Favorite Espressos 2015 - Page 5

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#41: Post by drgary »

I initially misread the coffee. I post my first attempt and the late correction because others may find this instructive when dialing in.

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Review Summary

When writing these Home-Barista espresso reviews I am not averse to trying my best in a blind review, then looking at others' results and adjusting my technique to see if I can replicate their findings. As usual I did my first run-through blind. Then I looked up the coffee and the roaster's guidelines, and found the flavors very different than what I'd guessed. These different attempts accidentally revealed not one but two brew parameters that I believe worth sharing. There was a low temperature version that was best at 201-202°F, 18 gm in, 45 - 50 gm out, 40 second pull on my Conti Prestina commercial lever. A higher temperature version was best at 209°F brew temperature with similar shot timing and yield. This was about 11 days post roast and confirmed the expected flavors except for the floral notes that are usually most apparent earlier in a coffee's shelf life. Who would have thought that a coffee brewed at 201°F would be its toddy version?

Blind Attempt

12/5: Beans are medium small, City roast level. Aroma of dry grounds is tannic leathery, earthy, fairly strong. According to Tom this is barely 5 days post roast and ready to use. I initially brewed this coffee at 204°F, using a Bonavita PID kettle, a Bunn LPG grinder fitted with Ditting burrs, and a Driver metal filter. Brew ratio was 5.4%, which is typically recommended for drip.

I noted a coffee with medium acidity, some stone fruit, and grapefruit rind bitter top end that dominated the aftertaste. Mouthfeel was silky. As it cooled to room temperature I noted toffee, peanut/hazelnut and bitters, then an aftertaste of milk chocolate with nuts, almost like a peanut butter cup. Stone fruit flavors began to open up and show a hint of floral. Bitterness opened to dark chocolate and softened with cooling. The aftertaste started to show some vanilla and a sugar syrup sweetness. When very cool the long aftertaste opened to abundant florals and the stone fruit flavors moved toward strawberry/blackberry but the main flavor note was a toasty nutty chocolate/vanilla. At room temperature the sweet vanilla became more prominent. Peanutty chocolate started to merge with raspberry in the aftertaste.

Brewed as espresso I didn't like the bitter note and thought this was because I was brewing it too hot when I may have been brewing too cool. At 204°F I couldn't get past a bitter top end. I dialed it down to 201°F, which reduced the bitterness. But a slower flow rate (50 sec shot plus 20 sec preinfusion) changed the bitterness to chalkiness. Increasing that flow rate with the same yield fragmented what had been a dominant bitterness into almond and walnut with far less intensity, so it was now pleasing. An apricot-like acidity came forward with some sweetness. These shots were smooth but not very complex and had an unsweetened chocolate note dominating the aftertaste. I was unable to get the level of sweetness I wanted, but overall I liked this version enough to recommend it. I found this version best at 201-202°F, 18 gm in, 45 - 50 gm out, 40 second pull. It was chocolate and nuts in a small milk drink but not intense enough for a latte.

The low temperature brewed version was like this on Day 9. At 201°F I found it juicy, moderately sweet, with a hint of wooden bitterness at the top. The juiciness and sweetness dominated. I wasn't getting florals anymore. I wondered about those florals and took a peek at others' reviews, including Team HB, Dustin Demers, the roaster Dustin Demers, who recommends trying it on a lever, and Coffee Review. Florals should be prominent. Hmmm. By now the coffee was getting late in its shelf life and there wasn't much left.

Tutored Attempt

Since it doesn't provide a high pressure start, I bumped the temperature way up on my Prestina, where the PID that measures boiler water is offset to reflect brew temperature. 211°F revealed blood orange and strawberry-like fruit acidity with very little bitterness. It didn't have the sweetness I wanted. My best pull on Day 10 was at 209°F, 18 gm in, 45 gm out, 45 second pull after 20 second preinfusion. The flavor was dominated by strawberry sweet tartness, but I didn't taste florals. At this temperature it had plenty of sweetness. This seemed like the way this coffee is best prepared as espresso. Similar to the lower temperature version, it's tasty in a small milk drink but doesn't have the intensity needed for a latte. On Day 12 I tried the little remaining coffee in my Olympia Express Coffex HX pump machine, pulled without a cooling flush. I didn't have enough left to dial in the flow rate but tasted a touch of florals in one of the two shots remaining. Perhaps the higher pressure of the Coffex can emphasize florals, but I leave it to others' reviews to see what they achieved with their gear with fresher coffee.

