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Something’s Brewing: Chemex

Posted: August 14th, 2017


Ready for another cup of coffee coupled with a look at one more way for you to brew your own at home?

Continuing with my Something’s Brewing series about brewing methods and equipment, I’m staying in filter coffee mode but getting a bit fancier with it by pulling out a Chemex.

Definitely the most aesthetically pleasing of coffee brewing kit, a Chemex Coffeemaker is an hourglass shaped flask made of borosilicate glass (fancy term for high quality glass that’s able to stand very high and low temperatures as well as fast changes in temperature). It’s got a narrower neck than typical “V60” drip coffeemakers and a heat resistant wooden collar around the neck for ease of handling and so you don’t burn your hands.


The Chemex requires special filters made of thick-gauge bonded paper different than standard. The thought behind the thicker paper is that is keeps bitter compounds and sediment from coming through. But it should be noted there’s a bit of a trick to folding the filters into a cone-shape and if you don’t get it just right there’s a chance that grounds will fall through the bottom.

Assuming you get the folding down, brewing with a Chemex takes about as long as with other filter methods. And cleanup isn’t much of an issue at all: just toss the grounds and filter and rinse out the flask.

To be honest, I’m not sure coffee tastes any better via a Chemex compared to the other drip methods I’ve reviewed so far. But it does taste different. My experience has been that the same beans turn out sweeter if brewed with my Chemex than with my drip coffeemaker or pour over coffeemaker. But, I kind of like a bitter note in my brew. I will say that the Chemex yields a much smoother drinking experience.


A Chemex is more expensive than most other manual filter options. Mine (the “Six Cup Classic”) cost over £40 at specialist shop in Central London. Filters are pricy too – £10 for 100 at the same shop – and not as easily found as V60 filters.

Best thing about a Chemex is the beautiful design. There’s even one on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. If you like a sweeter, smoother cup of coffee getting on might be worth consideration. For my money, I’m not sure it replaces other methods. Though next time I have guests I may be inclined to pull it out to show off.


Something’s Brewing: Pour Over Coffee Maker

Posted: June 20th, 2017

Good morning! I’m back for a second round of coffee brewed at home.

Following up from my last (and I’d say largely successful) attempt at brewing coffee with a drip coffee maker, I’m sticking with the same basic filter method but using different, more basic device: a pour over coffee maker.

The pour over I’m writing about was produced by a major brand and costs about £20 and is available at a major department store (that’s never knowingly undersold).

Essentially, what I’ve got is a popular, attractive and highly rated eight-cup (one litre, 34floz) mouth-blown borosilicate glass carafe that’s dishwasher safe with a silicone sleeve, its own permanent steel mesh filter cone, and a small plastic lid.

Brewing coffee with it couldn’t be easier. You simply place your ground beans in the cone (set atop the pot) and then slowly pour hot (not boiling) water over them in a circular motion until the beans are evenly saturated, followed by another round of hot water after that. As the water passes through the beans, it drips into the carafe. When all the water’s filtered through, remove the cone and place the lid on the carafe. It’s now reader to pour.

The main advantage of using a pour over is it’s ease of use. The thing is a cinch to clean too. And with the permanent filter, there’s no need to shop for paper filters.
The only real disadvantage of a pour over is the time it takes to deliver even just one cup of coffee. I reckon it’s a few minutes of waiting. And – as with a drip machine – such a method fails to bring out the full flavour of the beans. With respect to my own preferences, I’m not convinced a metal filter is better than quality paper filters.

I’m happy with the results of brewing with my pour over. For 20 quid it’s a handy piece of kit for brewing coffee without any fuss or mess to worry about.



Something’s Brewing: Drip Coffee Maker

Posted: June 20th, 2017

For my first look at different ways to brew coffee at home, I’m going to start with one of the simplest: using a drip coffee maker.

Brewing drip or filter coffee involves pouring hot water over ground coffee beans and having the run off strained through a filter (most usually paper). The quickest and most fuss-free way to prepare coffee this way is with a drip coffee maker, which heats the water up and channels it through to the ground beans in a filtered receptacle to a pot on a base to catch the freshly brewed coffee.

Such method and machines are particularly common in North America and in situations when people expect a cup quick and a refill quicker.

On the pro side of using a drip, it’s very easy to use. You just need to get the basics right on ratios of water to bean. Once you do, results won’t vary unless you change beans. Coffee from the drip comes out clean tasting with a higher level of caffeine per scoop of ground coffee compared to other methods (though this may mean a more bitter, less sweet flavour). Drip machines are ideal for making larger amounts of coffee and having some ready to pour in the pot. Clean up is minimal.

As for the cons, the machines are bulky and can take up valuable counter space. With respect to equipment, you get what you pay for, and top of the range machines can be expensive. It’s a similar story with respect to filters. You’ll spend more on the better quality filters. If you’re using whole beans, you’ll need to invest in a grinder as well. For particularly delicate or complex beans, you may find most drip machines fail at bringing out the flavour profile as fully as other methods.

Me personally, I’ve owned a drip coffee maker for a while and brew with it fairly often. Mine is one of the more high end products on the market (costs around £160) from a well-regarded brand. It makes up to eight cups at a time and comes with its own thermal carafe. I tend to use it when working from home and when enjoying coffee with a few friends.




Something’s Brewing

Posted: March 21st, 2017

illy pic

Home baristas (and home baristas hopefuls) listen up! I’m planning to hone in on a theme for my next round of espressoCrazy blogging endeavours with a series of posts about coffee brewing methods and equipment.

Options for how to make a cup of coffee at home – and increasingly how to have it served to you in cafes and restaurants – are myriad. Opinions about the topic are strong and sometimes polarizing. Without a good idea of how and why you like your coffee made, contemplating a choice of one method instead of any other may feel overwhelming and perplexing. Furthermore, if you’re unfamiliar with the range of methods out there, such decisions can seem needlessly and annoyingly nerdy – especially when all you may want to do is make or order a decent cup of coffee that’s reasonably priced and ready to drink in a jiffy.

Through my “Something’s Brewing” series, my aim will be to demystify the process of making coffee so that you will be able to make more informed and tasty choices. I’ll describe the most common ways to brew coffee at home while sharing my firsthand experience having a go with these methods. I’ll consider the pros and cons of each and try to compare them all to each other in

Based on the general knowledge I already have about coffee, I suspect that rather than one brewing method coming out as the absolute best way ever and for always, I’m more likely to discover that an ideal cup of coffee often depends on personal preference and specific circumstance. But we shall see!

I’ll be back soon with my first trial: filter coffee from a drip coffee maker.


Shaya, New Orleans

Posted: January 10th, 2017

I wound down my tour of the States with a visit to one of its yummiest cities: New Orleans. A couple of posts back in my write-up about Breakfast in America, I listed some of my fave brekkies from my stateside travels, including a couple from the Big Easy. But it wasn’t just the breakfasts that blew me away while there.

One of the best meals I had – and not just in New Orleans … or America … but this year – was at Shaya. Only a few years old, the restaurant has established itself as one of the city’s most popular and celebrated – and can boast a James Beard Award for Excellence among its many accolades. Food at Shaya reflects Executive Chef Alon Shaya’s Israeli roots and centres round use of a wood-fired oven to cook seasonal ingredients sourced locally and responsibly.

I won’t have thought a meal at an Israeli style restaurant would have been among the best had in a city so steeped in its own traditions. Nor would I have reckoned such an eatery would be such a hit. A busy schedule had me dropping by for an early lunch at 11.30am on a Monday. The place was already packed.

A few bites into my meal and I could see what the fuss was all about. Tastiest dishes? The highlight for me – not to mention an amazing homage to both Israeli and New Orleans cuisine – was the wood roasted okra oven-dried tomatoes, tahini and duqqa. Other delicious wonders included mixed greens with smoked dates and buttermilk, apples, spicy pecans; ikra (paddlefish caviar spread with shallots); Chanterelle hummus with wood roasted corn, sunflower seeds, and brown butter; and maybe the best falafel I’ve had outside the Middle East. A watermelon sorbet was as palate cleansing and refreshing a dessert as it sounds.

And the coffee offered at the end of my meal? It was illy. Of course.

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Coffee at The Fairmont San Francisco

Posted: December 06th, 2016

As mentioned in my last post, I was away for quite a while travelling in the US for the month of September. First stop on my tour was one of my all time favourite destinations, San Francisco. As with past visits, I had an amazing time. One of my all time favourite destinations, the city was a beautiful and welcoming as I remembered, and maybe even a little tastier this time around … or at least my coffee was.

This time round, I did San Fran right and stayed in a great hotel, The FairmontSan Francisco.

Set loftily atop famous Nob Hill, the iconic hotel is home of the America’s oldest tiki bar (The Tonga Room), the setting for the Tony Bennett premiere of his signature song (I Left My Heart) in San Francisco, a key fixture in the Hitchcock masterpiece Vertigo, and an all round historic and gorgeous hotel. Yep, the Fairmont’s as SF as they come.

When I wasn’t admiring The Fairmont’s gorgeous interiors and singular atmosphere, I found myself in awe of the lovely panorama just outside the window of my room. 12 stories up in the hotel’s tower, the best thing about my accommodation was the flipping amazing view over San Francisco Bay.

