“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.” – Sherlock Holmes.
There are many things in life I have absolutely no use for. My happiness levels will not even budge knowing I will never own a sports car or fly business class. I have no interest in the latest fashion designer clothing. Luxury items do not move my needle. I don’t get my kicks in fact from things at all.
Experience however… Now that is you see a whole different ball game to me!
That’s where a cup of the finest coffee would sit in my books. That intoxicating scent of fresh brew early in the morning… There are other such fine moments of course. The smell of green lush forest after the rain is another. A bottle of home made beer when sitting in a steaming hot spring after a day of hiking can cut it pretty well too. A cup of the strongest sweet tea made from plants foraged whilst on a walk in the desert, enjoyed sitting by a campfire on the beach. These are moments to live for as a free member of our species…!!
These life’s little luxuries, can often bring great pleasure and even contribute to your accumulation of wealth once you start paying attention to the detail and place yourself in control by doing instead of by purchasing. Outsource the pleasure of brewing to someone else, and you might soon find yourself in an upside down reality, where the brew, well… It’s you!
The DIY Barista Thesis
I propose anyone could easily brew their favourite cup of coffee, exactly to their taste, making the coffee shop chains into laughing stock. And I will not only show you how this magic of brewing your own perfect cup of coffee is done, but also how it will earn you a bonus annual UK average salary tax free and completely passively! i.e. without you having to do the slightest thing about it except raise your espresso cup and say cheers!
And so without further ado let me shed a little light on my little treasure map here…
But First, Poor Thirsty Grasshopper’s reality check
As always we kick start with smelling the coffee.
- According to studies from 2017 Britons each spent £2,210 every year in coffee shops.
- On average, we visited the coffee shops 152 times a year, spending £13.85 on each visit.
- The average UK salary in 2017 was £27,000.
- The average Briton therefore incredibly spent nearly £1,000 out of every £10,000 he/she earned being served their cup of espresso.
And at the same time that we sip our extortionately priced pretty average tasting coffee chain espresso for say £3.50 a cup of Venti in Starbucks, creating an ever-growing plastic natural disaster for ourselves, studies show nearly 91% of us wished they’d have more money in the bank(!). Yet wishes of the heart to one side and reality to the other. No less than 53% of 22-29 year olds reported having no savings or investments whatsoever. Zero!
Perhaps unsurprisingly this was also the fastest growing customer base for the coffee shop chains making 16% of the client base. By the time these young Poor Thirsty Grasshoppers hit 30, they would’ve spent £22,100 on average drinking their Venti, with 1/3 of them still having less than £600 in savings and with 2/3 not even having the simplest financial plan to follow.
Not exactly your retire early type FIRE folks you read about online, the average Poor Thirsty Grasshopper gives up many of the finest of life’s experiences and having lots of money in the bank in return for an average cup of espresso in a soulless coffee chain joint…
The Rich Ant Barista Business Case for Brewing Your Own
As it stands today, the Venti Poor Thirsty Grasshopper buys in Starbucks whilst on his coffee break or on his way to work will cost him £3.50 a shot.
Drinking on average 2 shots per day, brings his average spend to £7 per day X 30 days = £210 per month.
Over a year this becomes 12 months X £210 = £2,520.
In 10 years this propels our Poor Thirsty Grasshopper out of control to a staggering £25,200. (Just short of the average UK salary of £27,000 in 2017!)
To be clear: that is nearly 12 months of incredibly hard work which he willingly just hands over to the coffee chains whilst complaining he doesn’t have enough money in the bank!
But now that he learned the facts, that’s all obviously in his past.
Moving forward, Rich Ant Barista takes over:
- Lever machine ca £340.
- Improvement kit with pressure gage, boiler and pressure group head ca £178.
- Automatic grinder ca £285.
Beans to produce 2 cups of espresso per day over 1 month:
1Kg Lavazza Grand Espresso Coffee Beans £12.99. (This makes the average price per shot of DIY espresso £0.12!)
In the first year therefore, the spend on his coffee will be down from £2,520 to a total of £958.
And in the second year already his yearly spend on coffee will be down a further to just £155 for beans.
That brings him to a bottom line of £2,353 over 10 years, saving Grasshopper a total sum of £22,530.
And when he invests this sum of cash proportionately in his cheap Vanguard ISA S&P 500 tracker, and which historically has returned 8% on average, he would have earned during this period of drinking the finest home brew £34,441!!
Yes that’s right: £34,441!!