Lessons Learned

1. Next time I blindly review a coffee that's light roasted my temperature exploration won't be stopped by bitterness that can come from brewing it too cool.

2. A fairly acidic light roast may have a pleasing version when brewed cooler. This can allow one to take a break from the acidity without changing coffees. And it's a reminder that extracted flavors display themselves in a spectrum at different temperatures.

Recommended? Yes! But I took a winding path to get there! :lol:

I also want to congratulate Dustin Demers and wish him well in his new business. I'm excited by the high scores he's achieving on Coffee Review. I met him when living in the Bay Area and we would get together several times a year. He was always meticulously dedicated to roasting and coffee preparation, a dedication that continues to this day.

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

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#42: Post by HB (original poster) »

Winter 2015 HB Espresso Review:

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Session 1: This sample reminds me of Daterra or Ecco Caffe's coffees. I don't have it dialed in; the first espresso was too ristretto and second showed signs of channeling. I didn't follow the given recipe, instead going with my starting point basket of 15 grams, 200°F, around 30 seconds. Even so, it's definitely familiar with orange marmalade and a clean, crisp almost lemon-y finish (as it cools, the finish mellows out nicely). With only two iffy extractions, I'm withholding judgement, but my first impression is positive. Those who distain "third wave orange juice" blends won't be happy with this coffee. It's not as bright as an Ethiopian single origin espresso, but not far away either.

Session 2: When pulled at lungo brew ratios, the coffee is delightfully fruity and floral. I'm still reminded of coffees from Ecco Caffe, i.e., super clean, light, balanced. It improves with some rest, peaking around day 6. It's very good as a straight espresso; I doubt it would be palatable in milk due to sourness, but I'll give it a try.

Session 3: Those who delight in perfect looking pours may be disappointed, but those who delight in near perfect tasting pours are in for a treat. Pulled at double espresso+ brew ratios, this coffee has the intensity of a perfectly brewed coffee without an edgy finish that so often mars single origin espressos. This session confirms my initial impressions: Light fruity floral start, clean balanced finish like a sweet white wine. Reminiscent of an Ethiopian coffee without the intense puckering. Admittedly influenced by thoughts of holiday treats, my notes include mention of clove, ginger, lemon zest... and Moravian cookies.

Session 4: Although I was doubtful this espresso would work well with milk, I gave it a try with a traditional cappuccino. As expected, the milk crushes the flavor profile. Lost in even small milk, I recommend appreciating this coffee as a straight espresso or Americano.
Dan Kehn

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#43: Post by cannonfodder »

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My two bags of coffee arrived in plain non-descript bags without a one way valve. They reminded me of little coffee pillows. We were provided with general extraction parameters as a starting point. 17 to 18 grams of coffee, 38 to 45 grams extracted in 25-45 seconds

When I opened the first bag I was hit with florals. Lots and lots of florals with a little citrus and spice in the background. The overwhelming aroma was floral. Over the next few days that mellowed a little but remained the center point of the dry aroma. The roast was light and judging from the light splits in the bean I would say a washed coffee. It is a small bean with a lot of peaberry mixed in.

My first extraction ran ristretto at 201-202, grapefruit rind, so we know it does not work well pulled tight. I opened the grind up a lot over the next few shots. I was using my Elektra A3 with LM precision 21 gram basket and a LaCimbali Max grinder (hybrid burrs set). This makes pulling lungo shots difficult as the big boiler has an inclining temperature profile. Nice and flat until around 30 seconds then it starts to climb fast. A 35-40 second shot would put the temperature off the charts. I ended up with a coarse grind, 19 gram dose 40-41 grams extracted in 33'ish seconds with a relatively high temperature, 203F which would put the end of the shot in the 205F range. The florals were booming with a crisp acidity and a twang of bitter grapefruit in the background but an overall clean cup. It actually reminded me of a Geisha in its floral complexity. The body was light with a mild sweetness. I did try it in milk as a traditional cappuccino. I did not care for how it paired with the milk. A lot of the coffee was simply washed away but there was a bit of citrus and some baker's chocolate as the cup cooled. It struck me as a straight shot coffee.

