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All about espresso: channelling and how avoid it

Making good espresso takes time and effort. From weighing and grinding your beans to pulling your shot, it’s a pretty hands-on and focused process. This makes it all the more bitter (or sour, depending on your extraction) when you put in all that work only to end up with a mediocre-to-terrible-tasting shot to show for it. If this is something you experience regularly, it’s highly likely to be caused by a nasty little phenomenon called channelling.

The concept may intimidate you if this is the first time you’ve come across it, but don’t panic. It’s actually relatively easy to grasp, though actually preventing channelling itself may prove to be a bit harder. Read on and we’ll try to help you understand exactly why it happens, and what you can do about it.

Some background: extraction and channelling

Cermaic Mug blue espresso

Photo by Arisa Chattasa on Unsplash


If you’re reading this, you likely already know a fair amount of coffee theory, but let’s recap some important foundations.

The way your espresso (and coffee generally) tastes hinges primarily on what’s referred to as extraction: how much soluble coffee is extracted by the water you pass through your puck of ground coffee during the brewing process. Almost every variable you manipulate before and during the brewing process, like grind size and water temperature, goes some way towards controlling the degree of extraction in order to bring out the flavours you want in your espresso.

It’s all about balance. Too much extraction results in harsh, bitter-tasting espresso, whereas too little leads to something more sour and acerbic. Channelling isn’t an extraction problem unique to espresso, but it does come to the fore here more than in other brew methods because of one particular brewing variable: pressure.

In the espresso brewing process, water is forced through your coffee puck under very high pressure, around 9-bar, which facilitates the extraction of a higher concentration of the coffee's soluble compounds in a shorter time than other methods, and also contributes to the complex and concentrated flavours of espresso. Pressure is also behind the production of crema, that layer of delicious golden-brown foam found at the top of a shot of espresso.

Because it’s passed through the puck under such high pressure, water is prone to favour paths of least resistance in the puck itself, being areas in the puck that are less densely packed with ground coffee than others, and that are therefore easier for water to move through. This results in channelling, where water passes more quickly through certain areas (those that are less densely packed) than others, and therefore moves through the puck unevenly overall. This leads to a mix of both under and over-extracted coffee in the puck. When this happens, your espresso’s flavour will be unclear and muddled at best, and a horrible combination of bitterness and sourness at worst.

There’s also a specific kind of channelling called side-channelling, which is what it sounds like, where the coffee bed somehow becomes unseated and water channells through gaps between it and the sides of the portafilter. The border between the stainless-steel edges of the filter basket and your ground coffee is particularly prone to problems. Even minor disturbances of the coffee in this area may cause side channelling, so take care not to bump your portafilter against the group head or workstation after tamping, and make sure your grounds are evenly distributed prior to that. More on distribution a little later.

Because it's so uniquely unpleasant, you can pretty reliably tell when you’ve experienced channelling just by the taste of your shot, but this isn’t the only way to find that out. If you see that shot is pretty watery at the beginning of your pull, or if you pale streaks in what should otherwise be a dark, gooey flow, these are pretty sure visual indicators of channelling. A naked (or bottomless) portafilter is invaluable here, as it lets you see the extraction process clearly from the bottom of the basket. Using one, you’ll be able to see uneven and discoloured flow, and spurting, even more easily.

These are actually relatively easy problems to solve with a few equipment and technique improvements. However, fixing these still might not actually resolve your channelling issues or improve the taste of your shot all that much. That’s because these visual signs are indicative of large channels in the puck which actually don’t affect extraction quite as much as smaller, visually imperceptible microchannels. We’ll get onto how to minimise these a little further on, but for now, let’s talk about:

What actually causes channelling

espresso shot bottomless portafilter

A shot of espresso as seen from below a bottomless portafilter. Photo by Ryan Spaulding on Unsplash


There are a number of things that may cause channelling, which is part of what makes it a harder problem to solve than we’d like, but the first thing you should take a look at is your grinder and grinder settings. If you have a good grinder, grinding too fine is usually the problem rather than the inverse. When you’re grinding for espresso, you’re already grinding really fine, and it’s not difficult to overshoot the mark somewhat. When you grind too fine it results in excessive resistance in the portafilter basket and therefore excessive pressure when you pull your shot, which increases the likelihood of water seeking out and following a “path of least resistance” and causing channelling. Grinding finer also increases the potential for clumps, which are what they sound like: bits of your grounds that are stuck together. When clumps are tamped, they form disproportionately densely packed areas of your espresso puck, and this can lead to channelling.

