Author Archives: Peter Sullivan-Stark

10 STEPS TO FINDING THE PERFECT COFFEE

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10 Steps to finding the Perfect Coffee - from bean to cup!

10 Steps to finding the Perfect Coffee – from bean to cup!

10 STEPS TO FINDING THE PERFECT COFFEE – This guide will help you locate the best beans, grind them to perfection and produce the perfect cup of coffee. Of course its all down to personal taste…..

1. BEANS

The first step to finding your perfect coffee is to decide on your bean preference. The choice of coffee bean is limited to two variations Arabica and Robusta.

Arabica is considered as the finer bean (“with more complex sugars, yielding deeper, more interesting flavours”) and is grown at higher altitudes. The best Arabica beans are found between 4000 and 6000 feet. The second type of coffee bean is Robusta. It is more common and is grown at lower altitudes. It is considered a more inferior bean with less flavour, but is a higher yielding crop.

Most coffee brands will use a blend of Robusta with a lower percentage of Arabica.

+ 5000ft = Spicey, fruity and floral
+ 4000ft = Nutty, Chocolate, Citrus and Vanilla
+ 3000ft = Sweet and smooth
+ 2000ft = Simple, mild, soft, subtle

Arabica also contains less caffeine. In fact in the average 6 ounce cup Arabica contains between 75 and 130mg compared to Robusta 140 – 200mg. For Arabica to “punch” through milk, it needs a deeper flavour and usually needs to be roasted quite dark. This makes a very oily bean.

2. ALL ABOUT THE ROAST

Arabica contains less caffeine than Robusta. In fact in the average 6 ounce cup Arabica contains between 75 and 130mg compared to Robusta 140 – 200mg.

In the same manner that fermentation time and the grape type determines the flavour of wine, the bean and the way it is roasted will determine the flavour of the coffee. Inconsistent, under or over roasting can make even the best bean taste bad. For Arabica to “punch” through milk, it needs a deeper flavour and usually needs to be roasted quite dark. This makes a very oily bean.

3. THOSE PERISHING BEANS

Coffee shops are used to high throughputs and purchase beans in high quantities, usually 1Kg vending packs to fill professional bean to cup machine hoppers. If you are buying beans for personal usage, then it may be wiser to purchase smaller bags and only purchase what you would need in a week. Coffee beans do not like fresh air and will start to perish through oxidisation. This will make them stale and less flavoursome. You should aim to use your beans within 48 hours of opening them.

4. LOOK AFTER YOUR BEANS

We have heard many ways to store fresh beans and even on the packets it often says keep refrigerated. However this does tend to make the beans more brittle and could result in a poor cup of coffee and damaged bean grinders. Coffee beans should be kept in an airtight container, away from light and heat. Coffee can also pick up oders or moisture from refrigerators or freezing and this will alter the flavour, leading to stale and unpleasant cup of coffee.

5. CLEAN MACHINES MEANS NICE TASTING BEANS

After each use you should wash out your caffetiere, carafe or pot. This will remove the sik of contamination through coffee oils and sediments. These have a habit of settling at the bottom of the pot and can build up leading to a bitter tasting cup of coffee.

6. COFFEE AND THE DAILY GRIND

So you have the finest beans, the nicest water but the next step in the process to ensure a great tasting coffee is the grinding. The difference between coarse and fine grinds can affect the bean flavour and also the effectiveness of the extraction.

Grind guide:

5 – 10 Seconds: Coarse – percolators
10 Seconds: Medium – French presses
15 Seconds: Fine – vacuum
25 – 30 Seconds: Extra Fine – for espresso machines

7. COFFEE TO WATER

If you are lucky and have a bean to cup machine, then you can just relax. For other non-automatic machines here is a little tip. We suggest using around 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every 6oz of water. The ideal brewing time should be around 4 – 6 minutes, any longer than 6 minutes may leave your coffee tasting bitter!

6. FRESH COLD WATER

Apart from your beans the most important ingredient is water. If you are making your coffee first thing in the morning remember to run your cold tap for a bit. This will ensure you are using nice and fresh cold water, free from odours and iron flavours. Try to avoid using distilled or softened water.

