Crankhouse Coffee takes a turn

Actually 50 turns, per minute ! Yes my PET is finally up and running and as of right now Crankhouse Coffee Roastery is ready for business.

Gas and electrics took way much longer to sort than they should have done and a major part of that is down to dodgy service from a dodgy trade ‘professional’, but as a good friend recently told me, deal with it and move on. Another piece of sage business advice from friends who care is always well received. Surround yourself with positive people and separate yourself from the negative ones !

I knew there would be hurdles to get over in getting Crankhouse up and running and I’m confident there’s a whole athletics field of various sized ones yet to face but the small successes are keeping me on track. This week required elementary school calculations, which I love since my two main inspirations at school were my maths teacher and my physics teacher. Define the result of the sum of two positives and a negative. The positives were a personal instagram message from one of the gods of the coffee world, Mr Tim Wendelboe, and a personal email from one of the gods of the photography world Nadav Kander. The former was a cursory comment about comparing a 12 month old sample of the famous Panama Esmerelda Special versus the new crop and the flavour differences. The latter was so much more significant. Nadav was on a cycling trip to Majorca I joined last year and on the trip I had a 50Eur donation from an anonymous benefactor as an encouragement to start Crankhouse Coffee. I offered everyone from the trip a bag from my first roast and Nadav loved it and wanted to know when he could buy more ! That’s one for the pool room.

The major leap forward recently was to put new thermocouples (temp probes) in the machine. I had been seeing huge temperature differences between the two temp readings. One probe ‘the bean mass probe’ inserts into the main front plate on the roaster, the second ‘the air temp probe’ mounted in the exhaust pipe.



According to the manual the probes should be replaced every 12 months and of course I have absolutely no idea how long they’d been in the machine. With some more great advice from Paul at Gaia Java Roastery in Canada  I sourced new ones from and swapped them over. Presto, the two readings are now much closer together and I immediately threw 7.5kg of my Uganda Chesiyo greens into the hopper and roasted them up.




I put a few sample bags out there and hey presto my first order came in from Steve at Devon Coffee on Queen Street in Exeter for 6Kg of the Chesiyo.  Boxed up and delivered (by bike of course) and I’ve got to admit it felt great. I was finally up and running.20140728-150752-54472019.jpg


The next step is to select some great greens, roast them up and sell them. Easy 😉

PS. My fabulous brand designer Andy Watts has mocked up some rather lovely Crankhouse Coffee cycling caps. If I’ve ever served you a coffee then you’ll know that cycling caps are my sig. Here they are. Can’t wait until I’m wearing one of these and serving Crankhouse Coffee.


Back to my school calculation. +2 -1 = +1. It’s all positive 🙂








Everyone needs a Richard

I’ve been very fortunate to meet some incredibly helpful and supportive people along the journey of starting Crankhouse Coffee and there’s one in particular that deserves a special mention. Richard was a regular at the amazing Exploding Bakery during my two years serving great coffee to some fabulous customers. Always chatty, always a Piccolo invariably with Monmouth Espresso blend and definitely not with anything too funky or bright. You could say an ‘old school’ coffee drinker i.e. big flavours, balanced acidity and full of chocolate nuttiness than Monmouth delivers better than anyone else. I thought I heard him say he was a retired Fireman. What he actually said was he was a retired Farmer having had a Dairy Farm up near South Molton  ! Easy mistake I guess.

I knew there was something slightly different about this guy when he turned up for a Slow Food Devon event organised by Ollie at the Bakery. Open to anyone the event was ‘make your own breakfast Pizza’. Oliver had supplied bacon, eggs, sausages, mushrooms and showed people how to make a pizza dough. Richard brought his own ingredients along;  Fresh Figs, Proscuitto , Honey and a hint of Calvados !

I detailed in a previous post the delivery of the roaster all those months ago and how numerous people helped unload it and get it in place in it’s first home. Then when the news came that my PET was no longer welcome in that home the same friends with a few extras helped again and moved it to it’s new home . Guess who turned up again with trailer, ropes, pulleys, a problem solving mind and abundant enthusiasm for my project.