The hotel was indeed an ideal place to lay my head for the few nights I stayed in town. So what could make my time there even better?

Check this out. The coffee served at The Fairmont? It was illy – a classy cup for a classy digs. A great and familiar flavour to accompany the epic breakfast buffet in the elegant Laurel Court Restaurant & Bar, a quick shot at Caffé Centro before embarking upon a day of Golden Gate sightseeing , or contemplative sips while admiring sunrise in my room, illy was there and added extra comfort to a wonderful few days in San Francisco.

Stay tuned for more caffeinated adventures from on the road.


Breakfast in America

Posted: December 06th, 2016

Sorry for the radio silence folks. I’ve been travelling even more than usual, spending five weeks on the road in America. Anyway, I’m back in London now with the intension of staying up for at least the next month. I hope you’ve been well and enjoying your coffee.

To be sure, I’ve been having a lot fun. And the coffee – for the most part – has been terrific. The tastiest aspects of my US escapades often took place in the morning. So I thought I’d share with you a few especially memorable breakfasts from my time in the Land of Plenty.

Aretha Frankenstein’s
518 Tremont Street, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37405

Whoa! Whatta breakfast! As the name might imply this laidback and fun restaurant in Chattanooga, Tennseess offers monster-sized soul food favourites and devilishly good southern-style dishes. The biscuits (American, not British) were the biggest I’ve ever seen – and among the tastiest too. Low brow art jammed on the walls and ceiling, an ever-refilled and above average cuppa joe , and somewhat sassy but nonetheless hospitable service made this one of the best morning feasts I’ve had in ages. I don’t think Aretha’s has a book policy. Expect to wait on the front porch during popular dining hours.

It’s alive! Alive! … at

Brennan’s Restaurant
417 Royal Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70130

Lauded as one of the grand dame’s of the New Orleans dining scene and celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, Brennan’s is an institution of Breakfast is considered by many local diners as the best times to dine at Brennan’s. From what I experienced, I can taste their point! The creole and Cajun inspired things they do with eggs and such in the kitchen are phenomenal. I loved the egg yolk carpaccio with grilled shrimp, crispy sweet potato, andouille vinaigrette and “rabbit rushing” with fried Mississippi rabbit, creamed collards, eggs over easy, and pickled pork jus. Be sure to book ahead if you plan to enjoy a meal here.

Find out more at

601 Gallier Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70117

One more New Orleans breakfast – and it’s a down and dirty yummy one at Elizabeth’s in the city’s up-and-coming neighbourhood of Bywater. Elizabeth’s Chef Bryon Peck takes pride in making everything on the menu “from scratch” for vibrant and authentic Louisiana flavours to match the vibrant folk art adorning the walls (inside and out) of the restaurant. A hearty portion (even by American standards) of shrimp and grits with a side of praline bacon “pig candy” put me in a comfort food coma.

Get stuck in at

Solvang Restaurant
1672 Copenhagen Drive, Solvang, California 93463

“Home of everything aebleskiver,” this expansive yet still quaint diner in downtown Solvang is a great place for a filling brekkie enjoyed at a big cushy booth or at the counter. What’s an aebleskiver? It’s a Danish pancake puff. Where’s Solvang? Solvang is a little town in California, about 100 miles north of LA. Originally settled by Danish immigrant families, it’s famous for its kitsch downtown with faux medieval architecture and fake windmills. It’s best known as the setting for the hit movie Sideways.  Oh yeah, that place! In fact Solvang Restaurant was featured in the film. I got to dine in the booth where Scene 5, Breakfast was shot!

For details go to

500 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, California, 92648

Situated within the Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach (aka Surf City USA), this seaside eatery features a menu of classic California coastal cuisine. My plate of chilaquiles (tortilla chips, two eggs, red onions, coriander, queso fresco, salsa roja and sour cream) with short ribs was so awesome I had it both mornings I stayed at the Shorebreak. I’m craving it still.

Visit Zimzala online at


Best Breakfast Blogs

Posted: August 24th, 2016

In today’s post, our coffee-loving blogger, Chris Osburn, shares his picks of the best places on the net to get some breakfast inspiration


Coffee: it’s the ultimate morning drink and a quintessential part of any quality breakfast. But just what is a quality breakfast? Check out this quartet of blogs for top brekkie ideas on where to go, what to eat and more a.m. inspiration.

London Review of Breakfasts

It’s been almost a year now since the final post of the London Review of Breakfasts blog was published. But this long-running blog is still a brilliant and often enlightening read. The last “Let’s call it a morning” post serves as a “best of” list of LRB’s “522 reviews (and op-eggs) it contains, written by 106 contributors.”

Symmetry Breakfast

This wildly popular Instagram feed and blog (and now soon to be published book) concentrates on the aesthetic aspects of the day’s most important meal. Everyday on Instagram, Symmetry Breakfast publishes “a single post showcasing the best in breakfast from around the world, from pastries to arepas, pushing the desire to expand our palettes beyond toast and cereal to see how other people break the fast.”

What Should I Eat for Breakfast Today?

Wow. Gorgeous photos, delicious recipes and smart ideas about what to have for your next morning meal make this blog a must-read. According to blogger Marta Greber, “it’s so much nicer to start a day early in the morning and spend some time with people you love or with a good magazine and some music.” Hear! Hear!

In Love with Brunch

Does brunch count as breakfast? They’re essentially the same. It’s just that brunch starts later in the morning and lasts into the afternoon, varying slightly with a few more lunch-y dishes thrown in for good measure and the possibility of including some booze. And coffee is definitely a key component! If you love brunch then you’ll love this blog with lots of reviews and ideas and featuring a well travelled Aussie’s take on brunch around the world.

Jamaica’s Blue Mountains

Posted: August 18th, 2016

In this post, our resident blogger, Chris Osburn, explores the wonders of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains its Arabica coffee beans26268078333_98fe6f9183_k

As ubiquitous as coffee is, it actually can only grow in very limited areas of the world, basically high on mountain slopes in the tropics and a few subtropical regions. To grow quality coffee beans – or at least quality Arabica beans – the climate needs to be the right mix of heat, humidity and rain (lots of rain, like 100-200cm every year) with an average temperature range of 20-27°C. Countries well known for coffee production include Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Another such place on the planet with ideal conditions to produce great tasting Arabica beans is Jamaica, but in only a small section of the island’s Blue Mountains. And guess who got to go there back at the end of April? Yep, work led me to Jamaica recently (don’t hate) where I had the pleasure of spending one afternoon touring the Craighton Estate coffee plantation, famous for growing what many consider to be among the best coffee beans (and some of the most expensive) available on the market.

Located at an elevation of 3,000ft with plenty of rainfall, balmy heat during the day and relative cool at night, Craighton Estate is set in a ‘Goldilocks’ spot for producing excellent coffee. To the untrained eye, the plants seem haphazardly placed and precariously so along steep slopes which present a tough climb up or hard scrabble down for pickers (and the coffee there can only be picked by hand). But that’s what the coffee needs, to be planted among mixed vegetation with plenty of shade.

With a historic “Great House” constructed in 1805 at the centre of the estate’s expansive grounds and a veranda with panoramic views at the highest point of the property, it was beautiful and interesting enough to be worth being drawn away from the beach. As for the coffee – I could definitely see what all the fuss is about. I had a cup there and brought back some roasted beans too. Delicious and mild with notes of caramel.

4 Great Cafes in Vienna

Posted: April 19th, 2016

In this post, our resident blogger, Chris Osburn, lets us in on Vienna’s best kept coffee secrets.


4 Great Cafes in Vienna

Last month found me in Vienna for a week or so of work and sightseeing. To be sure, I made time to snoop around town for exemplary cafes that lived up to Vienna’s reputation as a famed coffee lover’s destination.

Here’s the scoop of four of my faves from my visit.


Café Korb
Brandstatte 9, Vienna 1010

In business since 1904 – with a more modern 1960s interior – this classic Viennese café near St Peter’s Cathedral is a comfortable place to take a break whether it’s for a quick espresso pit stop or a long and leisurely lunch. Go for the coffee, stay for the apple strudel – Korb does an especially yummy version of the famous Austrian pastry. Apparently it was good enough for Emperor Franz Joseph and Sigmund Freud.

Find out more at


Café Landtmann
Universitätsring 4, Vienna 1010

Immerse yourself in the grandeur of Vienna’s imperial past while enjoying an outstanding coffee at this elegant and historic café dating back to 1873. Located near the Parliament, Volksgarten and a number of must-see attractions, Café Landtmann is an easy and popular place to enjoy a drink or meal presented with cordial service.

Visit the café online at


Daniel Bakery at Hotel Daniel Vienna
Landstraßer Gürtel 5, Vienna 1030 

If you like a bit of quirky charm with your cuppa, consider dropping by Hotel Daniel near the Belvedere Garden. The lobby is a maze of postmodern accoutrements. Despite the charming clutter, the no-nonsense centrepiece behind the bar is much used – the highly revered Faema E61 Legend is always ready to pull the perfect espresso. They do a mean lunch here too with a menu that’s a smart balance of contemporary international favourites and local specialties.