9. ADDING WATER TO COFFEE GROUNDS

To ensure all this effort hasn’t been wasted you need to ensure the water temperature being poured through your grounds is very hot, but not boiling hot! Ideally the temperature needs to be between 190 – 200 degrees.

10. DON’T WASTE THE TASTE

Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy that lovely cup of coffee. But don’t leave it too long otherwise you will have wasted all that effort. To ensure you get to enjoy the most from your cup of coffee you should drink it within 30 minutes of brewing it. If you are on the go, then a good quality thermos will retain the flavours and allow you to enjoy it at your leisure.

We hope you enjoy your perfect cup of coffee, please let us know what brand and blend you like…

5 Must Get Productivity Apps for Business

Posted in Office Management, Office Motivation, Well Being at Work on by .

Productivity Apps

5 Must Get Productivity Apps

Perk up your work with these 5 Must Get Productivity Apps for Business…

When searching for an app which will benefit your business and ultimately make your life easier, the sheer number available can be overwhelming. Facing so much choice can be off putting, and what starts out as a task designed to save you time and effort in the long run, can actually turn into an uphill struggle which can put you off completely.

Never fear, we have done the donkey work, and sifted through the hundreds of apps available to bring you our top five productivity apps which are guaranteed to make your working life easier!

1.Evernote

Evernote gives you the ability to create digital notebooks for everything from managing your calendar and keeping track of your expenses to creating presentations. In order to take full advantage of everything this innovative app has to offer, add lots of notebooks, for example take pictures on your smart phone of notes you have jotted down during meetings, add them to a notebook and they will be easily accessible at a later date. Gone will be the days when you would have been frantically searching your desk drawers for that scrap of paper with all those important scribbling jotted on it. You can be smug in the knowledge that those oh so important notes are safely stored in your digital notebook! Thanks Evernote!

https://evernote.com/download/

2.Letterspace

Letterspace is a fantastic note taking app which utilizes hashtags to organise your scribblings into a streamlined, easy to use interface. Superior editing features also make this a must for people in business. Antiquated shorthand will be a thing of the past with this clever app. Letterspace we salute you! #brilliant!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/letterspace-swipe.-edit.-note./id879516377?mt=8

3.Humin

Humin, an indispensable networking app allows you to keep track of business contacts and connections. It remembers details such as how and where you met somebody, which means you don’t have to worry about remembering these details at a later date, or suffer an excruciatingly embarrassing meeting with a business contact who you ought to know but you just can’t quite remember why!

Humin also combines your contacts, dialing and voicemail in order to work out who your most important contacts are. Indispensable!

https://humin.com/products/humin/

4.1Password

It has never been more important to protect your passwords and keep login details secure when there seems to be increasingly regular data leaks. 1Password is an absolute must have as it manages your web logins and other sensitive information in an incredibly user friendly package. This app will take away security anxiety and ensure that if you experience password amnesia you won’t have to go through the laborious task of resetting your login details.

https://1password.com/

5.bambam!

bambam! Is an excellent project managing app which we think ranks among the best in its field.

We like this project management tool because it doesn’t have the complicated interface you get with the likes of MS Project. bambam is self-intuitive and has some great features that allow users to connect and share their project information, send messages to team members, upload files, track project timelines and basically collaborate better.

bambam is quick and easy to set up and is low cost. The flexibility and customisation functions are great. You really are in control of your projects with bambam and we particularly liked the instant messaging – allowing you to touch base on projects and share ideas.

https://www.dobambam.com/

How to Build Better Customer Relationships

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Build Better Customer Relations

Build Better Customer Relations

Ever wondered how to build better customer relationships, well here’s 5 invaluable tips…

When it comes to building a successful and profitable business, making and maintaining good customer relationships is absolutely key. Forging excellent customer connections now will pay dividends in the future when your company receives recommendations and new business as a result of past positive interactions.

Consult our guide below to inspire you and your colleagues to strive for and benefit from developing good customer relations.

