H-B Favorite Espresso Blends 2012 #1
Roast date: unknown
Test dates: March 18-20
Coffee dose: 15-16g
Espresso weight: 20-24g
Shot volumes: ~40-50ml
Brew ratios: 60-80%
Shot times: 25-30 sec after appearance of espresso droplets on bottom of basket
Brew temperatures: 88C-92C in increments of 1CProtocol
Grinder: Robur with doser and (full) mini-hopper.
Espresso machine: La Spaziale S1 V1, no preinfusion, blind basket brew pressure 9.25bar, 53mm double basket, bottomless portafilter.
Ground coffee into tared basket and weighed dose to nearest 0.1g.
Brief WDT stir with needle, then tamped to ~30#.
Pulled shots into prewarmed tared shot glass, stopping at blonding (25-30sec).
Measured shot weight on digital scale to nearest 0.1g.
Visually, all pours were good.
For tasting, poured shot glass into prewarmed demitasse cup. Sampled straight, then with 1/2t sugar, then with small amounts (1oz) of microfoamed milk.Tasting notes
HB#1 is the start of a new format for Favorite Espresso Blends. The coffee arrived last week in a plain brown bag, with no indication of bean origin, roast date, suggested brew parameters, or tasting notes. Interesting idea.
When I first open a bag of coffee, I start by sticking my nose in the bag and inhaling (taking a "bag hit", as Dave likes to put it). The roast aroma of HB#1 is seductive, with strong spice notes (anise?), broth, even lemongrass. Visual examination of the beans indicated an even medium roast, with a few quakers.
I began with non-espresso brewing (poor man's version of cupping): one cup of Aeropress brew, and one cup of Hario filter/drip brew, at 1:15 coffee:water ratios. Both cups were mild, balanced, unexciting - not a bad thing for espresso, which tends to amplify the flavor characteristics of a roast.
The espresso brews, however, were anything but bland. I found this to be a finicky blend to work with, prone to channeling and early blonding, highly temperature- and dose-dependent. Only rarely do I encounter a coffee that makes me wish for finer than the 1C temperature control of my Spaz S1. Ritual Sweet Tooth (a SO Guatemalan) was one of those coffees. This is another.
For straight shots, my best results came at 90-91C, with a small amount of sugar to counter the acidity. By experimenting with dose, grind and brew temperature, an interesting variety of fruit flavors can be pulled from this roast. Dark cherry cordial overtones predominate at lower brew temperatures, with hints of strawberry, tamarind, even green melon, green apple, and kiwi (but not citrus). There is some chocolate in the flavor profile, but relatively little caramel and nuts.
Above 91C the bitterness becomes objectionable, as smoky unpleasant flavors develop in the cup. Below 89C, sourness and acridity emerge. I felt like I was walking a tightrope with this roast, trying to find the perfect dose/grind/brew temperature combination.
Initially I found that a coarser grind and updosing to 16g worked best to minimize the bitter notes in the coffee. After a few days, as the coffee aged, a more normal (for me) dose of 15g and a finer grind produced the best results. Ristretto brew ratios (over 70%) produced a richer (although not necessarily better) result. By Tuesday (March 20) the flavors had muted appreciably, and the coffee, while still drinkable, was past its prime.
Milk drinks are passable, but I would not recommend this blend for big gulp lattes. The flavors get lost in large amounts of milk, and the flavor profile (fruity) is less suited for cappuccinos than more classic chocolate/caramel espresso blends.Conclusion
A challenging coffee, one that I never fully mastered. Try this if you enjoy fruit-forward roasts, or for a change of pace from classic northern Italian "comfort food" espresso blends.