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Cuvee Coffee Meritage Espresso Blend

Postby malachi on Sun Jan 04, 2009 4:10 pm

Mike McKim, owner of Cuvee Coffee, was kind enough to provide samples of his Meritage espresso blend to a number of HB folks. I was lucky enough to be one of them.

From Mike:

Cuvee wrote:As far as the Meritage goes, we set all of our machines and customers machines to:

Water Temp: 201.5
Shot Volume: .75 - 1 ounce
Dose: 20 grams (using straight sided double baskets in our La Marzoccos).
Shot Time: We usually shoot for 26 - 28 seconds as this seems to be a sweet spot (considering all the above variables).

As far as flavor descriptors, this is one that I struggle with. I hate to plant seeds or give expectations with subtle nuances that are there, but not 100% of the time (depending on how the shot is made). I think the most common descriptors that we get are balanced, with a creamy body, good sweetness (most often described as brown sugary) medium acidity and when the shot is proper there is a really nice fruit finish, sometimes blueberry, sometimes strawberry and I have heard sometimes blackberry, but I have never tasted the blackberry personally.


As you can see from the description - the parameters for this espresso are what you might describe as "extreme". Very very high dose, moderately high brew temp, very low volume.
Sounded to me like a good challenge!!

First... LM ridged double basket (I don't have any LM ridgeless double baskets):

If you simply follow the intent of the instructions (ignoring philosophical beliefs about updosing, etc) this is pretty easy coffee to work with. The approach I found most successful was to truly maximize the volume of coffee in a ridged LM double basket and pull an est 0.75oz to 1oz ristretto shot. This allows for a restricted flow rate but with a coarser grind and seems to bring out the described profile. When I say "maximize the volume" - let me be clear... there was NO headspace on top of the puck. Yeah... philosophically "wrong".

The espresso is dominated by tons of berry (blueberry, blackberry) and cassis both in the nose and the cup. Structure is slightly tannic and there are hints of leather in the body. There is very little sweetness with this espresso (caramel, honey). Medium bodied. Gorgeous red crema. (Temp around 200F)

If you "tweak" the provided goals and use a slightly lowered temp (but still up-dose dramatically and pull very short) you can bring in some berry-sweetness and some cranberry sweetness. A nice pomegranate note also appears. At this temp, however, the espresso becomes thinner and more tannic. (Temp around 199F)

I found that going up to the specified 201F resulted in a cup that was very leathery and dry. Some chocolate appeared, but all the fruit went away and the cup was a little "stewed" tasting.

My actual parameters were not as "specified". My machine (the "super modified" Mia) required some slight tweaks to get the flavour as described by the roaster. I had a dose between 19 and 20 grams, extraction time was consistently right around 25 seconds. This was consistent at both temps I found good results from.

I don't think that a different machine should require a different approach - though might require different dose and/or extraction time.



Second... Synesso Triple basket:

Moderate updose, slow flow on the shot. 1.5oz shot in 28 seconds. A little over 201F.
Lots of chocolate, a little caramel, leather in the body. Berry and plum in the finish with some hints of pomegranate syrup. Berry was mostly noticed in the aroma - where it was perceived as blueberry and raspberry.
Still a little unbalanced as a straight shot but entirely drinkable.
Very nice in short milk drinks where it becomes all milk chocolate fruit truffle. This is a particularly nice espresso for a 5.5oz cappuccino when extracted in this manner.

Oddly, the LM triple basket yielded significantly inferior results for me (chocolate down, leather up; berry down, plum up; super unbalanced).



One note of caution... this is not a particularly hard espresso to work with. But if your machine has a dramatic decline in intra-shot brew temp, you might struggle to get a shot you're happy with.


To sum up...

This is a very "personal" espresso. It has a signature flavour that is unlike the normal well known espressos - and that should be applauded. It is far from meek. As such... it's likely that you're going to either love it or hate it.

If you mostly drink short milk drinks, like your coffees big and bold and own a Synesso triple basket you might really like this espresso.
If you love Ethiopian SO shots and prefer your espresso very ristretto, you also might really like this espresso.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin
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Postby shadowfax on Sun Jan 04, 2009 5:42 pm

Thanks, Chris. I haven't had this coffee in a few months; I don't remember going wild with it in terms of dosing, but I was very happy with the results at the time, which tended towards ristretto without being extreme. I was using the ridgeless LM double, which is my preferred basket.