  1. Network, network and network some more!

    Good networking is crucial in business and developing and constantly creating new networks is a long term investment that requires hard work. Any contacts you have could be potential clients or lead you to new customers. Therefore your network could include anybody from existing colleagues right through to family friends and everyone in between. Adding value to relationships with your contacts will pay off and lead to business.

  2. Positive and frequent communication.

    Following on from the need to network, it is crucial for any thriving business to realise that in order to reap maximum reward from your network, communication has to be a regular thing. Customers, potential or existing won’t remember you next time if you fail to follow up after initial contact. It is imperative to stand out from your competitors so that when for example a contact is in need of what your business sells they remember you and what you have to offer. This can be achieved by sending out frequent newsletters for example, or by having regular events which these contacts can attend.

  3. E-mail Campaigns are cheap and effective.

    E-mail marketing is an extremely cost effective way of maintaining contact with your customers. For just a few pence per customer you can send news letters or carefully targeted campaigns that will ensure you stay fresh in their minds. For even better results, also use social media to engage your customers. Using social media is an excellent way to encourage and achieve regular interactions with consumers. The key to the success of having a strong social media presence as a business is that customers feel that they are having a more personal and two way relationship with you, so do invest in this.

  4. Reward loyal customers.

    Studies in business show that the most profitable customers are repeat customers. It is essential that as a business you ensure you are doing enough to encourage repeat business. To facilitate this you should stay in touch and offer something in return for their time and custom. Consider creating a loyalty scheme or organise events for existing customers to attend where they are made to feel valued. Be aware that if you fail to keep in touch with past and existing clients a competitor will!

  5. Happy customers make excellent salespeople on your behalf.

    If a customer is happy with your business and you have given them a great customer experience they are highly likely to sing your praises and recommend you to new and potential customers. These new customers will have been effectively generated for free meaning that time and energy invested in developing positive relationships is time well spent.

Remember – it is easier to look after your existing clients than to win new ones!

7 Healthy Snacks to Eat at Your Desk

Posted in Office Motivation on by .

healthy-office-snacksWhen those mid-morning hunger pangs strike, or you start suffering from the inevitable afternoon slump, do you reach for a healthy snack to sustain and nourish you, or do you gorge on sugary food and drinks for that quick sugar high which is then quickly followed by another slump in energy? Making wise snack choices whilst at work not only gives us a sustained energy boost, they can also help concentration and focus whilst also contributing to a healthy diet in general. Try our suggestions below for healthy snacks to eat at your desk for some energy and mood boosting not to mention tasty snacks.

1. A handful of almonds

Almonds really do pack a powerful nutritional punch. Not only are they a fantastic source of protein, they are also a source of healthy fat. They amazingly contain nine essential nutrients and are rich in Vitamin E. In fact, when compared to other nuts, Almonds contain the most protein and fibre. Thankfully they are tasty too!

2. Hummus with raw vegetables to dip

The humble chickpea, the main ingredient in traditional hummus certainly isn’t humble when it comes to its nutritional credentials! Chickpeas are a great source of calcium, iron, protein and fibre and as a consequence prevent blood sugar levels from rising to rapidly. Adding a variety of raw vegetables to dip only increases the benefits and taste of this option.

3. Yogurt

Although sadly many yogurts available on supermarket shelves are crammed full of sugar these days, natural unsweetened yogurt is a great option for a daytime snack. Natural yogurt contains good bacteria and probiotics which promotes gut health and a healthy digestive system. Natural yogurt also contains protein, calcium, vitamins, potassium and magnesium. What’s not to like!?

4. Apples and peanut butter

This may sound like an odd combination but give it a go-it’s delicious. The apple provides carbohydrates and fibre for a sustained energy release, whilst the peanut butter delivers healthy monounsaturated fat and protein which further controls spikes in blood sugar. Make sure for maximum health benefits that you pick unsweetened peanut butter such as Whole Earth award winning peanut butter. Yum!

