Author Archives: Chris F Carroll

Use your nose — how to make coffee at home as good or better than a café

The top two secrets of making excellent coffee — notes from an ex-café manager

Do you remember the first time you went to a coffeeshop—a Costa or a Caffe Nero or a Starbucks or some such—and you thought “Wow! this coffee’s really good!” …

And maybe you too thought, “I wish I could make coffee like this at home!” So you bought a bag of coffee, over-priced though it was, and raced home full of excitement … but at home it wasn’t the same.

So then you thought maybe it’s not just the coffee but also the great steam-punk coffee machines they have, and then you found that real ones cost £1,000 up and would take over half of your kitchen. But maybe you went ahead anyway and bid on one going cheap on ebay and then you discovered that oops it doesn’t fit a domestic electric socket it requires a 440v 3-phase power supply so you … What? Are you saying you didn’t do this – was it only me?

Fortunately I was outbid on ebay. I did buy a domestic espresso which feels a bit dolls-house compared to the real thing, especially for steaming milk, but it’s fine otherwise.

Meanwhile however, having been part of the team that opened Café Encounter Birchwood, I slowly realised that the real secrets of making coffee as good as Costa or Starbucks or your other favourite coffee house are not the obvious ones. The big shiny machine and the packets of coffee on display are the smoke and mirrors. The real magic is somewhere else…

Actually it’s very mundane, and very simple.

The first secret to excellent coffee : Keep it fresh

When we had our barista training the guy started off with ‘Coffee is a fresh fruit product’. Oh, how we laughed! He didn’t laugh, though. He was serious.

If you buy your coffee in pre-ground packs, try this test. Buy your next pack just before your old one runs out. Open the new one. Breath in. Oooh, doesn’t it smell fantastic? Even people who don’t like coffee love that smell. Now, take your not-yet-empty coffee container, stick your nose in and sniff. How does that smell? Stale? Like an ashtray?

This is the first secret of coffee. Keep it fresh. You see, the biggest real advantage that a café has over your kitchen is not the equipment. It’s the fact that while a quarter kilo of coffee may last a week or even weeks in your kitchen, in a busy café it will last less than 2 hours. The coffee you get at a café is fresh because they’re getting through hundreds of cups per day.

If you buy pre-ground, may I suggest that you reconcile yourself to the fact that it doesn’t taste as good when the pack has been open for weeks. The very best taste is only going to be there for the first couple of days. If you have the money, the way forwards is to buy beans and grind your own, but more on that on another post.

You can improve your coffee’s lifespan by keeping it airtight. I had a favourite coffee tin which, when I washed it one day, turned out to leak — it was no longer airtight. Sad though it was, I binned it. I bought some spice jars, which are perfect — spices, like coffee, are best kept airtight in small quantities.

The second secret to excellent coffee : Keep it clean

Did you know that the staff of a small café will probably spend more time cleaning than making coffee? This is largely because of food hygiene rules, but the consequence is this — coffee making equipment in a café is cleaned every day.

Use your nose. Breath in that fresh pack of coffee again. Now, stick your nozzle in your coffee jug, or run it over the business end of your coffee machine and take a few good sniffs. Are you getting hints of ashtray again? A heavily dull but bitter layer of staleness? That’s the flavour you’re getting in your coffee. Clean it!

Cleaning is simple. Knowing when to do it, is simply a case of using your nose — clean when it doesn’t smell fresh. If you haven’t cleaned for years then you may want to start with commercial coffee machine cleaner, or you could try using baby-cleaning sterilisation fluid. Either way, follow instructions carefully and flush out with plenty of clean water afterwards.

Enjoy your coffee!

So the chief rules of excellent coffee are these:

  • Keep it fresh
  • keep it clean

Cafés do it as a matter of routine; this is what you want to imitate first.

