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What should good espresso taste like? - Page 2

Postby another_jim on Tue Aug 25, 2009 3:37 pm

Sherman wrote: My experience doesn't coincide with your quote of Jim's statement, and it leads me to wonder if I'm just not roasting it "right".


The statement wasn't meant literally; but more as a corrective and alternative to "it should taste like it smells."

Schomer made the smell statement, and Vivace's espresso Dolce, when pulled well, does indeed taste like it smells: an aggressive shot of woods, caramels and distillates, reminiscent of an strongly oaked bourbon.

This is a perfectly legitimate style of making espresso; but one I happen not to overly enjoy. To me, what it has in power, it loses in nuance and detail; so that the taste of the shot bears no resemblance to the brewed taste of the coffees. I prefer espresso shots where the origins are identifiable, and their nuances are still present. This does not mean they taste the same as brewed shots, more like that they contain the same information and overall impression.

For the original question, all this proves is that pulling your own shots is not enough -- it is important to try a lot of different shots from the better cafes and roasters, or other amateurs, to see what the possibilities are and what you enjoy.

FWIW: I use a three-fold classification of espresso styles with names of my own devising:

-- Fruit bombs: which are the style reminiscent of light to medium roasted brewed coffees. Roaster's SO special offerings are usually in this group.
-- Comfort Food: the chocolate and caramel shots that taste like a dessert. Toscano, Black Cat, Palladino are usually in this corner, although the more recent Black Cats have been getting more fruited.
-- Monster Shots: that taste like distilled drinks. Dolce and Malabar Gold come to mind.

I don't count the most common espresso genre, "Charbucks" :roll:
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Postby malachi on Tue Aug 25, 2009 11:56 pm

It's an impossible question - like asking "what should grilled food taste like."

Espresso is a way of preparing coffee.
As such - what it tastes like is dependent upon both the coffee being used, and the specific manners in which you prepare it as espresso.
And "good" is highly subjective. Some people here who have great taste hate the sort of shot served at (for example) Stumptown - while I love it. So... is it "good".

Given this - there is no way to answer your question.
I would strongly suggest that the best way to start your journey to understanding the complexities of the taste of espresso (and to developing your own personal taste and what you find to be "good") is to start by tasting different kinds of espresso prepared by various people who seem to know what they're doing. Go to various "good" coffee bars and taste the coffees. Some, you'll like. Some, you won't. Ask folks about the coffees they use for both and how they prepare both. Learn what you do and don't like. Start buying the beans that produce espresso you like - and try to replicate the taste at home.


You get the idea.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin
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Postby nixter on Sat Aug 29, 2009 4:40 pm

My addition to this thread comes in the form of a warning about "good" cafes. I happen to live in a city with a pretty decent coffee culture. As such there are many many coffee houses. There are tons of bad ones. There are even more mediocre ones. There are only 3 that I have found that I would call good. And only one of those three gives me a great shot at least 90% of the time. I'm not saying that great shots aren't produced at various cafes all over the city all day long it's just that when you factor in all the variables, especially barista skill, consistency becomes an issue. My advice is really go with you taste buds. Don't assume that because you are in a fancy cafe surrounded by fancy expensive equipment and fancy looking people on their fancy macbooks that you are drinking good espresso. Trust your taste buds. You'll know when you're drinking something special.
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Postby malachi on Sun Aug 30, 2009 8:24 pm

Or - another way to look at it - just because everyone says a shot is "good" doesn't mean you'll like it.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin
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Postby zin1953 on Mon Aug 31, 2009 11:33 am

Very true, Chris -- my enjoyment of Espresso Vivace's Dolce blend is one very good example. My wife and I enjoy this coffee very much, and while we taste and enjoy others as well, this is the one we keep coming back to. Yet some of the people whom I've grown to respect the most dislike it -- or at least, shall we say, it's not their favorite.

That doesn't make one "right," and the other "wrong." We just have our own tastes, our own preferences.

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Postby TimEggers on Mon Aug 31, 2009 11:42 am

With regard to taste we should differentiate between Taste Preference (what we like) and Quality Extractions (brewing without defect).

Its a matter of what we like in a properly brewed a coffee.

Is the OP asking what a coffee without defect should taste like (which will vary widely on the bean itself and how its brewed) or what tastes folks like in properly brewed coffee?

It may seem trivial but I find it important nonetheless and this discussion seems to blend the line.
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Postby nixter on Mon Aug 31, 2009 3:37 pm

I agree there is a difference but without actually tasting a shot it's nearly impossible to say whether it has been brewed without fault so I think the two questions are somewhat married without the possibility of divorce/parole. When you're new to espresso it is can be difficult to know if what you are tasting is poorly brewed or just not to your liking, or both. It took me quite a while to trust my taste buds which is why I added my caveat regarding so called "good" coffee shops. I just didn't want the op tasting something and assuming that it was a good just because of where he had it.
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Postby Psyd on Mon Aug 31, 2009 4:29 pm

another_jim wrote:If your espresso is tasting bright, cutting, grassy, woody, lemon peels etc, and you'd prefer caramel and chocolate, try grinding finer, using less coffee per shot, and slowing down the flow.


Just an aside, TYVM for this tip, Jim.
While I should been able to realize this already (shame on me) it was very handy for you to have brought this to light, for me, anyway. I was just about to post the Maria Carnicla Esmeralda as an example of coffee that everyone was raving about as an SO espresso, but one that was too bright, too acidic, and to citrus-y for my palate. Doesn't make it a bad espresso, but it does make it less likely for me to blow $90 a pound on some.
Your tip, however, calmed the bright lemon-drop that I was getting into a chocolate covered orange caramel drop. Now I'm regretting pulling the first half of the 128g of this stuff at 18g into two ounce doubles.

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Postby miff2000 on Sat Nov 27, 2010 4:14 am

good coffee to me is, beans that you know are good ,complemented with a grind that is right for your machine, a good crema, just make sure you raw ingredients are quality you cant go wrong
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Postby BaristaO'steele on Wed Nov 23, 2011 1:21 am

Espresso Roast - I take it about 5 seconds into 2C, so I guess that makes it FC (or maybe FC+? not sure), with a given load of ~8 oz. I get a very intense cup, with the citrus and blueberry in the foreground.


City roast is coffee right after first crack, city plus being almost right in between 1st and second crack. Full city is more toward second crack, but not quite second crack. FC + would be right into the second crack, and what you described, being 5 seconds into the second crack, would be a vienna roast. 10 seconds or so into second crack is coffee hades, also known as the french roast. :P
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