I did a few brews in my AeroPress but the body became too light for my personal taste with an unusual acidity. Again the florals were the dominate flavor/aroma with some citrus in the background. This may make a good cold brew.

In the cold winter months I prefer a more classic cup but the florals, light body and crisp acidity would make this a nice summer espresso.
Dave Stephens

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#44: Post by shadowfax »

Winter 2015 HB Espresso Review

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This coffee arrived to me 5 days post-roast, but I wasn't able to start working with it till day 7. A visual inspection reveals small, consistently sized beans with a healthy portion of peaberries. The roast looks medium-light. The aromatics are mellow; the main thing jumping out at me is a sweet vegetal note, like roast carrots or sweet potatoes. It struck me immediately as a very good Kenyan coffee roasted with espresso in mind, although I couldn't rule out some other east African coffee.

This coffee at its best produces sweet, mild, juicy orange citrus-forward shots with carrot vegetal notes. Cappuccinos are a mellow, creamy affair characterized by a delightful caramel sweetness and delicate fruitiness.

My best shots were with a slightly fine grind, medium-light dose (~17g in a Strada 17g basket), medium-hot temperature (203°F), slow flow rate, and a normale brew ratio. I found that using the Slayer's pre-brew to bring the puck to 9 bars in about 15-20s, for a total shot time of around 50-60 seconds, worked very well. Shots with faster flow tended to have underdeveloped acidity and heavier vegetal notes. Longer-flowing shots balance this out, but go too far, and some astringent bitterness emerges, particularly in the finish.

A similar dynamic occurs with brew ratio. Ristretto shots tend to be more syrupy and intense, but unbalanced and off, with the orange flavor turning pithy. Despite the roaster's recommendation, I found going much below a 50% brew ratio resulted in a watery shot that, while sweet, was a bit dull and uninteresting.

A higher dose (for me, 18-19g in a VST 20g basket) and faster pressure ramp with this coffee produced shots with a more berry-forward acidity, syrupy body, and more noticeable low tones. While pleasant, these shots were considerably less interesting than the citrus-carrot shots I got with the lower doses.

With this coffee, I thought that good shots were easy to get-it is, within the rough parameters above, quite forgiving. Getting it "just right" proved more difficult, in my experience.

This coffee is a good choice for people looking for a fruity, sweet espresso that isn't overpoweringly acidic. I would also recommend it for those who enjoy "3rd wave orange juice" who are looking for a coffee with an interesting twist-for me, the orange and carrot brightness was delightfully interesting, something I prize dearly in coffee.

Postscript after the reveal

I was surprised by the coffee when I read the reveal after I wrote my review; I didn't note enough floral/spice/tea notes to mark this a Yirgacheffe, and the vegetal notes just reminded me too much of Kenya. I tried it brewed a few times last week at the office (which I hadn't done before writing my review), and even with the power of suggestion, I still don't sense much of the spice/florals-still just strikes me as lovely orange (which is certainly a little floral) and mildly carrot-y.

I also took the remainder of the coffee and spent some time exploring using 17-18g doses in a Synesso 18g+ basket, short preinfusion times, and dramatically coarser grind. This worked pretty well, with very similar flavors to my shots with the Strada basket, but I did note some spice to the shots, and the acidity tended to be somewhat sharper and more 'raw.' The citrus seemed to come out more sparkling, and I noted some green melon flavors that I hadn't found in any shots during my blind review. While it clearly works with this brewing style, it's a narrower balance that you have to strike, and I'd agree that this coffee would be more challenging in such a format.
Nicholas Lundgaard

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#45: Post by TomC »

A summary of this espresso review definitely needs to include a brief comment about the pleasure we take as the HB body to see one of our own from Home-Barista climbing up into the realm of a professional roaster. That brought a fun dynamic and it appears the results were quite positive. I want to personally thank Turning Point Coffee for sponsoring this review and I think I speak for most of us that we're happy to see one of our own succeed.

Happy Holidays from everyone at Team HB :D