I fit your description to a tee, though--I adore a nice Ethiopian SO, and my preference is short cappuccinos in the 4.5-5.5 oz. range, down to slightly milky macchiatos.
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Postby HB on Mon Jan 05, 2009 11:09 pm

Cuvee wrote:As far as the Meritage goes, we set all of our machines and customers machines to:

Water Temp: 201.5
Shot Volume: .75 - 1 ounce
Dose: 20 grams (using straight sided double baskets in our La Marzoccos).
Shot Time: We usually shoot for 26 - 28 seconds as this seems to be a sweet spot (considering all the above variables).

At first I thought these brew parameters were a typo. Twenty grams for a one ounce shot? I haven't broken out the triple baskets in ages, but what the heck, I don't think that I've ever tried it with the Elektra Semiautomatica and Compak K10 WBC grinder. The pours were easy as pie from the get-go. Brought back memories of Neverending Novelty of Nakedness... Not:

Image
One of JonR's famous "naked" extractions

Like JonR's pour shown above, Meritage boasts deep mahogany crema, rich syrupy texture, and ultra low acidity. Taste dominated by oak, leather, and tobacco. When pulled just-so, it flirts with florals and wine (Merlot? Not sure, I don't know wines that well). Reminds me of the bold, low-acidity, ultra-rich ristrettos that were the rage a couple years ago at barista competitions, but have since been supplanted by lighter "fruit and nut" varietal blends. It blended well with milk. Later this week I'd like to compare the results from the Elektra with those of the Ponte Vecchio Lusso. If it performs like Counter Culture's La Forza, the darker notes will fade and the florals will come to the forefront.
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Postby malachi on Tue Jan 06, 2009 1:11 am

Try dropping brew temp (just until the tobacco goes away). Right at that fine line you should get the fruit and no tobacco.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin
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Postby mikemckim on Tue Jan 06, 2009 1:52 am

Greetings Men,

Thanks for all your input thus far and thanks for diving so deep into this coffee. I really enjoy hearing ALL of the feedback. I think I really put you all on the wrong path out of the gate. When I say .75 - 1 ounce, I meant per shot...not total volume. Dan and Clancy read Chris's post and started to pull total volume .75/20gram shots and they were very leather, non dimensional, etc. This is a perfect match to your description, Chris...very good tasting notes! I am going to do the same in the office tomorrow. Please note that I meant total volume of 1.5 - 2 ounces. This is what we do in the office and is the area that I have comfort.

Best,

mike
Cuvee Coffee
Austin, TX
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Postby Stanner on Tue Jan 06, 2009 6:11 pm

I've had this coffee pulled at Thunderbird Coffee here in Austin and I got a lot of bass notes: leather, chocolate, plum...if there was spice I can't recall as it was months ago. A cappa with this is really quite the treat. I'll have to give this and Espresso Medici a pull on my new machine to see if I can't come up with a better description.

I'm also under the impression that Cuvee is moving to just south of Austin... is this correct Mike?
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Postby malachi on Tue Jan 06, 2009 6:21 pm

mikemckim wrote: Dan and Clancy read Chris's post and started to pull total volume .75/20gram shots and they were very leather, non dimensional, etc.


Have them reduce the brew temp.
They'll be (pleasantly) surprised I think.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin
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Postby mikemckim on Tue Jan 06, 2009 7:55 pm

Stanner wrote:I'm also under the impression that Cuvee is moving to just south of Austin... is this correct Mike?


Yes, the new roasting plant is on HWY 71 in Spicewood...about 25 miles west of downtown. The building is up and the electrical/build out is starting. Our new roaster is supposed to hit the port of Houston today and should clear customs in a week (so they tell me). Once we get the new roaster up and tweaked in (in Spicewood), we can shut down production in Houston and move the entire office. We are trying to get this done this month, but I think that we will most likely be 100% moved before the end of February. We plan to have a little get together once the move is done so stay tuned if you want to come out for some beer, bbq and coffee!
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Postby Stanner on Tue Jan 06, 2009 8:22 pm

I have clients who live out in Spicewood and am a big Medici fan, so I look forward to the BBQ! :D
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Postby Dan Streetman on Tue Jan 06, 2009 8:41 pm

Chris,

I tried your suggestion about lowering the temp and pulling the extremely ristretto shots. You are right this is definitely a very interesting expression of this coffee. It made the leather note much more pleasant where at the higher temp it bordered on harsh. I think this is probably more pronounce in the ridged baskets which from my experience with our coffee tend to go stew-y easier than the straight sided baskets.

I doubt if you have any coffee left, but would be interested to hear your thoughts on shots pulled in the 20g - 1.75-2oz total volume range.

I am going to look into dropping the temp on those shots as well tomorrow. My thought is that it will make the body rounder, but I am afraid it may narrow the range on the coffee and it will be sour at ~25 secs extraction time or less.
Dan Streetman
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