LYNDA.COM – Are YOU Certified Yet?

So, are you certified yet? No, I don’t mean certifiable, either! LOL.


Autodesk offer a whole range of professional qualifications when it comes to their software. You can be an Autodesk Certified Professional in AutoCAD, for example. I am Certified in both AutoCAD and Revit Architecture. Autodesk provide examinations to get these Certifications and they reflect on your professional standing. The Professional certification assesses a user’s skills and knowledge of tools and features and common tasks performed in each of the Autodesk products.

As of February 2016, all Certified Professional examinations will be delivered by Certiport ( via their web-based examination portal. Certiport offer all Certified Professionals digital badges for each respective qualification. The digital badges are web-enabled versions of the Professional qualification that give the user the ability to share their skills online in a way that is simple, trusted and can be easily verified in real time, by clicking on the badge in an email signature or on social media, such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

Autodesk certifications are now some of the most requested qualifications by employers when searching for staff online. So the digital badge makes it easy for a potential employer to check out a Certified Professional’s ability with their respective Autodesk product. All they have to do is click on the digital badge to learn more about the user’s Autodesk skills. For example, the AutoCAD Certified Professional status demonstrates knowledge of dimensioning, basic drawing skills, using hatching and gradients, and more.

My course on, the AutoCAD Certified Professional Prep course, allows you to work through topics that enhance your existing AutoCAD skillset and assist you in preparing for your AutoCAD Certified Professional examination.

Check out the course here…..



LYNDA.COM – Using the Command Line in AutoCAD

So there I was using WhatsApp to send a quick message to a colleague today, and I suddenly thought how much we use command lines, text boxes and prompts when we are using social media, especially when using communication tools such as LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter from a smartphone or a tablet (or if you are really geeky, a phablet – you will understand if you are geeky enough, right?).

This got me thinking about how often I still use the command line in AutoCAD as well. I am a seasoned AutoCAD user with (now in 2016) twenty-seven years experience of Autodesk’s flagship product (I started on AutoCAD R10 for DOS – remember those five and a quarter inch floppy disks?). Now, I STILL use the command line. I still type certain commands and use keyboard shortcuts, due to my old DOS-based AutoCAD habits, and the AutoCAD command line is still there, still being the old faithful, ready and waiting to be used, even in the latest version of AutoCAD.

So, when you have a moment, check out that AutoCAD command line. It has a lot more to offer than you might think. Maybe use my course, Using the Command Line in AutoCAD, to discover some shortcuts and workarounds that will make you just that bit more productive at work. Who knows? You might even impress the boss or become AutoCAD guru for the day in the office!

LYNDA.COM link – Using the Command Line in AutoCAD


AU2015 – Ten Questions

Scott Pawlowski, Chief of Cultural and Natural Resources, WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument


(Scott Pawlowski on right of picture)

Autodesk University (AU) is a place to network and meet fellow peers and new people who work in the Autodesk world. I had the chance to meet Scott Pawlowski at the AutoCAD Blogger Social at AU2015 this year. The Autodesk Special Projects Team, which includes Pete Kelsey and Shaan Hurley worked with Scott to develop a full 3D digital model of the USS Arizona, one of the first ships to be sunk in Pearl Harbor on the island of Hawaii in WWII. We were privileged to see an amazing 3D print of the USS Arizona at the Blogger Social. The USS Arizona is an official WWII war grave and many technical, social and cultural considerations had to be taken in to account when the 3D surveying work was done by the team, which was mainly conducted under the surface of the waters of Pearl Harbor itself.

  1. What is your name and what role do you perform?

My name is Scott Pawlowski and I am Chief of Cultural and Natural Resources in the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument (VALR). That is a polite title which describes that I look after cultural heritage and scientific research at VALR for the National Park Service.

  1. What is a typical day for you?

Pretty much every day is a new day and I get to work on anything from chewing pencils whilst filling out reports for program managers in the region to leading the park dive team. I also have to maintain my dive qualifications, as well as keep the ship looking good. Any day might include figuring out how to pay for preserving our nation’s cultural heritage in the national monument, or deciding which research focus is most needed for managing effectively. I often meet with donors who give family heirlooms to the national monument museum collection. The other day we were testing ROV equipment to image the ship better and we found that the entire electrics in the dock were not wired properly so we had to troubleshoot the system! It’s a very diverse position.