Tax free of course every last penny. Just for Grasshopper, Now Ant, to do as he pleases with… Maybe put a down payment for a rental. Maybe pay his university tuition fees. Withdraw funds according to the 4% rule to drink his espresso for free forever. Or keep investing until he reaches financial freedom!
Whatever his choose, he now know: It’s this and those many other little things that’ll make all the difference between brewing and getting brewed.
In one’s eternal choice between Poor Thirsty Grasshopper and Rich Ant Barista, which will it be for you?
Poor Thirsty Grasshopper Goes Back to School
If you’re still with me it sure looks like you made the right choice, deciding to learn exactly how Thirsty Grasshopper beats the system in its own game, and transforms onto Rich Ant Barista. That is where the coffee is better, the wallet is thicker, and those life making experiences are in abundance. And so our metamorphosis from Poor Thirsty Grasshopper to Rich Ant Barista is about to begin. Ready or not, our first step in the journey is called Espresso.
There are plenty of other types of coffee to choose from obviously. Starting with Turkish coffee to French press and onwards to Scandinavian style drip and so forth. Italian espresso however… It’s the most dense, of the highest quality, and hence as you may have noticed, serves as the base for some of the most wonderful world class cups of coffee from macchiato to latte to cappuccino to those beautiful ice-cold coffees that go so well together with the heat of summer. And so in this blog post we will focus on making Italian espresso!
The art of brewing a tasty cup of espresso is made of the following ingredients: Coffee beans, grinding the beans, method of brewing and an espresso machine.
Let’s talk beans first. There are 2 main species. Arabica and Robusta. Their quality, just like with grapes grown in vineyards, depends on the territory they are grown in. Often, the higher the coffee farm is positioned above sea level and the less oxygen in the air, the higher the quality of the beans. There are also some 80-100 chemical compounds contributing to the taste and texture of your espresso. Hence, as always, quality matters!
We don’t grind green coffee beans of course. We need them roasted first. Then mixed together exactly to our liking. Once the beans are roasted, they should be used within 4-30 days. Fresh home ground coffee is key to delivering the coffee chain a knock out in the first round! (Not that its very hard…) There are plenty of places to buy fantastic mixes of roasted coffee beans. The roasteries are everywhere these days. Especially online. And hey, you could even find some pretty good quality in the supermarket sometimes. Do your research! And remember to always check the roasting date when the package arrives and to store in a dry and cool place.
IMHO the true beauty of DIY is that its places you in control. So try plenty to figure out your perfect mix of choice and enjoy the process drinking fabulous espresso whilst at it!
Onwards to grinding. A top quality shot of espresso requires a top quality grinder. And a quality grinder is measured by the radius and type of the discs that are used to grind the coffee beans. These can be made of metal, steel, titanium or they can be ceramic, and the price range varies accordingly.
Focus on purchasing a grinder with a bar diameter of 55 ml, and unless you attempt to grind stones with it, a simple but good automatic grinder should last you 1,000-1,200 kg or in other words a lifetime. You could also just buy a manual grinder!
Grinding to perfection, as with brewing, or with anything in life for that matter, is an art discovered through trial and error, and a good old fashioned ‘practice makes perfect’ approach. Grind a little too much or too little, and your espresso will not have captured the finest quality compounds stored in the beans. A simple rule of thumb would be: an espresso that run through to your cup in 25-30 seconds makes the best shot!
And lastly, the method of brewing. It takes a ratio of exactly 1:2 or some 15g of coffee to produce 30ml of espresso (a higher ratio of 1:3 will already be called a lungo and a lower ratio of 1:1 would be called ristretto). For the finest result, one must produce extraction pressure of 9 bar and a temperature of 93 degrees Celsius/ 200 Fahrenheit. Thankfully there are plenty of excellent equipment out there to produce these qualities exactly. From your average Nespresso machine for the lazy baristas out there to the sophisticated industrial grade automatic machines. But it is the simple lever machine which I suggest you opt for!
The lever machine is where the pleasures of manual production kick in. It will not burden the environment with plastic pollution like the Nespresso one-off capsules. It will allow you more choice of mixes of beans to choose from on your quest to perfection. And it will even fit in your suitcase(!). Also, just like with the grinder, if well kept, it should last you a near lifetime. And importantly, it will help you keep the price of each shot of the finest espresso to the absolute minimum.
With the lever machine you will separately boil your water. You will then pour the water via the funnel and manually press it to exactly 9 bar. And if the coffee runs to your cup in some 25 seconds or so, ring the bells, you just made your first award winning espresso!
Congratulations! You’ve just been promoted to Rich Ant Barista.