Favorite Espressos 2016 - Page 2

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#11: Post by drgary »

This is a follow-up to my initial review using home levers. It suggests that declining pressure and temperature profiles bring out substantial flavor layering in this fully developed coffee. Here's the lovely sight this morning of readying two of my favorite home levers to continue this coffee review.

Spoiler: show
Comparing my coffee review to others, it seems that my Conti Prestina extracted more sweet fruit flavor than was done on other gear, specifically a distinctive raspberry note. This made me wonder whether the declining pressure and temperature profile of my Conti lever extracted more pleasant flavors from this relatively dark roasted blend. Dave's review shows more fruit flavors emerging at the lower range of the roaster's recommended profile. So that's a vote for lower temperature revealing more of that flavor.

My results are very preliminary, but this morning they were supported by pulling this coffee on my Lady Duchessa spring lever and my Olympia Express Cremina manual lever. The raspberry flavor note that consistently revealed itself with my Prestina pulls showed up again on the Lady Duchessa. More fruit flavors appeared on my Cremina when I pulled a cooler shot and emulated the declining pressure profile of the spring lever. But that fruit flavor was stronger with the Duchessa and strongest with the Prestina. Why?

The Conti Prestina has a group with a dipper tube. The group is attached to the boiler with four bolts and is not actively heated between shots except through heat transfer where it is bolted on. The group weighs 18 lbs, so it's a massive heat sink. Long ago I inserted a thermometer in the basket and found that the Prestina has a significant temperature decline during the shot.

My rare, vintage Lady Duchessa home spring lever has a very similar design to early commercial lever machines. The group is separated from the boiler. It isn't actively heated and is bolted on. Water enters from a dipper tube. With its spring and cam mechanism, the group is more massive than that on the Cremina, so it is likely to lose more heat during the pull versus the mostly rising shot temperature profile typically seen with manual home levers. This graph shows Gabor's excellent temperature study comparing an Olympia Cremina with a Club. Contrast the rising shot temperature of the Cremina and the declining one in the Club.

I will note that my Lady Duchessa has an added booster spring as a reversible mod, and its shot style is similar to the Elektra Microcasa a Leva. (The old spring may have optimized traditional dark-roasted coffees but would barely produce crema.) As I got closer to dialing in this blend I found the raspberry note emerging more strongly than with the Cremina. I haven't put a temperature probe into the Lady Duchessa and am not about to drill a hole in its vintage basket to do temperature measurement. But the result is suggestive that declining pressure and temperature bring out the best in this coffee, revealing more varied flavor layering and reducing the dominance of other flavor notes.

Few people have a Lady Duchessa for such experimentation. I found myself appreciating the effort put into its design, including a manometer placed behind the group but easily visible from above. This gives a good sense of water temperature in the boiler.

There is a temperature stat underneath that controls the shutoff point of heating. The machine doesn't have a sightglass but is unlikely to burn out the element because heating is initiated by pressing the telegraph key power switch on the lower right which turns it on for one cycle.

I haven't recently tested the accuracy of the vintage manometer but can say that shots were more fruity when pulled when it indicated 1.0 bar than 1.5 bar, with the machine fully warmed up. I will continue to dial in Espresso Lusso's Gran Miscela Carmo (frozen at Day 6 post-roast) on the Lady Duchessa, tightening the grind to emphasize the declining temperature profile with a longer pull. Currently the longest I achieved was 22 seconds. (Added 7/16: By tightening the grind I was able to extract some raspberry flavor with the Lady D this morning and one very nice pull where I held back the lever a bit. It tasted like sweet pipe tobacco with a hint of raspberry. When I pulled a shot at too low starting temperature the raspberry wasn't evident.) The best pulls with the most distinctive raspberry note were on the Prestina with unfrozen coffee, a 30 second preinfusion and about a 33 second pull following that. (Added: Using coffee frozen at Day 6, I was able to pull a Prestina shot with 18 gm in, 35 gm out, 40 second pull, where the raspberry was again evident, though softer, accompanied by a smooth almond bitterness. The raspberry wasn't overpowering but is a blend component adding complexity.)