If your grinder needs some maintenance or simply isn’t particularly good, you may find that your grounds aren’t too fine, they’re instead inconsistent, which is arguably even worse. If your grinder grinds inconsistently, you end up with coffee grounds of various sizes in the portafilter basket. In this case, your water isn’t going to flow evenly through the puck, instead flowing faster through areas of larger grounds, again causing channelling. If this is a problem you find yourself running into pretty often, it might be a sign that it’s time to upgrade your gear. Consider springing for something like one of Eureka’s Mignon grinders, which are specifically kitted with anti-clumping technology to limit your chances of channelling from the moment you start grinding.

Your basket itself may also be a problem. More specifically, you might be dosing wrong for your basket’s size. Your dose may look fine at first, but coffee grounds expand when they come into contact with water. If you’ve packed your basket too tightly (i.e. with too much coffee), your puck won’t have enough room to expand once you start pulling your shot, and it could end up pushing against the shower screen, causing channelling.

However, above all else, there’s one particular factor that most directly influences your shot’s likelihood of channelling: distribution.


espresso ground coffee puck prep pre tamp

Undistributed ground coffee in a portafilter. Photo by Noora AlHammadi on Unsplash


Distribution refers to how your ground coffee is spread (i.e. distributed) within the portafilter basket prior to tamping. You want your grounds distributed evenly throughout the basket to allow for consistent water flow and even extraction. Clumps and general areas of uneven distribution are pretty much guaranteed to create paths of least resistance, and therefore cause channelling. You want to prevent and eliminate them as best you can before you lock your portafilter in and pull your shot, which is exactly what distribution and puck prep is all about.

The kit-free approach

There are a handful of tools you could pick up to this end, and we’ll talk about those in a second, but it’s worth noting that there are several things you can do that will likely improve your distribution without you needing to reach for your wallet just yet.

For example, a firm but gentle tap of your palm on the side of the portafilter helps spread everything a little more evenly inside of it. The same goes for lightly tapping the bottom of the portafilter a few times against your palm or your workstation’s countertop. Importantly, and this goes for all the distribution tools and techniques we’re about to cover, all of this happens prior to tamping. Don’t be tempted to give the portafilter one last tap after you’ve tamped, or you’ll just end up undoing all of your prep work.

There are also some pretty well-known distribution techniques that just take a little hands-on work, like the NSEW (North-South-East-West) method: you simply place your index finger flat across the top of the basket on one side, then use the base of your finger to push your mound of grounds around the basket, first away from your body, then towards it, then to the right and left (hence the name).

There’s also the Stockfleth method, where you place your thumb on the rim of the basket and your index finger straight across it, then rotate your hand and the portafilter below it in opposite directions. Repeat until your grounds are spread evenly to the sides.

Chris Baca stockfleth demonstration

GIF from Chris Baca's video on the stockfleth method


If you don’t trust yourself not to accidentally shove a finger right into the basket, you could also always use something straight and flat like a playing card. Just drag it across the rim of the basket like you would your finger in the NSEW method.

All of the above makes a pretty significant difference in terms of distribution, but they’ll only get you so far, especially because they’re mostly effective on the top layer of your grounds, but leave the lower areas relatively untouched. If you want to dive a little deeper, you’re going to need some more specialised kit.


While still seeming a little technical, this doesn’t involve any special equipment other than your espresso machine itself (provided it is pre-infusion-capable). Pre-infusion takes place after you’ve attached your portafilter to your machine’s group head and you’ve begun to brew, but before your shot properly begins. The term refers to the process of evenly wetting or saturating your ground coffee under very low pressure, too low to actually extract any espresso. Some machines have a programmable pre-infusion phase, some can do it manually, and there are even hacks to pre-infuse on machines that aren't specifically designed for it.

By saturating the puck in this way, when water pressure is increased as you brew it does so without finding any paths of least resistance, as the entire coffee bed is already evenly saturated once extraction begins. 

Dosing cup

Brew Tool's portafilter dosing cup


This isn’t a distribution-specific tool, but there are a number of benefits to grinding into a dosing cup. One is that it can help your distribution somewhat. Giving your grounds a decent shake in the cup before moving them to your portafilter can help break up some of the clumps that occur pretty inevitably when you grind fine enough for espresso.

