seen one of those things produce coffee with crema. Amazing, saved our lives. Not exaggerating.

    Damn, I must need to cram MOAR coffee up in there then!

  7. Drink then ride – I sometimes turn up early at arranged meeting points for rides so I can get an espresso. Its a nice little pre ride ritual and ensures I’m ready to roll when we’re off.

  8. @frank
    Ah, the Rancilio’s, nice. Haven’t used a domestic version but the commercial’s are quite the bomb. As with all equipment, it’s only as good as the user and what one puts into it. Keep them clean after every use, wipe off any crap from the nozzles, a good flush once you’re done for the day, a quality blend (there are some good single beans as well), just the right grind for what one is using and only enough at a time for what you need, don’t over dose or pack too hard, 7-9gm is about right and if you must use milk -DON’T overheat. Remember, good espresso isn’t made from boiling water! How many times have I heard come back to tell me that “my coffee isn’t hot enough”! So, shall I make you a Nescafe Blend 43 then sir/madam? How many sugar’s?

  9. Hi, my name’s Minion and I’m an addict.

    I should start a community help programme called shiny things anonymous. It would quite conveniently cover quite a few of my addictions.

  10. I just had my first cup of espresso since the cannoli indecent. Here I am in Tempe at a hip coffee shop near the uni, how could I resist giving it a try. bitter as hell but I liked it. the girl told me they started grinding it even finer so it was super smooth. I am sold on it.

    @G’phant
    No worries, my pops thinks Im crazy so he wont be surprised if a kiwi walks in claiming to know me. I have known a few in my day as it is. if they want more info I can pass on my email.

  11. @RedRanger

    Glad to hear you liked it! Yeah espresso can be bitter, and in my experience you need to drink it straight away… if you sit there and sip it, the taste will deteriorate.

    @minion

    Quite the collection! As far as the Bialetti goes, I may wind up buying their Brikka model rather than the Moka… I guess it’s a little better at making something approaching crema on the coffee than the Moka.

  12. @mcsqueak
    True, that little Mokka has been worked pretty hard over the last five years of ownership – the espresso machine is a thrift store find, and I’m leaning about making proper coffee at home. It ain’t pretty but it gets the job done, and if I’m on my game I can make a pretty drinkable little shot. The Mokka will probably be replaced by a stainless steel one, since I think that one’s alu and not the best for the coffee. A grinder is also on the cards – you want to pay an Italian premium for something, my goodness try getting one of those that’s not 4 times the price of a cheaper inferior grinder.

  13. @Minion

    Yeah, I’d love a proper espresso machine, but I can’t justify plopping down the cash, and I don’t think I’d like the cleaning.

    The Moka/Brikka seem perfect for making a few shots of ‘espresso’ to slug down before a ride, which is my main goal. I don’t like drinking normal coffee before going out.

    I’ve thought about getting a burr grinder as well, but again they are so expensive… I’ll have to keep an eye out for a good used one. Luckily, Portland has more coffee roasters than we know what to do with, so I can buy small quantities of pre-ground beans to use.

  14. @Minion

    Hehehe – I live in the middle east and haven’t ridden a bike seriously since moving here. Amazing how much spare cash I have when it’s not going on tasty bits and pieces. Also amazing how cheap you can get kitchen stuff when it’s slightly superceded and dumped in the middle east, the world’s bargain basement :-)

  15. So at a jumble market this morning a tenner scores the Krups machine. Another booth and I score a bean grinder (hand powered, adjustable burr) for $2. I have now officially had too much coffee and life can’t get much better till I ride this afternoon. There’s even space to heat the cups on top.

  16. @minion
    Sweet pickup – grats!
    Now you’re in the experimentation phase, where you have to sort out how this particular machine works? Grind courseness, coffee amount, water flow, tamping pressure. Means a lot of taste testing, and a permanant buzz for a few days.
    Good times; have fun.

  17. Word, I’ve had four so far this morning before I are anything. Still have to buy some beans to get though the grinder, only have ground coffee to play with for now. Had a very cool conversation with a barista at a place called la Mason in Welly over tamping pressure, he pretty much gave me all his tricks that make the cheaper toys work as well as the more expensive ones.