Before my first roast I had a Gas technician in to setup the gas burners. They’d been running on Natural Gas previously and connecting them up to my LPG bottles meant they were running way too hot and fast. He did so but still the temperature readings on the two thermocouple probes on the machine were massively different. He casually asked “did it get dropped in transit and a baffle or part of the insides of the roaster get damaged or come lose ?” ! Head in hands time again ! The thought of taking the roaster apart completely, removing the drum and finding some broken piece that was causing this anomaly made me think WTF have I done ! So, I made a phone call to Richard and explained my concerns. His response.. no problem, we’ll start by getting one of those fibre optic inspection cameras, stick it in the exhaust opening and take a look. If necessary we’ll support the main rotation shaft whilst removing the front bearing mount and front plate and then remove the drum. We’ll identify the problem, repair it or get a new piece made ! Fortunately we didn’t have to go through this process but had we need to then I’m sure Richard would have turned up with the necessary equipment, tools and knowledge to get it done.


Someone asked me about Richard recently and two things struck me as to how to describe him:

there’s just not enough hours in the day for Richard to do all the stuff he wants to do,

the word ‘no’ simply does not exist in his vocabulary.

I was telling Debs at Bumble and Bee in Exmouth about all the help I’d been receiving during the difficult startup phase and she coined a phrase that’s stuck with me, “Everyone needs a Richard “!

Maverick had Goose. I’ve got Richard. I hope you’re lucky enough to have one of your own.

Dear Lumberjack Cake – I miss you

It’s crazy to think that Becca (wifey who wants cats not a coffee roaster) and I only arrived in the UK just over two years ago. In that time I’ve begun my life in coffee and worked at the only speciality coffee shops in Exeter (as well as a few others). By far the most enjoyable work has been at The Exploding Bakery on Queen Street. How can you not like working in a place filed with fabulous people both customers and staff, some of the best coffee’s available from a variety of coffee roasters and of course the BEST CAKE IN THE WORLD ! I am of course referring to the Lumberjack cake, made with Apple, Dates and topped with toasted Coconut and lovingly prepared by Emma the Amazing ! Not that the other cakes aren’t good. They’re great, but for me that Lumberjack cake straight from the oven (cooled just a little) is just sublime. Thanks Emma !

I had the pleasure to work with some passionate and knowledgeable people, namely Ollie and Jimmy and I served some great coffee’s to some lovely customers. It was hard but enjoyable work, starting at 7.30am and finishing up around 6pm with a short break for lunch. This life in retail and hospitality is new for me and those that start a coffee shop/cafe as a ‘lifestyle choice’ are somewhat deluded IMO. It’s hard graft for little (financial) reward. The rewards are in the interactions you have with interesting and appreciative people and the knowledge that you’re (hopefully) serving them something special in a cup.

My days at the Bakery are finished (by choice) and the new barista Tony is fantastic. I’m hoping that one day in the not to distant future my own Crankhouse Coffee will fill the guest hopper and be served perfectly alongside a slice of warm Lumberjack cake . YUM !


New location for Crankhouse Coffee Roastery

My roasting plans are coming on and Crankhousecoffee is definitely much closer to kickoff now that it’s ever been. That’s despite a little hiccup recently at the previously announced location at DarkHorse Espresso. The logistics of trying to run my roasting operation in someone else’s space was always going to be tricky and the roof came crashing down on those plans (not literally although that was one of the sticky points) at the eleventh hour.

With the help of most of the same very able assistants from the initial delivery, and with an extra pair of helping hands by Steve Pearson from Devon Coffee on Queen St, Exeter we reversed the installation and took my little PET on a short journey to a new and temporary location in my garage (my wife was thrilled, although she had been hoping for cats !).


Two of my helpers - Steve and Richard ! Incredibly competent and generous friends

Two of my helpers – Steve and Richard ! Incredibly competent and generous friends

Richards trailer ready for winching

Yes, this was serious business requiring some serious preparation.


Steve (man of Steel) getting ready for the final big effort


Have coffee roaster – will travel

It’s a small space but it’s my space and that feels good. I’ve cleaned the machine thoroughly, got the flue in and am putting the electrics in tomorrow with the gas to follow shortly.


ie. I’m close 🙂



Exeter Latte Art Smackdown !

Talk of Exeters first Latte Art Smackdown this week started a couple of months ago when Andy Tucker from @Cliftoncoffee came up with the idea to get the South West barista community together for a bit of competitive fun. Before I got too excited I needed to do something very important ! Find out what “Smackdown”  meant !

dict: smackdown

noun informal, chiefly US

1 a bitter contest or confrontation: the famously crusty Democrat had a series of smackdowns with the Governor.

2 a decisive or humiliating defeat or setback.