Wedge distribution tool

Nucleus Distribution Tool

Nucleus' Wedge Distribution Tool


Unlike a dosing cup, wedge distribution tools are, as the name suggests, specifically aimed at improving distribution. Though they may come in a number of shapes (the Nucleus Coffee Distributor is a particularly attractive example), a wedge distributor is generally a round, palm-sized tool with a series of sloped metal fins, or wedges, on one end. The idea is that you place the finned end into the portafilter basket prior to tamping and then twist it. The wedges move (distribute) the coffee evenly around the basket, but without actually applying enough pressure to prematurely tamp it, resulting in better distribution.

It’s important to note that, while wedge tools are more effective than a kit-free approach, they mostly influence the top layer of the coffee bed. If you want to ensure that your puck is as evenly distributed as possible, you’ll need something that can get to the clumps found below its surface, such as:

The Weiss Distribution Technique

Normcore coffee espresso WDT

Normcore's WDT


Named after the man who invented it back in 2005, John Weiss, the Weiss Distribution Technique (WDT) involves using a fine needle or needle-based tool to stir ground coffee in the portafilter prior to tamping. The fine needles break up clumps and even out distribution throughout the basket, not just the top layer of grounds, and this results in reduced channelling and more even extraction overall. For a relatively simple tool, its impact is significant: the Weiss Distribution Technique can reliably improve the quality and consistency of your espresso. 

With that said, the WDT does take a little more time and effort than using a wedge tool, which is much quicker by comparison. If you have the time and patience to comb through your ground coffee with a wire tool every time, that's great, but if you're pumping out shots at a rapid pace, like in a commercial setting, a wedge tool might suit you better. 

Shower screens and puck screens

Something a little different to the above that we’ve not really touched on just yet is the idea of water dispersion. Water dispersion is generally managed by your espresso machine’s shower screen, which is, simply put, the perforated metal circle at the group head where the water comes out during the brewing process and the last barrier between your espresso puck and the rest of your machine. Shower screens are designed to disperse water evenly over the coffee puck to ensure consistent saturation and, in turn, extraction.

La Marzocco espresso shower screen

A shower screen by La Marzocco


Shower screens, while variable, aren’t necessarily something you switch out regularly. If you start noticing taste issues in your espresso without having changed up your recipe or the rest of your equipment, that might be a sign that your shower screen is clogged up with coffee residue and needs to be cleaned. In the case that you find your shower screen damaged, you’ll need to replace it. That said, if you wanted, you could also upgrade the shower screen(s) your machine came with for something a little more specialised to further improve your extraction, like these Precision Shower Screens made by IMS.

Where shower screens come standard with any espresso machine, a puck screen, while fairly similar in both appearance and function, is an optional add-on. It’s a thin, perforated metal disk that you place atop your coffee puck in the portafilter prior to attaching it to the group head.

Generic espresso puck screen

A generic puck screen


Puck screens function primarily to improve water dispersion, ensuring that your puck is evenly saturated with water as you brew, thereby lowering your risk of channelling and improving extraction. Moreover, because it separates the puck from the grouphead, it also helps keep the shower screen clean, and by extension gives you a little less to think about regarding regular long-term maintenance (though we would still recommend regularly cleaning your shower screen).

Being a relative newcomer to the espresso space, puck screens aren’t often touted as essential pieces of kit, but their advantages are becoming more and more obvious as they rise in popularity and use. Combined with any or all of the approaches and tools above, there’s no doubt that a puck screen will limit your chances of channelling and will improve the quality of your espresso.

To sum up: extracting the salient points

So there you have it. Channelling is a nasty little phenomenon that occurs during the espresso brewing process when water passes unevenly through the coffee puck. Specifically, because of it being pushed through the puck at such high pressures, water is inclined to search for and pass through “paths of least resistance” in areas of the puck where coffee grounds are packed less densely. These areas end up over-extracted, whereas the rest of the puck is left under-extracted, which generally leads to your espresso tasting murky, muddled, and often downright unpleasant. You can often notice channelling visually as you’re brewing, especially if you use a bottomless portafilter, but the surest indicator is in the taste of your shot.