  1. Do you feel a sense of pride in all that you do?

Absolutely. In this place it is important to get everything right, rendering honor to those who perished and to those who think about them; families, friends and colleagues. It is great to get feedback, good or bad, when you are dealing with the memory of people who lived and died for their country. It is a great responsibility and knowing that you get it right, by the type of feedback we receive, gives a great sense of pride.

  1. How do you get to work each day?

Through the traffic, just like everyone else….in the party wagon, my late model Honda Civic, sometimes watching construction of the light rail system here on Hawaii.

  1. What (if any) Autodesk software do you use?

Almost exclusively, I use Autodesk Infrastructure Design Suite (IDS), but I am learning everything else like 123D Catch and 3ds Max. We also have a contractor using the Unity game engine for modeling and a touch of Autodesk Memento. To test the efficacy of the Autodesk software, we use CloudCompare as a counter point to see how accurate the Autodesk point clouds are.

  1. Name a project very close to your heart and why do you hold it in such high regard?

The USS Arizona digital check-up project is one of my most professionally enriching projects because of the partnerships with the fifteen project partners including Autodesk, the US Navy and US Coastguard, all helping over 1.7 million visitors understand what the resource is like here today. To herd fifteen different cats for a common goal valuable to our nation is pretty cool.

  1. Is your role challenging and if so, why?

It is challenging but in a positive way because the work requires both creativity and a lot of humanities, scientific and engineering background to get the day done. It’s nice to be in a profession where you get to think creatively a lot also.

  1. Name a group of people you have loved working with.

Working in Pearl Harbour for the last nine years has been really rewarding because of the number or really high quality people you get to work with, such as the Mobile Dive Salvage Unit One in Pearl Harbor and the 14th District Coastguard folks as well as other military units. However, Autodesk staff have also been spectacular to work with at the same level as all the other groups. That has been the cherry on the top of the sundae. I recently had the chance to say that to Carl Bass and anyone else who will listen to me.

  1. Do you have any habits or superstitions that you always stick to?

First thing in the morning, I try to sit down and be introspective about what I am going to do for the day. I also frequently clear my emergency regulator on my dive rig, but that is another necessary habit.

  1. Where would you like to be in ten year’s time?

Sitting on a beach in the Bahamas, in the Exuma Cays near Georgetown!

I would like to thank Scott for his precious time and patience on a mobile phone call from Hawaii to Glasgow (where I was working in my hotel room) as we went through the interview. The line was sketchy at best but we got through it! I have watched the USS Arizona project with interest from day one, and I have to say that the dedication and the ambition of all involved was incredible. The ship is a national monument to a war that decided our way of life as it is today, and the maintenance of the ship is imperative to ensure that it remains there for many more years for people to see and understand the sacrifice of all who served on her on that fateful day.

You can find more information using the links below: –


AU2015 – In the land of Lost Wages

So here I am again. Autodesk University 2015 (#AU2015) in the land of Lost Wages, or as it says on the map, Las Vegas. The land of beautiful sunrises, bright lights and an excess of crazy entertainment. And, you can gamble to your hearts content too.

Well, all of that aside, I am here attending Autodesk University (AU) again and I just want to impart my knowledge and experiences from AU to you, ranging from the opening keynote from Carl Bass to my thoughts on the AU event this year.

The first big event at AU is always the opening keynote from the head honcho over at Autodesk, Inc. Entering the keynote was like entering an Ibiza nightclub, with throbbing techno beats and mixes of chart hits. A big nightclub for the Autodesk nerds and geeks, you might say, with DJ’s doing their thing on the decks, under the bright lights.

Various sponsor ads adorned the big screens, including ads for AU sponsors such as Amazon Web Services, Lenovo and HP, along with an ad for Microsoft HoloLens from Autodesk VP, Lisa Campbell. You could book sessions with the HoloLens at AU, but these were booked up thick and fast from day one!

As I am sure you all know, the opening of the new Star Wars movie is upon us. The music in the arena changed to a jazzy Star Wars theme tune and out marched numerous Stormtroopers, escorting Autodesk darling and Technical Evangelist, Lynn Allen to the stage, ready to open the key note. As Donnie Gladfelter (The CAD Geek – quoted, she managed to outnerd 10,000 nerds. Check out the video on my Flickr account here:

As usual, Lynn introduced Carl Bass (CEO – Autodesk, Inc.) and thus the keynote began, which sets the theme of AU each year. Carl began with a company who have developed and created “dovetail” structural steel joints, followed by how amazing the new Apple HQ will be in Cupertino, CA, which has been designed by a well-known British architect, Norman Foster ( The Apple HQ is being built using pre-fabricated concrete panels which are ALL catalogued and monitored, even the ones in the car park! All using new and emerging technologies, where building and manufacturing are converging.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is beginning to get bigger, with machines diagnosing and repairing themselves. Bass talked of his experiences of getting his noisy lathe diagnosed with a smartphone strapped to it inside a ZipLok bag. His point was that it would be great if machines could listen to themselves and the diagnose the problem and fix themselves.