Hhhmm – neither of these definitions made me think of a fun night out with the lads and lasses of the coffee world to be honest and the wiki definition (WWF Wrestling Friday night Smackdowns) made me feel even less comfortable. But heh, if it’s good enough for big ol’ London Town and our antipodean cousins then it’s good enough for lil’ ol’ Exeter.

Hosted at Dark Horse Espresso (@darkhorse135) on Magdelen Road in Exeter and generously supported with plenty of fabulous El Salvador Finca El Majahual coffee by @CliftonCoffee,  lovely local organic milk by @AshclystDiary, artisan nibbles from @poshpastyco and beer from various craft brewers including @wiperandtrue. All this generosity for a bit of a coffee get together. Who’d have thought 😉

So, to the evening itself. Andy hosted it and set the rules which were pretty relaxed. Two practice pours allowed and then one competition pour. Free-form art was allowed unless there was a tie and a re-pour was necessary in which case Andy would call for a standard pour (Rosetta, Heart etc). It was a head to head and started at the top of the entry list and worked downwards. First up was Jimmy previously of @explodingbakery on Queen Street in Exeter, and currently at the Curator Cafe in Totnes versus Jen (@jennhunns) from Picnic Cafe in Bath. I know Jimmy well and know what he’s capable of, having worked in the same cafe for nearly two years albeit on separate days. With more coffee experience than most of the other entrants put together I commented to Charlotte (@rabbitstales) from @DevonCoffee that Jimmy was going to be there until the end  ! Wrong ! I have never seen so many nervous shaking hands that were on display on Tuesday night. Jimmy went out first round against Jen whose nerves were also out on show.

Here’s a few pics from the night thanks to @WhiteandCream:

Head to head pouring is nervy stuff

Head to head pouring is nervy stuff

Lovely beer from Wiper and True

Lovely beer from Wiper and True

Looks like everyone had a fun night

Looks like everyone had a fun night

Colleagues from Devon Coffee on Queen Street Exeter going head to head

Colleagues from Devon Coffee on Queen Street Exeter going head to head


Charlotte @rabbitstales took on all comers


Tis me (@crank_house)

Final round

The Final Round – @Roryorigin Left and @crank_house Right


@poshpastyco supplied lovely nibbles for the night

Jen and Dave

@jennhunns versus me (@crank_house) was close


@baristajesse and his support crew 😉

IMG_0044 IMG_0047 IMG_0048 IMG_0062

It was a fun evening and the first time I had taken part in any coffee related competition (I’ve readily found plenty of excuses not to enter the UKBC in the last two years). I suspect only one of the entrants had been in any sort of comp previously which was Steve from @devoncoffee in Exeter and even he suffered performance nerves in front of the crowd. The pressure felt intense even though we were in a fun and lively atmosphere for the evening and it definitely showed in the results. Charlotte (@rabbitstales) was incredibly consistent only faltering after surviving for round after round.

In the end I had to go up against @roryorigin who is a Barista trainer from Origin Coffee in Cornwall. Luck or home advantage might have been on my side this time 😉 Next time I might not be so lucky !

I’m already looking forward to the next event..

Small steps to Crank House Coffee Roastery

My new coffee roasting life is getting closer and closer to kicking off. The PET finally arrived a week ago on a Tuesday at midday. Luckily I’d recruited some able bodies (and minds) to help me maneuver this 500kg device off of the truck and into it’s new home at the back of Neil and Sarah’s Dark Horse Espresso coffee shop.

I’d struggled to get accurate dimensions of the roaster and only had some general overall sizes provided by the seller in the Czech Replublic via the agent handling the sale. The concern was getting the roaster through the front door at the shop which is 810mm across to frame ie with the door taken out.

First step was to get it transferred off the delivery truck onto Richards trailer which wasn’t too stressful although there were moments when I thought the whole 500kg was going to come crashing down on top of me. Once on the trailer we were able to take a closer look and see what we’d need to dismantle to get it down to our 810mm maximum. So, a few spanners, screwdrivers and allen keys later we had the control panel and side panels off and we were within the size of the pallet it was strapped onto which was 805mm. Yes, it was going to be a tight fit.


Richard (the star) maneuvering the pallet off the delivery truck



Ready to unwrap and see what I’ve bought


Off the big truck onto Richards trailer and already dismantled

There were some tense moments to follow, specifically getting it up the couple of steps into the back of Dark Horse. Luckily the busy lunchtime period for the cafe had finished so the grunts and groans of 5 blokes manhandling 500kg of cast iron through the cafe weren’t too much of a disturbance.