Channelling can be caused by a number of factors, such as grinding too fine or too inconsistently, overfilling your portafilter basket, or neglecting to maintain your shower screen. Improper distribution of grounds, however, stands out as the primary cause for channelling. Improving your distribution prior to tamping is therefore vital to the brewing process, and can be accomplished using a number of puck-prep techniques and specialised equipment.

If channelling is something you’ve been struggling with, you now hopefully understand what it is and how to prevent it. As is usually the case with espresso, making noticeable changes takes a fair amount of trial and error, so don’t be discouraged if the first shot you pull after using a WDT for the first time still doesn’t come out perfect. Keep at it, and soon enough you’ll not only be pulling rich, gooey, flavourful shots, but you’ll also be doing it consistently.


About the author

Max author picMax is currently interning and writing at Cape Coffee Beans. He stumbled into the world of specialty coffee when he discovered James Hoffman’s YouTube channel in the small hours of the morning while putting off a university essay. Ever since he’s been trying to perfect his v60 technique, and now he’s here to write about it and all things coffee too.

How to Brew Great Coffee on the Road

If you travel often, be it for work or pleasure, chances are that at some point on the road, you’ve stared down at a cup of bitter, silty hotel coffee (which probably tastes suspiciously like instant) and thought to yourself, “There’s got to be a better way.”

The good news is, there is, and it’s not just hunting down the nearest chain shop for something coffee-flavoured without any metallic aftertaste. These days the coffee enthusiast has a range of options at her/his disposal for brewing fresh, delicious coffee on the road, whether that's hotel-hopping, bundu-bashing or backpacking from cheap hostel to cheap hostel. 

Here’s what you’ll need to brew the best cup of coffee you can while travelling.

The Scale

coffee, coffee scale, making coffee

If you’re only just getting into the world of specialty coffee, you may not have heard this yet, but it's important: you need a scale. Why? So you can weigh your ingredients (i.e. coffee and water). Again, why? Simply put, one of the most important contributors to the overall taste and quality of your brew is your ratio of coffee to water. Fine-tuning this is crucial to finding your perfect cup, but to do this you need to know your numbers so you can repeat and adjust your ratios as you like, consistently. 

The only real tool for this is a scale. Eye-balling it and relying on spoons or the various scoops that come with some bags of pre-ground coffee and other paraphernalia will only get you so far, and leave a lot of room for ambiguity. Any small kitchen scale is generally sufficient, and most will fit fairly easily in your luggage.

That said, there is a range of great scales specifically designed for brewing coffee. This usually means they can weigh in 0.1g increments (most kitchen scales only measure in 1g increments which still leaves some room for error), and that they have a built-in timer. In addition to the coffee-water ratio, brew time is the other important numeric variable affecting your brew, but you could always do this with a phone or watch.

You can check out our range of scales right here, but for portability and ease-of-use we’d highly recommend the Constant Digital Pocket Scale or Wacaco’s Exgram scale.

The Water

coffee, making coffee, kettle

You need water to brew coffee, and, save for specific brewing circumstances, you generally need that water to be hot. To that end, you’ll need a kettle. 

If you’re hotel-hopping at nice enough places, you may find an electric kettle of some description right in your room. This works well for a number of brewing methods, but if you’re brewing by campfire, need a more precise pour, or would rather not risk that your hotel doesn’t provide you with one, you’ll want your own kettle.

For this, we recommend Hario’s V60 Buono Drip Kettle. For travel, we specifically recommend the 1L model. It’s fairly compact as far as kettles go, and with its precise goose-neck spout, it’s perfectly suited to just about any brewing instrument. It’s also sturdy enough that you can use it right over an open fire if you’re camping. We’d usually recommend the larger 1.2L model if your suitcase can afford its additional bulk, but either will work perfectly once you’re ready and brewing.

The Grind

coffee, making coffee, grinder, coffee grinder

It’s a simple truth that anyone with even a passing interest in improving their brew needs to acknowledge sooner or later: freshly ground coffee is simply better than pre-ground coffee (like you might find at a hotel). It tastes better, it smells better, and not by a small margin either. If you want a truly delicious cup of coffee, you want to grind your beans just before you brew. To do that, you need a grinder (burr, not blade), and if you’re travelling, you want something that will easily fit into your suitcase, hiking pack, or duffel bag: in a word (or two), a hand grinder. 