Bass continued to discuss the drought of talented people who think innovatively and in a certain way, and how to recruit those people. Bass used an example of drinks bars being available in the Facebook HQ on each floor. He said he found it odd that Facebook needed these kind of enticements to get staff and wondered if this was the best way to get people working for you.

Bass then went on to highlight some of the amazing projects that some of the Autodesk interns have worked on in the last year and how they wanted to work on things that mattered, instead of having the incentive of a drinks bar on each floor. The old way or recruiting is changing. Free food is not the big sell anymore, people want to work for companies who offer them the opportunities to work with passion and create their best work.

Bass then hands the stage to Andrew McAfee (MIT) who discusses what have been the most important developments in human history. Imagine that as a dinner party question at a dinner party full of geeks. What does the geek say?

The geek would turn the timeline in to a graph, and from that we can extrapolate that nothing has affected human development as much as the technology story and path. But what about the consequences? Trees cut down, killing whales, using children in factories….

McAfee went on to talk about a book by William S Jevons called The Coal Question, which raised the question of being healthier and wealthier, but the population was exploding. So innovation kicked in and what happened? As we moved forward, we used concrete instead of wood, kerosene instead of oil. This is known as dematerialization, where we are now past the point of peak use of raw materials, which is now a “profound trend”. We are now moving with large scale computerization to dematerialize with the investment in software and equipment going up year upon year. There is a bottomless quest for software and code to create more environmentally sustainable buildings using Autodesk software.

McAfee quoted that we have two remaining challenges: –

  1. Stop cooking the planet to avoid climate change
  2. The labour force is now doing less and less due to technology

These are important changes where we are seeing corporate profits going up and salaries going down, with the labour share of income getting lower and lower.

McAfee then went on to use two famous quotes to end his session; one from Winston Churchill in 1949 just after World War II and another from Freeman Dyson.

Jeff Kowalski (CTO – Autodesk, Inc.) then took the stage. His first quote was that in the next twenty years we will have more change than in the last 2,000 years with the next age being the AUGMENTED age, with computation systems that help, make, work and think. Tools we use will move from PASSIVE to GENERATIVE, using algorithms to develop many design ideas at once. He used the example of a panel design used for aircrew seating in an Airbus aircraft, that used generative design. It is changing aircrew seating by designing a lighter, stronger panel that saves 500,000 tonnes of steel in weight, thus reducing aircraft emissions to the equivalent of having 96,000 less cars on the road.

Kowalski then went on to state that we would start to use INTUITIVE design tools, such as advanced machine learning systems that remember and use patterns. They would then also be EMPATHIC by working with us, remembering our preferences. Kowalski closed with the example of Bishop, an Autodesk robot in the Autodesk Applied Sciences Lab, developing HIVE, a pavilion that is being designed by both human and robot, which was an exhibit at AU2015 this year.

Kowalski then handed the stage to what was to be a presentation that I, personally, found to be both amazing and inspirational. Dr Hugh Herr (MIT) builds prosthetic body parts. He is the most incredible human being. He lost his legs to frostbite when mountain climbing and after surgery, he asked if he would ever climb again. He was told no, so against all odds, he began to develop a set of new, bionic legs that would allow him to climb again.


As Herr quoted, he used technology to heal himself and rehabilitate to the point where he is now actively climbing again using a set of bionic legs he has developed in the incredible field of bionics. Herr’s story is as inspiring as it is amazing, both with the human story and the incredible use of technology where he is using nano mapping of the brain and the body to develop robots to measure the body and design bespoke bionic body parts of each individual. As Herr quoted, without technology, he is a cripple, but with technology, he is free.

Kowalski then took the stage again, commenting on how we are now designing a nervous system connecting us to the objects around us; buildings, toys, cars. He used a humourous example of the drinks and snacks provided in Las Vegas hotel rooms where if you moved an item, the sensor under it charged it to your room. And speaking of Vegas hotels, housekeeping arriving at the wrong time. Maybe a sensor should be designed to let housekeeping know that you need privacy, such as when the shower is in use or when you are asleep, instead of the usual “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door handle. What sort of waving action should be used for a paper towel dispenser? Kowalski demonstrated, much to the amusement of his audience. Kowalski went on to talk about web designers designing down to pixel size and imagining that kind of information coming to you as a user of technology. Kowalski then went on to quote that we should be making “stuff that people want”.