Have a look here:


Praterstraße 70, Vienna 1020

Anybody remember life before the internet and all the digital doings that keep us so preoccupied these days? Such halcyon days of the analogue era can be relived at Supersense, a non-digital/totally analogue café/restaurant/shop/studio that’s an excellent place to hang out and marvel at a recent past that now seems so very far away. Coffee is taken super seriously at Supersense. No matter if you’ve fully embraced 21st century living or you’re still clinging to the past, you’re sure to find the coffee here among the best to be had in town.

Go to for more details.


Got My Stojo Risin’ (and Conveniently Collapsing)

Posted: March 31st, 2016

Got My Stojo Risin' (and Conveniently Collapsing)

When it comes to having my morning Joe, my preference is to make my own at home and have that time to myself to savour and reflect before revving up to take on the outside world and running the gauntlet of daily tasks to do.

In addition to the small luxury of pressing the pause button on life for a brief moment while I enjoy a cup of coffee, having it at home – as opposed to grabbing it on the go – is more affordable and generally better tasting (I make a mean cup if I do say so myself).

However, the reality of the situation quite often is that I’m running out the door only to find myself sitting on public transport. Maybe I can buy a coffee en route, maybe not. When I do get the chance to make my own coffee, it’s a quick slurp before I’m out the house. And when I’m out, I’m usually out for the day and probably lugging a laptop and maybe some camera gear with me. So my experience has been that a typical thermos takes up too much space and weighs down my load.

I think I might have come across a sort of happy medium solution though: the Stojo, a leak-proof “collapsible pocket cup.” Stojo stands about five inches high and can hold 12oz (355ml) of liquid but collapses to 1.75 inches and stows neatly away in just about any bag or pocket. I’ve been using mine for about a week now. No spills. No mess. Less cumbersome in my backpack as I navigate the London streets and it allows me a little more “me time” during my commute.

Have you got any tricks to adding a bit of pleasure to your less than ideal daily doings? Is having your coffee your way an essential part of your morning? I know a lot of people that consider purchasing a coffee at their local to be an intrinsic part of their day. But for me, the queues, prices, and knowledge that in many cases I can make a coffee just as nice as what I would drink at a café keeps me craving a taste of home.

Coffee Break Inspiration

Posted: February 24th, 2016

After famous American novelist George R.R. Martin’s recent announcement that he has been suffering from writer’s block, our resident blogger, Chris Osburn, reveals his very own solution to the problem.

Coffee break inspiration

A short while ago, I sat back and settled in to write my latest post for the EspressoCrazy blog … and drew a big fat blank. Usually, I’ve got a coffee-related idea in mind that I’m keen to tap out on my keyboard. But this time, I couldn’t come up with anything at all to write about. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. Conceding writer’s block, I headed to the kitchen to make myself a cup of … yep, you guessed it … coffee! And then it dawned on me with a thud of a duh.

A topic to write about! The great inspiration of so many creative lives, the mighty conqueror of writer’s block, the black gold of inspiration! Coffee has really been there for more times than I can count over my many years as a writer. And I reckon if I were to look back on the better writing and more interesting projects that I’ve worked on I could measure my success by how much coffee I drank while working on whatever piece of wordage or otherwise was before me.

I don’t know if it’s simply the act of focusing on something else and freeing up my thoughts, or if it’s the ritual of making myself a drink, or the trigger of the aroma, or just the quick kick of caffeine – but there’s something about making myself a cup of coffee that unclogs the brain and gets my creative juices flowing again. Other little things can help me combat writer’s block (washing the dishes, taking a shower, going for a walk) but nothing else seems to do the trick quite as well as having a cup of coffee.

How about you? Is coffee a major inspiration for your creative endeavours? Does a coffee break lead to a burst of quality work? Is there something about when/how/where you have your coffee that helps you with your ideas?

My Preferred Cup of Coffee for My Joburg Layover

Posted: February 08th, 2016

Airport illy sign

I’m back from a trip to Namibia in Southern Africa, where I spent about two weeks on a self-drive safari. Yes, I had a blast – and would highly recommend a trip to this vast desert country for anyone interested in wide open spaces and viewing wildlife.

To get there I had to first fly overnight to O. R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, where I had a couple of hours layover before my short connector flight to Windhoek, Namibia’s capital city. So what’s the first thing I saw once through passport control and walking to the gate for my flight to Windhoek? A sign for illy coffee of course!

It’s not all that unusual for me to spot illy’s cheerful red and white logo when darting through an airport – but usually that would be at an airport here in Europe (there’s a great Espressamente café at London City Airport; similarly a handy illy café in Milan’s Malpensa airport… and plenty more I reckon too). So, I was surprised to see it.

I was also very pleased.

As is usually the case on overnight flights, I hadn’t slept well. It was really early in the morning. I was groggy but needed to stay alert in order to find my gate and catch my next flight. Coffee was just the thing required to keep me going, and I’d have settled for a less than tasty cup. Luckily I didn’t have to resort. I was able to get my preferred drink anyway.

And yep, it tasted great. Just like home.

Googling around the web, it seems illy isn’t all that rare in South Africa. I can’t say I encountered any during my time in neighbouring Namibia though (but I was mostly out in the bush on safari). As for the café at the airport in Joburg, it’s got its own Facebook page and at least one sister café at another airport (George, Western Cape) in the country.

Coffee had during the rest of my trip was pretty mediocre. But I imagine if you’re visiting somewhere like Namibia for the coffee you’re kind of missing the point. Although one exception was an espresso machine in the remotest destination I visited – the Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, in the far north west of the country, a region where people in an area of more than a few hundred square miles probably numbered in the dozens. The quality of coffee beans was pretty good and the staff at the camp had real barista skills. Having a cup there in the morning as the sun rose over the vast expanse of desert was definitely an ideal way to enjoy my favourite beverage.

Compact and Stylish Y3

Posted: January 18th, 2016

Chris Y3 image

Time for a change? I thought so recently and decided to switch to a new coffee maker. Yes, of course, I stuck with a machine that would take my illy capsules but went with something a little more compact and colourful than what I had been using.

So far my illy Francis Francis Y3 iperEspresso Machine is proving to be a smart choice for my coffee cravings. It pulls a quality espresso at the touch of a button. And at just 10cm wide, it fits in my kitchen without taking up too much space. That’s not to say it isn’t noticeable though. The Y3 comes in black, white, lime, red and orange. I got the orange model to add a bit of colour to my home and have enjoyed catching glimpses of it throughout the day.

The Y3 is super easy and quick to load the capsules and choose from the machine’s two programmable volume settings. Like the other iperEspresso models, the Y3 requires minimal cleaning because the coffee never touches the machine. And it’s a breeze to detach the face and discard the used capsules. As a low energy device, it goes into standby after 15 minutes of inactivity.

One design aspect I really like about my new machine is the two-shelf heights feature. It means I can make my drink in a traditional espresso cup (without causing there to be a big splash) as well as in my taller cups and mugs. I tend to drink a double espresso (two capsules), sometimes as an Americano (with hot water added), so this new adjustable shelf is perfect for me.

When I ordered the Y3 I also got an electric milk frother. I don’t usually add milk to my coffee, so I haven’t tried it out yet. But I appreciated it and am looking forward to having a go with it.


Is Coffee the Secret to Great BBQ?

Posted: December 15th, 2015


Great BBQ December 2015 (002)

I spent much of October in America working on a story about the best BBQ in the Southern states. I clocked more than 2,500 miles across six states (Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina) taking time to visit some of the most celebrated BBQ eateries along the way. Most awesome gig ever? It was certainly the meatiest I’ve ever had!

One reoccurring theme I hadn’t expected to encounter along the way was the mention of coffee as an ingredient to making the smoked meat taste so good. Not quite with the same frequency of mention as quality of meat, wood type, temperature, or cooking time, coffee still came up a number of times in my research and in conversation as an important component to making the best “low and slow” smoked meats.

Makes sense to me! Coffee has such a rich, deep flavour, and, like red wine,  has plenty of tannins that enhance the flavour of meat. Is coffee the perfect marinade or rub? Apparently and deliciously so!

One of the places purported to use coffee to flavour its famous meat is Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas. So popular is the brisket at this joint that folks queue up for hours on a daily basis in hopes of having a taste. I got up bright and early to join the line during one of my mornings in Austin. Worth the wait? Yup. The brisket was ultra tender and flavoursome … with maybe a hint of coffee in there.

Another memorable stop – as far as the coffee and ‘Q connection was concerned – was Grand Champion BBQ in Atlanta, Georgia where the dry rub recipe of coffee, coriander, Serrano peppers and salt was far from a secret, it was a boast. Of course, exact proportions were a murkier matter. One thing was for sure though: Grand Champion’s recipe was a winner! I loved every bite I tried.

Now back in London (and on a temporary self-imposed vegan diet for a week or two), I’m wondering how I might incorporate coffee into my next BBQ (which could be months off as winter looms) and am rooting around the internet for recipes to use.

A Coffee Lover’s Guide to Travel?

Posted: October 29th, 2015

Ever wondered what the world’s top destinations for coffee lovers are? In this post, our guest blogger Tiki Chris shares the best places in the world for coffee with us.

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While having a cup of coffee this morning and dreaming about a where I would like to travel most in 2015, I came up with an idea to list some of the world’s top destinations for coffee lovers, thinking it would make a great post for this blog. A quick look online though and I soon realised my plan was hardly a novel one. There are a plenty of coffee lover travel guides out there to peruse. So, rather than reinvent the wheel, I concluded a better list to share might be one of a few good blogs and news sites with their own top choices for the best places to visit if you consider yourself a true coffee aficionado.