You’d have a hard time finding a hand grinder that you can’t just toss into your suitcase, and an almost impossible time finding one that uses blades instead of burrs (Here’s why that’s important, plus more on grinders generally). For those not looking to break the bank, we recommend the Hario Mini-Slim Plus. Pint-sized and durable, its only significant downside is its capacity: it can only grind around 24g of coffee at a time, which is really only enough for one person. This sort of limit is pretty common for hand grinders; it’s the price you pay for portability. Naturally, you can get around this by just emptying your grinder out and grinding more if you’re brewing for more people.

If you can afford to spend a little more for a noticeably better quality grinder, we often recommend the Timemore Chestnut C. Made of aluminium alloy and featuring a dual bearing system for grind stability and consistency, and an adjustable grind setting suitable for just about any brew method, the Chestnut C is as premium as it looks, and well worth the asking price.

If your budget is a bit more generous, you could also consider Comandante, the brand that arguably blazed the trail for the premium hand grinder category. The X25 Trailmaster is made of a technopolymer which makes it perfectly durable even for the roughest hikes, and it effortlessly grinds to any consistency, consistently, thanks to its patented Nitro Blade burr set. 

With that said, grinders come in a lot of shapes and sizes, and while they all aim to accomplish the same main goal, they can often come with qualities you may or may not really want. Have a look around and you’ll undoubtedly find one that fits your needs. 

The Brewer

coffee, making coffee, coffee maker, AeroPress

Here’s the fun bit. The coffee-loving nomad has a number of portable brewing tools available to them these days. 

Right out of the gate, an obvious pick for a travel brewer is the AeroPress (and, by extension, the slightly smaller AeroPress Go). It’s easy to use, compact, and versatile, allowing for long, smooth cups or short, intense, espresso-style drinks. It also comes with a range of third-party accessories (which are also generally very portable), if you’d like to take your brew to new heights. True, it’s not exactly built to brew more than one or two cups at a time, but there are ways around this problem

Additionally, if you’d like to avoid the hassle of travelling with hundreds of the AeroPress’s micro-filters, we recommend you pick up a reusable metal filter like this. One of the most convenient aspects of the AeroPress is that it doesn’t demand the precise pour that most pour-over brew methods do, so you don’t need a gooseneck kettle to get the best results. You could probably even get by boiling your water in a pot or saucepan so long as you’re careful when it comes time to pour.

If you would prefer to enjoy a traditional pour-over coffee while you’re travelling, we’d recommend the Hario V60. Arguably a symbol of the specialty coffee world, the V60 is an essential piece of kit whether you’re on the road or not, and it’s really not going to take up much space in your bag. The plastic model is specifically suited to travel due to its durability. Just don’t forget to stock up on paper filters before you head out. 

If the classic pour-over still seems a bit overcomplicated (and we won’t judge you if you feel that way) check out the aptly-named Simplify Brewer, which, thanks to several clever design choices, brews delicious pour-over coffee without requiring any fancy pouring techniques. Or, take a look at the Clever Dripper, which capitalises on the best qualities of both pour-over and immersion brewing methods to make up for their individual limitations. These are made of durable BPA-free plastic and nylon, respectively, so you don’t have to worry about them breaking in your suitcase.

If you’re more familiar with the French press brewing style, there are many small, portable plungers to choose from. We’d specifically recommend something that isn’t made of glass though, like this, to avoid possible breakages during baggage handling. You could also consider packing a small moka pot. Moka pots are generally quite sturdy so there’s no chance that they’ll break in your luggage, and they also don’t require their own kettle because your water is boiled in the pot itself. As long as you have a heat source, say a stove top or even a campfire, you’re good to go.

If you’d prefer to enjoy something closer to an espresso while out and about, we highly recommend Wacaco’s Nanopresso. Wacaco makes a lot of great portable coffee equipment, but mobile espresso makers like the Nanopresso are what they’re best known for. This light and impressively compact gadget promises to deliver the best quality espresso you could hope to achieve other than with an actual espresso machine, and, unlike the AeroPress or one of the pour-over brewers mentioned above, the Nanopresso requires no filters that you could easily forget if you’re rushing for a flight.

Something to drink out of

coffee, coffee mug, coffee cup, travel mug

Image by Wacaco

Naturally, brewing coffee usually requires something to actually brew into and drink out of. If you’re staying in an Airbnb, hotel, or something similar, chances are you’ll be able to find at least a generic mug or two somewhere. If your travels often take you to cupless, mugless places, we have several kinds of travel mugs on offer that you can throw into your bag without a second thought.