Kowalski’s closing example of the use of technology was Bandito Bros, a crazy car company who develop cars that jump huge distances and loop the loop in real life, in the same way that our Hot Wheels used to when we were children. They are working with Autodesk, developing an intelligent car with a nervous system, calculating every move a car makes. The information gained allowed a generative car chassis to be developed and manufactured using Autodesk Dreamcatcher.

Kowalski closed the session with the quote:

The future….the AUGMENTED age”.

As always, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at AU this year. It is a time to learn, network and meet old friends and make new ones. A high point for me was the Blogger Social held by Shaan Hurley (Autodesk, Inc.). This year we were treated to a 3D print of the USS Arizona that was sunk in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, in WW2. This was an Autodesk special project headed up by Pete Kelsey (Autodesk, Inc.) in conjunction with the US National Parks Service where LIDAR, photogrammetry and reality capture were used to create a 3D model of the sunken ship in order to monitor and maintain it. You can check out Shaan Hurley’s blog, Between The Lines, where he writes about the project here:

Another great moment was the Autodesk User Group International (AUGI) Annual General Meeting (AGM). As a serving Director on the Board of Directors for AUGI, I can safely say that the organisation is very close to my heart, and this year, the presentation excelled with the use of Bob Bell’s lightsabre, combined with Kate “Leia” Morrical and Curt “Obi Wan” Moreno. The nerd humour in that half an hour made my AU. Total nerd humour at its best.

If you are yet to become an AUGI member, why not sign up? Just head on over to, and sign up for the Basic membership. It’s free forever and if you like it, consider a paid Premier ($25/annum) or Professional ($100/annum) membership later on to gain even more AUGI benefits such as the printed version of AUGIWorld magazine as a Professional AUGI member.

This was my ninth AU, and I have to say that whilst the Vegas lights and dry desert air can be somewhat intolerable at times (make sure you get a humidifier for your hotel room), the people attending more than make up for it. You can learn what you need from world class speakers, socialise with Autodesk rock stars such as Lynn Allen and Shaan Hurley and, most importantly, make contacts that often will stay with you for the rest of your working lifetime. I have made friendships at AU that, whilst based on a professional standing, will be friends for life. These are people that share my nerd humour and have become people that you can talk to about all things Autodesk, but can also share a beer or a coffee with as well.


Another little bonus this year was the chance to jam with some of my Autodesk muso buddies too. On the Tuesday night of AU, we hopped out to the city limits to a small rehearsal space to crash out some tunage. We had the remarkable talents of Teresa, Casey, Anthony, Brian, Robert, Steve and Guillermo, plus myself, and we had a blast kicking out some classic rock tunes. My highlight of the night was performing lead vocal to ZZ Top’s Sharp Dressed Man…..

So, now back in the cold, grey UK, I do miss the bright lights of Vegas, but not for the same reasons some people do. I miss the Autodesk camaraderie, the nerd humour and the buzz of being in a place where approximately 10,000 other Autodesk nerds get together to learn, network and share (and maybe, just maybe, grab a beer or two!).

I have set up a Flickr account to upload all of my photos from AU, so check them out here.

Autodesk University Las Vegas 2016 will be held at The Venetian Hotel and Casino between November 15 – 17, 2016. So save the dates in your diaries!

Happy CADD’ing!



To Arial or not to Arial…..that is the question….

(or how to choose a good font for CAD & BIM)

So, the new role at Farrells is ticking away and, I have to say, I am enjoying the challenge.

One of the discussion points in the project team I am in is what font to use. And, more importantly, should it be company-specific, or project-specific, or something else or something else, and so on, ad nauseum.

So I took it upon myself to search Google with the search criteria, “Best fonts for use in Revit” and I was blown away by the amount of discussion that goes on about this, and how much of a bone of contention fonts in CAD and BIM actually are.

We have the old school aficionados who still love the architectural style fonts. We have the young turks who want to utilise the up-to-date TrueType fonts and we have the “if it works, don’t fix it” crew who think that RomanS (an old AutoCAD SHX shape code font) is the way to go.