Am I Nearly There Yet: Best Destinations for Coffee Lovers

This post features five top spots to visit in Europe, Asia and South America with tips on making the most of coffee culture and related activities in each. Have a look at the Am I Nearly There Yet list:


CNN: 8 of the World’s Greatest Coffee Cities

CNN’s article on eight of the world’s greatest cities probably won’t raise eyebrows, but it’s hard to argue with the choices. Descriptions of each city are thorough and deep and coupled with good advice on where specifically to patronise and what to order. Here it is:


Condé Nast Traveler: The World’s Most Caffeinated Cities

“From Seattle to the High Andes,” Condé Nast Traveler lists its “20 biggest coffee-drinking destinations in the world.” The list is rather Eurocentric and isn’t restricted to coffee alone (a few destinations are included for their connections to tea) and holds a few surprises. Ljubljana? Really? Here it is:


Gadling: 5 Destinations For Excellent Coffee Culture

Gadling’s list is rather similar to the Am I Nearly There Yet suggested destinations but suggests a hipster American hang out as a top choice as well as getting to the root of the coffee culture with the selection of an East African capital city. See for yourself:


IndieTravel: Coffee Culture Destinations Around the World

From rustic agricultural settings, to the origins of brash global brands, the IndieTravel list of coffee culture destinations gives ideas on where to get to the source of the world’s obsession with coffee. Check out the IndieTravel top picks:


Lifehack: World’s Top 11 Coffee Cities Every Coffee Lover Should Visit

Lifehack’s list won’t have you scratching your head too much, but is a fun read with succinct descriptions and top tips. Here’s the link:


Matador Network: 11 of the World’s Best Cities for Coffee Lovers

Matador Network’s suggestions for 11 of the best cities for coffee lovers are mostly places with young populations and great café culture. Give it a read for specific recommendations on coffee establishments to visit:


Serious Eats: 5 Great Vacation Spots for Coffee Lovers

The Serious Eats version of a list of coffee lover hot spots is published as a slideshow with excellent tips on specifically when and where to get a coffee buzz when travelling. Ready? Here it is:


Sprudge: 5 Underrated Coffee Cities

This “coffee news and culture” blog, takes a look at a

You Might be a Coffee Snob If…

Posted: August 04th, 2015

How do you know when you’re a coffee snob? If you answer yes to two or more of the following scenarios, then the chances are you’ve crossed the line, according to Espresso Crazy’s resident blogger, Tiki Chris


Do you consider yourself to be a coffee snob? Do you judge others on how much they know (or don’t) about your favourite caffeinated drink? Have you ever done anything out of the ordinary to achieve a dream coffee situation? Do you even have a ‘dream coffee situation’ in mind?
Here are 16 potential clues you might be a coffee snob:

  1. For most social occasions, you would prefer to go to a café than a pub.
  2. You’ve started a friendship with someone based solely upon that person’s taste in coffee.
  3. You’ve ended a friendship with someone based solely upon that person’s taste in coffee.
  4. You would cross the street rather than be seen passing in front of certain big name corporate coffee shops.
  5. You’ve stopped responding to texts and emails from someone who you once spied going into certain big name corporate coffee shops.
  6. When offered a coffee at someone’s house or toward the end of a meal at a restaurant, you ask what kind of coffee, receive your answer and then politely say you’d like a cup of tea.
  7. You’ve instructed step-by-step how you would like your barista to make your drink.
  8. You rate a cafe not only by the quality of the beans it uses and how they’re roasted, but by how it sources its milk and water as well.
  9. You once inadvertently sipped from a cup of 100% robusta bean coffee and had to call off the rest of your day.
  10. You’ve traveled more than a mile only to purchase coffee.
  11. You’ve based your holiday plans around how good the coffee is at the destination.
  12. You’ve spent more money on one coffee than most people would for an entire month …
  13. ….And you’d do it again!
  14. You’ve broken the law for coffee.
  15. You think people who like milk and/or sugar with their coffee are missing the point and diluting the greatest beverage ever known to humanity …

or conversely…

16. You think people who don’t appreciate a perfectly crafted flat white are brutes with no sense of culture.


Sunlight Gleams on My Strategically Placed Coffee Machine

Posted: July 08th, 2015


EspressoCrazy’s resident Blogger Tiki Chris talks #illymoments in his newly-finished kitchen…

Sunlight gleams

Lousy photo? Maybe. But it illustrates well what I’m most pleased to blog about at this moment.

Just look at all that streaming sunlight coming into the shot from my back garden! And what’s it gleaming on? My Francis Francis Y1.1 Touch coffee machine that’s now set up with its own little coffee stand strategically placed just outside the kitchen (which is finally done) on the way to the garden with mugs, cups and saucers, teas, illy capsule canisters etc.

Yep, things are starting to take the right shape at my house with it now actually looking and feeling like an actual clean and livable home … for the most part anyway. If I had panned round with my camera when I took the above shot you would have seen that the downstairs living space it still a big ol’ mess – and way too building-site-esque to have any guests over or do much more than manoeuver through en route to the kitchen, garden or front door. We’re getting there though, it’s just taking time (and money). But with the kitchen complete, the upstairs done and the coffee maker given a proper place to work its magic, we’re over the hump and basking in the radiant glow at the end of the tunnel. Maybe that’s what that gleaming sunlight in the photo actually is!

Originally we had hoped to build a sort of coffee station that would tastefully allow the kitchen to flow into the living room while giving us extra storage space and also providing an area for making coffee, other drinks and snacks. That idea remains a plan. But recent bank balances suggested it was probably best to keep dreaming about that one. It’s great to see how nicely the much cheaper and easily moveable kitchen work unit (yeah, it’s an Ikea number) does the trick. And the coffee tastes great all the same.

Don’t forget to share your kitchen #illymoments with us on Twitter and Facebook 

Coffee in My Garden

Posted: June 08th, 2015

EspressoCrazy’s resident blogger Tiki Chris ponders the pastoral delights of coffee al fresco.

You know what’s better than enjoying a perfectly made coffee every morning in my own home? Enjoying a perfectly made coffee every morning outside in the garden of my own home!

Coffee in My Garden

This post is just a brief update on something I wrote about a few months back: the pain-in-the-backside renovations going on in my house. I’m pleased to report I’ve been reunited with my trusty Francis Francis coffee machine for some while now and that although we’re not quite at the finish line with respect to completion an end is clearly in sight and conditions in the house have considerably improved (sleeping in an actual bed, not worrying about stepping on nails when walking to the bathroom – stuff like that).

What’s also improved greatly is the weather, and I’m taking advantage of every opportunity I can to get outside and be in our back garden. I’ve found my morning coffee tastes much better when sitting in the sunshine having a sip. Luckily, there’s been plenty of just that over the past month or so. Touch wood, a properly warm and sunny summer will carry on through the next few months!

Having my coffee in the morning, in my own private outdoor space, is a wonderful way to wake up and start the day with a little quiet me-time contemplation before starting back working at the daily grindstone. I love it, and – at least for now before the novelty wears off or the weather turns sour – it feels like a regenerative way to approach the day. Am I a tad happier than usual? Definitely! Am I even more productive? I think so.

Share your #illymoments with @EspressoCrazy on Twitter, and here on Facebook – we’d love to see how you’re enjoying your espresso this summer.

The Nutty Way to Have Coffee in Lecce, Italy

Posted: May 28th, 2015

EspressoCrazy blogger Tiki Chris takes his taste-buds on a trip to Southern Italy.

One of the perks of getting to travel as much as I do is the opportunity to have a peek at (and of course a taste of) local coffee customs. Recently, I was found myself in the Southern Italian city of Lecce where the concept of the ideal cup of joe was especially delicious – and proved a perfect match for the warm and sunny weather I enjoyed while there.

At any café or coffee bar worth its grounds in or around the town, the go-to drink is caffe in ghiaccio con latte di mandorla – or iced coffee with almond milk. This espresso-based treat was so refreshing and flavourful. I had it a number of times and came to crave it.


Lecce is in the region of Puglia, near the very bottom of Italy’s boot heel. It’s a beautiful part of the world where wild almond trees are hardly unheard of and the all but guaranteed sunshine can bring on intense heat. Iced coffee with almond milk, huh? Yep! It’s about as sensible a drink as I can imagine for the place.

And if you love full-on almond flavour, the Lecce-style coffee is a dream. Me, I think almonds are some of the yummiest things on earth. Ditto for coffee. Further, on a hot day an iced coffee is among my preferred bevvies for cooling down. So, when I saw it on the menu at a popular café in the heart of town during my first afternoon I knew I had to have it.

As much as the folks of Lecce might want to claim iced coffee with almond milk as their own, the nice thing is that it’s easy enough to replicate at home. I reckon proportion is up to you and your own preferences but I’m pretty sure every drink I had was two parts espresso to one part almond milk along with a few cubes of ice. Serve in a glass with the coffee going in last. I’m sure I’ll be attempting to make my own soon.

Dammann Frères Teas at the Sofitel London St. James’s Rose Lounge

Posted: May 13th, 2015

EspressoCrazy’s blogger in residence, Tiki Chris, samples sophistication at the Sofitel London St. James.