The Beans

coffee, making coffee, coffee beans, beans

Finally, and this goes without saying, the most important thing you’ll need to brew a delicious cup of coffee on the road is: delicious coffee. Specifically, delicious coffee beans. 

Now, if your travels allow it, we’d recommend hunting down a local roastery or two wherever you are and trying out what they have on offer. Otherwise, you can always check out the beans we have in stock, all of which would be glad to accompany you wherever you may roam.

And there you have it! Say goodbye to gritty hotel instant and hello to delicious coffee every morning no matter where you go. Safe travels, and happy brewing.

About the author

Maxwell MilellaMax is currently studying towards his Honours in Applied Linguistics at the University of Pretoria. He stumbled into the world of specialty coffee when he discovered James Hoffman’s YouTube channel in the small hours of the morning while putting off an essay. Ever since then, he’s been trying to perfect his v60 brew, and now he’s here to write about it too.

How To Brew A Kalita Wave Pour-Over With Neil Gouws

Earlier this year, we hosted Neil Gouws, one of South Africa’s most accomplished baristas, at Cape Coffee Beans HQ for a series of Kalita Wave brewing demonstrations. We were lucky enough to collaborate with our friends at Rosetta Roastery and have a couple of their newest releases to brew, including a very special limited release anaerobic lot from Frinsa Estate in Indonesia.

Kalita Wave Dripper & Rosetta Frinsa Anaerobic

The customers who popped by all thoroughly enjoyed both the demonstrations and the delicious pour-over brews, so we asked Neil to share his recommendations on how to brew with the Kalita Wave. Below you’ll find his very detailed response to that very question. It’s all the guidance you need to get great results with your Kalita Wave pour-over dripper!

Neil's Kalita Wave brew guide

Neil Pouring Kalita Wave

The Kalita Wave is the ideal brewer for those looking for an easy to use and incredibly consistent pour-over coffee maker. The Kalita’s flat bottom and unique filter design allow for a more even extraction and reduced channelling. The flow rate is slower than most pour-over drippers which allows for longer contact time between coffee and water, resulting in a brew that is brimming in body, sweetness and clarity.

What you will need

Kalita Wave recipe basic parameters

  • Brew ratio 1:16 (1 part coffee to 16 parts water)
  • 25 grams of medium-coarse ground coffee (similar to a V60 grind)
  • 400g of 94ºC water
  • Total brew time of 2 minutes 30 seconds
Kalita Wave Dripper With Hario V60 Electric Grinder

Kalita Wave brew recipe

  1. Insert your filter paper into the Kalita brewer, rinse the paper filter thoroughly using your heated kettle and discard the rinse water.
  2. Add the ground coffee into the dripper and give the dripper a little shake to level the grounds out.
  3. Pour 60g of water, ensuring all the coffee gets wet, and allow the coffee to bloom for 30s.
  4. At the 30s mark pour 100g of water in concentric circles moving your way from the centre of the dripper to the outside in 6 circles.
  5. At 45s pour 60g of water in 3 concentric circles.
  6. Repeat step 5 at 1m and 1m15s
  7. At 1m45s take the total brew weight up to 400g with a final pour.
  8. The dripper should be completely drained by around 2m30s; if not adjust your grind setting (coarser to make it faster; finer to make it slower).
Kalita Wave Dripper Pouring

Pouring summary:

 Time Pour size Cumulative volume
Start 60 g/ml 60 g/ml
30s 100 g/ml 160 g/ml
45s 60 g/ml 220 g/ml
1m 60 g/ml 280 g/ml
1m15s 60 g/ml 340 g/ml
1m45s 60 g/ml 400 g/ml


About the author

Neil GouwsNeil Gouws is one of South Africa's top competitive baristas. Like many of the country's most talented, Neil got his start at Origin Coffee Roasting where he started as a barista and eventually became lead barista and head trainer. He has an impressive competitive record both at the Western Cape regional barista competition and the South African Barista Championship competitions where he has placed 2nd, 3rd & 4th over a period of three years.

Neil now works with a number of coffee equipment brands in the commercial and domestic space, comprising both espresso equipment and manual brewing equipment like Kalita. We count ourselves lucky to work closely with him, and also to have him help us out with customer training. You can follow Neil and his coffee exploits on Instagram.