So, what EXACTLY is the best way to go with fonts? Which one do you use? Which one do you standardise on? Well, the answer is this. YOU decide. You decide on which one you want. You then have to implement it in to your CAD and BIM installed software. Now, Revit ships with Arial as the default font, and I have to say that, I find Arial perfectly adequate for my needs. The problem with Revit, is that if you do want to change the font, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, has to be updated. Your families, hosted families, component families and system families need to be updated.

Then, there is the decision on what TYPE of font to use. Typically, you SHOULD use a TrueType (TT) font. These are the fonts that tend to be in your Windows installation, unless any bespoke TrueType fonts have been created and this is probably the most important decision as Revit supports ANSI (the American National Standards Institute) and most TrueType fonts are ANSI fonts.

So why should you use a TrueType font that is ANSI supported? Easy. All ANSI fonts have a specific Character Map that allows for the use of symbols. How many of you need a copyright symbol on your designs? Did you know that if you hold down Alt+0169, you automatically get the copyright symbol in your current TrueType (ANSI) font? Older style fonts such as RomanS (the old SHX shape code font in AutoCAD) do not support these ANSI symbols, so to get a copyright symbol for RomanS, the quick fix is to draw a circle around a capital C. Crazy, huh? Especially when you can use a TrueType font and have the copyright symbol as part of the Character Map.

So, in conclusion, font choice is in the eye of the beholder, but you MUST make your font decision wisely. Personally, I would always look forward and try to future-proof any of my standard CAD and BIM templates by sticking with regular, well-known, TrueType (ANSI) fonts such as Arial, Calibri and perhaps Verdana. These fonts are well-known but, more importantly, are found just about everywhere on computers, so you will never have a missing bespoke font issue. We all know that AutoCAD substitutes the SIMPLEX.SHX font if it cannot find the font used on a drawing, which can really make a drawing look unattractive, AND, unprofessional.

Stick with well-known TrueType (ANSI) fonts and you won’t go far wrong… I WOULD Arial rather than not Arial, as the title suggests….

Steve Stafford’s blog about this is also quite informative, so maybe check it out here: –

Happy CADD’ing and BIM’ing!


More Coffee Anyone?

I haven’t written any blogs recently. Personal circumstances just haven’t permitted me to do so, but there is now light at the end of the tunnel, so here it is, a blog….finally.

I was very fortunate to spend last Saturday afternoon in the wilds of the Norfolk countryside at a place called Grey Seal Coffee Roasters, where I was attending a coffee brewing experience, which had been purchased for me as a birthday gift.

Before I wax lyrical about my afternoon in the company of David and Tobias, from Grey Seal Coffee Roasters, let me explain what Grey Seal Coffee is all about.

Grey Seal Coffee Roasters is a small independent coffee roastery based in Glandford, a small hamlet in the Glaven Valley in North Norfolk.  When I say roastery, I mean they roast their OWN fresh green coffee beans, sourcing them ethically from around the world, selling them to the public and the wholesale trade around Norfolk and throughout the UK. You can find them at their website, They are named after the grey seals that frequent the beaches of North Norfolk.

So, what did I do whilst I was there? Well, the afternoon was ALL about brewing coffee, tasting coffee and learning how to make coffee PROPERLY. There were FIVE (yes, five) methods of making coffee on offer, ranging from the most simplistic up to the incredibly dramatic. The lovely thing was you were able to taste each method as you went which, as a coffee lover, I was sincerely looking forward to!

We started with a simple history of the coffee bean and how it was first discovered, and where. In Ethiopia, in fact. By a goatherd who noticed that his goats got a bit bouncy after eating a fruit (yes, a fruit – bear with me). This fruit contained a pip (or bean). This was your coffee bean and, by chance, they realised that if they roasted the beans, they had a rather lovely beverage. Plus, they still make a drink from the fruit that contains the bean. Call it Ethiopian Red Bull, if you will.

I also learnt where my coffee beans come from. Primarily, most coffee beans come from equatorial countries between the two tropics of Cancer and Capricorn (Ethiopia is one of them). The beans from countries taste different, and brewing processes vary. Plus, I found out that the Robusta bean is used for espresso coffee, and the Bourbon bean is very high quality, a bit like a fine wine.

For our session, we were using the Doi Chaang Peaberry bean from Thailand (which you can order on the Grey Seal website) for each of the brewing processes, so that we could see (and taste) how each different process affected the coffee’s colour and flavour. A bit like wine tasting, if you have ever tried it.

So, FIVE methods of brewing coffee, you ask? Yep, we used five. Some of which I had seen and used before, some I hadn’t. Having been to Blue Bottle coffee in San Francisco on a business trip this year, I had been fascinated by the drip and siphon methods Blue Bottle use and, as luck would have it, those were two of the methods we would see, experience and taste.