  18. Coolios. I have a brother and a siter who have worked lots in food and bev – they helped me lots. Now I just push a button, though, and adjust dials depending on the beans I’m using. Seems like cheating. But then, indexed gears seemed like it took something away from the art of shifting friction gears, thought some. I never thought this.

  19. Steampunk :
    For the sweet tooth, start with a bon bom: an espresso with a good dollop of condensed milk at the bottom. Stir well. Absolute heaven!

    I may have to look in to this…not because I like my espresso particularly sweet, but I’m willing to try anything to make the brew from the office machine as bearable to my taste buds as the cost is to my wallet (free coffee, who can argue?).

  20. Steampunk:

    Jarvis :
    @Steampunk
    Oh, I would be living in that cafe, as long os the coffee was up to standard.

    On the coffee subject, though, I’ve taken to liking a puddle of condensed milk in the bottom of my espresso. Apparently, it’s popular on the Pro Tour (I do it, though, because it’s yummy). I see this as different than the butterscotch, caramel, and foam line of thinking, which I find abhorrent, but thought I should make sure.

    Whoa, that was a bad idea trying that one out. Have you seen my website, steampunkiswhyimfat.com?

  21. minion:
    Whoa, that was a bad idea trying that one out. Have you seen my website, steampunkiswhyimfat.com?

    Domains are cheap. Any desire to start a sister site devoted specifically to coffee and cycling? Ha!

  22. @RedRanger

    What is the trick to making a good cup with one of these?

    You can’t, really. The very premis of how it makes coffee means you won’t get espresso and you’ll likely just get a strong cup of (burnt) coffee.

    A real espresso machine uses pressure, not steam, to make the coffee, so the beans don’t get so hot while the water moves through them, absorbing all the goodness from the ground beans. When it’s steam that’s moving through the grounds, they get burnt on the way through and that leads to bitter coffee. (A lot of coffee houses burn their espresso as well, by using too fine a grind which also makes the water take too long to pull through the grounds. Good espresso is not bitter.)

    The best way to counter the burnt taste is to use a coarser grind and accept the fact that you’ll just have strong coffee and not espresso; all your efforts to make a drinkable cup should be focussed on getting the steam through the grounds as quickly as you can while still having them stay in there long enough to pick up enough flavor. It’s an art.

    To make a real shot of espresso, you’ll need a machine that can produce a lot of pressure, like a Rancilio Silva. Even then, it’s an artform.

  23. Or you can get one of these. I have an espresso-ologist friend who, reluctantly, thought my little machine made a quite nice espresso. Maybe he was just being nice, but he didn’t come across as patronizing, so I believed him. Anyway, works for me.

  24. Damn. The link didn’t go directly to the CitiZ & Milk in Limousine Black. That’s what I have. Oh well. Now you can go through the whole website.

  25. Hate to keep doing this, but an A. Schleck Cervelo just turned up in my coffee shop. Will try to snap a pic next time I’m in. Is it too soon to think of that period as the good ol’ days for the Schlecks? Things are spiraling downward fast…

  26. @minion

    Steampunk:

    Jarvis :
    @Steampunk
    Oh, I would be living in that cafe, as long os the coffee was up to standard.

    On the coffee subject, though, I’ve taken to liking a puddle of condensed milk in the bottom of my espresso. Apparently, it’s popular on the Pro Tour (I do it, though, because it’s yummy). I see this as different than the butterscotch, caramel, and foam line of thinking, which I find abhorrent, but thought I should make sure.

    Whoa, that was a bad idea trying that one out. Have you seen my website, steampunkiswhyimfat.com?

    Don’t know how I missed this””sorry; I hope you’ve kicked the habit. Just had myself a bon bom this morning before the ride. I can’t decide whether the caffeine and sweetness enhance the ride or whether the condensed milk just gums up the works. I could still taste it on the first hill. But it’s one beautiful drink in a shot glass””looks almost like a mini, upside down Guinness before you stir. The next two guys in line (who I didn’t know) got the same thing after seeing me, resplendent in V kit, knock that back (all very pro; helmet hung properly on bike outside; question: do gloves come off or stay on when off the bike?). I might start working on a commission…

  27. @Jeff in PetroMetro
    I’m not quite sure what I think about that. Part of me is flattered, but most of me is a little weirded out. You know I don’t have a Look, right?