Sofitel 1

Man cannot live on coffee alone. And as much as I tried (often succeeded) in doing so, I must admit it’s nice to have a cup of something else every once in a while. Horses for courses and all that I suppose. And when that cup is one of some of the finest teas with a heritage dating back to the late 17th century, well then so much the better!

On now and running throughout May is a new floral-inspired ‘La Vie en Rose’ afternoon tea in the Rose Lounge at the Sofitel London St. James hotel. I got a sneaky peek taste of this limited-run luxury a couple of weeks back and very much enjoyed it. In particular I really enjoyed the opportunity to have my first sip of Dammann Frères teas and am certain it will not be my last.

The tea is a celebration of this year’s Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show and sees the five-star hotel’s head chef, Vincent Menager fashioning a selection of Parisian delicacies with floral flavours such as poppy seed, hibiscus, mimosa, and rose-scented macarons. All are treats! I especially loved the poppy mousseline cream with vanilla sponge, strawberry compôte and pink chocolate spray; and the hibiscus dessert with raspberry jelly, mascarpone, rose jelly, hibiscus jelly, and crystalised rose petals.

Sofitel 2

Beyond the Chelsea Flower Show specials, I enjoyed the Rose Lounge’s more usual but nonetheless exquisite offerings such as the freshly baked scones, served with lemon curd alongside more traditional clotted cream and strawberry preserves. The lounge itself is a lovely setting. And I reckon it’s worth a visit for the chance to enjoy your afternoon tea while a professional harpist plays in the corner. Nice touch!

As for the teas … wow. High quality with an amazing assortment of blends from one of the largest and oldest teahouses in France – my Dammann Frères specialist teas proved a highlight of the occasion. I tried two teas during my visit.

The Rose Buds tea suited the La Vie en Rose menu perfectly. Harvested in early June, the rosebuds used to make this delicate and fragrant tea are air-dried to preserve colour, texture and perfume. The other tea I sipped at the end of my seating was a more robust Lapsang Souchoung, a pungent blend of Chinese black tea and smoked Taiwanese black tea. I’d have both again.

For more about the Rose Lounge and its La Vie en Rose afternoon tea, go to

'Hot & Chilli' Coffee Break with Rosana McPhee

Posted: April 13th, 2015

Our resident blogger, Tiki Chris, takes a Coffee Break with Rosana McPhee


Ready for a quick cuppa friendly food blogger advice? Then kick back, relax and enjoy the latest instalment of my Coffee Break series of interviews. This time round, I’m finding out about Brazilian food and learning a few tips for cooking with coffee from Hot & Chilli blogger, Rosana McPhee, a Brazilian expat keen to share Latin kitchen expertise with the wider world.

Tell me about your blog. How long have you had it and what were your reasons for initially starting it?

My blog, Hot & Chilli, is three years old. I started the blog for any reasons, my dad’s passing, my working life etc. But the main reason was to publish my mother’s recipes online. I initially started it, as a private blog, where I could access the recipes all the time anywhere. Then, eventually I decided to share with the world. The rest is history …

Can you share a bit about your non-blogging life? What do you do when you’re not sharing great recipes and cooking tips with your online community?

My life is very much food related. I go out quite a lot. The majority of the time food and drink is involved.  I run a creative style agency for the creative industry worldwide, and that keeps me very busy.

Coffee’s a big deal in Brazil. What differences have you noticed between drinking coffee there compared to here? Can you get a decent coffee in the UK? Anything you miss about the coffee back home?

In Brazil we drink coffee the whole day, everyday. Coffee is served in smaller cups, like china or glass cups, and it’s much stronger. Yes, there are a few places to drink decent coffee in the UK, and it is getting much better, which is great.  From my personal memories, I miss the afternoon little break around 4pm. In my family we used to have fresh bread, butter and a cup of strong coffee. I still have that some afternoons.  I miss the coffee desserts too. Delicious afternoon coffee treats!  Everywhere you go there’s always coffee being offered – it might be a business or private home, but coffee is always on the agenda.

How important is coffee in your daily routine? How do you take your coffee usually? Has the way you drink coffee changed over the years?

My love for coffee has change quite a lot over the years. I use to be more a tea drinker as coffee over here wasn’t that great. It’s all changing so coffee-love is back. I have my coffee black with sugar, no milk and that hasn’t changed for as long as I can remember.

Ever cook with coffee? Any tips on using it as an ingredient?

Yes, I have cooked and baked with coffee many times. Beef in coffee sauce is m favourite coffee savoury main. My tips for using coffee: always use the best coffee you have available, that impacts the final result. You will thank me later. Also, if you cook with chocolate, add a very small amount of coffee; that makes all the difference and elevates the chocolate flavour to another level.

Any coffee or blogging related inspiration you’d like to share in closing? 

A cup of coffee and bar of chocolate, perfect partners!
Cheers! (*sipping illy coffee*) – no bar of chocolate, gone on a diet…

illy-icious Lebanese Tapas at Lazeez

Posted: April 02nd, 2015

Lebanese tapas and illy espresso – our resident blogger, Tiki Chris, dines at Lazeez

Lazeez 2

So, I’m not sure you’ve noticed but Middle Eastern food is very much on trend these days in London. I’ve come across more than a few really amazing eateries featuring dishes from the Levant recently. One of the best is “Lebanese tapas” restaurant Lazeez, where I was pleased to find that in addition to an authentic Middle Eastern menu, there was an illy espresso to end such a feast on a perfectly complimentary note.

Located just across from Selfridges on Duke Street, Lazeez offers a delicious range of classic Middle Eastern dishes made to share and prepared with fresh ingredients. My lunchtime visit there turned out to be one of the tastiest lunches I’ve enjoyed in quite some while. Items I loved during my lunchtime visit include a freshly made lemon and mint juice; fried aubergine (with butter and topped with cheese); kellaj (charcoal grilled Lebanese bread filled with halloumi and mint); lamb meatballs with tomato sauce; and chicken livers with lemon sauce, coriander and pomegranate sauce. Crispy on the outside fluffy on the inside falafel and creamy and especially tahini-rich hummus were both top notch as well – as yummy as one would hope from a Lebanese restaurant.

Lazeez 1

There for lunch on a weekday, I pretty much had the place to myself. However, I reckon with its cocktail bar, offer of Lebanese beer and wine, and shisha – the atmosphere is different and more bustling in the evening. My guess is service would remain prompt and friendly, the dining area would be just as impeccably clean and the food still would hit the spot. Prices during lunch were reasonable, particularly when keeping in mind the upscale neighbourhood when Lazeez is located, with most tapas costing around £6.

I was happy to wind down my meal with a double espresso of served with some complimentary baklava. As mentioned, it was great to see illy was the brand of choice here. While perusing the menu, I noticed Lazeez does breakfast too, with
dishes such as fried eggs with tomato and onion, omelettes, or more simple dishes like yoghurt. I’m keeping this place in mind for morning coffee (and potentially more) next time I’m dashing through this part of town.

What a Mess! And Where’s My Coffee!

Posted: February 17th, 2015

Our resident blogger, Chris Osburn, ponders life without his beloved coffee machine.

Chris's house

My partner and I moved into a new residence recently. A major accomplishment for sure, but the move was only phase one of a much greater plan.

Since the move, we’ve been essentially camping out in a building site for the past couple of months while doing some fairly significant renovations and have been without an actual kitchen since we moved here; no fridge or oven, just a working sink, a kettle, a mini hob, a George Foreman Grill, and, of course, our precious Francis Francis Y1.1 Touch coffee machine. It’s been a hassle – but worth it – and with great relief I can say now that finally we’re drawing near completion.

But before it’s all over it’s going to get a lot worse. We’ve got a couple of weeks of no kitchen space at all as the works on that area have now begun. Our Francis Francis machine is stowed away and not to be seen for several days. Two weeks without … coffee! Ugh. Yes of course, I can simply go out for a drink. And I’m pleased to report there are at least a few very decent cafes within walking distance of our new home. But, it really is not nice and feels rather like a sacrifice to be without ol’ Francis.

When this messy reno stuff is finally done – and all the furniture is in place and there are no builders or their kit to be seen, I am so going to kick back have an illy and take it all in (and hopefully not have the ceiling cave in on me).

Breakfast Recipe: Red Eye Gravy with illy espresso

Posted: July 08th, 2014

EspressoCrazy’s Blogger in Residence Chris Osburn takes a trip into the rich flavours (or flavors?) of an American breakfast.

Catch up with Chris’ Food Blog at

red eye gravy

Recipe: Red Eye Gravy

Red eye gravy is a classic comfort food sauce from my home in the American Deep South. Usually served with ham or bacon, it’s about as easy and affordable to make as it is delicious. The main ingredients are grease from cooking your bacon or ham, a cup of coffee, and maybe some butter.

I love the stuff and have never even once heard mention of anybody making it here in the UK. It’s high time I did something about that! So, here’s a really quick and super easy recipe for making red eye gravy for yourself:

Red Eye Gravy

Ingredients (two servings … unless you’re really hungry!)