We were provided with recipe cards for each method to take home, as well as a bag of complimentary coffee beans. I chose the Doi Chaang Peaberry that we used, as it had such lovely flavour. We used the recipe cards provided by Grey Seal, with some instruction, to learn how to use, and taste, the five brewing methods below….

METHOD 1 – The Cafetiere


I am pretty sure we have all used a cafetiere at some point in our lives. Put the coffee in, put the hot water in on top, press down the plunger. This creates a very muddy, dark coffee with a very rounded flavour, almost fruity, and the oil in the coffee bean is also present. And, like tea, you need to warm the cafetiere first. I have used cafetieres many times, as I am sure you have.

METHOD 2 – The Mokka Pot

2.Mokka Pot

The mokka pot is the one you see on the stove top. A well-known brand is Bialetti. Fill up the bottom compartment with water to the valve level. Pop in the basket and fill with your ground coffee, levelling off the surface of the coffee. Screw the top chamber on and pop on the stove over the heat. Once it has stopped bubbling, you have your coffee. Pour and enjoy. I own a mokka pot coffee maker, and have done so for many years. My Sunday morning coffee pleasure, giving a deep, round coffee flavour, with a dark cloudy colour that is slightly more refined than the cafetiere method above. Plus, it is less oily than the cafetiere method.

METHOD 3 – The AeroPress


Invented in 2005 by the man who invented the Aerobie flying ring (bit like a Frisbee), the Aeropress was one method that was totally new to me and I found it quite amazing! The equipment is extremely light plastic (perfect for travellers like me) and it uses a plunger to push down the coffee through the Aeropress, filtering it through a small filter paper, and allowing for easy disposal of the coffee grounds once you are done. It also makes a clearer coffee than the previous two methods, with a nice, clean clear flavour.

METHOD 4 – Drip Filter/V60

4.V60 Drip Feed

Now this method was the one I wanted to see. I mentioned Blue Bottle coffee earlier, and when in San Francisco, I tried a drip filtered Blue Bottle coffee, and was amazed at the clearness of the coffee itself (you could see the bottom of the cup), and was blown away by the flavour of the coffee. And I was not disappointed. The Grey Seal coffee had just as much flavour as the Blue Bottle coffee I had, if not more. The drip filter method is exactly as described. You place a ceramic drip filter on top of your cup or your coffee jug, put in a filter paper and pour in the hot water over the coffee, once you have warmed and “bloomed” as mentioned above. I have to say that this was my favourite brewing method and I did purchase a ceramic drip filter. It creates a beautifully clear coffee, with amazing flavour. I just love the simplicity of this method and the coffee it creates.

METHOD 5 – The Siphon


The siphon method is pretty incredible visually. Sometimes known as the vacuum pot, it bears a passing resemblance to one of the old Victorian oil lanterns, and while we were there, the Grey Seal coffee baristas, used an incredible halogen lamp (imported from Japan) to heat the water in the siphon, which made it almost mesmeric to watch. The siphon uses a vacuum to brew the coffee, and these, again, are another method used by Blue Bottle coffee in the USA. I have to say though, whilst quite technically challenging, the siphon creates the most amazing coffee. Totally clear with the highest degree of flavour experienced on the day. Delightful.


With all of these methods, we used filtered water to ensure a better coffee flavour. You should always use filtered or bottled water for the best coffee plus, it does maintain your equipment by avoiding the dreaded lime scale too.

I also learnt that you should let the coffee “bloom”. This is done by pouring on a small amount of hot water, just enough to wet the coffee grounds and leave it for a few moments. You will see the coffee bubble and crack, with oily bubbles appearing. This is essential to good coffee. Once the blooming is done, pour on the rest of the water using whatever brewing method you are using. Once brewed, pour your coffee immediately. Like tea, coffee stews, and then gives a sour, bitter taste.

Only grind the beans you need. Once you have ground your coffee beans, they lose quality quickly, within days, in fact. And for good quality coffee grounds, use a grinder that has burrs, NOT blades.

I had a great afternoon with Grey Seal. Not only did I experience great coffee, but I learnt lots of things to make my coffee experience even better. And, yes, I was buzzing afterwards! I can only congratulate Grey Seal on providing an informative, entertaining afternoon in great company with people who appreciate good coffee as much as I do. Coffee, when made well, is a lovely beverage, and like wine, once you have experienced the good stuff, you won’t want anything else.

More coffee anyone?