I can’t thank the guys enough for there help. There were moments when brain power was needed, and moments when brute force was needed. Luckily I had a mix of the two camps helping me that day. So a massive thanks goes out to Richard, Andy, Seth, Tom and of course Neil and Sarah. You’ll all be getting CrankHouse Coffee’s first batch.

Next is to get power and gas sorted out. It’s 3 phase device and I’ve only got a single phase supply at my disposal, which means I need an inverter. Easy. Gas is a little more tricky and I’m waiting on a gas engineer to come and take a look and tell me my options. Then I need a stable level platform to sit it on.

There’s definitely some elbow grease needed to bring the PET back to it’s best, some cleaning, some painting. It looks pretty good now for a 20 yr old piece of industrial machinery but I can guarantee it’ll look pretty special when the work is done.


New home at Dark Horse Espresso 135 Magdelene Road


Lined up and ready for docking


Andy (also a star) getting his guns ready


Crank House Coffee’s first home !


View inside the’s been used for sure


The exhaust pipe.. Needs a little bit of TLC

My new PET

I’ve finally taken the small step into what’s hopefully a big leap forward. I’ve ordered a commercial coffee roaster and am eagerly and nervously awaiting it’s arrival. It’s a Petroncini TT7.5 which means it’s a 7.5Kg small batch roaster, built in Italy in 1995 and until last week in operation in coffee business in the Czech republic !


As someone recently said to me just as I was about to make the purchase “get ready for freefall”. It’s the only thing that’s been occupying my mind recently, getting business stuff, practical stuff all sorted out. Right now, the device is aboard a lorry being transported here to be installed at the back of DarkHorse Espresso in Magdelene Road. The logistics of getting it into the site are going to be interesting with a fairly narrow front door as the main obstacle. Apart from that it’ll be simple maneuvering a 500kg piece of machinery through the coffee shop out to it’s (and my) new home..


So, to the important bits:

What’s the name ?

Crank House Coffee

What type of coffee will I be roasting ?

Speciality grade Single Origins for filters and Espresso as well as Espresso Blends.

Where will it be available ?

Retail through the door. Come in to Dark Horse and if I’m roasting come and see me doing my thing. You can buy directly from me or through the coffee shop.

On-line via I’ll have a subscription service, brew guides and possibly ancillary equipment like filters and grinders available too.

Wholesale into speciality coffee shops. The plan is to create a great brand and a great product that appeals to the high end of the speciality coffee market.

Wish me luck

V60 vs Aeropress blind tasting of Square Mile Ethiopian Yirgacheffe

Ollie from @explodingbakery went up to big old Londinium a couple of weekends ago and came back with this


He’s a fan of V60 pour-over and I tend to prefer the Aeropress so we did a little side-by-side blind tasting of the two methods. Dosed equally at 16g and poured with 240ml which we then divided into two.


The V60 filter pour is on the left, Aeropress (inverted method) on the right. The first thing to note was the difference in appearance. The V60 is much ‘cleaner’ to look at. Almost translucent, whereas the Aeropress pour is cloudy, ‘dirty’ almost. So the question is “why do they look so different ?”. My recent readings have taught me about the ‘solids’ we remove from coffee which is the extraction ! There’s a mix of soluble solids, insoluble solids and solids that immulsify in the presence of hot water, under pressure.

Gravity and the small weight (or head of water if I remember my school physics correctly), is the only pressure encouraging the water to filter through the ground coffee in the V60 technique. Conversely in the Aeropress the water is forced through the coffee by ‘pressing’ (hence the name), the hot water through the coffee after a certain immersion time. The two techniques of course are likely to extract different portions of these soluble and insoluble solids, as well as immulsifying some of them in very different amounts.

The cleanness of the V60 shows that very few insoluble solids are extracted and very few solids are immulsified. Certainly not evident to the naked eye anyway. In contrast the Aerpress is extracting significantly more. With what result ?

Ultimately it’s down to the taste of course. So we tasted blind and it was so easy to determine which was which. Just like the visual, the mouthfeel was completely different. The V60 is so clean, crisp almost. The Aeropress has far more body, silky, a little syrupy. The flavours were also different even though we’re talking about the same raw ingredients. I definitely got more of the sweet peachy apricot from the Aeropress and it was ‘brighter’ for me. The V60 was smooth and ‘heavier’.

So the result..

Ollie liked the V60

I preferred the Aeropress

Exactly where we started 🙂