  • Place the rashers in a cold frying pan;
  • Set the pan over medium heat and cook until the bacon turns brown and starts to crisp;
  • Take it out of the pan and drain on paper towels;
  • Pour the coffee into the pan;
  • Scrap off any of the cooked bits from the bottom of the pan and let warm with the coffee;
  • Add the butter and stir it in;
  • When the butter is completely melted and thoroughly stirred into the gravy, sprinkle over black pepper – that’s it!


I like mine for brekkie, served alongside my bacon and eggs and poured generously over a mound of grits. I realise that grits aren’t necessarily the easiest thing to come by here in Britain.

If you’re dying to try it with grits but having trouble finding them, look for cornmeal in the Caribbean section of your grocery or consider using polenta instead. Grits or not, red eye gravy is just as yummy with home fries, toasted crusty bread, mash, savoury scones (or American style biscuits).

4 Freshly Brewed Blogs about Coffee

Posted: June 26th, 2014


EspressoCrazy’s Blogger in Residence Chris Osburn investigates corners of the internet with jabber about java.

Catch up with Chris’ Food Blog at


Wake up, smell the coffee, and read something stimulating. Here’s a quartet of blogs I’ve been perusing recently and thought might be worth highlighting here with the espressoCrazy community. All four blogs are dedicated to that most inspiring of topics: coffee.

Clearly, reading about coffee isn’t quite as satisfying as actually drinking it. Still, how better to enjoy your coffee break than to make use of that time to read tips and musings from coffee enthusiasts from across the globe? Have a look at these sites by some of the internet’s biggest coffee fans. They’re the the perfect pairing for the next time you sit down to enjoy a cuppa.

A Cuppa Day

This Tumblr blog does one thing and does it well: share a bird’s eye view of one cup of coffee a day but from some little cafe in Paris, Barcelona, New York or … See for yourself at

Coffee Nate

There’s “always something brewing” at Coffee Nate, where blogger Nate Smith shares his love of coffee and “subsequent journey to seek a better cup” with the world. Lately he’s been playing with a chemix and giving tips on how to clean one. Visit the blog at

Dear Coffee I Love You

Dear Coffee I Love You is “a design driven resource for coffee lovers around the world” with a “focus on the intersection of coffee, culture, creativity and design.” Did y’ever wonder where you can have coffee with a Moomin or who makes the best bicycle cup holder? This blog’s for you. Find out more at

I Need Coffee

“By coffee fans, for coffee fans,” I Need Coffee features a steady stream of regularly updated and fully caffeinated content about all things coffee. A recent post offering a recipe for duck breast with coffee marinade is especially worth having a look at. Go to to view the blog.

A great lunch in Italy with coffee as good as I get back home

Posted: March 28th, 2014

EspressoCrazy’s Blogger in Residence Chris Osburn reminisces about fast food culture, Italian Style. At least the great coffee is available to everyone in the UK.

Catch up with Chris’ Food Blog at

modena cafe

Towards the end of 2013, I hit the road for a gourmand adventure across the north of Italy. One of the trip’s many highlights was the day I spent in Modena taking in the sights and sounds … and delectable flavours of this historic destination. I thought it would be fun to share a bit about my time in Modena and how a simple cup of illy coffee played a part in making it such a special day.

Modena is a fantastic destination – especially if you fancy the finer things in life. For a town with a population of fewer than 200,000 people, the list of icons associated with it is impressive. Pavarotti, Ferrari, Maserati, Balsamico, tortellini … whatever floats your proverbial boat, odds are you’ve been inspired by someone or something Modenese at some point in your life.

From famous opera singers to sports cars, Modena and its residents have a worldwide reputation for excellence. But it’s not just celebrities and luxury automobiles that perform well here. Even some of the smallest shops can be a big deal in Modena. If you ever have a chance to visit this charming city, keep an eye out for shops, bars, cafes and other retailers with a “Bottega Storica” sticker at the entrance. Basically, the sticker serves as a seal of approval from the local chamber of commerce and a sign that the shop is of historical significance.

There are more than a few of these Bottega Storica gems in Modena and some of them date as far back in origin as 1605. Among the most beloved by residents and visitors alike is the tiny Bar Schiavoni. Built into a corner of Modena’s vibrant Mercato Albinelli fresh foods market, Bar Schiavoni is an unassuming little sandwich shop which sources ingredients from the adjacent market for its regularly changing menu.

Going on the advice of a few locals, I paid Schiavoni a lunchtime visit. Nothing fancy, my meal proved nonetheless to be one of the best I had while in Italy. And at €4.50 for a large freshly made sandwich chock-full of locally grown ingredients chosen fresh that morning in the market, it was one of the most economic too. Yes, I loved my toasted pancetta, radicchio, smoked cheese and Balsamico sandwich washed down with a glass of locally produced wine and followed by an obligatory and rich espresso.

Adding to the experience was the casual yet buzzy atmosphere round the bar, with market vendors coming and going requesting their solito (usual) or having a look at the hand written menu to see what the day’s specials were. Some lingered over an ample lunch with a glass (or two) of wine while others darted in just long enough for a speedy slurp of un caffè. I was there on the early side of lunch and between bites of my mega-wich, I began to notice that it wasn’t just the market folk popping round, but what seemed like a healthy cross section of locals steadily streaming in: professionals, elderly ladies, young families … everybody – and all keen for a simple yet satisfactory lunch or efficient yet friendly coffee break.

Now, the sarnie and the atmosphere are things I probably wouldn’t be able to replicate with much success back here in the UK. Those were about as specifically Modenese as it gets. But that cup o’ joe that so hit the spot – well, that was exactly the same as the coffee I make for myself pretty much every morning in my London flat. The espresso I had at Bar Schiavoni was made with illy coffee. And what I’ve discovered since getting hold of my precious illy capsule machine last year is that the same great coffee experience you get in a cafe – even at the hands of a master barista in a revered “Bottega Storica” in the foodiest of foodie Italy – can be had at home.

Sitting here drafting this post and nursing a double shot of illy Classic, I’m transported back to that sunny day in Modena. It’s an easy (and affordable) way to relive my Italian holiday on this otherwise mundane and dreary January morn. Of course, next time I’m back on the London streets, I need only look for the red and white illy signage outside a cafe to know I can have a decent coffee on the hoof. Same goes for the next time I’m travelling abroad.

Indeed, to flip all this round, I should point out that when I went to Bar Schiavoni and saw not just the “Bottega Storica” sticker on its front door but also the illy logo on its window, I knew I would be in for a quality treat and could rest assured that the place probably lived up to any hype and that, at the very least, the coffee served would be as good as what I knew I could get back home.

Coffee Break with the “Whatleydude”

Posted: March 07th, 2014

EspressoCrazy’s Blogger in Residence Chris Osburn takes a break with James Whatley to talk blogging, the relative meaning of ‘happy’ and, of course, coffee.

Catch up with Chris’ Food Blog at

wharleydude pic


Coffee Break with the “Whatleydude”

James Whatley – known to his 10,000+ Twitter followers as @Whatleydude – is a prolificpolymath dabbling in the social, mobile and digital realms with great aplomb and intensity. He blogs too and loves coffee. I caught up with James recently for a quick chat about blogging, some of his other “geeky hobbies”, and how coffee helps him keep up his busy schedule.

Tell me about your blog. How long have you had it and what were your reasons for initially starting it?

My blog is called ‘this is my happy place‘ and it’s where I write about things that make me happy. They may not always be ‘happy’ things, like rainbows, kittens, and cuddles, but the process of writing about them makes me happy – if that makes sense! I started blogging back in May of 2006. I was headed off to Thailand and wanted a place that could be almost like an ‘opt-in’ postcard. I was tired of those impersonal mass-emails that people used to send when they were travelling; I hardly ever read them and no one had any choice in it. I figured ‘I’m going on holiday and if you want to read about it, here’s how. If you don’t, I’m not going to fill up your inbox with spam’. When I got home a few weeks later, I nearly packed it in but a couple of friends told me they really liked what I wrote and how I wrote it, so I kept it up. It’ll be eight years this year. Wow.

What do you do when you’re not blogging?

I’m a big gamer and my PS4 has been taking up a lot of my free time of late. Outside of that, I love running, playing frisbee, good food, hanging out with my friends, going to the cinema (often reviewing what I’ve seen on the blog), comic books, and whisky. That’s a relatively new thing. Whisky tasting.

On a scale of one to ten, how important is coffee to your daily routine, and why?

I’d say about nine. I couldn’t let it be a ten because that means I can’t be without it. I need the minus one to remind that I am in control of my coffee intake, not the caffeine ;)

If it’s an early start, then coffee is normally the first thing I think of. A friend and I record a podcast every Thursday morning (about the latest mobile news – another geeky hobby of mine), before work at around 6am. That does not happen unless I’ve had coffee. In the afternoons, it’s a great way to get out of the office and catch up with someone else in the building. Routine wise, I’d say that’s about as close as I get to having one.

So the last time I saw you, we were sitting in on #illyschool barista training together. Did you learn anything during that event that surprised you or has since improved your appreciation of coffee?

The #illyschool training has given me a new found appreciation for what a barista actually does. I’m much more observant now when ordering coffee; watching how and where the milk is frothed (for the record, I still prefer ‘whoozhed’) etc, it’s much more interesting that it was before!