5. A handful of mixed seeds

Brain boosting pumpkin seeds contain high levels of healthy unsaturated fat and are an excellent source of Omega-3 fats making them a great option for those who don’t regularly eat oily fish. They also provide heart healthy magnesium and immune boosting zinc. These powerful seeds certainly shouldn’t just be for Halloween only! Flax seeds are an excellent food to boost your fibre intake. They are also high in Omega-3. Recent studies suggest that consuming these wonder seeds can aid in keeping blood pressure within safe limits. Sunflower seeds are inexpensive yet still contain high levels of healthy fats and minerals such as magnesium, copper and manganese. Sunflower seeds also contain high levels of naturally occurring Vitamin E; a powerful antioxidant.

6. A healthy energy bar

We are certainly not advocating running out and buying just any old snack bar. As with yogurts above, the nutritional benefits of many of these bars are cancelled out by the amount of sugar that has been added. But if you look carefully, there are a new breed of bar available which not only taste great but also offer a guiltless boost to your diet. Look out for ‘Nakd Bars’ available at most supermarkets. Consisting of just raw fruits and nuts, these delicious bars offer excellent dietary benefits and also provide you with one of your five a day! Check out their website: www.naturalbalancefoods.co.uk

7. Chocolate

No, you’re not dreaming! If eaten in moderation, dark chocolate can provide many health benefits; It is a powerful antioxidant which is packed full of beneficial minerals such as iron, zinc and selenium. Studies have shown that cocoa consumption (aim to eat chocolate that has a minimum of 70% cocoa solids to really reap the rewards), can lower ‘bad’ cholesterol whilst raising the levels of ‘good’ cholesterol in your blood which means potentially lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease. Chocolate is also good for the brain (this just gets better and better). Chocolate contains flavanols which are linked with a reduction of memory loss in older people and dark chocolate is also thought to encourage feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Go on treat yourself to a square or three! If this all sounds too good to be true, don’t take our word for it, read this article…http://www.telegraph.co.uk/food-and-drink/healthy-eating/chocolate-10-health-reasons-you-should-eat-more-of-it/

-Things to do mug - be time efficient

8 ways to be more time efficient

Be more time efficient – Stop trying to multi-task!

In order to prove just how time efficient and competent they are many people practice the art of multi-tasking. This often leads to outcomes that are the very opposite of what they were at the time. The majority will end up being less efficient and the quality of what the person has produced suffers. The truly time efficient know that concentrated focus on one project at a time yields faster and more satisfactory work.

 

Delegate delegate delegate!

If people bite off more than they can chew, productivity and efficiency take a huge hit. The uber efficient know when to delegate and who to delegate to in order to achieve the aims of the task in hand.

 

Good communication is key.

It is important before communicating to consider what the objectives are for the interaction and also to communicate effectively so that there is no confusion about the subject. For example before you send an e-mail consider how it can be worded to convey your intentions succinctly and politely. A little thought before you pick up the phone or hit send can save hours being lost if all you’ve achieved is to cause confusion or offence.

 

Structure your time.

In order to achieve a disciplined approach to your schedule create standard routines to stick to within each day. This will help you be ready for important events and gain control over projects. The more control you have over your schedule the easier it will be to cope with the unexpected when it arises. Control your time, don’t let it control you!

 

Organise your physical space.

Ensure that your workspace is organised and that everything has its place. Organisation is key if you want to avoid situations where you lose precious minutes every day trying to hunt down essential equipment for you to complete tasks. Spending time decluttering your desk and finding everything a home will save you significant time in the future.

 

Keep a productivity diary.

Try keeping a diary for a week which logs how long it takes you to do specific activities and also note down time that for whatever reason hasn’t been productive. Then the following week try to reduce time spent on similar activities, just being aware of what can potentially hold you back or distract you can yield large efficiency gains.

 

Do engage in downtime.

It is a fallacy to sacrifice your own leisure time in order to accomplish more at work. We know now that overly tired stressed out people are not as competent or efficient as their rested relaxed counterparts. A well-rested person will perform at their peak which is a win win for everyone.

 

Plan plan and plan some more.

When given a project many people in a bid to be efficient practise the art of impatience and completely fail to plan their objectives and how to tackle the task. Super-efficient people research the project and break it down into small steps in order to achieve success . This planning may require time at the beginning of a new assignment but it will be worth it to have clear objectives and a pathway to success clearly mapped out.