My coffee style and preference is pretty straight forward. I love manual soft brewing when I’m at home, I love espresso when I’m at work or out and about and a cheeky flat white here and there. To me brewing at home is about what can and can’t be achieved with the equipment you have available. I have a decent amount of manual brewing gear with an open eagerness to perfect my soft brews. But I’m pretty lucky in that I have access to both Slayer and La Marzocco espresso machines at work and I love taking advantage of that! So when the opportunity to use a superior domestic machine like The Little Guy came up, I obviously couldn’t turn it down.
I’ll openly admit to being frustrated when I first brewed on The Little Guy. With three plus years of barista experience, I thought it would be a walk In the park and I’d be banging out flat whites left, right and centre…. and that was my problem! My big head couldn’t seek to understand how The Little Guy works and functions before brewing on one – and how differently you need to brew compared to on commercial equipment. Just like learning to walk, you’re going to crawl first and then walk well before you run - and along the way you’re bound to fall or in my case fail. But before long I was running The Little Guy like a boss and drinking flat whites in my living room.
There are a couple of things to note when brewing on The Little Guy. The first one is choosing the right coffee to brew. I’ve played around with different roast types and found that a bold, delicious espresso roast works best. I’ve been brewing Padre Coffee’s DG Blend with awesome results, but that’s not to say you couldn’t brew a single origin roasted for espresso. Just be wise to select an appropriate origin that works well with milk and take that into account whilst brewing.
Next you need a good grinder that’s capable of producing a fine and even grind size, required for brewing quality espresso. Depending on your grinder you might have to dial it in to find that perfect grind size but it’s well worth the work at the end! The Little Guy has a commercial grade steam wand with a hell of a kick! Its pretty powerful, having one hole at the tip of the steam wand allows for a good burst of constant steam pressure for producing velvety milk. It takes time for the milk to reach the desirable temperature and it took me a while to find my groove but eventually I got it, and I tell you what, it’s a pretty good feeling when you do!
All in all I really enjoyed brewing with The Little Guy, it challenged me to think differently as it was the first time I’d brewed espresso at home. My morning coffee is a passion driven ritual of waking up and brewing a coffee and I can definitely see The Little Guy fitting into that picture of an awesome morning!
Q&A with Craig Hiron on The Little Guy
How did The Little Guy come about? What was the inspiration behind it?
I was looking for a product to manufacture, having had a successful roofing business prior to 4 years working in the film industry. I love business, but I didn’t love being on roofs and wanted a business that could be central to something I love… inclusive of food, wine and coffee, at home, or out.
The mandate was that I would feel excited to carry the product out of a store and when a friend suggested remaking the Atomic, it blew the lid off the criteria!
I was inspired by a decade of brewing on my Atomic, and knowing that on daily basis I was part of a movement of people who loved the craft and the ritual. It’s kooky but true that there’s a certain bond between Atomic users, and now between ‘friends of The Little Guy’.
What was the vision behind the design of the product?
I wanted to pay homage to a design icon - from an aesthetic standpoint – however, I wanted the output to be completely different. This required inventing an entirely new brewing system, then housing it in the original shape. It had to look like its predecessor, yet perform like a commercial espresso machine.
What’s your favourite aspect about The Little Guy?
Performance, closely followed by simplicity. Pardon me for sneaking two faves in there.
What has been the biggest learning curve in pursuing your goals for The Little Guy?
Sadly, my biggest lesson has been about build cost. The target market was international, however the cost of manufacturing something that’s truly handmade unfortunately precludes that kind of scale. It was a big learning curve, but no regrets; I’m stoked The Little Guy is made like a Rolex!
What coffee are you currently enjoying brewing?
I love full bodied espresso blends and medium roasted South American coffees. I’m a milk based coffee drinker, so I love a bigger full-bodied bean with good cut through.
What’s the next adventure/goal for brewing?
I’m currently working on a bottled beverage, combining coffee and fruit juice in a bottle… yes, it works! It’s pretty different brewing on a commercial scale after more than a decade of grinding only 25 grams at a time.
Charlie's The Little Guy Recipe!
1. I like to start by warming everything with some warm water. Cups, portafilter and the middle catcher. (This ensures that the temperature of the shot won’t drop dramatically whilst brewing).
2. Discard the water.
3. Twist the cap to open the boiling chamber and fill with filtered water until you reach the bottom line. This is usually around 210ml of water.
4. Grind 19.5 grams of coffee to a fine grind size suitable for espresso. I’ve been using setting 3A on my Baratza Preciso. Works a treat!
5. Fill the portafilter basket with the coffee and tamp down evenly to create a level puck of coffee.
6. Turn The Little guy induction on and set the manual mode to its highest setting of 5. Start your timer.
7. Does milk into a jug in preparation of steaming.
8. At 6:30 minutes you should begin to see some coffee brewing.
9. At 7:30 minuets you should have enough coffee for two single shots or one double shot. (I aim for 34 grams of brewed coffee out).
10. Remove the middle catcher and replace with another cup. The coffee will continue to brew and pour down, eventually a crackling sound indicates the brewing is ending - we don’t use this as we have already brewed our shot.
11. Using a scale if you’d like you can split that shot equally for two coffees.
12. Purge your steam wand and begin steaming your milk. (Pro Tip! I found turning The Little Guys back towards me gave me much better control over my steaming but warning! This guy gets hot so be careful in doing so!
13. Once you’re happy with the your velvety smooth milk and it’s temp you can turn the steam wand off.
14. Purge the steam wand once again and wipe clean. Turn off the induction top.
15. Now pour a double swan back to back, run a marathon and climb a mountain!