On top of that, the training has also given me more of an appreciation for the long black/americano/coffee-with-no-milk purely because I now have a richer understanding of how the taste works. What I should be looking for, the different depths of flavour etc. now I find myself trying coffee first, then adding milk after.

Finally, I’m spotting the ‘illy’ logo on more and more coffee shops and choosing to stop in when I see it!

You have an illy machine, right? Which one? What do you think of it? How does the coffee you make with the machine at home compare to the one you have in cafes and restaurants?

Yes, I have the Francis Francis X7.1. It’s my weekend treat, that machine, as I like to time to get my milk just right but, saying that, it is incredibly quick to use and (and this is something that astonishes me some three months after getting it) it’s so easy to clean! Literally, two tiny ‘parts’ and it’s done. It takes more time for the kettle to boil than it does to clean that thing, it’s amazing. The coffee is, of course, gorgeous.

Any coffee or blogging related inspiration you’d like to share in closing?

Biscuits. Dark chocolate digestives, to be precise. I will always* share biscuits.

*By ‘always’ – I obviously mean ‘only sometimes’; just so we’re clear.

Coffee Break with Urban Pixxels

Posted: February 21st, 2014

EspressoCrazy’s Blogger in Residence Chris Osburn takes a break with a fellow blogger & foodie Jacintha Verdegaal to talk coffee & other matters.

Jacintha Verdegaal is a Dutch expat living in London. Her blog, Urban Pixxels, is an account of her “quest to become a true Londoner” with lots of tales about her travels, foodie discoveries and other “geeky stuff”. There’s plenty of ace photography featured on her blog as well.

Tell me about your Urban Pixxels blog. How long have you had it and what were your reasons for initially starting it? What does the name mean?

I started my blog Urban Pixxels in April 2013, a month after I moved to London from the Netherlands. Starting a blog was something I had wanted to do for a long time, but I was never quite sure what to write about. In a city like London there’s always something to write about, so I finally decided to give it a try. Initially I was planning to blog about my new London life, keeping friends and family up to date about what I was doing. But it quickly turned into much more. I love travelling and food, and met many travel and food bloggers who inspired me to also write about these topics. Today you could say it’s a lifestyle and travel blog.

The name Urban Pixxels is something I came up with in the middle of the night. Because I love photography I knew that my photos would become an important part of my blog. And I wanted something that would reflect my new city life without limiting it to London (I didn’t want to start all over if I ever decided to leave London). I liked the word pixel since it’s something that has to do with (digital) photography, but I also see it as all the different dots that you need to connect when moving to a new city/country. Unfortunately the name/ URL Urban Pixels (with one ‘x’) was already taken, so from a practical point of view I added a second ‘x’ and the blog Urban Pixxels was born.

What do you do when you’re not blogging?

I’m a Marketing Manager for a global ICT company, so my job takes up a lot of my time. But when I’m not working and not blogging, you can usually find me with friends in the city, trying out new coffee places, restaurants etc.

You’re from the Netherlands and have lived in New York, Paris and London. What (if any) differences have you noticed between coffee culture in these cities?

Good question. To be honest, I started drinking coffee quite late (when I was 24) so wasn’t a coffee drinker yet in New York and Paris. But when I was living in Paris drinking coffee was definitely not a ‘on the go’ type of activity. People would take their time, sitting down in a café, or outside at one of the little tables while reading a newspaper and watching other people. And the coffee would be pretty straight-forward, not adding different flavors, choosing between different types of milk, or different sizes. New York is totally different. Sure, you have the cool, small coffee places that still see serving coffee as a form of art. But it’s a ‘Starbucks city’ with people running in and out to their next important meeting and enjoying their coffee on the go. Although I wonder about the actual enjoying part… The Netherlands is definitely a coffee country (I believe we’re one of the top coffee consumers in the world), although pretty down to earth in its approach. It has changed a lot in the last couple of years, but before people thought it was ridiculous to spend a lot of money on expensive coffee machines or a couple of euros for a coffee in a restaurant.

How important is coffee in your daily routine? How do you take your coffee usually? Has the way you drink coffee changed as you’ve moved from place to place?

Drinking coffee is definitely part of my daily routine. I never have coffee for breakfast (still love my English breakfast tea to wake me up), but usually buy my first cappuccino when I arrive at work. I actually go through phases where I like a certain kind of coffee. These days I’m drinking mostly cappuccino, but I prefer a stronger coffee without milk after dinner.

I’m not sure if I really changed the way I drink coffee after I moved to London, but I’m certainly appreciating it more and more. So I prefer to go out and meet friends in one of the many small coffee places in the city, and don’t buy my coffee to go as often anymore. Especially now that I have a great espresso machine at home.

You have an illy machine, right? Which one? What do you think of it? How does the coffee you make with the machine at home compare to the one you have in cafes and restaurants?

That’s right, I have the Illy X7.1 and I love it. I like that you can decide how strong you want your coffee to be and save that as a setting so it remembers your preference for the next time. It’s easy to use and the coffee really tastes just as good as in a cafe or restaurant. I couldn’t tell the difference. If only I could make my cappuccino foam look just as good.

Any coffee or blogging related inspiration you’d like to share in closing?

There’s this video where a guy tries to order the most expensive Starbucks coffee ever. I wouldn’t want to drink it, but it’s very funny. And I recently discovered Caffeine, a coffee lover’s magazine which I always enjoy reading.

Recipe: Quick and Easy Tiramisu

Posted: February 13th, 2014

EspressoCrazy’s Blogger in Residence Chris Osburn gets sweet & crafty with espresso.


Here’s a super easy recipe for tiramisu. All in all it took me maybe 20 minutes to whip up. There’s no actual cooking or baking involved as long as you don’t mind using store bought wafer (I opted for ‘trifle sponges’ that I found in the baking section of my local supermarket).

The recipe is my own concoction. Honestly though, it doesn’t vary too much from other ones you’re apt to come across. Tiramisu (I’ve discovered) is a pretty basic (if incredibly scrumptious) dessert. Furthermore, I must admit my inspiration came from L’atelier des Chefs’ Classic Tiramisu recipe. Differences are that I go with amaretto instead of cognac as LdC suggests – or Marsala as lots of traditional recipes call for, and I used four espresso shots of illyClassic iperEspresso capsules instead of measuring a specific amount of coffee.

Also, rather than making one big dessert in a serving dish, I used recycled jam jars to make individual portions. I reckon that’s a fun way to do it and is a cool idea if you’re thinking about making some misu for gifts or want to make sure everybody gets an equal portion.

Quick and Easy Tiramisu

Ingredients (for six servings)

  • 12 sponge fingers or trifle sponges;
  • 250g of mascarpone;
  • 225ml of double cream;
  • 3 egg yolks;
  • 50ml of amaretto;
  • 4 shots of espresso;
  • 50g of unsweetened cocoa powder;
  • 50g of caster sugar.

* You’ll need 6 jars – any size but 340g to 370g seems best.


  • Make 4 shots of espresso;
  • Add the amaretto to the coffee and let cool.
  • Whip the double cream;
  • Whisk in the yolks and the sugar until the cream becomes pale and frothy;
  • Mix about a third of this creamwith the mascarpone;
  • Stir in the mascarpone with the rest of the cream;
  • Let sit.
  • Put a drop of coffee at the bottom of each jar;
  • Take each sponge and place in the bottom of a jar (use the broad side of a spoon to press it down firmly);
  • Pour some of the coffee on top of each sponge so that it is lightly saturated;
  • Add a heaping layer of cream (about 2 tablespoons) and spread smooth across the top of the sponge;
  • Sprinkle about a teaspoon of cocoa powder on top;
  • Place another sponge on top to form another layer;
  • Lightly saturate the sponge with coffee;
  • Evenly distribute the rest of the cream on top of each wafer;
  • With any leftover coffee, evenly distribute to all six jars;
  • Evenly sprinkle the rest of the cocoa across the tops of each jar’s contents;
  • Seal the lids and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.
  • Serve cold.


Barista skills

Posted: December 04th, 2013

EspressoCrazy’s Blogger in Residence Chris Osburn on learning to make the perfect coffee.

You can get a flavour of the #illyschool session with Marco’s instructional videos on the espressoCrazy YouTube channel

Making Cappuccino – X7.1 machine

Tamping & Making Cappuccino – X1 ground coffee machine

Making Café Style Hot Chocolate – illy milk frother

Catch up with Chris’ Food Blog at


#illyschool with Some of London’s Best Bloggers

Recently, I helped organise and host an intimate coffee tasting and training session for a select group of London bloggers. Leading the event was Marco Arrigo – Head of Quality for illy Coffee in the UK – who provided our guests with a hands-on chance to hone their skills making perfect espresso-based drinks, along with a fun and informative ‘beans to cup’ lesson about the history and chemistry of coffee. Marco has trained hundreds of baristas throughout the UK. His course usually takes three days, but he crafted this this one to be a three-hour crash course session especially for bloggers.

A great time was had by all. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what the half dozen bloggers invited had to say about their #illyschool experience.


Ed from Fuss Free Flavours:
I had a really interesting session at #illyschool; fun, informative and full of information. Marco is a great teacher, and learning the perfect cappuccino, latte and two macchiatos has made me want to practise more at home.

Rosana of Hot & Chilli:
I didn’t know anything  about illy before this event. I was impressed by illy’s training school and how much there is to learn about coffee and the science behind making it. I am looking forward to practising my new coffee skills at home.