What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!

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#12: Post by Coffeecritter »

I'm very fond of classic northern Italian blends, so this one was irresistible for me to try. Pulled on my Conti Prestina with 18g, 20 sec pre infusion and a 45 second shot with 32 g out, I was impressed with the bittersweet chocolate beginning. But then the berry notes started coming - not the raspberries that Dr. Gary tasted, but sweeter. Maybe strawberries? Still with the nuts in there, too. So in summary, the espresso equivalent of a Mrs. See's dark chocolate-nut chew with a touch of strawberry jam. Yum!!! :D
Life's too short to live in Dallas!

LMWDP #157

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#13: Post by Barb »

Thanks all. The reviews with technique are helpful. The consistency in opinion adds validity and tells this is a coffee I wI'll like. Time to order!


#14: Post by gr2020 »

dominico wrote:
Spoiler: show
Pulling it faster (around 25 seconds) brings forward an initial almond that gradiates to a walnut as the shot cools.
I just wanted to say thanks to everyone in this thread - this kind of thing is super helpful, at least for me! My first shot had a flavor (in milk) that I couldn't quite put my finger on, but it was quite pronounced. Reading through this thread, I saw this note about almond, which is exactly what I was tasting! My shot was a bit fast also (27s including 7s PI).

Reading this thread is kind of like having someone _way_ more experienced standing next to me, helping me pick out flavors in my shots.

Hoping there will be more reviews like this coming up!


#15: Post by BobStern »

Thanks, TomC! Lusso's "Gran Miscela Carmo Espresso Blend" has become one of my favorite coffees! I like its low acidity, and I find its flavor more complex than a typical Brazilian.

I do find that it benefits from setting the temperature unusually low. (I hesitate to specify a number because I think my Breville is calibrated differently from most machines.)

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#16: Post by Rikinwa »

Yes, I am very grateful for this review. The flavor profiles are exactly what I was looking for.

I have Grand Miscela and LionShare. Love them both, think Grand Miscela may become my favorite.

Pulling them at work on Baratza Preciso and Rio Junior, at home on Baratza Sette 270 and QuickMill Vetrano 2B.

Again, thank you very much for this review. I found it really, really helpful.



#17: Post by zanna5910 »

I feel a bit ridiculous asking but are there other "favorite espressos 2016"? maybe i missed it or skimmed over? seems this thread contains many reviews of the same coffee (which the reviews are awesome)

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#18: Post by HB (original poster) »

We didn't start any reviews until July and the year slipped away. D'oh! Oh well, we did better in 2015 by starting in January. We'll try to get started earlier in 2017. :oops:
Dan Kehn


#19: Post by zanna5910 »

Thanks Dan! No knock intended. Always love these reviews, they help so much for newbies/amateurs (me) to diagnose taste on what users get vs what I get and help us learn. A lot of newbies (like me) are out here on our own trying to refine our skill with little or no real interaction/help with a person face to face. These reviews really help diagnose shot flavor, metamorphosed from technique.

I know coffee can vary by season (similar to wine), how reliable can an old review of a coffee be compared to what you are likely to experience now from the same blend/brand (assuming freshness and whatnot)?

Sorry if Im hijacking!

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#20: Post by HB (original poster) »

zanna5910 wrote:...how reliable can an old review of a coffee be compared to what you are likely to experience now from the same blend/brand (assuming freshness and whatnot)?
One of the main reasons roasters blend coffees is to maintain consistency season-to-season, so there's a reasonable expectation that the comments in a review from last year or even earlier will hold today. For single origins, seasonality plays a larger part, so it's kind of a crapshoot. Over longer periods of time, you may notice profile changes as roasters adapt their blends to their customers' evolving taste preferences (e.g., brighter coffees are more popular than they were 10 years ago).
Dan Kehn