How To Make Great Coffee At The Office - The Employer

So your employees have been nagging to no end about the lack of good quality coffee in the office. After realising that you missed last orders at the local cafe while you were pulling a late-night stint and making yourself a cup of the chicory-based coffee substitute in the canteen, you suddenly realised the error in your ways!

Not to worry, we are here to help you get your office coffee up to standard! While bean to cup machines are a great easy fix to the problem, this blog post is going to look at a couple of alternative setups that will make significantly better coffee and make your office the envy of the town!

Brew Bar

Office coffee brew bar

If you are looking for variety in your office coffee, or maybe you're looking for the best bang for your buck, then a brew bar is definitely the set up for you! A kettle, a grinder, some scales and a couple of coffee makers, and you will have almost all the bases covered!

Once you've got the basics covered, choose your brewer (or your selection of brewers if you want to keep the variety up) and get ready to enjoy amazing coffee at the office.


Iconic, virtually indestructible, easy to clean and easy to use, no other brewer on the planet has achieved the same cult following that the AeroPress has. With countless accolades and tournaments dedicated to this brewer all around the globe, no brew bar would be complete without an AeroPress.

Able to brew from 1 to 4 cups at a time (this is based on 125ml cups, and made from concentrate), you can use the AeroPress to brew for yourself or for a few colleagues.

Check out the AeroPress here.


Whether it is a Chemex, a Hario V60 or one of the more obscure pour-over brewers that keep popping up on the market, the pour-over is the darling brewer of third-wave coffee culture. Known for its simplicity and ability to highlight delicate and nuanced flavours in a coffee, a pour-over brewer will no-doubt keep the specialty coffee connoisseurs in the office satisfied! This is a great option for brewing a single cup, or coffee for 2 to 3 people.

Check out our range of pour-over coffee makers and accessories here.

French Press

Not everyone wants to go down the rabbit hole of the science of coffee brewing and embark on the endless pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee, and that is okay. That is why you need a classic brewer, such as the French press, that everyone loves and knows how to use. Quite simply, if you put good coffee beans in, you get a good cup of coffee out (with a little attention to detail of course)!

With a range of sizes offering everything from a single serving up to 3-4 servings at at a time, the the French press gives you lots of options.

Check out the full French press range here.

The Wild Card

With so many unique and interesting brewers on the market these days, you can't possibly have a brew bar that showcases them all, but there is definitely room for one wild card. Why not check out something unique like a siphon, a Clever Dripper or a Delter Press.

Check out all our coffee makers here.

What You Will Need

No matter which brewer(s) you end up selecting, you will need some extra accessories to complete your brew bar setup.

Espresso Bar

Office espresso machine

If you want no half measures in your office and you really want the best money can buy, then an espresso machine is the solution to your lack-of-caffeine problem. While it does require a bit of a learning curve (lucky for you, we have a blog post on this), an espresso machine will deliver much better coffee than any bean to cup machine will, if you know how to use it. From creamy cappuccinos and silky flat whites to espresso and americanos, an espresso machine will give you everything that your local cafe does.

From the tiny footprint of the Rancilio Silvia to the ultra-premium Slayer, and the likes of La Marzocco and Rocket filling the gaps in between, there really is an espresso machine for every office and every budget.

Check out our full range of espresso machines and grinders for the office here.

Espresso can be a complex topic and involves a bit of a learning curve. We would be happy to arrange some training with you and your staff if you do go down this route. Feel free to get in touch; we are happy to help.

What You Will Need

As with all brew methods, you will need a few bits and pieces to complete your espresso set up

Batch Brew

Batch brew for the office

If you are the type of person that is driven by economies of scale, and you want a coffee solution that will deliver amazing coffee, to lots of people with minimal effort, then batch brew is definitely for you! Easy to use and designed to brew up to larger volumes of coffee at once, the Technivorm Moccamaster is what keeps the staff at CCB caffeinated all day (and we go through a lot of coffee).

With batch brew, you really can experience the best of both worlds: you get delicious tasting coffee, but you still have options and variety on the table. You can have a selection of beans and brew a different coffee each day of the week.

See our full collection of Batch brewers here.

What You Will Need

Once again, a few accessories to help you measure your variables will make your batch brew top-notch.