Boot Camp drivers for Windows 8 for Mac

It turns out that Windows 8 is largely the same as Windows 7 as far as drivers go, so most Mac/Boot Camp users on Windows 7 waiting for Apple to release Windows 8 drivers can just go ahead and install Windows 8 on an existing Windows 7 partition.

If you are upgrading from anything earlier – Vista or XP – then you will have to download the latest BootCamp drivers – aka Windows Support Software – from Apple. The easy way to do this is to run Boot Camp Assistant from within OS X, and tick the box for ‘Download the latest Windows support software from Apple’.

If Boot Camp Assistant fails to download the drivers for you, then you can still get the by following instructions on /p682/download-bootcamp-drivers.

If you’ve removed OS X from your Mac and have to do the download in Windows, then you’ll also need this page /p860/opening-a-bootcamp-driver-download-on-windows-7-or-8-with-7-zip

A couple of people have reported that the drivers don’t work 100%. I’m not sure which models work completely, all I can tell you is that for my Core2 Duo MacBookPro everything works fine, including the camera, backlit keyboard, and screen resolution.

VS2010 Command Prompt Here on the Windows Explorer Right Click Menu — the .reg File

VS2010 Command Line Here for Explorer Right Click Menu

To add a Visual Studio 2010 Command Prompt Here to your Explorer Right-Click menu, save this as a .reg file to your desktop, and then run it:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\Folder\shell\Command Line VS2010]
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\Folder\shell\Command Line VS2010\command]
@="cmd.exe /k echo on & pushd \"%1\" & \"C:\\Program Files\\Microsoft Visual Studio 10.0\\VC\\vcvarsall.bat\" x86"

If you have 64-bit Windows, you’ll need this:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\Folder\shell\Command Line VS2010]
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\Folder\shell\Command Line VS2010\command]
@="cmd.exe /k echo on & pushd \"%1\" & \"C:\\Program Files (x86)\\Microsoft Visual Studio 10.0\\VC\\vcvarsall.bat\" x86"

Can’t open Asp.Net MVC2 project in Visual Studio 2010 – Microsoft.WebApplication.targets was not found

You try to open an MVC2 project that worked on a previous machine but won’t open on your new machine? The error message you get when you try to open the project is:

error MSB4019: The imported project “C:\Program Files\MSBuild\Microsoft\VisualStudio\v9.0\WebApplications\Microsoft.WebApplication.targets” was not found. Confirm that the path in the declaration is correct, and that the file exists on disk.

Possibly your new machine has never had Visual Studio 2008 on it, whereas your old machine did. In which case the solutions is:

  1. Find a machine on which VS2008 has been installed
  2. Copy the contents of C:\Program Files\MSBuild\Microsoft\VisualStudio\v9.0\WebApplications to your new machine


Opening a BootCamp Drivers download or other pkg or dmg file on Windows 7 or 8 with 7-Zip

If you’ve downloaded bootcamp drivers for Macs to run Windows 7 or 8, but have done the download in Windows, you may be stuck on how to open the downloaded BootCampESD.pkg file you’ve now got.

The answer is to get a copy of 7-zip, which is free, and which is your ‘Swiss army knife’ to open the Apple .pkg and .dmg files and the ISO file inside.

  1. Launch 7-zip
  2. In 7-zip, open the BootCampESD.pkg. Inside you’ll find a Payload file and a few other files. Double click the Payload file.
  3. Inside is a folder, which you double click. Inside that another folder, which you double click. Inside that … just keep clicking down the levels of nested folders.
  4. Eventually, several levels down, you’ll get to a file called 0.Apple_ISO or some such.
  5. Now, extract this o.Apple_ISO to the desktop (or somewhere) and rename it to Apple.ISO.
  6. Now, either: Mount it by double clicking it—should work in Windows 7—or else by getting hold of PowerISO or similar; OR use 7-zip again to open this ISO file, and extract the contents to a folder.
  7. These are you driver installers. Create an empty folder on your desktop, and drag them out into it.
  8. Finally, open the folder you just created, and run the setup.exe