This (iL) Soigneur coffee is well-balanced and full-bodied – just right for a pre-ride espresso or two.
Last year we reviewed an (iL) Soigneur musette; the Bristol-based brand is already stocked by some of the UK's hippest cycle shops, including Tokyo Fixed, Condor and Freshtripe and has been quietly re-establishing the musette as a required accessory for the cycling gentleman- or lady-about-town. (iL) Soigneur recently signed up with Saddleback as a distributor and with things looking rosy, Dene Percy, the main man at (iL) Soigneur has taken the slightly unexpected step of moving into hot drinks.
Here at road.cc we can't help but agree that cycling and coffee go well together, and so when Dene sent some of his coffee and tea over, we got stuck right in. The coffee is available both as beans and pre-ground, both made up of a blend of beans from Sumatra and Brazil with 10% Monsooned Malabar from India, locally roasted and packed in smart, lined paper bags which have the advantage of a proper resealable top (akin to what you get with your strong cheddar cheese).
It's been a while since we did any coffee grinding and so a degree of creativity was needed to make up for our limited cafe equipment. Dave opted for the hand blender, which would be frowned upon by any coffee aficionado, whereas I at least own a real burr grinder, of the human-powered variety. I'd forgotten, however, how much cranking was needed for each brew, and quickly got fed up doing it by hand. The addition of a cordless drill made things much easier.
Dene's beans (we think there may be an advertising slogan right there) have a good, earthy aroma in the bag and are notably shiny, indicative of a French- or Italian-style full espresso roast. The oils that produce this shine are what gives coffee much of its flavour and are also responsible for the crema that you get on an espresso.
The ground coffee is supplied fairly coarse, which is well-suited to the cafetiere and domestic coffee machines. We called on one of our favourite local cafes, Java for the views of a real coffee obsessive, Kevin. The first attempt, using (iL) Soigneur ground coffee, was not a total success.
Kevin explained that the grind was not nearly fine enough for a pro machine, with the result that the water passed through too quickly and the coffee didn't give up enough of its oils. It didn't taste bad to us, but Kevin is something of a perfectionist. Emptying his grinder of his own blend, he ground our beans to his liking and made a very good espresso. In a back-to-back espresso comparison with Java's house blend (which is particularly potent), it was evident that (iL) Soigneur coffee couldn't match the concentration of flavour, but nonetheless made a damn fine cup, perhaps better suited to pre-ride drinking (when really full-flavoured coffee can leave your mouth parched).
Back home, we really liked using (iL) Soigneur ground coffee with our cafetiere. Here the coarser grind is spot on - if it is too fine then the plunger will clog. We also tried using a stove-top moka pot which worked well with both the pre-ground coffee and the coffee we ground ourselves - producing a good flavour without the bitterness which it is often hard to avoid with a moka.
The coffee is priced at £5.50 for 250g, either as beans or ground, and can be ordered by emailing (iL) Soigneur directly (firstname.lastname@example.org). The prices puts it in line with top-end supermarket coffee and other small-production gourmet coffees.
The choice of formats is an astute one - those lucky enough to own a pro coffee machine are likely to prefer to grind themselves and hence can adjust to suit their tastes, whereas the pre-ground is just about right for those making coffee with a cafetierre or stove-top pot.
Well-balanced and full-bodied coffee that's just right for a pre-ride espresso or two for those that take their coffee drinking seriously
road.cc test report
Make and model: (iL) Soigneur Coffee
Size tested: 250g beans
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
(iL) Soigneur are in the process of revamping their site and product range. They now have some nice, locally roasted coffee available in 250g packs either ground or in bean form for £5.50 and during January 2012 that includes free P&P. In the short term, you can order a pack from Dene direct by contacting him at email@example.com.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
60% Sumatra Lintong, PPKGP Co-operative, fair-trade organic
30% Brazil Santos, Minas Gerais
10% Monsooned Malabar, Malabar Coast, India
Available (fairly coarsely) ground or as beans.
The pre-ground worked well in a cafetierre, less so in a "proper" machine. Grinding the beans made a fine espresso complete with good crema.
You can get passable coffee in the supermarket for under £3 a bag; you may or may not be willing to pay nearly double for this coffee... Much like a £2k road bike will be perceived by some as a ludicrous extravagance and by others as a bargain, or indeed as with bikes beyond a certain price point you get a diminishing performance return on your investment. On the other hand you could easily pay this sort of money and more for beans or ground in a coffee shop.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
I got more flavour from our cafetierre than with our usual (Sainsburys Continental), and markedly less bitterness from our moka. The bag's good too - no faffing around with those tabs that never work, just a simple closure that works.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes - it was a good excuse to invent a new way of grinding beans and to drink a lot of coffee.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, but more likely as a gift than for day-to-day consumption.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Sure
About the tester
Age: 33 Height: 6 Weight: 81kg
I usually ride: Boardman hybrid for the daily commute My best bike is: Fixed-conversion Eddy Merckx MX-Leader
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.