    Of course, right now, sabbatical in full gear, I’m riding Tuesdays and Thursdays without any interruptions to the day. And Saturday morning spins. And lots of espresso at the shrine. Life right now is pretty good…

  28. I’m just imagining if JiPM did come back as Steampunk in another life, that be the time he was 3 years old there’s a look 695 in his bedroom as a result of the terrible twos.

  29. @RedRanger
    Low heat and patience. I only go a bit above half on the element dial of the stove I’m using, to stop it burning. Takes fricken ages but there is a bit of a difference, coffee burns pretty easily in those.
    Oh and good sugar. Or condensed milk.

  30. @Minion
    If all I gotta do is act like a two-year-old to get a 695, sign me up. I’m qualified. I might even play with matches if it means I get a bump up to a Mondrian. I can be a terrible, terrible toddler.

  31. @Steampunk
    Very, very cool. But that’s a sloppy tape job.

    Where does your Cafe Domestique guy get his bikes? He must have a direct Cervelo connection, yeah?

  32. @frank
    The tape job surprised me, too. I’d like to think that’s Andy’s sweat on the tape””which makes the wrap 3+ years old””but it’s still a little sloppy.

    Yes: very tight with Vroomen, White, and the rest of the Cervelo crowd (he serves a Phil White coffee); I’m a little confused with the chronology, but I think he worked at Cervelo at some point (was Canadian national team mechanic and started out in Michael Barry’s dad’s bike shop in Toronto. Thor’s rainbows are on the wall to the left of the bike, and we’ve had Zabriskie’s 2005 TdF TT bike and A. Tafi’s bike come through. Cervelo also launched the S5 at the coffee shop during the Tour.

    In short, this is a good place.

  33. @All

    there are some nice setups there, as for mine it is basically the VMH.

    All Turkish coffee is served in the tiny little cups you would expect for an espresso. Basically she gets the freshly ground coffee powder which she gets shipped over regularly and then adds a few spoons of it per serving to her chosen coffee stewing pot which is capable of doing no more than three cups at a time. She then turns the gas to medium and allows it to brew for about 5 minutes in total with some gentle manouvering as required. Close to the end she will add a couple of sugars to my empty cup. Just as the coffee is ready it also starts to produce a foam and with just the right jiggery pokery she will add the coffee to my cup and hers but the foam equally distributed across both. There is no need to stir the sugar in as it is dissolved and distributed by pouring. Finally once fully consumed you will see some remaining coffee powder in the bottom of the cup, this can be eaten if you are suitably V enough. It is however never filtered out as this would remove the fine coffee powder and a significant amount of its flavour from the resulting drink, or so I am told.

  34. Can anyone recommend a good Moka Pot. While it isn’t real espresso its still damn good coffee. I was introduced to them in France when at a bed and breakfast a year ago, and despite being a tea drinker I enjoyed the coffee.

    From what I’ve seen the Bialetti Brikka is best, and even produces a foam by reaching higher pressures than a standard moka pot.

    I would buy a real espresso machine, but I’m broke and have no space in the kitchen.

  35. @minion
    WARNING: Do not try one of these if you are going to ride immediately afterwards; I think these need to be limited to post-ride or””better””I peaked a couple of months ago. There’s a no swimming after eating kind of effect that you must take into account. Seemed to get a little more condensed milk (and, subsequently, less espresso) today and I just couldn’t move my legs on the bike for the first hour of the ride. Legs felt heavy and stomach felt blah. Not fun. Still, tasty as all get out and it’s hard to pass up a solitary autumn ride in the sunshine. I actually sighed in satisfaction at one point; the Principle of Silence was such that the sigh was quite formidable, which made it even more satisfying.

  36. @Steampunk
    Even worse, my flatmate has just been on holiday to Vietnam, where they sweeten black coffee with about 2 cm of condensed milk in the bottom of the glass: ideally paired with 95% humidity, 2 packs of cigarettes and riding everywhere on a tuktuk. They make my kidneys ache just thinking about it, and are no match for the euro cache of the bob bon. Even SWMBO is hooked on those and isn’t a coffee drinker at all: though as an after dinner sweet.

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