Lisa of Sainsbury Magazine:
I’d never thought of a coffee bean as a piece of wood that contains oil – and it’s the oil that matters! It was useful to understand how similar the capsules are to the industrial machines too. I hadn’t realised illy was such a small family run business, and that they really only did one type of coffee too. 

I’ve always wanted to have a go at making coffee with one of those big barista machines, and it was fun to learn how to do the cappuccino, latte, two macchiato tests. I’m going to be swirling my milk like nobody’s business from now on – I just need to perfect my leaf pattern!

Leila, Swallower of Lives:
I knew illy served decent coffee but didn’t find it particularly exciting since it’s quite ubiquitous, so it was interesting to learn more about the USPs. I also never realised that it was a relatively “small” global company and a family business. Fascinating to discover the process behind the brand and how they have to blend the beans from 9 different countries to produce a classic, consistent illy taste every time.

Jacintha, Urban Pixxels:
It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when I never drank coffee. I loved the smell of it, but not the taste. Today, I still drink more tea than coffee (I so moved to the right country), but I now love a nice cappuccino in the morning or a strong espresso after dinner. Fortunately, London is not all about tea anymore and you will find a great coffee place on almost every corner. But being still a bit of a newbie when it comes to coffee, I was very excited to be invited to the illy University of Coffee where baristas in the UK are being trained to serve the perfect illy espresso.

James “Whatleydude” Whatley, about the event:
My evening at the Illy University of Coffee was awesome. Not only because I found out how a £139 illy machine can pretty much do the same job as a £6.5k one(!) but also because I now have a deeper appreciation for illy’s history, machines, and coffee as a whole. The whole process is quite remarkable and I can’t wait to get hold of my own machine! 

Be sure to keep an eye out for their posts about the event #illyschool

Exploring the Possibilities with espressoCrazy's Ultimate illy Mixed Case

Posted: November 10th, 2013

Keen on exploring different coffee flavours?
EspressoCrazy’s Blogger in Residence Chris Osburn takes a tour through the Ultimate Mixed Case of illy iperespresso capsules.

Catch up with Chris’ Food Blog at


Okay. So you’ve got your iperEspresso coffee machine from illy placed prominently on your kitchen counter and, if you’re like me, you’ve been caught up in something of a caffeine-fueled love affair with the machine ever since (I was completely hooked after my second shot). Expecting a perfect espresso to be made quickly and easily with minimal fuss became a regular part of my morning ritual soon after plugging in my Francis Francis Y1.1 Touch. Now I’m having a delicious time deciding which iperEspresso capsules suit my palate best.

Recently, I’ve been sipping my way through illy’s Ultimate Mixed Case of iperEspresso capsules. With a mix of five different iperEspresso capsules, giving the Mixed Case a try is great way to sample the illy capsule range and find out which ones are best for you.

The Ultimate Mixed Case includes the following cans (each containing 21 capsules):

  • The original illy roast Classic;
  • Decaf;
  • Dark Roast;
  • Monoarabica Ethiopia;
  • Monoarabica Brazil and
  • Monoarabica Guatemala.

For me, it’s a close call between the very smooth Classic and the more subtle Monoarabic Ethiopia with respect to my favourite. However, that’s just in the battle for a single shot of espresso. If I’m preparing something a little longer like an Americano, I think illy’s Dark Roast might be the way to go. I even think the decaf is right tasty and at the very least worth keeping in the cupboards for non-caffeine guests or my own late night cravings. So, I very well might be going with another Ultimate Mixed Case next time I’m running low and ready for a re-up.

How about you? Do you prefer your coffee to be punchy, complex, aromatic or somewhere in between? Have a look at all the iperEspresso capsules offered by illy here.


Spotlight on illy SustainArt Prize Winner: Adan Vallencillo

Posted: November 09th, 2013

illy has a tradition of working with world renowned artists on projects such as the illy designer cups.
EspressoCrazy’s Blogger in Residence Chris Osburn takes a look at the winner of the 2013 illy SustainArt Prize.

Catch up with Chris’ Food Blog at

Physiology of Taste by Adan Vallencillo

Honduran artist and recipient of the 2013 illy SustainArt Prize, AdanVallencillo, has arrived in Venice to commence his three-month residency with the Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation.

The residency offers Vallencillo an opportunity to collaborate with other artists and to rub elbows with a range of art world VIPs such as reps from major institutions along the lines of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, London’s Camden Arts Centre, and the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin.

Thirty-six year old Vallencillo – whose career has featured dozens of solo and international shows throughout Latin America, Europe and the United States – studied sociology at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras (2010) as well as art at the School of Visual Arts in Puerto Rico (2000) and at the National School of Fine Arts in Tegucigalpa (1995). Recent pieces by the artist have included a serving tray containing teeth extracted from poor Honduras villagers by medical research teams (Physiology of Taste, 2010); a polyptych comprised of recycled tire tubes (Topography I, 2012); and paints made with pigments collected in public landfills (Pintura Mural, 2012).

While in Venice, Vallencillo will have his own studio located within the compound of the basilica of Santi Cosma e Damiano and will stay Palazzo Carminati, where he’ll live alongside other award-winning creatives. During his residency, the artist will show works to the public while at Artists’ Talks events and Open Studio days.

illy’s SustainArt is open to all emerging artists and curators from developing nations (as classified by the International Monetary Fund as “emerging and developing economies”). The project’s website – – serves as an online community for artists and curators from emerging countries can exchange ideas and to show their art to more established artists and influencers.

The site is also a fantastic resource for contemporary art lovers and a brilliant starting point for finding out more about Adan Vallencillo and other great artists starting to make a name for themselves on the international scene.

Festive Season Ideas for Coffee Gifts and Entertaining

Posted: November 08th, 2013

Stuck for coffee gift ideas for the Foodie in your life?
Fear not, EspressoCrazy’s Blogger in Residence Chris Osburn has ideas.

Catch up with Chris’ Food Blog

The festive season will be here before we know it. And if you’re like me, coffee is going to play an even more important part of life than usual over the coming weeks. Whether downing a much needed boost of caffeine during an exhausting round of shopping, capping off a fantastically filling roast dinner with a shot of espresso or leisurely sipping a moreish mocha while admiring twinkling lights on a Christmas tree, coffee is going to help me cope with my hectic schedule, celebrate the important moments with my family and friends, and relax as the final days of the year wind down.

In addition to being a quintessential accoutrement to so many Yuletide activities, coffee and coffee-themed accessories make excellent Christmas gifts in their own right. For quality gift shopping minus the hassle of navigating busy streets and working your way through crowded stores, have a look at all the accessories available to purchase at There you’ll find designer cup sets in a range of designs, including sets featuring works by artists such as Kiki Smith, Matteo Thun, and Daniel Buren, alongside plenty more items for the home. One particularly lovely and seasonal gift to consider is the LiveHapp-illy Christmas Tree Gift Box, a Christmas tree shaped box containing three 125g cans of illy ground coffee – classic, dark roast and de-caffeinated.

Browsing also offers a great way to stock up for all your December entertaining. If you plan to host any seasonal or New Year celebrations, there’s no time like the present for making sure you’ve got the right stuff for looking after your family and guests. For aficionados who already own illy coffee machines, the site is the best spot for topping up on ground coffee and capsules. The newly offered mixed cases of capsules might be a wise selection if you expect to host folks with a variety of different palates. And if you expect to push your machine to limits this winter, ordering some descaler sachets or tablets is probably a smart idea as well.

Secrets of the illy blend

Posted: May 27th, 2013


If we were thinking about Malt Whisky, experts might consider a blended bottle inferior to single varietal product (single malts). For illy coffee, the story is a little different…

There is a taste, a feel, an aroma that is all illy’s own. Velvety, immediately sweet, delicately balancing floral and fruity notes with caramel, toast and chocolate, naturally fragrant with aromas of almond and honey.  You just might hold the sugar, for the very first time.

This is balance that comes only from a blend: the singular illy blend of nine highest-order Arabica beans, selected and directly purchased by illy from farms spanning four continents.  Each individual bean contributing to a greater whole, for the pleasure of those who appreciate all that coffee can and should be.

In the cup, the illy blend becomes a symphony: rich, full, multi-faceted, yet subtle, comprised of immensely talented soloists, each coaxed to their finest performance under the hand of an expert conductor.

Secrets of the illy blend:

  • Composed of nine distinct highest-order Arabica coffees spanning four continents, purchased directly from the growers who nurtured them.
  • Perfectly balanced, with a delightfully distinct taste and aroma.
  • Recalibrated with each harvest to consistently provide the signature illy taste, cup after cup after cup.
  • Expertly blended prior to roasting and cooling.
  • Fresh taste and aroma preserved through pressurized packaging.

illy coffee & sustainability

Posted: May 27th, 2013


Responsible Supply Chain Process

In 2011, illy became the world’s first company to earn the Responsible Supply Chain Process certification from DNV (Det Norske Veritias), one of the world’s foremost, independent industrial process arbiters.  The certification attests to the sustainable practices of illy’s supply chain, and in particular, to the quality of illy’s relationships with its suppliers.  DNV established an innovative certification model, based in part on illy’s practices, assigning critical roles to quality improvement and value creation.