Friday, August 26, 2011

Good Methodology = Good Espresso

I love testing new espresso. I also love testing whether or not something will work as a Single Origin espresso or as a component for espresso. Today I had some extra Guji Suke Quto from last night's tasting class. Now I've used this as a component of an espresso, but I haven't really tried it as a Single Origin. Golden opportunity. This allowed me the opportunity to test without roasting an entire new batch, and if the roast level I used for the coffee will work or not.

So the question I am asking is, "Does it work?"

I'm pretty systematic about my testing. I know what range of grind to target, so I pick a midpoint and start from there. I keep the Synesso at the temperature set for the current espresso (199 F). No need to change until after I taste... but that's still a bit away.

One step at a time.

I tare the portafilter and grind. How much? I guess and see where I'm at. 17g. Ok. Tamp. And as Captain Picard says, "Engage!"

First I'm just watching for flow. It's too fast.

I adjust the grind a little finer. I dose the same weight. Looks a little better...
I'll give it a taste. Sip. Mild citrus, hint of nut. ... good, but it seems like it's lacking something. It's not a one dimensional coffee. I know there's more there. I just have to find it.

Let's approach 18 g.

Puck looks pretty good.

I always pull a second one so I know if it was a fluke or not, and it looks the same.



First sip - Candied ginger, sweet citrus and jasmine. Second sip - warm spice, a touch of bergamot, honey sweetness. Finish - dark honey to maple sweetness, restrained citrus, hint of spice.

Does it work?

I'd say, "Yes." But it's not that simple.

All coffees aren't this easy. Even when they work. Sometimes I go through ten or twelve shots and I'm about to give up, then everything comes together. And then it fades. The real question isn't "Does it work?" The real question is, "Can I do that again?"

Well, can I?

Grind. Dose. Distribute. Tamp.


And the answer is



Sunday, August 21, 2011

How to name an espresso: a study in serious amusement

We roast a different espresso every seven to ten days. About twenty-five percent are Single Origin, and the others are blends of three or less various coffees. I do in the neighborhood of thirty-five to forty various blends per year, and aside from the challenge of finding things that work well, there is the challenge of naming my blends.

I used to have only one espresso blend, "Mountain Mambo", and I did experimental blends now and again when I couldn't source what I wanted. I numbered those blends up until fifty-three, and then I decided that having new espresso was not only more challenging, but more rewarding to our customers. Over the past several years, I've named everything. Sometimes there is a rhyme or reason, and usually that reason is to amuse myself.

Here is a random sampling of some of our espresso over the past year and the rationale for naming them. Tasting notes are included so you know what you've been missing.

A Shot for Rita - Java Kopi Sunda and El Salvador Santa Rita. A cup of coffee or coffee being simply known as "java" led to this extrapolation of a shot of espresso, and hey, since Rita is here, it should be for her.

In the cup: Orange peel, plum, caramel sweetness w/ bittersweet chocolate finish.

Best Pancakes Ever! - Sun-dried Brazil Bahia and a micro-lot Colombia peaberry from Tolima. This tasted like an awesome syrup that would rock on pancakes. 'Nuff said.

In the cup: Dark berry syrup, warm fruit, caramel sweetness and a touch of cinnamon.

Luigi's Obsession - Brazil Yellow Catui and Uganda Bugisu. Luigi loves his plums!

In the cup: Italian plum and lemon with dense chocolate and caramel sauce background.

Baskerville - Regional Brazil from Minas Gerais and Kenya Kirinyaga Peaberry. Release the hounds! The huckleberry hounds.

In the cup: Raisin, peach, macadamia, with huckleberry highlights throughout.

The Odd Couple - Sumatra Takengon and Kenya Kirinyaga Peaberry. The size difference in these beans prompted the name.

In the cup: Fig, tropical fruit sweetness, and warm spice.

Braz in Pocket - Brazil Fazenda Aurea, PNG Kimel, PNG Baroida. BRAZil and PApua New Guinea. PA sound like in "pocket".

In the cup: Cocoa, clove, ginger, citrus finish.

The Hammer - Brazil Fazenda Colina, PNG Baroida Plantation. This was an intense espresso. A lot coming at you. When I think of intensity I think of strength, and a lot of strength from steroids. BaROIDa reminds me of steroids. So who historically was almost superhuman and could have possibly been on steroids, but we just don't know. John Henry, the steel drivin' man, he died with a hammer in his hand.

In the cup: Intense pecan and hazelnut with candied orange peel. Fruit and chocolate highlights.

Dodgy Jam - El Salvador Finca Matalapa Puerta Zapa, Costa Rica Finca La Ponderosa. When I tasted this espresso it was a funky Euro Pop beat with a twist. Imagine Rowan Atkinson and John Cleese dancing with a club full of fiery German and British youth.

In the cup: Mango, dried peach, blackberry, hazelnut background.

We've just finished pulling shots of E-squared, a blend of two regional Ethiopian coffees - Yirgacheffe and Guji Suke Quto. lots of sweet bergamot and floral notes, with a dark honey and malt sweetness.

When it comes down to it, the flavor is what drives what beans can join in harmony. The naming, that's just self amusement.