The Beans

The last thing and probably the most important thing to remember is the coffee beans themselves. The one area where we see so many businesses with the best intention to provide great coffee to their employees go astray is with the coffee beans. Whatever method you choose to brew with, your coffee will only ever be as good as your coffee beans. If you decide you're only going to do one thing to contribute to your employees caffeination endeavours, make that one thing buying great coffee.

We work with some of Cape Town's best coffee roasting businesses. If you're looking for great coffee beans, no matter your taste preference, look no further.

Pass The Puck

As a last resort, if you are looking for some other way to get your employees to stop nagging about the coffee situation, why not send them the blog post we put together that will help them bring their own coffee into the office?


How To Make Great Coffee At The Office - The Employee

Portable coffee makers for the office

So, you have begged and pleaded with the powers that be in your workplace. You have mentioned how coffee can increase productivity and reported its health benefits. You even created a spreadsheet and a presentation to try to drive the points home. It seems that no matter what you do, you are stuck in your office with nothing more than instant coffee and a kettle.

We feel your pain, and we agree. Something has to change. We've taken it upon ourselves to put together a list of coffee brewers that are compact, robust, easy to use, easy to clean and easy to travel with. These 5 brewers are the perfect answer to your office coffee issues.


AeroPress Go

AeroPress Go portable coffee maker for the office

Any list of portable coffee brewers would be wholly incomplete without an AeroPress in the mix, and the AeroPress Go is the ultimate pack up and go travel brewer. It also happens to be one of the most versatile coffee brewers on the market and consistently delivers spectacular coffee.

If you fancy something a little closer to espresso-style coffee, why not pair your AeroPress with a Fellow Prismo?



Nanopresso portable espresso coffee maker for the officeIt truly is quite incredible what Wacaco has done with the Nanopresso! When a pocket-sized brewer arrived on the market that claimed to be able to brew espresso-style coffee, everyone at CCB was dubious. Much to our surprise (and delight), this little brewer proved us wrong and is as close as you can get to espresso without an espresso machine!

If you're a coffee fanatic and a single espresso just won't cut it, look at adding on the Barista Kit to allow for double shots!


Delter Press

Delter press portable coffee maker for the officeDespite looking similar to an AeroPress, the Delter Press employs a fundamentally different style of brewing. If light and delicate pour-over-style coffee is your jam, then the Delter Press is definitely the office brewer for you! Conveniently designed so that you don't need all the accessories that a pour-over brewer requires, the Delter Press makes delicious coffee in a compact and convenient package, perfect for the office.

If you're looking for some coffee for your Delter Press, check out our coffees for pour-over collection.



Pipamoka portable coffee maker for the officeThe second coffee maker in this list made by Wacaco, the Pipamoka is an incredibly versatile, all in one, vacuum coffee brewer. The design of this brewer allows you to prep all your coffee at home, chuck this brewer in your bag and when you get to the office, just add hot water and brew. Once you are done you can put it back together, put it back in the bag, and only worry about cleaning it when you get home.

Versatile enough to make short, intense espresso-style coffees and longer filter coffees, the Pipamoka really does do it all! 


Clever Dripper

Abid's Clever dripper for brewing coffee in the officeIt never ceases to amaze us how little effort is needed to brew with the Clever dripper. No pieces, no plunging, no pressing - just add coffee and water, wait 3-4 min and enjoy! If you want a no-fuss, no-mess coffee brewer that delivers incredibly delicious coffee, look no further than the Clever dripper.

Don't forget to stock up on paper filters.



Manual coffee grinderA coffee grinder is an essential piece of kit for any avid coffee lover. There truly is no substitute for freshly ground coffee. If you want to take your office brews to the next level, a good grinder will make all the difference.

Hand grinders are the perfect answer to getting freshly ground coffee at the office! Check out our range of manual coffee grinders here.



Coffee making accessories

A scale is another must-have piece of equipment for the amateur barista wanting to make great coffee. Measuring your brews allows you to make sure your cup of coffee is consistent each and every time.

From scales to kettles, timers and filters, there are a number accessories that can really help take your coffee brewing to the next level, and a lot of them are small enough to carry around in your bag or keep in the office. Check out these extras that can help make sure your coffee is amazing, every time.


If all else fails, why not try to persuade your boss to help out by sending him or her our blog post for employers.


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