Coffee and Chocolate Expo 2018 JHB

Coffee and Chocolate Expo South Africa – We Get Professional Advice in a Q & A with Alexandru Niculae – World Coffee Roasting Champion 2016, Q Grader and BOB Coffee Lab Co Owner & Head Roaster

Coffee and Chocolate Expo South Africa – We Get Professional Advice in a Q & A with Alexandru Niculae – World Coffee Roasting Champion 2016, Q Grader and BOB Coffee Lab Co Owner & Head Roaster

From the Official Coffee and Chocolate Expo Monte Facebook page:

“Want to taste & experience World Champion Roasted Coffee? Join Alexandru Niculae from Romania – 2016 World Roasting Champion LIVE on stage at the All Star Arena and taste HIS coffee roasted on Genio Intelligent Roasters machine.”

We managed to get a quick Q&A done with Alexandru, and here’s what he has to say:

Q&A with Alexandru Niculae for Aquaspresso Coffee Company – Presenting at the Coffee and Chocolate Expo at Montecasino from the 19th – 22nd July 2018

*Note that some answers have been shortened / edited for clarity.

Romania vs South Africa: Not in terms of the World Cup – but how different is coffee culture in Romania when you compare it to South Africa?

It’s hard to tell as I have never been to South Africa! Romania is growing a lot in terms of specialty coffee! More and more shops and roasteries are opening! I hope that more people will start drinking specialty, unfortunately our country has grown with commercials on TV with only dark roasted coffees, “black, strong” etc. We need to change this or at least try!

What’s your opinion on retail / chain store coffee? South Africa has only recently “gotten with the times” in terms of major chain stores coming to our shores. Do you think the coffee we get at these establishments  have a time and place in coffee culture – or are they drawing away from ‘true’ coffee culture?

I am no fan of retail/ commercial coffee! Before specialty coffee I did not drink any coffee, because of the bitter and smoky taste. I am not smoking as well, maybe that’s the reason!

We have plenty of chain-store coffee stores in Romania. And they are really famous. Mostly because of the brand and not because of the coffee. In Romania and in other countries from Europe, some big brands started bringing origin coffees. This is the only thing good, as it is free marketing for smaller companies, who can do the job way better!

More people will start asking for origin and this is when we come to change people’s perceptions about coffee!

What is your absolute passion in coffee? Tell us about your coffee passion a bit.

I really enjoy brewing filter coffee. It is the reason why I got into coffee roasting. I competed in the world brewer’s cup championship 2014 and got the 16th place – and I knew for sure that if I wanted to get in top 6 I would have to roast the coffee. Each of us has a recipe, a signature in the way we roast/brew and it might not work with each coffee, from all the roasters.

I also like a lot the quality control! Cupping is really important and should not be neglected, but we should think that people back home, the end consumer, will not use this technique, but they will brew the coffee in their favourite way!  For example, a V60, or an ibrik. I do like to brew filter and find better ways to increase the quality in the cup! I was cooling down all my V60’s before brewing, with ice to get more unique flavours!

What would you consider the BEST coffee bean in the world – and why?

Specialty coffee is the best coffee 🙂 it depends on the mood, in general I like the coffees to be more fermented, but in the end we have to be objective! I have had amazing coffees from Thailand, India! Great processing gives us amazing coffees 🙂

If the world were to run out of coffee and you had one day to prepare for it, what would you keep / stock-up on?

Everything I could get my hands on! Freeze everything and enjoy:) but I hope that day would never come! It would be hard to live without a good coffee!

Coffee preparation in competitions is almost always done on a manual espresso machine. If you were to choose an automatic coffee machine for your own home, which brand and model of machine would you choose and why?

I am selling coffee to some friends who have a chain of restaurants and they have a WMF machine. I was very surprised about how good the coffee was on that espresso machine! Even the milk was really well done! So with a good roast (not dark), just developed you can rock n roll with those machines! You get crema, you get body, but you also get a lot of clarity, and a strength level that most people can accept / enjoy. (Read our blog on WMF coffee machines here)

What is your one professional tip / trick to make better coffee at home?

Weigh everything!!! Very important! Second please use good water (good for brewing coffee) and at least a decent grinder! There are so many brands for manual grinders that are really good!  Do not be afraid to experiment but maybe sometimes it’s a good idea to ask your roaster for a recipe and also maybe they can give you some good water! I am sure they will help out!

At least to see how different the coffee can be with your water that you have back home!

Where do you see the future of coffee heading – in South Africa and around the world?

I hope I will get to know the market in South Africa! And I really hope in the future, we will get more involved in helping out farmers to produce better coffees, better and new flavor profiles!

The demand for specialty coffee is growing and growing, we must be able to get better coffees from all the regions, regarding if it’s Brazil or Kenya! This is what I think!

What’s your opinion on capsule coffee?

I think it’s a good idea! For most people an espresso is too concentrated and thus making it too “strong” and maybe too bitter. But with capsules you’ll get a lower strength level, more acceptable for most tastes! And also if you have a high quality coffee and good water you’ll get some nice brews with just a press of a button! Which is quite nice:) having your own barista every morning:)

Lastly, do you have a favourite specialty coffee recipe to share?

I think one of the easiest methods to brew is a clever dripper! I use the smaller version, so 14g of coffee, ground a bit coarsely than a V60 and 240ml of water! Remember to weigh and time everything!

First stage I do a bloom of 30-40 sec depending on how fresh the coffee is, and I use 50 ml of water, heated at 88-93C, depending on the roast level and developing!

After I pour the water circular to get rid of dark spots (in the colour of the crema)! At 1:45 I put the clever on the server and it should be done in max 3:15.

Alexandru’s accolades and qualifications include:

  • World Cofee Roasting Champion 2016
  • Q Grader
  • BOB Coffee Lab Co-Owner & Head Roaster
  • SCA Romania marketing and communication coordinator
  • AST 2018-2021 Barista, Brewing, Roasting


We’d like to thank Alexandru for his feedback and allowing us to experience his true and undying passion for superb coffee. Catch him at the Coffee and Chocolate Expo from the 19th – 22nd July!

Cover image credit: Coffee and Chocolate Expo 2018 Facebook Page – all credit to source.


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